I have been in reminiscing mode a lot lately. There’s a variety of reasons for this, mostly shallow. Sparked off by the exciting news that I’m hosting a post from a special guest whose book, 21st Century Dodos, will be out soon; encouraged by the discovery of old school photos; serendipitous finds on the Internet (pause for brief moment of Internet-worship) such as old adverts on YouTube and random reminiscences on twitter; and topped off with my son starting school and making me think of my schooldays. Soooo long ago… *cue violins and dinosaur sound effects.
So I’ve got here eight things from my childhood which are either not around any more or not as good (it’s true, Waggon Wheels really are smaller now…). Despite my subtle plea for sympathy above, I’m really not that old and the time I’m talking about here is the mid-late Eighties. Feel free to join in!
1. Children’s Sunday evening television dramas. I could make a huge list of them if you want me to. What’s that you say, you DO want me to? Oh, go on then…
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. YES I know the animals, particularly the Beavers, were not the best special effects. These serials didn’t have the cinematic scope (blimey, I’ve swallowed a dictionary tonight haven’t I?) of the newer Disney films – not to mention budget – but they have a special charm and they have retained the magic of the books. Not to mention the blinkin’ storyline.
Five Children and It I actually don’t mind how different the modern film of this is to the book because it’s still nicely done and gets the overall job done, but if you want to know the rather wonderful story of Five Children and It, the old BBC version is unbeatable.
The Children of Green Knowe
The Box of Delights
The thing is with all of these, they evoke the run-up to Christmas, the magic of storytelling on a winter’s night tucked up cosily together as a family. The BBC really should be making more of a priority of quality children’s drama, this is a real loss. In my humble opinion. While we’re at it, the Pink Windmill with Grotbags and the show that had T-Bag and T-Spoon in were fantastic, although I think they were ITV?
2. Marathon/Snickers, Opal Fruits/StarBurst. Like, whatever. Snickers? What is that supposed to be? Marathon makes you think of energy, stamina. And why oh why would you call delicious fruity chews something that sounds like a cheap brand of kitchen cleaner?
3. The Chewit Dinosaur. Remember him eating the Taj Mahal? I could be wrong but you probably don’t even get tv adverts for sweeties anymore do you? *Note to self: not necessarily a bad thing despite childhood memories of dinosaurs*. And what happened to Chewits themselves? I don’t see them anywhere. Monopoly is bad, people! Bring back a choice of chewy fruity sweets!
4. Schools programming on BBC 2. They possibly still do something like this but I can bet it ain’t what it used to be. I particularly remember Look and Read with Wordy, the orange blob. I think this was also the show that had a piece of chalk magically move by itself(!) to write the letters? I also remember Zig Zag – we sat cross-legged on our school hall floor (wooden parquet diagonal pattern) while our teacher wheeled a huge tv in a wooden case on a high trolley that looked as though it couldn’t possibly support the weight. I saw on an internet forum that people have asked the BBC to put on a nostalgia night dedicated to these old shows but nothing came of it. I reckon we should use Twitter Power to demand such a night. If they’re going to cut back everything new anyway we may as well have some really classy re-runs, eh?
5. Key Words books with Peter and Jane (at last, something that isn’t either sweets or tv…). Now this is cheating because these are still very much around – they’re probably finding a thriving market in ever more competitive mothers – and I have some for my son (oops, pot, kettle, black…) BUT the reason I’m putting them here is because in school now they teach you to read with phonics whereas Peter and Jane work on a more visual-memory-based learning sort of thing – you learn the most common key words in English and recognising these helps you build vocabulary and learn how to put letters into words, etc. It certainly worked for me – I was reading before I started school, and I do think that perhaps not every child is suited to learning phonetically. I suspect Daniel might prefer a visual approach but I’m definitely letting school guide me, I don’t want him getting two different and potentially confusing approaches. But these were lovely books. I used to use the flash cards that came with them to make sentences that strung along my living room floor, going on and on and on, thank goodness I grew out of that one I can you all saying eh, although sometimes shorter isn’t always better and a nice long sentence can be fun, seeing how long you can make it go on and on…
6. My Little Pony and Care Bears. Both making a comeback. As all these classics of English culture should *ignores any possibility that they’re actually American*.
7. The lady who did the adverts for Fairy Liquid. She had dark hair and seemed to be in charge of some odd school fair that had china plates instead of paper ones. How on earth did they get the PTA volunteers to do all that washing-up?? Anyway, she was lovely. Maybe we should ask her to be Prime Minister. She seemed to have a knack for getting people to do rotten jobs and keep smiling while she got all the glory AND we still loved her for it.
8. Princess Shoes. I don’t know the actual name of them but they were by Clarks and they were black patent leather and had an insert in the sole that was a clear bubble with a key(?) inside. The advert had a princess going through a magic door. I had very awkward feet to find shoes for as a child, and always ended up with plain black lace-ups. These were the first and only pair of pretty and fashionable shoes that ever fit me and my heart skips just thinking about them. I would wear them now.
That’s my lot. I’m off to Google old adverts on YouTube – now there’s a sentence that would have been unintelligible in the Eighties! Anyone fancy chiming in, feel free!