Wall to wall entertainment

Music was very important to me growing up.  The bedroom wall in my Balham flat was bedecked with singers cut out from Fab 208.  The life-sized picture of Clodagh Rogers did dominate the wall; this didn’t leave much room for Melanie, Aretha Franklin or Nancy Sinatra (nothing wrong with having eclectic musical tastes).

I’d inherited some records from my grandparents: the 1939 classic “Underneath the spreading chestnut tree”; “Caruso’s greatest hits” and a full set of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  Therefore, the desire to have my own music was paramount.

I bought a cassette player.  I also bought several C60 tapes to record on.  I declined to buy a reel-to-reel tape as I believed this would make my bedroom look like the IBM building. 

I’d plant my microphone in front of the TV during Top of the Pops – sadly I’d not only record the song, but I’d also record my mother asking “what’s this bleedin’ row?” .  DJs on the radio would interrupt the songs by talking over the start and finish of songs.  At night, I’d try and record the Radio Luxembourg top 20 underneath my candlewick.  My mother would enter my room (without knocking) and say “I hope you’re not doing what I think you might be doing?”  I was ten and my eyesight was bad enough.

Eventually, as I got older, and with more pocket money, I could buy actual records.  I’d buy the Top of the Pops and Hot Hits albums.  My mother knew why.

Bish, bash, Bosch



The moment an Athena shop opened near me, my bedroom in my Balham flat overnight became festooned with death and destruction, mainly provided by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel.

As if Sir Kenneth Clark had lived in my flat, I had become an art expert overnight – as long as the paintings gave the impression that you’d have loved to have had a pint of whatever the artists had been drinking!

I’d spend a fortune in the Athena shops buying famous pictures replicated on postcards, posters and small blocks of wood; I’m sure my neighbours always enjoyed my random nail-hammering after a shop visit.

I was never tempted with any Picasso cartoon, though, as I was more an Andy Capp man.

Dali was hugely popular within the stores and if he’d bought his watches which he depicted in his paintings, you could see that Gerald Ratner had had a point.

Before its advent in 1964, very few people had art in their houses unless it was The Laughing Cavalier, a bowl of fruit, or a Chinese woman whose face was so green it looked like she’d eaten too much fruit.

However, one of the more popular images was something I never bought: Leonardo da Vinci’s Tennis girl scratching arse! – although the eyes do follow you round the room, a sign of a good painting!