Our dad believed everything that he read in The Sunday People, if it was printed in there it simply must be true, there could be no denying, and nowhere in that paper harbinger of scandal, news of bad things and shame of the famous, was that more true than in the classified adverts.
The rule went something like “If it says so in the advert then it must be true, after all, they wouldn’t allow it to be printed if it wasn’t”, yes, well dad, I’ll just say one thing, “The magic razor comb of doom”.
But we’ve covered the magic razor comb of doom to almost exhaustion now and every time I mention it I get phone calls from the NSPCC asking if my father is still alive and he can be prosecuted you know, ripping out childrens hair in such a manner, so we’ll turn the page on that topic, but my father also replied to other classified adverts in his time.
The Bullworker was one thing that he bought from The Sunday People classfied adverts and no-one knows why.
Its not like he was particularly lavish with throwing his cash around, Dickens based Ebeneezer Scrooge on our dad, and its not like he was particularly into getting fit or honing your body to within a millimetre of physical perfection as promised in the Bullworker advert, but he sent a postal order off for 19/6d as instructed and several weeks later, when we’d almost forgotten about The Bullworker, The Bullworker turned up and the postman earned himself a hernia in the process by lugging it all the way from the sorting office, which sort of obviated any advantage that any of us would gain from using the bloody thing.
We all had a go at it, our dad, me and our Ned and then we put it back in the box and never picked it up again, none of us honed to within an inch of physical perfection as promised in The Bullworker advert, our dad out of pocket by 19/6d and the postman herniated for the rest of his life and wondering what the hell was in that box on that fateful day.
But the one thing that he did buy out of The Sunday people classified adverts every year at this time of year, was our summer holiday.
Not those big quarter page adverts that were impressive in their detail and obviously placed by entirely professional purveyors of the holiday experience, but those tiny little adverts right at the end of the classified advert section, the ones that simply read “Caravan to rent Cornwall Cheap” those were the sort of classified adverts that attracted our dad like a magnet, it was probably the word “Cheap” that did it.
One year we went to Perranporth in Cornwall to one of the biggest caravan sites in the world, I believe that it is now a Haven site with lots of things to do and entertainment for the holidaymakers and other good stuff, but when we went there on the strength of a five word classified advert in a Sunday newspaper it was simply the worlds biggest collection of assorted old caravans scattered along five miles of sand dunes with no road access.
And to top it all off, just two weeks before we set off for the fabled Perranporth (which may as well have been on the dark side of the moon for its distance from Leeds) in our old Morris Oxford, The Sunday People, the very newspaper that had attracted our dad to the cheap holiday in the first place, carried a scandalous story of how the whole of the caravan site had been invaded by earwigs that year, millions of the little crawling ear loving buggers had made their homes in the rough woollen blankets that were provided as the only form of warmth in those caravans, and people were leaving the region in droves.
We still went anyway “It’ll be fine” our dad re-assured us, “anyway, I’ve paid the deposit now”.
Nothing has ever been inspected with such fine tooth comb thoroughness as our caravan when we arrived that year, especially by me and Ned for our bunkbeds were inside a cupboard in a corner, you actually slid back a wooden door to reveal a cupboard in which were mounted two children length shelves, sleeping for the purpose of, two dirty mattresses and two rough woollen blankets provided – you can be assured that Ned and I explored every nook and cranny in that narrow cupboard for signs of earwigs before we finally relented and agreed to sleep in there – I can’t imagine putting your kids in a cupboard at night in these enlightened and child liberated days but thats what happened to me and Ned, we slept in fear of earwigs in a cupboard for a fortnight.
Other than that the holiday was a great success, there was a heatwave that summer and we copped for it in Perranporth, long, endlessly long days of scorching hot sun, I went down with heatstroke one day, can you believe that, yes, heatstroke in England, amazing isn’t it, heatstroke caught by being left in a sand dune all day by parents who went to the pub and left their kids unprotected from the sun in sand dunes all day.
Not that our parents were particularly negligent or anything for in the 1960s thats what happened, it was quite acceptable, nay, expected for parents to stand up in their allocated sand dune at around noon, stretch and yawn, put a shirt on and say something like, “oooh, I think me and your mother will just go for a walk kids, you stay here and we’ll bring you some pop back” and off they’d go, to the pub, to drink beer and eat a ploughmans lunch for two hours before returning with a bottle of coke and two straws – every parent did it on Perranporth beach, Perranporth beach resembled a scene from “Lord of the Flies” every day between 12 noon and 2pm, we kids ran amok and killed pigs and everything.