Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

This is How Old I Am


My parents bought our first television when I was seven. There was one channel, alternating daily between English and Afrikaans for two hours a day.

I owned and wore leg warmers in a non-ironic way.

I peroxided my fringe.

Ultimate romance used to be The Blue Lagoon:


I had a passionate relationship with Duran Duran.

I wrote letters to boys on writing-paper decorated with sunsets and palm trees.

The first album I bought was Madness. Up till then, I danced to my parents’ Abba and Fleetwood Mac records.

I taped the Top 40 with David “Reach for the Stars” Gresham every week on my cassette recorder.

When I was 11, I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John. Major entertainment was going to the roller-rink.

When I went shopping with my friends, we would share a plate of chips. Drinks were individual. Mine was a double-thick Horlicks milkshake.

The first dancing-party I went to I wore Deely-Boppers.

I remember the advent of drinking yogurt.

My first boyfriend wore brown jerseys and drove a 50cc motorbike.

I thought it was sexist that girls watched boys playing rugby, but no-one came to watch the girls play hockey.

I remember a time when black and white people could be jailed for sleeping together, and when black people were not allowed to buy property in the suburb where I lived.

I watched PW Botha’s Rubicon speech on TV in 1985 and Mandela’s release in 1990, and remember the brutal years in between.

I wrote all my undergraduate essays longhand. For reference, I used books and articles, which I found in a place called the library.

I wrote my first essay on computer at the age of 22.

I wore a meringue for my wedding-dress and we were the first to leave the party.

I went on honeymoon to Zimbabwe, when it was so peaceful and harmonious that I wanted to move there.

In 1995, I wrote an article for a magazine on the strange phenomenon known as the “World Wide Web” or the “Information Superhighway”.

I first used email at the age of 27.

With thanks to the lovely Ms Waffle for the inspiration. How old are you?

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

22 thoughts on “This is How Old I Am

  1. What a BLAST from the past, Charlotte! I remember so much of what you mentioned. =)

    And right in the week when I discovered that the pilot episode from Man from Atlantis is on YouTube, whoohoo! I was *totally* in love with Mark Harris and his green eyes, in fact, I wore my bikini over my budding little body every single day, so I could just jump into the swimming pool and imagine I was like him (my mom thought I was really trying to tell her I needed a bra, LOL!)

    Have a grand 2009!

  2. Charlotte:
    I lauged out loud at some of the things on your list and some were so powerful and never thought one would be old enough to see it come true. My first album, Shaun Cassidy. I so loved him!

  3. I used a sliderule in highschool. Calculators were so expensive that they were bolted to the table in the science lab. I owned a typewriter. My first novel was written in wordperfect 5.1 for dos on a laptop that was a 286 (pre pentium…remember those?) I resisted the internet because I thought email was just another way to get ahold of me and the phone was bad enough. Little did I realize that, for someone shy, email is a godsend. And that was only the beginning. Nowadays, when my h’s computer coughs, I fix it.

  4. Yep I’m only a few years older but not so different.

    My first LP was also a Madness one; the next, Blondie – Parallel Lines.

    There was a computer room in our faculty building at University, but only nerds and swots went in there. All my essays were in long-hand and the library was a cool hang-out. Using a computer was a seperate skill that you could charge more for when temping in London prior to finding a ‘proper’job – it was known as word processing. Needless to say I couldn’t do it, having avoided the computer room religiously, so I became a low paid data entry person for a few months instead.

    I don’t think I used a computer until I was 29 at least.

  5. Let’s just say “pretty damn old”. Though my first record was Pink Floyd’s animals, unless you count a Hallmark “The Rip-offs [HA!] play ‘A Golden Age Of Rock’N’Roll” that my parents steered me to in Woolworths when I was 9 or 10 and showing an undesirable interest in ‘pop’ music…

  6. We got our first TV when I was 7 – B&W, only one channel, a second very fuzzy. I still thank my parents for not having a TV when I was learning to read and discover the world.

  7. Well I always thought I was the same age as you, and this only confirms it. I can clearly remember Deely-boppers, even though I never owned them. I also wore legwarmers and wrote essays longhand. Ah how it brings it all back! 🙂

  8. legwarmers – tick. of course, i wore them dancing around the house to the “Fame” soundtrack. or Prince 😉

    my parents owned an 8-track. it was awesome.

    i remember the advent of cable television, though my parents never got it for us.

    i first used email at age 22, in 1994. no one else i knew had an email address though! 😦

    i first wore Converse and skinny jeans in 1984. it looked better then!

  9. This was so much fun to read – infact I may be tempted to do one of these myself! I remember legwarmers, peroxiding my VERY LONG “FLICK” fringe, wearing bright colours, landing myself in deep water for wearing a PFP Badge to school, being told that Nelson Mandela was “living” at the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, using a “non-white” toilet,(much to the amusement of its occupants), as I could never figure out the Afrikaans “Blanke” and “Nie-Blanke”, eating ‘Flamby’ and wanting to suck orange juice out of an orange with a straw because the Liqui Fruit Ad made it possible!

  10. I am so going to do this! Thanks.

  11. I love this. Good job! I would say we are nearly the same age. And who didn’t want to be Olivia Newton-John? She was it, back in the day, huh? 🙂

  12. Oh goodness, except for the SA specific stuff, I have the exact same memories!

  13. A bit older than you…..I love how you wrote your first essay on computer: I graduated from university BEFORE anyone used computers!!! We had to write on typewriters (ok, I’m not that old, this was 1991) so I make my son shudder when I tell him tales of white-out liquid and having to start the entire essay again if you forgot footnotes, or left out too much by accident, or made too many mistakes on the page, or accidentally wrote single-spaced instead of double-spaced lines……there was only original Star Trek, and we had roller skating rinks, and Bay City rollers and Led Zeppelin and VW bugs (the cars), and multicoloured jeans, and caftan tops that everyone wore. Plus Six Million dollar Man on tv 🙂 and I got the older brother, my sister got Shaun Cassidy on the Hardy Boys!!!
    I really enjoyed reading your answers, Charlotte! Happy New Year late, I’m still catching up from being without a computer while in England over the holidays.

  14. Not quite as old as you Charlotte, but almost! I also remember trying to swim like The Man from Atlantis, golf-ball postboxes, the Springbok Hit Parade, Forces’ Favourites, cadets, those blue two rand notes. P just gave me “Cringe the Beloved Country” and it starts with Jani Allan and Eugene Terreblanche! Another lifetime ago hey 😉

  15. Oh, golly, how could i forget about roller rinks!

  16. I still want to be olivia newton john and i’m only little

  17. What a great list. I could relate to some stuff (Duran Duran, Olivia, legwarmers) and was especially interested in your South African differences from me. Reminded me that I attended anti-apartheid rallies in college and didn’t know Zimbabwe from Zanzibar.

  18. I loved reading this, and it reminded me of growing up in South Africa. I have been inspired, and I have written my own account of how old I am now! Thanks for sharing, and good luck with the writing.

  19. Oh my God, I am older than dirt. When I was a little girl we used a phone that actually dialed. Really. It was connected to a party line which we shared with two other neighbors. When there was a thunderstorm our power usually went out. The only computer in existence was the one called ENIAC. I learned to type on a manual Underwood and we thought it was amazing that there was an electric typewriter in the business class classroom. Cars did not come with seat belts. They had carburetors, manual chokes, and you had to pump the brakes yourself. We walked to and from school whenever we wanted to, it was three miles and our mother never worried about strangers picking us up. We were more likely to be picked up by people we knew. Olivia Newton John hadn’t been born. Laugh-In was risque. There were only three television channels, public television hadn’t been invented yet. The only satellite up there was Sputnik. Then I got to High School: There was a dress code at school and mini skirts were all the rage. Too bad we couldn’t get away with wearing them. I got a transistor radio for my birthday and it was state of the art and really cool. Cassette tapes and cassette players hadn’t been invented. I didn’t have a first record until I was in college. It was Brahm’s First Symphony conducted by Otto Klemperer. (Yes I was a nerd) My parents bought records — my Dad liked the Kingston Trio. We listened to Gilbert and Sullivan and sang along. To this day our whole family can sing almost the entire Mikado without a libretto, score or orchestral accompaniment. I had hip hugging bell bottoms that were absolutely in style when I was a freshman in college. The Summer of Love happened when I was 14.

  20. Love it. Will have to do this one! (But I have no idea what Deely-Boppers are. Perhaps I’m too old?)

  21. Obviously, we are the same age. I was going to move to California specifically to meet Chrisopher Atkins. In fact I only knew where California WAS because darling Chris lived there. I not only taped the Springbok Top 40 every week but tabulated the results and made a note of songs going up and songs going down. I think the first week I listened Joan Jett & The Blackhearts with I love Rock & Roll were at number one… which was also my first seven single (rememebr those??). My first album was the Xanadu soundtrack (see: Olivia Newton John, leg warmers, et al.) We got TV when I was 6 an all that was showing was the test pattern. The arrival of Kraaines was cause for great jubilation. I went to see Juluka & Johnny Clegg at the Baxter in my final year of high school and they sang the (then banned) Asimbonanga – I was convinced we were all going to get arrested. I learned to type when I was 13 on a manual typwriter. The following year we got an IBM – the first one in a private home in Port Elizabeth! We learnt to program in BasicA and did our word processing in WordStar. I didn’t get access to the internet at home until I was 26 – and not at work until I was about 29. I did all my research up to LLB level in a library with books, and most of my essays by hand, although I did do my LLB treatise in WordPerfect (a pox on Microsoft for killing off this far-superior-to-Word program). I got extra marks for the index at the back, which Wordperfect generated automatically. A more innocent age…

  22. You said you annotated all the hits of the week. Why not publish it somewhere or email the lists to me please?
    Thx. Bye!

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