1981 – A Vintage London Fairy Tale

The year is 1981. It is 5.40pm and Lord Lee Bragg, in his Soho Office, is just tidying up his papers after a long trying, yet invigorating, Christmas Eve working day. He is about to set off for Waterloo Station heading home……

Earlier that day he boarded the 6.30am train for work. It was very busy. He balanced his British Rail Coffee in it’s large, thin and absorbent paper cup, whilst staggering through the carriages to reach the very last available seat. Checking for chewing gum and other sticky substances, he finally sat down and relaxed with the regulars.

This was before the days of mobile phones. Entertainment on public transport was a rather simple, uncomplicated affair compared to today’s veritable feast. With no social media, or the joy of listening to other people’s phone calls all about their girlfriends or what their nanny had done with their owner’s hall carpet, it was left to a solitary drunk Scot showing his haggis to Lord Bragg just outside Clapham Junction to keep the Christmas cheer alive. Although back in 1981 it was perfectly acceptable, perhaps obligatory, to make comments such as “get back over Hadrian’s Wall, you!” Lord Bragg was circumspect as he had been recently watching the detective series Taggart (“there has been another Murrda”) set in Glasgow. Bragg decided just to simply listen to the apparently angry sheep stomach wielding gent.

After 10 games of charades the morning commute came to its uneventful end, and Lord Bragg grabbed an umbrella (not his) and proceeded to start to cross the River Thames towards his office. He had decided that as the weather was crisp and cold he would walk the whole way.

London, and it’s sights, hasn’t changed much at all since 1981.

It was just as incredibly busy, but this is exactly why he loved the place. Bragg often wondered what the next 40 years would bring as he walked past the infamous “Aberdeen Angus Steak House” on Coventry Street. Surely this restaurant would have disappeared!? Little did he know it hadn’t!! He had just sold 5000 bottles of Blue Nun to the establishment, and it is reputed that until the bottles are sold it will remain open!

  An Aberdeen Steak house – by Steve Fareham – CC-BY-SA 2.0

In my life, both living in London and visiting I have NEVER eaten in one and I know of no one who has!

He carried on past Piccadilly Circus and the famous statue of Eros. Back then the figurine was actually in the centre of the circus about 25 metres north of where it is today. He tried not to look at the statue following an incident at the staff party the week before when his secretary snapped a Polaroid of him placing a traffic cone on it! Fortunately the cone had been removed. Bragg continued on past the Cafe Royale. The doorman briefly thanked him for his advice on discount knuckle dusters the day before.

Turning right into Beak Street he bumped into Peter Stringfellow, owner of a local gentleman’s bar, who was still upset with Lord Bragg and the dance pole renovator polish he had sold him. Quickly making excuses, and promising a delivery of rash cream, Bragg arrived at his office, just behind a sushi bar.

He spent the first few hours handling calls for both new and exciting businesses and, of course, problematic customers. He had increased his complaints line to 5 call handlers and was very impressed stating that he could now easily manage the expected issues from his planned growth.

Just before 11am he travelled to Covent Garden where he had 5 Male models selling his latest product, Lord Bragg’s Tangle Resistant Boxer Shorts (Christmas Edition). He was doing a roaring trade, and after ensuring his models were avoiding the local bobbies and insisting they worked all day, despite the cold, he returned to the office dropping into a Wimpy and grabbing a takeaway Bender sausage, cheese burger and chips (yum!).

He had to make a last minute detour to Scotland Yard in order to discuss the reliability of his alcohol detecting breathalysers after the West Ealing Teetotallers Group were all caught en masse in the build up to the Christmas break and now faced the festive season behind bars. He came away having secured even more orders, in exchange for giving the chief inspector 5 pairs of tangle resistant boxer shorts! What a guy!

Once back in the office, he noticed that his employees had become a little worse for wear after a rather heavy lunch. He was not amused and insisted they manage the phone lines all afternoon. What a grump!

His subordinates were already rather upset with Lord Bragg as he had made them all wear inappropriate home knitted Christmas jumpers. Busty Belinda, a short lady with a Cockney accent, was forced to wear the one with the two family sized Christmas puddings on, but was handling the comments well, as everyone just did back in the old days.

Little did Lord Bragg, or any of the office team know, that that very afternoon British Rail had announced that many trains had been cancelled due to the worsening weather. In 1981 important news didn’t spread like today, and it would be only obvious to his employees when they arrived at their departure stations.

Wishing them a happy Christmas he gave them each a bottle of Bragg’s stomach custard, still fuming about their lack of lunch time control. However, he thought the gift of his latest heart burn remedy would endear them to him.

 We interrupt this post for a Bragg’s Enterprise advert!

After letting them all go, he managed to sell two more of his Bragg’s gift vouchers (Expiry 25th December 1981) and left for the walk back to the station.

As he approached the station he could sense a lot of hubbub and serious commotion as the crowds grew bigger and bigger. He noticed 5 ambulances, with their flashing lights, and firemen using cutting equipment!

What had happened?

Getting closer he started to observe remnants of boxer shorts strewn around, and that the victims being treated were in fact his models who were working in Covent Garden earlier. Apparently, they were walking back to the station when they realised they would be late for the last scheduled service to Guildford. Foolishly they all started to run, darting between the crowds, with gay abandon, desperate to make the train. The result could have been predicted when one by one they fell on to the ground in “tangled” agony!

The emergency services were handling the situation well, so Lord Bragg glibly grabbed a copy of the Evening Standard and alighted on to the train.

“That’s it for another year, phew!”

Tired from the exhausting day, he fell quickly asleep.

Half an hour later, he was woken abruptly with the blurred sight of two Xmas puddings bursting out in front of him. It was Busty Belinda, who had been unable to remove her jumper before leaving the office due to its extreme tightness and a rather small head opening!!

Fortunately there were plenty of helpers on the train who helped get it over her head………eventually……..!

What a tale! Oh the joys of home knitted jumpers! I certainly remember my mum knitting jumpers and having to rip them over my ears!! Kids today, you don’t know you are born.

On a serious note readers, have a great Christmas. I leave you with a few thoughts. Back in 1981 although the world appeared much the same, the world of technology had not really started it’s meteoric rise.

Those who today decry the abundance of technology, including amazing breakthrough internet shopping, I ask you to think about it this way. Technology is an absolute life saver for those of us with MND and/or other seriously debilitating diseases. I list a few of the benefits.

1) Shopping for anything – It’s so easy now and all online. In 1981 – impossible!

2) Communications – easy now and totally instantaneous. – In 1981 – slow, much delayed, and it was almost impossible, unless planned, to meet with someone or contact if they were in transit. It was easy to not be able to contact someone for days.

3) Worldwide communities communicating and sharing information – easy now – back in 1981, non existent.

4) For those who have lost their voice, voice banking technology emerged to enable our personality to be retained and used in voice synthesis. Just take a read of my voice banking page.

5) Home knitting – today not as common!! Thank goodness! Busty Belinda, wherever she is now, is eternally grateful.

What will 2019 and beyond bring? Only more fabulous technology!

Enjoy the day, and I hope to be back next week in 2019!!