19 July 2010

The Clockwork Pac-Man...

Of course, Japan was introduced to Pac-Man (or Puck-Man as he was then called) way back in May 1980, and the little fella then came bursting out to dominate the rest of the world in the years that followed.

I liked him a great deal - "WACCA WACCA WACCA, old friend" - but was hopeless on the machine at the local boozer and proved myself even more hopeless when my cousin Brenda and her husband Paul bought a TV games system at Christmas 1984. This was very new territory for them (and me), but whilst Brenda failed miserably at mastering this exciting technology, Paul took to it like a duck to water and was very full of himself by the time that I arrived for a visit on Boxing Day.

Pac-Man was Paul's favourite, and I was persuaded to have a go. I was actually quite gung ho at the prospect after a couple of glasses of wine, but soon conceded defeat.

"Andy, you're not supposed to just stand there and let the ghosts catch you!" said Paul at last, thoroughly exasperated.

"Why not? They're going to catch me anyway!" I replied.

Paul took the game back, and was soon happily WACC-ering away, whilst me and cousin Brenda swigged some more wine, and found amusement with a small, clockwork version of Pac-Man which had been sitting innocently on the coffee table.

Wound up, he waddled along, opening and shutting his mouth and, thoroughly sozzled as we now were, Brenda and I decided that he looked rather like an auntie of ours who liked a drink or two at the local Labour Club on Saturday nights.

As Pac-Man waddled along the arm of the sofa, we intoned robotically: "LAGER-LAGER-LAGER..." - and shrieked with laughter when he reached the edge and tumbled onto the carpet, where he lay on his back, jerking about, opening and closing his mouth, and attempting to waddle.

We kept popping him back on the sofa arm, and doing our "LAGER-LAGER-LAGER" thing for what seemed like about ten minutes. This was, in reality, sober Paul told us the next day, well over an hour, during which time we became increasingly hysterical with laughter.

"Ruined my concentration!" sulked Paul - the Pac-Man TV game king.

"You stick to your Pac-Man, we'll stick to ours!" said heavily hung-over Brenda.

I found a very similar clockwork Pac-Man to the one which had so delighted us in 1984 in a charity shop the other day, and immediately began intoning robotically: "LAGER-LAGER-LAGER!"

"Lager? Wot you on about?" asked my mate Pete, who was with my at the time.

"Read '80s Actual on Monday and all will be revealed!" I replied.

06 July 2010

1984: The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel, Brighton, and 1986: Thatcher And Tebbit Return...

The Grand Hotel, Brighton, after the IRA bomb explosion on October 12, 1984.

Margaret Thatcher...

Does the name make you smile? Or does it make you boo and hiss? This UK Prime Minister enjoyed three successive general election victories, in 1979, 1983 and 1987... and has become one of the ultimate 1980s icons.

It pleases modern day journalists to speak of the "Thatcher revolution", but without the election of Ronald Reagan as American President in 1980, the decade may have turned out very differently indeed. After all, America's influence on the world economy cannot be doubted, and it was in America, after Reagan's first term began, that the acronym "yuppie" was coined.

But, with the stage set just right for her, Margaret Thatcher, like the mid-to-late decade, boomed.

The '80s boom had not really got into its stride in 1984. OK, there was no mistaking it for 1980, 1981, 1982 or even 1983, but we still had a little way to go.

Despite the external factors influencing the 1980s, there is no doubt that here in the UK Margaret Thatcher wrought absolutely huge changes.

And, standing alongside Ronald Reagan, was a powerful presence on the world stage.

But everything may have ended very differently in the early hours of 12 October 1984.

The Grand Hotel had been booked for the annual Conservative Party conference. When the bomb detonated at 2.54 am, Margaret Thatcher was still up, working on her speech.

She escaped unscathed. Five people died, and thirty-four others, including Norman Tebbit, then President of the Board of Trade, and his wife, Margaret, were injured.

Whatever one thinks of Margaret Thatcher's politics, it's hard to deny her courage. She insisted that the conference began as planned at 9.30am, and declared:

"This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail."

In August 1986, Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit returned to The Grand Hotel...

From the Sun, August 29, 1986:

Brave Maggie Thatcher returned in triumph yesterday to the hotel where she cheated an assassination squad of IRA bombers.

The Premier spent an hour at the refurbished Grand Hotel in Brighton where, two years ago, she missed death by inches as a massive blast brought down the ceiling in her bathroom.

As she inspected the plush new frontage of the building where five people died and thirty were injured, Mrs Thatcher said: "It's almost as though it had not happened."

She handed back the union jack which was flying over the Grand on the night the bombers tried to wipe out the British Cabinet, gathered for the Tory Party conference.

The flag had been given to Mrs Thatcher by tearful hotel staff as they picked their way through the rubble.

She returned it to general manager Richard Baker and told him: "We've taken very good of the flag. I hope it's been ironed."

Iron man Norman Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was crippled for life in the blast, joined Mrs Thatcher for the emotional return to Brighton.

Mr Tebbit, who was trapped in agony for hours in the debris, bravely joked: "I remember my last night here, room service was a bit slow. I had to wait for three and a half hours before anyone came for me."

Then he added sombrely: "Of course there are sad memories, but I like to look ahead and not backwards. I am sure even those who lost their lives would not have wanted a wake."

Massive security was mounted for the visit, with 1,000 police on duty and armed detectives in hotel uniforms.

All these years on, Margaret Thatcher remains a controversial figure in the UK.

There are those out there who believe she was our saviour, others who swear blind that she is responsible for most things wrong in the UK today.

The political scene of the 1980s seems to arouse much more interest and passion than the political scene of today.