Taggs Island & Glasgow

I hated moving to Canada at 15… I did not want to leave my home in Glasgow where we had lived for 10 years.  Unfortunately my dad lost his job at Scottish Television.  Uncle Peter, his brother had already emigrated to Canada and found work in television at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He suggested that Dad try his luck there.  In 1967, Canada was welcoming a huge influx of immigrants.  So off we sailed in August 1967.

High school ………. yuch ….. .keep to myself ………. difficult because of extreme self-consciousness due to my dark passenger (my gammy leg)… and also undiagnosed chronic depression (as it was more often than not in those days – ‘snap out of it’!!) come by so honestly from my Irish side.  I just wanted to disappear into the ground…

Fast forward to January, 1971, I had graduated from high school and decided to take a year to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I got a part-time job, and saved up my money to make a trip back home (my parents kindly let me keep my money to do with what I wanted).  They say never go back in the first couple of years after emigrating.… As circumstances would have it, I went back, on my own, 4 years afterward.

Yes, I planned to visit my former home, Glasgow, but I first wanted to check out London.  Luckily for me my Nanny had a flat in Muswell Hill, and my aunty Bee lived on a houseboat on the River Thames with her boyfriend Ken and her daughter, Sh.  So my plan was to find a charter flight to London and stay with my Nanny, and somehow at some point, take a train or something to Glasgow.

I loved my first taste of London as a teenager.  I had spent my first 5 years of life living in Hackney, but that’s different.

My aunty Bee and Sh and Ken soon came to drive me to the houseboat, named the Vernette which was moored on Taggs Island.

What an adventure! It was January, so everywhere was so cold and damp!  I can’t remember the logistics of my staying on a houseboat for a few days.  I do remember there was a paraffin oil heater in the kitchen to warm up the interior, and Aunty Bee had sprinkled some dried rosemary on it, perhaps to hide the smell of the paraffin.

Aunty Bee and Sh, my cousin and I went exploring.  On the shore, close to the Vernette, were the amazing ruins of an old hotel.  Bee told me that they filmed some scenes of a movie there.  Actually the movie was A Clockwork Orange with Malcolm McDowell………. wow, exciting!  Apparently Bee and Sh were watching filming from a distance and poor Sh was asking her mum ‘what are they doing with that lady’?  I am not sure, but Bee said it was a nasty rape scene that they were watching.  I had tried to read the book, but could not get into it.  I did see the movie and hated all the wanton violence, rape, and psycho-pathological acts of these yobo’s or whatever they called themselves?…’droogs’??

Recently I Googled Tagg’s Island and Clockwork Orange movie information and finally found information about a very grand old hotel.  I found this wonderful photograph of the Karsino Hotel, Hampton Court.  I was so excited when I saw that the stairway and pillars matched my photo of the hotel ruins…

I took the pic at the bottom of the Vernette by the old hotel ruins

I took the pic at the bottom of the Vernette by the old hotel ruins

I felt pretty growed up, especially when Bee and Ken took me around to visit their London friends.  Ken  had access to, or owned a motor bike with a side car.  It was so much glorious fun when Sh and I squeezed into that sidecar and Ken took us for a ride along the island roads……….Halfway through my 3 week visit Ken very kindly drove me all the way up to Glasgow.  We travelled all night and arrived in Glasgow at about 8am on a Sunday morning.  I was lucky enough to have a place to stay in Glasgow.  The family who bought our house in 1967, still lived there and welcomed me with open arms.

I must say that seeing Glasgow again was a disappointment.  Maybe because it was winter, but as Ken drove me into that big city, all I could really see then was big, grey, grimy and gloomy…  I visited my 2 school friends, June and Frances and we even went to the Kelvin Hall annual fun fair, where I had enjoyed all the midway rides, rollercoasters and handsome lads who operated the rides, as well as the loud pulsating beats of Brit Sixties pop.  Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group always comes to my mind when I think back on my blossoming teens spent on an annual outing every winter after Christmas at Kelvin Hall.  However, speaking with my school friends, in my mind, I felt that I still had the world at my feet and the possibilities were many… I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be?  My pals had both finished school, but June was quitting her job as she was getting married soon and Frances worked as a secretary in an office.  So I think that moving to Canada really changed my way of thinking……….. not settling for any old job, or getting married when you leave school … which seemed like the common thing to do in the old City of Glasgow back in the late 60s….  To be perfectly honest, I could not wait to catch my train a few days later and go back to London.  No disrespect intended to my old home of Glasgow, which a few years later, demolished a lot of the slum areas and had a renaissance of reconstruction and won some European awards for design and architecture… My heart now belonged to London!

my cousin Sh & I waiting for the bus to Gatwick Airport, just down the road from Taggs Island. Look at all the stuff I brought back with me........ mainly lovely London clothes!

my cousin Sh & I waiting for the bus to Gatwick Airport, just down the road from Taggs Island.  Aunty Bee took the photo.   Look at all the stuff I brought back with me…….. mainly lovely London clothes!

That trip, on my own, to London, was a pivotal point in planning my future…

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MY BIBA DRESS

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Back in 69, I really wanted something from BiBa. We were living in Toronto, our new home. I had seen the articles and the photos of the wonderful BiBa line and had fallen in love with Barbara Hulanicki’s delightful and dreamy fashions. I even asked my Aunt Bee to send ma a BiBa catalogue, which she did.  I picked the dress I wanted, actually I wanted everything.  I saved up all my money and bought an international money order and sent it my my Aunty Bee. I was really never sure if Bee bought it mail order or if she bought it in BiBa. I do not know if she was still living in London then ….bibadr

Imagine my delight when the mailman delivered a package wrapped in a large BiBa envelope, with my Aunty Bee’s writing all over it! Bee had a very distinctive style when it came to addressing packages to us in Canada…  Inimitable, colourful, fun, and irresistible. I have kept some of her wrapping and still love looking at them. I will post pics of them soon.

The dress was gorgeous! Dark navy blue cotton, with a little red flower print… fitted bodice with puffy sleeves and a full gathered skirt flowing from the waistline. There were little buttons on the bodice and a zip at the side. Unfortunately I discovered that I was a little too busty to be able to completely close the bodice fastenings, so for this photo I draped a black lace shawl over the top. (I bought this shawl for a couple of bucks at the most famous store in Canada ~ Eatons. They were having a spring fashion promotion and if you bought a garment, you could buy this lovely Spanish shawl for about $3… I still have it).biii

Below is an attempted photoedit that I did to show the bodice as I remembered it, if it had fit me perfectly!

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I am sorry to say that in those days I hadn’t really developed my clothes renovating skills yet. I wonder why I didn’t ask my mum, who was an excellent seamstress, to alter it for me? Perhaps it was that as much as I adored my BiBa dress, I don’t think I could have worn it anywhere as my life was then! Sadly, I do not remember what became of my precious BiBa dress, but at least I have this Polaroid of me wearing it (as I do also of a pair of leather FRYE boots that were all the rage that I bought, but alas could not walk in!!!!) ….