The Big Apple

14 Jan

For a child growing up in 1970’s England, New York was a revelation. It was shiny, glamorous, attractively packaged.  And there was so much choice.  Take the cereal.  In London we had cornflakes, ginourmous boxes of weetabix from the cash and carry (actually the individually packaged biscuits were quite cool, but weetabix for months on end, not) or porridge with golden syrup as a very special treat.  Coco Pops were still a twinkle in a cereal designer’s eye.

On our first trip to New York, my brother and I were taken to the local ‘market’ D’Agostino to choose our cereal.  They had Apple Jacks, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms.  The boxes were brightly coloured, with cartoon characters promising treats like bright green apple bits or pink and blue marshmallows.  They were intensely sweet, with flavours not available in nature.  It was mind blowing.

Everything about New York seemed different.  In London, we lived in a terraced house, but in New York we stayed in an apartment, with a shiny, woodpanelled lift with buttons to press, a cosy Bounce-fragranced basement laundry room and a roof garden up in the clouds (well, the 17th floor) and the aptly named ‘white cloud’ loo paper was soft and luxurious.  The cable television had a dizzying array of channels, some just for children, can you imagine that?  Forget Mr Ben after lunch followed by an afternoon of racing from Kempton.

Outside people in glossy fur coats walked their tiny dogs on wide pavements, made for strolling.  The sirens weren’t a comforting nee naw, nee naw like at home, they sounded more urgent, scarier, as if they were rushing to a real disaster, not to rescue a cat up a tree.  Even the weather was dramatic.  In London we mostly had a little bit cold or a little bit warm, with rain every so often.  In New York you had t-shirt weather one day and a thrilling foot of snow the next.

All cities have a unique smell, and New York was no different, with carts vending ‘franks’ and pretzels,  airconditioning and heating units blasting out alternate gusts of cold and hot air with a strange chemical odour, cinnamon flavoured everything, squishy leather seats in the yellow taxis, and the seductive sweet, chocolatey smell wafting out of David’s Cookies.  A whole shop that just sold cookies.

The New York of my childhood no longer exists and if it did, the gloss would be a little tarnished.  These days I eat real apples for my breakfast, not apple flavour crunchy bits, and those fur coats, which seemed so glamorous to an impressionable nine year old, are less than appealing.  But I still wish I could go back.

This post was inspired by Josie’s writing workshop at Sleep is for the Weak. She asked “What do you miss?”


17 Responses to “The Big Apple”

  1. bisslancaster 14/01/2010 at 3:55 pm #

    This is lovely. It’s exactly as I imagine NY in the 70’s to be, just so much more exciting than rural England where I grew up. A really evocative piece of writing. Lively and so readable.

  2. Its A Mummys Life 14/01/2010 at 3:57 pm #

    Sorry Victoria, that last comment was from me but came from my work blog which is deeply dull and no interest to anyone (I was logged onto it so wordpress automatically put it in). It was from me, real me not working me!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 14/01/2010 at 9:38 pm #

      Thank you. I write like I talk(ish) so I’m glad to hear it’s readable. *grins*

  3. Vegemitevix 14/01/2010 at 4:05 pm #

    What wonderful memories. Funny how much you notice the difference in the little things. When I arrived here I couldn’t find the kind of mop I was used to back in NZ. Silly little thing! Oh and plimsolls, had no idea what they were.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 14/01/2010 at 9:40 pm #

      One world: jandals.

  4. Tamsin 14/01/2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I loved New York when I was there in 1999, but it sounds like it might have been even better in the 1970’s!

  5. TheMadHouse 14/01/2010 at 8:44 pm #

    What a wonderful exciting picture of childhood you have painted

  6. Heather 14/01/2010 at 9:29 pm #

    excellent, wonderfully descriptive. Got me quite excited about the whole thing.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 14/01/2010 at 9:42 pm #

      Thank you Heather and Mrs Mad. Once I got the idea I really wanted to write it. I took more stuff out than I left in, maybe I’ll do more New York posts.

  7. bumbling 14/01/2010 at 10:32 pm #

    I want to go! But I guess I’d have to go back in time too…

    Wonderfully evocative.

  8. Josie 15/01/2010 at 9:04 am #

    You’ve sold it to me. I’ll dig that time machine out and we’ll leave tomorrow ok?

    Beautiful, as always. You capture an atmosphere so well x

  9. Karen @ If I Could Escape . . . 15/01/2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Gosh, all the cereal choices in the USA compared to the UK are one of the memories I have of living in both countries.

  10. Kelly 18/01/2010 at 9:05 am #

    Wow, I have always wanted to go to New York and this makes me want to go more, even if it has disappeared now. I love your writing about the places you have been to. I am starting to get worried about this round the world trip, that I might end up following you if you make everything sound so wonderful and exciting!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 28/01/2010 at 7:18 pm #

      Mwah ha ha ha, that is my evil plan…

  11. Keris 28/01/2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Please do more New York posts (with photos!). I’m obsessed with the place and, oddly, nostalgic for it in the seventies (and the fifties … and twenties), even though I first went in 1999.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 28/01/2010 at 7:16 pm #

      I’ll see if I can dig out some photos…I’ll definitely do some more posts at some point.


  1. The Best of the British Mummy (and Daddy) Bloggers Carnival - 06/02/2010

    […] ‘The Big Apple‘, Victoria reminisces beautifully about the aromas, sights and sounds to the New York she […]

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