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Archive for January, 2009

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Usborne Spotter’s Guides

Posted by Big Boo on January 14th, 2009

These little books were great fun and also very educational too.  Each of the books covered a different topic to do with the world around us, but most were about the wide variety of plants and animals that populate this planet.  Whether it was about garden birds, trees, wild flowers or aquarium fishes, as in the example, you could guarantee that each book was chock full of beautifully painted pictures of the various specimens.

What made them so much fun, and the whole reason they were called Spotter’s Guides was that each of the various animals or plants in the book was accompanied by a little tick box and a score.  If you managed to find an example of one of the things in the book you ticked the box and added the specified number of points to your score.  The more rare the animal or plant the more points you scored.  Alternatively you could tot up the total number of times you saw a particular thing and work out a total score that way.

I was first introduced to these at primary school where the library had a small collection.  One of the books was about things you might find in a pond such as newts, water lilies, algae, frogs and my personal favourite, the water boat man or pond skater (you know, those little insect thingies that could sit on the surface of the water because their feet created just the right amount of surface tension in the water that they didn’t sink).

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The Shoe People

Posted by Big Boo on January 13th, 2009

the shoe peopleThe Shoe People was, as if you couldn’t guess, a cartoon series about a group of shoes.  Sounds pretty unlikely I know, but these shoes were ones that had been taken to be repaired by the Shoe Mender (not sure why he wasn’t called a Cobbler?).  For one reason or another these shoes were not able to be fixed, and obviously being a sentimental sort the Shoe Mender couldn’t bring himself to throw them away, so they were put in his back room instead.

Now, as luck would have it, every night some magic occured in the back room.  The back wall faded away to reveal a small village called Shoe Town, and the odd shoes came to life and lived out adventures within the town.  Perhaps this explains why sometimes when you wake up in the morning you can only find one shoe in the place you left them (though this probably has more to do with anything you may have consumed the night before).

Anyway, as you might expect the shoes of Shoe Town are a varied bunch, each with its own distinct personality related to the type of shoe they were.  There was P.C. Boot, the town policeman who was obviously a police officers boot before being relegated to the Shoe Menders back room.  Charlie was a long oversized clown shoe, whilst Trampy was a worn out old boot with holes, that for some reason had an Irish accent.  Margot was a soft and kind shoe, perfectly befitting the fact that she was a ballet shoe.  I’ll leave you to ponder on exactly what kind of shoes Baby Bootee, Wellington and Sneaker might have been.

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Dexys Midnight Runners

Posted by Big Boo on January 12th, 2009

dexys midnight runnersThe decade that was the 1980’s can lay claim to many distinctive bands in both musical and visual style, unlike many of todays indentikit groups.  One such band that had a string of hits during the early part of the decade were Dexys Midnight Runners.

The band was formed in 1978 by Kevin Rowland and Kevin Archer and took its name from a drug called Dexedrine, a brand of dextroamphetamine (try saying that three times fast) which gave you a massive boost of energy that allowed you to dance all night (where the Midnight Runners part of the name came from).

Dexys had a unique fashion style, which is often referred to as being taken from Romany Gypsies.  Red spotted neckerchiefs and denim dungarees with no shirt underneath were the order of the day, which coupled with the unruly mop of hair sported by Rowland made the band look, dare I say it, a little tramp like.

The bands first song was released in 1979 and was called Dance Stance.  It only managed to reach number 40 in the UK charts but their next song, Geno, shot to number one when it came out in April 1980.  The song was a homage to Geno Washington, an American R&B singer.

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Favourite Member of The A Team

Posted by Big Boo on January 10th, 2009

One of the best loved classic TV shows from the 1980’s is The A Team, a story of four misfit ex-Army officers who helped less fortunate people battle against evil doers who were trying to repress them.  I seem to recall they were supposed to demand a large fee for their services, but given the type of people they usually helped they must normally have waived their bill.

Anyway, this week our survey aim is to find out which of the core members of The A Team was the best.  Personally I find it hard to choose between Murdoch and B.A…

Who was your favourite member of the A Team?
View Results
Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Astro Wars

Posted by Big Boo on January 9th, 2009

Back in the early 1980’s the Nintendo GameBoy was yet to be invented and so if you wanted a portable video game you had to go for one of those single game systems which used LCD or LED displays that had all the possible graphical combinations that the game required built into them.

Of course, portability was normally a bit of a stretch on some of these games, as they were certainly too big to fit in your pocket, and normally required four of those big chunky batteries to power them, which weighed the entire thing down somewhat.

Some of these games were pretty naff it has to be said, but some of the better ones were brought to the UK courtesy of electronics company Grandstand.  Whilst most of their games were actually sold under license from other companies, they did at least pick the cream of the crop for their line up.  I’ve written before about the excellent Munchman game that was in the Grandstand range, but the other top game from them was Astro Wars.

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Leg Warmers

Posted by Big Boo on January 8th, 2009

leg warmers pinkLeg Warmers are another prime example of 1980’s fashion, often picked out as evidence of the bad fashion trends that the decade is remembered for.  I say “bad” because when you look at many films or TV shows made during the 1980’s you often can’t draw your eyes away from what the actors are wearing, rather than paying attention to the plot.  At the time these trends were anything but bad!

So what is a Leg Warmer?  Well, imagine a long pair of knitted socks that could reach over your knees when fully pulled up.  Now remove the foot part of the sock and finish that end off with elastic in the same way you would do with the top.  Leg Warmers can then be worn on the lower leg only, from just below the knees to just above the ankles, left baggy around the calf area.

Why were these so popular then?  Well, I can only assume it must be down to the popularity of films and TV shows about dancers, such as Dirty Dancing or Fame.  Many dancers, especially ballerinas, where these to keep their leg muscles toasty once they have warmed them up in order to prevent injury, hence why movies were full of people wearing them.  People liked the look, so started wearing them in normal life.

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Black Jack and Fruit Salad Chews

Posted by Big Boo on January 7th, 2009

black jack and fruit salad chewsNow here are some classic sweeties which are still going strong after many many years. I don’t know the exact origins but apparently Black Jack chews date back to the 1920s at the least, but more on that in a bit.

I believe that these sweets were originally produced by the Trebor company, but over the years many of these sweet manufacturers have merged or been bought out by other companies (most notably the all conquering Cadbury) and the sweets are now manufactured under the Barratt brand name.

Starting with Black Jacks then, these sweets were about an inch wide and made from that really hard chewy stuff that you have to suck for a while before it actually becomes soft enough to chew. They had an aniseed flavour and as the name suggests were black (well, very dark grey anyway) in colour. The best thing about them though was that they turned your tongue black! Personally I’m not a big fan of aniseed or liquorice flavours, but I did like Black Jacks.

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Whoopee Cushions

Posted by Big Boo on January 6th, 2009

whoopee cushionHere’s another classic from the old jokes and tricks rotatey display thingy that toy shops and newsagents often used to have. The humble Whoopee Cushion was always to be found somewhere within the selection of snappy gum, hot boiled sweets and fake plastic vomit.

The Whoopee Cushion was very simply intended to raise laughs from that comedy basic – human flatulence.  Resembling a balloon (but made from thicker rubber that always looked like it was covered in a fine powder for some reason) you simply inflated it and placed it on a chair for some unwitting victim to sit down on.

Somehow the end of the Whoopee Cushion stayed sealed, keeping the air inside, until pressure was applied to the main balloon part.  This caused the air to escape through the neck, which vibrated to make the distinctive sound of air escaping from down below, although thankfully not the smell which this process also often involves.

A simple prank, the most amusing thing to me was the picture of the fat lady sitting down in the chair, with a little speech bubble coming out of it saying “poo!”.  I’m pleased to say some things do stay the same, as you can still get Whoopee Cushions with the same image adorning them from Stocking Fillers!