In October 2011, my lovely wife, Naomi, responded to an advert from TV production company Wall to Wall. Their assistant producer, Caroline Miller, was looking for families willing to take part in a living history programme. They wanted families who were willing to live through five decades of British history. At the same time, they wanted to retrace the history of those families to understand what their predecessors would have been doing during each decade.
Well, as you may have already guessed, Wall to Wall selected the Goldings as one of the five families to appear in the programme. Shown on BBC1 at 9pm from Tuesday 26th June 2012, we were honoured and privileged to film three of the five episodes. As the middle class family in the Edwardian, inter war and 1940s periods, we quite literally had the most amazing experience of our lives.
This page of my blog is to share our experiences in more detail – from selection, to the return to normal life! I have done this in parts, starting with ‘the selection process’ and ending with the experience of another family. Much of what you will read was not shown on TV, and may answer some of your questions (those of you who watched it!!). I hope you enjoy reading our story. Of course, your comments are very welcome.
PART 1 – THE SELECTION PROCESS
I will never forget the moment when I got home from work to be told by Naomi that she had just applied for us to be part of a TV programme. Little did I realise the significance that little piece of information would have on our lives. Naomi had seen an advert in the newsletter from the Theatre school Ciara and Caitie attend once a week. The advert said the following:
BBC One living history series seeks families
Would you and your family like to follow in your ancestors’ footsteps in a unique living history experience? Here is a message from Caroline Miller, Assistant Producer of BBC1’s Turn Back Time – The Family:
BBC One’s hit living history series Turn Back Time is back. Last year we sent shopkeepers back in time on the British High Street. This year we’re looking at family life through the ages and we’re on the hunt for families to travel through time and experience a century of change first hand.
We’ll take a street of houses back to the turn of the century and, over the course of several weeks, we’ll fast forward our families through the 20th century. In an exciting new twist, some of our families’ journey will even be based on their own family history. Over the course of the century, the street’s community will evolve and reflect change in British society, so we’d like to hear from a broad range of British families.
If you’d like to find out more, we’d love to hear from you! But please don’t do any additional research into your family history – it’s helpful if you don’t know too much in advance. Ideally your family will include at least one child aged under 20. Filming will be in Spring 2012.
For more information, please contact Caroline Miller, Assistant Producer, Turn Back Time – The Family
Naomi had emailed the wonderful Caroline as soon as she saw the advert – without asking me! My initial reaction was one of horror. I had a minor ‘self-conscious’ panic attack! What would people make of us on TV? Surely people would not be interested in our little family!
My nervousness remained unabated – Naomi continuously reassuring me that there was absolutely no chance we would ever get picked for something like this. Jack is only four – they will never select a family with such a young child. So you can imagine Naomi’s surprise when a couple of days later , she got a phone call from Caroline.
I was at work when I received a phone call from an extremely excitable Naomi – ‘you’ll never guess what’, she said, ‘I’ve just had a call from the TV company’! It turns out that Naomi had a brilliant conversation with Caroline – who for the record is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Caroline and Naomi hit it off from ‘hello’, and it seemed as though she was genuinely interested in us as a family.
On hearing this news, strangely, my panic turned to excitement – if the TV company are interested in us, maybe this could be a good thing to take part in. Naomi had enjoyed her conversation with Caroline so much, and vice versa, that I was told that the next step was for Caroline to have a conversation with me.
Any doubts I had were put to rest during that conversation. Once again, I was at work when Caroline called. The conversation was so enjoyable, I was late for a meeting!! Caroline explained the principle of the programme and what was required of the contributing families. She said they were looking for close-knit families who were comfortable at the prospect of being filmed, and who were interested in finding out more about their family history.
Those of you who saw the first series of Turn Back Time – it focussed on the High Street. I had been fortunate enough to see it, and so could visualise what Caroline meant by ‘living history’. However Wall to Wall, the production company who are also responsible for ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, decided that the new series would weave in the genealogy of the families involved.
Now one thing is for certain – we all have family history! The only thing that is not certain is whether or not we know anything about it – or have ever shown any interest in it. Caroline was looking for families who knew little about their family history. She wanted families who could live in their ancestors’ shoes, and learn about their experiences along the way. Well I fitted the bill. I have never really shown any interest in my family history, despite many attempts by my Dad to tell me. I had vague feelings of heralding from Poland. I knew our family name had changed, but did not know who changed it, why or when. I had no idea at all about my Mum’s side of the family. Talking to Caroline about my lack of knowledge strengthened both mine and Naomi’s feelings about wanting to be part of the programme. The opportunity for me to finally find out where I came from was so compelling. The opportunity for my children to understand their Jewish heritage (they are not being brought up in the Jewish faith), suddenly seemed so important. The chance for us all to have a greater appreciation of what our ancestors went through was something we simply could not turn down.
Having had my conversation with Caroline, we were delighted to be told that she wanted to formally put us into the process to be one of the families. The next step was for her to come and visit us at home. So a couple of weeks later, Caroline arrived at our house in Chester – with an enormous video camera! We were told that she wanted to see us in our home environment, talk to the children, and film us to show to the ‘bigwigs’ back at Wall to Wall. The first thing she did was ask Ciara and Caitie to show her around the house. I am sure that Caroline was not particularly interested in the house – but the tour gave her a great opportunity to meet our very excitable and amusing daughters – they must have done a great job, because Caroline loved them. Jack on the other hand was not in the best of spirits. At only four (and when Caroline came to see us it was around his fourth birthday), Jack was still in the stage of afternoon ‘sleeps’! Although I am often cited as being ‘grumpy daddy’, when Caroline came to see us, Jack was definitely being ‘grumpy Jack’ – not setting the best of impressions!
Caroline was lovely as ever though, and despite Jack’s grumpiness, continued to give us the impression that we were looking like ideal candidates for the programme. At that point, she produced the video camera. I am not normally lost for words, but the sight of a camera being pointed in my face saw me become completely dumbstruck! I could not speak – I froze!! If I could not talk into a camera on my own sofa, how could I possibly be part of a TV programme? However, once both Naomi and I got talking, the camera was forgotten, and we managed to complete our video interview. Caroline left for Chester station, and we were left to speculate over our chances of being picked.
My recollection of time at this point is sketchy, so please excuse my approximations. A couple of weeks later, Naomi phoned me at work to tell me that the production company had seen our video, and according to Caroline, loved us! My heart started racing – could this really become a reality? I was now required to have another conversation with Caroline, as Wall to Wall wanted to start investigating my family history. Caroline wanted to know how much (or little in my case) I knew. Caroline has been the assistant producer on Who Do You Think You Are, so was expert at posing the appropriate questions. I have to admit that the questioning made me feel extremely ignorant. ‘I don’t know’ was my standard response to almost every question. Caroline on the other hand was delighted – my ignorance is just what they were looking for.
So the express train was continuing to motor on. Without realising it, we had suddenly got very deep into the selection process. As we approached Christmas, Caroline (who was in constant contact with us), confirmed that we were on the long list of families to be presented to the BBC. It was now very likely that we could be selected. It was therefore time for us to be given the ‘talk of doom’!
This sounds very dramatic, but in programmes where ordinary members of the public are involved, production companies like to make sure that they are under no illusion as to what they are potentially about to put themselves and their families through. The ‘talk of doom’ was to be delivered by the series producer – Sallie Clement – and this was to be the first of many times we met her. Sallie came up to Chester with Caroline. A living history production expert, Sallie has been involved in almost every living history programme that has been made. Sallie is quite simply wonderful. Funny, witty, and so easy to talk to, Naomi and I immediately hit it off with her. She was totally honest with us about the implications of being involved. Sallie told us that at times filming can be incredibly tedious. There are times when you have to film a scene over and over again from different angles. There are times we will be asked to do things we really do not want to do. We will have all modern conveniences taken away from us. We will not be able to bath and shower. And so it went on. There is no doubt that Sallie was trying to put us off. She was testing us to see if there was anything that might reveal a chink in the armour. She failed!
Whilst Sallie was trying to put us off, we were trying to impress her – by now, we were desperate to be picked. We so wanted to be part of the programme. We did not want anything to go wrong. And that is when Jack fell off the sofa watching TV in the lounge!! Although Jack was absolutely fine, the wailing that followed (understandably) did put a glimmer of doubt in Sallie’s mind – we could see it. Maybe Jack was just too young. Obviously, our doubts were to prove unfounded, although Sallie did admit much later that Jack was her main concern when selecting the Goldings.
One of the things Sallie did ask, was if we were interested to know why we had been put on the long list for the BBC, and what they were looking for when selecting families. She told us the following:
- They wanted families who had not appeared on TV before – and had not attempted to do so
- They wanted parents who could both communicate – apparently it is far easier to find women who can communicate than men! Finding both a man and woman who can together is rare!
- The wanted families who were genuinely close
- They wanted families who knew little about their family history
- They wanted families who were prepared to throw themselves into the experience and have a go at whatever was thrown at them
We ticked the boxes. Sallie and Caroline ended up staying for three hours – we could have carried on talking for six! It was all so exciting – by now, we were starting to worry about what would happen if we were not selected. Caroline advised that we should know before Christmas. We waited in anticipation.
We have come to learn that nothing ever goes to plan in TV. When Caroline phoned us before Christmas to tell us that the decision would not happen until January, we were disappointed. We could not take the suspense. As we were due to go on holiday on New Year’s Day, we would not find out until at least the second week of January. On our return from holiday, Caroline phoned with good and bad news. The good news was that the BBC loved us. The bad news is that they loved four of the families put in front of them – but they only needed three!! As a result, further research into our family histories had been requested by the BBC to enable them to make the final decision.
The anticipation was nail-biting. Would we be chosen? Would we miss out at the last hurdle? Not knowing anything about my family history, there was little we could do but wait. At least if we were not chosen I could blame it all on my Dad!
We finally got the phone call at the end of January. We were in!!!!! I could not believe it. Naomi could not believe it. I thought Caroline was joking. We were to be one of the three families in Turn Back Time: the Family!!!! Caroline told us that we would be in three of the five episodes, and that she would let us know more information about schedules etc… for the filming as soon as she could. We were told that the filming would be over Easter, and to set the wheels in motion to get time off work, and to sort out the children’s schooling.
Excited is an understatement. Our TV journey was on its way!
PART 2 – FROM 2012 TO THE EDWARDIAN MIDDLE CLASSES
The 16th March 2012 – most people will have absolutely no recollection of what they were doing or did on that day. The Goldings, Meadows and Taylors on the other hand, will always remember the day that they arrived in Morecambe for the first time.
None of us knew where the programme would be filmed until just a few weeks before we were due to arrive. None of us had any idea where the houses were when we were eventually told the location was Morecambe. None of us had any idea who the other families were. None of us had any idea which social class we would be representing. In fact ‘not knowing anything’ became the absolute standard for the families who were chosen to be part of Turn Back Time: the Family.
To highlight the point, you only have to look at what happened during the costume fittings. In February, all the families involved were asked to visit one of the companies used by the BBC for period costume. It was an extremely exciting day. Ciara and Caitie were beside themselves – dressing up is always a delight for little girls. Jack did not seem too enamoured by the whole idea though. However, upon arrival, we were told by Caroline (who was there supporting us again!!), that because we could not know which social class we were going to be, we were going to have to do the costume fitting wearing blindfolds and gloves!!! I kid you not – and it was not just a simple blindfold – we had to wear blacked out goggles on top!! Apparently I looked like something out of the Clockwork Orange when I tried on my bowler hat – obviously I had no idea that was what it was.
The production company went to great lengths to ensure that absolutely nothing was given away. The hotel we all stayed in the night before filming, was on the corner of Albert Road – but we were all forbidden to go anywhere near the houses – even though you could just make out the cordoned off section of the road in the distance. Every time a member of the crew was asked a question, it would be greeted with a grimace and a response of ‘sorry, I cannot tell you that’.
But it was not just the producers who could keep a secret. From the minute we were selected to appear on the programme, both Caroline and Sallie had politely requested that I grow facial hair ( as they did Phil Meadows and Michael Taylor). On almost every occasion that we had the pleasure to speak to Caroline, she always posed the question. I am a man who had NEVER sported facial hair in his life, and I firmly advised Caroline that I was not going to change that fact for anyone! I conceded to grow sideburns, but a moustache was going a step too far! However, with just a few weeks to go until filming, Naomi suggested that I might reconsider. I did, and did not tell Sallie or Caroline. I left that as a surprise. Looking back on it, I am delighted that I changed my mind. I am still wearing a goatee today!
The 16th March was the first time we met the other families. We all looked a cross between nervous and terrified, although it was quite amazing how all the children seemed to hit it off immediately. Despite the fact that we stayed in the same hotel that night, we were not encouraged to actively socialise – the producers wanted us to enter the houses as genuine strangers. So after a few quick introductions, and dinner with members of the crew (including the three brave directors who would have the responsibility for filming each family), we all went to bed, full of anticipation for the following day. I should just note here that I was the only family member to miss dinner that night – I had been quite unwell in the preceding week, and suffered a recurrence. Fortunately an early night seemed to do the trick, and I was ready for action the next morning.
So the morning of the 17th March came around – the time had finally come – almost six months after Naomi had responded to the advert. Corralled together in the lounge of the hotel, we were given our instructions. We were introduced to the members of our crew (each family had their own team). We were honoured to be directed by Ben Reid, our sound man (although that description of his work does not do justice to his expertise) was Mat Adams, and our wonderful Assistant Producer for the first episode was Rob Daly – those of you into your living history programmes may remember his name – he starred in the Edwardian Country House in the early noughties – so Rob was fully aware of what was going through our minds. The final member of our team was Harry Farnham – our runner – Harry’s comedy was to prove to be a great tonic throughout the first week!
We were told that the first thing that had to be done were the ‘arriving shots’. Harry drove us, still in our 2012 clothes, to Morecambe Town Hall – a wonderful building overlooking Morecambe Bay. I was not to know that in a couple of days, I would be working in that very building. As light drizzle fell, we were introduced to the process that would become standard for the next few weeks – listen to Ben, do what he asks, and then do it again….and again…and again!! We walked up and down the steps in front of the town hall what felt like fifteen to twenty times. Jack started to whinge – this could be a very long experience!!!
All we wanted to do was see the houses – the time was getting closer. We were driven back to the hotel, and waited for the call. When the call came, Harry walked us towards the section of Albert road that was to become our home. He was very careful to take us up the road parallel to the houses to ensure we did not get a sneaky glimpse. Once we were suitably placed on a corner of the street, we once again waited for our cue – again, this is something we got used to….waiting.
When we were finally allowed in to Albert Road proper, along with the Taylors and Meadows, our reactions were all the same. WOW. The houses looked amazing. Instantly all of our eyes were drawn to the grubby looking house on the left hand side – Number 1 Albert Road. It looked awful. We had all had a brief discussion about our family histories. We and the Taylors were 100% convinced we would be in Number 1. The Meadows on the other hand were confident that they would get Number 3 – the very grand looking, double fronted house on the right hand side. None of us, except Naomi that is, thought we would be in the middle – Number 2 – a quite normal, perfectly respectable looking house. On reflection, once we had seen the inside of Number 1, we should all have twigged that it would not really have been possible for little children to be subjected to the squalor that lay within – not in a 2012 world of health and safety and governance. However, on hearing that we were to be living in Number 2, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. The groans and nervous laughter coming from the Meadows family were very amusing!!
It was the delightful Susanna Reid who greeted us, and told us where we would be living. Susanna is as lovely in real life as she is on the BBC breakfast sofa. So genuine – with three children of her own, she was perfectly placed to empathise with our challenge. Susanna’s kindness and compassion throughout the experience was very welcome, and helped put all the families at ease. We were also to be looked after by Joe Crowley (of the One Show fame) – a lovely man, with the most dramatic, powerful voice known to man. Finally we were to be historically led by Juliet Gardiner. I had seen Juliet in previous living history programmes. I was a little nervous about her. Juliet always seemed so stern. I needn’t have worried. She was amazing. Her knowledge of modern history is second to none, and her passionate interest in my own family history made my learning experience all the more powerful.
Still dressed in our 2012 clothes, we were finally allowed in to Number 2 Albert Road. The first thing that hit us was the smell. Not a nasty smell – but the smell of coal. From the front door, we could see the roaring coal fire all the way at the back of the house in the kitchen. The house was very dark. As Naomi says on the programme itself, it was just like walking into a museum. Walking into the front parlour, we were literally walking back in time. The first thing I noticed was photographs on the mantelpiece. Naomi thought the man in the picture looked a little like me. Turns out it was a picture of Abraham Weinstein, my great great grandfather. The first thing Ciara noticed was the piano. Having passed her grade 1 piano exams a few months before, she, and I, was thinking that this might be a lot of fun.
Naomi’s reaction on walking into the kitchen was one of glee. It was amazing. A roaring open coal range dominated. Beside it was a big old rocking chair. The room was warm, dark and extremely calming. A small larder that looked more like a cupboard was where our food was to be kept. A very small sink with only cold water made up the utilities in the small space. Why Naomi was so excited was beyond me – I could not imagine how we were going to cook in the place!!! As I was to find out, it would not be my problem.
We were then asked to change into our costumes. This meant that it was time to part with our 2012 possessions – and that meant parting with our 2012 technology. Everything was handed over. Only our own underwear was permitted. The children were very excited – Ciara and Caitie looked brilliant in their matching pinafores, whilst Jack, who was to become the darling of the crew, just looked adorable in his blue sailor suit. Naomi was less fortunate. Putting on a corset for the first time, she started to realise one of the first challenges of the week. How was she expected to move, clean and cook, when she was trussed up like a chicken! By the end of the week her ribs were bruised. Naomi says they still hurt today. A huge petticoat and skirt were to complete her outfit. My beautiful wife looked at least ten years older than she is. Obviously no makeup was permitted – but Naomi is lovely enough to get away with that. However, any woman will understand how brave you need to be to appear on television sans makeup! I should just give reference to the costume designers – Jane, Rachel and Jess – they spent weeks stuck in the basement of the production office – which was actually the house next to Number 1 – their work and commitment was exemplary and should not be forgotten!
My outfit was to become pretty standard for the entire experience – a three piece suit. It was actually a morning suit – I looked very much like an undertaker. The only challenge was getting to grips with a winged collar – I could barely turn my neck. Compared to Naomi’s outfit though, I had little to complain about.
So we had finally arrived. We had become an Edwardian middle class family. I have described to many of my friends what the transition into the house felt like. Being in the house, dressed in the period, instantly completed our physical transition. It was Ben who later told me that it would take a little while for the mental transition to be complete. How right he was. I will come back to this is a while.
We were introduced to our manual – the little folder that explained everything about our existence. We read that we were actually a lower middle class family. This meant that in reality, we were only a whisker away from the working class Meadows family. As a result, we learnt that etiquette was critical. As a family who was on the borderline of poverty, it was absolutely vital that to everyone on the outside that we appeared well off and respectable. We couldn’t have anyone thinking we were like the Meadows now could we? Children were to be ‘seen and not heard’ – that could be a challenge with our three! Father’s word was to be law – now I liked the sound of that! I was not to lift a finger – Naomi was to be solely responsible for the upkeep of her house, her children and her husband.
I need to get one thing straight at this point. What man would not be excited at the prospect of everyone having to do what he says without challenge? What man would not be pleased to know that all he would have to do is go to work? What man would not be excited about the prospect of being waited on? In principle it sounds great, but as I came to realise, the reality was very different.
Susanna visited us early on the first day to explain why we were in the Middle class house. It was the first bit of genealogy we were to learn. My great great grandfather on my mother’s side had been called Nathan Ludsky. This is a name I had never heard before. He had been a tailor who left Russia in the late 19th century and ended up in Cardiff. I always knew that my grandmother had been born in Wales, but I had no idea where. I also realised for the first time that my belief that I heralded from Poland was in fact incorrect. Like many Jews at the turn of the century, Nathan was a tailor – a respectable middle class job – it is thanks to him that we did not have to endure the slum next door.
It was now time to get on with living. But living was to be a very different experience for Naomi and I. What you did not see in episode one is what Naomi experienced during the week. What you did see is me being rather horrible – both to the children and my wife. One Tweeter commented ‘I am amazed the middle class wife did not hit her middle class husband over the head with the pan she was washing up’ – believe me, she was tempted! Naomi was quite simply phenomenal that week. I like to think that the reason you saw little of what she did during the days, was because she did everything that was thrown at her so remarkably well. There was no drama with Naomi – she just got on with it. Naomi would have been the perfect Edwardian housewife. She is the perfect 2012 wife as well. Essentially her life consisted of cooking and cleaning. This might sound a little mundane and challenging, but Naomi actually was pleased with the simplicity of the existence. Compared to her manic 2012 life of school runs, and work and doing things around the house, Edwardian life was far calmer. How she would have felt year after year of that existence is a different matter! Naomi cleaned and scrubbed. She changed beds, she did the washing, she cleaned rugs with tea leaves – it was relentless. At the end of the first, very long day of filming, Naomi was concerned that the family had not yet eaten. Do not worry, said Rob, dinner is on its way! Unfortunately, this did not mean pizza!
Naomi was presented with a small package – all she could see sticking out were feathers. It was a whole pigeon. Many men and women would have screamed. Many men and women would have broken down at the end of a long day. How could she possibly be expected to deal with this at 6pm with three starving children getting rattier by the minute? Well deal with it she did. Naomi produced a pigeon pie that night – I kid you not – she even found out from the period cookbook in the kitchen that it was traditional to have the pigeon feet sticking through the pastry – so that is what she did. She was amazing. The crew were amazed. And the pigeon pie was lovely.
What was not lovely was the meal experience itself. It was clear for all to see in episode 1, that meal times in our house were to be a rather serious affair. No one was allowed to speak – apart from me. No one was allowed to have their elbows on the table. It was like eating in a morgue. As a family, we all agreed before the experience started that we would throw ourselves into it – we would do what the manual said, and recreate history as accurately as we could. And that is what we did. Some say I took my role too seriously – in fact, I was only doing what I was told – I played the role of an Edwardian Middle class father. It was a bit of a shock to the system for Jack and Caitie – they found it hard to understand why I was being so horrible. Ciara understood though, and in between filming, often threw me a cheeky wink of support. Naomi was also finding my sternness a challenge. She was regularly desperate to cut in and say something, but had to bite her tongue. I was trying not to break in to laughter watching the expressions on her face. Please be reassured that we were allowed to comfort the children when they became distressed – Jack still loves me – honestly!
Meal times were really hard for us – we are a family who normally make a lot of noise. But the boredom of mealtimes was to become a feature for my existence as a Middle class man. My life was just a series of dull events. I was to work as a clerk for the local municipal council. My job, based in Morecambe Town Hall, consisted of me writing addresses on envelopes in the planning department. It was intensely dull. I was given a typewriter towards the end of the week – the height of technology in 1910 – and that did introduce a little excitement into my life, but only a little.
Now you remember the mental transition I spoke about earlier? This is where I started to struggle. I was bored – very bored. I quite simply had nothing to do. The things I did do were painfully boring. When I got home, apart from being horrible to everyone, I was not allowed to do anything. In 2012, that could be quite appealing – I could watch TV, surf the net, play on the Wii – in Edwardian Britain, there was not a lot to do. The boredom was starting to eat away at me. What were we doing? I started to question our decision to be part of the programme. I wanted to go home. I was starting to throw my toys out of the pram. This was the start of my mental adjustment. Naomi was very concerned, telling Helen Williamson – the senior producer – that I was not in a good place. The next event completed my mental adjustment.
Juliet entered the house to deliver my next piece of genealogy news. It was to change my perspective on life forever. Juliet told me the story of Abraham Weinstein and his wife Kate. It was Abraham’s picture that I had held when we first walked into the house. Juliet told me how they had escaped the pogroms in Russia and ended up in Mile End in East London – in a slum. I was told how they lived with their four children in a house, smaller than ours in Albert Road with 40 other people. I was told that by 1911, they had 7 children. I was told that at 39, Kate died of TB and exhaustion. Naomi and I are both 39. It was very sobering. I broke down. I had just been moaning about being bored. I had nothing to moan about. I started to realise just how lucky I am. I started to appreciate for the first time the incredible sacrifices my ancestors had made, enabling me to have the comfortable life I do today. I had made the mental transition into our living history experiment.
It is amazing how quickly the week came and went. The days were very long and extremely tiring. We all slept like babies. It is important to note that we did live in the house – at night, many Morecambe residents would conduct ‘drive bys’ or walk past the house waving at us. It was a little surreal. Naomi became an expert at lighting the coal range – usually at 6am – I only managed to do it successfully on one occasion. Her cooking prowess also continued. Winter Pie was one of her successes – a dish that was made up of Tripe. ‘Mmm – I love tripe’ said little Jack. Winter Pie actually tasted very nice – it was the texture that got you – very much like eating warm slug. We had little choice but to eat it. One thing you realise is that ‘snacking’ was not an option in 1900. You had three square meals (with little veg and no fruit) – if you did not like it, you could not grab a bag or crisps instead. Naomi even managed to make a Victoria sponge on the range – no mean feat in a modern oven. It was fantastic.
By now we had become very comfortable with the filming process. Talking to a camera at the beginning was strange and awkward. It does not take long to get used to it. It also does not take long to get used to Ben having to film every scene from multiple angles. This was not ‘Big Brother’. There were no hidden cameras. Only Ben. So we would often have to film the same thing over and over again, with Ben clambering his way into different positions, trying not to break things in the often very confined space.
Apart from my strictness, the other challenge for the children was the solitude – at least they had each other. The strict class etiquette meant they were banned from speaking to the other families. All they wanted to do was to play with the other children. They could not. They did go to Edwardian school – an experience that made Caitie cry – the teacher was stricter than me – although he was lovey off camera apparently. In between filming they did receive a little respite with a 2012 tutor. Jack, too young for school, just pottered about looking cute. Not once did any of them ask for TV, or an ipod. It is amazing what happens when you take modern technology away.
At the end of filming, all the families were allowed to have a peek at each other’s houses. I can confirm that the conditions that the Meadows had to live in were not pleasant. The Taylors on the other hand were living in veritable luxury. Their chef, we later found out, was the man who invented banoffee pie – the food they ate was incredible. It was the first time we could all talk about the week. We all had to cope with the mental transition. We all had doubts at various points. It was comforting that I was not the only one who struggled. Despite that, we were all eagerly anticipating the next episode. That was our cue to disappear for a few days. The very talented art department were to take over the houses to convert them into suitable dwellings from the inter war period. I wish they would come and convert my house!!
So what did we learn in that first week? We learnt that Edwardian Britain was not much fun – for any of the families. We learnt that family was not really defined in the same way we know now. I learned how I have come to be a proud British man – a Jewish man. Our journey had only just begun – and we were hooked.
PART 3 – THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE INTER WAR YEARS
As the filming of episode 1 came to a close, we were all exhausted. It had always been our plan to go home once filming finished, as the art department needed a few days to convert the houses from the Edwardian period to the inter war period. What amazed me was that as soon as the cameras stopped rolling, the art crew were literally waiting on the pavement to get into the houses to start work. As we got changed back into our 2012 clothes, our Edwardian life was already being taken away.
Getting technology back was a very strange experience. You would have thought we would have been desperate to turn our phones on and catch up on emails and text messages, but both Naomi and I had quite a different reaction. After the relative simplicity (and boredom) of Edwardian life, we did not want technology back – at least not yet. For the few days we were back at home, we rarely looked at our phones, and did not turn the laptop on. It is funny what happens when you turn back time. Things have reverted back to how they were now, but in the immediate aftermath of episode 1, we were not keen to be back in 2012. The kids were pleased to watch a little telly though!
Seeing friends and family was nice. Everyone was keen to know what we had been up to. We were only home for a fleeting visit though, so before we knew it, we were back in Morecambe, holed up in a hotel, waiting in anticipation for Episode 2 – the inter war years.
Before the start of episode 2 and 3, two things happened. Firstly, we were all taken in to ‘hair and make-up’. The lovely Cheryl was our expert to help transform us into the appropriate period from an appearance perspective. Edwardian life was incredibly dull and drab – essentially very grey. No make up for women, clothes without colour or shape – it was almost depressing. It was amazing how much had changed in twenty years. For the first time, Naomi was to wear make-up – and lots of it! It was certainly an improvement – I am told it is a brave woman who is prepared to go on TV without any make up. Despite the brightness of the lipstick, it was nice to see a bit of colour! Naomi was to also sport a new hairdo – which required rollers and some kind of setting solution – it was sprayed on pre curled hair and made it go rock solid. I never thought my wife would resemble Hilda Ogden, but I had to stifle my guffaws when I say her with rollers and a hairnet.
My appearance was to change as well. I had not been allowed to cut my hair for three months prior to the start of episode 1. I was now able to have it cut (although not as much as I would have liked). I was also asked to shave off the beard part of my goatee. This meant that for the first (and only) time in my life, I was to live with a moustache. I was going to go on TV with a moustache. The things you do to go on TV! Ciara and Caitie also had their hair done, and were both delighted to be given different colour bows for their hair to be tied with. Jack – as in every episode – did not have to do anything – his ‘surfer dude’ look was apparently suitable for any period in history – lucky boy!
Next were the costumes. Unlike episode 1 where we did not see our costumes until after we had seen our house, we were to enter the houses in our inter war outfits. We were taken to the costume department (in the basement of the production office), and tried the outfits on. Again the clothes were an improvement on episode 1. Naomi’s bone crushing corset was replaced by…….another corset. This time, the corset was not quite as bad. The cardigan though left a little to be desired.
I was to replace my three piece morning suit with…….a three piece suit. Three piece suits were a bit of a theme with men in the early twentieth century. I liked this suit – although I did not realise that men’s suit trousers in the 1920’s went almost under their armpits! Fortunately, by this stage in history, wing collars had also become history, and I was pleased to be able to wear a normal white shirt.
The girls looked resplendent in their matching period dresses, while Jack once again looked adorable in his shorts, jumper and little grey tweed jacket. Hair done; make up done; we were ready to see what life was like in Britain after World War I.
One thing that has become clear writing this blog is just how much was filmed in such a short space of time. I have read a lot of feedback suggesting that not enough time was devoted to each period – when you read about all the things we did during the inter war period, this view may be strengthened.
For all of the families, episode 2 was full of ‘ups and downs’. For the Golding family, life in Albert Road was mainly full of ups – it was our dear friends the Taylors and Meadows that experienced the downs. The Golding’s’ downs came in learning the next stage of my family history – I will come back to this later.
The most exciting thing for me about this episode came whilst waiting in the reception of the Clarendon hotel – waiting for filming to start. I was asked to sign a vehicle insurance certificate. ‘Does this mean I will be driving a car?’ I asked. ‘We cannot tell you that’, came the reply – the usual response from the crew to any question posed. It was obvious that I would be driving something – the question was ‘what?’ Unlike the previous episode, all the families waited for the filming to start together. We now all knew each other, and contact was permitted. The noise levels in the hotel were ear splitting. The kids rambling on to each other, Jack and Joe – the only two boys were becoming very close – Joe very much playing the role of Jack’s big brother. The three mums’ were getting on like a house on fire, whilst the three dads’ inevitably had a conversation about sport – cricket and polo (Phil explaining how it works)I believe.
The start of this episode was to be slightly different – we were not taken straight to Albert Road. Instead we were taken to the Morecambe war memorial on the promenade. Susanna, Juliet and Joe were waiting for us as always – reassuring smiles on their faces. We were told that we were about to experience what life was like in post war Britain – we were all to see an improvement in living standards – blessed relief for the Meadows! BUT – and there is always a but – some of us would also see things go in the wrong direction. The question was who?
Filming the opening to episode 2 was one of the few times where we struggled with Jack. The start of each episode always seemed to take a long time, and contained a lot of waiting. We were picked up from our hotel at 7:30 in the morning, but we did not finish filming at the war memorial until about 11:00. By this stage, Jack was already pretty tired. Tired = grouchy. I made the decision to hold him for the filming – it would be easier for him. I did not realise how long we would have to stand there. Now Jack is only little, and not particularly heavy. However, if you have to hold him for a long period of time, I can assure you he is pretty heavy!! As he got grouchier, the trickier filming became. So, and I hope you appreciate the necessity to do this; emergency sweet rations were called in. The sweets were not relevant to the period. The sweets were not at all historically accurate. The sweets were essential to placate a tired little boy. I do not believe that this compromised the principles of the programme – viewers would never have known.
When we were finally taken to Albert Road, my suspicions were finally confirmed. Outside two of the three houses stood shiny automobiles. Obviously, the Taylors car was bigger than ours, but I could not care less – I was going to be driving a wonderful old Austin 10. Inside the house there had been a complete transformation. It was incredible how so many things had been changed in such a short space of time. The piano had gone and been replaced by comfortable furniture and a wireless. Our dining room had more colour to it and artwork on the walls – a picture of a naked woman no less! And in the kitchen, in addition to Naomi’s beloved coal range, a brand new gas cooker and a Belfast sink with hot and cold water – wow!!
Reading the manual, we realised how much the fortunes of middle class families in Britain had changed. The middle classes, unlike Edwardian times where the relative difference to the working classes was very small, were now doing very well. The inter war years were a boom time for white collar workers. I was to be an estate agent in this episode – much to my amusement – my brother, Mark, is an estate agent in North London. Apparently my grandfather on my Mother’s side had once been an estate agent – something none of us in the Golding family had ever known.
There were other surprises. The strict, stern, cold father of the Edwardian episode could be banished to history – phew! Fathers were to be much more paternal in the inter war period. It was Mum that was to become slightly stricter. I will come to that in a second. Additionally, with our fortunes improving, we were to have a home help – my how we had come up in the world. Suzie Meadows was to be our domestic – it was going to be interesting seeing how Naomi and Suzie would cope with their new roles. We were also to discover how middle class families enjoyed much more leisure time.
One thing to point out here is how rare it is for the filming to be done in the right sequence for the final programme. For example, we were filmed entering this episode in our car. That scene was actually the very last thing to be filmed at the end of the week. I was filmed going down to London on the train – that was actually filmed on the way home. These are only minor details, but it is interesting how it is all pieced together.
So what did we actually get up to then? I, as usual, went straight to work. As I have said, work was to be as an estate agent. I was taken to Cumbrian Estates in Morecambe town centre for a day as an ‘apprentice’ estate agent. I cannot remember the names of the two lovely ladies who ‘showed me the ropes’ that day, but I spent the day finding out how things worked. There was a reason for this – I was going to have to actually try and sell a house!! Not for real, but a recreation of how an estate agent would have sold a 1930’s house. I have never been an estate agent. I have never really had any appreciation of residential architecture. But what this experience has done is give me a better appreciation of both. We had already spent a week living in a Victorian terraced house – we live in a Victorian semi in 2012. What I had never appreciated is how dark and dingy Victorian houses are – and would have been. The 1930’s housing boom opened up a whole new world of possibilities for up and coming middle class families. The space and light a 1930s house offered would have been completely alien to a family like ours. It is funny how many of us do not give 1930s properties a second glance these days – in fact many people aspire to own a Victorian residence – this is indeed ironic. In 1930 an estate agent was selling the future. An estate agent was offering you a better way of life. An estate agent was quite frankly a good person. Who would have thought it!!!
The house that I was to sell was actually a relatively famous one in Morecambe. It was built my Mr Robinson, Morecambe’s biggest house builder, and this was to be his own residence. I was to sell it to his grandson – no kidding. It was an amusing experience, although I was told by him (he is an estate agent himself) and the crew, that I was rather good at it.
Whilst I was playing at being a property guru, Naomi was at home dealing with ‘the staff’! Yes, we had come up so much in the world, we could afford to buy in domestic help. This help came in the form of the wonderful Suzie Meadows. Suzie was to cook and clean for us. I did not think it came across particularly well in the programme, but Naomi and Suzie had a whale of a time. Strictly speaking, Naomi should not really have been socialising with her domestic, but they had become such good friends and finally being able to do something together proved to be a real tonic. Suzie made breakfast, cleaned, and made a lovely dinner of sheep heart!!
All this help meant that Naomi for the first time had some time to herself. Whilst the children were off being tutored, Naomi was given a book to read – Psychological Care of Infant and Child (1928), by John B. Watson. Watson argued that mothers should avoid being ‘nurturant’ with their children – this meant that he believed that affection was a bad thing. No more kisses and cuddles then! Naomi was expected to shake the children’s hands in the morning, and pat them on the head if they had been good. For a mum who is forever kissing and cuddling her three little ones, this could be a challenge. However, in reality, everyone found Naomi’s new parenting techniques rather amusing.
Whilst Naomi was becoming less motherly, I was becoming more fatherly. When I got home from work at the end of the first day, I was met at the door by Naomi. She (finding it hard not to laugh), took me straight to the lounge and sat me down in my chair. The lounge, as the rest of the house, was full of ashtrays – draped over the arm of my chair was a contraption that contained materials for smoking a pipe. I am not a smoker, but assume that in 1930, the first thing I would have done is light my pipe! Instead, Naomi replaced my shoes with a very fetching pair of slippers. She then handed me a sloe gin. I could get used to this!!
Naomi then brought the children to me. By the 1930’s, family life had changed to such an extent, it was seen as very important for fathers to have their own uninterrupted time with the children. Known as father’s half hour, games and stories were shared by Dad with his offspring. It felt so nice to have some time with them. We played with a cast iron horse racing game – Ciara, Caitie and Jack loved it. I realised that in 2012, fathers do not do this enough. With so many distractions, when do we make the time to just sit and play with our children? I did not think that 2012 dads could learn much from Edwardian dads. Already I had found that we could learn from dads in the 1930s.
My genealogy for this period was also an amazing learning experience – one that very much helped me to fill in the gaps of my sketchy knowledge. I had always known that our family name had been changed to Golding. What I did not know is who changed it; why they changed it; and when it was changed. Juliet entered the house to tell me. Juliet showed me the original change of name deed. My grandpa – Joe – who I had known and loved (he died 17 years ago) had changed our name from Goldinski in 1938 to Golding!! I never knew that it was Grandpa who had done it. It had never been spoken about. Why had he changed the name? It was then that Juliet informed me we were to try and find out – by taking a trip to London – how exciting!!
It would have been wonderful to take a trip to London on a steam train. Unfortunately, the budget did not stretch to that. So the following day, I crept out of our inter war house at 6:30 in the morning to get a taxi to Lancaster station. I was to be accompanied by Caroline (our assistant producer for this episode), Ben, Mat and Juliet herself. I got a few strange looks on the train down to London – it was probably the bowler hat that did it. Everyone was far too polite to say anything though.
As soon as we arrived in London we were whisked away in a Taxi to the Nelson street orthodox synagogue – this is what it looks like from the outside:
I was brought to this synagogue as it is around the corner from the synagogue my grandparents would have attended. Like many synagogues in the East End of London, it is no longer there. Walking into Nelson Street synagogue is in itself a little like walking back in time. I am not a religious man – and as such it has been many years since I last stepped foot inside a synagogue. Once inside, it was Juliet who was to tell me a story that would help explain the likely reason for the change in our family name.
Call me an ignoramus if you will, but I had never studied inter war history. In fact my knowledge of the twenties and thirties was almost non-existent. Having spoken to many people since the filming, I am not alone. Juliet was to tell me the story of the rise of the British Union of Fascists – and it came as a genuine shock to me. I had been aware of stories about Max Moseley in a Nazi Uniform a few years ago, but had never paid enough attention to understand why it was such big news. I now knew why. Oswald Moseley was a fascist – in the same way that Mussolini was in Italy. During a period of great financial difficult, Moseley, a hugely charismatic man, convinced people that Fascism was relevant and appropriate in Britain. Along with his ‘Blackshirts’, Moseley wanted to rid Britain of its Jewish population. Moseley and his supporters spent much of the 1930s terrorising them.
I was shown press clippings and police reports of Jewish families being intimidated, bullied, having swastikas daubed on their shops and market stalls. I read a newspaper report about pigs’ heads being nailed to the doors of synagogues during Jewish festivals. This was happening in the East End of London. The East End of London in which my grandparents lived. No one can be 100% certain that this is the reason grandpa, like many Jewish men at the time, changed our name. But we can be 99% certain that this was the reason. It made me appreciate yet another sacrifice my family had made for me. I have asked my grandma, Pauline who is 98 about it. She claims she cannot remember anything.
To highlight what was happening at the time, I was then taken to Cable Street – the site of what I now know is the pinnacle of the British fight against fascism. There is a mural in Cable Street – I never knew it existed:
It depicts a now famous event in 1936. Moseley and his Blackshirts were to march through East London – a show of force to further intimidate the Jewish population. Starting on Tower Bridge a uniformed force of approximately 2000 started their march. As they did, word started to spread. There were no mobile phones back then. Word of mouth led to up 250,000 East Londoners deciding they were not going to allow this to happen. In Cable Street, Moseley’s Blackshirts were met by working class, men and women, Eastenders, Irish Dockers, communists and Jews. East London was to say no to fascism. Britain was to say no to fascism and it is an event that is seen as the beginning of the end of Moseley’s regime. I am very thankful this happened. This is an event in history that is rarely talked about. Strangely, I feel it should be talked about – and almost celebrated. It is the acceptance and tolerance of the great British public that means I am welcome in my own country today. Britain should be proud of what happened in the East End of London in 1936.
Whilst I was learning about the traumatic lives of my ancestors in East London, Naomi was having slightly more light hearted experiences back in Morecambe. The 1930’s was a period that saw women ‘find their voice’. Far from the restrictive, submissive days of Edwardian Britain, women were now demonstrating their knowledge and opinion on a whole range of issues. Naomi was to demonstrate this by delivering a speech on birth control in the 1930’s to a local Mothers Union group.
Naomi has never been known for her public speaking. In fact, Naomi is not the sort of person, unlike me, who revels in standing up and talking in public. However, armed with a genuine 1930’s ‘sheath’, and having read up on materials surrounding the contraception debates of the time, I am told that Naomi delivered a quite expert speech and chaired the following discussion. The mothers union all voted in favour of birth control. It is a sad fact of the editing process that I, like those of you reading this, will never get to see her in action for myself.
As well as ‘having a voice’ women in the 1930s were also much more concerned about their appearance. This led to the rise of the ‘women’s league of health and beauty’. For the first time, Naomi, Adele and Suzie were to do something together – with no class divide. Not only did they attend an exercise class – which was shown on the programme, they also performed it again at the George VI coronation party – so unlike Naomi’s speech, I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing our three mothers exercising in all their glory!! The children even joined in for good measure.
That was not the only exercise Naomi experienced that week. As a family, we were very fortunate to go hill walking – a leisure activity that was to prove very popular in the middle classes. We were taken to the Lakes by car – we were supposed to drive there in Millie – the Austin 10 that I had been so excited about driving. Millie, owned by the lovely, and quite eccentric Jeanette, was playing up, so it was decided that it was better Jeanette get her to our location herself.
Once we had all arrived, and to try and create the right entrance, the Golding’s got into Millie to be filmed driving up to our chosen walking spot. However, by this stage, Millie really did not want to play the game. With her battery completely dead, the two runners who were on location with us, Andy and ‘Morecambe Paul’ had to push Millie without being seen. The fact that this was cut out of the final episode was not taken well by the two of them!! They expended a significant amount of sweat that day.
We had a great time filing this scene. It was the first time we had filmed something that felt like we were together as a family and really enjoying it. At the top of the hill we had a picnic – with ginger beer and cola. I took a picture of Naomi and the kids with a box brownie – this is the picture I took:
To let you into a little secret – the box brownie I was filmed taking this with did not really work. Ben took this picture with a very modern, very expensive 2012 camera!!
We were all really enjoying our inter war experience (despite the reality being that my ancestors experience was quite the opposite). However, back in Albert Road, it was all going horribly wrong for the other families. I felt it difficult to feel sorry for the Taylors – after all, they only lost their car, and a couple of servants. I was now able to gloat (albeit briefly) that I had a car while Michael did not!! It got so bad for them; they even invited us around to theirs for an evening’s entertainment. This was the first time we had set foot in their house, and was a further step towards the elimination of class division. The evening was great fun – we drank cocktails prepared by Adele, and enjoyed our first evening’s entertainment for what felt like 30 years!! The main event of the evening was a séance – this event was cut from the final edit. I did not realise how big séances became after World War I. Almost every British family had lost a family member in the great war, and the séance was seen as an opportunity to connect with them. Unfortunately, not one of us (Adele, Michael, Naomi or I) believes in the afterlife. It was a rather comical scene, all four of us and a genuine medium sitting in the Taylors dining room holding hands. I was trying very hard not to laugh, made all the worse by the terribly tickle on the bridge of my nose! The medium was trying her best, but I guess it was all too obvious that we did not believe – hence the scene being cut. I still insist that if the production crew had jumped on the ceiling at one point during the séance, we might all have thought differently.
Whilst we were having fun, things continued to get worse for Phil, Suzie and the girls. Means testing in the 1930s was another element of social history that I was unaware of. When we found out that they had everything removed from their house, we really did feel for them. There was not a lot we could do, but the community spirit that was building amongst the three families meant that we could at least give them things to make them smile. A bottle of Guinness and a bar of chocolate might not seem a lot, but they seemed quite touched. They did not remain unconsumed in their house for long. It is amazing how real their plight felt.
The episode ended with the abdication of Edward VII and the coronation of George VI. The coronation was marked with a street party. It was quite simply fantastic fun. The crew were up at dawn getting everything ready – bunting, trestle tables, fortune tellers, stocks, all started to adorn Albert Road. A piano was wheeled out – which we later identified as our piano from the Edwardian episode – and was to be later used for another demonstration of the women’s league of health and beauty. A little stall was put up where you throw balls into buckets – this later became Jack’s favourite element of the street party – he amazed everyone by continuously getting the balls in one after the other.
The adults got excited by the sight of beer – it was only later that we were told it was non-alcoholic. The children got excited by cake – lots of it, and very dubious looking jelly, coloured red white and blue. It is funny to think that we were having a thoroughly British celebration of our monarchy, only to repeat the exercise a few weeks later for our current Monarch. It was a wonderful atmosphere, with local residents joining in the fun. It was a great way to end the episode.
As everyone disappeared for another short mid episode break, we still had some filming to do – it was Millie’s fault for breaking down the other day. It was when everyone had left, and Ben finally had the shots he needed of us driving along the promenade that Naomi asked him to take a photo of Millie and the children. Little did we know that this photo would be used by the press to advertise episode 2!
Next time – its war!
PART 4 – IT’S WAR
The world will always remember the two World Wars. Our children will always be taught about them in school. But do we really appreciate what happened? Do we all know what happened to our families? As our parents and grandparents get older and sadly leave us, it will soon not be possible to ask those that were alive about their experiences. As we contemplated what would happen in episode three of filming, little were we to know what a profound effect re-creating life in the 1940s would have on us as a family.
We had always planned to have a fun break between the filming of episodes 2 and 3. We thought the children might need it by this stage. So once the cameras stopped rolling, and we had changed back in to our 2012 clothes, the Golding family took a short drive down the coast to Blackpool. We spent the following day at Blackpool Pleasure beach – it was fantastic fun. The break between these episodes was only a couple of days – the transformation from 1930’s house to 1940’s house was not quite as dramatic as 1900’s to 1930’s. The Blackpool trip was therefore intended to be a brief ‘chill out’ and ‘recharge’ to get us ready for episode 3. We rather misjudged quite how tiring a day at the Pleasure beach would be. Do not get me wrong, the kids loved it, but we were all exhausted the next morning.
However, exhaustion soon turned to excitement. We were on our way back to Morecambe for the 1940’s – wartime. As with the last episode, we first had to go into hair and makeup. More makeup was on the cards for Naomi (and even brighter red lipstick), and slightly smaller curlers, whilst I was to make my moustache (I cannot believe I walked around Blackpool with a moustache) narrower and use Brylcreem on my hair. Ciara and Caitie had more fun having their hair plaited, whilst Jack was able to stay exactly as he was…..again.
Then we were off to costume – and back in the cellar of the production house. I am not sure if I have said this in earlier parts of this blog, but the production house was next door to Number 3 Albert Road – the working class house. The houses had been renumbered for the programme – the production house was actually number 69. On a couple of occasions whilst standing on the doorstep of number 2, waiting for filming to start, I would observe very confused delivery men trying to understand the door numbering – they had no idea that three of the houses in the road were being used to film a TV programme! The costumes were not radically different to the 30’s – three piece suit for me (again), although this time I did have a very fetching cardigan as well. More cardigans for Naomi and for the first time no corset! The girls looked adorable once more in more matching dresses, whilst Jack was in a tweed jacket, shorts and woolly jumper combo. The thing that surprised me most about this costume fitting was that I did not try on, nor could I see anything resembling military uniform – this was the wartime episode after all. Maybe they were keeping it a secret for now.
Our return to Albert Road felt a little like the first time we entered the street. We were walked from the hotel (having sat in reception for hours!!) to a corner close to the street. There we waited until we got our cue. Whilst waiting, it became apparent how changeable the weather had been throughout the filming. In the first two weeks it had not been too bad, and we had completely escaped rain. It had got very windy by the end of episode 2, but was bearable. Now, standing on the street, we realised it was actually pretty chilly. Finally, we were given our cue.
Not much had changed – the houses looked almost exactly as they had done a couple of days before. However, when you looked closely, you could see the difference. There was masking tape on all the windows, an ARP Warden shelter on the corner of the road, and lots of sandbags. The street was just the same as we had remembered but also now somehow different. We were once again lined up in front of Susanna, Juliet and Joe who expertly set the scene for us. Britain was at war, and we were going to have to pull together as families and as a community to get through it. ‘Bring it on’ I thought – it is amazing how confident you can be about experiencing war when you know it is not actually real.
Walking into our house for our third era – and it really did feel like coming home to our house – it was obvious that little had changed. The same furniture, the same décor – all looking a little older and little more tired, but essentially the same. However, there were some subtle and more fundamental changes. On the mantelpiece in the lounge was the picture of Naomi, Ciara, Caitie and Jack that I had taken with my Box Brownie in the previous episode – lovely touch. In the dining room was a picture of my grandpa Joe in his army uniform. And then we went into the kitchen.
I think it might have been Ciara that spotted them first – two wooden crates stacked on top of each other beside the door. RABBITS – she shouted – the children had not been so excited since entering number 2 Albert Road a couple of weeks earlier. Whilst our three children were cooing at their new pets, Naomi and I both new that in reality, pets they were not. We would never have considered Charles and Eddie (the names of our furry friends) as a meal, and cannot profess to understand how our ancestors would have been able to – but it makes you think what people had to do to survive in that period of history. At last our cookbook was full of rabbit recipes – unlike the Meadows who were expected to eat Squirrel (and no – they could not bring themselves to do that either).
I need to point out here that we were not the only ones to have surprise housemates. As everyone saw in the programme, the Meadows had an enormous pig for company. However, what was not seen was who the Taylors had. As a wealthy family with lots of space, they were to play host to a group of airmen! As they entered their house, four young men had populated their grand lounge – Adele was most pleased!
Back in number 2, Naomi spotted the ration books, and the significant reduction in food supplies on the previous weeks – all piled up on the table – a whole week of supplies. Dried eggs were our favourite. How on earth could you make anything resembling an egg from a box of powder? We were sure that Naomi would find out soon enough. We were fortunate that our rations had already been provided for us – this was not to be a focus for filming. This meant that Naomi knew exactly what she had to work with – and it was not a lot. With a piece of paper and pencil, Naomi planned a full week of meals – it is amazing what you can organise with a bit of planning. I guess that millions of mums up and down the country in the 1940’s would have done exactly the same thing – week after week. The food situation reminded me of the comment I have already made about snacking – during this period you simply could not. We had a bag of sweets – maybe half a dozen – for a week!! In a world of junk food, convenience stores, petrol stations, and coffee shops, we are constantly snacking on crisps, chocolate bars and even pain au chocolat on demand. I do not think that dieting would have been a big issue back then.
Then came the manual – the beloved manual. There was a huge amount of information about rationing, blackouts, air raids, gas masks – this was not just information on how we were to live in this era, it was an educational social history lesson. We were at war – the manual kept telling us. I was to be a member of the Local Defence Volunteers – the Home guard as they became – or ‘Dad’s Army’ as most people think of them! Initially I was a little disappointed – I wanted to actually go to war – or at least that is what I thought. It made me wonder if that was what all men of my age thought at the time. In reality, would I really have wanted to?
We were sat down in our front room to listen to the wireless for the first time. The purpose was to hear a speech from Anthony Eden – his first as secretary of state for war. The speech was delivered on the 14th May 1940 and went as follows:
‘We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance [that an invasion would be repelled] doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the Local Defence Volunteers. This name describes its duties in three words. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniforms and will be armed. In order to volunteer, what you have to do is give your name at your local police station, and then, when we want you, we will let you know…’
My only knowledge of the home guard (Winston Churchill changed the name in July 1940 as he felt that Local Defence Volunteers was an uninspiring one) was gathered watching Dad’s Army as a child. I would guess that is what most of us remember – and it makes this group of men seem rather amusing and inept. What I learnt on our first day in this era is that the home guard was quite the opposite. Originally, they had no uniforms and no weapons. In fact Phil, Michael and I were asked to make our own weapons – mine was a rather fierce looking thing made from a broomstick and a kitchen knife. What no one knew in 1940 was if the German forces were actually going to invade Britain. It was not just about the British armed forces going into Europe – it was as important to protect our home shores. That is what these brave men were called into the LDV to do. We mock Dad’s Army because of a comedy TV show, but these men remained in Britain to protect us – and they would have put their lives on the line for us – this should not be forgotten, and we should not mock them.
The three dads were then taken to the promenade in Morecambe for our first training exercise. It proved to be the funniest event of my time filming. The reason – my complete and utter ineptitude at marching! Unfortunately for me, this was shown in the programme itself! The wind was blowing a gale on the front, and we were all absolutely freezing. We were met by the Haworth Home Guard (pictured below). These men were absolutely brilliant, and attempted to ‘whip us in to shape’ Unfortunately, I just found the whole thing too funny. As soon as the drill sergeant told me I was ‘tick tocking’, I just could not control my laughter. Neither could Michael and Phil! My mind went blank. I just could not get my arms and legs to work in the right way – it was just so farcical!! Eventually, I did manage to march correctly, but I did not fill my colleagues with confidence. If the German forces did invade Morecambe, I am not sure they would have wanted me to protect them!
Whilst I was becoming the comedy fall guy of the episode, Naomi and the children were being told how to make sure that the house was ready for an air raid. The windows had been partially prepared with masking tape, but this needed to be completed. They were advised of what we needed to do by Suzie – our new ARP (air raid precautions) Warden. Masking tape was used to protect people from flying glass. All the windows needed to be completely blacked out from dusk until dawn – the blackout material needed to be prepared and ready to use – should an air raid come in the afternoon, we needed to be prepared to black out he house before we left. Then there were the gas masks. We had to keep them with us at all times. I had always seen images of men, women and children carrying gas masks during wartime, and now everyone was given a detailed lesson in how to use them and why they were important. No one knew at the time if the German forces were going to use poisonous gasses in their attacks. There was a belief that this might happen. This is why gas masks were so important. We were all given one – even Jack was given a very scary looking thing – just the same as the one Alice Taylor tried on during the programme itself. We also had to have provisions ready to take to the air raid shelter with us – blankets, mugs, food, games, books etc..
We were as ready as we were ever going to be. As dusk approached, we diligently set about blacking out every window – to ensure not even a chink of light was visible. And then the inevitable happened – the air siren sounded. The noise of the siren is so ominous – I cannot imagine what the sound of it would have meant to people who actually lived through air raids for real. On hearing it, all the families sprang into action.
The air raid shelter was to be in the cellar of the Taylor house. We grabbed our gas masks and the pre prepared box of provisions, and made our way to number 1 Albert Road. Suzie was outside corralling everyone, whilst Michael and Adele showed us how to get to the cellar. Within a couple of minutes, all three families were together – in the cellar – for the very first time. In forty years (over three weeks), we had gone from being unable to interact with each other, to being in a confined space as one close knit group. The class divide was well and truly disappearing – in spirit, if not in financial terms.
The atmosphere inside the shelter initially was fantastic – the children were ecstatic at finally being together. The dad’s almost immediately commenced a game of cards in the corner. The older girls were deep in conversation, whilst Naomi and Adele were also enjoying a good chinwag. The noise level was significant. It was also pretty hectic in the small space. Not only were there 14 members of the families in there, we also had two directors, and sound men attempting to manoeuvre their way around us.
Whilst we were all enjoying being together, we were suddenly jolted back to reality. We could hear planes above our heads – the noise got very slowly louder and louder. At one point we heard a very loud BANG – and the whole cellar shook. It had started to feel very real. We now know that the ‘bomb’ noise was actually made by the entire production crew jumping on the ceiling above us. Saskia started to worry about the only family member who was not with us – Suzie – who was performing her ARP duties. A raucous debate got under way as to whether or not someone should go and see if she was ok. It is amazing how it dies feel real – Saskia and Genevieve were genuinely worried about their mum. The dads were far more logical in their thinking – Suzie would be fine – she was doing an important job. If we sent someone out to find her, then there would be two people missing, rather than one. The dads’ won the day and we all stayed put. We were actually in the shelter for two hours – until we heard the ‘all clear bell’ being swung confidently by Suzie herself.
The air raid was over. We were all ok. Everything was back to normal – or was it? We were the first family to be allowed out of the shelter. Suzie warned us that there had been some damage – we did not expect that. The electricity and gas had been cut off as well. When we got out of number 1, it was almost dark – twilight – the streetlights had been turned off, so everything looked a bit eerie. There was a lot of debris on the street – we had been bombed (the art department had re-created the aftermath of one!). It was a very strange atmosphere – completely silent. As we entered number 2, the silence and darkness hit you hard. We had one little torch, and could see some damage in the hallway, and up the stairs. We went straight upstairs to the children’s bedroom. Because of the blackout material, it really was pitch black.
It was Caitie who got upset first, quickly followed by Ciara and Jack. They were honestly and totally freaked out by the whole situation. They were petrified. I can only imagine that this is what children who experienced a real air raid for the first time must have felt. It was scary for Naomi and I – let alone the children. When Caitie was asked about it the next day, she said even though she knew it was not real, it felt it in her heart. This was the only time throughout our experience where Ben put the camera down. He could tell how distressed the children were. Naomi and I comforted them, as did Caroline. Caroline also said that they would not use the footage if we did not want them to (although we had no rights as far as this is concerned). However, we decided that is was important for people to see our children’s reaction to something so serious. There are still children in conflict zones in 2012 that go to bed at night not knowing if they will be bombed. We in Britain are lucky to think that bombing may never happen again on our shores – other children in the world are not so lucky. If you have not asked your own family about their air raid experiences, I would encourage you to do so.
I asked my grandma, Pauline, who celebrated her 98th birthday in May about her experiences. She told me that they had a shelter in the cellar of her house. Burt she often did not go into it. She used to sit by my dad’s cot and would regularly go to sleep in a chair. They sometimes went under the stairs. She told me about one of her brothers who used to bring girlfriends into the shelter and ‘get up to no good’. I have never asked her about it before. I should have done.
The air raid had a profound effect on us all. It had also had the effect of galvanising our little community. The next morning we all awoke to be reminded of the damage that had been done. However, we did not look out of the window to see the debris as we had done the night before. We were woken by the art department who were putting the debris back! One of the frustrations of filming in a real street, that had to be opened up to the public at night, was that everything had to be cleared away. You could not have a local resident falling over a bit of masonry! So we were woken up to the sound of rubble being distributed on the pavement.
Our job that morning was to clean up – together, as one community. Whilst the ladies sorted out tea and food, the men set about getting rid of the rubble. It was ironic that the only family that was able to make a cup of tea were the Meadows – their coal fire could still operate, while the gas supply to our house and the Taylor house was still out. All the men cleared up the rubble – with help from Joe and Jack, and the girls mucked in as well. It was great fun, and further strengthened the camaraderie between us all. Despite war being a horrendous situation, it had actually meant for the first time that all the families were together – with each other. Maybe the 194o0s was the best era for the family…..
But just when things are looking up, another curve ball is thrown at you. Literally as the last of the rubble was cleared away, Juliet called the three dads into the Taylors lounge. She delivered news that I had not expected – I thought we were to spend the week in the Home Guard. Michael and I were being called up – Phil, at 50 was not. I have to say that it was obvious how disappointed he was – I would have been the same. It is also true that Phil was absolutely strong and fit enough to have been called up – once again though, Phil’s feelings would almost certainly have been representative of men of his age at the time.
I was to be called up to the REME Corps (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) – just like my grandpa. Michael was called up to a regiment of one of his ancestors. We were given our kit, and told to go and say goodbye to our families – we would be leaving almost immediately.
It was a genuine surprise to all of us – within thirty minutes, Michael and I were in a car on our way to war. Not quite the same as would have happened!! Naomi managed to make me a sandwich for the journey – always thinking of me, despite what she would have to deal with herself. We were driven to war by Adam – one of the researchers for the programme, who also doubled up as a cameraman – known as a ‘shooting researcher’. Adam told us the plan. We were not ‘going to war’ straight away. Michael and I were actually driven to the Imperial War Museum in Manchester. Adam left us there for a couple of hours.
Bizarrely, I had taken the children to the same museum a couple of weeks before the filming started. I wanted them to have a little bit of an appreciation of wartime. Coming back just a few weeks later, dressed as a middle class dad from the period, I noticed things that had not even captured my attention on the first visit. I noticed that there is a section devoted to the 1930’s – including the rise of the British Union of Fascists – if I had paid a little more attention on my first visit, what I found out in episode 2 would not have been as much of a surprise. There is a whole section on evacuation – Naomi and I had been discussing this the evening before – what would we do? We had come to the conclusion that evacuation would be best – but I would not be around to make that decision with her if it became necessary.
Our trip to the museum almost helped to get our minds in to the right place. Michael told me about his experiences in the RAF – Michael had been to the Falklands many times. I was pleased to be with someone who at least had first-hand experience of being in the armed forces. I was completely green. Adam returned to take us to our secret location. The location was in the middle of nowhere – in the middle of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We were taken to a village called Malham – very well-known with walkers. We went to a campsite which was to be our home for the next two days p- this is the campsite:
When we arrived, there was not a soul there. This was probably due to the fact that the previous night there had been heavy snow – it was close to freezing, and likely to get colder that night. What mad people would camp out in that kind of weather? We changed into our army uniform – a real disappointment to both of us. Unlike every other bit of costume we were to wear in the series, our uniforms were brand new – and very very cheap. Hey were actually from Greece. Not only were they too small, they did not represent the period.
Our next job was to put up our tent – tat had been delivered the day before. Unfortunately, whichever member of the crew delivered them had forgotten to leave the poles! It was 4pm, we had nowhere to sleep, and it would be dark by 7. Adam tried to phone back to Morecambe, but there was no signal. He had to locate Malcolm – the farmer whose campsite we were on, to see if he could use his landline. Eventually, contact was made, and a crew member was on his way with the poles. While we waited, Adam took us to one of the pubs in Malham – maybe this would not be so bad after all. Whilst in the pub, two men arrived – two men who we would get to know very well. Alex and Paul were both members of the British army. Paul was a tank commander, and Paul an infantry officer. One had served in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq. They were to put us through basic infantry training in the morning – I started to get a little nervous.
At 7pm, the tent poles arrived – it was now dusk, getting dark very quickly, and very cold. Two tents had been delivered – both enormous old canvas things – one of them was not usable and had been given to us as a decoy. In the end, Michael and I did rather well identifying and erecting the right tent by 8pm. It looked like an old scout tent – with no groundsheet. We had a bunk each, and a modern sleeping bag – although the latter was not very good quality. We also had army rations for food – modern rations obviously. Adam and the Stuart the sound man disappeared off to their B&B at 9pm, and Michael and I were left in the cold in a field in the middle of nowhere.
It was about minus 5 that night – safe to say we did not sleep very well. It was fantastic sharing the experience with Michael, and felt like we were boy scouts again, but by the morning; I could not feel my feet! It had been agreed that Alex and Paul would come and see us at 8am. Neither of us had a watch though, so we were up at first light – well before our two instructors – all nice and warm in their modern 2012 tent.
Shortly after eight, our day of pain commenced. A warm up consisting of running around the campsite and doing press ups on frozen ground was just the start. We were then lined up for a kit inspection. Both of us were shouted at for having creased kit!! Alex walked right up to me and pointed at my moustache – ‘what’s that’ he barked at me. ‘A moustache sir’ I said back. Alex gave me 15 minutes to get rid of it – which is why you see me midway through episode 3 clean shaven! Once sorted, they then took us on a run. And run a lot we did – across fields, in and out of rivers – it was relentless. We got our breath back when we were shown how to apply camouflage paint to our faces and hands. Then we were made to crawl and over a field full of nettles. Was this supposed to be fun? There were a couple of very funny moments. When we first got out of the river, Paul asked me if my feet were wet. ‘Of course they are’ I confidently shouted back. Paul asked me if I had a spare pair of socks – I did not. I was then given a lecture on how important it is to look after your kit and yourself – a man who does not could become a liability – ‘I do not like my men going down on me’ Paul shouted – as we all rolled about laughing, it took him a while to realise what he had said.
Michael’s moment came whilst we were being taught how to build a shelter. We were told to take our webbing off to get some kit that we needed to use. I put mine back on, Michael did not. After Paul showed us what to do, Alex asked Michael where his webbing was – it had gone! Whilst Paul was giving us instruction, Alex had thrown it down a ravine – Michael was ordered to go and get it – quickly. When he had, it is the one and only time I saw anger in Michael’s face – he is a very happy man normally – would these two break him?
Our pain continued all day – when it finally came to an end, we were both exhausted. At this point you should also think about the efforts of Adam and the Stuart – wherever we ran, they had to with heavy camera and sound equipment. I always knew they were behind us – I could hear their panting! That evening, the cold weather had continued. Adam and the producers back in Morecambe had become concerned about us spending another night in the tent in those conditions. They had decided we should spend it in a B&B instead. Music to our ears!! Michael, a much better negotiator than I, managed to get every penny in cash dam had on him – it was supposed to be for food – you can guess what happened. Michael, myself, Alex and Paul spent all night in the pub – most of our money was spent on beer – more expert negotiation with the landlord saw us all get pie, chips and peas for £6 a head. It was an excellent evening – and most unexpected.
As I got into a nice warm bed – I realised that I had not spoken to Naomi or the children for two days. Only once in my 18 years with Naomi have I not spoken to her for a day – alcohol was to blame on that occasion. War (or recreation of) had forced us apart for two days. The reality of having no communication sunk in. Naomi did not know where I was, or how long I would be away. I had no idea how she was, and what she and the children were up to. Again, it was a miniscule amount of time in relative terms, but it makes you think what it must have been like for families who were parted for years – and for those who were never reunited.
The following day, after eating a ‘full English’ we were picked up and driven back to Morecambe – it was to be our homecoming, and the last day full day of filming for the Golding’s. We arrived home in our cheap Greek army outfits – no-one seemed to notice. It was emotional – despite the fact we had only been away for a couple of days. And it was amazing what everyone had been up to whilst we were away.
Naomi described how she and Adele had had to make a decision to evacuate the children. They did. Unknown to me, the production company had asked my dad, Eric, and Michael’s dad to meet the children at the other end – many people have asked where the children went, and what did they do. I was not there, so I have asked my dad to tell you:
‘I arrived at London Euston Station to catch a train to Lancaster where I was to meet my three grandchildren who were being evacuated from their home in Morecambe to avoid the dangers of enemy bombing. After an uneventful journey, I was met at Lancaster Station by a member of the “Turn back time” team and taken to Lakeside Station one terminus of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, a preserved steam operated railway.
I was surprised how many of the team were there to greet the evacuees including the grandparents of the Taylor family and we got on really well. We all had a coffee together while we were waiting for the train to arrive with mounting excitement. We then heard the train puffing into the station and as it stopped I could see familiar faces at the windows. The train stopped, the doors opened and immediately I saw my little family clutching their small brown suitcases and their gas masks. They were dressed for the period they were living in, the forties but it did not stop me from having an obligatory cuddle from all of them.
I suddenly realised that this was all being filmed when the Director told me to stay with the children and walk behind the ticket office next to the lake so he could get the shots he wanted. By then I had assumed my normal role as Grandpa as I found myself carrying all the suitcases and gas masks! I also thought that my moment of fame had arrived but I regret to say that all the film with me in it finished up on the editing room floor.
I knew the Wall to Wall production team was well organised and anxious to make everything as authentic as possible from the time they asked me for information about my family, including photographs and it was emphasised under no circumstances were Ian and Naomi to know. I was even more surprised to be introduced to the Chaperone who accompanied the kids everywhere and looked after their wellbeing.
We were taken to a hotel not too far away and signed in. This place specialised in accommodating students and we were allocated about seven rooms for me, my three grandchildren, the Taylor grandparents and their three children and the Chaperone. In the end we did not need as many rooms as all the children wanted to stay in the same room as they were such good friends, even though little Jack had to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
After breakfast the following morning, we all left for Morecambe Community Centre where the children were introduced to two Ladies in their late seventies called Alice and Hazel, both of whom had been real evacuees during the Second World War. Alice came from London and had lived in an area badly affected by bombing and her Mother thought it better for her to be safe away from London but Alice was very unhappy and kept running away to go back to her Mum.
The director then positioned everybody and asked the Ladies to tell the children about their experiences during the war to contrast that and the imaginary war taking place in Albert Road, Morecambe. The children were encouraged to ask the Ladies questions and an interesting dialogue took place. Following this filming we had lunch and I was then taken back to Lancaster Station to catch my train back to London.
On one of my regular visits to my family in Chester last autumn, Naomi told me she had applied to the BBC for the family to take part in a reality programme. I thought to myself I might win the lottery next week! However, much to my surprise, just before Christmas last year, I was told the family had been selected to appear in a programme called “Turn back time”
Over the next month or two I was supplying the production team information about the family that I knew which was not as much as I would have liked and my wife Gail knew even less about her family as her father was American. She also thought her mother was foreign, from Wales! This turned out to be true. I repeat I was constantly reminded I was not to tell Ian and Naomi anything.
I spent hours going through boxes of old photographs to select those I thought might be interesting for the programme and at the same learning more about my family I ever knew. What is sad is there are many photos in the boxes of people who I do not know or recognise although a few had names written on the back. I am pleased to say that some of the time I spent was fruitful as Ian’s grandparents picture of them on honeymoon in Torquay in 1939 was used and Ian’s grandmother who is 98 was delighted to see it.’
Whilst the children were away, Naomi was coping back in Morecambe all by herself. Unlike the Meadows and Taylors who had older children, Naomi was the only parent to have lost everyone. Again, despite the fact that this was a recreation, for a very short time, it was obvious seeing Naomi in the programme how emotional it made her. If it was not for Charles (or Eddie – I am not sure which one it was) the rabbit, I am not sure what she would have done for comfort. Saying that the support she got from the other families was wonderful. They truly mucked in together. So much so, that whilst I was away, Naomi spent time at an engineering firm in Lancaster. Looking like the lady in ‘Flashdance’, they had a whale of a time welding and gas axing metal. Naomi bored a hole through a piece of metal with one machine – it is one of the souvenirs we took away with us.
The remaining residents of Albert Road also lived through another air raid. They slept in the shelter overnight – again, Naomi without any of her family. The next morning, on returning to number 2, the art department had really been to town. They recreated bomb damage in a way we would not believe possible. By the time I returned home, Naomi had cleaned up most of the damage. She told me that there was debris everywhere – in every room. Additionally, the house had been looted – very common after air raids. The thing that Naomi was most upset about was that the photo of the family taken whilst on our walking trip in the previous episode was one of the things that had been stolen. The ration books had also gone. The dining room was the most dramatic – a false ceiling had been built to make it look as though the ceiling had fallen in – so clever.
Later that day (whilst Michael and I were on our way back to Morecambe), a man who sold stuff on the black market visited Naomi – he was only shown in the programme visiting the Meadows (who bought stuff of him). He tried to sell Naomi our ration books – Naomi, being the strong, principled woman that she is, flatly refused, and got him to give them back to her. She kicked him out without buying anything.
Naomi was also visited by Juliet whilst I and the kids were away. Juliet delivered postcards to Naomi that had been written by the children at Lakeside. Apparently even Juliet was moved to tears at this – again, just because something is a re-creation, it does not mean it cannot feel real – it did for Juliet and Naomi.
The Golding’s time in Morecambe was very near its end. Our penultimate piece of filming was to focus on a piece of family history that I knew something about, but not all. My grandma lived in central London during the war. She had 7 brothers and sisters. Her eldest sister, Minnie, was married to Nathan. They had three children –Edyce (15), Brenda (11) and Natalie (5). I knew that Minnie had lost all of them during the war. I thought they had been bombed in London – I was wrong. I remember meeting Minnie when I was a young boy. I remember her as a quiet, sad looking woman. I had never really appreciated just why. It turns out that Nathan had taken the decision to move the whole family to Brighton. Nathan believed they would be safer there than staying in London. We were shown a picture of the three girls – I had never seen it before:
The photo was taken on the promenade in Brighton, probably just a few weeks before they died. Tragically, they were all killed in a bombing raid – exactly what Nathan had moved them there to avoid. Even more tragically, Minnie was not killed. She had to live the rest of her life alone. When you consider the decisions that Naomi had to make in our re-creation – and that at one point she was all alone, it become very clear how this story affected Naomi and I. We must never forget what happened to these three beautiful girls, their dad and their mum. It is a story that sits alongside thousands of others from all families across Britain. Do you know what happened to your family during the war? If you do not, find out – before it is too late. The war will never be forgotten, but individual family stories will be lost unless they are recorded – now.
We actually filmed the final scene, before the VE Day party. As with all previous episodes, all three families were lined up in the street in front of Susanna and Juliet. We were told that the Golding’s would be moving on – just as my grandparents had done during the war. Pauline and Joe moved to Cricklewood. We were going home. We had a group hug – there was not a dry eye in the house. We were gutted to be leaving – Naomi even came up with a plan to try and keep us in. She tried to convince Sallie, the series producer, to have us come back as hippies, living in the street in a VW camper van. Sallie liked the idea – she even found a VW camper van that we could use (off her own back). Unfortunately, when she posed the idea to the suits in London, they were not suite so keen. We had always know that our involvement would be for three episodes, and three it was going to remain.
It was almost time to say good bye. But not before the VE day dance – which was to mark the end of the war, this episode, and our time in the programme. The ladies dolled themselves up – even the crew paid a visit to Dottys Vintage in Morecambe to purchase suitable dresses for the party. Everyone was very excited. The party was to be held in ‘the Platform’ a venue in Morecambe that was the old promenade railway station. On arriving, it was clear it was going to be some party. Decked out in red white and blue, union jacks and bunting adorned the entire room. On the stage was a big band, with a radio announcer who I am sure I have seen on TV many times before. There were songs, dancing, food, drink (real alcohol this time). Members of the Home Guard were there, including many other period re-enactors, dressed for the occasion.
The most emotional point came during a rendition of ‘we’ll meet again’ – sung together as we all held hands. What a poignant song – for the period, and also for the three turn back time families who had become so close. We just had one more interview to do before it was all over. As the music dies down, and the families and crew started to depart, our adventure had come to an end.
Or had it?! In part 5 of this blog, I will write about the Golding’s return home, and our surprise return to Albert Road at the end of episode 5.
PART 5 – THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVER – IT IS NOW!
The night the filming for episode 3 finished, we decided to stay in Morecambe. It was a very strange feeling. We would be going home, whilst the Taylors and Meadows would be coming back in a few days. To say that we did not want to go home is a real understatement. We had enjoyed our experience so much; we were desperate for it to continue. We spent a long time trying to convince Sallie, the series producer, to come up with innovative ways to keep the Goldings in the programme. Naomi suggested that we could become a group of hippies, and move back in to the street living in a VW camper van. Sallie liked the idea. Sadly the suits in London did not.
It was inevitable that our experience would come to an end – and end it did. We were given a silver lining though. A few weeks earlier, Sallie had suggested that we might be able to come back at the end of the last episode. They always like to end filming with a party – Sallie confirmed that we were to come back for the last day of filming and the party that would follow. This was a lovely surprise, and almost kept the experience alive. However, it was with heavy heart that we drove back to Chester.
Over the next few days, we experienced a huge anti-climax. It was a very hollow feeling. We had gone from the excitement and bustle of filming a TV programme, to the relative dullness of normal life. Do not get me wrong – we have a lovely life, but the contrast between what we had been doing, and the reality of going back to normal was a shock to the system. We slipped back into the normal routine. Mobile phones, laptops, TV all returned – it is very difficult to resist the temptation of modern technology when it is there in front of you, despite the fact that it was not missed when we did not have it.
Catching up with friends and family was great. They all had so many questions. It was wonderful being able to tell genuinely interested people the things we had done – everyone was enthralled. Going back to work was strange. The kids had absolutely no trouble going back to school. Their friends had missed them, and were very excited to have them back. It is amazing how quickly everything returns to normal. After a week of being back home, it felt like months since we had been in Morecambe.
However, we knew that filming was still going on. I seemed to be more obsessed with what was going on in Albert Road than Naomi. Sallie, expecting that we would be dying to know what was happening, sent us a couple of text messages and photos – she shouldn’t have done, but it was fantastic to still be kept in the loop. As the time for us to go back for the last day of filming got closer, my excitement started to build.
The last day of filming was supposed to be on a Sunday. However, the Sunday in question was the day of the London Marathon – the London Marathon that Turn Back Time presenter, Susanna Reid, would be competing in. As a result, the schedule was changed, and the last day was moved to Monday. No-one would have known having seen the programme last night, but Susanna was amazing that day. For those of you who have run a marathon – it is rather challenging walking the following day. Susanna was on a train from London very early on Monday morning. Despite being in a lot of pain, her smile and reassurance never faltered. Susanna is a wonderful lady, and it was a real pleasure to be interviewed by her.
When we arrived in Morecambe, to our surprise, we were told that we would need to participate in the filming itself. We did not expect this – we thought we were just there for the party. It was actually a strange feeling – we almost felt as though we were gate-crashing. We had had our time – should we really be coming back to be filmed again? It felt as though the production team were being kind to us, but it did not feel quite right. The last day of filming was to be set in 1981 – the day of Charles and Diana’s wedding. As a result – normal service was resumed in terms of preparation for filming, Naomi as taken to hair and makeup.
Naomi was amazing throughout the experience in terms of wearing the clothes, makeup and having her hair done exactly as she was asked. The outfits she wore were not the most flattering – but Naomi never once complained. It was therefore no surprise, that when presented with the most garish green, shoulder padded dress I have ever seen, Naomi agreed to wear it. It was like looking at Crystal Carrington!
Jack and I looked like varsity boys in Chinos and Blazers, whilst he girl wore ‘red, white and blue’ dresses.
We did a lot of waiting that day – probably more so than at any time during the filming process. After the waiting, we did actually do some filming – although this was cut from the final programme. We were filmed returning to the street – walking in to Albert Road to be greeted by the families. It was the first time we met the Hawkes and Rhodes families. It was like we had known them forever.
We were filmed returning to number 2 Albert Road – now the Meadows home, but a home I will always consider to have been ours. The transformation was unbelievable. To see for our own eyes how they had knocked through the lounge and dining room, moved the kitchen in to the 1970s, was astounding.
It was wonderful being back – and wonderful to see our friends again. We were all taken back to the Platform – scene of the VE Day party a couple of weeks earlier, for a party to celebrate Charles & Diana’s wedding. Once again, it was great fun – food, drink, and dancing. We were entertained by the amazing Hawkes family – a talented band called the Hazeltones. They were amazing, and it is a real shame that their performance was cut from the programme. We watched Charles and Diana get married on TV – it was all rather bizarre.
As the visiting family, for the only time during the process, I did have my mobile phone on me. This enabled me to take lots of pictures, some of which I am going to share with you:
We all returned to the street to finish off the filming. We were interviewed for one final time by Susanna – she asked us what our view was on the best era for the family – sadly this was also cut from the last episode. Just so you know, both Naomi and I said that ‘now’ is the best era for family. However, if we were pushed to return to an era, it would have been our life in Albert Road in the 1930’s.
The night, cast and crew had a party. It was the end of the journey. The Goldings stayed in the Midland Hotel – we thought we would go out with a bang. Waking up in the morning, and looking out of our window on to the beautiful Morecambe Bay, we could reflect on what had just happened to us. We will never forget what happened to us over Easter in 2012. We will never take for granted how lucky we have been to have the opportunity. We will never take for granted how important the family is – past and present. We will never take for granted the sacrifices our ancestors have made for us over the years.
Turning Back Time has been wonderful – would we do it all over again? You bet we would.
PART 6 – ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE – THE RHODES FAMILY
The lovely Ian J Golding ask me if I would like to do a guest blog to add to his already truly inspirational and heart felt blog about his and his gorgeous families experiences, feeling and emotions on Turn Back Time – The Family.
I was delighted to accept, and told Ian that it would be my pleasure, as I had read the start of his 1st blog and awaited with anticipation for the next instalments… it was great for me, Harrison and Daniel to hear about the experience in great detail of another family who had been through the 1st 3 episodes, and understand their challenges, highs and lows of their journey on Turn Back Time.
Like I said my 1st thoughts where of delight to add to this already fantastic read, and I must admit Ian is an exceptional creative writer, and to be honest I couldn’t wait to get my ‘two peneth’ started.
It wasn’t long before the reality kicked in, how can I top what Ian had already written? Ian has managed to capture every detail, of every minute of every day, and made it such an amazing, heartfelt, and truly inspirational read.. How can Lisa Rhodes, 41, Rochdale lass born and bred, single mum of two boys do this any justice? So, I pulled myself together and thought I’ve never been short of things to say, and I’ve always got a tale to tell, and as my mum always says ‘Lisa, slow down, start from the beginning, and tell me all about it!’ so here goes….
Just over 6 years ago I became a single mum, my husband and myself split up after 17 years of being together (another story if you are interested?) but I found myself on my own with 2 boys Harrison then 6 years old and Daniel nearly 3, Very similar to my own mum who separated from my dad when I was 7 years old in 1976, I remember the ‘70s as if they were yesterday, and I knew about the challenges my own mum faced bringing up a child on her own, she did I great job! So I knew I could too.
Back in October last year, Harrison, Daniel and myself seen an advert for Turn Back Time – The family, it read:-
We all thought, we would love to have a bit of that, so Harrison (we) replied:-
Hi, we are a very forward thinking (or backwards, should I say) family, and would love to experience time in our ancestors footsteps, it sound very exciting. Me and my brother enjoyed the last series, and our whole family would love to be involved in this one 🙂 So we would all love to hear from you. Many Thanks The Rhodes Family X
*Note our signature, ‘The Rhodes Family’ who would have thought then, that ‘the Rhodes Family’ would have actually become the reality! At the time we all applied to take part in this ‘chance of a life time experience’ I was in a long term relationship with a great man, who was wonderful to me and absolutely fabulous with the kids. So when we applied we applied as a family, me, the boys and my partner. We were delighted to receive a reply, and now started to get excited about the prospect of living in our ancestors footsteps; we’d only got a reply! We hadn’t got it! Here is this jist of the mail; it was much longer and so exciting to read!
Hi Harrison, Thank you so much for your email, it’s great to hear from you!
I have quite a backlog of phone-calls/inquiries to get through, so bear with me, but in the meantime he’s some more info regarding the programme. Let me know if you would like to apply:
We’re going to be filming in Spring 2012. We’ve taken a street of houses in the UK back to the early 20th century and our chosen families will move into the street and go on the journey of a lifetime through history. We’ll fast forward them through a century of changing family life. Each week, they’ll dress, eat, live, work and play according to the rules of a different historical era. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience history at first hand. At the end of the experiment we’ll ask, which was the golden era for the British family?
If you are selected to take part, your family’s journey through history may at times be based on your own family history – research which our team of genealogists will undertake. It’s helpful for us if you don’t know too much about your family history, so please don’t do any additional research into your genealogy – that’s our job!
The street’s community will evolve over the weeks to reflect changes in British society, so the time commitment will vary from family to family. At the top end we’re looking at approx 6 weeks, but in other cases it will be as short as one week.
If the Turn Back Time experience appeals to you & your family and you’re interested in going on this journey, then give me a call Kind regards,
Ingrid Casting Producer Wall to Wall Television
So we called….. Ingrid was the casting producer, and what a wonderful lady she is! I rang a couple of times and missed her, then one night when I was picking the kids up from my mums, Ingrid called, we had a wonderful chat, I told her all about me, the kids, my family and my partner, and told her how much we would love to be a part of this amazing once in a life time opportunity, and there and then she said she wanted to meet us, we were all very excited!! Ingrid also said she wanted to speak to my mum, my gran (which she spent over 2 hours on the phone to! my gran can talk as well) my partners parents, just really to start getting a picture of our ancestry. We arranged for Ingrid to come to our house the following Saturday morning, she was coming all the way from London to see us!
Ingrid arrived, it was like waiting for Christmas we were all very excited… we had a lovely couple of hours, Ingrid asked us all about ourselves, the kids did her a tour of the house, and of course Dan threw a few magic tricks in for good measure, and thought Ingrid was a true star as she had met Dynamo, Dan was over the moon! As usual like any ‘well sort of interview’ we summed up at the end of the tape by finishing off by saying ‘We will do you proud’ I hope we did!
I’m not sure if Ingrid said they had 300 families apply or if they had 300 families to see, whichever the number it was a lot, and I knew we had as good a chance as anyone else, but I certainly didn’t bet my life on it. Ingrid told us that the next process was after they had seen all the families and would draw up a short list, she also advised us that they expected to have this short list together before Christmas, and that she would be in touch… then we had ‘the wait’
A couple of weeks passed, and then Ingrid called just really to keep us updated, to say that they were still reviewing the families that they had seen and the process was to get a short list together to be able to present to the BBC for their perusal, we waited again… Another week or so passed and Ingrid called again..’Great news’ she said, we are putting you forward as a potential family to the BBC….. WE WHERE DELIGHTED!!! YES!! ‘You are through to the next round’.. lol! So with that followed two things, the start of our ancestry history, and the hand over for us, a new point of contact as Ingrid’s work was done, we were handed over to the equally lovely Caroline Miller, to be honest the kids had got very attached to Ingrid, and seemed very upset when she was no longer looking after us, but it wasn’t long before they got very attached to Caroline as well.
Caroline rang me to introduce herself, and explained the ancestry process to me and what it involved, and asked us not to look into ourselves as it all needed to be a surprise.. (Remember at this time we were only through to the next round!) The Team at Turn Back Time then had further conversations with my Gran (82 years) and my partner’s parents to get as much back ground information as possible to start the ancestry journey.
Then the blow came! Caroline rang to say that unfortunately because me and my partner didn’t live together that they didn’t feel it would be appropriate to put us forward as a family (to be fair, I totally understand this, and now after seeing the great families that were chosen to take part, they wanted a real family unit) but! There was an episode in the 1970s that featured a single mum and her children, and asked would I consider them putting us (me, Harrison & Daniel) forward for this? Of course I said yes, as I had spent the best part of 4 ½ years as a single parent myself, and also had my own childhood experiences of living in a single parent family, even though at the time I did have a partner, we did only see each other at weekend, and to all intense and purposes I am a single parent. Anyway again, there was the wait.. We are probably now in early December and Caroline rang again, (she really did a fabulous job in keeping in contact) Great news!! We have decided to put you through to the BBC as a family! All 4 of us, Me, Harrison, Daniel and my partner, but it was now going to be after Christmas before any decisions would be made on the ‘chosen ones’… so I rang my partner and said ‘we are back on!’
Christmas came and went, and in early January, the phone rang…. I think my heart skipped a beat or several, no it wasn’t Christian Grey on the end of the line, it was Caroline, ‘I have good news and I have bad news’ she said which do you want 1st? I guessed.. The BBC had 3 fabulous families to take part in the series, one fabulous Caribbean family, and now of course.. An amazing single mum and her two kids!! The chosen few had been chosen… we were beside ourselves with excitement! And due to film our episode in April 2012… the kids where so excited, but as we know kids, April seemed such a long time away.
The next few months where spent on the commercials, me and the boys had to grow our hair and not have it cut, I had red hair at the time, and had to dye it to a more natural colour. Caroline was great, and spoke in length to the kid’s dad, head teachers, licencing officers, to make sure everybody was happy with what we were doing, and that everything was in place for us to do our filming. I must admit here I did have a moment of hesitation, OMG! Do I really want everyone to see me on telly? Warts an all.. Then Harrison and I watched ‘my Big Fat Gipsy weddings’ and I thought, I had nothing to worry about… like I said it was momentarily!
One of the highlights for us was having a trip to London for our costume fittings, and we went to the National Theatre costume department for this is was so exciting, the kids had a ball, racks and racks of fabulous costumes from all era’s fact and fiction it was amazing. After our fittings we went to Wall to Wall offices where we met the ‘Turn Back Time’ team, who made us feel like royalty, and so welcome, what a great bunch of wonderful people.
To be honest the time passed very quickly, I think the hardest thing was not telling anyone about it, we were sworn to secrecy! The kids where brilliant not saying anything. Before we knew it, we were filming our ‘back story day’.
Adam (who ended up being our camera man) and Rob came and spent the day with us in modern day.. They were here all day, just really recording us as a single parent family, in a normal every day situation. We made bacon butties, the kids played with their technology, (a very regular occurrence in our house!) and enjoyed a trip to the park, we had a great day, and Adam and Rob where great, its amazing what bonds we have made with these people in such a short space of time, because you pour your heart out to them, and they listen!
We arrived at the hotel in Morecombe at 12.30pm the day before our filming was due to start, we still didn’t know the location of the infamous ‘Albert Road’ which was soon to be our home for 5 whole days.. We were greeted at the hotel by Norman (another amazing person belonging to the Turn Back Time Team) we spent the next couple of hours, in wardrobe, hair and makeup check, the excitement was building immensely! The kids where dying to see Caroline and Norman telephoned her to let her know we had arrived.. Not long after Norman called her she was at the hotel, so I knew then that Albert Road mustn’t be that far! Literally 5 mins walk away, we were close very close!
Call time was 9 am the next morning, we were up early, in fact I don’t think any of us slept that well the night before, it’s like going to bed the night before you go on holiday, you are that excited you just don’t sleep very well. Anyway, we were up and ready and met in the foyer as instructed, it was a fabulous atmosphere with all the other families there, and we were introduced to them one by one, ‘The Medows’, ‘The Taylors’ and ‘The Hawkes’ all the kids hit it off straight away, Harrison got very attached to Joseph Taylor, and Dan amazed everybody with a few magic tricks… it was that point that I knew we were in for an amazing time.
Our team was introduced to us, Adam our camera man, Emily our assistant producer, Jess our assistant and Matt our sound man, they were to spend the next 5 days with us more of less 24/7 literally…. They looked after us royally, and were the most amazing team.
Right we were ready to rock and roll, and our 1st experience of Turning Back Time, was driving a 1970s car round Morecombe, with me driving the kids in the back, and Adam asking me questions in the front… how the hell was I going to drive this car? It had a choke, no power steering, only 4 gears, and the braking distance, was about 3 miles! And yes I stalled it before I even got out of the hotel car park, this was now a reality, we were going back in time! Bloody fabulous!
We were then escorted to Albert Road, and yes only 5 mins walk from the hotel, we have given up our luxury’s i.e. our mobile phones, hand bags, all our worldly goods, and all we had where the clothes on our backs, no money, no nothing! Arrhhh it was happening ‘Big Brother’ is waiting for you… as we walked down the road, the presenters where waiting for us on Albert Road, Juliet Gardener, Susanna Reid & Joe Crowley. Susanna welcomed us ‘and a very warm welcome, to Albert Roads newest residents ‘’The Rhodes Family’’.
It was time to move in….
We walked up the stairs (no carpet) I thought OMG, where are we going? We were greeted by Sandra who was our landlady; I think my face said it all… I did try to hide my disappointment, but I think it showed, I thought how the hell am I going to spend 5 days with the kids in this one room, never mind one bedroom… one room!! Harrison thought it was fine and a great adventure, he wanted to know why I was so shocked? When I experienced living with a loan parent in the 70s we had a 2 bed terraced house, so to be honest I expected the same, so you can imagine what I thought when we were introduced to one room! Daniel was just gutted the room only had 2 games.. lol! And said ‘it only has 2 games, and I have to survive with that?’ funny for an 8 year old… they just don’t realise how lucky they are. We spent the whole day in the bedsit, it was fun not! I had great joy trying to cook the family meal, there was just no room and trying to make smash was horrendous, it was much worse than you actually saw on the TV, and I even got lumps in the bisto gravy! Anyway the kids ate it up and to be fair it really wasn’t that bad. Day one was very exhausting, and by time the camera’s went off I was ready for my bed so where the kids, oh we had great fun transforming our 1970s settee bed, into a bed, it was a joint effort between me and Harrison, but we did it, we all got our 70’s jarmies on, jumped in bed, and fell fast asleep.. night night all…
Day 2, alarm at 6.30am, crew where coming for 7.45am, camera on 8.00am… breakfast time J our costumes for the day where school uniforms for the kids… so evidently the kids where off to school, they were really excited to spend a day in a school, and I was off to work in a local café. I really enjoyed it, and was thankful to get out of the bedsit for the day, we were all feeling a bit of cabin fever and the kids where climbing the walls a bit, so it was great to get out and get some fresh air, I waved the kids off to school, but was stressing a bit as they were going on the bikes (it was fine of course as they had chaperones watching them) but back in the 70s kids of my boys ages living with a loan parent would take themselves off to school on a bike quite regularly, whereas today, I just couldn’t let that happen, so they loved it! And loved the freedom, and I enjoyed being out socialising with other people, serving and cooking in the café it was a great day. We all returned home mid-afternoon, the kids said they had a great time at school, and I had really enjoyed working in the café. That evening we all went to a school 1970s disco which was great, the school really got involved, and we all had a great time, it was fab having a good boogie to some good old 1970s tunes.
Day 3, by now we had all really got used to the bed sit, but really did feel for those single mums who really did have to live like this, but something I did come to realise very quickly was that your neighbours all helped, and they helped me… the families where wonderful and we bonded very quickly, and all got on exceptionally well… In the 70s single mums got quite liberated, so I was taken off in a fabulous 1970s tracksuit and went for a run on the beach, while the Taylors looked after my kids. In the 1970s neighbours stuck together and looked after each other’s kids, the kids had a ball, playing out on the choppers, playing with the skipping ropes, and basically just being kids!! That night all us ladies went to a Tupperware party MINT!! And yet again the Taylors looked after my kids (great this.. free babysitters!) I remember fondly my mum doing Tupperware parties in the 70s, she used to go off with her bags of Tupperware, like they said it was time for women to go and have some ‘women time!’ the party was just getting going, the mateaus wine was flowing then boom… the electric went off, end of party time for bed.. So I pick up the kids kicking and screaming from the Taylors as they didn’t want to leave as the candles where out and they were having fun.. Home to bed, blew the candle out.. night night all.
*Quick note to add in… the election! I voted for Labour because it was the only party at the time that was prepared to do anything for the single mum..
Day 4 and we are up and ready to go and its breakfast time in the Rhodes Family Household… time to put the kettle on, and no water! OMG no water, someone puts a note through the door, Harrison reads ‘water rationing’ I think Daniel was really fed up now, as the night before the electricity went off and now we have no water.. So we look out of the window, and we all go and get water from the standpipe outside.. What I am about to tell you next is my highlight of the whole experience.. While going for the water, I don’t think Harrison was too impressed either, he said ‘mum, was this in the contract?’, and then said, ‘mum, did you read it?’ oh he who has little faith… it cracked me up no end.
Day 5 and our journey is nearly over…. We have survived, we have managed it, we’ve had no mobile phones, no computers, and no television the place was minging! And not missed anything one little bit! And how better than to spend your last day in the 80s with a Royal wedding celebration, a fabulous party which meant it was the end of our journey… we all had a great time at the party, and lived it all again, when Charles and Diana where married, it made you reflect on everything and how so much has happened in that space of time, and how life has changed for everyone since then, and how close everybody became by the end of the journey.
The whole experience was amazing for me and my boys, a chance of a life time, we had laughs, sweat and tears along the way, and met some truly amazing and inspirational families and people which we will never forget and hold very closely in our hearts. Thanks Turn Back Time, you are simply the best!
The Rhodes Family
You can follow Lisa on Twitter – @LYRhodesy
You can now see all the episodes on YouTube:
Episode 1 – Edwardian – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPKD6Bdl4rE
Episode 2 – Inter War – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXh8Bpbxw0E
Episode 3 – The Home Front – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqli0YdL9Cg
Episode 4 – The 60’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUfUXh1Ofas
Episode 5 – The 70’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2piggwbvcT8
You can also find out more information on the programme via the links below:
City Coast Countryside – http://www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk/whats-on/turn-back-time
The Yorker – http://www.theyorker.co.uk/arts/tv/britishtv/12020
The Radio Times – http://www.radiotimes.com/programme/q7xz8/turn-back-time—the-family
The BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ksb21