“Pull the car over Brian, I want to take my bra off and let my tits breath”.
So he does.
And so she does.
Then a pair of nylon slacks and other assorted artificial fibres come clambering clumsily over us in the back seat of the car. Squooshed in between my brother and I on the way to Weymouth. Faffing about under her clothes. Her thick nylon clothes. It must have been hot under all those dodgy poly-nylon layers. The friction alone. Not to mention flammable.
The sweet smell of lipstick, face powder, Avon and alcohol masking the car fumes.
Who made the whole world and my memories of it, Kodacolor.
My Nan and all her colour, was among the first big influences on my relationship with fabrics, art and a creative outlook. Through clothes, colour, improvisation and her approach to life in general. She stood out in the small, grim, grey, tedious, going-nowhere… eternally 1970’s town.
It was my Mum that guided my ‘have a go’ attitude and helped me make the many soooo hideous outfits for ‘Friday Night Youth Club’. But that’s another entry. Quite a few, probably. Especially the now-disturbing Youth Club years.
OK. So. Nan - her influence on me. Any connections with the where’s and why’s of my lifelong infatuation with fabrics? Hmm. Here we go..
Well she was a very interesting character. A strong, eccentric, tactless and predatory female. Blunt and crude, sentimental and incredibly funny. ‘Colourful’ as they say.
A mix between Elsie Tanner and Yootha Joyce with a little smattering of Bette Davis in Who Killed Baby Jane. An old-school drama queen. She fascinated and impressed me. I wonder if Liberache had sex with Barbara Cartland and they’d had a lovechild daughter… who had no money…. Would that have been my Nan?! Maybe if Liberache had got Quentin Crisp pregnant (yes, I know) – or Joe Orton….
Anyway. She was poor. She had a strange marital arrangement with my Grandad. He was kind of her maid and had an imaginary friend called Percy. But I’ll do all that stuff another time as he was also a very huge influence on me and creativity etc.
Nan would start the day with poor old Grandad taking in her tea etc on a tray (he slept in a different room). He’d take out the potty from under her bed and she’d start planning her look for the day. In front of her bed was a big (to me) dressing table. On her bed were dolls in shiny dresses, looking like cute pubescent drag queens in Music Hall costumes. The room was tacky and stuffy. Was aromatherapy big in the seventies? ‘Cos my Nan’s room smelled of the potty from under her bed, boiled eggs for breakfast, Avon perfume… and a whiff of adventure.
Once she’d chosen her outfit and dressed, Grandad would tidy away the clothes strewn everywhere. The outfits were always well co-ordinated. Capes were favoured. Nylon slacks were a staple. When flares went out of fashion, she simply took the slacks to the dry cleaners and had them taken in to become ‘straights’. She’d wear something like lime green slacks, fluorescent orange nylon jumper, a bright green cape and a green turban. Then a big old handful of plastic jewellery. The pattern emerging is that of a propensity for nylon. Needs must, I guess. And it doesn’t need ironing. Not that she’d have been the one to do it... (My Dad went on to become a fireman – not surprising, perhaps, after growing up around all that static electric and nylon friction)