Thursday, 8 October 2015

Mama said there'll be days like this ................

Samuel Pepys, 1962
Mama said there'll be days like this, There'll be days like this, my mama said* was not a song I remember back in 1961 when it reached number 4 in the US charts, but it will have marked that slow transition which took the boy from Dan Dare and Airfix to records, long trousers and a healthy interest in girls.

Not that this was a sudden event and bits of the old Andrew lingered on but by the September of ’61 I had consigned the Eagle Comic to the back of the shelf, begun to consider my appearance and discovered all that awkwardness which comes from being a teenager.

The trouble is no one warns you that it’s going to happen and unless you have older brothers and sisters you are pretty much on your own.

After all there is no way that you can confide in friends who themselves are adrift and wouldn’t admit to a moment’s confusion and uncertainty.

So you stumble through it all which was made worse by being at an all boys’ school.

From the age of 5 I had gone to school with girls, sat beside them, worked with them and occasionally were the butt of their jokes but then at 11 when it was important I was yanked away.

All of which meant the opportunities to meet socially were limited and in my case fraught with shyness.

We weren’t religious so the church youth club was a non starter, social media didn’t exist and few of us ever thought that hanging around street corners was the bees knees.

And so there was that uneasy spell when you had given up the trappings of being a kid but couldn’t quite adopt the confidence, or style of Cliff Richard and his friends.

Crown Woods, 1965
There were the endless mucky stories of the fantasist who regaled us all with tales of his Saturday nights on the back row and were matched with equally earnest discussions about what you would do if on  a date you dropped an opened slab of chocolate on the floor.

As for the first we never quite believed Ron while the issue of the chocolate bar was solved by Peter who offered a sliding scale of response.

If the date was the girl of your dreams then you walked from the chocolate bar making a joke of what had happened.

On the other hand if  this was not a serious night out you were permitted to pick it up but even then there was a prohibition on offering her any.  After all as Peter said “you had to look the part and show respect."

For me that existence in limbo land was partially broken when we moved from Lausanne Road to Eltham, pitching me in to the daily routine of travelling from home back to Samuel Pepys by train which gave me confidence and the chance to meet girls.

Not that it all worked.  The golden first date in some park in Brockley left me Billy no mates, sitting on a bench for an hour before making a dignified retreat in the fading sunlight to the station and home.

Later still there was that first time when you had to end the relationship which was something I never did very well partly because looking back it was mainly me who got dumped.

Crown Woods, 1968
But eventually it all settled by which time I had left Samuel Pepys and at the age of sixteen started at Crown Woods in Eltham which was a mixed comprehensive school of 2000 students and had the added advantage that me and my mate Bernard entered the sixth form as unknowns which made us a tad more interesting than all the other lads who the girls had known for five years.

That  journey to self confidence and being at  ease with girls had taken longer than most but in that September of 1966 mama was right.

Pictures; from the collection Anne Davey  and Andrew Simpson

*Mama Said, The Shirelles, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L842mz-tNBQ

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