31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

 Wishing you all the very best for 2013. Hope your New Year's Day isn't like one of mine back in the '80s, as revealed in a tatty old diary of mine I rediscovered a few months ago:

January 1, 1987: 

Oh my gawd! I've lost my memory - what the hell happened last night?! My head thuds... and I think I'm going to be very, VERY sick at any moment. I've just spotted an old oven chip under the dining table. It's 1987, but nothing changes...

25 December 2012

Have Yourself A Very '80s Christmas...

May we at '80s Actual be possibly the first to wish you an absolutely tubular Christmas and New Year? We've included below a few very 1980s fashion hints for all you party animals out there - just click to enlarge and be inspired. We particularly recommend the men's Miami Vice style grey and pink jacket, top right.

We'll be back (in the 1980s) in 2013.


24 December 2012

Living Life '80s Style... Part 2

Returning to the theme of living life in the style of The Glorious 1980s, how about buying some lovely knitwear or sweatshirts from the decade? I mean, just look at the two examples above. What more encouragement do you need?

 Perhaps a look at this might just tip you over the edge? Mmmm, lovely, is it not?

 And I bet these 1980s beauties leave you speechless.

To help create your ... er... beautiful '80s ambiance, scatter some genuine "of-the-decade" magazines about. Here, Nik Kershaw and Paul Young serve as an authentic reminder of how wonderful hairstyles were in the mid-1980s. All together now: "Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground..."

Lovely Pye "Red Box" TV here - dating from 1984. It won't do HD, but you can hook it up to your DVD player and watch '80s classic telly anyway.

"You make it Neet Weet, mate!" The Weetabix skinheads debuted in March 1982 and were created by Trevor Beattie, now of fcuck fame. They were called Bixie, Brains, Crunch, Dunk and Brian (he who said "OK!") and trundled on through the rest of the 1980s, last appearing in November 1989. During that time they dropped the skinhead chic (shame!) and went for more of a hip hop look, amongst other things.

Anyway, here's a lovely Weetabix kiddies' lunchbox from the mid-1980s. Great for carrying your '80s-style lunch to work in. What will it be? Packet of hobnobs? Makings of an exotic baked potato to pop in the works microwave? Spot of nouvelle cuisine? Pot Noodle? A Birds Eye Menu Master (Birds Eye's the bird of freedom, spread your wings and fly away...").

If you must have crisps, don't go for "common as muck" cheese and onion or smoky bacon. Make sure they're sour cream and chive or ham and mustard or something. Fancy crisps are a crucial style detail if you really want to create the mid-to-late 1980s time warp effect.

Something for the wall here - download a copy of Tim Berners-Lee's original diagram of the World Wide Web from 1989, its invention year, frame it, and display it prominently. Then, when some snobby, 80s-demeaning "friend" pops in and says: "Really! I don't understand your fixation with the 1980s! Nothing at all happened!" you can gesticulate grandly at your picture and  reply: "Pah! I beg to differ, mateyboots!"

And then waggle your Gordon The Gopher puppet at said "friend" until they go home. By bringing Gordon into play, you'll have convinced your "friend" that you're a very sad case indeed, and they probably won't bother you again.

Gilbert the snotty alien was an absolute wow in 1987 on kids' TV show Get Fresh, and graduated to his own series, Gilbert's Fridge, in 1988. This pic would look splendid over the fireplace in your '80s homage home, don't you think?

This is mine - a very '80s representation of a penny farthing bicycle which I bought from quite a posh gift shop when, in August 1986, I moved from a grotty bedsit into a house which I was allowed to rent at a knock-down price. It looked great on the black ash shelving unit. Happy days! Until April 1987 when my absentee landlord decided to sell his house and I moved into another grotty bedsit.

We're not finished living life '80s style... we'll return very soon with lorry loads of pendant lights, buckets of black ash, urban hordes of up-lighters, billions of red beds, dozens of director's chairs, mountains of Miami Vice chic and a monsoon  of hair gel and mousse...

Remember that, when it comes to the 1980s, more is more...

25 November 2012

Living Life '80s Style... Part 1

So, you've thought about it hard, you've looked at 21st Century life and definitely found it wanting, and wish to live a stylish life, a life filled with beauty, a life in which your house is so much more than just a house, a life in which your clothes are so much more than just clothes, a life in which your hair is so much more than just hair, etc, etc..

Well, you could do much worse than retreat to the Style Decade.

"Which decade's that?" you frown. "Cheeky young puppy!" I reply. I'm talking, of course, about the 1980s!

The framed picture of the Ferrari Testarossa car is ideal for helping to create your '80s style home. Other goodies for your walls include the famous "cocktail glass struck by lightning" and the Adam Ant mirror (see last illustration in this post).

Both forms of lighting here date from the 1980s. The wall light from 1983 and the black plastic up-lighter from 1988. The draped material dates from 1986 and the wallpaper from 1987. Isn't it lovely? It's my front room actually. 

Recently, I was considering some redecorating and asked a friend who was visiting if they had any constructive criticisms to offer regarding the present decor. Said the visitor: "Well, Andy, it's just like you - stuck in the '80s!"

"No, no, no!" I cried. "I wanted criticisms not compliments!"

Daft bat.

Of course, the first hand-held mobile phones came along in the 1980s. But unless you are a collector, don't fill your home up with these as they are analogue and useless. You CAN buy modern day replicas of 1980s brick phones which work on the GSM system (the GSM system was also a product of the 1980s, by the way!) and these are a far better idea.

However, a genuine 1980s brick phone is brilliant for stopping a barn door from banging in high wind.

The Pye Tube Cube - a wow on its release in 1982 - is now woefully outdated. TV's gone all digital now, yer see. Nice piece of '80s kitsch to have around though if you've room - and the radio, cassette and clock may still be useful. Also, you can hook the set up to your DVD player and watch '80s TV progs and films in glorious black and white. Definitely has nostalgia potential.

A lot of youngsters nowadays who didn't experience the joys of cassette players eating cassette tapes the first time round, now think cassettes are awesome and the sound produced is somehow better than the sound produced on a compact disc. Well, I think that's baloney, personally, but the audio cassette was at its peak in the 1980s and the decade also introduced compact discs, so you can take your choice. Vinyl was still absolutely rampant, too. I still enjoy playing some of my old cassettes on my 1980s boombox or ghetto blaster. And its appetite seems to have decreased with age. It hasn't gorged on a cassette for several weeks now.

Do pick up some 1980s toys and ornaments if you don't have any already. This adorable clockwork Pac-Man has a ghost in his gob and is a lovely little companion for solitary evenings in.

Here's a snazzy little pig - given to me as a birthday present in 1988. A pig listening to a personal stereo? I think the idea was based on the early Now That's What I Call Music album designs.

I adore my little red BT Tribune phone. It was first released in 1987, and it came in bell ring or warble models. The one pictured above has been my pal ever since that year. With the explosion of telephone designs available in England, Scotland and Wales after BT was formed in 1980, things became a little confusing, but I instantly warmed to the Tribune and the bell ringer model is the one to have and to have hold. So much nicer than a warble. 

It starred in the famous 1987 "Ology" TV ad, also starring Maureen Lipman as Beattie, and  turned up in series like Howards' Way.

The Tribune pictured above is in my hall. Of course, it is not all modern, singing and dancing. It's not touch-tone. 

It's 1987. 

So, we have another phone in the living room. 

But we have the warble on that switched off!

1980s mugs for the morning brew are essential - and these witty "It's A Mug Game" Rubik's Cube mugs from 1981 are absolutely swingorilliant.

Want to be really obscure? Then enjoy your morning cuppa from an Albion Market mug - from the 1985 launch of this short-lived Granada Television soap, which quickly crashed and burned. Works for me.

And gel or mousse your 1980s hairdo in front of a lovely Adam Ant mirror. Mine is in my pink wood chip wallpapered hall. Can't get more stylish than that.

More very soon!

17 October 2012

Rubik's Cake - A Very 1980s Birthday...

Today is my birthday - and thanks to my sister, her partner, and my two wonderful nephews for coming up with this home made surprise cake - with that ultimate 1980s icon - the Rubik's Cube as its theme!  When an obscure Hungarian puzzle called the Magic Cube  made its debut at international toy fairs in January and February 1980, nobody knew what was going to happen.

The Magic Cube was then manufactured to Western World safety and packaging norms and Ideal Toys decided a new name was needed. The Gordian Knot? Inca Gold? Hmmm...

How about Rubik's Cube, thus naming the puzzle after its inventor, Erno Rubik?

The first Rubik's Cubes were shipped from Hungary in May 1980, although arrival in  the UK was rather later, the first batches hitting our stores towards the end of the year. Even then there was a severe shortage until spring 1981.

"Have A Rubik's Day" as my sister has inscribed on the birthday cake tray.

And, from spring 1981 onwards, for  over a year, every day was a Rubik's day. I have never known a craze so intense.

Read all about the wonderful Cube here.

And, meanwhile, please excuse me whilst I get on with celebrating my birthday by tucking into the most delicious Rubik's Cube I have ever seen! 

08 October 2012

New Order - Blue Monday... "Really Weird, That Is!"

New Order, of course, formed after Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, committed suicide in 1980. In 1983, I had never even heard of New Order. I had heard of Joy Division when they'd had some chart success with Love Will Tear Us Apart in 1980, but the follow-on band had slipped underneath my radar. I was dead common, you see. Chart music was everything to me and if a band hadn't charted, I didn't know 'em.

Then, along came Blue Monday in 1983. Now, at that point my favourite kind of music was synth pop, and Blue Monday had synths. It also had a jangling guitar. It also had a staccato beat. And it had a lack of structure I had never encountered before. The song simply didn't conform to the rules I was used to, and I rejected it: "That's really weird, that is!" I squawked.

But within a week this now legendary long player was on my record player non-stop. It was groundbreaking. It was brilliant. It was staggeringly original, it began to move us away from synth pop and towards the dance music era of the late 1980s and early 1990s - that's what I now say.

1987... schizoid year which saw the '80s destroying the yuppie dream it had created with the stock market crash - and a huge gale wreaking death and destruction across the south of England. The dance scene was getting well and truly underway. This track, from New Order's SUBSTANCE 1987 compilation album, is an absolute peach. Just listen to Bernard Summner:

"I stood there beside myself
Thinking hard about the weather
Then came by a friend of mine
Suggested we go out together
Then I knew it from the start
This friend of mine would fall apart
Pretending not to see his guilt
I said 'let's go out and have some fun'..."

05 October 2012

1987: Eurythmics - Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)

Eurythmics - Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox - formed in 1980 and were one of the most fascinating and innovative contributors to the pop charts throughout the decade. 

Remember Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)? Remember Who's That Girl? Remember Here Comes The Rain Again? Of course you do! But do you remember Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)? You probably don't! Take a look at the brilliant video above and listen to the compelling story of an upper-middle class English woman, brilliantly portrayed by the very Scottish Annie Lennox, as she tries to meld the girl, the masculine side and the vamp within her and break away from her repressed state. Or simply goes off her rocker! 

Love this.

23 September 2012

'80s Hole Punch - "We've Been Together Now For 30 Years And It Don't Seem A Day Too Much..."

Remember some posts ago when I wrote about the Now That's What I Call Music pig and posted a pic of my bedroom in 1985? Well, looking at the photo recently, I suddenly realised that the only thing appearing on there which I still have today is the hole punch, which I've ringed pink in the pic.

The Pye Tube Cube and the Now pig display have long since gone, but the punch remains.

It's been with me through good times, through bad times, and has never ever failed me when I've wanted to punch holes in pieces of paper.

And it's the colours of a ripe banana.

I bought the punch from WH Smith in 1981 or 1982, and never dreamed I was selecting a companion for life.

Cheers, hole punch - I love ya! xx

And thanks to my friend, Ivika, who gave me the digital camera to take the 2012 pics of the punch!

18 September 2012


 Perishers, 1987: poor orphan Wellington is sad that all his friends are getting Filofaxes. But why on earth should Maisie have one? Maisie demonstrates one good reason.

Ooh, that wonderful yuppie accessory the Filofax! Great, eh? 

The original Filofax (file of facts) was created in the early 20th Century, and was basically a ring binder used for storing information - much favoured by the military and the clergy. Most everyday individuals had never heard of it. But then, in 1980, the company was sold to David Collischon, who decided that the Filofax needed a revamp - and it was on course for making the tremendous transition from being a personnel organiser to being a personal organiser. 

The luxurious leather binders, complete with forms for business expenses, financial data, diary, year planner, world time zones, etc, etc, etc, we all remember from the yuppie era were born in the early 1980s.

By 1985 the new Filofax was booming - such a boon, darling, so handy for that power lunch with Miles, or that board meeting at Wigginson-McDowell.

Actually, it's interesting to note the Filofax's popularity at a time when we were just beginning to enter the IT era. Paper and pen still ruled!

The craze for the Filofax soon spread beyond the City offices and wine bars - even into our school yards if the 1987 Perishers strip featured at the top of this post is to be believed. Great how Maisie, my favourite character, found such a good use for it. 

Even today, the Filofax continues to be a trusted tool for many, both in the business world and outside.

16 September 2012

1980 - JR, Fred Housego, Our Tune, Yes Minister, Bad Manners, New Romantics, Metal Mickey, Baggy Trousers, the First Nudist Beach and "Walkies!"

The Rubik's Cube was released in May 1980 but did not arrive in England until just before Christmas. It was declared Toy of the Year by the British Association of Toy Retailers, but was in short supply until the spring of 1981. 
Unemployment topped two million; the '70s hard times continued - not a Yuppie in sight. In December, John Lennon was shot and killed, sending his many fans into mourning. Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory to become President of the United States. The 1980s as we know them would never have happened without him.

Suddenly, just about everybody had the right to buy their council houses. Groan! But these were not the first council house sales. Council houses had been being flogged off for yonks.

Sales rose in the early 1970s with 46,000 dwellings sold in England and Wales in 1972 and 34,000 in 1973.

Before 1980, council house sales were discretionary. Councils which sold houses most actively were Conservative-controlled.

I lived in an area where council house sales were rampant back in the early 1970s. For more on this, see my 1970s blog here.

The 1980 legislation introduced a higher discount rate and made the right to buy more universally available to tenants. 

The BBC launched Children In Need

The Ecover company, makers of ecologically sound cleaning products, was founded in a small cottage in a rural town in Belgium in 1980. In 1989, Ecover products finally appeared on supermarket shelves and became enormously popular in England. 
England's first nudist beach opened on the 1st of April - in Brighton, where else? 

The newly named and manufactured Rubik's Cube trademark was registered here on the 7th of May, but stocks did not start arriving until just before Christmas. It still made Toy of the Year.  
Space Invaders, first exhibited at a London trade show in 1979, were beginning to make their presence felt.

We were a breadline family, living in a breadline area, and it was no use pretending that the 1970s had been a feast of fun. They had been a time of recession, strikes and rampant inflation. I hadn't even set eyes on "Pong" until the Christmas 1979 episode of George & Mildred. It was one of Tristram's pressies. Mind you, I had better-off friends and none of them had Pong either.

Computers were for boffins,
Dr Who and making mistakes on utility bills as the 1980s began. It's amazing to look back on the way they've evolved since those days.

In 1980, just 5% of households in the UK had video recorders.

Trousers were trouble for many comp. school kids in 1979 and 1980. For years, we'd worn flares. Never questioned it. They'd been around since the hippie years of the 1960s and somehow got stuck. We didn't wear them because we were hippies - we regarded hippies as a '60s thing, and anybody calling us that would have got a mouthful - or worse. No, we wore flares simply because they "woz" fashion. And woe betide any kid who didn't wear them. There was a strong pack instinct on the council estate where I lived and you had to fit in. Or get picked on. 
But, towards the end of the 1970s, fashion decided enough was enough, and so we moved into straight trousers. Or at least we did when we could afford it. The recession bit deep and it was a slow transition. There were still a lot of flares around in 1980. 

The trouble was that in 1979 and 1980 whatever we boys wore in the way of trousers drew jeers from girlies smugly attired in skirts or dresses. If we wore flares it would be: "Flaredypops! Come on, pop pickers!" They had suddenly been relegated to the distant past. If we wore straights, there would be a sneered: "Ooh, I like your straights! Very fetching!" You couldn't win!

Ska revival tightened its grip, with the film Rude Boy, and hits like the Beat's Mirror In The Bathroom and Stand down Margaret, the Selecter's Missing Words and the Specials' Too Much Too Young. The Ska look was so in and those Rude Boys were everywhere. 

It was a golden year for Madness, which included several of their best-loved songs - Baggy Trousers amongst them. Oops Upside Your Head had us all doing the rowing thing down on the floor. The Nolans had a great year; Sheena Easton, Liquid Gold, Kelly Marie, the Cure, Adam And The Ants and Spandau Ballet all made their first chart appearances; David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes video was a New Romantic trailblazer; robotic dancing was increasingly popular. 
Sheena Easton, Kelly Marie and a few others helped advance the notion of colourful boiler suits as fashion. Some called them jump suits, others called them flying suits. Kelly called hers a "cat suit". 

Er, no, that famous 1960s garment was rather tighter-fitting!

Of course, the bravest animals in the land were Captain Beaky And His Band, and the Korgis informed us that Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime. Still sends shivers down my spine, that song. 

Buster Bloodvessel and Bad Manners were absolutely brilliant.

Disco had fallen victim to the "Disco Sucks" campaign in America in the late 70s, but over here we had no issues with it as the 80s began. The classic Let's Go Round Again and Stomp both charted, and we loved 'em.

In September, Ottawan gave us D.I.S.C.O.

Chas and Dave couldn't be described as disco by any stretch of the imagination, but in December they were very popular with Rabbit.

Splodgenessabounds requested Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please. Did that poor bloke ever get served?

Our Tune began on Radio One's Simon Bates Show. 

Also, over on Radio Two, the often controversial soap opera Waggoners' Walk, which had been on air since April 1969, was last broadcast in 1980 - all part of the BBC's cutbacks. More here

The saga of Ambridge continued in BBC Radio 4's everyday tale of farming folk, The Archers. Doris Archer died quietly in her armchair as actress Gwen Berryman was too unwell to continue in the role she had played since 1951.
Something called the Sony Stowaway crept into the country in 1980. In 1981 it would be patented here under its original name - Sony Walkman.

The number of illegal breakers swelled enormously in 1980 and a mass rally in London demanded the legalisation of
CB radio - although some model aircraft users were worried that it would interefere with their frequencies.

CB radio was invented by American Al Gross in the 1940s and has been in use in the USA since the 1950s

The Adventure Game began - green cheese rolls with Uncle the teapot on Planet Arg. Bliss. Yes Minister debuted and the pilot episode of
Hi-De-Hi was screened - all three shows were treats from the BBC.

Hart To Hart
first appeared here on ITV on January 27th. TV was more of an event in those days, with only three channels, and most of us looked forward to the first feature-length episode. Max, the Hart's friend and manservant, had the famous catchphrase "'Cos when they met it was murder!", spoken over the opening credits, but in the first series he said "I look after both of them which ain't easy - 'cos their hobby is murder". The better known version arrived later.

More about Hart To Hart

The Dukes of Hazzard, first shown by the BBC in 1979, which was also the year they debuted in America, moved to their legendary Saturday tea time slot in 1980.

In late 1979, a series listed in the TV Times as The Minder, starring George Cole and Dennis Waterman, began on ITV.

The show (which was, of course, simply Minder) was not an immediate hit. The format was tweaked over the next year or two, and the comedy element was increased
(in fact, judging by a comment in a mid-1980s TV Times, the show's comic content was still on the increase then).

Read more about Minder here

Not The Nine O'Clock News had begun in late 1979, but the first series had slipped by virtually unnoticed. The original team consisted of Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Rowan Atkinson and Chris Langham. It was felt that Chris wasn't quite right for the show and so, for the 1980 series, he was replaced by Griff Rhys Jones.

Not... had arrived. 

Blankety Blank was in its second year and 321 in its third. Both were extremely popular with viewers.

Monkey, shown on BBC2 on Friday evenings since 1979, was becoming a cult.

Family Fortunes and Play Your Cards Right began, as did Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. In these programmes, Mr Clarke examined various mysteries of the world, usually ending by debunking them. "Do people really burst into flames for no reason? I don't think so." Well, that was a relief!

Juliet Bravo and The Gentle Touch began, flying the flag for England's female cops.

Ena Sharples made her last appearance in
Coronation Street in April. Actress Violet Carson had had several long absences from the programme in the 1970s, due to ill health, and this was supposed to be another break. Consequently, there was no big send off for Ena. As Ena bowed out and left our television screens for the last time, Metal Mickey bowed in. Was this progress?!

London cabbie Fred Housego won Mastermind and became a national folk hero.
Barbara Woodhouse was out for a "walkies". 

David Hunter was shot in Crossroads and JR Ewing in Dallas. The latter sparked huge interest and "I SHOT JR" and "WHO SHOT JR?" T-shirts, stetsons, car stickers and badges abounded.

See here for more.

And what about Dallas spin-off, Knots Landing - which told the tale of alcoholic Ewing brother Gary and his wife Valene, as they attempted to find happiness away from Southfork? The Knots pilot episode was shown in America on 27 December 1979, with a full first season of episodes to follow early in 1980. Here, we had our first opportunity to visit the Landing in 1980. It was never going to challenge its older sibling, but it was intriguing enough.

More American pot boilers were soon to follow...

11 September 2012

Reg Watson - The Very First Neighbours Script - 1984

This is the front of an historic document - the very first script of the Australian soap opera Neighbours, written in 1984 by none other than the show's creator, Reg Watson, formerly producer of England's legendary Crossroads saga!  This script is featured in its entirety at The Perfect Blend website, a brilliant resource for all Neighbours addicts.

Reg Watson first pitched the Neighbours concept to Australian Channel Seven in 1984 and, of course, they took him up on it. The show made its debut there in 1985. 

That wasn't the end of the tale of Neighbours arrival, as the show initially failed to thrill the Aussie TV ratings and so Channel Seven cancelled it. 

Oh no!

 But fear not.

The show was then picked up by Channel Ten, and given a revamp - more comedy was introduced and new characters arrived. The tales from Ramsay Street were suddenly a HUGE hit.   
 "Neighbours" had debuted in Australia on 18 March 1985, and we got our first glimpse of Ramsay Street on 27 October 1986 - the first day of the BBC's daytime service. Des Clarke (Paul Keane) and Daphne Lawrence (Elaine Smith) are pictured.

Wild rumours that this new series would feature a stripper were rampant round where I lived...

Interviewed by Perfect Blend on the occasion of the show's 20th anniversary, Reg Watson recalled: 

 'In pitching the show to Seven and Ten I blithely said, “This concept can run for twenty years”. I knew from the looks on their faces that they thought they'd heard it all before.'

It's still running today, although 21st Century Ramsay Street is rather different from the way it was in the beginning.

But back to 1984 and Reg Watson's very first Neighbours script - the script which introduced us to the suburb of Erinsborough and Paul Robinson, Daphne Lawrence, Des Clarke, Helen Daniels and Max Ramsay - amongst others. It all began with Danny Ramsay's terrifying nightmare. Read the whole script at The Perfect Blend - here. Also,  look here for our very own potted history of the origins of the Neighbours saga and its impact.

08 September 2012

ET The Extra Terrestrial

Picture the scene - late 1982 and early 1983...

Many of us were going around intoning "ET phone home" and trying to make a BMX airborne.

And all because of a film...
- Sunday Mirror, October 10, 1982:

Out of this world. That's the only way to describe the oddest visitor ever to roam the streets of London.

Not really a pretty sight at first stare, with huge saucer eyes in a squashed-up face lined with a thousand wrinkles. But he was a monster hit wherever he went.

The visitor is E.T. - that stands for Extra Terrestrial - and he's the lovable little alien who stars in the latest blockbusting space movie.

The film is not to be seen in this country until December, yet incredibly, everyone seemed to recognise the creature that has touched the hearts of millions of American movie-goers.

They've ET mad in the States, where box-office takings have hit a staggering £160 million and millions more have been made from merchandising. The hysteria is sure to follow in Britain.

Last week the Sunday Mirror introduced ET to London. Not the real ET, of course. We asked comedian Freddie Starr to don an alien look-alike mask to give startled onlookers a preview of what is coming.

Just the chap for the job, Freddie. ET has audiences weeping over his plight. Freddie has fans crying with laughter.

The superstar comic has also seen the film, created by movie mogul Steven Spielberg, and reckons it's wonderful. He predicts: "It will be a huge success when it opens in Britain. The little creature has such a sad face, it will touch everybody's heart," he said.

The Extra Terrific ET is an alien left behind on Earth by visitors from another planet. He meets an eleven-year-old boy who befriends him in his misery.

The Freddie Starr version of ET met earthling kids at Sullivan's Primary School in Chelsea. Needless to say, they were spaced out.

"It's ET. It's ET!" they shouted. Advance publicity in children's comics has told them the movie is on its way.

"He's lovely," said eight-year-old Claire Adams. "I'd love to see the film."

After blast-off from Chelsea our ET bumped into Tommy Steele near Piccadily Circus.

ET Freddie shook Tommy's hand before taking off his mask. Tommy came down to earth with a quip: "Put it back on. It's a big improvement."

Then it was on to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Radio One's very own hairy monster, DJ Dave Lee Travis.

Once he had been bearded in his den, Dave said: "I've a feeling ET is going to be a phenomenal success in this country. I'm very much looking forward to when the film opens.

In Regent Street, ET came eye to eye with cab driver Benjamin Silkin.

"I've had some funny-looking passangers in my time." he said. "But this little fella takes some beating."

Something to tell his cabbie mates - A Close Encounter of the Friendly Kind.

The BMX flew through the night...

Above and below: from the Brian Mills mail order catalogue, spring and summer 1983. Note the ET Speak and Spell.

Love the "ET Phone Home" T-shirts!

The 1982 novel:
He may be wise and as old as the stars but right now he needs a friend. The secrets of the universe can't help him. He's stranded on earth: alone, homesick and afraid.
It is a hostile planet. The police are after him and there's no one who can help... until he meets the children. To them he's a magical being from another world: to him they are unforgettable friends.

The English provincial newspaper article below, from December 1982, reveals how a journalist took three youngsters to the cinema to give judgement on the new sensation...
ET brings out heavy cold symptoms in the audience

 After 11-year-old Illyr had seen "ET", he said he had a cold. It must have been a particularly virulent one as so many of us in the audience showed the symptoms at the same time.

The lump in the throat came as the little lost alien, ET, began repeating "home" plaintively while pointing to the sky and by the time he lay dying we were all feeling almost as sick with runny eyes and difficulty in breathing.

The last hour was so heart-rending it made the shooting of Bambi's mother seem as tragic as a sketch from a "Monty Python" film. And we loved it.

There is no denying that at the start the director, Mr Steven Spielberg, had his work cut out to impress my three young companions.

Illyr Pride, Gwendolen Vickers, 11, and Alexandra Alderton, 10, have all seen such favourites as "Mary Poppins" and "Star Wars". They know a thing or two about what keeps their eyes on the screen and not on the clock.

We all agreed that we had been a little put off before we started by the ferocious publicity build up for "ET" the Extra Terrestrial.

Their classmates knew all about the film and wanted to go; some even had ET key rings.

We managed to finish at least three bars of fruit and nut chocolate watching the preliminaries to the main film, including a Pearl and Dean advertisement for ET board games.

Holding our excitement and orange drinks, the title credits begin to roll and we are prepared to share the experience with a widecross-section of adults as well as children in the audience, who only half filled the 900-seat Vic 1 at this 2 pm performance.

The cinema management were not surprised at this low turnout. They expect the queues at the weekend and during the school holidays. The packed houses it is expected to draw everywhere will literally keep open cinemas which have been suffering poor box office receipts.

The Victoria Cinema assistant manager, Mr Trevor Wicks, said: "It will save many. Not us, because fortunately we are already in profit but a lot of cinemas have been hit by the Hollywood strike; there were just no new films coming through. Managers were forced to show re-runs and even films which had been on television."

Struggling managers can quite confidently book their holidays. Any customer resistance created by the infernal racket of "hype" is swept away after the first 25 minutes. By then, my three young critics were totally in love and, perhaps what is more important, in sympathy with the waddling alien who has the appealing vulnerability of a premature baby. Over the top? Go and see it.

Illyr and Gwendolen spent much of the time after the first three quarters of an hour on the edge of their seats. There was as much laughter to be heard as the anguished crushing of drink cartons.

"I thought it had three things: emotion, it was funny and it had very good photography," said Illyr.

"The saddest bit was when he [ET] was dying. I cried," said Alexandra.

"I thought the two bits of flying on their bikes were good," said Gwendolen. "The first time they were flying against the moon he was dying and the second time symbolised life when they were seen against the sun."

Such perceptive remarks show that Mr Spielberg achieved exactly what he set out to. The only criticism of the film, which runs for nearly two hours, was some mumbling in one scene.

All agreed that the most moving moments came when the shared feelings of the human hero, Elliot, and ET are broken during his illness.

Such unaminous verdicts show that ET may be afraid, totally alone and three million light years from home but the film's makers are not.

Neighbours: Vivean Gray On Mrs Mangel

Mrs Mangel, all ready for another day as housekeeper at Lassiters.

Claire writes:

I think Mrs Mangel in Neighbours was fabulous, and I've read that some viewers took the brilliant portrayal of this character too seriously, resulting in hassle for actress Vivean Gray and Mrs Mangel's departure for England. Do you know how Vivean Gray felt about Mrs Mangel?

I share your admiration for Mrs Mangel, Claire.

English-born actress Vivean Gray was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans. But she believed that there was one important difference between her two gossipy characters:

"... Jessup had saving graces, she would help people. Mangel is mean and bitchy."

Of course, Mrs Mangel was not originally intended to be a permanent Ramsay Street local. Vivean Gray in another 1980s interview:

"Mangel was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but I think people like watching her. I think they say, 'Isn't she dreadful? Thank goodness she doesn't live near me!' "

Analysing the character, Miss Gray said:

"The Mrs Mangels of this world are people who are disappointed in themselves. Perhaps they are lonely, too. At any rate, they can't adapt to a changing society. Such people need counselling."

A great shame her time in Neighbours was so brief (1986-1988) - but what a legend the character is!

Mrs Mangel did, of course, have a great friend in Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot) for most of her time in Ramsay Street.

Did you know that Myra (who, like Vivean Gray, was born in England) first went to live in Australia in 1980? A short time after her arrival, Myra appeared as Laura Watkins, the sister of Vivean Gray's character Ida Jessup, in The Sullivans.

Of course, Eileen and Nell's friendship in Neighbours has gone down in soap history as being one of the funniest ever! Whether it was Eileen seeking comfort over her "wayward" son Desmond, Mrs Mangel reading the tea leaves, or the latest juicy piece of gossip leading to terrible confusion, these ladies were wonderful to watch!

Eileen Clarke and Nell Mangel joined the local bowling club in 1987.

Plastic Money Truly Arrives - Barclays Connect - 1987

The Barclays Connect card - the original late 1980s design.

Credit cards had, of course, been available in the UK since the 1960s. These were considered terribly posh round my way. Nobody had one, nobody would have qualified to be allowed one, and we thought we'd never have any use for plastic money. Cash point cards might be offered to the middle classes upwards, some astute working class account holders, students and the like, but as most of the working classes had no bank account, did not go to university and had no money, they were no use to the banking system.

Until the late 1980s rolled around.

An announcement from October 1986. The future it now!

Look at these ads from May 1987 - part of a major outdoor poster campaign by Barclays, showing that whilst the cat was already well and truly out of the bag about past innovations, a brand new puss was going to burst upon the scene on June 3. It seems archaic now, but when I started work in 1982, I got paid weekly and in cash. The "pay packet" coming round each Thursday was much looked forward to. I didn't have a bank account. Nobody I knew did. Most of us common-as-muck types didn't. Bank accounts woz "posh".

I opened an account circa 1987, when I began a new job. My employer wanted to pay my salary directly into a bank account. 

And in 1988 I gained a Barclays Connect Card. Still have one. Felt very odd and rather wonderful at first. I flashed it around, seeing it as something of a status symbol (I hadn't worked out the difference between credit and debit cards then and must have looked a proper twit!). 

Within nine months of its arrival in 1987, Barclays was issuing its one millionth Connect Card, and by 1989 I was rapidly becoming one of the common herd again.