Punky and Perky

(This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 10th November 2017, & the Gazette & Herald on 8th November 2017)

When I sit down to write these columns I rarely know what I’m going to write about, relying on my Dad’s 41-year-old columns to inspire me. So far I’ve been lucky in that each week, something leaps out at me and off I go. This week, though, I’m sitting here in a state of indecision as I’m finding it difficult to choose a topic. In his column from November 6th 1976 he writes about the month of November, noise, magpies, sweet chestnuts and an old dialect poem. And each little section of the column is fascinating, but I only have enough space to consider one of them! Which one would you choose?

Dad was a countryman through and through, and was never more content than when he was sitting in his conservatory with my mum, taking his morning break from writing, chatting over their coffee while overlooking the gorgeous view of their garden and the peaceful valley beyond. The thought of living in a noisy town had always made him shudder, as this 1976 extract reveals: ‘Modern society has produced many more sounds, some of a very aggravating nature.’

He adds: ‘Modern disco dances thrive on brilliant moving lights and outrageous noise, so harmful to the youngsters’ eardrums, and teenagers turn up the volume on their TV sets or record players to a level far higher than necessary.’

Despite these words, Dad was pretty tolerant of the youngsters playing music in his own home. In our ‘posh’ lounge, we had a mahogany-veneer radiogram, roughly the size of a semi-detached house, where we’d play our records. Mum and Dad had bought it in the 1960s, and it was considered very ‘with it’ at the time. I remember my eldest sister received a Pinky and Perky record called ‘Celebration Day’ one year. It was bright green vinyl, and I know Mum and Dad were thrilled to hear the squeaky tones of those two little pigs drifting through the house singing classics like ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers’ and ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ over and over and over and over again. How disappointed they must have been when cassette tapes were invented which meant we could play our music on more portable devices in our bedrooms with the doors shut (although my brother was soon to become a punk fan, and the floorboards that separated the kitchen from his room above were no match for the Sex Pistols on full blast!).

We still have concerns today for our teenagers’ eardrums, because almost every one of them listens to music through headphones ALL the time. They don’t seem able to walk anywhere, or take any journey, without a mobile attached to them via earphones. At least we parents don’t have to suffer their suspect taste in music blaring through the house any more, but we cannot monitor the volume at which they listen to it. You can’t help but think they must be doing long-term damage to their hearing. But will they take notice of our warnings? Of course they won’t, because since the dawn of time, teenagers have ignored all parental warnings concerning their health and well-being. It is one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a teenager.

It is ironic though, that these days my children tell me off for having the TV on too loud! I warn them that my worsening hearing is a result of not listening to my parents when I was a teenager. They tell me it’s just because I’m getting old.

I was very grateful to receive a letter from reader Mr Christopher Lowe who offered me some advice on the different species of bindweed featured in my column in mid-September. Apparently, the picture accompanying my article was not convolvulus, but more likely to be calystegia silvatica, also known as large bindweed, rather than convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed). Although they are related, their characteristics, such as their flowers and foliage, are different. As I have already confessed, I’m not a horticultural expert, so am very happy to be corrected. However, when I looked up calystegia silvatica on the Royal Horticultural Society website, it stated that it came from the convolvulaceae family. So my question now is, can I, or can I not refer to it as convolvulus? I must admit, I am rather confused by all the Latin and very happy to let the experts sort it out!


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