From the 1970s onward, Peter Usborne’s children’s factual publishing empire was the Oxford University Press for the pre-secondary set. Their colourful info-packed tomes, liberally sprinkled with friendly, big-nosed cartoon characters, were the darlings of the school library (when The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was on loan, at least). The Usborne Book of Things to do on a Rainy Day was a self-explanatory favourite. Two friendly, big-nosed cartoon clowns guided the indoor-bound reader through a plethora of homely activities: growing washing soda crystals, making paper hats, etc. The friendly, big-nosed, overcoated spies dotted throughout the Usborne Spy’s Guidebook inhabited an exciting world where unbreakable codes could be written on a belt wrapped round an old stick, and oppressive Eastern Bloc governments thwarted with the cunning deployment of lemon juice as writing medium. More heavyweight was the Usborne Book of World Geography, a comprehensive guide to the friendly, big-nosed peoples of the Earth, full of inoffensively rendered world facts. For instance, comparative gross national product was indicated by figures in national dress holding appropriately scaled money bags: while a sheikh from the United Arab Emirates rejoiced in his ten-foot sack, a peasant representing Bhutan put a bravely cheery face on his golf ball-sized pouch. Best of all, however, was 1979’s Usborne Book of The Future: A Trip in Time to the Year 2000 and Beyond: a mind boggling grab-bag of never-going-to-happen wonders like lunar Olympics, nuclear-powered artificial super-hearts, domed underwater cities, and Jupiter being taken apart and rebuilt as a big shell around the sun, for some unfathomable reason. Its timeline of inventions from 1980 to the twenty-second century has, twenty-five years in, so far proved to be something of a disappointment to the legion of thirtysomethings still awaiting that robot butler.
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Creamguide's Pick of the Day
“Do you like disco music, Roger?” “Oh, I hate it!” Quite the episode, this one, because after just one week the grand guest presenter idea collapses around them as Tommy Vance is joined by “the McVicar himself”, Roger Daltrey, who is spectacularly off-message throughout the programme, not least in his notorious Village People introduction. In fact even without him it would have been a notable episode, thanks to Tommy’s extended explanation of what the arrows in the chart rundown mean and the performance by the amazing Sue Wilkinson. You’ll note the late edition is still billed as “edit” and is in a half hour slot but it was only half an hour in the first place so we think we should be getting this remarkable programme in all its glory.
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Points of View
- In 'Naked Video', David Smith says: "The end credits for the latter series replaced the roaring Thatcher with John Major as a buck toothed mouse, I recall…"
- In 'Friends in Space', Danny says: "OMG! I’ve been looking for this for years. Watching it as a kid it stayed with me and I never forgot it!"
- In 'New Faces', harvey wood says: "I was on new faces in 1975 does anyone have any copies or information please thanks"
- In 'That’s Life!', Zardoz says: "‘Heap of the Week’ in the early series. Esther – ‘I demand you find me someone even less funny than Cyril Fletcher’...."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Droogie says: "I’ll give this a go, but if any of the awful bands that seemed to have a weekly residency on TFI like Ocean Colour Scene or Texas..."