The Most Terrific Time, First Two Weeks Of January 1978

Writing forty years after the events (January 2018), I find it hard to recall clearly my jubilant mood in early January 1978.

I returned from my first BBYO Convention is very high spirits.

January 1 – Finished convention. Came home late in evening – had the most terrific time overall.

Indeed, the language in my diary for those two weeks is relentlessly upbeat. Here are the pages. I’ll translate the relevant bits later, for those who struggle to read my beautiful but slightly unconventional calligraphy:

I was a fairly positive kid, but some of the language doesn’t really sound like me – or certainly doesn’t sound like the far more retiring 1977 me. Especially the material relating to club/BBYO:

10 January 1978 – Gave talk at BBYO with Graham on the cartoon. Went down well

Graham Majin and I made a couple of cartoon films in the school holidays 1976 (Basher Rasher) and 1977 (Speare Trek). There’ll be more on Ogblog about those eventually – for the time being click here for a bit more on that.

11 January 1978 – …Committee meeting of BBYO – Fantastic work done, though force 12 gails [sic – surely gales?]

Well, those “gales” were severe enough to have earned a Wikipedia entry – click here, which is good enough for me.

I’m not sure what the “fantastic work done” at the Streatham BBYO Committee might have been that night. My guess is that I was asked to take on some more responsibility for running the club and that I was very pleased with the outcome.

I’m trying to remember who might have been at that committee meeting – an early, perhaps my first, committee meeting. Dave Young I think was in charge by then, although he didn’t go to that convention. Barry Freeman, Dave’s predecessor, was almost certainly there (and had been at convention). Karen Harris was a mainstay of that early committee – (no relation of mine, nor I believe a relation of Jacey’s – there were a lot of separate Harris families in Streatham) – I recall attending at least one committee meeting at Karen’s house – perhaps this meeting. Sue Leyons I think would have been there.

I think some of the original founders of the club, such as Lisa Benjamin (sadly deceased) who had encouraged me to join in the first place, had finished by then. Or were going through the process of handing the club over to the next generation.

Possibly David Heller was at the committee meeting that night; I am pretty sure that David was involved at that time and was (along with me and Barry) at that convention.  Most of the people I think of as “my contemporaries” at that club; Sandra, Linda, Ivor, Natalie, Mark, Jacey, Liza A, Andrea, Wendy, Mandy, Martin,…I think got involved a little later, but perhaps some of that group were on the committee by then.

Just a few months later

So what was it about convention over new year 1977/78 that brought on that lengthy bout of optimism and self-confidence?

The diary doesn’t help me on this matter – I simply record, for the days I was at convention, that I was “at convention”. Naturally, I was having such an amazing time, I didn’t write up my diary.  In any case, the experience was so unforgettable that it hardly needed writing up…

…did it?…

…I think I might need a little help from my friends, 40 years on, but here is what little I remember.

Harrogate was the location. I saw very little of Harrogate itself, although I did wander far enough from the hotel on one occasion to buy a tin of Harrogate Toffee – click here to see a likeness of the tin – to take home as a small gift for my parents. That tin ended its life, back in my hands, as a sort of ashtray/stashtray – not a dignified ending for a tin of Harrogate toffee. But I digress.

The real point was that convention exposed me to the leading lights, recent past, present and future, of BBYO nationally at that time. They were a pretty impressive bunch – certainly to me at that time but in any case, I think it was probably a golden era of leadership in the British Isles for that organisation.

I met for the first time the Rose brothers (Mike and Jonathan), the Spector brothers, (Martin and the late, much missed Jeffrey), plus David Wiseman, who was elected National President at that convention. Those five were all National Presidents in the mid to late 1970s.

David Wiseman, with chain of office, second left, thanks to David for the picture

I also met many super people from other groups who either were or went on to be local and regional leaders.

I remember being quite overwhelmed by the scale of the convention – I had never been let loose with that many fellow teenagers before. The only people I knew there were Barry and David from my own club; they were older and they seemed to know plenty of people.

I remember Lynda Singer – Stanmore – (latterly Lynda Jackson, also sadly deceased and much missed), perhaps spotting that I was a bit lost, telling me that everyone finds it a bit daunting at first, pointing me in the right direction and offering to help if I wanted more advice. I remember Judy Wolfson – Hampstead Garden Suburb – being similarly older-sister-like that convention – our paths crossed again at Keele but not since.

I remember chatting at length that convention with Sara Wiseman, David’s sister, not realising that she was sister to the President Elect to be. At first she seemed as shy and as daunted by the convention as me.

I remember meeting Paul Corper and Robert Garelick from Cockfosters for the first time, although it was at camp later that year that we formed a bit of a comedy trio. I also remember meeting Drewey for the first time and not understanding any of his jokes…OK I’ve just made that last bit up.

In truth I met dozens of people for the first time there, many of whom I got to know a lot better over the following three years. In truth I don’t remember meeting Terri Phillips (nee Vine) – Stanmore – at that convention but I remember meeting her at events soon afterwards and she has kindly supplied a group photo of all of us for this piece:

I’m standing towards the right hand side…yes I am wearing THAT banana jacket

My injection of optimism, energy and confidence was not restricted to my BBYO activities , btw. I note the following diary entries:

4 January 1978 – went to West End with Graham and Anil – had a good time there.

5 January 1978 – went to BFI library on John’s card – had a good day there.

6 January 1978 – went to Graham’s for the day – played D&D v good…

Anil is Anil Biltoo – with whom I went to Mauritius 18 months later. The visit to the BFI library was because I was doing my O Level history project on the origins of the cinema. I’ll write more about that project at some point.

Cousin John kindly lent me his BFI Membership card – minors are not allowed access to the library. The staff must have known/guessed that I was under age and using someone else’s pass, but they were incredibly helpful and that project benefited enormously from the reading I did there and the help the staff gave me. Respect.

“D&D v good”? Please. I never really got the point of D&D. I remember that Graham, Gareth Mills and some others at Alleyn’s School were really into it. I remember going with the flow of it and clearly I sometimes enjoyed it. But D&D was not really me. Honest.

I also note my references to watching TV starting to diminish as I took on more interests.  But that fortnight I did mention:

  • The Two Ronnies – gosh I remember liking that show – I suspect I’d find the humour simple/childish now but it was good family entertainment;
  • Coronation Street – which to my mum for many years (long after I tired of it) was as a “family together must” to the same extent as eating. After dinner, the refrain, “watch Coronation Street with us first and THEN go upstairs to do your homework/do your own thing” was quite common;
  • “F Scott Fitzgerald biography and story – listened in hi-fi too” – an early simulcast by the sound of it. Was it this 1974 made for TV movie…or this 1975 one?  Who knows – probably the latter.

I also note that Grandma Anne was in hospital in early January that year, but I don’t think her affliction was that serious on that occasion; she must have been 86 or 87 then – she was to live just short of four more years after that.

I also notice that my confidence and upbeat demeanour extended to Alleyn’s School extra-curricular activities by the end of the first week back at school:

Friday 13 January 1978, Got a talking part in the school play – I’m the innkeeper – V pleased

That school play was Andorra by Max Frisch which I have already written up at some length – click here or below.

Andorra, 23, 24 & 25 February 1978

Yes, I was relentlessly upbeat for at least two weeks. Blue Monday hadn’t been invented back then I guess. In any case, I suppose I need to write up week three of 1978 to see what my actual “Blue Monday” mood was like. Still pretty positive I’ll guess. That fine bunch of people from the 1978 BBYO convention had a lot to answer for…in a good way.

A few more memories of that convention from a few other people wouldn’t go amiss. Do be aware, BBYO folk, that comments on Ogblog are public whereas comments on the BBAK Facebook Group are private to the group.

Mum’s Economy Meal Of The Week, 10 January 1978

I was dealt another food-induced involuntary memory at the time of writing. It comes hot on the heels of my bizarre “caviar on toast for breakfast” childhood memory, recovered on new year’s eve.

Strange Case Of Dr Green And Mr Knipe…And Beluga Caviar And Scotch Whisky And A Bust Of Hitler, c22 December 1981

Anyway, the lunchtime special of the day (10 January 2018) in my client’s staff canteen was baked mackerel with onions. Very tasty it was too.

I remembered, so clearly, that my mother’s baked mackerel with onions was one of my favourite dishes.

Awaiting onions

I also remembered that it was one of mum’s “economy meals”. Times were hard in the mid to late 1970s. Mum shopped very carefully to help make ends meet. In addition, she had a routine which was to include one meal per week described as the “economy meal”.

Sometimes it would be a fish economy meal on a Tuesday. Sometimes it would be a meat economy meal on a Wednesday. Monday was leftovers from weekend roast day. Thursday was always fish day. Friday night was friday night. That’s how it worked.

Mum was almost apologetic about the economy meal, but the strange thing is, I used to look forward to them, because the economy meal was often, e.g. the baked mackerel dish, a real favourite of mine.

Here’s a recipe for baked mackerel – this is a modern recipe from the Guardian, so it is a bit “sexed-up” compared with mum’s, but looks good.

Thoughts of other “economy meal of the week” dishes started to flood into my head:

When I got home from my meetings, I wondered whether I might have eaten that very baked mackerel dish exactly forty years ago to the day and looked at my old diary. Turns out that 10 January 1978 was a Tuesday, so I might very well have done.

I also realised that Tuesday 10 January would almost certainly have been a “caviar on toast for breakfast…economy meal for dinner” day. Bizarre, but that’s how it was.

What I also learned about that evening, after the second day of the school term, was the following:

gave talk at BBYO with Graham [Majin] on the cartoon. Went down well.

Ah yes, the cartoon. I really need to try to patch that thing together digitally. Graham’s attempt, a few years ago, to get the BBC properly to copy the 8mm film itself shredded the celluloid. Another Ogblog project to add to the list. Watch this space.

Anyway, all that foodie memory came flooding back simply as a result of tasting baked mackerel again in a style so similar to my mum’s…

Proust can keep his madeleines – pah!