…but which is better? There’s only one way to find out! Fight!
Sorry, channelling Harry Hill there for a bit.
I wrote this week about the annual Christmas tradition of the big tin of chocolates, and back in the Eighties it was normally down to a choice between Quality Street and Roses, since these were really the only options available back then.
Long time readers of this site may remember I used to do a weekly “Saturday Survey”, so I thought I’d bring it back briefly to attempt to answer the question as to which brand of chocolates was the nation’s favourite in the Eighties.
Which big tin of chocolates did you have in your household in the Eighties?
Here is a great British Christmas tradition that is still very much alive today – the big tin of chocolates! Indeed, these days we even have rather more of a choice available to us in this area than we did back in the Eighties with relative newcomers Celebrations and Miniature Heroes.
The two big players in the Christmas sweet market in the Eighties, who are both still very popular today, were Quality Street and Roses. Our household were very much in the Quality Street camp.
We were never allowed to open the tin of Quality Street until Christmas Eve, which I think went some way towards making the whole experience of them that much sweeter (no pun intended).
On Christmas Eve my Mum would open up the tin, and put a few large handfuls out into a serving tray, which then sat on the sideboard (and topped up when necessary) along with the other Christmas staples of Orange and Lemon jelly slices, nuts and a box of Eat Me dates (which were only ever eaten by my Dad several weeks after Christmas).
My personal favourite was and still is the Green Triangle, although I’m also quite partial to the Strawberry and Orange creams. I also liked the Gooseberry cream which looked identical to the Orange cream but was in a green wrapper. They did bring this sweet back for a special edition version a couple of years back, and I had to confess that until this happened I was convinced the green fruit cream flavour had been lime, but obviously not.
I always loved the run up to Christmas, with all the indicators that the big day would soon be upon us. It was getting colder of course, and darker earlier, and all the shops started to display their Christmas decorations (though I’m sure they never used to hang them up as early as they sometimes do these days).
As an avid goggle box guzzling Eighties child though, I think the thing that really started to indicate the coming of the Christmas season were the changes that suddenly occurred on the television. A number of changes happened, normally around the time December began, and in this post I want to discuss some of them. So, in no particular order…
The Christmas Movie and TV Specials Preview Adverts
One of the first signs that Christmas was coming was the arrival of the trailer advert that showed all the films that a channel would be boasting come Yuletide.
This was a time when we didn’t have satellite TV and therefore channels devoted to playing movies, which meant that it often took several years after their box office releases before films finally made it onto TV. Christmas was therefore a time when the TV channels had a captive audience, and so the majority of movie premiers occurred during the Yuletide break. The advert was thus always very exciting as you made a mental checklist of all the films you wanted to see.
There was also another similar trailer advert showing all the Christmas specials of various TV shows that you could look forward to watching whilst waiting for the turkey to digest.
As soon as the Christmas editions of the TV Times and Radio Times became available I would then scour the pages of them to identify all these wonderful films and shows I wanted to watch, and would note down when they were on, which channel, and how long they were, so I could also make sure I had enough video tape space to record anything I wanted to keep.
In recent years our local shopping centre, like most shopping centres across the country, has given the younger inhabitants of our town a chance to go and visit Father Christmas in order to let him know what they would like for their presents on the big day.
This year however it was reported in the local newspaper that Mr. Christmas would not be visiting our town, basically because it seemed nobody bothered to organise it this year for various reasons I won’t bore you with. Anyway, this saddened me somewhat as when my sister and I were little going to visit Father Christmas was one of the highlights of the year for us.
There were two options for us when it came to visiting Santa’s Grotto. The first was closest to home, in our home town’s independent department store. This shop used to devote a small corner of the toy department to the Grotto, which was a pretty simple wooden shell with a curtain for a door, with Father Christmas sat inside.
St. Nicholas was nestled between two tubs of toys (boys and girls) and after saying you had been good this year and reeling off the list of things you’d like to have you were allowed to choose a toy and that was that.
December is here and it’s time once again for you to relive your youth by opening up the doors on the Child of the 1980′s Advent Calendar!
In fact, we’ve made it so easy for you that you don’t even have to fiddle about trying to get the perforations to tear on the little cardboard windows. The doors open magically each day all by themselves, so all you have to do is visit the page in your web browser.
Each door contains something from the Eighties, and if you click on it the power of the Intynet will take you straight to the relevant page on this very site so you can learn more about that particular thing.
Click on the following link for some Advent Calendar Fun!
Whilst the origins of the Synthesizer Keyboard lie in the early to mid twentieth century, it wasn’t really until the Sixties and Seventies that they really started to become used by musicians, mainly due to the reasons of reliability and cost.
In 1964 that started to change, with the release of the Moog (named after its creator Robert Moog) which was the first commercially available instrument of its kind. The first band to release an album featuring Moog created music was The Monkees, but they were soon followed by other notables including The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Beatles.
The Moog created its sound by allowing the user of it to layer together simple waveforms of different kinds, such as sine waves. In doing so the sound created by the instrument could be changed to achieve a wide number of different effects.
In 1979 the Synthesizer market was shaken up again with the release of the Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument) as it took a different approach. The advent of micro computers allowed the Fairlight to work by using sampled sounds of real instruments, meaning that in theory at least it could sound like any instrument you wanted it to.
However the Fairlight and similar synthesizers still cost a huge amount of money when they first appeared, so remained the preserve of professional musicians, with probably Jean Michel Jarre being the artist who is most often linked with the Fairlight.
You have to admire the person who came up with the idea of turning a device for restraining prisoners into a child’s play thing? Taking an item like a heavy ball and chain and converting it into a keep fit toy was a stroke of genius!
I’m talking about the Skip-It, which basically consisted of a rotating plastic ball on a length of flexible plastic that was attached at the other end to a plastic ring. You placed one foot into the ring, then by skipping up and down you could get the ball rotating around your leg. You then had to skip over the long chain-like part of the toy whenever it came round by your other foot.
Whilst I can’t prove that the ball and chain was the inspiration behind this toy, it seems pretty likely given that it looks exactly like one and was worn in the same way!
The Skip-It first appeared in the Eighties and became one of those instant fad toys that everyone wanted to have, and before long there were many badly constructed but cheaper copies of it in the shops, and children up and down the country were tripping over themselves trying to master the action required to keep the ball in motion.
In the early Nineties the popularity of the Skip-It was on the wane, but the makers then had to great idea of adding a counter to the ball which kept track of how many times it had been swirled round your ankle. A great idea, assuming it was accurate of course, as it then meant you had the aim of trying to beat your highest score, and you could compete with your friends to be the playground Skip-It champion too!
I believe it is fair to say that Big, starring Tom Hanks, is one of the better examples of the “age swap” genre of films. You know the ones, where a child ends up swapping bodies with a grown up, quite often their mother or father, after making a wish near some kind of magical artifact. Whilst these films can be fun, they are often quite formulaic.
Big was slightly different though, and all the better for it. It may still have featured a magical object (in this case a fairground fortune telling machine called Zoltar Speaks) and a child making a wish to be grown up, but in this case the child doesn’t swap bodies with anyone else. Instead, they wake up the next day to find themselves fully grown.
The child in question in Big was a lad named Josh, who suddenly becomes a 30 year old man with the mind of a 13 year old. Josh first runs away from home when his mother thinks he is a kidnapper who has taken her son, and having nowhere else to go ends up at his school where he manages to convince his best friend, Billy, that he actually is Josh.
Billy helps Josh to get a job at a toy company as a data entry clerk, but it isn’t long before he befriends Mr. MacMillan, the head of the company and gets promoted to an executive job as a toy designer! This all happens because Josh happens to be talking to the boss one day in a toy store, when he comes across a giant floor piano, and in a very memorable scene Josh and Mr. MacMillan play Chopsticks together on the keyboard. Apparently the pair really did play the tune for real, as is evidenced by the very occasional wrong note.