Living in the past? Me?

My mum and dad have kept quite a lot from when they were married in 1964. They cook their porridge in the microwave in a milk-glass bowl, now faded to pink. Mum gave me her Tala cooks’ measure when I was a student in the 80’s. I’ve recently found an Advent calendar at their house which I used when I was a child.



I used to think that my dad’s parents were older than mum’s. This was because mum’s parents bought lots of new things whereas dad’s parents were living in the house they bought when they got married in 1937 and were surrounded by 1930’s items. I was surprised to find they were the same age. I have my dad’s parent’s enamel bread bin, clothes brush in the shape of a duck and wardrobe and matching dressing table.




In 1977, when I was 11, I went to a friend’s birthday party. I wore a long frock. All the other girls were in short dresses. Mum or I didn’t know fashions had changed. Children being children, they teased me about my clothes. I decided that I didn’t want to be like other people and I didn’t want to follow fashion. Looking through things mum had made for herself in the late 60’s/early 70’s I started to wear her zip-up tops with mandarin collars in bright colours and a long skirt with black/white/red chevrons. I wore these to school in my last year of juniors (Mr Jackson’s class). Other children asked what I thought I was wearing?

In 1982 I got a Saturday job in Boots down Coney Street, York (I’ve done a recording about this. I was invited to go to Radio York to talk about Boots and York in the 80’s. For the radio show, I wore an early 1960’s dress with matching 3/4 length sleeve jacket and a coat with large mother of pearl buttons). Having a Saturday job meant that I had money of my own. As well as buying records, I bought lots of clothes, mainly from the 60’s. There was a second- hand clothes shop down Bootham called Priestley’s (named after the butchers shop which used to be there). The clothes I wore to Radio York were bought at Priestley’s in 1983. I accessorised them with old gloves, a handbag with Lucite trim, pointed shoes with heels and mum’s earrings and matching broach that her brother Jack bought her on her 21st birthday. I put my hair up and wore full make-up.

Handbag with Lucite trim
Me wearing the coat with mother of pearl buttons that I bought at Priestley’s, Bootham, in 1983 for £5
Early 60’s frock with jacket with 3/4 length sleeves bought at Priestley’s in 1983 for £2.50

I have always collected things – as a child it was postcards, shells, fossils, coins, stamps. When I was about 13 I started to collect old tins and bottles. Later I tried to specialize in tins from Rowntree’s, as lots of mum’s side of the family had worked there, and containers which used to contain medicines as I was training to become a pharmacist.

Found in grandad Cooper’s garage
Gray Dunn biscuit tin I’ve had since my teens

Whilst a third year pharmacy student at Sunderland Polytechnic I bought my first car. It was a 1961 Ford Prefect (107E) which her original owners had christened Mary Moo. Unfortunately it wasn’t MOT’d so dad had to come up to Sunderland with a trailer to collect it. Thanks to dad for welding it, spraying it and making it safe for me. I kept that car, as my only mode of transport, for 8 1/2 years.

Mary Moo 1961 Ford Prefect 107E

I wear age-appropriate clothing when we go out in our old cars. Our late 50’s house is filled with objects and furniture from the 1900’s onwards. I hate the words vintage and shabby-chic. Vintage is a band-wagon that makers of modern objects have jumped on with abandon. Shabby-chic is an anathema. I want my old objects to wear their age and history with pride.

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