If you’d come to our house at 8.05am on a weekday morning in the Seventies, you’d have caught me red-faced with embarrassment as you walked into our kitchen for these reasons:
1. My father would have probably been naked from his waist - up, I hasten to add - having a ‘strip-wash’ at the kitchen sink (a habit he vehemently refused to desist even though we had a perfectly adequate upstairs bathroom. He even cleaned his teeth and gargled in the same place mother washed our beans) and no amount of cajoling or blackmail ever encouraged him to leave the sink in the kitchen because these daily ablutions had been ingrained on his psyche during the war. Apparently. I personally found the whole sordid performance humiliating and disgusting and the sole reason I only had two friends in the entire world. (One of which was our dog).
2. The current month’s Page Three “lovely” would be staring out for all to see from the wall at the dining room end of the kitchen and whether it was Samantha Fox or Linda Lusardi, the utter degradation of having to sit staring at a pair of (ok, very natural and all their own work in the 70’s, I’m sure but still…) glistening bouncing beauties whilst I was shovelling down my Golden Nuggets or Ready Brek was almost too much to bear. I always tried to stand directly in line with this calendar when my friend collected me for our walk to the bus stop and I’m sure I made an entrenched path in the lino from where calendar hung to the back door as if I was fixed on a runner in my desire to leave the house before anyone noticed we had soft porn on the back wall.
3. The radio was tuned to Terry Wogan. This, in itself was a crime. In my bedroom I’d had the fun and funk and good bloody sense to be listening to either Mike Read ("Mike Read - 275 and 285")or Dave Lee Travis and to leave the fashionably funky rhythms of Debbie Harry or Elvis Costello behind and walk into the drone of Matt Monroe or Shirley Bassey was taking my humiliation too far. To then alight on the school bus humming the Floral Dance because it was the last tune played before I left the house was generally an act worthy of the worst kind of torture by the hard nuts on the back seats all the 8 miles to school.
I next listened to Radio Two when I was a new mother. When it felt like I could easily win a rosette for best in herd and couldn’t move from the sofa much less have the energy to twiddle some knobs on the radio to re-tune from Wogan and his TOGs onto something trendier, and y’know what? Not only could I not be arsed, I actually found his Irish lilt an incredibly soothing way to pass the early morning breast-feeds. In fact Sir Terry helped me relocate my sense of humour. It was still there. And I wasn’t even embarrassed to admit to it being he who’d tickled the funny bone I thought had been disembowled along with my pelvic floor muscles.
For the past two years, since my beautiful teenage daughter has been going to Upper School, I have seen the same face pulled, the same noises made and the same scowl firmly set as I turn the engine on in the car and we are met with the dulcet tones of Mr Wogan. It’s not cool, it’s deathly dull garbage and it’s definitely not staying on for longer than one syllable until she leaves the car ten minutes later.
I can only smile.
So today imagine my surprise as I drove with tears streaming down my face as Terry tells me (me, and only me – his “listener”) that he’s very sorry but we’ve run our course – he’s leaving while we still love each other and it’s not goodbye because I’ll still see him on the odd occasion and he’s very happy that we’ve been together all these years and we’ve had some laughs and he’ll always remember the time we spent together fondly, but it’s time for him to go now.
He’s been as much a part of my growing up as my left leg and I shall miss him immeasurably.
And what shall I do without the Janet and John tonic that gets me through the traffic?
God, I’ll be an absolute wreck when Brucie pops his clogs. I know I will.