January 5th, 2016

Being the start of a new year and given the crap weather which means long days staying indoors, I’ve decided to return to my long term task of copying all my home movies to dvd before they crumble to dust. This is a huge task given I’ve been recording things since I got my first camcorder back in 1987.

Over the years the recording devices got smaller, as did the recording formats….from full size vhs tapes, through analogue tape cassettes and digital micro cassettes to the sd cards we have now.  As you might imagine, trying to convert all these formats to dvd is a bit of a nightmare as most require the original recording device to be used. The living room floor gets covered in cables, connectors and tapes and the living room air turns blue when it all goes Pete Tong.

While I was upstairs digging out some of the early footage, I came across the page-a-day diary I kept in 1970, the only year I managed to do so. It was a very important year as it was when I left boarding school in “Norn Iron” and came over to University in England so I knew I’d have lots to put into a diary.

On January 5th 1970 those exciting days were still some months away but the entry is still of some interest…..ok maybe only to me !

It was cold.  Very cold.  Those were the days before climate change and El Niño had been invented and we still got sun in the summer and snow in the winter.  Ahhh happy days. I hadn’t gone back to boarding school after the Christmas holidays and was at home in Ballymoney, a small farming town near the north coast of N. Ireland.

The 5th was a Monday and all the excitement of the day revolved around the arrival of my new watch and then going to see a Disney movie.  Yes despite being 17, such events were exciting to me back then !

Let’s face it, such things would excite me today.

Anyhoo, getting a watch through the post WAS a big deal back then…..at least in Ballymoney it was. Remember there was no internet and in our house the telephone was still a magical device that was only used to call the priest or the doctor, both in case of imminent death.  And in that order of course !

So I think I may have ordered this watch from a magazine by sending off a letter containing a postal order….remember those ?  The arrival of the watch only merited a few lines in that diary entry so I think I was slightly underwhelmed by it in real life and at the same time learned a valuable lesson that has stayed with me – namely that images of products do not always accurately reflect the actual product.

Are you listening Sainsburys….with the tantalising image on your Beef Bolognese 400g tin ?  But thank you for the £10 gift card !  That helped.

For some bizarre reason the watch had to be assembled.  Well not the actual watch but the strap. And even worse, it had to be done by a jeweler. This was 1970, in a small town and I was useless at DIY so gimme a break.

I’d already made plans to meet up with a fellow school boarder in nearby Coleraine so I took the watch/strap combo with me and set off on the bus. In the diary I noted that “the bus trip cost me 2/5d but 2/6d to get the strap attached at a jewelers“.  I’ve no idea what that is in modern money but either I got a great deal on the bus or that jeweler ripped me off.  Considering the work involved, I suspect the later.

In one of those “I don’t believe it” moments, the boy I was meeting up with in Coleraine was called Paul Cunning and it was only 2 weeks ago (on Christmas Day actually) that he got in touch with me having read a post I put on my old school’s Facebook page.  After almost 46 years to the day, it’s just nice to know we’re both still alive !

Back to that day in 1970 and my diary reminds me that we went to the new library in Coleraine which I said was “smashing“.  We talked like that back in the day.  Street talk y’know.  Groovy.

Then the snow got heavier and we went back to Paul’s house for tea and biscuits and to listen to records. Oh we knew how to have fun in those days.  Then at 6:30pm we had a quick “fry” (which could have been just about anything because back then we fried anything that didn’t have a pulse) before heading off to the cinema to see the filim.

I noted that it cost 4/6d to get in but that “it was worth it“.  There was always a short before the main feature and on that day the short was a Disney animal film from 1962 called “Big Red” which my concise diary review said was “about a dog“.

Big Red

The main feature was “The Love Bug” which had been released 8 months earlier but hey, this was rural N. Ireland.  My review of this Disney masterpiece was that it was “terrific and the trick photography was superb“.

Eat your heart out Industrial Light & Magic.


It seems that I’d arranged for my dad to pick me up at 11pm at the fire station but that the filim was over by 10:32 and so I was at the rendezvous early – but dad was there anyway.  That was dad.  Mr. Dependable.

When I got home, ITV was off air as “the transmitter at Black Mountain was affected by heavy snow“.  I Googled this transmitter and it seems it’s still transmitting, but only around the Belfast area now.  Maybe that heavy snow in 1970 did for it.

So there you have it.  January 5th 1970 was still more exciting than January 5th 2016.

Considering what happened, how depressing is THAT ?!



2 thoughts on “January 5th, 2016

  1. Jenny

    I use to write my diary religiously every day (about what? No idea!) but eventually threw them out, years late, which is a shame really, because if I still had them, I could check if my life was as interesting as yours. 🙂

  2. Joe McReynolds

    Paul Cunning was one of the most popular teachers in my kids Grammar School. A really nice guy. I know the family; father was the salt of the earth.


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