The Dolly Birds

“Whey they’re in again” said her mother. flicking her head sideways towards the bench seats that ran underneath the windows the full length of the club concert room, “tha dolly bords”

Dolly Birds, a derogatory term of female on female abuse often spoken with a sneer on the face – or alternatively a complimentary term of male on female admiration often spoken with a leer on the face.

“Look at her, she thinks she’s a right dolly bird” *sneer*

“Well hel-llooo, you’re a right dolly bird aren’t you” *leer*

See the difference ?

The dolly birds who were the centre of the sneering attention from her mother were three friends who always went out together on a Saturday and Sunday night, married women of an age where they should have known better than to try and look twenty years younger they were and never seen out with their husbands of a weekend – and this is where the sneering came into play.

You see in the north east in the 1970s there was still a very firm set of rules to play by, men went out to work, women didn’t after their children were born. Women stayed home and looked after their “man” and on a weekend they would dress up and go to the club with their “man” and act like a married woman, that is to sit at a table in the concert room, have half a lager or a Cheery B bought for them  and not complain when their “man” went off to the bar for a game of snooker, they were supposed to sit there, natter to their friends and not be “on the pull” for anyone else.

The dolly birds did not conform to this ideal, all of them in their forties and with teenage children they wore “skirts up their arse” as my mother in law was want to say (or rather “skorts up they’re ar-rse”), layered on the makeup so that facial cracks and creases were completely plastered over, put on the brightest red lipstick that the Co-op store could find, and danced with any man drunk enough to leer.

The dolly birds were not universally liked in “tha clerb”.

“Whey that ones gone roond the neck” the other women of the club would say, the women who sat there obediently waiting for their “man” to return blathered from the bar, and they’d point at the wrinkles around their own necks and then back at the dolly birds who were now dancing to a disco tune with three drunk husbands of some other women, “Whey ah nar” another would reply, “She’s had it aaa-all tekken away an a-all yer knar” and pointing to her lap would add in a stage whisper, “Dooon they’re” and then nod knowingly.

My dear  mother-in-law would continue this traditional husband/wife routine at her home, for whenever I went around there I would be ushered into their living room, sat down in front of the fire and then my newly acquired wife would be told by her mother to go and get me a cup of coffee and some of the mother-in-laws chocolate cake (which as always , was superb), unfortunately my wife was of a more modern attitude and she would invariably tell her mother that if I wanted a cup of coffee and a slice of cake then I had a pair of legs and I knew where the kitchen was so I could bloody well fend for myself – such a shame that those old traditions died before I could take full advantage.


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