Early this morning I was getting myself geared up to write something for my blog about A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE which hit the shelves in paperback format a couple of days ago (it’s also available as an e-book). It’s the sequel to A MOTHER’S CHOICE but the action is set seventeen years later at the end of the fifties. But then I discovered there was a classic B&W film on BBC 2 called THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE. Made in 1950 it starred those stalwarts of the British film industry of the times Alastair Sims, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell, as well as other familiar faces to those of us who remember when a trip to the flicks several times a week was one of our prime entertainments.
I plonked myself down on the sofa, glad that I’d only missed the first ten minutes and remained there until the credits at the end. The action takes place in a boys boarding school and, due to a mix-up at the Ministry of Education, on the first day of term the girls from St Swithin’s turn up, having been sent to the boys’ college due to their school having been damaged during the blitz. You can use your imagination to what happens next. It’s very much a film of its time so don’t be thinking St Trinian’s.
Children’s books set in boarding schools were popular in the fifties. Despite a lot of the readers were ordinary working class kids like myself. For boys there were the Billy Bunter series by Frank Richards and the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge. As well as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures stories, I read her boarding school tales set at St Mallory’s and St Clare’s, although some of the latter were written in the forties. Boarding school stories also appeared in comics such as the Hotspur and Wizard for boys and Girls’ Crystal and School Friend for the likes of me. Obvious the writers also believed that schooldays were the happiest of your life.
When I was at Liverpool Girls’ College during the fifties, there were grownups who told us the same thing. Maybe they were remembering the long summer holidays when they were young. Once they started work at fourteen or fifteen, there were few holidays and no doubt they missed that freedom of wandering where they willed, playing in the street or losing themselves in a book or in films at the kids matinee.
When I was trying to learn Latin verbs in class I can’t say I felt happy and don't get me started on Mathematics. English and History I loved and the summer holidays.
But I have to admit and have probably said it before that I remember the latter half of the fifties with fondness and that is why I enjoy writing about that era. The scars of the blitz were beginning to disappear and rationing was over. When I left school in 1958 and got myself a job, rock’n’roll was all the rage as were net underskirts beneath flared skirts, waspie belts and pony tails. Dad bought our first telly even though the reception wasn’t always brilliant and I bought my first bike from my own wages.
In 1959 Liverpool’s first mass X-Ray campaign took place and within a few years time the scourges of TB and polio would be almost eradicated from our country. Also in 1959 Bill Shankly became manager of Liverpool football club and Alun Owen’s NO TRAMS TO LIME STREET was shown on telly much to the shock horror of some of Liverpool’s citizens who complained to the Liverpool Echo that it had given the wrong image of our fair city to the viewers.
Not that all these snippets get a mention in A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE, although just like myself, heroine Katy was at that age where clothes and music played a big part in her life and a night out at the Grafton dance hall was not to be missed. She also found a boyfriend.
But Katy has problems that played no part in my life, one of them finding out that the couple she believed to be her parents weren’t and naturally this discovery was to change her life. I really enjoyed writing this book.
On Saturday 27th June at 1pm I will be giving a short talk and be available for signing copies of A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE at Write Blend, a new book and coffee shop on South Road in Crosby. You can find it a few shops down near the Liverpool Road end, on the left hand side