Friday, 21 October 2016

Birthdays, cook books and a television series .............. watching the years go by in Lausanne Road

Toys I knew ........... the Dinky petrol tanker, 1956
Now today is my birthday, not that there is anything particularly remarkable about that, after all they come round every year and at 67 there are fewer ahead of me than behind.

But surrounded by the cards and the texts and other electronic messages I got to thinking about birthdays I have known.

The first thing to say is that we didn't go in for parties back in the 1950s in Lausanne Road athough I am not quite sure why.

Hornby Doublo railway carriages, 1958
My very earliest birthdays would have been during the last stages of rationing after the war.

So while bread and flour came off ration in 1948 followed by canned and dried fruit, chocolate, biscuits, treacle, syrup jellies and mincemeat the year after it would be 1953 before sugar was de-rationed.

But I suspect the truth is we just didn’t do birthday parties.

Instead you got your cards a few presents and that was it.  They were still magical and the run up to the day was exciting but there was none of the hype that surrounded the birthdays of my kids.

Toy boxes I received, 1958-60
They and their friends had themed parties which might have been football, swimming or an adventure playground followed by the meal which became more sophisticated as they grew older, until parties were something they did in a pub with friends usually after we had gone to bed.

In Lausanne Road the parties we did have were strictly family affairs and I can think of only one which involved having some friends around and that points up the simple fact that we rarely had anyone who wasn’t family in the house.

I am not sure how typical that was but I can’t remember my parents ever entertaining.

The St Michael All Colour Cookery Book, 1972
Meals were family affairs and if someone did call they never outstayed their welcome, restricting themselves to no more than two cups of tea and would be gone long before Dad came home from work.

The dinner party and the more casual impromptu fry up after a night in the pub would not come for me until I was in my twenties, married and a long way from home.

By then the height of a sophisticated evening would be the prawn cocktail, followed by the cheese fondue and black forest gateau accompanied by a bottle of Blue Nun or Black Tower.

And there was nothing wrong with that, they were fun evenings some of which were quite memorable and all the more because they were the first stab at being grown up.

I still have a few of the old cook books which have stayed the course and can still be guaranteed to offer up something interesting.

That said my copy of the Galloping Gourmet was lost a long time ago but by then it was much stained with food, had lost vital pages and was as much a history book as any of the comic annuals I got for my birthday.

The Complete Galloping Gourmet Cookbook, 1972
So much so that I have tracked a copy down and ordered it up from Texas.

Its arrival in a few weeks time will be a reminder of the disastrous baked salmon dish from 1974 which stands in my memory alongside the Dinky petrol tanker that I got as a present on the birth of my twin sisters.

I had just had my ninth birthday party and it seemed a pretty neat way of celebrating their arrival.

Nothing as momentous came my way today but I did call up some old clips of the Galloping Gourmet  demonstrating that cooking can be fun.*

Pictures; Dinky petrol tanker and train carriages, courtesy of Ken Jaggers, cover of the St Michael All colour Cookery Book Jeni Wright, 1974 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and The complete galloping gourmet cookbook, Graham Kerr 1972 soon to arrive from Texas

*The complete galloping gourmet cookbook, Graham Kerr 1972

** and

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