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Archive for March, 2008

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Camberwick Green

Posted by Big Boo on March 10th, 2008

Camberwick Green - Windy MillerCamberwick Green was created in 1966, but was being aired as a regularly part of the BBC’s daytime childrens programming until the mid 1980’s. The show followed the daily lives of the inhabitants of Camberwick Green, Trumptonshire, a quaint village, and represents a way of life in Britain that sadly seems to be in decline. The show was created by Gordon Murray, and each episode was narrated and voiced by Brian Cant.

Each episode of Camberwick Green was centred around a different character from the village, and began with that character emerging from a intricately designed wind up musical box. As a child the suspense of waiting for the character to emerge was almost too much to bare, and you sat there rooting for your favourite to appear, which for many people was Windy Miller, the mill owner and cider drinker. After the character appeared Brian Cant would ask it various questions, which were answered with a nod or shake of the characters head to indicate yes or no.

The animation has a timeless quality to it, with the various inhabitants of Camberwick Green wandering around with a strange long legged gait, that puts me in mind of John Cleese in the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. Some of the characters had wonderfully modelled vehicles to drive around in, which was a chance to throw in a song whilst the character drove from one place to another.

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Vinyl Records

Posted by Big Boo on March 7th, 2008

Vinyl RecordsToday we are more likely listen to our favourite band via a digital medium, such as compact disc or MP3 files, but in the 1980’s vinyl records still ruled the roost. Cassette Tapes may have been another popular and more portable media format (thanks to the invention of the Walkman) but for home use records were definitely the most popular option.

The humble record was originally invented in 1887 by Emile Berliner, taken the work done on recording sound by Thomas Edison ten years earlier and making it more accessible to the general public. Edison’s solution involved recording sound onto a cylindrical medium, which was cumbersome and hard to manufacture. The record invented by Berliner was basically a flat disc, which was much easier to mass produce, and so the music industry was born.

The first records were made of a material called shellac, which was a resin obtained from the secretions of the lac insect. Sounds disgusting if you ask me. Shellac is a natural plastic that when heated is soft and fluid, but sets hard, so was perfect for creating records. By the 1930’s the use of shellac was phased out in favour of synthetic resins.

Records were initially made to be played at 78 revolutions per minute (RPM), but this speed of rotation could lead to breakages, and it also limited the playing time of a single record, at just 5 minutes for a 12 inch disc. In 1948 technology had progressed to allow the slower 33 RPM record to be produced, allowing around 25 minutes per side. A smaller sized disc followed that played at 45 RPM which allowed the old 78 RPM records to be phased out completely, as the new format could hold the same amount of audio.

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Rubik’s Cube

Posted by Big Boo on March 6th, 2008

Rubik’s CubeThe Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian ErnÅ‘ Rubik, who was both a sculptor and a professor of architecture, and appeared in Hungarian toy shops in 1977, named the Magic Cube. It wasn’t until 1980 when it was signed by Ideal Toys that the cube hit the world’s attention and established itself as one of the most popular toys in the world, probably due mostly to the fact that many of the estimated 300 million cubes sold were cheap imitation models.

In itself the cube sounds like a simple enough concept. You have a cube that has each of it’s faces covered in a different colour. Each face is formed of a 3×3 grid. The cube can be rotated in vertical or horizontal slices, which allows each face to become a mixture of different colours. After liberally mixing up all the pieces by repeated twisting of different slices of the cube, it is up to the player to put the cube back in order again, a task that is far easier said than done.

The craze for the Rubik’s cube meant it became a common sight to see people young and old twisting the cube this way and that, gradually getting more and more frustrated that they couldn’t solve the damn thing. To get one side completed was generally fairly easy but proceeding on from there was much more difficult. Several cube experts cashed in by releasing their cube solutions in book form, and I remember owning one called You Can Do The Cube, written by an annoyingly clever 12 year old named Patrick Bossert. It was a really good book though, with easy to follow instructions that allowed you to solve the cube in no time.

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Penny Sweets – Chocolates

Posted by Big Boo on March 5th, 2008

Penny Sweets ChocolatesAnother variety of penny sweets available from your corner confectioner were those made from chocolate. As with jelly sweets the chocolate versions were usually also shaped in several fancy ways, making choosing all the more difficult. At the end of the day they may all have tasted similar, but choosing whether you wanted your chocolate in the shape of a mouse, a football or a DIY tool was a dilemma for a six year old.

Chocolate penny sweets were normally either milk or white chocolate, although you did occasionally come across yellow banana flavour chocolate and pink strawberry flavour chocolate. Strictly speaking only brown chocolate can truly be called chocolate, but since there doesn’t seem to be a better name for white and the other colours we’ll stick with the term here as calling it something like white block candy isn’t very descriptive!

Here are some of the types of chocolate that I fondly remember from my childhood.

Chocolate Footballs – Little spheres of milk chocolate wrapped in foil printed with a hexagon and pentagon design to make them look like footballs. Getting the wrapper off was usually a lot of fiddling about, and when you did finally get it off there was a 50-50 chance of the chocolate being a tasty variety or not. Some makes used what I called “cheap chocolate”, which was the kind that usually didn’t taste like anything much, least chocolate.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The Dukes of Hazzard

Posted by Big Boo on March 4th, 2008

The Dukes of HazzardThose good ol’ boys The Dukes of Hazzard burst onto our TV screens in 1979, and kept the police department of Hazzard County busy for 7 seasons, ending in 1985. The Dukes part of the title referred in the most part to the two lead characters, Beauregard Duke and his cousin Lucas Duke, which was a bit of a mouthful so they were known as Bo and Luke instead. They lived on a run down farm owned by their Uncle Jesse, and also yet another cousin, the pretty young Daisy Duke. With all these cousins it must have been a pretty big family, especially considering that Bo and Luke left for one series due to contract issues, and were replaced by two further cousins, Coy and Vance, the story being that Bo and Luke had left Hazzard to go NASCAR racing!

Of course, probably the most famous thing about the programme was the General Lee, the Dodge Charger which the Duke boys drove around in. It’s horn played a snippet of the song Dixie, and it was painted an orangey red with the US Confederate flag on the roof, and the number 01 on the doors. The doors were welded shut and access to the car was only possible by holding on to the roof and leaping in feet first. For filming the series there were several General Lees, the main reason being that the jumps and other stunts that the Duke boys performed each work had a habit of trashing the cars somewhat.

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Posted by Big Boo on March 3rd, 2008

Bill and Ted’s Excellent AdventureReleased in 1989, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows the adventures of two school friends from San Dimas, California, who travel through time in a phone booth. They are Bill S. Preston Esq. (played by Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan, (Keanu Reeves).

The pair are not the brightest academically, spending most of their time practising for their rock band Wyld Stallyns, despite neither of them being particularly great musicians either. Unfortunately, their lack of book smarts means that unless they get an A+ in their history exam they will be forced to drop out of high school. If this were to happen, the pair would be split up as Ted’s father has threatened to send Ted to military school if he fails.

One evening, whilst sat outside a Circle K convenience store bemoaning their situation, a solution arrives in the form of Rufus, a man from the future who appears in a phone booth fitted with a time machine. He explains that the Wyld Stallyns must not be split up, as in the future they are the saviours of the Earth (though it is never really properly explained why, other than the fact that their motto “Be Excellent To Each Other” is actually a nice sentiment). Rufus lends them the time machine so they can go and research history in person, but whilst sceptical at first they are convinced when the future versions of themselves appear and are able to guess the number they are thinking of!

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