On this day, 1 July 1972: Sandie
On this day, 1 July 1972 … Back on 4 March I wrote a blog post in which my partner Sharon read and evaluated an issue of Sandie from her own childhood. She’d been disappointed by it, feeling that most of the stories weren’t particularly appealing to girls unless they had an interest in fairly male themes such as rivalry and conflict, sport and saving the day. We decided to revisit Sandie though, to see if there was any change a few months further on.
I suggested this issue dated 1 July 1972 because it contains the debut of one of the stories of which Sharon has much fonder memories – Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie, a comedy in which orphan Jeannie Jackson goes to live with her long-lost Scottish uncle Angus McScrimp, who lives in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. Angus wears a tatty old tweed jacket and a kilt, and wouldnae gie ye two hapennies for a penny. I should make clear before I go any further that Sharon is as Scottish as they come, and Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie is – I think – created by John Wagner (he certainly wrote it during a large part of its run in Sandie), who lived and grew up in Scotland from the age of 12.
This first episode sees Angus have to leave the safety of his castle in order to meet Jeannie at the station, but his fears are realised when villagers – to most of whom he owes money – recognise him and besiege his castle. For Sharon, the story still hits the funny spot. ‘This made me really properly laugh!’ It’s true – I heard her. ‘Angus with his disguise [bushy false beard and glasses] is hilarious.’ She chuckles away at the villagers chasing Jeannie and Angus up the hill, brandishing everyday weapons such as a butcher’s cleaver and a walking stick. ‘I do love an angry mob! Poor Jeannie though: there’s only one chair in the whole castle, and a single cupcake for them to share. He tells her not to sweep the floor too hard for fear of wearing out the broom, and she’s not even allowed to light a candle.’ (‘A candle?’ scowled Angus. ‘Heavens, no! Candles are verra verra expensive nowadays. It’s much cheaper just to go to your bed.’) ‘If I was Jeannie at this point I’d run back to the orphanage.’ Isn’t this national stereotyping? ‘Yeah, it is a very crude cultural stereotype. One might even say a little bit borderline racist. I didn’t know it was written by a Scot though. That does make a difference. Maybe that came through and was why I enjoyed it.’
Next up is Lorna’s Lonely Days, about a trapeze artiste with Maloney’s Circus whose long-lost gypsy mother turns up out of the blue. Mum’s a bit cold towards Lorna though, and it looks as though her only friend will be Joe the circus dwarf. Sharon is less enamoured with this story. ‘Not very much happens, and I think I can predict how it’s going to end. The little guy’s obviously going to turn out to be her protector. And is this woman her real mother? I would suggest not – I think her real mother will turn up at the end of the story. Look at Lorna though – her head looks like a penis! What were they thinking? How would you even style your hair like that if you wanted to? It’s like a cross between a mushroom and a dick.’ [GNFAR’s important note: it looks nothing like GNFAR’s.]
Trixie the Tennis Tramp sees Trixie Duggan – with whom no-one wants to play tennis because her mother, scrapdealer ‘Dirty Doris, is so horrible – discovered by well-to-do John and Mary Locke, the famous ex-Wimbledon champs. The Lockes’ own daughter is dead, and they take a shine to Trixie. ‘This gives me the shivers. The substitute daughter thing feels deeply suspicious. Mind you, I’d feel more sympathy for Trixie if she wanted to so something more worthy than just getting into the posh people’s tennis club.’
Few more of the stories impress Sharon. As with the issue we looked at back in March, there’s some fairly formulaic storylines going on, with a common theme of class-aspiration, well-spoken head girl types and sport-based stories such as It All Depends on Diane, for which the introduction reads ‘Diane MacGregor was maid-of-all work at “Braegower”, a small hotel in western Scotland. Old Mrs Bute, the mother of the owner, was training Diane to become a water-ski champion.’ ‘Oh God!’ objects Sharon. ‘Water-ski champion. Oh no! This has to be the dullest story I’ve ever read. In this episode she loses her skis. Who can identify with water-skiing, for heaven’s sake?’
Barbara and the Ballet of the Beautiful starts off looking like another tick-all-the-boxes dud. Barbara is an orphan. Tick. She has a jealous rival. Tick. She hopes to be a ballerina. Tick. A mysterious older woman promises to train her. Tick. But it then transpires to be something a little more mysterious, as the veiled ‘Woman in White’ turns out to have a secret room from which she can talk to Barbara through some sort of spy tech reader. ‘I like this bit where she talks through the receiver but we still can’t see her face,’ says Sharon. ‘It’s very Charlie’s Angels. There’s a bit of [the movie] Black Swan in this one too, so I like it.’
There are a couple of other mystery stories that Sharon also likes. Both are drawn by artists who, six years later, would become regular illustrators of Misty. The Pony from the Moorland Mist (Eduardo Feito) is set in a remote part of Cornwall, where a girl encounters a wild black pony rumoured to have supernatural powers. And The Captives of Madame Karma (Homero Rumeu) tells the tale of a group of talented girl musicians kidnapped and imprisoned in a secret laboratory in the Arctic Circle by the evil Madame Karma. ‘That final frame [in which one of the girls is clamped into some sort of chair for experimentation] is absolutely horrible. I find it scary and chilling, like something you’d see in a 1970s horror movie. I love it!’