Watches specially designed for ‘her’, we can understand. But pens? Well, in those far off days when writing things out by hand was something people did on a regular basis, if you didn’t have a platinum-coated retractable roller-ball with a little golden clasp at the top nestling in the breast pocket of your lounge suit, you weren’t fit to take your place among the ranks of the go-ahead classes. But while a big, chunky, jewel-encrusted affair was fine for those deal-making men of affairs, what about the ladies? Parker to the rescue, with a range of pens slimmer and somehow more ‘genteel’, as demonstrated by Penelope Keith in a fictional ladies’ finishing school, recommending it as the ideal implement with which to sign massive cheques for jewellery, handbags, etc.
P is for…
Of all the primary school reading scheme books (Janet and John, Peter and Jane, Ant and Bee) the best loved (and therefore, presumably, most effective) were EJ Arnold and Sons’ Griffin and Dragon pirate stories. Written by Sheila K McCullagh and illustrated with Mary Geraut’s lush watercolours, the simple sentences detailed the maritime adventures of Benjamin the Blue (the blonde, dashing hero), Roderick the Red (hearty, slightly stout) and Gregory the Green (lanky, slightly devious), sailing away to sea in search of colour-coded gemstones, encountering merpeople and griffins along the way. The threesome’s uneasy co-existence often fell apart as Benjamin, initially, was the one with the ship, and the others, being pirates and all, kept trying to nick it. The later Dragon series took things a stage further, with black pirates, seahorses and The Princess Who Wanted the Moon. It was all a delightful way to escape the confines of a rain-battered classroom of a Wednesday afternoon. With your fingers under the words, of course.
TV CREAM SAYS: ACROO-ACREE!
It wasn’t gambling. They said there was an art to it, and rightly so. Deliberating the relative footballing merits of Alloa v Cowdenbeath before decorating that weird rocket gantry diagram with a little cross – or not, as the case may be – was s skill to be proud of every Saturday, whether you followed the results on the Grandstand teleprinter as they spewed out, waited a bit for the stentorian voice of James Alexander Grodon to run through them in ceremonial order, or (shame on you!) just looked them up in the Sunday papers. Most of the pools action was divided between Littlewoods (the big one), Vernon’s (smaller, but at least they had their own ‘singing sensations’ for a bit) and Zetters (very much the dark horses of the competition). Collection was each Wednesday via that bloke your dad vaguely knew from the pub coming round to the front door, entrusted with spiriting your hard-chosen crosses off to pools HQ, determining if your beaming severed head would end up displayed on the outside of a future coupon, alongside your initials and the relevant amount of money. (Or, if you’d ticked the ‘no publicity’ box, seemingly you’d be slapped on the coupon anyway, but with a black bar across your eyes, suggesting you’d stolen the cash instead.) The make-up and workings of the rain-beating pools panel was famed in legend and song, until someone on Nationwide revealed it was just some ex-players and referees sat round a table with a few sandwiches, and not a solemn cabal meeting in an underground lair with a giant computer at all. One by one the myths fell away, until the lottery arrived to take the skill out of it once and forever, and the art of perming 8 from 10 fell into irreversible decline.
TV CREAM SAYS: DIVIDEND FORECAST MODERATE - POSTAL CLAIMS ONLY PLEASE
Classically cased in white plastic with a black dial for tuning in the picture and a hooped aerial that was maddeningly prone to losing the signal if anyone so much as looked at a power tool within a mile radius, the portable television set nevertheless opened up a new world of freedom for teens keen on sampling TV’s forbidden fruits. As a result, numerous episodes of The Young Ones were originally viewed in crackly black and white with the sound barely audible lest mum cottoned on to the unauthorised TV anarchy unfurling after lights out. The portable’s other benefit was to provide most households with their first real choice in viewing. So, while the parents did the 5.40pm current affairs courtesy of Nick Ross, Desmond Wilcox and the rest of the Sixty Minutes gang, the kids decamped upstairs with their beans on toast for some Peter Purves-endorsed bunny-hopping in Kick Start.
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU COULD EVEN PICK UP SOUTHERN BY STANDING RIGID IN THE FAR CORNER OF THE ROOM. DON'T MOVE... AH, FRED'S VANISHED IN THE SNOW!
What better way to signpost your devotion to the latest short-lived elaborately-coiffured pop sensation than by forking out three times the cost of an issue of Smash Hits on a huge fold-out poster with some extremely basic biographical details on the reverse? Well that’s what pop fans did in their thousands in the eighties, with each successive gaggle of generally girl-orientated popsters inspiring an ozone layer-depleting amount of said items. The journalistic content, it has to be said, was never of a particularly high standard, but then again neither were the posters themselves, invariably involving some unexciting photo session cast-off that the publishers presumably had to pay less money for. Sometimes you’d get a bizarre short story or comic strip, usually involving John Taylor being kidnapped and held for ransom before an important gig or some ‘Bros In The Haunted Castle’-type comedy shenanigans, and there was always the inevitable ‘Battle Of The Bands’, wherein the posterrific subject would be scored against their nearest rivals and invariably win by a single point. Six months later, both would be replaced by entirely new names as if nothing had happened, and the Postermag juggernaut rolled on and on until [INSERT SOME NONSENSE ABOUT FACELESS DANCE ACTS DESTROYING THE PRECIOUS POP FIRMAMENT HERE]
TV CREAM SAYS: "MILLI VANILLI AND THE LONDON BOYS - THEY'RE BOTH AS 'TOPS' AS ANYTHING!", CONCLUDED SMASH HITS' BRILLIANT POSTERMAG PARODY
Yoghurts were dead exotic once upon a time. Though limited of flavour (strawberry, hazelnut, ‘fruits of the forest’ . . . er, that’s it) there was something daringly European about the likes of Ski that made on-the-turn milk extremely popular. For children the best yoghurts, undoubtedly, were Prize, and that was mainly down to the adverts, which were textbook ‘so, how on earth do we sell this?’ Anthropomorphic fun. Heroic animated tubs of the stuff – dubbed ‘the Prize guys’ – leapt into various melodramatic ‘damsel in distress’ situations to see off the thin and weedy villain yoghurts, before peeling off their lids to reveal temptingly chunky innards, and walking off with the rescued damsels, which were represented by, er, spoons.