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Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Archive for Nuggets From The Loft

Nuggets from the Loft… Volume 4

OK, here’s another priceless antique for your inspection…

Yep, a genuine dog-eared match ticket for a crunch North-Eastern derby, from the days when professional football was played by slightly pot-bellied men with sideburns the size of the Indian subcontinent. And the kind of persistant bronchial conditions that suggested most of their pre-match warm-up consisted of a drag on a Rothmans Kingsize.

My first Boro match was in October 1981 (a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest, fact fans) so this ticket must have belonged to my Dad… who, in September 1976, was 36 years old and will no doubt have grumbled endlessly about the extortionate entrance fee (“65 bloody pence? I can get two pints of Tetleys for that and still have change for a bag of chips on the way home”) as he walked the mile and a half from my Gran’s bungalow in Acklam to a seething, overcast Ayresome Park.

Sporting mustard-coloured BHS flares and a fur-lined parka, he’ll have wriggled onto the packed concrete terrace of the Holgate End and taken his place amongst the 26,014 fans who saw Boro sneak a 1-0 victory over their bitter Geordie rivals with a goal from David Mills. Yay! And then, at 4.43pm, he’ll have muttered ‘Right, time to get get a flyer…’ and shuffled to the back of the stand, waiting for the shrill parp of the final whistle before jogging gently out onto Roman Road amongst a streaming flock of ebullient Boro fans.

Meanwhile, I’ll have stayed at my Gran’s house. Three years old, and probably messing about with Mr Men colouring books for the afternoon before steadfastly refusing to watch Part One of the new Doctor Who story ‘The Masque of Mandragora’. Too scary, you see, and likely to make me choke on my Chocolate Flake Cake. Although I imagine the Doctor’s nail-biting battle against the Mandragora Helix was a walk in the park compared to my Dad’s afternoon spent in such close proximity to Micky Burns.

Nuggets from the Loft… Volume 3

Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve never been much of a one for making resolutions, but I’m hoping to post on here a bit more regularly during 2012. Especially as I’ve spent much of the Christmas period ‘sorting out’ in the loft (translation: pointlessly moving piles of stuff from one cardboard box to another) and have a whole host of little nostalgic nuggets that I’m absolutely itching to share.  Still, that’s fibre-glass loft insulation for you.

So my plan is to present you with a little Nugget from the Loft as often as possible throughout 2012. First up we have a treat for fans of On The Buses – a rarely-seen theatre flyer…

You might assume that this comes from some long-forgotten dark corner of the sexist Seventies, but – brace yourself – the dates mentioned at the bottom of the flyer are undoubtedly from 1990. I distinctly remember this little missive doing the rounds in our Sixth Form common room during that particular year, brought in by louche rockabilly obsessive Simon Lee, who once told me that his three favourite TV programmes of all time were (in order) The Sweeney, The Dukes of Hazzard and Juliet Bravo.

I have a bit of a soft spot for traditional theatre farces, and once met Windsor Davies and Robin Askwith in the car park of Billingham Forum after a performance of Doctor In The House, but sadly I didn’t make the pilgrimage to the Tyne Theatre & Opera House to see Hands Off My Crumpet, which is a shame as I’d have liked to have seen the late, great Bob Grant in action. If nothing else, it would have been nice to see if the trousers on the flyer were an accurate representation of the ones he actually wore onstage, and really DID have the colour washed out of them from the calves downward.

Anyway, let’s all have fun debating whether the item of food incorporated logo IS actually a crumpet, because in my house during the 1970s and 80s, that would definitely have been called a pikelet.


Nuggets from the Loft… Volume 2

As threatened, I’ve been rummaging in the loft again, and this time I’ve unearthed two long-lost early 1980s artefacts that would have the Antiques Roadshow team… well, let’s be honest, they’d be rolling their eyes and muttering ‘for f***’s sake’ under their breaths. But, to me, these antiquities are as priceless as any dusty oriental remnant. After all, who wants a Ming vase when you can have a Ming The Merciless Weetabix card?

Weetabix… breakfast cereal of choice on the Planet Mongo! Found rattling around the bottom of cereal packets along with stray offcuts of mouldy biscuit, these cards were – of course – a shameless marketing tie-in with the BRILLIANT Flash Gordon movie that the velvet-curtained fleapits of Britain were showing during… well, thereby hangs a tale. The official US release date for the film was December 5th 1980, but I’m convinced it can’t have hit the UK until at least Spring 1981. The impeccably-researched evidence that I’m using to back up my theory is that I remember swopping some of the above cards with Andrew ‘Stan’ Henry on a bright, breezy summers day at Levendale Primary School, with the sun blazing through the grubby window pane upon which Paul Frank and I had recently made a bloody awful pig’s ear of painting the Loch Ness Monster.

Presumably Stan, like me, was attempting to gain the full set by eating seven Weetabix for breakfeast every morning (‘Burppp… farrrt… keep ’em coming Mum, I’m REALLY hungry today… blurrrp’) before arriving at school with a waistline like the Michelin Man. And a complexion to match.

Anyway, it’s a great film. Now remembered chiefly for Brian Blessed’s towering performance (‘GORDON’S ALIVE??!?!?!?!?’), but it also contains the sobering sight of nubile twentysomething Italian sex siren Ornella Muti (a woman once voted the world’s most beautiful, and reputed to have insured her all-conquering breasts for $350,000) snogging Howard from Ever Decreasing Circles.

All of this passed me by at the time, naturally, although I was intrigued by the fact that Flash Gordon himself was a professional footballer, as he didn’t bear any resemblance to any professional footballer I’d ever seen in 1981. Where was his bubble perm, moustache, beer belly and permanent haze of Lambert and Butler smoke? Amateur.

Anyway, I lied, it isn’t a Ming The Merciless card at all. It’s actually dedicated to his sidekick, the slightly dubiously-named Klytus…

As portrayed, splendidly, by former Jason King lothario Peter Wyngarde. ‘Klytus, I’m bored… what plaything can you offer me today?’

‘Well Masterful Ming, I’ve got a slightly rusty badge* featuring one of the Weetabix skinheads…’

(*stop giggling)

Yes, this is today’s second Nugget from the Loft. This was Weetabix’s other concerted early 80s attempt to win the hearts and minds (and waistlines) of gullible eight-year-olds.. a gang of loveable, cuddly Weetabix skinheads (or ‘Bovver Boys’ as they were often affectionately known at the time). I think these came a little later than the Flash Gordon cards, possibly in 1982, and you can see them in full action here…

Again, they bore little resemblance to the ACTUAL skinheads that I’d seen in 1982, who were usually to be found gently inserting barbed wire into innocent bystanders near the perimeter fence at Ayresome Park. I’m guessing the Weetabix Frontline were mainly influenced by Madness – who were EVERYWHERE in 1982 – although I’d like to think there’s a little bit of Ian Dury and the Blockheads in there as well. And, equally, you’re perfectly entitled to think that I should get out a bit more and stop contemplating this rubbish in such detail. As my former Levendale teacher Mr Millward once said to me with a flabbergasted glare, ‘Do you not sometimes think you’re a little bit… anal?’

I’d like to pretend this happened 25 years ago, but it was actually this Tuesday night, when he and Mr Hirst joined me for a cheeky pint (more on this to follow soon)

Anyway, ‘Brains’ was the intellectual giant of the Weetabix skinheads, and we knew this because – obviously – he wore glasses. Early 1980s optical science had proved beyond doubt that ALL specky four-eyed freaks were DEAD CLEVER, like.  It was all that swotty book-reading and squinting down microscopes wot did it, although admittedly there was ONE OTHER WAY in which it was possible to lose your eyesight in the early 1980s. This was – as any self-respecting fishcake-toting mother would tell you – ‘sitting too close to the telly’.

I spent most of the first ten years of my life being warned repeatedly about this. ‘Get away from that telly, you, or your eyes will go bad and you’ll have to wear glasses when you’re older’. I’d get this at least three times I week as I pressed my face up against the concave screen of our four-channel, wood-panelled Granada behemoth to drool over Sarah Greene. I’m now 37, and I’ve still yet to join the intellectual specky elite.

I need closure on this… is there any evidence whatsoever to suggest that watching TV from a short distance can have a detrimental effect on the eyesight? Surely it’s no different to looking at anything else from close-up? Will my ‘eyes go bad’ if I also sit ten inches away from the front room wall and stare at that all night instead? The other Saturday I caught 15 minutes of ‘Celebrity Mr and Mrs’, and was sorely tempted to do exactly that.

NB For the record, I’ve spent most of the last 37 years talking absolute bollocks, and my tongue has yet to split either. Although those who’ve met me in the flesh could make a reasonable case for the wind having changed, and me staying like that.

Nuggets from the Loft…

During a fleeting forage in the loft last week, I couldn’t help but notice that the teetering piles of treasure-filled cardboard boxes up there were starting to get a little bit damp… threatening the myriad of priceless antiques (251 issues of Whizzer and Chips and at least seven Star Wars Annuals) up there with irrevocable damage!

As a result I’ve spent my day off today transferring everything up there into proper, plastic storage boxes, and – in the process – have unearthed a couple of delightful little nuggets. I think I’ve mentioned before that I spent most of 1978 scribbling incredibly convoluted depictions of scenes from Star Wars, and – brilliantly – here’s the evidence…

(Click on the picture for a larger version!)

I think I’ve managed to indentify all the characters and spaceships in this, but I’m happy to offer special (and utterly worthless) Wiffle Points to anyone who can put names to them!

The picture was actually tucked inside a Mr Men Acitivity Book, and one of the activities required me to enter the date… which I’d done, in shaky pencil handwriting – Saturday 3rd June 1978. So I’m guessing my drawing dates from around the same time, that strange transitional period when my allegiances were transferring from the cosy, sepia-tinted snuggliness of my early childhood (Hello Mr Tickle! Hello Bungo Womble! Hello Rupert Bear! But bugger off Raggety the Twigman, you creepy wood-faced bleeder…) to the lightsabre-filled adventure of my early 80s school years. I was five years old in June 1978, reaching the end of my first year in ‘reception’ at Levendale Primary School, and lustily embarking on a life of heartfelt geekdom.

(Except, of course, I wasn’t. There was nothing geeky about Star Wars in 1978, it was as mainstream as it was possible to get. EVERYONE I knew – boys and girls – loved Star Wars and Doctor Who, and it was only when I reached my teenage years that a fascination for all this stuff began to mark me out as something – ahem – special. But that’s another story… and let’s face it, I wrote a whole bloody book about it…)

My other little Nugget from the Loft today is an hilariously sexist bit of comic strippery from Christmas 1979…

‘HOW’S THIS FOR A CHRISTMAS CRACKER?’ Fantastic. A cover clearly drawn by Jack and Stan from On The Buses in a quiet moment down the depot, making ‘Phwoooar’ noises and suggestive gestures with their forearms as a legion of mini-skirted ‘clippies’ slink by. I showed this to my other half today, and she asked me – in all sincerity – ‘is this real? Was it actually made for kids?’

I can only assume the Christmas 1979 edition of Bunty comic didn’t have a hairy-chested, cartoon John Travolta in skin-tight jeans bursting out of a pink Christmas cracker.

More priceless Nuggets from the Loft coming soon!