The In-Crowd

When I was fifteen I got a Saturday job in Wainwrights, the Milk Bar, on the corner of London Road and Tindal Street.  All the girls wore a white overall with a red and black check pinafore apron and when Steve started, he wore a white jacket, like Mr Wainwright.  We served milk and milkshakes, tea and coffee and Horlicks, and egg sandwiches.  There was no juke box, and it wasn’t hip, but it was popular.

There was a group of people, of whom my sister, tragically for me, was one, who came in every Saturday.  Val, the other Saturday girl, and I called them the In-Crowd.  The boys were at the Grammar School and the girls were at the High School.   They always had the same thing, Foxy had espresso – you had to go to the other end of the counter for espresso, and Steve had tea.  Johnny had lemon squash and my sister and Marilyn and the others had the ordinary coffee.  They would get their drinks and take them upstairs and sit for hours, taking up two tables, talking about horse-racing and records.  They weren’t mods, and despite my sister’s best attempts, they weren’t really beatniks.  The boys always wore nice jumpers, plain, no pattern, round neck, navy blue usually, sometimes maroon, and good jeans.  The girls wore mohair coats, or in the summer shift dresses in blue or pink.

They weren’t mods, but they really were a sort of In-Crowd.  And because they were two and three years older than me, it was a crowd I couldn’t join, even if I’d wanted to.  Later, when Foxy worked in London and so did I we became really good friends.  What a difference fifteen years makes.

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories

A Sense of Occasion

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories

 a sense of occasion

It was not the most straight forward of requests.  The brief was to design a book cover that said, ‘Sixties, mods, Chelmsford, style,’ not necessarily in that order. Christine Wilkinson has done just that and I love it.

These are my stories about minis, racing gloves, espressos, coffee bars, salad cream and Coronation Street when it was only on twice a week.  Follow best friends Marie and Deirdre as they fall into the Orpheus and out of the Corn Exchange, falling in love and losing their chances, and Sandra and Linda practice their mod jive and go on an unlikely walking holiday.  Chelmsford in the Sixties.

Going to a Go-Go is what I listened to then and again, when I wrote the stories, and it’s what Christine listened to while she was creating the cover.  I know I’ve posted this before, but it says it all.

The book comes out in two weeks – A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories

Catch up with the latest on my website

Every Little Bit Hurts

Brenda Holloway – what a voice, what a song.

And Brenda Holloway is coming to Britain.  Modstock takes place in London next week, celebrating 50 years of mods.  Brenda Holloway and the Velvelettes are on the bill.  What a treat.

Modstock was one of the subjects on the Robert Elms programme on Radio London 94.9 yesterday (8 April 2014), where there was a discussion on all things Mod.  Full of the confidence that can only come from having just made a Betty Crocker cake, I rang in.  It was a 3 hour show – if you want to jump to the part that could possibly, on another planet, be called ‘the best bit’ jump to 1 hour 49 minutes in, and hear me talk about my beloved pinstriped fan-pleated skirt, the Corn Exchange, the Milk Bar and the wonder of Horlicks.



Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker cakes were known to be the queen of cakes, they were moist, they were rich, they were covered in ‘frosting’, and we rarely had them in our house.   But yesterday, as part of the preparation for publication of A Sense of Occasion – my book of Short Stories about being a mod girl in the Sixties, to be published on 1 May 2014 – Chris Wilkinson, the art director, and I decided to make a Betty Crocker cake to see if the end result would make a good cover.  After all, in those days, a Betty Crocker cake was an occasion in itself.

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We decided that the Red Velvet Cake would be the best from the Betty Crocker range – red from the paprika and carmine, velvet presumably from the cake.  Three eggs, 4½ tablespoons of oil, some water and the mix, what could be easier?  Well, the hand whisk broke, but it was old.  The main difficulty was the lack of two same sized cake tins for the two layers.  That was resolved when the cake came out of the oven, by cutting off an outer circle from one layer but my cake cutting skills are not what they were – if I ever had any, so there was uneven-ness.  No problem – all faults could be covered by frosting (bought in a separate tub.  Betty Crocker is still expensive).    And yet, somehow, there wasn’t enough frosting in the world to cover the tragedy on the cake rack.

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You would think, at the end of it all, that you could sit down with a nice cup of tea and savour a slice of delicious, soft, moist cake.  But it didn’t taste like that.   It was just too sweet.  It was a cake-mix cake.

So will a version of this cake become the cover?  We’ll decide soon.  Any views gratefully received.

But all I could think about as we prepared the cake was the TV advert which made people rush out in droves to buy Betty Crocker.  ‘It’s so nice to have a cake around the house, a Betty Crocker cake around the house.’