Plastic Toys and Green Shield Stamps

Times Past: Consumerism

Baby Boomer:Town, UK

When I was a child in the early 1960’s mum would often take my sister and I with her to the shops in the Romford town centre. Sometimes that meant a visit to Romford Market which was always interesting but we also visited the department stores. The one I remember best was Woolworth’s. I loved going into Woolworth’s. It had a wooden floor and there were counters divided into compartments that each held different types of cheap  plastic toys.  There would be farm or zoo animals,  cowboys and indians, dolls house dolls  and different types of cars and trucks to mention a few that we could afford to buy with our pocket money. Today these same toys are very collectible. I think that in those days Romford also had Marks & Spencer, C&A , Stones and possibly British Home Stores. I don’t suppose many of those still exist. I do remember being bought a winter coat in one of those stores, it was red with  a furry collar. Mum usually bought our shoes in Romford too so we could try them on but a lot of our other clothes came from catalogues.

Mum liked the catalogues and often ordered dresses for herself and little outfits for my sister and I from them. I think she used them because she could pay for things over time.  I am not sure what stores these catalogues came from however, John Lewis may have been one. She sometimes bought us the same outfit but in different colours. I remember knitted “ski outfits” knitted trousers in a solid colour with a matching striped jumper and maybe there was a hat with a bobble as well. Mine was shades of brown, my sister had royal blue. I liked hers better. I’ve never been a fan of brown clothes but I grew out of mine very quickly. It was fun to look at the pictures in the catalogues with mum.


Green Shield stamp.jpg
By Source, Fair use, Link

Groceries and other every day items were bought locally at the shops in Rush Green near where we lived. My favourite shop there was the newsagent who also had toys in the window. I can remember looking at displays. We had a few cowboys with wagon trains and some Mexicans with sombrero’s and guns but I liked the Indians best, they had cooking fires, totem poles and tee-pees which we called “wig-wams” and there were mothers with babies as well as warriors and chiefs.  I don’t recall seeing any cowgirls or Mexican senoritas ever. We would also buy Matchbox and Husky cars at the  local shop and I think that my first national costume dolls may have come from there. The newsagent had sweets too, chocolates and toffee, liquorice all sorts and sherbet and those fake cigarettes called “Fags”. I also remember pipes made out of chocolate which we sometimes bought. My grandfather smoked a pipe but although I liked chocolate pipes and pretend cigarettes it did not turn me into a smoker. I knew the real ones smelled nasty.

Some of the shops issued their own stamps which you stuck in a book and when you had enough you could cash them in for goods. This is how I got my first Sindy doll. Mum saved up her Green Shield stamps to get her for me. I still have her too.

My original Sindy in Country Walk


Daily Prompt: Our House

In The Middle Of Our Street

What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.Photographers, artists, poets: show us HOME.

My first home was the council flat that my parents moved into around the time I was born. We lived there until I was seven years old so I remember some things about it quite well and others not at all. I’ll do my best to give my impressions of it.

In the back garden around 1958.
In the back garden around 1958.

Our flat was one of four in the building  and we lived in one of the two upstairs flats. Our neighbours were the Mounts, the Cooks and the Fosters. The first thing that you would see after coming in the front door was the flight of stairs up to our flat. For most of the time we lived in that place there was a wooden gate at the top of the stairs to stop me and later my sister from tumbling down. When I was big enough I was allowed to go down them alone to get the milk from the front step or the letters which were delivered through a slot in the front door.

The bedrooms were at the front, I don’t remember much about my room, usually known as the box room. I did wonder why we had a room for boxes instead of a proper bedroom but it had a window so perhaps it was just mum’s name for it. I do remember that I had a bed with a wooden bed head which had a carved flower like design right in the middle. I suppose I didn’t spend a lot of time there except to sleep. My parents bedroom also overlooked the street. In this room I remember the bed which mum always made carefully, tucking in the sheets, cotton in summer, flannelette in winter, then the blankets and making the corners neat. Our blankets were either navy with a white stripe or a sort of beige and I seem to recall mum referring to the navy ones as army blankets. On top of the bed went the eiderdown, a bulky feather quilt which was made of some taffeta like material and was, I think, a sort of rose colour. It was a pretty cosy bed. In winter we warmed our beds with an electric bed warmer that my father bought. It was a big round flat one like a flying saucer but instead of filling it with hot water or coals you plugged it in. It did warm the bed nicely but it could burn you if you touched it so it was taken out of the bed when we got in. There was a wardrobe and a  wooden dressing table where mum kept her dressing table set, hairbrush, mirror and clothes brush and some blue glass candlestick holders. The cot where my sister and I slept as babies was also in this room until my sister outgrew it. Her bed was in that room until we moved though. I haven’t mentioned the bathroom, it’s one of those rooms I don’t remember except that in winter sometimes the pipes froze and we had no water.

The living room was where we spent the most time and I remember a lot of the things we had in that room. The room itself had a floral print wallpaper of grey,white and red. I can remember it very well but can’t describe it. The curtains were mum’s favourite green, a dark green with a floral design  I think. We had a settee and two armchairs which had broad wooden arms which were fun to “ride” on if you were pretending to be on a  horse or a motor scooter like the ones we saw at the beginning of “Ready, Steady, Go” on television every Friday . Then there was the dining table where we ate, drew pictures or played with our Lego blocks. Usually it was covered with a wine coloured woven tablecloth and had a green glass fruit bowl on it. If we asked for something to eat between meals mum would usually offer us something from the fruit bowl “Apple, pear, banana?” The table was also the place we put our portable record player or reel to reel tape recorder if we were going to listen to music. A mirror hung over the fireplace and on the mantlepiece was a chiming clock, mum’s brass vases and some little boats made from shells that she had bought on holidays. Mum always bought things in pairs because she liked her ornaments to be “balanced”. There were also some figurines of african men and women with spears and baskets which I now know were in the Barsony style which was popular at the time.  There was a wooden sideboard too, which held more ornaments. There was a large china elephant, two lion cubs and a tiger cub which we loved to hold and lots of china monkeys, mum’s favourite animal. The largest of the monkey collection was Mike, he was a carved wooden ape sitting on a rock. I don’t remember everything that was inside it but there would have been the mother of pearl handled cutlery that was given to mum and dad as a wedding present, the best china tea set and our records. On the walls we had the flying ducks of course and around the room were family photos.

The main thing I remember about our kitchen is the time that mum, my sister and I returned from holidays to find that dad had repainted the kitchen in a red and cream splatter sort of pattern. I liked it as it was colourful but mum said it looked like there had been a murder in there. At some stage we acquired a large wooden radiogram from somewhere and as there was no room anywhere else it had to go in the kitchen, or as mum called it, the scullery. It was fun to put records on the stacker and see them drop down onto the turntable. Mum and I liked listening to bagpipes, dad liked brass bands. Mum often used to sing when she was working around the house, “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag” were some I remember but she also liked cowboy songs with yodelling.

A steep brick and concrete staircase went from the kitchen door  to the back garden. There was a bit of lawn where we played and our swing. There was a tool shed where the lawnmower was kept and a coal shed where we were not allowed to go. We had a rose bush and a flower bed where we had daffodils, crocus and other bulbs in spring and where mum grew a bit of mint for putting with the potatoes or the roast lamb on Sundays. Our downstairs neighbour, Mrs Mount, was a keen gardener and had lovely roses in her back garden. She used to put  eggshells on them and when the rag and bone man came around with his horse and cart she would run outside with a spade to collect any droppings to use for manure.

It wasn’t a grand house and had we stayed there it would have become very crowded with two growing girls so about eight months before we left England we moved into a larger council house in another part of town. A lot of mum’s knick knacks and ornaments came to Australia with us and in fact some of them are still around today, the good china tea sets, the mother of pearl handled cutlery, most of  the china monkeys live with me while Mike and the lion cubs live with my sister so we have carried a bit of home with us wherever we have gone.

image house
Thanks to the magic of Google Earth this is what our old house looked like a few years ago.

Australia Day Post

Castel Felice

In January 1966 my family arrived in Australia.  I was just eight years old. This YouTube video of Castel Felice, the ship that brought us here reminds me of what an important event in my life that was.

I will always think of England as the land of my birth but I know that I’m an Aussie now because when I was asked a few years ago whether I would be barracking for England or Australia to win the Ashes (cricket) Test series I said “Australia” without even stopping to think about it.

That month sailing to Australia from England gave me a lifelong interest in travel and if we hadn’t come nothing in my life would be the same. So thanks Australia and thanks Mum.

Ghosts Of Christmas Past – 1965

An Ending and a Beginning

December 23rd 1965. I am eight years old, my sister is six. Mum wakes us so early it seems like the middle of the night. Sleepily we get dressed while she makes us breakfast but for my sister and I this is not an ordinary day. Today is the day we have talked about for more than a year. Today is the day we go to Australia.

Soon it is time to go.  I wear my red winter coat; my sister looks pale in her dark blue one that used to be mine. Uncle Johnny comes to take us to London in his car and we set off in the dark and the fog. We rarely travel by car; he has to stop on the way so that I can be sick.

By the time we get to Waterloo Station I feel better though. I like stations and I want to see the train we are going on. I catch a glimpse of one enormous steam engine but mum and dad are not really in the mood to stand around looking at trains. They have adult things like luggage and tickets to worry about.

The train we are to travel on is the boat train to Southampton. It’s full of other people going to Australia as well. It’s daylight now but grey and miserable outside as we speed through unfamiliar towns and countryside. On the train I discover that the special bar of Galaxy chocolate that I was saving to take with me has been forgotten. I’m disappointed as I’d saved it on purpose. I’d never had Galaxy chocolate before and had been looking forward to trying it.

As we approach the docks mum and dad start talking about the ships they can see. One of them says “There’s the Queen Elizabeth.” I want to see it too because “The Queen Elizabeth Family” is one of my favourite books but I can’t make it out in the jumble of cranes and funnels in the distance.

At the terminal dad kisses us all goodbye. He won’t be making the journey with us. I’m not that upset. Dad goes somewhere to watch the ship’s departure and cries as his family sail away from him but I don’t know this. The adventure is beckoning.

The ship’s name is Castel Felice. We go up the gang-plank the way mum said we would and down to our cabin. It’s on D Deck, it’s tiny and it doesn’t have a porthole. I’m really disappointed about that. I feel cheated that there is no porthole to look out of and then I wonder if we are under the water and that’s why we don’t have one. There are four bunks and a wash basin in the cabin and a kind of closet for our clothes.  A young woman comes in, she is to share the cabin with us, she seems very glamorous to me, her name is Pamela. I have one top bunk, Pamela has the other. Mum and my sister have the two lower ones. We meet our cabin steward, an olive-skinned young man with black hair and brown eyes. Like most of the ship’s crew he is Italian. He doesn’t speak a lot of English but he smiles and is friendly.

Castel Felice
Castel Felice

Later that afternoon the ship sails. Everyone stands on deck to wave to the people on shore. Streamers are thrown but the paper ribbons can’t keep us tied to England. We move off and mum takes us inside to explore the ship. First though there is lifeboat drill and we all stand about wearing cumbersome orange jackets for what seems an age.

Dinner time comes and I’m upset to find out that we are expected to go to the “Children’s Dinner” with all the other children. I don’t like being with a lot of strangers and I don’t like the food much either. Mum puts on a nice dress and wears lipstick to go to the adults’ dinner. She leaves us in our cabin with books and toys and tells us not to worry, she won’t be too long.

When she comes back she puts us to bed in our bunks. By this time the sea is getting rougher and the ship is rocking. Mum says we must be in the Bay of Biscay. I am seasick, my sister is seasick. Pamela comes in and she is seasick too. For the next day and a half mum is kept busy looking after us while feeling seasick herself. The only drink she can get the steward to bring to the cabin is grapefruit juice. It tastes nasty and I rename it “sickfruit juice”.

By Christmas Day we all feel a bit better and mum makes us get up, wash and go on deck to get some fresh air. There is a church service, people are singing Christmas carols; the man with the microphone tells us about some people on a previous voyage who were really good singers . They went to live in a place called Elizabeth.  That’s the place we are going to, my grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins are there and they travelled in this very same ship. My aunty is a good singer so I wonder if she is one of the people the man is talking about.  Later there are presents for all the children. My sister gets a pretty doll with long brown hair, a blue pinafore dress and a white blouse with thin red stripes. I get a sewing set. I’m not happy, I got three sewing sets for Christmas from relatives before we left home and I don’t even like sewing.

So that is Christmas 1965. A month later we arrive in Australia to start a new life.

Photo Thursday-Day of the Doctor


Today’s photo is of course in honour of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.  Yes, I was there in 1963 hiding behind the couch as the Daleks first invaded London.  I am probably a bigger fan of the show now than I was then so imagine how pleased I was to come across a real TARDIS on my travels.

The Place: Scarborough, England. The year: 1990.


Fear of Flying

image jet at airport
Waiting to board by V Jensen

Hubby and I don’t fly very often. I have mixed feelings about it, he doesn’t. He just loathes it.

The first time we did a long flight together was when we flew from Melbourne to Hong Kong to begin our overseas trip. I have mentioned in a previous post that we chose to travel across China, Russia and Europe by train because we love train travel. What I didn’t mention was that it was also because Hubby hated the thought of the long flight to England.  As we took off I noticed that his hands were  tightly clutching his book. It was “Final Flight” by Stephen Coonts. Not a particularly appropriate choice I felt.

Cover of "Final Flight"
Cover of Final Flight

I have a fear of falling myself. I can’t climb more than two steps up a ladder or I get the shakes but flying doesn’t worry me too much as long as I concentrate on looking at the view and not thinking about being in a metal cylinder thousands of metres above the earth. The trouble is that a lot of the time there is not a lot to see except clouds. I really wish that Hubby didn’t like watching “Air Crash Investigation” so much. I never worried about that before he started watching that show.

image clouds
Clouds by V Jensen

Of course flying is not the most comfortable way to travel. Well not in my experience anyway. I am sure that if you can afford to fly first or business class and have more leg room and maybe even a bed it is much better but if you are one of the majority who just look for the cheapest convenient flight it is even more cramped and uncomfortable than the bus you catch to work. I am short so getting my luggage into the overhead storage bin is difficult for me too. People seem to have so much carry on luggage, especially now that checked baggage is an extra. I consider myself lucky if the storage space directly above me is free.

Then there are the seats. Hubby only has one request when we fly, that we fly Virgin domestically. He thinks the seats on the planes they use are more roomy and comfortable for him.  As I’ve mentioned he is a big man and he needs to use a seat belt extender. As it is he takes up one and a bit seats. Friends who travel more often than we do say that they usually book an aisle and a window seat and leave one between them. If the flight is not full they often end up with extra space that way. I suggested doing this but Hubby didn’t want to. I always like a window seat, Hubby prefers an aisle seat. I like to pick the seats online, he prefers to wait till check in and ask a real person. Last time we flew together we did it his way and I ended up being wedged between Hubby and another passenger. I could hardly move my arms for the hour-long flight. I swore that was the last time that I would let him have his way about seat allocation. In fact if we really can’t avoid flying together I think I will book us into two separate rows.

I have never solved the mystery of how to use your tray if the person in front of you decides to go to sleep. Really with all the technology available there ought to be a way  to fit a warning light so you know when the seat is about to be pushed back. How hard could it be?

Hobart Airport
Hobart Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me anything related to making a journey is interesting and even though I would much rather be starting my trip from a railway station or a seaport I can find things of interest at the airport. Hobart airport is not a large one although it has been refurbished and expanded since we first moved to Tasmania. The first few times we used the airport we were amused to find that we had to pick up our luggage from trolleys in the baggage area. It now boasts a carousel. There is not a lot to see at Hobart airport in terms of different airlines or types of planes though so flying in and out of Melbourne, Sydney or even Adelaide provides the novelty of seeing jumbo jets from international airlines as well a the domestic carriers. As we usually have to change planes in Melbourne or Sydney to go to Adelaide I like to fill in the waiting time taking pictures of any planes with interesting colour schemes.

image jet
This one was advertising the band Powderfinger – by V Jensen

My photography is often of the record keeping variety so if we go on a trip I want a photo of the plane/train/ferry we used, the hotel we stayed at etc. Now that I have a digital camera and don’t have to worry about running out of film I can take pictures of what ever catches my eye.

We usually fly Virgin for domestic flights above and below by V Jensen


This Travelator caught my eye in Sydney airport. I understand what it is there for but really, it’s so tiny. What is the point of it?

image travelator

How much time is this going to save you really? – by V Jensen

Then there are the X Ray machines. Even in the pre 911 world these things were pretty accurate I thought. At Gatwick airport in England Hubby was detained because the machine detected something metallic on his person. Eventually a manual search revealed a scrunched up packet that had held peanuts which had been in his pocket .

I wonder about airport shops. The Sydney domestic terminal has the most shops of any that I have been in. When I first saw it I thought it was like a shopping mall with an airport attached but after spending some hours there I realised that there are not such a lot of shops after all but what is there is expensive. I decided to take my laptop and enjoy the free wi-fi instead. That’s one thing about airports that has definitely improved.

Photo Thursday-Kevin Pietersen-Cricketer

image Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen-English cricketer

It is not my intention that the Thursday photo will always be about cricket but yesterday I went to see the first day of England v Australia A at Bellerive Oval in Hobart. I wanted to get some photos of the English players in particular because after this summer they probably won’t come back to Hobart again for another four years .

Kevin Pietersen was waiting to bat when I took this photo. In fact he was waiting to bat all day. The other English players were content to sit and watch their opening batsmen but he was fidgety, playing with a football, sitting for a while then getting up again, moving around and talking to people. I think he just wanted to get out there himself.

Judging by the scores at the end of the day he’ll be doing a bit more sitting around waiting tomorrow.