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
After the sporting compilation, here’s the centrepiece of the celebrations – though not the end, as we’re promised more, including a Harry and Paul special, “sprinkled across the schedules throughout the year” – as Dara O’Briain and top Creamer Richard Osman host this special. It’s all based around a quiz but you’re to expect lots of clips and surprise guests popping in throughout its hundred minute running time, and it should all be perfectly entertaining holiday fare.
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Points of View
- In 'Play Chess', Graham Pearson says: "Play Chess was generally broadcast during the school holidays. I also remember BBC2 coverage of two senior chess players in action."
- In 'Fast Forward', Scott McPhee says: "This was shown on Australian television, too. I seem to remember Fast Forward had a vox pop segment. In this, a camera crew went to a generic..."
- In 'Rainbow', Scott McPhee says: "Why no mention of Zippy and Bungle?"
- In 'Words and Pictures', Rehannah Mian says: "I have just uploaded the Words and Pictures Halloween episode. It has the witches song in it but not the pumpkin..."
- In 'For the West ', malcolm says: "Does anybody know where I can find this to buy ? My brother acted in it as a child and only got to see it once. It would make a great gift :0)"