Weekends in England forty years ago had a format; a format that cannot have been prolonged or frequent, but which seemed to have a quality never recaptured in later years. Perhaps it was the second half of 1978, for it could have been neither much earlier nor much later, there was a routine, a pattern, a sequence that shaped the hours from Friday until Sunday evening.
Sixth form college discos and birthday parties were always on a Thursday, perhaps the venues were cheaper, so there would be no going out at the weekends.
Friday night was spent listening to Tommy Vance’s Rock Show on Radio 1, “TV on the radio,” declared the slogan. It was a time spent ostensibly working on “A” level studies, though examiners would later agree that more time had been spent listening to music than on reading books.
Saturday mornings were a lazy time. At two o’clock the radio would be retuned to BBC Radio 2 for the sports coverage, real attention being paid from four o’clock onwards when there would be live commentary from the second half of a featured Division 1 match. In an age of constant live football coverage, it is hard to imagine it then being such a rarity. At five o’clock, the kitchen would be filled with the sound of the theme tune of “Sports Report” and the unmistakable voice of James Alexander Gordon would read the classified football results. Even if one missed an actual score, the inflection of his voice would indicate how the match had finished.
Saturday evening television was from a time when BBC programmes might attract tens of millions of viewers. There was “The Generation Game,” and “Parkinson” and “Match of the Day”. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine why so many watched “The Generation Game,” even Bruce Forsyth, the ever cheerful presenter must have felt frequent cringe moments. But when there are only three television channels, only one television in the house, and there is not much money to go out do anything else, there was little alternative.
Late on Saturday night, there would be the “Hammer House of Horror” or Westerns where the bad guys would commit some heinous crime and would be tracked down and shot by the good guys. There was something unsatisfactory in the films where the bad guys did not get shot.
Sunday morning was a time for sleeping. Turning on the radio at midday, Jimmy Saville’s “Old Record Club” would challenge the recall of songs and artists (it would have been hard then to have imagined the man’s capacity for evil-doing), while the Sunday lunch was being cooked. At two o’clock, the music of Annie Nightingale’s programme accompanied the doldrums of a Sunday afternoon. By evening time, there was a realisation that the work attempted while listening to Tommy Vance was still unfinished.
It would be difficult to pretend that there was much by the way of “enjoyment” in such weekends; there was never anything remarkable, never anything exciting, never anything that might have made one say on Monday morning, “do you know where I went?”
Yet, in the nothingness, there was a happy boredom.