For me it was the year that my life changed forever: a bittersweet year and a bittersweet song.
I had an extremely happy childhood in a very loving family. My Mam and Dad were both from working class families and my Dad had a leg amputated as a child and so he missed a lot of schooling, went to secondary modern and left at 14. Through night classes and studying really hard he got himself an education and qualified as an accountant.
In the summer of 1966 we were doing more than okay. We regularly changed cars, we took holidays abroad as my Dad had worked his way up from being a clerk to become Finance Director of a retail chain based in Newcastle. One afternoon I got home from school and my Mam said ‘your Dad’s in the back room. He’s very upset. He’s lost his job’. Great Universal Stores had taken over the company and immediately made my Dad redundant. Such is the harsh way of business.
I walked into the sitting room and there he was. It was the middle of the afternoon; he was sitting in his usual chair with the telly on – crying! I’d never seen him cry before and I said ‘don’t cry Dad, I know you’ve lost your job but we’ll be alright’. He turned and looked at me with tears rolling down his cheeks, shaking his head and told me that a pit heap had slid down a mountainside in Wales and killed over one hundred children. He’d come home and had sat watching coverage of the Aberfan disaster unfold on the TV and he was crying for them and not for himself.
After he lost his job things changed. The holidays went, the cars were all second hand and all this with my Mam pregnant with her fourth child, my younger brother, Gerard.
1966 was also the year me and my mates turned 14 and the year we started to invite girls to parties. My 14th birthday landed on 6.6.66. It was a Monday so the party was planned for the previous Saturday. We had girls and we had cider. My Mam knew about the girls but not about the cider. Most importantly we were going to play ‘spin the bottle’. As my friends arrived they brought presents. 7inch singles were released on a Friday in those days and my mate handed me one that had been released the day before, 3rd June 1966: The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon. We practically wore it out that night.
At that moment in the summer of 66 listening to that song it felt like everything in my life was in place but by the autumn I went from being a kid to starting to understanding how life really worked. 1966 was the year I grew up.
The taxman’s taken all my dough,
And left me in my stately home,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
And I can’t sail my yacht,
He’s taken everything I’ve got,
All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon.
Photo: sent by Paul, Sunderland