Category Archives: 70’s Flashbacks

70’s Flashbacks: First Flirtations

Digging ever further into the piles of old family photos this summer, there he was: Robert Spiegel, my first childhood crush! Our mothers were good friends, we lived in the same village, and so we saw quite a lot of each other when we were kids.

Here we are on a visit to Munich zoo:

Robert and I

See how hard I'm working it...?!

See how hard I’m working it…?!

I also found this photo, taken at a kindergarten carnival party:

I'm either a princess or a fairy... how original...

I’m either a princess or a fairy… how original…

The boy in the picture, Siegfried Terpoorten (‘Sigi’), was my second crush, after it had dawned on me that Robert, although quite sweet, wasn’t… well… the sharpest tool in the box.

Sigi was sharp witted and charismatic, even at that age. He oozed confidence, without being (overly) cocky, and enjoyed universal popularity. I’m not sure I had paid him all that much heed at the time the above picture was taken. We must have been around 6 years old in that shot. Three years later, though, he did something that left a lasting impression.

It happened during carnival season. The Village used to lay on a children’s costume party every year, held in the local community centre. The fest was in full swing, when Sigi swished through the doors, in a bright green chiffon dress, a wig with strawberry blonde pleats and painted-on freckles splattered across his nose.

The crowd, composed of 50% princesses and 50% cowboys/Indians (this was before the age of the superheroes), let out a communal gasp. Everyone took the piss, of course, but he didn’t seem to care in the least. In fact, he wore the same outfit again a couple of days later for our primary school’s carnival do.

I don’t remember which kid showed off with his or her first Gameboy, but I do remember this; in fact, it’s my first conscious memory of being seriously impressed by someone. That Sigi had balls, and not even a big girl’s blouse could dent his street cred.

With hindsight, I’d say it was his first public demonstration that he wasn’t going to comply with other people’s expectations, and that he had the perseverance to see things through. Sigi was meant to become an electrician, like his father, and take over the small family business. He played along for a time, and so, despite being clearly very bright, he ended up stuck at a school that catered for the lower strata of academic ability, affording him the minimum educational standard required for entering an electrician’s apprenticeship, which he did complete.


Sigi grown up

His real passion, though, had always been acting, and he was the shining star of local community and school theatre performances. Fiddling with wiring wasn’t going to do it for him in the long run, that much was obvious. So he went back to school, and even managed to get a scholarship to a prestigious acting school. Today, he’s a successful German TV, film and theatre actor, and lives, as far as I know, in Switzerland with his wife and children.

So then, any juicy stories about your first crushes…? Spill, people, spill!

70’s/80’s Flashbacks: My Love Affair With Cakes

As most of you know, I was recently leafing though old family albums, and since birthdays are a classic occasion for taking photos, you won’t be at all surprised that I’ve stumbled upon some highly incriminating evidence documenting the early days of my life-long cake addiction.

Actually, these photos are from the early 80's rather than the 70's, as evidenced by these horrendous perms.

A quick look over the shoulder to make sure nobody’s about to swipe my piece… That’s my mother on the left, the other people are her aunts and her cousin. [Hideous 80’s perms alert…!]

I absolutely love marzipan, so my birthday cakes were always densely populated by marzipan fauna and flora, as well as covered by a layer of marzipan:

She's touching my precious....!!!!

Whaaaahhhh, she’s touching My Precious….!!!!

Finally, she's gone... and I get to be alone with MY CAKE

Finally, she’s gone… and I get to be alone with MY CAKE!!!

Ooooooh, a two-tiered construction! Right behind me are my mother (right) and by grandma (left)

Ooooooh, a fancy two-tiered construction! Just what I’d ordered. Right behind me are my mum (right, in the blue) and by grandma (left)

That's not me, but my little brother with his birthday cake

My little brother with his birthday cake. Yes, wee boy, just don’t you take your eyes off it… not even for a second…!

[For the rest of the 70’s Flashback series, bursting with embarrassing photos, click here.]

70’s Flashbacks: My First Day At School, aka ‘Schultütengate’

It’s the 1st September, and the start of a new school year beckons. Last month, when I went through some old family photo albums, I came across this picture, taken on my first ever day of school, in September 1978:


I’m the one on the right. The reason for my jealously guarding that strange missile-shaped accessory will soon become clear.

On their first day of school, German children receive one of these cone-shaped receptacles made of cardboard, called a “Schultüte”. And guess what’s in it? Sweets! (‘Candy’ if you’re North American) Why else would I be clutching it so tightly?!

However, my Schultüte harboured a dark, rustling secret (which explains why I’m not smiling): My parents stuffed it to three quarters with old newspaper. Precious caramels, chocolates and other mortal enemies of tooth enamel occupied only the top layer. They told me that the Schultüte would break if it were completely filled up with sweets. It’s the first conscious memory I have of my parents lying to me. It may have been for my own good, but they seriously plummeted in my esteem on that day.

There was another traumatic revelation that would hit me a few months later: I had assumed that I would get a Schultüte at the beginning of every new school year. But that turned out to be just wishful thinking on my part… it’s very much a once in a lifetime affair.

Do you have any special items or rituals that take place on the first day of school in your country or region?

[To view the rest of the 70’s Flashbacks series (including the fabled ‘naked pictures’ post), click here.]

70’s Flashbacks: Meet My Best Friend. Ever.

Which one is it...?

Which one is it…? (I’m the one on the left, btw.)

No, it’s neither of those queer looking girls, heaven forbid! The one on the right I fell out with when we were 11, and we haven’t spoken since (sounds pathetic, which it is, and were we still living in the same country, we’d have fixed this by now). Her cousin, the one in the middle, who looks a bit like a mole, was totally insufferable. She always had to be the leader in every game, regardless of whether one was required or not. Even my mother only ever referred to her as “The Boss”. I’m by no means a natural-born leader, but equally untalented as a follower, so the three of us were doomed from the start.

But I digress. My bestest friend of all time, as you’ll probably have guessed by now, was the dog. My dad acquired him from a US airbase nearby. The owner was returning to the States and could not take him. His original name was Snoopy (yes, very original…!), but as this is awkward for Germans to pronounce, it was approximated to Schnuppi. My mum, terrified of all dogs, turned the poor animal’s arrival into a huge drama, and Schnuppi had to be tied up to the railings outside the front door.

This state of affairs didn’t last long – three hours at the most – before my mum was won over by his heartbreakingly sad eyes and rabbitty back legs. Schnuppi was as stubborn as dachshunds come, and just as loyal. He was not a yapper, but when he did decide to voice his excitement, his bark was sonorous, low pitched and slightly husky.

A pampered family pet, he lived to the ripe old age of 15 and was buried in the very centre of his kingdom that was my grandparents’ garden, beneath a voluptuous spruce.

You never laughed at me, even when they stuck me in the  most ridiculous outfits

Aw, my precious friend…you never took the piss, not even when they wrangled me into the most ridiculous outfits

hough your back may have been turned, you were looking out for me as I plodded wonkily through the garden, toppling over and grazing my knees every five stepsI

Though your back may have been turned, you were looking out for me as I plodded wonkily through the garden, toppling over and grazing my knees every five steps

I shared my toys with you, and what a good sport you were :)

I shared my toys with you, and what a good sport you were 🙂

Do you have any fond memories of a beloved childhood pet?

[I have posted a bunch of embarrassing childhood pictures before, here they are, if you want to see them]

What The World Has Been Waiting For: Naked Pictures Of Me!

It was too hot to go out yesterday, so I went through old family photo albums with my brother instead. Excuse the poor quality, they are photos of fuzzy 1970s photos.

I do look a bit apprehensive on my grandad's shoulders. He was a very nice man.

I do look a bit apprehensive on my grandad’s shoulders. But he was a very nice man.

With my dad

I’m a lot happier with my dad

Not so much with my granny… I don’t think it’s her … what I must be pissed off about is this totally ridiculous outfit!

With my mum in my grandparents' garden

With my mum in my grandparents’ garden

As promised...

As promised…

Swing set antics

I was a sprightly four-year-old.

This ultra-short haircut may look quite cute, but it’s the tear-blighted result of my first hair-related tragedy. My dad had made a real botch-job of cutting it, and this is the best the hairdresser could do to save my dignity.

These are chocolate bears. Right in front of me. What do you think will happen next...?

These are chocolate bears. Right in front of me. What do you think will happen next…?

What else?!?

What else?!? Whoever’s hand that was, it just wasn’t fast enough to save them.

The last three are of my brother and I, taken in the early 80s. (He’s ten years younger than me.)

He was always easy to please ;-)

He was always easy to please 😉

Rose garden

I did want to kill him back then. Now I’m glad I resisted the urge

You Can’t Make Old Friends…

I’m lucky enough to have a collection of fabulous friends from many different epochs of my life. Kindergarten, school, college, different work places, projects, countries – usually, a lasting connection is forged with one or two people, and although we may not be in touch much of the time, somehow, we continue to be part of each other’s lives with varying degrees of intensity and frequency.

I enjoy these bonds immensely. A distinct constellation of reference points exists with each individual, which cannot be replicated with someone else. They’ve borne witness to a specific episode in your life that turned you into the person you are today. Once that person disappears from your life, you’ve also lost that touching stone to your past. Of course, a lasting friendship needs a bit more cement than just a shared stretch of the past, which is why we do not keep up with probably 99% of the people who were once a bit more than mere acquaintances.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this… Well, my ‘oldest’ friend Martina is coming to Toledo tomorrow to spend a long weekend with me, and I’m excited about it. Normally, I only see her once a year when I return to Germany for a family visit, and we may only speak to each other on the phone four or five times a year. You see, she has three children, a business (which involves baking and selling cakes!!!), a cattle farm and some high-powered part-time job in the German equivalent of the NHS, so it’s hard for her to get away.

Martina and I made friends in kindergarten at the tender age of four. We grew up in the same village, and we went to school together. Our younger brothers, incidentally, are also good friends, and I even remember her mother being pregnant with her brother. Although our lives over the last two decades could not have been any more different, our friendship has endured for 37 years.

We can go trawling, without a trace of reticence, through our most sordid of family scandals, and there’s no need for lengthy explanations. She’s seen my father in Tyrannosaurus Rex mode, and, boy, I know just how doolally her mother is. We each understand why the other one is so uniquely fucked up, and also why we are strong and driven in very different ways. And, most importantly, we can laugh about it all 🙂

I took a shot of an already terribly grainy, faded picture, but it's the only one I have of Martina and I. We're probably eight years old, and it must have been taken after school, as we've both got school bags strapped to our backs.

I took shot of an already terribly grainy, faded picture, but it’s the only one I have of Martina and I. We’re probably eight years old, and it must have been taken after school, as we’ve both got school bags strapped to our backs.

I should really not be sitting here and wasting time on writing this when I’ve got a flat to clean. A flat that’s not up to German standards of cleanliness, not by a veeeeeery long shot, and I’ve not got a cat in hell’s chance of covering up my domestic inadequacies in front of her. I’ve never cleaned the outside of a window in my life. And the bitch is bound to spill the beans to my mother…!