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…

my sweet sister

this is my beautiful sister in her late teens. The photobooth pic at the bottom left is of her and I back in August, 1972, when we spent the day at the EX (Canadian National Exhibition).  An annual end-of-summer funfest with midway rides and much, much more… a real Toronto tradition..

xtine

I am wearing my hair in braids tied with polka dot ribbons. one of which sits under our pic, and the silver heart broach was a present she gave to me, with ‘blondie’ engraved on the back.

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We had such a wonderful time together, and back then my sister could still walk normally.. until MS all too quickly robbed her of that…

d4def46ef650e0efc18d3109af5f4ddfbibaI still have these 3 posters after, what is it??..THIRTY-SIX YEARS..……. oh lor………..a long time indeed. Actually considering how old these posters are they remain in great condition…having said that, you will notice them looking creased.  I had them stored away during my many years of motherhood and only retrieved them last year.  I guess I should have ironed them before I modpodged them onto bristol board paper.I don’t know the order of these posters, although I believe that the poster showing the lovely gal lying naked on lovely cushion-covered bed came after the 2 gorgeous iconic Ingrid Boulting by Sarah Moon posters…aadd4a8b67387a8026928570819af2e6bib3c

I paint all my pin-boards white...

I paint all my pin-boards white…

1970 crimpy...

It was 1970, I had graduated from high school, even though I had to go to summer school to get my math… now was it math A, math B, geometry, trig, algebra, new math????……….. I hated mathematics and only got a final mark of 35% in Grade XIII… which thankfully became 58% when I had completed summer school, so I did get my diploma.

As I had no clear direction of where I wanted to go with my life, I decided not to go to Teachers College or Brock University… even though I acutally got acceptance letters from both of them.

I got an afternoon job downtown at Teela Digest at Dundas Square, on the basis of my neat handwriting! I was to put the small Teela Digest insert into envelopes that I had addressed. From that day until this, I had no idea what this company did!!

I had finished work at 4:30pm on a Friday and decided to go to downtown Yonge Street to check out the goings-on. The big news was that Toronto’s busiest street, would be turned into a pedestrian mall for a long weekend.

It was hot and humid, and the busiest blocks of ‘downtown’, from Gerrard Street to Queen Street, had been converted into what I could describe as a big, busy very crowded street market. Most of the pubs and restaurants had spread out to the sidewalks. Smaller shops and boutiques had put out rails of clothes, all on sale! There was ‘live’ music in the street, although I could not tell you who! It was shall I say a very hearty scene!

Oh yeah, my hair! …  back to that!   I had managed to grow my hair just past shoulder length, keeping up my blonding every six weeks or so…. and hadn’t had a perm for a couple of years. But I still loved wavy hair. Somewhat by accident few weeks ealier, I had fallen asleep with my damp hair in 2 braids. When I took out the braids the next day ~ Yeah!  KINKY WAVY HAIR!! I more or less wore my hair this way for the next couple of years. Sometimes the waves were very good!, sometimes hit and miss.. and I could never figure out how to get the ends of my hair to curl nicely and not to stick out ( I tried hot rollers, bobby pin curls,  little perm rollers… none to my satisfaction).

In this photobooth photo, I am wearing a jumpsuit that my MuM made for me out of orange sailcloth. She added the shirring when the neckline bulged out a little… Oh what I really loved about this pattern was that the straps criss-crossed in the back meeting the rest of the suit just above my bra-line!  However, I could not go bra-less as my boobs were just not perky enough, (my sister had such nice firm breasts)…  But unless I wore my favourite jumpsuit with a tee, my bra and straps showed… and I really fancied wearing it as a summer jumpsuit like I had seen in my mags, especially as Toronto summers get so darned hot….what to do?? Guess what I found at the the drug store?… stick-on cups that you place under each breast. I know, they are still around. So I bought a pair and eagerly tried them on! They worked in that there was no bra peeking out the back… I did not particularly like the shape that they gave my tits, but under my jumpsuit, my shape was quite blurred from the front!

now if I continue and tell the tale of what I got up to that evening at the Yonge Street Mall 1970... i might have to kill ya….. later!

friends in the workplace…

friends

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Can you believe how exquisite Sue’s handwriting is!!!

Funny thing, I didn’t think that I had any friends when I lived with Ty, as I was so absorbed in him.  I found these old letters from 2 people I do remember from JJ.  We continued to correspond after I left London and went back with my tail between my legs, to Toronto.  The letter above was from Sue B.  She had worked at JJ longer than most.  She was one of 2 head cashiers, younger than me and when I started at JJ, she showed me the ropes.  I thought she was really cool, but she also seemed somewhat cool (read dipped temperature interaction) toward sensitive old me.  She was so pretty, had long blonde hair parted in the middle and was always sweeping one side of her growing-out fringe out of her eyes.  I envied her swaggering walk. I loved her London (not sure which part of London) accent and thought she was so self-assured.  Turns out in reality, she was not so confident (like most of us I suppose), but she always managed to project a ‘what the hell, I don’t give a fuck what you think about, don’t mess me!!’ personna.

As I gradually got to know Sue at work and after work at the pub… sometimes the Argyle (close to the London Palladium) and other times the Phoenix, which seemed to be the JJ local… I realized that she was a really nice young woman with self-confidence issues (What!! her too??) and anxiety about her future.  She had completed school, but did not want to work in a shop for the rest of her life!  She had spent a year in Greece, learning the language as she worked in touristy pubs or clubs.  I told her she was amazingly brave to have been able to work in a foreign speaking country like she did!  Unfortunately we did not keep up our correspondences… (probably my fault, but who knows?)

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This letter was from Bill… a (younger than me … it seemed they all were as I reached my 25th birthday working at JJ) young man of about 23, who had hailed originally from Lebanon.  He had been brought up in London, but would occasionally pay a visit to relatives still living in Lebanon.  One day, after returning from a flying visit to Lebanon, which at that time was always in the news for death, bombs, destruction, shelling, smashed buildings…  (I dont remember the cause of the strife back then other than it degenerating into a civil war), Bill handed me a cassette tape and asked me to put it in the tape deck.  Thinking it was music, I did, only to be assaulted by the sound of loud machine guns, explosions and general mayhem!  Of course, Dennis (I think) the manager rushed over and exclaimed ‘what the hell is that??’  Billy, dark and swarthy, was full of male bravado, but once I got to know him, he was really a pussycat!!   Again, I don’t know whose fault is was that our correspondence ended.

You may  notice the self-fulfilling prophecy noted in both letters…………… that no-one from the old JJ days, writes back!

Of course if we had had smartphones back then…..   who knows.

My BiBa diary

bought in 1975 or early 1976.

inside page

the inside page…the gold fading.. but it does say 1976

It is a 1976 diary and it is full of magical graphics, special days, even a directory at the back of trendy London cinemas, clubs, hairdressers to visit. Those back resource pages contained gold writing on a black background. Unfortunately the gold has worn off over the years leaving barely legible works….but I love my BiBa diary and used it too!

ahem....... an angry young woman here...

ahem…….looks like an angry young woman here…

a HONEY of a magazine

April 1969…. and a few pages inside for your viewing pleasure!

the original Rimmel cosmetics, available at Woolies...

the original Rimmel cosmetics, available at Woolies…

woolies

how cool are these 60s psychadelic graphics..

mini shirtdresses, mostly made out of stretch jersey..

mini shirtdresses, mostly made out of stretch jersey..

such a cute little trench worn by ?Sue Murray???

such a cute little trench worn by ?Sue Murray???

'boyfriend' jumpers

‘boyfriend’ jumpers

 

frillly2x

in the red

Not quite the 70s yet… more likely 1968, about 8 months after we emigrated to Canada. My sis and I loved fashion and had so much fun doing our ‘fashion shoots’.  This photo would have been taken with my old Brownie simple box camera that I got for a Christmas pressie way back when I was about 10!   In those days, unlike the immense ease and capabilities of digital cameras (not to mention the single outlay of cash), you really couldn’t afford to take test shots or fool around too much when snapping a shot!  Back then we had to buy a roll of film, wait a while to finish the roll of film, take it in to the drugstore to be developed, which could take a week or more.. and then make sure we had enough money to pay for the photos… sheeez, those were the days non?

I don’t know when I got these ‘granny’ sunnies, (either in Glasgow or Toronto) or the red Kangol beret? The frilly shirt might have been my mums, I can’t remember, although she was not a frilly lady, so maybe it was mine. It was red, as were the cotton pants and matching waistcoat that my darling mum made for me… I did like my ‘Mia Farrow’ hair and my red lips… and oh … my life would have been so much easier if I could have worn this to school (minus the frilly shirt) and therefore hide my obvious disability… but in those days, girls couldn’t wear pants in high school or even public school!! how ridiculous was that??

MY BIBA DRESS

bibmailq

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!

biiii

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!!!!) ….

wiggin out...

circa 1973 or 74

Remember I was explaining why I had lotsa perms in the 70s… well, in 1974, I actually bought a curly wig! it seems so strange to me now to have done that… frankly I blame it on all those fashion mags! My sis took this pic. I am in my bedroom in my family house in the Toronto Beach area. Sis and I were doing our own fashion shoots. The wall behind me is plastered with fashion mag covers (my faves: Honey, 19, UK Vogue). I took pics of her too (which I have to locate) in all our fashion finery of the time, and in those damn wigs (I had 2!) we had so much fun and we loved our togs!… . BTW this is a photo of that pic that I scanned in the late 90’s and found recently.