29 April 2013

E-Mails: 1980s Flexi-Lamps, And A Sharp Radio, TV, Cassette Combination...

Laura has written for help in dating a couple of items she has recently found in her store room.

Both look '80s, but I'd love to be able to date them properly!

Well, Laura, going on the descriptions you sent, I think the red domed flexi desk lamp you mention came from Habitat, first appearing as "New" in the 1982/1983 catalogue. It was available in red or black.

The Sharp TV, radio, cassette combination stumped me at first, but I think I've found it in the Spring/Summer Brian Mills mail order catalogue. Hope these are the items you have!

28 April 2013

Coronation Street: Alf Roberts In The 1980s...

From the TV Times, 27 September - 3 October 1986:

Alf's got it right 

Grumbling may be one of the characteristics of Coronation Street's Alf Roberts, played by Bryan Mosley, but his corner store is top-of-the-shops for service according to a recent national survey.

A shopfitting group's study says Alf has got it just right with his sense of service, and many other grocers in the North of England follow his example.

 You know, for all the changes in the world of TV soap opera in the 1980s - the arrivals of Brookside and EastEnders - resulting in a more political (often very Left Wing) and "in yer face" approach which soon began to infiltrate the older soaps - some things remained constant. One of those was Alfred Roberts of Coronation Street. He'd first appeared in the soap way back in the 1960s, and there he was throughout the 1980s, a central figure in the ongoing saga, stood there behind the counter of the Corner Shop - and, indeed, taking on solitary command of the place.

These days, Coronation Street seems to harbour lots of villains - even serial killers are not unknown - and buildings explode and people die horribly and there's generally a lot of aggro. The '80s "gritty"approach has given way to sheer sensationalism.

One building which exploded in more recent years was the Street's Corner Shop, blown-up by a mad woman.

Back in the 1980s, such a story-line would have seemed absurd.

For almost the entire decade - from mid-1980 onwards - the shop was solely owned by the aforementioned Mr Alfred Sidney Roberts (Bryan Mosley).

Alf's wife, Renee (Madge Hindle), died in a road accident in the summer of 1980, and Alf inherited the shop.

He took on Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirkbride) as shop flat tenant and shop assistant later in 1980, and so began Deirdre's long, on-off association with the Corner Shop.

1985 Corner Shop mug. The shop sign bore the name "Alfred Roberts" from 1981 to 1985, when Alf had the shop converted into a mini market. The sign over the frontage then read "CORNER SHOP" and "ALF'S MINI MARKET" was emblazoned on the front window.

 Changing times at the Corner Shop... two views from 1985.

Alf was never afraid to move with the times when it came to the items he stocked, even though his attempt to sell courgettes in 1981 failed miserably because his customers had no idea what they were and were not impressed with them when they were explained, but he brought tremendous change to the shop in 1985, when he masterminded its conversion into a mini market. However, despite the trendy new image, Alf also valued tradition and the words "CORNER SHOP" were prominently displayed on the  main sign over the door, for the first time in the show's history - previously the sign had simply been emblazoned with the name of the current owner and sometimes such descriptive gems as "Provisions". "ALF'S MINI MARKET" was painted on the new front window.

Alf also honoured the traditional aspects of Corner Shop life by continuing to sell barm cakes.  Part of the shop's "soul" they were, he said. Yep, old Alfie loved the Corner Shop!

Twice widowed Alf was never happy alone, and 1985 also saw him marrying the brilliantly squawky Audrey Roberts, marking actress Sue Nicholls' graduation from occasional to full time regular Corrie character. Audrey didn't really like the Corner Shop,  just saw it as a necessary evil to keep the dosh rolling in. She assisted there as little as possible, and once wreaked havoc when she was let loose with the pricing gun.

All in all, awful Audrey led Alf a merry dance - turning his life upside down with her spend, spend, spend attitude and a ready-made family.

Audrey was most unhappy living in the flat above the Corner Shop, and wanted to move somewhere more befitting her new station in life. She was not best pleased when Alf bought No 11 Coronation Street, but decided to make the best of things.

In 1987, local independent councillor Alf faced a challenge from Deirdre Barlow, who campaigned with a faintly feminist agenda and a concern for local kids and road safety issues.

Deirdre won, and Alf suffered a heart attack.

Also in 1987 Alf employed Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor) as his assistant at the shop.

"I don't care what you say - boot polish isn't as good as it was in the old days - nowhere near!" Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) gets on Alf's wick.

In 1989, Audrey made a determined attempt to get away from Coronation Street, persuading Alf to buy a posh house in another part of Weatherfield.

But the chain collapsed, and the couple were forced to move back into the Corner Shop flat as No 11 had been sold to the MacDonald family.

But as the 1990s arrived, Audrey finally got her wish, and she and Alf relocated to Grasmere Drive.

Alf and his years at the Corner Shop are now distant memories, but there's no doubt that they are remembered fondly by many Corrie fans.

Was Alf a mean man? Well, maybe a little, but it must said that after he died Audrey was dismayed to discover that there was rather less money than she had thought. It seemed that his caution had been justified and perhaps he'd let her have her way with the dosh rather too much.

Could Alf get wound up? Ooh, yes - he definitely had a slightly short fuse.

But most of all, Alf was a kind and decent man, a good friend and neighbour to many and a respected part of the Weatherfield community.

After the character died, I suddenly realised just how much I liked Alf, and just what a necessary role he had fulfilled in the show - as an everyday man in an area noted for its beautifully OTT characters.

Alf was everyday, none of his traits were terribly colourful or outstanding, he never set the screen alight with his exploits.

And yet I never found him boring - thoroughly enjoying the stability he brought to the show.

27 April 2013

Smash Hits: Always Read The Black Type First...

Howard Jones and a lovely brolly (£2-99 - a snip!) star on a 1985 "Smash Hits" cover...

Lovely freebies...
Mid-1980s "Smash Hits" hilarity...

Black Type was essential reading for me in the 1980s. The Smash Hits letters pages were loaded with the drollest of droll wit and irony and I'd beg a look at my younger sister's copy of that worthy mag every time I visited my parents' house. Once I even wrote in and had a letter published myself.

To me, the 1980s were a fabulous time for music. I loved the polished pop, the synth era, the evolvement of rap into the Hip Hop scene, the beginnings of House music, Acid House, and the Dance and Rave scenes.

But I certainly had no desire to drool over pop stars and booster their (often) already massive egos. In the 1970s, we kids got into pop young and I had a cousin who subjected the whole family to her dreadful fixations with the likes of Donny Osmond, the Bay City Rollers and John Travolta.

"Oh, Andy, Woody writes to his Mum every week - isn't he sweet!" (or some such tosh) she'd squawk as she clutched the latest "must-have" fan mag. And it really got on my nerves.

So, I developed a healthy cynicism about pop stars and pop music at an early age. My cousin didn't. As a young married mum in the mid-1980s, she was squawking: "Ooh, Jon Bon Jovi! Did you know that's all his own hair?! He's sooo lovely..." etc, etc, etc.

But my tongue was firmly in my cheek when it came to the pop scene (although I adored a lot of the music) and the Smash Hits letters pages were heaven for me as they often left the subject of pop far behind (how do you spell achtuwarly?).

Black Type, the mysterious letters page editor, who seemed like a bit of a wally, would often wax lyrical about his latest obsession (who would it be this week? Una Stubbs? Bonnie Langford?) and there were enthralling exchanges about Harpic Bleachmatic Duo ads. Amongst other things.

In fact, the whole tone of Smash Hits back then was just sooo droll (remember ' "pop" "star" Simon Le Bon'?), nothing could ever compete. Ever. And on top of all that the mag had Neil Tennant (pre-Pet Shop Boys fame) on its journalistic staff.


EastEnders 1986: Dot Cotton Writes...

June Brown first appeared as Dot Cotton, chain smoking launderette attendant of the EastEnders serial, in episode 40, broadcast in July 1985. By 1986, Mrs Cotton and the show were wildly popular, but as usual in the Albert Square saga, misery could never be far away. June's portrayal of Dot was sheer genius right from the start, the character is now a TV legend up there with all the greats, but even back in the early days, poor old Dot was plagued by misery.

On 28th July 1986, Miss Brown replied to a fan letter with what at first sight appeared to be a standard letter, but the standard ending was crossed out, and Miss Brown added some insights of life as Dot at that time, in her own warm and friendly style:

I'm very glad that you like old Dot - she's getting a bit sad at the moment but I told the writers that I shall lose all my fans if they don't give her some funny stuff as well - so, here's hoping! 


June (Brown)

Of course, Dot got an occasional slice of comedy, but in the main her life was miserable. Still, there were some good things. She had her son, Nick, and husband, Charlie, for a start. And then there was her old pal, Lou Beale, to pop round and see whenever she needed some advice...

26 April 2013

ALF - Alien Life Form...

Dateline: Mid-1980s...  ALF was created by puppeteer Paul Fusco. In 1986, he crash landed his space craft into the garage of the Tanner family...

Like Knight Rider, the American TV comedy series ALF (1986-1990) slipped by me almost unnoticed on life's glittering 1980s high road. So, as with the '80s Actual feature on Michael and the very fabulous KITT, I turned to a good friend of mine for help, in this case Mandy, who loves the ALF series so much she is still brimming over with enthusiasm about it all these years on! The post below takes the form of questions from me and answers from Mandy...

Who was ALF? What did A-L-F stand for?

ALF (real name Gordon Shumway) was a furry alien from the planet Melmac. He crash landed into the garage of the Tanner family. When Brian (son) asked what 'it' was, Willie Tanner (father) replied, "It's an ALF," (an acronym for Alien Life Form). ALF was mischievous, cynical, and above all a prankster. He is best known for his sarcasm. He did care for the Tanners though and his heart was in the right place (in his ear to be precise).

Who were the Tanner family?

The Tanner family consisted of Willie (father), Kate (mother), Lynn (teenage daughter) and a young son called Brian. Oh, and not forgetting their cat, Lucky. Lucky lived a hazardous existence as cats were a delicacy on Melmac, but the Tanners' No. 1 rule was "we don't eat members of the family". This didn't deter ALF from trying his luck though!!

Where did they live? Were there any other main characters in the show apart from the Tanners and ALF?

The Tanners lived at 167 Hemdale in the San Fernando Valley of L.A. Other main characters in the show were the Ochmoneks, Raquel and Trevor (very nosey and annoying neighbours). ALF befriended a blind woman called Jody who never knew he was an alien - she just thought he was a bit weird. There was also Kate's mother, Dorothy, who would threaten to turn ALF over to the Alien Task Force.

What was the story-line?

ALF's planet, Melmac, has been destroyed in a nuclear war. He follows a signal to Earth and crash lands into the Tanners' garage. The Tanners are unable to bring themselves to turn ALF into the authorities (the Alien Task Force) with the fear of them experimenting on him, so they hide him in their home. They soon begin to develop affection for him, and he has a strong bond with the kids, although Kate takes more convincing. ALF has to adapt to life on Earth and the constant learning process frequently gets him in trouble. Despite all ALF's antics, there was a rather sad undertone to the show as ALF's planet had been destroyed and he missed his friends. He always dreamed of being reunited with them.

What did you think of the show? What did it mean to you at the time?

ALF was very funny, very funny indeed. This short little alien with burnt orange fur was so endearing. I was always amazed at the variety of his facial expressions, which for a puppet were truly remarkable. I eagerly awaited every new episode and was a real fan. Buying presents for me at that time was so easy, just get something with the old ALFer on it! I had posters, mugs, t-shirts, key rings, books and my favourite, a big talking ALF (which still has pride of place in my home). The odd ALF phrase still slips out in conversation to this day. The show was aimed at kids but some of the jokes had very adult tones. The show also courted a lot of controversy, with ALF seen drinking alcohol with Brian, and ALF's taste for cats. My favourite ALF clip is when he is singing along to Bob Segar's Old Time Rock and Roll; it's typical ALF!

 Did you ever watch  other 1980s American shows (Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, Kate and Allie, Married With Children, etc)? How did ALF rank against other '80s American TV shows in your opinion?

Other American '80s shows were good at the time, and I watched a few. I really don't get the same enjoyment when I watch them now, with the exception of Hill Street Blues, which was a brilliant programme. Hill Street Blues was an entirely different type of show, so trying to compare ALF with the likes of shows of that stature is very difficult. All I can say is I would not purchase other such shows on DVD, but would buy the entire four seasons of ALF in a heartbeat!

Thanks so much, Mandy. Now, Mr Shumway, let's take a look at you (Andrew blasts off to YouTube)....

25 April 2013

Images Of The 1980s: Rubik's Cube, Yuppie, Mobile Phone...

I love this imagery from publicity material for National Geographic's The '80s: The Decade That Made Us series, a look back at my favourite decade from an American perspective. The image features the Rubik's Cube - a re-named and re-manufactured version of an obscure Hungarian puzzle toy (Hungary was then very much behind the Iron Curtain!), released in 1980 and resulting in a HUGE craze which made all others pale into insignificance, a yuppie - acronym for young urban professional - bursting on to the scene in America in the early 1980s to take advantage of Reaganomics - and quickly bursting on to the scene in England to take advantage of Thatcherism, and a brick sized mobile phone - the first, the Motorola 8000x, was unveiled in America in 1983, and the first call in England made by comedian Ernie Wise on 1 January 1985. Such memories! Such colourful times! Please click on the labels below to find out more about Rubik's Cube, yuppies, and mobile phones.

22 April 2013

Postbag - 1980s Weetabix Cereal Bowl, Featuring Brian

An e-mail from Rhys:

I was born in 1980, but I remember when I was little having a Weetabix cereal bowl. Would you have any details of this? I'd love to see it again. It featured the 1980's Weetabix character Brian, who always said "OK!". It was around for years, but I searched my mother's kitchen cupboards recently and it's not there. Mum doesn't remember throwing it out, but thinks she must have done so accidentally at some point over the years.

Hello, Rhys! Thanks for getting in touch. I have an '80s Weetabix breakfast set, with cereal bowl, toast plate and mug, featuring the Neet Weet gang, who appeared in Weetabix ads from March 1982 until November 1989. I think it dates from 1984/1985. I've taken some pics. I hope the cereal bowl is like the one you had, and the photograph of it brings back some memories for you!

Click on the Weetabix label at the bottom of this post for our features on Bixie, Dunk, Brains and Brian - OK!

Dressed 1980s Style... And A Question...

I had brilliant fun today, wearing 1980s style clothes - the skinniest skinny jeans (stonewashed of course!), the nicest linen jacket (with pushed up sleeves), gorgeously coloured trainer laces and a snazzy t-shirt with a very '80s colour scheme. Magnificent, am I not? I've cut my face out because, although I was trying to look like a mean and moody Don Johnson Miami Vice geezer, a good friend told me that the effect I was actually creating was of: "A raddled old buffer with a hangover," and, "The original wreck of '86."

I have such lovely friends.

Anyway, the t-shirt reads: "Shady Pines Retirement Home". Without Googling, do you know where the Shady Pines fits into the '80s scheme of things?

Back To The Future Part 2

Which way to 1985 - and which 1985 will it be?!

From the Sun, 23/11/1989... 

He has soft, shoulder-length auburn hair. His 5ft 4 in frame is draped in a blue blouse and hot pants.

He is Michael J. Fox, who swaps sex for frocks in his latest movie, "Back To The Future 2". 

The 28-year-old heart-throb returns to British [cinema] screens tomorrow as Marty McFly, the small-town boy from California, who's transported to the year 2015 and then all the way back to the Fifties. 

The topsy-turvy time-warp not only calls on Michael to play his own father. It also demands that he turns into a Foxy Lady, depicting his daughter Marlene as a future shocker.

The part called for Michael to wiggle as he walked. Which is probably why he reddens as he talks about the gender-bender role.

"God, it took me an hour to stop myself blushing in that outfit," he says. "But the general consensus was that I was cute and had great legs."

The technology used on the movie to put all his characters together on one screen meant he was playing them all on the same days.

"At least that way they all stayed fresh in my mind," he says. "It was one thing playing a depressed older man and an insane teenage boy but I had to change gear for Marlene.

"I felt completely ridiculous but I could approach it like a character role, not like a guy just dressed up as a girl."

And this is about the right time to explain the mind-boggling plot. First the young hero travels into the future to save his kids from being thrown into jail. He sees his older self there as well as his girlfriend who has become his wife. 

Then he and his scientific sidekick Doc [Christopher Lloyd] return to 1985 to find their town is now a vision of vigilante hell. 

His father has been killed. His school enemy Biff has married his mother. And Fox and friend realise they have taken a wrong time turn and arrived in a different 1985.

So, quite naturally, he travels back in time to 1955 where he finds the bloke he was in the first "Back To The Future", 1985's top-grossing film...

Meanwhile Fox's own future is assured. There's the heavyweight "Casualties of War" also to be screened in Britain...

He has his own production company and there's his son, six-month-old Sam, the major reason why the baby-faced star has grown up.

"All in all I'm pretty happy, " he says. "Heck I'm even changing nappies." 

Which is probably more pleasant than changing sex.

1984 - Some Things They Said... And An Act Of God At York Minster?

Ah, 1984... Ronald Reagan won his second term in office as President of the USA; Margaret Thatcher had won her second General Election with a landslide in 1983 and in 1984 she and Arthur Scargill went to war against each other as the miners' strike bit hard; the Grand Hotel bombing nearly ended Mrs T's career. And her life; Boy George was insulted by Princess Margaret; Torvill and Dean thrilled us on the ice skating rink; the Apple Mac arrived - "Hello" - as did Trivial Pursuit; bulldog clips were the latest hair craze; break dancing was the main dance craze; Band Aid had a very worthwhile chart hit; and Prince William gained a baby brother - Henry, or Harry, as he was known.

Here's a few quotes from 1984 listed in the Sunday Express 1984 - The Pictures Of The Year magazine...

"The world is swimming in coal." - Ian MacGregor, chairman of the National Coal Board.

"I've even tried to start a rumour that I'm really not that old, that they mixed up the babies in the hospital." - President Ronald Reagan.

"I have a very high success criterion. Monetary values come into it, because I like to live well and I have to earn a lot." - Mark Thatcher accused of exploiting his mother's position.

"Most psychiatrists or analysts are a waste of time." - Boy George.

"Very few overseas visitors are quite sure where Birmingham is." - Michael Montague, chairman of the English Tourist Board.

"It seems silly that more people should see me in 'Jewel In The Crown' than in all my years in theatre." - Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

"If there are to be any explosions in our country, they should take place on the floor of the House of Commons and nowhere else." - Bernard Weatherill, Speaker of the House of Commons.

"If you put things firmly they say you are headmistressy, but they never call a man headmastery." - Margaret Thatcher.

"I know I am going to be President" - Senator Gary Hart.

"No redundancy payment in the world can match the value of a job passed on to the next generation." - Arthur Scargill.

"What is proposed is a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend." - Prince Charles on the National Gallery extension

"When they address themselves to aesthetic judgements, people fall back on what I regard as very offensive language." - Peter Ahrends, architect of the proposed (and then cancelled) National Gallery extension.

"I won't be photographed with that over-made-up tart." - Princess Margaret on meeting Boy George.

"If men could have babies, they would only ever have one." - Diana, Princess of Wales.

"I just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." - President Reagan during rehearsals for a radio broadcast.

"By all means have a bath or shower as long as you don't forget the object of the exercise is to use less water." - Water Authorities Association.

"The Labour delegates drink gin and tonic. The Conservatives drink beer. Actually the National Union of Students is best for us - they drink lots of Pernod." - Blackpool hotel manager.

"If industrial workers are taking industrial action when they are not working, one wonders what they are doing when they are working" - The Duke of Edinburgh.

"I ended up like some old fag-ash Lil being carted off to the nick." - Angela Wilson, first person to be prosecuted for smoking on the tube.

"This is our last chance for change - because if this doesn't happen we are for the birds." - Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of the above statements seem sane and good, others amusing, others more than slightly bonkers. But that was the '80s!

One of the most memorable quotes listed in the magazine came from Professor David Jenkins, Bishop-elect of Durham, in May:

"I wouldn't put it past God to arrange a Virgin Birth if he wanted. But I don't think he did."

Say what?!! But surely a Bishop-elect of the Church of England must believe?!

But an event some found much odder was soon to come...

The Daily Telegraph 1984 magazine reported:

The previous week had seen the installation at York Minster of the controversial new Bishop of Durham, Professor David Jenkins, who had seemed to many to question fundamental Christian beliefs in his televised remarks about the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection.

Suddenly, out of a clear and calm Sunday sky in July, a bolt of lightning struck the 700-year-old cathedral, starting a spectacular fire that destroyed its 15th-century south transept. Was it an act of God? "I am not," said the Archbishop of Canterbury, "going to put myself in the position of stating where and when there has been divine intervention."

York Minster ablaze in 1984.

16 April 2013

A Test For Andrew....

Catherine has written and hopes to stump me... 

On the subject of 1980s screen entertainments, if I was to name a few characters from a particular TV show, could you come up with the show's title without Googling or similar? Try these - they all appeared in a television show of the '80s: Timothy, Frank, Muriel, Kevin, Dulcie Barrable. Remember, no checking elsewhere. I'll have to trust you! 

You can, Catherine, you can! It's Sorry! the BBC sitcom that ran from 1981-1988 and starred the brilliant Ronnie Corbett as put-upon mother's boy Timothy Lumsden, Barbara Lott as the rather scary Mrs Lumsden, and William Moore as bumbling dad Mr Lumsden ("Language, Timothy!"). The Frank you mention was Frank Baker, Timothy's best friend, Muriel was Timothy's sister, Kevin his brother-in-law, and Dulcie Barrable was a friend of Mrs Lumsden. Mrs B had a cat called Floosie. 

I well remember Mrs Lumsden cutting Timothy's porridge into soldiers for him...

And that dreadful time Tim jumped in the river in the dead of night so that he could phone his mother!

Wonderful series. I must give it the '80s Actual treatment - been meaning to for ages! Thanks for writing.

08 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Daily Mirror, December 1980: Maggie was accused of being Scrooge by Labour MP Ian Wrigglesworth who had sent her a "dossier of despair", containing letters from families in the North East of England affected by unemployment. She replied that she wouldn't give "false hope" but was convinced that continuing to reduce inflation would restore health to the economy. She also promised a brighter 1981.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher is dead.

I was stunned and startled when my wife told me the news a couple of hours ago.

What did I think of Thatcher? What DO I think of Thatcher?

Well, my view of her has changed over the years.

For a start, when she first came to power in 1979, there was no major sea change in the air. Governments were in and out of power like fiddlers' elbows back then, and some people were wondering if a woman might be different. She was, after all, the UK's first female Prime Minister.

We didn't expect her to stay long.

But she formed two further governments, in 1983 and 1987.

By late 1980, many of us in my neck of the woods couldn't stick her. "The lady's not for turning," she said - "Bloody old bag!" we ranted.

The election of Ronald Reagan as US President in 1980 and inauguration in 1981 caused many changes and really set the 1980s on-track as being the decade we remember. Thatcher immediately declared "We Stand with you!"

Blueerrggh! I thought.

Maggie and husband Denis had been impressed by Ronald Reagan's political stance way back in the late 1960s. In 1981, she backed him fully at his inauguration as President of the USA.

Maggie had stated that she would concentrate on inflation rather than jobs creation, she was determined. She seemed hard and uncaring as far as I could see. She would be 'out' at the next General Election, I confidently predicted.

But 1982 had other ideas.

Maggie's stance over the Falklands War did, I'm sure, win her many more fans then detractors, and so she called an early General Election in 1983 - and got in with a landslide majority.

Maggie had her teeth straightened in 1982, but the American TIME magazine used a pre-straightened photo as the basis for their cover painting covering her second General Election victory in 1983.

1983: It was in the bag... Number 10 was going to be Maggie's den for a second term...

 Her second term in office was the most dramatic - Maggie was nearly blown up by the IRA at Brighton, the confrontation with Arthur Scargill and the miners is something none of us who were around back then will ever forget, and there was also the "yuppie" thing filtering over from America, Big Bang on the Stock Exchange, and so on. Things were changing rapidly. Maggie was at her height. 

Did you love Maggie? Or chuck an egg at her? 1984 saw the PM with egg on her face - literally.

Was she trying to take over from the Queen, some wondered? Rumours abounded that her Maj was not too keen on her Mag, but I wasn't impressed by either of them so was not terribly interested. 

In those days, you could go into a pub and spend the entire evening talking or arguing over politics. I miss that.

 The Appallingly Disrespectful Spitting Image Book - puppet Maggie gets to grips with the jobless.

And so on to 1987 - and Mrs T won a third term. A THIRD term! How had that happened? I remember wondering. Just about everybody I knew denied voting for her. But then just about everybody I knew denied watching Crossroads. However, I suspected some of them did anyway.

The thing is, I saw - or at least thought I saw - how she'd made it in 1979 and 1983. 

'79's success was down to the Winter of Discontent and perhaps the thought of giving a woman a chance. Maggie had stated on TV that she was a woman - a housewife. Had that swayed people? She was rather more windswept and everyday looking in those days as well. 

Maggie's '83 success was down to the "Falklands Factor". For me, that was it - pure and simple. 

But by 1987, things had changed. Since Ronald Reagan had come to power in the USA, and the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR, the whole world seemed to be transforming. And things did feel far more comfortable for me as far as my living standards were concerned than they had in the 1970s and early years of the 1980s. I voted against the Tories in 1987, but I wasn't really that surprised when she got in again.  And I didn't seek reasons for her success.

By 1987, years like 1980 and 1982 seemed almost like a different planet to me. There were enough people around in 1987 who were either so much better off than they had been, or who thought that the medicine was worth enduring, to ensure that Thatcher got her third  Downing Street tenancy.

Maggie used the Royal "We" in 1989 - "We are a grandmother." Barking, I thought.

And so, Maggie's third and final term began in 1987, and 1987 sent a stock market crash and also a huge gale across southern England. 1988 saw the PM speaking up about Green issues, controversy over Clause 28 and the rise of acid house - and also, it seems, increasing disquiet amongst Maggie's ministers that she was doing it all herself. It seemed that she did what she wanted - regardless of them. If they didn't agree, there could always be a reshuffle.

Maggie also learned that Ronald Reagan, her close and highly powerful ally since 1981, was on the way out in '88. 

By January 1989 protest groups were already mobilising, united against the coming community charge - or "Poll Tax".

Like Ronnie in '88 (he left the White House in 1989), Maggie was on the way out too. In November 1990 we saw her depart from No 10.

So, how does all this leave me feeling now?

Well, I was vehemently opposed to everything Thatcher did as the 1980s took hold and continued.

But I feel I've seen so much worse since and I can't believe everybody still blames her!

For a start, she was part of something much bigger, the arrival of Ronald Reagan in America and the general feeling of being sick of being dirt poor was what prompted much of the so-called "Greed Is Good" ethos of the mid-to-late 1980s,  but it was a tremendously polarised decade, when Left fought Right fiercely. That has all gone. I have been sickened by the actions of New Labour - and I speak from first-hand experience as a former care worker in England (devolution? Don't get me started on that subject!). The care and support services I worked for were decimated by New Labour, and it all happened under the public radar. We all had comforting "whistle blowing" clauses sewn into our contracts to stop us speaking out.

From being an ardent supporter of Old Labour, I now no longer vote.

And to pretend that everything that has happened since Thatcher left Office is a direct consequence of her actions is simply a cop-out in my opinion.

People can still get steamed up over the 1980s political scene. But now? Are they raising petrol prices? No? Oh, well. Don't bother. That's how it seems to me.

People seem lazy and hypocritical and all the punch and verve of the 1980s has long since died.

But weren't the 1980s dreadful?

Oh, yes, darling. Let's have a rant about them, because they're history and require no action on our part. Now, where's my ipod? 

And then there's the "I was a political activist in the '80s" types - "vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour!" Oh PURLEASE! Stuff that. Stop bigging yourselves up and living in a time warp. It's time for something new.

In retrospect, I can say that I respect Margaret Thatcher's honesty. And bravery. And certain things have come out that suggest she was not as unfeeling as I thought "back in the day".

I 'm so much LESS steamed up about her than I was. But then I strongly believe that modern day politicians, of whatever hue, are often a million times worse. So much more self serving and duplicitous. 

I think  Maggie genuinely believed she was doing her best for the UK.

I disagreed and still do.

But at least I knew where I stood with her.

RIP, Mrs T - I'll never forget you.

Click on our "Thatcher" label below for lots more on the only UK Prime Minister the 1980s ever had...

07 April 2013

Postbag - Jon Moss Of Culture Club, The '80s Look For Men, The Skinniest Skinny Fit Jeans EVER, And ALF...

More communications received. And we're thrilled to answer your queries, old mateyboots!

Even our carphone's got its own filofax, so we're well qualified to answer!

Tez asks:

Please, please, PURLEASE (as we used to say in the big hair decade) can you include a pic of Jon Moss from Culture Club?

We can and we have, Tez. Hope you like it! 

Carol says:

I recently bought a "1990s" compilation album with several late 1980s songs on it. Seem bloody strange to me!

Don't fret, Carol, we've bought a "1970s" compilation with music from 1968/1969 and 1980 on it, and a "1980s" compilation with music from 1978/1979 on it. It's quite common for these decade CD compilations to flip back and forward slightly from the stated ten years. It's not just CD compilations, either - the BBC loaded I Love The 1970s with 1960s and 1980s goodies, a 1990s TV ad that was supposedly about the 1970s featured the 1969 hit Sugar Sugar by the Archies, and we once saw a write-up about Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam (1989) which stated that it was the best dance tune of the 1990s. The write-up then went on to rave about how great the 1990s were. We're extremely pedantic here, of course, after all, we are '80s ACTUAL, but many other people are quite "loose" about decades. Don't lose sleep over it.

Vince asks:

I want a look that cries out "1980s"! for the spring and summer, but not a shell suit because I think they're too bright and ugly. I want something that's a modern 1980s look, without looking stupid. No New Romantic lippy and eye-liner, please!

As if we'd advise those! Even we don't do New Romantic. Well, not often. In fact, only a couple of times a month ;)! Mind you, we love a lot of the shell suit designs - highly original and distinctive.

For a genuine, modern (of the time) mid-to-late 1980s look, go for a Miami Vice style jacket (these sometimes crop up on internet auction sites), DO push up or turn back (if there's a smart inner lining) the jacket sleeves, and wear a nice pink pastel t-shirt (blue if you're scared of pink), and skinny fit stone-washed jeans (we think jeans legs were at their very tightest in the 1980s - we could hardly get our feet in!), plus some brightly coloured canvas shoes or jazzy colourful trainers. Consider designer stubble - it's back big time - and some dark "mirror" glasses. Gel or mousse your hair, add some blonde highlights or streaks (these have re-emerged as a fashion trend in recent years anyway) and away you go.

It's a great look - very, very evocative of the 1980s, and comfortable to wear. We think it's one of the best fashion looks ever. If you can't find a genuine 1980s jacket or are nervous about venturing out in one (and we notice with ours that the shoulders, even for blokes, tend to be pretty darned big!), buy a cheap but smart jacket from a chain store. Shiny flecked grey is great, or a nice black one with multi-coloured flecks. The jacket, with sleeves up,  worn as part of the ensemble will instantly date you! As the Pet Shop Boys said: "It's not a crime when you look the way you do, the way I like to picture you..."

Jenny writes:

You leave no '80s stone unturned, it seems. You've got Gilbert the alien, so when does ALF get his moment in the sun?

This is quite a coincidence because I'm currently working on an ALF article with help from a very good friend of mine who loved the show. Please keep popping in!