Defying the eighties with a yellow coat and plimsolls
We were not prepared to be shamed a second time.
Last time son Mark and his bride-to-be Caitlin had a fancy-dress party, at Hallowe’en, we were the only couple who turned up in civvies. My limp excuse had been that I was frightening enough without a costume.
We spent the evening surrounded by serial killers and undead, looking like the next victims. If you’ve seen Rocky Horror Show, we were Brad and Janet, the two innocents trapped in a twilight zone peopled largely by transvestites.
Unwilling to do the time warp again, we determined that this time, if we didn’t win the prize for the best fancy dress it would be because the judges were either biased or related to us.
The occasion was Caitlin and Mark’s official engagement party (it follows several unofficial celebrations) and the theme was 1983 – the year both of them were born.
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The Eighties: mullets, shoulder pads, new romantics; no thank you.
I had my first big perm in the 80s. I thought I looked sexy and alluring but actually I looked like best in show in the shaggy dog class of Crufts.
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Biting the bullet, we checked the internet to see which TV programmes were popular in 1983 and there, in glorious canary yellow, was the answer.
Good morning, campers.
Yes, sitcom Hi-De-Hi! set in a typical 50s/60s English holiday camp was at the height of its popularity in that year and all I needed was a Welsh accent, glockenspiel, yellow blazer, white plimsolls and a black wig and I could be senior yellowcoat Gladys Pugh (Ruth Madoc).
My husband would need white trousers, plimsolls, black wig and a yellow blazer to become an amalgam of side-kick comedian Spike (Jeffrey Holland) and one of the twins (David Webb). The suggestion we might go as gruesome Yvonne and effete Barry whose quickstep graced the Hawaiian ballroom of Maplin’s holiday camp did not find favour with my beloved.
We dyed two white cotton jackets. I suspect the shop where we bought the “Sunflower yellow” must have whooped with joy when they got rid of two tubs of the dye. It’s the sort of colour that can sit around for years, just waiting for someone who wants to be a yellowcoat.
We also bought 15 metres of blue braid to edge the blazer. Sadly my husband doesn’t sew. Unfortunately, I do. The task was the equivalent of sewing round the perimeter of the dining room.
The wig, ordered online, arrived. It was called “black bob” but I was dubious.
“Check the packet… I think this might be the ‘Miss Whiplash’,” I said as my husband’s eyes lit up. “Imagine this with fishnets, stilettos and a basque…” I tailed off. My husband was already there.
With a bit of fiddling and flattening, the wig approximated to Glady’s short hairstyle and, accompanied by American Tan tights, socks and plimsolls, I was pretty confident all erotic references would be eliminated - unless bossy Welsh women happen to do it for you.
Daughter Ruth and her boyfriend Kev were also coming to the party. Kev was to be Darth Vader as 1983 was the year of Star Wars episode six, Return of the Jedi. Ruth resisted all entreaties regarding Princess Leia and decided to go as a Dalek because Doctor Who special The Five Doctors was released in 1983.
We were initially a bit concerned because Mark’s flat is on the second floor and there’s no lift. Happily we under-stand the latest Daleks can levitate.
I bought a brightly coloured glockenspiel from the Early Learning Centre and learned my “bing, bong bing” that precedes the immortal words: “Good morning, campers!”
We piled into the car – 1983 Barbie was indisposed and so there were just the four of us. Gladys was driving with Spike-alike in the passenger seat and the dalek and Darth Vader were in the back.
I drove carefully. There was no point in drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves… imagine the scene: “Hi-de-hi, officer.
“And what do you think you’re driving? A Tardis?”
“Who said that? And what’s with the heavy breathing?”
(Laboured breathing) “These are not the speeding fancy-dress party-goers you are looking for.”
“Ah, sorry to have disturbed you, you are not the speeding fancy dress party-goers we are looking for.”
“Thank you, officer and hi-de-ho.”
There’s nothing like the Jedi mind-trick for throwing the local traffic cops off the scent.
We arrived at the party to find Adam Ant was already there.
Caitlin was Annie Lennox – although the dalek mistook her for Russ Abbott. My son was the other Eurythmic, Dave Stewart, although he spent the evening swapping wigs and ended up looking disturbingly like Russell Brand.
My head was itchy under my wig and, as the evening wore on it worked its way back into what my husband described as a Margaret Beckett position and forward into a cousin Itt from The Addams’ Family.
The discomfort was totally worthwhile because the Hi-Di-Hi team was joint winner of the fancy dress and won a bottle of white wine.
By midnight – yes, dear readers, I was still partying past midnight - my black eyebrow pencil line had merged into the blue eyeshadow and the red lipstick was gone, eaten with the lasagne.
Spike/twin and I danced the light fandango to something horrible from the eighties. Someone piped up: “You should have come as Yvonne and Barry.”