25 December 2016

Have Yourself A 1980s Christmas...

Albert Square, Walford, Christmas in the 1980s...

Lou: "'Ere, Arfur, get this photo took and let's 'ave some nuts. Then I'll 'ave me nap. Dot an' Ethel are poppin' in later..."

Pauline: "Make sure you get us in the middle, Arfur..."

Michelle: "Come on, Dad - I wanna go over to Sharon's. She's got the new Duran Duran..."

Lou: "You'll 'elp your muvver with the washin' up first, 'Chelle. I dunno, you youngsters nowadays, you don't think abaht anybody but yourselves..."

Pauline: "Got a load of mashed potato and cabbage left. Bubble and squeak for breakfast tomorrer..." 

Lou: "Luvley!"

Pauline: "Oh no! I've got Bisto on me blouse!"

And from that happy 1980s scene to today... Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from '80s Actual xxx

04 August 2016

Neighbours: The Portrait Of Mrs Mangel... Who Did It?

Feast your eyes on the above - the divine portrait of Mrs Nell Mangel, painted by Mrs Helen Daniels in 1987. Both ladies, of course, were Ramsay Street fiction, but the re-emergence of the painting in a recent Neighbours storyline and the death of actress Vivean Gray, who was so spendid as Mrs Mangel, have prompted the following e-mail from Keiran:

I enjoyed your post on lovely Vivean Gray and Mrs Mangel. Another Neighbours legend gone! The painting of Mrs Mangel from the 1980s has recently turned up in 21st Century Neighbours. Do you know who really painted it? I don't suppose it was Anne Haddy, who played Helen Daniels?

Hello, Kieran! I can answer part of your question - no, Anne Haddy did not paint the Mangel masterpiece. The actress wanted it to be known in 1988 that the Daniels works were, in reality, the work of somebody "in scenery" and said: "They're awful, aren't they? The most upsetting fan letter I've received was from a little boy who wanted me to paint his dead cat. I had to explain I wasn't a real artist."

Who was the real life artist, then?

If anybody knows the person "in scenery" on Neighbours in 1987 who painted Helen's perceptive character portrait of dear old Nell, please let us know.

It's now an icon of 1980s artwork.

 UPDATE 09 June 2023:

In the 21st Century, the portrait returned to the Neighbours limelight, being displayed at Lassiters Hotel. I hadn't seen the show in years, but squawked with delight when me and my wife happened upon an episode a few years ago and saw it.

But something wasn't quite right. 'Mrs Mangel's hair's grown,' I said to my wife.

'Don't be daft!' said she.

I've finally got round to comparing the 1987 version with the modern day version, and it has. It's grown over her ears a bit and is now feathered down her neck. 

Are there such things as portrait hairdressers, I wonder? Because I suspect dear Nell will be needing a trim soon if this keeps up...

02 August 2016

Vivean Gray - The English Actress Who Gave Us Australia's Mrs Mangel...

Mrs Mangel puts on a severe face as she prepares for another day at Lassiters. 

English-born actress Vivean Gray, who died recently, was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans before she became Mrs Nell Mangel in Neighbours. 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."

All quite true. And how we loved Mrs Mangel for her foibles. Incredibly, the character was only a resident of Ramsay Street from 1986 to 1988, but she certainly left her mark - both on the show, and in our affections.

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."

Mrs Mangel's lovely granddaughter, Jane Harris (Annie Jones), stood by her "Nan" - and took to heart Mrs M's advice to "keep herself nice".

Mrs Mangel clashed regularly with Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop (Anne Charleston). She was a bit of a lonely soul at heart, but had a great friend in the beautifully batty Eileen Clarke (Myra de Groot), and was rather an admirer of Mr Harold Bishop (Ian Smith).

She also had an estranged son, Joe, played by Mark Little, who turned up in Ramsay Street in 1988, just before Mrs M. left. The two were reconciled, and rough diamond Joe and his son Toby ensured the Mangel name lived on in the street after Mrs M. married Englishman John Worthington and moved to the "old country".

Fans took Vivean's portrayal of Mrs Mangel very much to heart, which led to some unpleasantness for the actress, and contributed to her decision to leave the role.

But Mrs Mangel is a telly legend.

And we treasure the memories. 

Rest in peace, Vivean Gray. 

And thank you. 

And our condolences to her friends and family.

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

16 June 2016

The '80s Sooty Show - Soo, A Personal Stereo, And Auntie Brenda...

The Sooty Show entered a new era in the 1980s, with a change of format. Matthew Corbett introduced a new setting - a lovely house called "The Sooteries" on the Christmas 1980 show, and this became the permanent home of the show from 1981 onwards. 1981 was also the year Soo the panda gained a new voice - that of the very talented Brenda Longman.

My own Sooty era was over long before the 1980s began, I'd been a kiddywink viewer in the days when Harry Corbett, Matthew's father, was in charge, but I glimpsed the show at times as a young adult in the 1980s, and had to smile.

Sooty and his friends had been wowing the kids for several decades by that time, and were continuing to do so - and indeed still do. They're still going strong under the watchful eye of Richard Cadell.

My favourite characters were Soo and Sweep, with Sweep slightly in front. Was there ever a more appealing puppet? The emotions contained in his squeaks - from sorrow to frustration to sympathy - and his gorgeous way of getting things wrong... Sweep rules, OK?

Soo gained some street cred with me as an adult when she was seen with a personal stereo in 1985. It was more the size of a ghetto blaster to her, but I was heartened that my chldhood heroine was keeping up with the trends of the 1980s.

Soo gained even more street cred when an out-take from the show was included in the wonderful It'll Be Alright On The Night series.

Sooty, Sweep and Soo had been sent a flower press by their Auntie Brenda, but it was not easy to use with paws, and when a piece of it fell off the surface our pals were using, Sooty scuttled the rest of it, and the usually prim and proper Soo uttered the immortal words: "Bloody Auntie Brenda - she always was trouble!"

Of course, this was cut from the show, but the out-take survived for Denis Norden to delight us with. 

I laughed so much, it hurt.

Sooty, Sweep and Soo, we love you...

And Auntie Brenda, of course.

26 May 2016

Enquiry: No, Robert Cailliau Did Not Co-Invent The World Wide Web

The original invention document for the World Wide Web, March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee. He had already produced what turned out to be a precursor project called ENQUIRE whilst working at CERN for six months from June to December 1980.

Had an interesting enquiry from Sam:

I'm studying the history of the World Wide Web and most sources state that Tim Berners-Lee invented it alone, but some say he co-invented it with Robert Cailliau, a Belgian scientist. There is currently controversy about this on Wikipedia. do you know which is true?

Yes, Sam - I can safely say I do. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in March 1989, when he submitted a proposal to his boss at CERN. Robert Cailliau became a highly valuble collaborator later. But the ideas and the invention and the writing of the first Web browser were all Tim's own work.

Robert Cailliau has never stated that he co-invented the Web. This inaccurate information has simply been parroted by certain Web users. In using the Web, one must be "information smart", and I don't recommend using Wikipedia for a start. It's an illogical nightmare of an idea, where uninformed, wishy-washy admins and silly, ignorant kids and adults can wreak havoc. Some people are so eager to thrust their own strange and inaccurate views on others they throw their rattles out of their prams and are amazingly persistent if challenged. Anybody trusting that source  for a homework study deserves all they get! This is Tim Berners-Lee's own comment on Robert Cailliau's initial contribution to the project:

"Some commentators suggest that Robert co-invented the WWW. To set this straight, he did not invent it. It wasn't his idea. He did not write the specifications for UDIs (later to be URLs, then URIs), or for HTML, the hypertext language, nor HTTP, the protocol, or the code of the original implementation. More than a year after my original proposal (March 1989), while I was working on the code, he wrote a proposal to CERN proposing some staff be allocated to the project. This was a brave thing to do, as CERN was always chronically short of manpower for the huge challenges it had taken on. So Robert put himself out there to claim that effort on WWW was worth it." (scroll down to section "Robert Cailliau's Role" for further information)

And you can read our own piece on the wonderful Web here.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee celebrating twenty years since the invention of the Web in March 2009. The event took place at CERN.

18 May 2016

1980: Hissing Sid Is Innocent! Or Was He Guilty?

Back, back, to the beginning of the 1980s - to the far away year of 1980 - and Captain Beaky and his Band.

The bravest animals in the land.

Timid Toad, Batty Bat, etc, etc.

What a surprise that the record should get into the Top Five, and what a surprise that it should spark a national obsession with that lovable/loathsome snake, Hissing Sid.

Hissing Sid Is Innocent (occasionally Hissing Sid Is Guilty) was daubed on flyovers, brick walls, public lavatory doors, exercise books - just about anywhere there was space to daub.

1980 was soon awash with books, badges, and a follow-up record - The Trial Of Hissing Sid. Was he innocent? I can't remember.

Seeing the two badges pictured brings it all back to me.

We were seriously potty.

Read our main article on the wondrous work of Jeremy Lloyd and Keith Michell here

20 April 2016

Victoria Wood

An Audience With Victoria Wood, 1988.

I actually cried today when I heard that Victoria Wood had died.

And it's rare that the death of a celebrity will do that to me.

Victoria scratched around for some years before finding fame, winning New Faces and singing her way through a brief stint on That's Life!

But then came the '80s... 

Back,  back, back in the early 1980s, Victoria starred in a Granada Television comedy sketch series with her friend Julie Walters called Wood and Walters.

Well, it didn't greatly impress me and I soon forgot it.

But, in 1985, with more creative control of her own over a new series, she returned to my telly screen - this time on the BBC.

And this time she was marvellous.

Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV.

Here was a show written by a woman which did not exclude men. Victoria had fun with human foibles of either gender, but there was no misandrist nonsense here.

This was a show for everybody.

And I loved it...

Bessie!... The Trivia Pursuit obsessed flatmates... Shopping... the guy with the telephone deodorising service... At The Chippie... Margery and Joan... Knock Knock On Your Knocker... Kitty... Let's Do It... Acorn Antiques... "It's Tofu" and so much more...

"Is it on the trolley?"

"They got on to politics, I ended up watching Take The High Road with the sound down."

"Never touch prawns, they hang around sewage outlet pipes, treading water, with their mouths open - they love it!"

"All the way to Nottingham, all the way back..."

 Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV brought Miss Wood stardom. And it was well deserved.

Victoria was a wit unequalled. And I always felt that if I'd ever met her I wouldn't be awe stricken (not like I was when I met Bill Waddington, Percy Sugden from Corrie!). No, Victoria seemed wise, witty, puzzled by life, funny, down to earth and a kind of absentee friend really.

I will miss her.

Our main blog post on Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV , from 2009, can be found here -  

And here we honour Victoria's fabulous comic creation Miss Babs of Acorn Antiques -

25 March 2016

Easter EastEnders Greetings From 1986...

Compulsive viewing though it was - with some tremendous characters and writing, the BBC's EastEnders was also a bag of miserable, middle class, leftie propaganda in its early years. Not the sort of thing you'd imagine contributing to the spirit of peace and renewal at Easter.

But Auntie wanted to make a few more bob, so 1986 gave us the EastEnders Milk Chocolate Easter Egg - with chocolate beans. Cor! It also 'ad views of the Queen Victoria, Sue and Ali's cafe, the railway bridge and some of the grotty Albert Square 'ouses on the box. 

Lovely, eh? Unless Lou Beale misses 'er bleedin' bingo.

Then there'll be runctions. Not to mention if Sue and Mary get started.

And wot about Den and Ange?

Actually, I think it odd to have an Albert Square-themed Easter egg. But then it takes all kinds to make a world, dunnit, darlin'?

Wishing you a peaceful and happy Easter anyway! x

08 March 2016

Spitting Image: Nick George - The Man Who Gave Us Nouvelle Cuisine Du DHSS

It's always a pleasure to get e-mails up here at '80s Actual Towers. We don't get many, but we treasure those we do get.

Recently, we had a corker from Nick George, regarding our post on Spitting Image, must-watch TV for us in the mid-to-late 1980s (let's face it, its "more peas, dear?" subject matter in the 1990s didn't really have the same appeal).

Nick wrote:


Way back in 1984 I was working as a very junior art director at an ad agency in London. I did an ad for Lego, it was photographed by a guy who had worked with Fluck and Law.

The photographer and I got on well. He introduced me to John Lloyd, the Spitting Image producer.

They were putting a book together.

I contributed a bunch of ideas, one of them got into the book though I didn't write the text I did title it:

Nouvelle Cuisine Du DHSS.

Over thirty years later it was pleasing to find a scan of that page on your blog. So, thanks, I don't have that book any more.

Trivia: the photographer also shot the model of Prince Andrew for the Spitting Image book.
The pic, attached, caused the book publishers, Faber and Faber, to lose their royal warrant.

London, eh.

Best regards,


And here we have it - Prince Andrew, in all his latex glory! '80s humour still floats my boat, although many "sensitive" 21st Century souls I know flinch at it. But then they also have an attack of the vapours and write outraged letters on Digital Spy if somebody so much as drags on an e-cigarette in their vicinity (whilst quite happily gumming up the atmosphere by undertaking walking or bussing distance "jaunts" in their broom brooms).

It's our considered opinion that the prissy 21st Century needs to do a bit of manning and womaning up.

The shape of things (then) to come - 31st December, 1983 - a preview of Spitting Image. And isn't that Mr President (gasp!). God bless America!

Anyway, back to subject. We wrote to Nick George to ask if he'd mind us publishing his email, and received a reply containing another goodie - the Lego Arthur Scargill pic at the bottom of this post.

Many thanks to Nick. His second e-mail, which also contains a link to a Spitting Image site, is included below.

Hello Andrew, glad you appreciated my memories. Please, publish the contents of my mail to you, I have no problem with that.

The photographer was John Lawrence-Jones. He had shot a Lego trade ad for me. Attached here, it shows Arthur Scargill, at the height of the contentious miners strike.

More background on Spitting Image here: 

Includes the infamous Randy Andy pic.

John also shot the Luck and Flaw Treasure Island book, a couple of years prior.

Really like your site. keep at it.

all best

cheers now.


Thanks again to Nick.

18 February 2016

Home Beer And Wine Making In The 1980s

Ugh! Here's a Boots HOME WINE AND BEERMAKING catalogue from 1984-1985. Doesn't it all look complicated? My stepfather's attempts at beer brewing had me running for the loo, clutching my stomach, and although wine making was a bit posh for us, Terry of the BBC's Terry and June '80s comedy series, starring Terry Scott and June Whitfield, tried it in one epsode - and the bottles exploded in June's airing cupboard. Terry also tried his hand at beer making in the same episode - something called "Cock Ale" - which resulted in jippy tum. Believe it or not, "Cock Ale" is actually listed in my Boots reference book!

Ugh again!

What gave rise to the home brewing fad? Various things. The retro urges of the 1960s to return to the times of country frolics in the hay field, galloping inflation later on (cheaper to brew than to buy a pint), and a desire to be posh and show off were major contributory factors.

But, from my own experiences (and Terry's), I would say avoid.

If you're planning to revive 1984, don't go for this catalogue - invite some friends round for a nice game of Trivial Pursuit instead. It was newly released in the UK in 1984, and a far healthier fad.