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Motown Glamour 60th Birthday Party

Best Laid Plans: My family and friends might be forgiven for thinking that this is a picture of me back in the 70's minus my velvet waistcoat, white roll neck and black skirt. But no it's Saturday 19th August 2017 and I am privileged to have been invited to my lifelong friend Valerie’s Motown Glamour 60th birthday party. I say privileged because all of us knew someone back in the day often since school whose untimely death means that they did not make it thus far on this journey of life. At my stage in life, invitations such as this are not an inconvenience, bother, or hassle but an all too rare opportunity to celebrate life and friendship.

I had planned our weekend break to Gibraltar months in ago, day & night time outfit list had been drawn up, hairdresser booked, manicure & pedicure booked and I had designated a specific night when I would pack. As mentioned above it is the last weekend before I fly out to Gibraltar on Friday the 24th and have run out of weekends to put everything in place for my family before I leave. The blueprint was to take out my plaits, wash and dye my hair last night which I did. My hair has been prepped and ready for a hairdressing appointment I have had to reschedule. I have decided to plait my hair in Ghanaian cornrows like this, for a quick getaway next Thursday straight to the Hilton at London Heathrow, Terminal 4. As can be seen from the photo the Afro wig I am wearing would never have sat flat on my head or indeed I would never have been able to get the wig on with all of that extension underneath.

Off to PAKS I go for my wig and the requisite black panther metal Afro pick with a clenched fist.

ASOS come to my rescue again as I purchased this 60’s Vibe Black and White Block Dress purchased back on 18 January 2015, for the princely sum of £17. I opted for size 20 as ASOS swing dresses are usually generous, and I did not want unsightly exposure of underarm fat or my bra. Even today August 2017 having gained weight Post-DVT I think you would agree that it is still a comfortable fit.

Light in the Box Alloy Statement Necklace

The Alloy Statement Necklace was a more recent purchase from Light in the box 31st May 2017 for the sum of $8.99 approximately £7.35 and there my outfit was created from items I already possessed. Overhearing my makeup conversation with another friend who had been invited, my youngest blurted out “Mum I don’t think red is really your colour”. OK then I thought better give that a re-think. I flipped open the laptop, quickly researched Motown Glamour looks and the female Motown legends wore more nude/neutral lips. Here AVON that back in the day, came to the rescue. How many of us remember when AVON was the main/leading makeup supplier. Ponds cream which was considered “high end” and Astral for everyday use were the two main moisturisers readily available. Well the "oldie but a goldie" Avon lip pencil provided the correct subtle shade. Mixing my face powder with my foundation and moisturiser saved many steps and my makeup took no longer than 10 minutes and It was the first time I put on my own false eyelashes.

I look at my reflection in the mirror and it conjures up uncomplicated child-like memories of watching mum get ready to go out. I grew up with mum's Afro wig prominently placed on the corner of the dressing table. The habitual ritual of getting ready to go out was not in applying her makeup it was the time mum spent getting dressed.

  • First it was the Triumph or Playtex three quarter length bra with boning, (all the females in my family were measured and fitted for our first "proper" bra by the woman who owned the Playtex shop on Church Street Stoke Newington);

  • Then the 60” hip tights that came from the reliable tights stall in Ridley Road Market;

  • To ensure the tights stayed up then came the girdle also from Church Street, Stoke Newington, that came up to meet or cover the edge of the long-line bra;

  • Let us not forget the vest; and

  • Last but not least the half-slip - "no respectable woman goes out without a slip" she would say and all before actually putting on her outfit. Phew

Makeup was simply Ponds cold cream applied all over her face. The Afro wig was placed on her head and after a little puffing and sprucing with her hands a touch of red lipstick, a final glance in the mirror as she puckered her now ruby lips and mum was good to go.

Hair: Walking around PAKS, I am overwhelmed by the unlimited choice and infinite range of hair products, conditioners be it wash out and leave in and I wonder how we ever survived without stores like PAKS. Back in the day it was either "Vosene" in the signature pointed deep green bottle or what would today be classed as high end “Head and shoulders”. The closest I came to a weave was placing a towel on my head and swinging it from side to side or flicking it pretending I had long hair. My hair was towel dried. For mum, blow drying the natural curly hair of three girls was not an option and would burn unacceptable amounts electricity. Hair grease or "pomade" or "hair food" as it is now often referred to today was either Blue Magic used to straighten natural hair with a hot comb. Mum used DAX but not before she had mixed it with

DAX Hair Grease

Vaseline to make it stretch.

Raving: The rule was that my sisters and I couldn’t go out on a Saturday unless we were able to get up to go to church on Sunday. Any new outfit had to be worn to church first before we could wear it out. Mum wanted us home by 10:00PM (yes I know I would love to see that fly with the youngsters today). The problem was that the sound system didn't start “stringing up the speaker boxes” until around 10:30. The Royal in Tottenham was the place to be. When the rave was over we congregated at the exit and in the company and safety of each other we would walk home cracking jokes all the way from Tottenham to Clapton. Back in the day there were no borders or fear of straying into another territory. We were children innocently skipping towards adulthood. The walk home was our time for social networking and dating. It was the only opportunity away from our parents watchful gaze when we were be able to “walk next to” or act all grown up around the boy or girl we fancied. House parties or “shubin” could also present such an opportunity, unless your parents were in attendance as usually when they left the children had to leave also. Those of us that frequented such establishments would understand the phrase “peel off the wallpaper” from back in the day.

Ear Piercing: This task was undertaken by an auntie or a neighbour pushing a sewing needle through one side of my earlobe while pressing a cube of ice (supposedly to numb the pain) on the other side. Once the needle went through it was thread that was knotted in a circle to keep the hole open. Your earlobe was bathed in hot Dettol water daily and the string swivelled in your ear for up to 3 or 4 weeks to allow it to heal. After this time you felt all grown up when 9 carat gold sleepers replaced the thread.

Phones: Today most of us have a mobile phone. Our children have mobile phones the grandchildren have mobile phones. For me there is the safety issue and ease of contact in case of an emergency.

70s Landline Telephone

In our house there was only one land line phone , usually in the living room under lock and key. The living room only opened for guests. The telephone lock was placed in the circle of the number 1 on the dial so that it couldn't passed the silver restrictive band and we couldn't dial out.

70s Stereo, Turntable and Speakers

Sunday: Sunday's meant racing home from church to daddy’s cooked breakfast. This is when dad went all out. As mum sang along with Perry Como to hymns in the kitchen and the aroma of rice and peas filled the air we get our school uniform ready & school shoes were polished and left standing to attention on newspaper along the passage wall ready for inspection. Then it was that (respectable time) when we were allowed to turn on the radio to listen to Radigan and the reggae pirate radio station. After a sumptuous dinner (unless it was black eyed peas yuck) the windows of the estate were thrown open, D.J's carefully moved the white net curtains to one side, threw open the windows, and prominently positioned their speakers. As the sound systems in each block challenged each other we took turns ironing our school shirts while singing along to harmonies such as Sandra Cross' Put it on, Gregory Isaacs' Border or Extra Classic, Louisa Marks' - Caught you in a lie or Even though you've Gone, Breakfast in Bed, Carpenter, Mighty Diamonds - Have Mercy, Jah bring I joy in the morning and rock to the base line of songs like Denis Brown's Baby Don't do it, Prince Allah's Bucket Bottom, Four Season Lover and Police & Theives, Gregory Isaacs' Slave Master to name but a few.

Inside Toilet: I don’t think a toilet inside the home was covered as a necessity under the Housing Act back then. Needless to say we didn't drink anything after 6pm as no one wanted to be going out into the back garden in the dead of night especially when the outside toilet had no electricity supply.

Heating: Heating was in the form of a paraffin heater that over time would create the

Paraffin Heater

infamous carbon monoxide black ring on the ceiling. My sisters and I were taught how to cut the wick whenever the flame didn't burn properly. The next step up before central heating was a Calor gas heater but mum ironically thought the gas cylinders pricey and dangerous to have in the house.

Hand Washing: Disposable nappies were not invented and our mother's took pride in washing our nappies by hand rinsing them in “blue” and knowing that when the neighbours looked through their windows they would be greeted with the sight of gleaming white laundry flapping around on the line.

Friday Night Takeaway: On a Friday night our treat was go and collect from the fish and chip shop. Always a long queue because there was no Chinese, McDonalds, Indian, or other cuisine. Pre-teenage years I would have to share a portion of chips and break a Saveloy in half. Turning 13 meant that I had graduated to a whole Jamaican Pattie and full portion of chips all for myself. Wrapped in newspaper with lots of vinegar and they tasted fantastic.

Shopping: Back in the day there was no home shopping delivery service. Come rain, snow or shine we took it in turns every Saturday morning pulling the trolley behind our mother as she walked around the market from stall to stall or supermarket to supermarket to purchase items that were only one penny cheaper than anywhere else.

The Ice Cream Van: When the ice cream van came if dad couldn't buy for the entire street he didn't buy for anyone and that included his own children and when he did buy for all of us, as “children” again we were restricted to an age appropriate ice lolly. Only the grown-ups got a boat with fruits and nuts and ice cream and chocolate syrup and a flake or what used to called a “99”. I was ecstatic whenever I got a snowball, a triangular plastic tub filled with ice cream, a little syrup on top with the bubble gum at the bottom.

CONCLUSION: The absence of social media, mobile phones, iPads or other electronic devices didn’t prevent me from creating wonderful childhood memories. During the school holidays we entertained ourselves. Only after learning the times table on the back of our exercise books and reciting them to dad from memory when he came home were we allowed to go out and play. It was either hopscotch, two balls bouncing and throwing them up against the wall. Do you remember singing, “one, two three and plainsie, four, five six and plainsie, seven, eight nine and plainsie, ten and plainsie drop the ball”? Using the lines in the drains to play marbles. Pretending to be mum in the garden by mixing earth and water together and leaving them to bake in the sun. Don't forget the one size fit all metal roller skates that would never pass the health and safety standards in force today. You know what, notwithstanding all the rules and strict upbringing my childhood memories are as comforting as wrapping myself in a cashmere throw or a new pair of Ladybird pyjamas mum got me from Woolworths for Christmas. I will always be thankful for the amazing, rewarding and happy childhood bestowed upon me by my loving parents Rita & Grafton Pemberton - back in the day.

Ooops time is slipping my plus one will be here any minute. I must go now and sing along to the likes of weeping & wailing, never love poor Marcus, roof over my head, jealousy, guilty of loving you, let your yes be yes, Rock the Rythmn - Janet Kay "...The music sounded oh so sweet, We are lovers rocking to the reggae beat, Rock the rythmn nice and slow rock the rythmn until its time to go, rock it rock it, yeah, ...In your arms forever I could stay we will rock it until the break of day, we are lovers .......


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