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Pennybrix were a lego-style building set I had in the 70s, but instead of dots, the tops were made from a square split into 4 "corners" (difficult to describe). I think they got their name because you could a place a penny in the square on the top. They were only available in red, but you could get yellow wheels and blue roof tiles (which were individual and would require serious quantities to make a sizeable roof) You could also get windows and doors which could be installed as full units. I loved them and only betrayed them when Lego brought out its first ... read more
Ahh, Johnny Morris. They don’t make children’s television presenters dressed as zoo keepers who pretend the animals are talking to them like that anymore do they? If you’re a child who grew up in the 1960s or 70s then chances are you got your introduction to the natural world through the warmth and charisma of Morris and the loquacious creatures that he hung about with for Animal Magic. Animal Magic was a children’s television programme that began in April 1962, with the intention of giving its young viewers both a fun and an educational insight into the lives of the zoo’s inhabitants. Morr... read more
Let’s be honest, was there a member of Bread’s Boswell clan who you didn’t find intensely annoying? Could you really say that Nellie shouting ‘SHE – IS – A – TART!’ was still funny the second (and the twentieth, and the one hundred and thirty third) time she did it? Was Aveline (who dressed and spoke like a four year old with access to a drag queen’s wardrobe) as hilarious as you first thought when you watched her teeter about ditsily throughout every episode? How much did you want to punch Adrian in the face when he started droning on about being a misunderstood poet? Billy (who whined and st... read more
If your idea of amusement is watching two ‘mowfee caas’ (say it out loud) squawking ‘Oh Shal’ or ‘Give it a rest Trace’ every couple of minutes then Birds of a Feather was probably one of your favourite sitcoms. Similarly, if you enjoy watching a leathery middle-aged woman spewing out sexual innuendos at every opportunity then, again, this one was for you. This hollering and leering was the main plot of a programme that has gone on for ten series (nine in the original run on BBC1, and one in 2014 when the executives at ITV decided that what the world needed right then was another crack at a sh... read more
There are some things in life that are a real waste of your time: washing your car when there are big, black rain clouds dawdling over your head; believing your toddler when he says he doesn’t need to go to the toilet just before you leave on a long car journey and one my parents will happily attest to: spending half an hour setting up the Mouse Trap ‘trap’ on the premise that the cartoon on the outside of the box made the triggering of said trap look quite fun. And it wasn’t fun – in the best case scenario it was watching a cheap plastic ball stutter around an unstable, cheap plastic contr... read more
I’m going to confess now: if anybody asks me what was the first gig I ever went to I always say Soul II Soul. Actually it was New Kids on the Block. Soul II Soul was the second, infinitely hipper and far kinder on my ears gig I went to a year or so later, but who needs to know that? Apart from you now, obviously. I say I went to a New Kids on the Block concert; I was definitely there but I can’t actually say I heard any of it. What I did hear, however, was the sound of around 4,500 teenage girls screaming for 2 hours. Actually, I only really saw four fift... read more
Top of the Pops, also known as TOTP, was a Music phenomenon when I was growing up. You watched it religiously, every Thursday evening at 7pm. It was broadcast weekly from 1 January 1964 to 30 July 2006. and had always been shown on Thursday evening on BBC One, before being moved to Fridays in 1996, and then moved to Sundays on BBC Two in 2005. Each weekly programme had performances from some of that week's best-selling music artists, with a rundown of that week's singles chart. The way the programme worked in my generation is you had a studio audience who stood behind the presenter,... read more
Health and safety just wasn't the same in the 80s as it is now. For one, if it was kids would never have been allowed to wear shell suits... on bonfire night... while brandishing a sparkler. Cue the fire engines! The shell suit was a pretty bizarre fashion statement, jumping on the leisure wear trend a la Flashdance. It was a trend that allowed people who blatantly never did any form of exercise to look like they did, and it came in the form of nylon waterproof trousers and a matching jacket. Shell suits really hit it off in the mid-eighties and it was... read more
Many things in life are guaranteed: there’s a good chance of rain no matter what the season if you live in the UK; no matter how big your pay rise is this year, your bills will go up by substantially more, and Celebrity Big Brother will continue to scrape the bottom of the Z-list barrel until anybody who has even walked past a television studio will qualify as a ‘celebrity’. On top of those, add to that list one more thing: I am pretty sure that it is safe to bet that everybody who watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early 1990s will still remember all the words to the programme’s open... read more
When I first got my hands on The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (Adrian Mole’s age not mine - I was eleven) I read the line ‘Barry Kent trod on my head in the scrum’ repeatedly, with tears of laughter clouding my eyes. When I got the book back out again (aged thirty plusalittlebitmore…) that sentence just makes me smile now rather than giggle hysterically, but the book definitely stands the test of time and is still highly amusing. Adrian Albert Mole worries. About the state of the world, the state of his parents’ marriage, the state of his skin and other teenage-body-related matter... read more
If you go to the Dior website then you will see that it describes its infamous scent in the following way: ‘A true magical formula, Poison is an irresistibly seductive fragrance, characterized by spectacular appeal. Each Poison fragrance is part of the Dior legend of seduction, embodying magic and audacity, fascination and enchantment.’ There are many people who love Poison’s smell. But it most definitely is the Marmite of the perfume world; for every woman who will liberally slap it on their wrists and neck there are plenty more who would rather spray themselves with oven cleaner. I had... read more
Before we launch into this, let’s just see if we’re all on the same page, shall we? Pretend you work in a launderette. Somebody walks in through the door carrying a cover for a bed. What’s your reaction? If it’s ‘Certainly love, pop it over here and it’ll be ready for you by Wednesday’ then you may not have a clue who I’m about to talk about. But you might be perfect for working in a launderette of course, so don’t feel too bad…silver linings and all that… If, on the other hand, you said ‘We don’t doooo duvets!’ then you are definitely in the right place. Trev (Trevor Neal) and Simon (Sim... read more
Was the Mastermind chair possibly the most famous chair on British television? I can’t think of another show where removing a chair would collapse the entire concept of the show; but in Mastermind it would have done. The programme just wouldn’t have worked if the contestants were forced to perch on a stool, loll in a deckchair or flop into a beanbag; for the right atmosphere in the very dark studio it just had to be that imposing black leather chair. I mentioned that the studio was dark and indeed it was; so much so that it became the focus of an excellent sketch on read more
‘If you lived in Pigeon Street, Here are the people you could meet, Here are the people who would say, Hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye every day. If you lived in Pigeon Street, Here are the people you could meet, Here are the people who would share The sights, the sounds, the air where, Pigeons beat their wings, wings beat. Pigeons beat their wings, wings beat To meet in Pigeon Street.’ We all recognise this very cute and sing-along-able theme tune, but if I’m going to be slightly nit-picky here (and I am), if it was truly accurate then it should go more like this: ‘If you liv... read more
I’m willing to bet that most people who watched the 1986 Brat Pack film Pretty in Pink weren’t convinced by the relationship between Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) and Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy). Obviously she was too far into the friend zone for anything to happen with best friend and sympathy character Phil ‘Duckie’ Dale (Jon Cryer) but I always thought Blane had about as much charisma as a cushion. Even his arrogant playboy friend Steff (James S... read more