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Archive for June, 2008

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Why Don’t You?

Posted by Big Boo on June 20th, 2008

Why Don’t You?When it came to the school holidays if there was one thing you could be almost certain of appearing on the BBC morning kids tv schedule it would have been Why Don’t You? The show is another shining example of the BBC’s ability to make long running TV series, with it first appearing on screens in 1973 and disappearing 42 series later in 1995.

The premise of the show was to give you ideas for things to do once you finally switched the goggle box off. Indeed, its official full title was actually Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Do Something Less Boring Instead? but being a bit of a mouthful was thankfully shortened to just Why Don’t You? The format as I remember it best was a group of vair unobnoxious child presenters informing you of things to make or cook and introducing short films following some viewers hobby, rounded off with some jokes and sketches.

During the 1980’s there were a number of Why Don’t You? gangs, as they were called, who all hailed from different parts of the UK. Initially there was just the Bristol gang, but they were soon joined by gangs from Newcastle, Liverpool, Cardiff, and cities in Scotland and Ireland too, though I forget which ones now. This was quite amusing as some of the kids had some pretty thick accents.

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Blind Date

Posted by Big Boo on June 19th, 2008

Blind DateBlind Date first hit the screens in the mid 1980’s and managed to stick around for almost 20 years, and was hosted by the UK’s favourite Liverpudlian, Cilla Black, for the entire duration. It marked the beginning of Saturday nights line-up of shows on ITV, and only came to an end when Cilla herself, realising the shows waning popularity, decided to announce on air that she was going to give up the show at the end of the current series, much to the surprise of the TV company!

The show centred around the idea of Cilla being a kind of match maker, sorting out blind dates for the contestants. Three contestants were sat on stools on one side of a movable wall. A single contestant of the opposite sex was then brought on to choose between the three potential dates, but they were only allowed to ask three questions to each of the contestants. These were normally laced with innuendo, and the reply was similarly full of double entendres. The Carry On team would have been proud! It would normally go something like this:-

Contestant: “I’m a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, but what kind of dish would you say you’re most like?
Date 1: “I’d say I’m most like a curry, because I’m hot and spicy
Date 2: “A jam doughnut, because I’m soft and cuddly with a sweet surprise in the middle
Date 3: “I’m like a cheese burger, thick and meaty and fills the hole in your stomach

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The Gurning Flexiface

Posted by Big Boo on June 18th, 2008

Gurning FlexifaceSome toys are totally useless, yet still remain amazing fun to fiddle with. The Gurning Flexiface is just one of those toys that I remember having as a kid, and has probably been around for a fair few years before I had one.

Consisting of nothing more than a reasonably ugly looking rubber face, the toy had a number of holes on the back into which you could insert your fingers. By moving your fingers in different directions the face could be amusingly distorted into all kinds of strange and disturbing poses, the kind of thing that if you were to pull them yourself, your Mum would probably tell you to “watch out, because if the wind changed direction you’d stay like that“. Funny the untruths that come out of parents mouths to stop their children showing them up, isn’t it?

Whoever came up with the idea for the Flexiface must surely have got it from watching TV footage of championship Gurners. You don’t seem to see it much any more, but Gurning competitions presumably are still running. Gurning is basically a competition where ugly looking men (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a female Gurner) try to contort their face into the weirdest configuration they possibly can. Some of these guys must have extra facial muscles looking at the kind of weird things they can do. I’ve never understood quite why they have to stick their head through a toilet seat or a horse harness to do this though…

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Rick Astley

Posted by Big Boo on June 17th, 2008

Rick AstleyFor music the 1980’s was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst the early 1980’s saw a ton of originality from bands such as Culture Club, Duran Duran and Adam and the Ants, the late 1980’s suffered from an explosion of manufactured pop music, most notably the output from “The Hit Factory” team, as they called themselves, of Stock Aitken Waterman. At their height they dominated the UK music industry, churning out songs for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Bananarama and the subject of todays post, Rick Astley.

Rick was originally discovered when he was just 19 by Pete Waterman, but he was at first reluctant to leave his current band, FBI.  Eventually he was enticed away, and hit it big in 1987 with his first solo single Never Gonna Give You Up, the song for which he will probably always be best remembered.

His non-threatening good looks and the lyrics for the song itself instantly scooped him a gaggle of adoring teenage girls as fans.  After all, he told them that he was never gonna let them down, lie or say goodbye, and more importantly seemed fairly honest about it at the same time.  Personally I always thought he looked a little bit like the Harry Enfield character Tim Nice-But-Dim, as the accompanying picture I think shows (sorry Rick).  Rick also only seemed to have a single dance routine, called the Rick Astley Shuffle by many, which involved sidling side to side waving your arms up slightly at the extremes of the shuffle.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Waiting for the School Bell

Posted by Big Boo on June 16th, 2008

School BellI dare say your school didn’t have a hand bell either, mine certainly didn’t, or at least if they did it was only for emergency use. All the schools I went to had those alarm bell style ones that a fixed high on a wall, and electronically cause the clapper to hit against a circular ringer. Having said that these old fashioned hand bells haven’t disappeared completely yet. There’s a small primary school near where I live that still uses one to get the kids in to class in the morning.

Anyway, it’s as true today as it was when I was at school that the sound of the school bell could bring joy or strike fear into your heart, depending on what that particular instance of it ringing represented. If it was to mark the end of the day or lunchtime it was pretty much guaranteed to bring joy, but if it signalled the beginning of Rugby in sub-zero conditions or double French with the schools least favourite teacher, it was probably the latter.

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What Was Your Least Favourite School Subject?

Posted by Big Boo on June 14th, 2008

This weeks survey isn’t particularly dedicated to the 1980’s, but it is themed around being a child. A teenager, more specifically. Every kid had to go to school (it’s the law) and of course each day was filled with a variety of different lessons on different subjects, some of which you liked, and others which you didn’t.

So, we’d like to know which was your least favourite subject at secondary school. Foreign languages have been grouped together since different schools favoured different languages, but I’ve left the three science subjects separately since even if your school made you do some form of combined sciences course, the subjects taught normally still fit neatly into a single scientific grouping.

What was your least favourite school subject?
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Rainbow Drops

Posted by Big Boo on June 13th, 2008

Rainbow DropsUpon doing the grocery shopping the other day I happened to notice a packet of Rainbow Drops on the shelf, so remembering them from my childhood I picked up a packet to see if my memories of them still held true.

Well, my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me, and they are just as I remember, except for being sold in a packet which I’m sure must be at least twice the size it used to be. I’m sorry to say I was never the biggest fan of these, and I still don’t find them that appealing today truth be told. Rainbow drops are, to quote the packet, “sugar coated puffed maize and rice”, which translates to “sugar coated pieces of polystyrene” in my book. They need to be sugar coated as well because without this sweetening layer they would be incredibly bland.

There are two issues I have with Rainbow Drops. Firstly, and albeit a minor point, they may have rainbow in the name but they only come in five colours, these being pink, orange, yellow, green and violet. Now, pink certainly isn’t a colour of the rainbow, and what’s happened to red, blue and indigo?

Secondly is the fact that Rainbow Drops have always tricked me into thinking they must taste much nicer than they do. They look appealing, being brightly coloured and with an interesting knobbly look, and you get loads in a packet, but they always seem so disappointing to actually eat…

If for some reason you hanker after these still (why?) then you’ll be pleased to learn that Rainbow Drops are still available from A Quarter Of.

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Lego Fabuland

Posted by Big Boo on June 12th, 2008

Lego FabulandLego Fabuland first came out in 1979, and stuck around for most of the 1980’s, finally disappearing in around 1987. The Lego company had enjoyed great success with their Lego Town kits aimed at children aged around 6 and over, and also catered to the baby and toddler market with their larger Duplo bricks (or Big Lego as I used to call them as a child). Children aged from about 3 to 6 may find Duplo too simple, whilst the Lego Town kits may still be too complicated for them to assemble by themselves. Fabuland was the result of trying to bridge this age range gap.

Fabuland was based around the same familiar Lego brick format used for Lego Town and all the other variants of Lego, so it felt more “grown up” than Duplo. In order to make building of the kits simpler the bricks were generally limited to the larger lego pieces, such as the 4×2 stud piece that is around a centimetre high.

These bricks were joined by a variety of larger special purpose pieces that made building a model a simple affair. Examples of such bricks were large wheeled sections for building vehicles, windows with shutters, pieces of fence and so on. This made following the building instructions much simpler, so kids could start to build the models themselves and not get frustrated in the process.

The biggest draw of Fabuland however was the range of characters that came with the kits. These characters were similar in appearance to the standard poseable Lego man we all know and love, but were slightly larger in size, brightly coloured and with heads that were beautifully detailed depictions of animals such as pigs, monkeys, sheep and mice. They could still be attached to the Lego pieces, but were far easier for little hands to play with.

The characters also had a range of accessory items unique to Fabuland, ranging from ready built scooters and wheelbarrows to brooms and shovels, similar to those provided in the Lego Town kits but larger to fit the characters increased size and also generally more detailed. Indeed, some kits consisted of little more than a single character and an accessory or two.