I am brainstorming a new novel, provisionally called Fairy Street. Part of the novel (I’m not even sure how much yet, it could be ninety percent, or it could be only half…) is set back in 1980 and 1981.
I’m really enjoying some of the research.
So much of it is very easy now – there are so many resources online. A quick search on YouTube reveals something about the music of the time, and in a flash, I can listen to The Pretenders singing Brass in Pocket. There are even episodes of Top of the Pops from those years, if I’m prepared to risk a whole lot of Abba, and worse. A few hours of distraction and I can create a playlist as a soundtrack for my novel.
Thinking back I remember moving into married University accommodation with Ryan the summer we married. We bought new speakers, but what records did we listen to? The only one I remember buying that year was Pink Floyd, The Wall. All our old records are long gone now, lost in a house move fifteen years back. I remember listening to a lot of Genesis too – my brother recorded them for me on cassette, but being tight-fisted and annoying muddled up the albums and completely missed certain tracks. I am still confused to this day as to whether I am listening to Wind and Wuthering or And Then There Were Three.
We didn’t have a TV, but we did make a point of using the communal TV room once a week. Blake’s Seven. Then there was Juliet Bravo, The Gentle Touch, Shoestring, the start of Yes Minister. Wikipedia reveals I spent more time watching television than I remembered!
And the books of the moment were The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I’m sure I remember rushing to the bookshop as soon as the latest novel came out…
But some memories are more elusive than others.
So this morning as I was writing, I was trying to remember, did we have black plastic binbags in 1980? My character is moving house, and I imagined her throwing her towels and clothes into black sack – but would she have done so?
I can remember a time before they were in regular use, but I’m not exactly certain… I remember having our dustbin stolen when we lived in Liverpool 5, but not what we did about it…. I think it must have been black bin bags. Online again, and I soon turned up a history of garbage bags… which were invented by a Canadian in 1950, but not sold for home use until the late 1960s.
I just don’t remember buying them. I remember buying lots of other everyday things…washing up sponges and a mop and bucket and a rug from Habitat in Liverpool. I remember buying wallpaper with enormous poppies on (it was cheap for obvious reasons) and white gloss paint. I remember buying food from Liverpool market – cracked eggs, a dozen in a tub, chicken backs to make stew…
Walking down a very steep hill to make a phone call in the telephone box, in the deep snow. I remember out first rescue dog, Chaos, and the amount of chaos she caused. From the day I was told off in the street by an old lady for not feeding her properly…to the day she had unexpected puppies. The time she swiped the tuna from Ryan’s mother’s plate, and the time she chewed straight through a friend’s handbag and ate her lipstick.
And how much has changed in the last thirty years… and what mistakes might slip through. So now I’m browsing Ebay and am irresistibly drawn to buy old copies of Cosmo and The Sunday Times magazine, just to trigger a few more memories, and fill in some more of the gaps.
What music and memories would evoke those years for you?