For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog.
Let me start by asking everyone to remember the title to this post is using British English and so it is Zed Cars not Zee Cars. Not a big point but it matters to me as it was an iconic TV programme of its time, when I was still quite a small boy.
Z-cars was a watershed programme, a gritty, true to life drama unlike its predecessor, Dixon of Dock Green which was a rather twinkly-eyed version of British policing at the time. It began in 1962, so I was only 6 at the time. And while I’d been allowed to watch Dixon and its lost dog story-lines I was censored from seeing its successor.
I can understand my parents’ thinking. It wasn’t what a boy of my age should be exposed to but it was an early example, maybe the first of my battle with my parents over control. Bedtime, TV viewing, what I spent my pocket money on, eventually how long my hair was and what I wore. Music on the radio too. Perhaps oddly they never censored my reading material.
It is the TV that I think caused the most grief. It didn’t help that there were only 2 channels to begin with and we only had one TV. And as the smaller infant the fights would have been mostly with the Archaeologist over kid’s programmes on the Beeb or ITV. Not that we fought much; I knew when I couldn’t win.
In fact in fairness to my parents they were more liberal than some of my peers. I was allowed to stay up for Man from U.N.C.L.E that was an extra 30 minutes and required a major piece of legislative intervention because, in the language of the Unions that we all imbibed back then ‘it eroded differentials’ between the Archaeologist and me.
And mum made me get up in 1969 to watch the moon landing knowing this sort of history comes round very infrequently, even though I have a recollection that I wasn’t that keen on being prodded awake. Looking back I’m glad she did.
Indeed, mum was always the more liberal with these sorts of things – the Archaeologist mentioned in response to my post on the weather the other day how he tried to build an igloo in the 1962/63 winter. He’d have been 7 at the time and twice it collapsed on him. I can quite believe him telling mum what he planned and her telling him when he needed to come in for lunch or dinner and not making a fuss about the odd risk of being buried alive.
No, dad was the one who’d come up with ludicrous and arbitrary rules, the ones that bugged me to hell and back; and those about watching TV in the daytime, if and when he was around – i.e. at weekends mostly – were the worst.
In the early 1960s it didn’t much matter – being outside was great. But as the decade sagged towards its rather drab end, at least for the 9 to 12 year old me, I discovered the glories of sport and, especially cricket. Cricket then was a daytime sport and the Test matches (which were the only international games in the 1960s) lasted 5 days. They always started on a Thursday and ran over the weekend, with a Sunday rest day. How quaint! In 1963 the first major one day tournament started – the Gillette Cup, a 60 over a side extravaganza played by the English county sides. Each year the teams would play a knockout format leading to a final at Lord’s in early September. As with the Test matches this was televised. I looked forward to these events immensely.
Yet dad had this notion that, it was somehow unhealthy to watch them. Too much screen time they’d say these days. He didn’t always impose this rule – I can remember sitting with my gran, absorbed in an England v New Zealand Test (so much so I can talk you through highlights of that match still – I just typed in Dayle Hadlee – Alan Knott catch and this came up
I vividly remember seeing this live, leaping from my seat and loving the newly introduced action replays – I’d never seen anything so athletic before), during one holiday at her house – so it was probably the arbitrary nature of the imposition of this rule that got to me. After all any rugby – dad’s sport of choice – that was on the TV was ok to watch!
The rule became a place of challenge and in 1970 I found football too. Briefly I became obsessed with Arsenal’s run towards their eventual ‘Double’ glory – winning both League and FA cup that had only once been done before. So when they made the FA cup final I wanted to watch. And dad said no. It was a sunny day; I should be outside.
I sulked; I grumbled; I threatened… well, no I didn’t. I wasn’t the challenging sort but everyone could tell I was on the extreme end of the miffed spectrum. Eventually mum talked him round and I was allowed. But the damage was done. I hated him briefly; he was utterly loathsome for a few hours. I was 13 and he was a pillock. No question.
We move on; of course we do. We had our fights, we had our great times. But I never, ever forgot that ban. So much so that I vowed, some time after it happened that, if I ever had children, I would not be arbitrary. I would never ever use the ‘don’t do as I do..’ conceit. I would explain; I would have a sound reason for all rules and actions and not my convenience; logic not lunacy would apply.
Total bollocks, of course; I’ve been as ridiculous a parent as everyone else. I have tried (and I’m sure failed) to apologise to my children as and when I realise I’ve let my standards slip but that’s about as good as I’ve got.
I did let them watch pretty much as much TV as they wanted, mind you, and if it involved any sport – Game on!!
And that, reader, ends this year’s A to Z. A self-indulgent set of reminiscences if ever there was one. If some have amused, others informed and many bored then that’s par for the course. I’m just very grateful for those of you who have come along for the ride.