A barrow full of broad beans ready for the freezer!
Like most of the country I was saddened to read of the death of Richard Briars this week. I watched ‘The Good Life’ not just with amusement but with a certain amount of empathy in the mid 1970’s because we were already living the life - or at least trying to! The Good Life aired from 1975 to 1978 but two years earlier than that my husband and I had bought our country cottage with a small amount of land and were trying our hand at - not self sufficiency (as we were both working) - but at least partially living off the land. Complete self sufficiency as the influential John Seymour stated in his popular book needs at least an acre and five acres for a family if you are going to keep a cow and other livestock. Along with our cats and a brief encounter with a dog, we only kept ducks and chickens, but we grew all our own vegetables and picked fruit from our trees, made jam and wine and even made hay - when the sun shone!
As it happened our neighbours who had escaped the London life to retire to the country were also ‘into’ self sufficiency and they kept rabbits - not as pets but for their meat. Trying to put aside any squeamishness, we swopped our eggs and sometimes vegetables for ‘bunny burgers.’ We watched with amusement as the Goods dug up their lawns to turn them into vegetable plots. We had done the same! Only a small handkerchief patch of grass edged with daffodils escaped at the front of the cottage, but even the chickens wandered there. We grew curly kale and cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, broad beans, potatoes, parsnips and marrows and according to the season we grew salad vegetables in abundance. Some vegetables we stored or froze and rarely did we need to visit a greengrocer. We got to know our enemies, of which there were many - greenfly and blackfly, carrotfly and aphids, pigeons and foxes, slugs and snails and dealt with them appropriately - apart from the fox who always outwitted us!
Of course just as the Goods had found in ‘The Good Life’ there were still bills to pay - rates, electricity, coal and all the other usual household bills. Chris, my husband worked as an Ordnance Surveyor and I worked as a draughtswoman for the local electricity board so we had money to pay for our bills and we were of course only partially living the dream of living off the land. We would have loved to have lived the life to the full but the conveyor belt of life seemed
to have other plans for us but I have nothing but admiration for those who did or still do manage to do so. As we sat by the Rayburn in our kitchen we watched Tom and Barbara’s antics usually with amusement and in agreement. Sometimes as old hands (as we then thought) we knew better, but usually we thought it hilarious that their script sometimes mirrored our own life. By the time the series finally ended in 1978 we had just sold our cottage and moved on to other things. The repeats continue to this day of course and are as watchable as when they were first shown. The programme gave self sufficiency and gardening a boost and by 1977 over 8,000 additional members had joined the National Allotment Society.
I look back to that period in our lives with great affection and I wrote about some aspects of our ‘good life’ in ‘The Ramblings of a Twenty Five Inch Man’ (the extraordinary exploits of an Ordnance Surveyor). If you would like to read about Houdini our amazing escaping chicken, McDuck the duckling we took camping to Scotland and lots of other hilarious tales then
take look at
As you may have read in my bio. I was employed in the newspaper industry for nearly
twenty five years and during that time I worked in virtually every department. It was extremely hard work but there were amusing moments too and I thought I would share some of those with you.
Typographical mistakes were fairly commonplace but ‘proofs’ were usually requested so that
mistakes were spotted in time. One I remember that luckily was corrected in time read:
Mr and Mrs Smith are pleased to announce the engagement of their lonely daughter
When I first started in a small regional office in Shropshire, typewriters were all that were used and the clatter from the editorial department as the articles were rattled off remains with me. Editorial clangers however were not usually funny and just resulted in legal action and printed apologies, but advertising mistakes were a different matter and usually had an element of humour in. I can assure you, you need one to work in newspapers!
Artwork for the advertisements were drawn up by ‘artists’ for the reps if they were lucky! More usually pictures from ready prepared books that were bought in were chosen. In one particular
book the original artist who had drawn up a gardening page, must have had a bad day as plastered all over the page of garden tools in all sizes of typeface was the word ‘Sod’ and 'Sod it!' over and over again! It was surprising that the page had slipped through the net!
As time went by and the industry evolved big, bulky computers were brought in. Not only could advertising space be booked for the planner but advertising reps could typeset smaller lineage adverts themselves. Time was always at a premium so shortcuts were used. For example the ‘alt’ key and other keys could be used that would automatically insert a few words that were regularly used such as ‘Tel:’ A death notice that had been typeset in this way was unfortunately not spotted until it was too late and printed. It read:
‘The burial of Mr Albert Jones, ‘taxed and MoT’d,’ took place last week.......
Needless to say there was hell to pay! Profuse apologies had to be made and the question was asked ‘How on earth could such a thing happen?’ Well actually it could and did happen all too often. The pace and pressure of a newspaper’s deadlines meant that sometimes it was a miracle that the paper was printed at all!
An ‘In memoriam’ advert that was misheard by a telesales girl went thus:
‘Mathews Reginald 20th December 19XX A beloved father, grandfather and uncle. Dearly loved, your presents particularly missed at this time of year.
It should of course have read ‘presence!’ This actually appeared in the paper and no doubt everyone thought he must have been a very generous relative to have!
An especially funny one that was actually printed by a rival newspaper group reported the cancellation of a race meeting:
The racecourse at xxxxxxxxxx was closed last Tuesday as the ground was too wet due to large amounts of sleet and snot falling!
The ‘w’ had of course been accidentally replaced by a ‘t’!
Estate agents copy was always particularly trying. Vast numbers of boxes with photos and text had to be collected (before deadline) and put together correctly with probably several proofs to’ing and fro’ing. This was always fraught and one rep who had obviously had enough of one particular estate agent messing her about sneaked in at the bottom of the page:
XXXXXXXX Estate Agents - down your street and up your back passage!
Spotted and deleted by the production department the rep was summarily dismissed with the estate agent in question none the wiser!
I have saved my favourite until last. Telesales sometimes took larger display adverts over the phone and this particular advert was quite large and for a pub. The story went that the landlord had wanted a really bold heading with the name of the pub at the top. The establishment was called The Tartan Toad which admittedly is an unusual name. The telesales girl had set the advert herself and duly complied with the request for a large header. When the paper came out the advert certainly stood out! There on the dining out page was written in extremely bold typeface:
The Tart and Toad! It makes a change from the Princess and the frog I suppose!
Ah, those were the days - or then again perhaps not!
All names have been changed apart from the last one!