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Archive for May, 2009

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Fingerbobs / Fingermouse

Posted by Big Boo on May 20th, 2009

fingerbobs titleYou’ll need to be one of the older Children of the 1980’s to remember Fingerbobs, since it was actually a 1970’s kids show.  I have very fond memories of sitting watching this excellent show, spellbound by it despite the fact it was so very simple.  Even now the show oozes with a charm that is simply missing entirely from todays kids tv shows, and at the end of this post you can check out an episode for yourself.  But first, what was Fingerbobs for those that don’t know?

Fingerbobs was a show created by Michael Cole, who also created another favourite of mine, Bod.  It was presented by Rick Jones, a very laid back Play School presenter and coincidentally member of little known rock band called Meal Ticket.  Rick played the part of Yoffy, who with his roll neck jumper, neckerchief and copious facial hair looked all the world as if he was going to launch into some out there beatnik poem any minute.  To some he looked a little more sinister though, as a friend at college once said when we were reminiscing about old kids television they thought he looked a bit like a child molester…

Anyway, whether you thought of Yoffy as the friendly uncle or the strange bloke hanging around the school playground at 3pm, there’s no doubting that once the puppets came out Yoffy melted into the background as if he wasn’t there at all.  The best known of the puppets is surely Fingermouse, who was little more than a grey glove and a piece of grey paper rolled into a cone with some whiskers stuck on the end.  This may sound pretty naff, but once Fingermouse came to life you failed to notice Yoffy’s arm coming out the back and instead were awe struck at this “wonder mouse”, as his little signature song pointed out.  It was almost as if it were a real mouse.

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Posted by Big Boo on May 19th, 2009

refreshers fizzy sweetsNow this always confused me, and still does to this day.  How come there can be two different sweets with the same name?  I’m referring to the oddity that is Refreshers.

The first kind of Refresher were originally made by Trebor (now Bassetts), and the one I remember most from my childhood, are the hard round fizzy sweets.  Made of a kind of chalky looking substance they had a real tingly taste when you popped them on your tongue.  Officially billed on the packet as fruit flavour fizzy sweets, they came in a stripy packet and were green, yellow or pink in colour.  I have no idea what flavour each colour was supposed to be, but they were very nice.

refreshers chewsThe other type of Refresher are made by Matlow’s and must have been around for just as long as the others, possibly even longer going by the design of its wrapper which looks a little old fashioned today.  These Refreshers were named as simply “chewy sweets” by the wrapper, but they had a fizzy sherbet like centre which is why they were called Refreshers. They were available in a small size just a little too big for the average childs mouth, or a very long bar which you had to bite bits off of.

So which is the real Refresher?  I’ve no idea, and I like both varieties so I’m not going to complain.  If you fancy reliving your youth with your particular favourite then use the following links to buy the round fizzy sweet versions or the chewy sweet versions.

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Laser Tag

Posted by Big Boo on May 18th, 2009

laser tagWhen these came out in the late 1980’s I really wanted a set, but there were two drawbacks. First they cost a fair whack, and secondly you really needed a group of friends with them to make it worthwhile. Suffice to say I never got a Laser Tag set, but that was OK, as since then I’ve had the chance to play the game in places such as Laser Quest and Quasar, and I’m pretty rubbish at it.

Laser Tag was a laser gun game (of course, it didn’t actually use lasers but infra red, something like the system used by TV remote controls – Infra Red Tag doesn’t sound quite so cool though does it?) where each player carried their own laser gun and wore a vest with a sensor on it. The idea was to fire your gun at your opponent’s sensor in order to take one of their lives, without getting shot yourself. A bit like paintball but less messy and a lot less painful when you get shot by some idiot in the knee cap or nether regions…

The packaging and advertising for Laser Tag was, as you might suspect, a very futuristic affair with people shown running around in a variety of Bladerunneresque costumes consisting of lots of lycra and body armour, shooting each other in some science fiction themed warehouse setting. Contrast that to Peter and Billy running up and down the street with only lamp posts for cover and wearing the sensor over their school uniform. Not quite the same, but then that’s why we’re given imaginations, isn’t it?

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80s Rewind Festival Winner

Posted by Big Boo on May 17th, 2009

Regular readers of this site may remember we ran a competition a month or so ago to win tickets to the 80s Rewind Festival, a music event featuring many well remembered artists from the 1980’s. Well, a winner has been chosen and it is…

Richard Pryce from Torquay

Congratulations to Richard who wins two tickets to the entire weekend of the festival with access to the camp site area thrown in as well. We hope you have a great time.

If you’re still interested in attending then you can book tickets from the Official 80s Rewind Festival web site.

Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Duck Vs. Monkey – Who Will Win?

Posted by Big Boo on May 16th, 2009

OK, so earlier this week I wrote about ventriloquist Keith Harris and his puppets Orville the (annoying) green duck with the nappy and Cuddles the (slightly less annoying) orange monkey with the tie.  During the 1980’s Mr. Harris was rarely off the UK’s TV screens, but he was normally featured with Orville.  You can probably tell from my introduction which of the two puppets I favoured.

It’s been suggested then by my good friend Phil that we should put the popularity of Keith’s puppets to the vote, so that’s just what we’re going to do.  I have a feeling Keith may have had more than just these two puppets, but if he did they’ve slipped entirely from my mind, so this weeks survey is a simple choice of two!  Vote away!

Who was your favourite Keith Harris puppet?
View Results
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Blankety Blank

Posted by Big Boo on May 15th, 2009

blankety blankCheesey.  Tacky.  Inane.  Stupid.  Cheap.  Brilliant.  All words that could be used to describe TV game show Blankety Blank.  First airing in 1979 and continuing throughout the whole of the 1980’s, this was a game show that not so much broke the mould, but was made with the mould after it had already been broken.

Initially hosted by Terry Wogan, the Irish TV presenter who was never off the telly back then, the show was a panel based quiz show.  Six celebrities (most of whom were genuinely famous at the time, unlike today’s poor excuse for celebrity line ups) sat in a three up three down set.  Two contestants appeared on a revolving section of floor and the game began.

Terry would ask a phrase with a word missing, replaced by the word blank, and the contestant would think of a word to fill the gap.  Normally these phrases had the potential to be full of innuendo, causing many a smirk on the celebrity panel, yet they were worded so that a clean(ish) answer could always be given.  Each of the panel wrote down their answer on a card, and the contestant had to choose the word which they felt would match with most of the celebrities.  Here is an example:

The vicar is really looking forward to judging the vegetable competition this year.  He can’t wait to get his hands on Miss Chumley’s blanks.

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Stereo TV and Radio Simulcasts

Posted by Big Boo on May 14th, 2009

radio antennaIt wasn’t until the 1990’s that stereo television broadcasts started, the main reason being that until then most television sets were graced with but a single speaker. You may well think therefore that broadcasting a television programme with a stereo soundtrack in the 1980’s would have been impossible, but not so!

If you had a television set and a radio receiver with stereo speakers then you could, on certain occasions, receive a television programme with a glorious stereo soundtrack by using both pieces of equipment at the same time.  Special programmes such as music concerts would be given a “simulcast” broadcast, which meant that the television was used to transmit the picture, but you turned it’s volume down completely and tuned your radio in to a particular radio station to receive the audio.

In the UK this was actually first done in 1974 when the BBC transmitted a Van Morrison concert in this manner.  From then on certain special events would be broadcast in this way, which was something only the BBC could realistically achieve since they had access to both television and radio stations.  In other countries simulcasts were used to provide multiple language options, and in the US MTV was initially broadcast in a similar way, but you connected your radio tuner to the cable TV box to get the audio.

If you had bad radio reception (as we often did at home) then you were probably better off listening in mono anyway, rather than listening to crackly sound which kept breaking up.  All in all then this seems like an awful lot of effort to go to for not a great deal of reward, especially compared with the 5.1 channel audio that is becoming more common place in homes today, but without such early experiments perhaps the introduction of stereo television would have been even longer coming.

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Choose Your Own Adventure Books

Posted by Big Boo on May 13th, 2009

choose your own adventureThe Choose Your Own Adventure series of books were incredibly popular during the 1980’s as they gave you, the reader, the chance to alter the story you were reading, at least by a limited degree anyway, as you were obviously limited to what the author the book had written.

Each book in the series took a story concept and set you as the hero.  After reading the first page of the story you would be given a number of options for what you could do next, each with a different page number assigned.  You made your choice, then flicked to the indicated page to continue reading, and so the story could unravel in a slightly different manner with each reading.

At some point your story would come to an end, but how the story ended was obviously up to the choices you had made during reading.  However, for the most part the endings were generally either successful or open ended.  By this I mean that you generally never ended up dying, but you might find yourself in a situation where you were lost in a maze or trapped in a big hole waiting for some monster to come and get you.  This was quite a good idea as it gave you a chance to invent your own way out of the situation.

There was one exception to this, which was the book called Inside UFO 54-40.  The story here was that people were trying to find a way to a fabled paradise, and indeed there was a satisfactory ending where the reader achieved just that.  However, none of the other entries in the book actually led to this page, so the only way to reach paradise was to flick through the book to find the correct entry, which congratulated the reader for bending the rules!  In all the other books this would be considered cheating!

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