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.
New! From K-Tel!
TVC on Twitter
Creamguide's Pick of the Day
We wish someone would put on the internet the brilliant interview with Stock Aitken and Waterman from Smash Hits in 1990 where they were asked if they were going down the dumper and they bitched about some of the less successful artists they’d worked with like Kakko (“she simply couldn’t sing the songs we gave her”) and Yell (“they did themselves so much damage in interviews they could never have another hit”). We think the biggest problem with the trio was that for every great record they did, and they did do plenty of great records (we’d cite Happening All Over Again, Love In The First Degree, Better The Devil You Know, When You Come Back To Me and You Spin Me Round as our top five), there were about half a dozen crap ones because they spread themselves a bit thinly. Regardless, Sir Pete is still, rightly, very proud of their legacy, as he will debate here alongside Sinitta, Jase and regular Hit Factory collaborator Phil Harding.
Subscribe to Creamguide!
Points of View
- In 'Ask the Family', THX 1139 says: "There’s an episode from 1982 on BBC iPlayer at the moment, and if anyone these days can answer more than five questions from it right, if that,..."
- In 'Grange Hill', Graham Pearson says: "I recall watching the episode in which Gripper was finally expelled for a grim catalogue of bullying, harassment and demanding money with menaces...."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Andrew Dexter says: "I also seem to recall the announcement of Karl Wallenda’s death on Blue Peter in March 1978, they did indeed show the clip, quite..."
- In 'Crackerjack', jabberwocky says: "This isn’t the first time I’ve come across an article on here purporting to be amusing, but isn’t. Where does TV Cream get..."
- In 'Maths-In-A-Box', Matthew says: "Is there anywhere we can see clips from this? I can find any on YouTube!!"