It may have begun in the 13th century (then again, it probably didn’t), but the 1970s saw macrame take off as the modish craft of the times. Pitched halfway between girly old knitting and the manly pursuit of splicing the mainbrace with a good sturdy sheepshank, macramé was the noble art of trying knots in a bit of brown string to create… well, there’s the thing. While you could wear stuff you’d knitted, and even crocheting could produce one of those flappy shoulder bags with a bit of work, the macramé repertoire was limited to: a) long, tassly pot-holders suspended from the ceiling, b) funny-looking owls with beads for eyes attached to a little bit of twig and c) sort of big flat wall-hangings demonstrating the various knotting techniques. As the decade came to a close, the public wearied of these limited treats and that big orange cork board you used to make the things on was retired to the attic on a semi-permanent basis.
M is for…
Those little clicky sticks concealed in the left hand have spoiled the nation’s weather forecasters. Oh, for those pre-1985 days when Bill Giles began the forecast with a little clutch of magnetized clouds, stuck a few over Scotland and removed others from just south of Daventry, before walking – yes, actually getting in some exercise – over to tomorrow’s map for further symbolic sleight of hand. Yes, sometimes they wouldn’t stick or they fell off or the word ‘GOF’ appeared over the Isle of Wight, but not that often. And there was always the delightfully weird sense that the whole thing was being done on the door of a gigantic fridge.
TV CREAM SAYS: ADDING EXTRA RAINDROPS BENEATH GREY CLOUDS FOR AFTERNOON SHOWERS THE FIDDLIEST MOVE OF ALL
For at least a decade, which ended somewhere in the mid 1980s, all British schoolchildren were taught not just French, but Longman Audiovisual French, a cutting edge combo of green illustrated textbooks and ‘slide tape’, the technologically cumbersome combination of a strip of celluloid with pictures on, mounted onto an overhead projector and manually wound on from one picture to the next by the teacher at the sound of the ‘bing!’ on the narrative soundtrack played on a big old blocky cassette player with integrated speaker. Stars of this low-tech son et lumière were La Famille Marsaud, a rather starchy small town petit bourgeois nuclear unit, drawn in an appropriately stiff manner with lots of awkward sideways-on posing. Sadly, Les Marsaud never seemed to get up to the sort of racy activities The French were supposed to (at least, according to Tom O’Connor and BBC2 film seasons). Monsieur Marsaud was always dans le jardin, Madame Marsaud perpetually dans la cuisine. Scallywag son Jean-Paul was forever en retard pour l’ecole, and the Jane Birkinesque Marie-France spent a suspicious amount of time hanging around with Monsieur Lafayette, le facteur. Then there was Claudette, who, er… skipped a lot. Life in provincial France was, the hapless student couldn’t help but conclude during a long Thursday afternoon of ecoutez et repetez travail, rather dull.
TV CREAM SAYS: NOW OUT OF PRINT. HELAS
The Midland (or, as the jaunty calypso song in the ads had it, ‘Midd-er-land’) Bank’s bizarre, intimidating choice of a mythological lion/eagle monster for its emblem was softened in the early 1980s with a series of animated ads in which said griffin, quaintly rendered like a big-beaked Country Life butter man and speaking with the voice of Richard Briers, helped various customers get the most out of the listening bank. Quick to note the child-friendliness of all this, Midland launched the Griffin Savers account, in which juvenile capitalists were treated to griffin-branded pencil cases, folders, wallets and the Oxford Griffin Savers Dictionary, a copy of which could at one time be found in the school bags of one in three children.
TV CREAM SAYS: STICK THAT IN YOUR NATWEST PIGGY BANK!
The colour supplements of the seventies were festooned with all manner of big-nosed cartoon tomfoolery. From the excellent (if now irreparably tarnished) caveman satire-lite of BC, through the less accomplished likes of Hagar the Horrible and the Wizard of Id, right up to that funny-looking kid in Peanuts, size – hooter-wise – was everything. One entry in the fast and bulbous funnies, however, always had us looking askance, exasperatedly muttering: “Is that the gag? No, I must be missing something here…”
Guillermo Mordillo was an Argentinian cartoonist who knew his way round an airbrush, and created a torrent of maxi-nasal mirth throughout the 1970s. He had a penchant for big, sprawling crowd scenes (usually based round a football match) that were pleasingly busy in a Richard Scarry sort of way, and made for excellent picture books (like the immaculately titled The Damp and Daffy Doings of a Daring Pirate Ship), jigsaws and those posters on the flip-me racks at the back of Woolies.
All well and good and deservedly popular. The colour supplement cartoons, however, were the cause of much bother. We mean to say, there’s gnomic whimsy and there’s plain, infuriating obtuseness. Usually consisting of three panels, usually concerning some big-nosed men engaging in a sporting activity, often bunging in a big-nosed giraffe for no reason, but always leaving puzzled “I don’t get it” looks on the faces of the large and tiny-nebbed alike.
Unlike, say, Doonesbury, where we suspect you have to have a degree in the history of the Democratic party to even understand one panel in ten, we think Mordillo’s particular brand of not-quite-funniness was due to the fact that, well, he wasn’t quite funny. Still, he was colourful and busy in a decade-decorating way. And rather wall-to-wall basketballing giraffes than a single panel of the nadir of ’70s unfunny cartoonery, Love Is…
TV CREAM SAYS: PERHAPS THE ANIMATED TV SERIES MADE MORE SENSE...
A fixture on The Paul Daniels Show and countless ’80s variety spectaculars, nutzoid German escapologist and illusionist Hans Moretti was a name to conjure with for over a decade. Unforgettably resembling a Victorian circus strongman with bald pate, walrus tache and stocky build, Moretti combined painstakingly perfected takes on classic magic routines with a winningly boobish presentation style, helped immeasurably by his wife-cum-assistant Helga, glitzily attired as a cross between Sonia off of Fresh Fields and Dame Hilda Bracket. The merry pair would romp through various tricks from the accomplished-yet-silly – a mad escape from a battered cardboard box, and the gravity-defying suspension of Helga on two of those ‘trees’ you make out of rolled-up newspapers – to the accomplished-and-serious-yet-somehow-also-a-bit-silly, including many a variant on the bullet-in-the-teeth/Russian-roulette chestnut (basically anything that allowed Helga to fire revolvers, rifles or crossbows at her hubby’s shiny head). Mad, good and very, very dangerous.
TV CREAM SAYS: "ZE MONEY IS IN ZE EYES!"
The theoretical practice that stated a child’s cognitive skills could be enhanced by encouraging association with physical movements certainly enjoyed one of the more remarkable passages through history, starting off in the rarefied climes of the Geneva Conservatory in the early 1900s but ending up with a bunch of barely-clothed barefoot six-year-olds jumping up and down on a splintery wooden floor. Music and Movement first turned up in British schools after World War Two in the shape of BBC radio workshops helmed by the starched-voiced Ann Driver. Infants were instructed to act out an activity in time with a piece of music picked out in lacklustre fashion on a battered piano – a simple enough instruction, but one hedged about with much mind-expanding hyperbole. Hence you would start off pretending to bounce a ball or skip a rope. Then came a bit of transmogrification: swim like a fish, or slither like a snake. Next, existentialism: flutter like a leaf, even sigh like the wind. Finally, all pretence of realism was ditched and it was time to ‘do our wide dance’ and other favourites from the catalogue. The principle (and the frugal dress code – was it still the Blitz?) persisted pretty much unchanged for decades. But you joined in because everyone did. You were only just out of your pushchair after all.