Two weeks left for this unique chance to get a free copy in exchange for a review of epic occult thriller Фѓↁо Lцрцѕ ІІ: ГЂэ ↁэvіl’ѕ Фши ↁісэ. Just go here, sign up and review: http://ow.ly/yawB3 Offer ends 9 July. Grab yours now.
“An Amazing Tale”
“The description of knights preparing and then engaging in a battle is the most realistic I have ever come across.”
In this day and age, when the creative industry accounts for 8% A of the UK employment (3% in USA, 2012 B) and 5.2% C of UK economy (3.2% of total US Goods and Serviced income 2012, more than the travel and tourism industry D), why is it creative people are still considered outsiders, barely better than criminals, and forced to do paltry 9-5 jobs to support themselves while earning either nothing from their art or actually have to ‘pay to perform’?
It’s time this victimisation stopped!
As far as we know, in ancient Babylon, Egypt and Ancient Israel music was well-established as the ‘conscience’ of society. It was certainly legitimised already in religious ceremonies and temples, where musicians may have earned their crust, and was almost certainly employed in secular community activities such as drinking, feasting and dancing. In the latter, it was entertainment for the masses. This would eventually become the role for which it would generate the most income. Musicians, certainly religious ones, were respected by the community but probably payed a wage similar to many service-sector workers, a subsistence wage.
In ancient Greece, the whole group of creatives, called artisans, were able to vote, rise through the ranks even so far as political office and often became very wealthy and powerful. It’s interesting to note that Athenians considered the participation in political oratory as the highest art attainable, a far cry from today’s politics.
In the Roman empire, artisans were not considered citizens. Hence, they were excluded from political activity and thus the acquisition of great power and wealth.
While in Europe, during the middle-ages, musicians continued to be itinerant and fairly poorly paid, in the Middle and Far east, they enjoyed a higher and more secure status. There, they were considered below leaders and aristocrats but above peasants.
Moving into the 20th century, there began a move in Europe, and particularly in the UK to consider artisans, and in particular musicians, as barely better than beggars and, in many cases, playing music or performance of any kind in public was outlawed. This probably reached it’s height in the 1990s, when it was illegal to play or perform anywhere in the UK in public spaces. Buskers on the underground were particularly victimised with heavy fines and the threat of jail sentences.
Does anybody else remember the cat-and-mouse game with the UK Government dole office in the 1980s? It was a joke. While you were encouraged to give the outward appearance of looking for a job, the interviewer at the DSS, as the DWP was called then, would smile when you said you were trying to be a musician and say something like:
“What sort of music do you play? I hope you make it! Can I come to your next gig?”
At least art was semi-legitimate then. But why the hell did we have to do all this pretending? Why did we actually have to pay to play at venues? Why is it that a bar owner would make thousands of pounds for a packed bar at the George Robey or the Town and Country club and the band would get beer money or at best £40, barely enough for petrol and guitar strings?
Of course, the likes of Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman figured out a way to make megabucks from music in the late 80s and 90s by manufacturing artists, as Hollywood did in the 30s and 40s. Talk about corruption! I remember travelling around with a supremely talented girlfriend to discuss various music contracts. She was often trumped by young boys, who may well have been pretty to producers but were completely, and self-admittedly, unable to sing!
The drive for ‘manufactured’ art has killed the UK contribution to the world culture.
What is left is a vacuum of culture, all because real creativity has been pushed aside in favour of pap like Reality-TV shows and manufactured music. Even the Turner prize is legitimising some dubious art. I wouldn’t be the first to mention Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst in this context.
At a time when when the creative arts is generating 5.2% of the UK’s GDP – let’s just say that number again, 5.2% – why not provide proper training, support and respect to the real artists.
It’s time the prejudice against real creativity stopped!
New York Times – “Daniel Keyes, the author of “Flowers for Algernon,” the story of a man with an I.Q. of 68 who temporarily becomes a genius after surgery — a book that inspired the film “Charly,” starring Cliff Robertson — died on Sunday at his home in South Florida. He was 86.”
I did a brief interview with Cliff, which you can read it on this blog. Stephen C Thompson, Cliff Robertson’s Press Agent, is making a documentary about the Academy Award winner’s life and the documentary will certainly discuss the film Charly. If you want to get involved in the film’s production hop over to the project ‘s Facebook page and give it a like!.
Here is a unique chance to get a copy of Ordo Lupus II: The Devil’s Own Dice for FREE! All you have to do is click on the link below, click on the book, sign up for a free account and download the book. When you finish, writer a review. That’s all there is to it! This offer expires on 9 July.
There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.
Memories of the 1960s: Issue III – Toys
I was born in 1962. The first toys I remember are a fluffy ball with a bell inside, a red, plastic American train and a ‘musical box’, about the size of a food can, with a crank on top. As you turned the crank, metal tongues were flicked inside, much like an African lamellaphone. It had pictures of the royal guards and Buckingham Palace painted on its sides. I don’t remember what the tune was. I also had a Playcraft plastic train set (see below). All these toys seemed to be around since a time before I could remember anything clearly.
The first toy I remember actually receiving was a motorised tank. My dad came home late one night (it was always late when he came home for a kid that was at nursery school!) and presented me with this thing that drove up and down a pile of books on its own! My dad showed me how to open a book and turn it upside down so that its spine formed the ridge of a hill. The tank could go over this too.
Then there was Lego. I had quite a small set of Lego, about enough pieces to fill a large biscuit-tin. But this included an electric motor! I seem to remember I broke the motor quite quickly but not before making a tank or two of my own. I usually made dragsters, biplanes, lorries, artillery guns and steam trains. I also had a car garage with a roll-over roof but I broke this quite quickly too.
My main love at an early age was toy cars. I quickly started to accumulate a large collection (eventually 240 vehicles) of Corgi, Matchbox, Matchbox Kingsize, Dinky Toys cars and trucks. I had bad luck with a Batmobile, a double-deck car transporter and a baby-blue Buick Riviera. After I had the Batmobile for only a few days, a rocket got stuck in the car’s insides. In those days, cars were all metal and riveted together. Repairing them was hard and, because of its complexity, repairing the Batmobile was almost impossible. My dad was an engineer so he took it apart and I had great hopes of him fixing it but he couldn’t reassemble it. The bits sat on a plate, on my window sill, for many years before I finally threw them away. The transporter’s tail gate/ramp broke. I wrote to Corgi many times, begging them for a replacement, but they never replied. The Buick disappeared mysteriously. I remember being asked if I wanted to swap it for something in his collection by the boy in the houser opposite. I refused. A few weeks later, the car went missing. I tore my bedroom and the house apart, hunting for it. I never found it. Even now, I suspect my sister. I don’t think it was the boy opposite.
Swapping was a very common way to accumulate cars then. I had a Bedford flatbed which I obtained that way. I was very lucky to have some rare items in my collection. From my dad, I inherited some old Grand Prix cars of the 1950s. These are worth a lot of money now. They are still in the loft. I was also given some cars by a friend of the family, who was about five years older than me. Thus I obtained some nice cars from the 1950s. My dad also made me a wooden petrol station for my cars. Some of you will remember a plastic petrol station, complete with a lift, which was available in toy shops. Mine was even better; it had a lift, petrol pumps, a ramp and a show room but all with more space than the plastic toy. I loved it. Does anybody remember Tonka Toys, or Matchbox Kingsize kit cars? All my Matchbox cars are still in a small suitcase, in the loft. Here is a video, taking you through the 1974 Dinky Toys catalogue
I mentioned the wooden garage, which my dad made. He also made a nice dolls house for my sister. She was two years younger than me. The dolls house front and back walls could be lifted off to reveal eight large rooms. Two were joined by an archway, a feature popular then on full-sized houses. There was plenty of miniature furniture available for a girl to buy with her pocket-money and some of it was exquisite but it was expensive. I think she quickly ran out of funds and the house was never fully furnished.
My sister was an ace at Marbles. Again, we were both blessed with fantastic marbles, inherited from a great aunt or uncle. These were Victorian antiques. Some were made of white glass with lovely red swirls but my favourite had no stripes or twists inside but was filled with tiny blue bubbles. Although we were given half each, my sister soon began to win all mine from me. We would play on the carpet, in the garden and in the school playground. Not only did she eventually win all mine but she soon started beating everyone at school. Her collection became enormous and I could only stare with envy at the standard sized marbles and the bigger ‘alleys’ and ‘half-alleys’. I remember you could buy marbles in the shop for a couple of shillings but they were never as nice as our antique ones. My sister also had a pink, plastic dog on wheels with pushing handles. It looked for all the world like a mini-pram from a distance. She also had a cuddly toy bear, which she called Poodly-Woodly. I would often hide it which upset her but I would always give in and tell her where it was in the end. Once, while on holiday in Sidmouth, Devon, I threw it out of the window, onto the hotel roof. She couldn’t find it for days. When I finally showed her where it was, she told my parents and they made me retrieve it! I don’t think I ever hid it again after this.
Of course my sister also had plenty of dolls and she had Tiny Tears – the doll that cried! You fed the baby water from a miniature bottle and then she would cry when you turned her over:
I probably became bored with Lego around the age of ten so my dad bought me a Meccano set. I think it was about Set 5. I didn’t really get on with it though. I tried to build a crane from the plans but as you progressed, the nuts from earlier components would become loose and you would have to go back and tighten them all. In the end, it was like a house of cards.
In about 1969 or possibly 1970, a new phenomenon appeared in the UK toy car scene, Hot Wheels. I immediately ordered a set from Santa but I was disappointed. While the track was flexible, the joiners were inexplicably made from brittle plastic and broke very quickly. Within weeks, the track was useless and in the UK at least, you could not buy joiner replacements. However, I got lucky. My next door neighbours had a Matchbox Superfast set. This was Matchbox’s answer to Hot Wheels and was virtually identical. The crucial difference was that the joiners were flexible. I was stuck with a load of Hot Wheels cars and no track. But the cars would run on Superfast track. So, after some negotiation, I managed to persuade them to part with it. The result was many happy days running amazing tracks down the stairs from the landing and out onto the porch. Below is a picture of Matchbox Superfast cars:
One novelty, I should mention was American remote-control cars. When I was about five, our next-door neighbours’ father regularly traveled to America. After one trip, he presented his two sons with these remote-controlled cars. I can’t be certain but I think one was a Cadillac. These were way ahead of what we had in the UK – positively futuristic. We didn’t have remote-control until about 1980, when I did finally get one. American toys always had a mystique for me after seeing these two cars in the 60s.
After cars, I progressed to trains. Horny and Tri-ang trains were the thing. In 1968 the two companies hadn’t yet merged. I saw the Tri-ang Princess class pacifics of a friend’s train set and I had to have one of my own. My dad chose the Hornby Flying Scotsman train set. It had a lovely big, green steam engine, a tender, three standard carriages, a Pullman carriage and about twenty feet of track. At first, I just laid it on the carpet but it was soon clear this was not a good idea; the cat couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the train every time it came around.
“You need a proper, permanent track base,” my dad told me.
‘Great!’ I thought. ‘Maybe the loft? Or all round the landing!’
The problem was that we lived in an ultra-modern chalet house. It had a long, sloping roof so the loft was tiny and only about four feet high at its highest point. The landing was no good either.
Imagine, then, my horror when my dad bought home something door-sized! I had to build my whole set on a door-sized fibreboard panel which measured three feet and six inches wide by six feet and six inches long! My dad fixed it to the wall at waist height, in the study, and left me to it. To this day, I don’t understand why he couldn’t give me a panel four feet wide. Just another six inches! The amount of heartache caused by the missing six inches! First of all, I needed a mainline set, two tracks, one inside the other, because the Flying Scotsman is a mainline train. But this made the inner curve about 18 inches radius. Hornby didn’t make curves this tight! Even the outer curve was hanging over the edge of the panel. My dad had to screw a two-inch wide strip to the side so that the track fitted and I could have a station platform. For the inner track, I had to buy flexi-track, which was very expensive.
My train set days were not to be the paradise I had envisioned. The motors never ran smoothly and consequently I was constantly oiling them and cleaning the track with ‘track cleaner’. The problem was so acute that I converted a coal wagon to carry the cleaner. But the solution was too expensive so I had to substitute it with thinners and white-spirit. Unfortunately, this made the plastic sleepers brittle and they would break off. I had an elaborate plan for the set I would build but I never finished it. I found that toy trains are bloody expensive!
After trains, I progressed to model aircraft. Aircraft would quickly become my greatest love, but at first, my experiences with models were frustrating. My dad first whispered of rubber-powered wooden models when was about seven. I didn’t understand what he was talking about but after he brought home an Airfix Hawker Sea Fury and built it for me, I could see the attraction of a model that could fly.
My father brought home a Keil Kraft, rubber-powered Hawker Hurricane. The box contained balsa wood parts for the whole airframe but they weren’t even pressed out, as later kit parts would be! The box clearly said ‘Ages 10 and above’ and I was 7! It was too much! I struggled for a few weeks before consigning the kit to its box. Its unclear whether it was my father’s ambition or my own that would plague my early aircraft building career but the trend continued. When I was ten, Airfix had just released the first two aircraft kits at 1/24 Scale, the Hurricane and Spitfire. These were huge. I never was so impressed by the Spitfire as others; I thought then and in fact still think that the Spitfire is a bit ugly. I wanted the Hurricane. I think it cost £7.49 which was a huge sum at the time but I remember carrying the enormous box proudly home. Again, I wasn’t really old enough to build this kit. I managed to build the thing but it took months and frayed my nerves.
Other toys I remember from the 60s include toy guns. Although I refuse to touch a real gun these days, I had two Western style pistols, one a long-handled black one with an imitation pearl handle and a shorter barreled one. I also had a Winchester rifle. All fired caps. I had a battery torch which had a green and a red filter for the lens. You could shine a normal beam or flip over the filter and then everything in the room would turn green or red. I had a Mamod steam roller and several traction engines of a different make. I had a plastic friction-drive Comet airliner, whose make I have tried, and failed, to discover (please let me know if you remember this and know what it is). Another curiosity, which my father brought home in shrink wrap pack, was a tiny, a Lone Stardie-cast American diesel engine, along with some plastic track. It was just a push-along engine but later, I understand, the company used tiny electric motors. I loved it. but with about twelve inches of track and no carriages, it had limited play value. I had a Scalextric set, which was almost as old as me. I guess my dad must have bought it as soon as I was born! The cars were Grand Prix cars from the 1950s! I cannot omit mention of my finest toy; an Ever Ready London Underground set. My grandparents ran a combined Chemist and record shop in the 1960s and Ever Ready gave out 500 toy train sets of red, London Underground trains as a promotional gimmick. I inherited this. It wasn’t that much fun to play with because it only had a single circle of track but it looks great. It’s still in its box and the box is in good condition. When I last checked, one of these sets went at the auctioneer, Christies, for £500. That was ten years ago. If anybody else has one of these, let me know.
While I continued to work my way through the Airfix model aircraft range, my father moved me on to control-line aircraft. These were model aircraft whose control was by means of two steel wires which led from a handle, held by the owner. This system was much like the system used by aerobatic kites. The main difference was that these aircraft flew round you at speeds of up to 100 mph. For some reason, which is beyond my comprehension, my dad chose to buy me the fastest and most sensitive aerobatic model Keil Kraft made. It would be fair to say it was a competition only model. Not only that but the only model engine my dad could lend me was far too powerful. The result was a monster; far too fast for even the most expert control-line flyer to handle. When he powered it up for me in the field and let it go, it flew straight into the ground. And I mean, straight into the ground! I never had a chance. I was left with a bag of bits. Consequently, he bought me a smaller engine and we modified the design to make it a bit easier to handle. I rebuilt the model. It still didn’t last long but long enough to teach me the basics. I wanted more and progressed to a Focke Wulf 190 and eventually a Focke Wulf TA 152.
I ended up flying radio-controlled aircraft and even designing my own. My love of aircraft has never been quelled and that passion informs some of my thrillers, such as Attack Hitler’s Bunker!My love of technology led to me writing about Die Glocke (the Nazi Bell) in my subscription novel Rip.
List of toy cars that I can remember owning (most still in my parents’ loft):
Matchbox Dodge recovery truck (green and white)
Matchbox Lamborghini Muira (gold)
Matchbox Lamborghini Marzal (red)
Matchbox Lotus Europa (blue)
Matchbox 1968 Mercedes ambulance (white/cream)
Matchbox Mercedes Truck
Matchbox Ford Pickup (red)
Matchbox Refuse Truck (blue)
Matchbox Pipe Truck (red)
Matchbox GMC Refrigerator Truck (blue and red)
Matchbox Mercury Cougar (metallic green)
Matchbox Rolls Royce silver Shadow (Maroon)
Matchbox Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Coupe (gold)
Matchbox Ford Mercury Station Wagon (green)
Matchbox Iso Grifo (dark blue)
Matchbox BMC 1800 Pininfarina (gold)
Matchbox Ford GT40 (white)
Matchbox 1953 Aveling Barford Road Roller
Matchbox Site Hut Truck (blue)
Matchbox Ferret Scout Car (green)
Matchbox Ford 3 Ton 4×4 Service Ambulance (green)
Matchbox Faun 8 Wheel Crane (green with red jib)
Matchbox Ford Group 6 racing car (green)
Matchbox Ford Kennel Truck
Matchbox Massey Ferguson Tractor & Trailer (red)
Matchbox Gruesome Twosome (1971 ) (orange)
Matchbox Lotus Super Seven (1971) (orange)
Matchbox Firetruck (US style)
Matchbox Models of Yesteryear
Matchbox (1968) 1928 Mercedes Benz 36/220
Matchbox 1909 Thomas Flyabout
Matchbox King Size
Matchbox King Size Racing Car Transporter (green)
Matchbox King Size Scammell Contractor Pipe Truck (yellow)
Matchbox King Size Esso Heavy Wreck Truck (white)
Matchbox King Size Ford Mercury Station Wagon (white)
Matchbox King Size Lamborghini Muira (red)
Matchbox King Size Allis-Chalmers Motor Scraper (yellow)
Corgi 1961 No.1120 Midland Red Motorway Express Coach
Corgi Bentley Continental Sports Saloon (cream and green)
Corgi 1962 No.235 Oldsmobile Super 88 Sherriff car (black and white)
Corgi 1962 No.235 Oldsmobile Super 88 saloon (repainted black)
Corgi 1964 No.236 Austin A 60 Driving School Car
Corgi 1973 John Player Special Lotus 72 (black and gold)
Corgi MacLaren M19A racing car (orange and white)
Corgi 1960 No.226 Morris Mini-Minor (grey)
Corgi 1964 No.247 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman – working windscreen wipers (red)
Corgi 1965 No.249 Mini-Cooper De Luxe (known as the Wicker Mini)
Corgi 1965 No.248 Chevrolet Impala (repainted black)
Corgi 1965 No.248 Chevrolet Impala Police Patrol Car
Corgi 1968 No.266 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Corgi 1966 No.267 Batmobile with Figures of Batman + Robin
Corgi 1969 No.302 Hillman Hunter ‘London to Sydney’
Corgi 1970 No.301 Iso Grifo 7 litre (blue)
Corgi 1967 No.339 1967 Monte Carlo Mini-Cooper S (red)
Corgi 1960 No.417 Land Rover Breakdown Truck (red)
Corgi 1962 No.420 Ford Thames Airborne Caravan
Corgi 1963 No.441 Volkswagen Toblerone Van (with working headlights) (light blue)
Corgi 1966 No.437 Cadillac Ambulance
Corgi 1962 No.437 Superior Ambulance on Cadillac Chassis (with working lights)
Corgi 1966 No.494 Bedford Tipper Truck
Corgi 1967 No.479 Commer Mobile Camera Van
Corgi 2 x 1961 No.1123 Chipperfield Circus Animal Cage
Corgi 1962 No.1130 Chipperfield’s Circus Horse Transporter
Corgi 1966 No.1138 Carrimore Car Transporter with Ford tilt Cab
Corgi 1966 No.440 Ford Consul Cortina estate
Corgi Guy Warrior Tanker Corgi Junior Rocket Aston Martin DB6 (with key to remove chassis) (gold)
Dinky Alpha Romeo racing car (red)
Dinky Ferrari racing car (red)
Dinky Talbot Lago racing car (blue)
Dinky Mercedes Benz streamlined racing car (silver)
Dinky Masarati racing car (red and white)
Dink Ferrari 312 (of much later year ) (red and white)
Dinky Sunbeam Rapier Mk1
Dinky Toys Austin Van, ‘Raleigh Cycles’
Dinky Buick Riviera (light blue)
Dinky Four Berth Caravan (blue and white)
Dinky Four Berth Caravan (yellow with transparent roof)
Dinky Foden Diesel 8 wheel Wagon Flat Bed with chains (but mine are missing) (red)
Dinky Toys Pontiac Parisienne (red)
Dinky Toys Cadillac Eldorado (purple)
Dinky Ford Cortina Mk1 East African rally car (white)
Dinky MGB Sports Car
Dinky Humber Hawk Police
Dinky Toys Aveling-Barford Diesel Roller (green)
Dinky Toys Police Accident Unit Presentation Set (Ford Transit) (white)
Dinky Toys Police Accident Unit Presentation Set (Ford Mini Cooper S) (white)
Dinky Toys Police Accident Unit Presentation Set (Ford Zodiac) (white)
Dinky Toys Land Rover (dark green) with plastic, removable tarpaulin
Dinky Toys Shado 2 Mobile (dark green)
Dinky Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle – SPV – from Captain Scarlet (Blue)
Dinky AEC Fuel Tanker (white)
Dinky Chieftain Tank
Dinky Honest John Missile Launcher
Dinky D.H Comet Airliner
Dinky F4 Phantom
Dinky SEPECAT Jaguar
There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.
This week: Books Available on Wattpad, Free Giveaway Honorary Cliff Robertson Documentary and Memories of the 1960s: Issue II
Books Available on Wattpad
Wattpad is fast becoming the book writers’ and readers’ social network. The website at www.wattpad.com has a nice, neat interface and in fact the whole approach is heavy on ‘simple.’ This allows you to start scribbling a story or building up a library of free reading material in seconds.
The simplicity does make it a bit difficult to figure out some features but I quickly got the hang of it. I have about eight of my books there, mostly short stories, but also the first chapters of Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate and Too Bright the Sun.
If you are just starting out as a writer or want to read lots of free stories, take a look.
From Saturday 14th June until Monday 16th June, erotic odyssey The Ice Boat Volume I will be FREE on Amazon. If you like adult fiction, and be aware, this contains vivid scenes of a sexual nature, then make sure you grab a copy.
Honorary Cliff Robertson Documentary
Just a quick mention that the project has had roughly 50 followers in the last week! Thanks to all those who have liked the page. If you are interested in getting your name up in lights (for as little as $5) on a Hollywood produced documentary on the Academy Award winning actor, please like the project page here: https://www.facebook.com/cliffrobertsonhonorarydocumentary
Memories of the 1960s: Issue II
I had several nice comments about Issue I so here is another:
Most people will remember the most two most prominent aspects of television in the 1960s; no colour and the dreaded test cards!
Colour television didn’t arrive in the UK until 1967 (BBC2) and late 1969 (BBC1 and ITV). There were some early test programmes on BBC2 and I think I remember one featuring a carnival. My father designed television cameras for a living so we were the first family I knew to have a TV set that could receive and display colour. I remember the riot of ultra-vivid colour blasting out of the screen. It seemed to completely transform the world. There were of course hiccups. Many people turned the colour button up to full, which made greens and red so bright that you would quickly get a headache. Paul McCartney had been assured that the Magical Mystery Tour would be broadcast in colour on Boxing Day 1967. But BBC1 still had not made the transition to colour so he was to be disappointed.
Test cards were what you saw when there were no programmes being transmitted. This was usually between about 1 am and 5 am, 10 am and midday and between 2.30 pm and 4 pm (5 pm on BBC2, which was the ‘educational’ channel). During these times, all you would see was a strange grid pattern with the picture of a young girl holding a piece of chalk against a blackboard and a baloon behind her, in the centre of the grid. Classical or, if my memory serves me correctly, easing listening music would accompany the picture. It would suddenly disappear when transmissions started but this was haphazard as schedules would vary by up to ten minutes.
A curiosity was the National Anthem, played right at the end of transmissions, at about 1 am. This would be followed by a continual tone. Many times neighbours would fall asleep, drunk or otherwise intoxicated, leaving the loud tone to drone on all through the night.
It wasn’t unusual for transmissions to be interrupted by atmospheric condition or even other local phenomenons. There were rumours of ‘ghost’ transmissions from crazy amateurs or TV-guerrillas!
I met one of these later in life. A physics graduate, this guy, along with some mates, figured out how to fire their own transmission at the BBC transmitter aerial somewhere in London. if they got the modulation just right and cancelled out the original signal, they could broadcast their own anarchist message. They were not completely successful the first time because some of the original transmission did reach receivers within a very small radius of the transmitter.
Undeterred, the pirates came up with an ingenious solution. They surrounded the tower at the right moment, and let rise a circle of helium-filled balloons. From these, a reflective tube of thin material was raised to form a ‘curtain’ around the tower. When this rose, they were able to block all transmission from the BBC and broadcast their own to the home counties. My friend never did tell me what message they transmitted.
And what of TV programmes themselves? The first, I remember clearly, there was Muffin the Mule, followed by the Woodentops and Andy Pandy. These were closely followed by Bill and Ben, Play School, Trumpton and Camberwick Green, Pogles Wood and of course the ubiquitous Blue Peter.
As I grew and (some would deny) matured, I progressed to a list of classics which hardly anybody will remember but I can’t resist listing: Barrier Reef, Skippy, Flipper, The Singing Ringing Tree, Jackanory, Belle and Sebastien, The White Horses, early Japanese anime Marine Boy, Origami, Yoga with Richard Hittleman, Painting with Nancy Kominski, The Magic Roundabout, Hector’s House, White Horses (so romantic that girls loved it) and of course Doctor Who.
The 1970s were ushered in with some of my all-time favourites: The Aeronauts, The Crusader (sometimes called Tibor: The crusader) and The Flashing Blade. I suppose if one thing marks out these programmes, it’s the high level of action and the driving R&B soundtracks. In those days, The Beeb (as we called the BBC) was not above hiring small R&B bands to play their them tunes and in fact Pink Floyd actually sat and played along to the 1969 moon landing, live! Unfortunately, the recordings, if there ever were any, have been lost. These, slightly kitsch, programmes may have been the progenitor of my love for driving rhythm and blues and rock.
In my childhood, we weren’t encouraged to watch ITV. This was the ‘cowboy’ channel. Mind you, some parents forbade their kids to watch it. I was lucky. I could watch it and I did. I quickly discovered programmes like Catweazle and Magpie, ITV’s answer to Blue Peter.
ITV had a much more laissez-faire attitude to broadcasting. Where else could you get a gorgeous blonde, two middle-aged guys and an Old Father Time pretending to be American Indians while showing you how things worked (How). The gorgeous blonde was Jenny Hanley, daughter of the comedian Tommy Hanley, and I immediately fell for her. I was love struck and I think I may have even written and sent a letter to her. She never replied! The Old Father Time was Jack Hargreaves, one time director of ITV, who wrote How and went on to do another of my favourites, Out of Town. I only recently found out that he made and appeared in Gone Fishing, which I referred to in Memories of the 1960s Issue I. I do remember him saying that chubb tasted like ‘cotton wool filled with pins and needles!’
Who can forget The Banana Splits or the immortal phrase “Uh-oh! Chongo!” The Banana Splits were a wacky team of men in animal suits – a dog, a bear, chimpanzee and an elephant (which never made a sound!) who delivered a crazy menu of jokes, one-liners and zany music, interspersed with comedy or adventure mini-serials like Microcar, Danger Island (Uh-oh! Chongo!) and The Arabian Knights. Their theme tune has been immortalised by punk band The Dickies and anybody who watched it as a kid will never forget the assault on their senses by the colour and sound of the Banana Splits.
I must also make a quick mention of H.R Pufnstuf, which was almost as psychedelic as The Banana Splits and more surreal – I have to believe both serials were invented by guys taking too much acid. In it Jack Wild, the talented youngster from the hit musical Oliver! strutted his stuff while battling through puberty himself. I never understood what the hell was going on, but then I guess that was the beauty of it!
Some more of my all-time favourites were the Gerry Anderson serials; Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO. I am too young to remember Fireball XL5, Supercar and Battery Boy etc, but I loved Thunderbirds.
The first episode, Trapped in the Sky, I watched, as I watched many, with my father. We would have been out, possibly fishing or to Church and come home to chicken pie or roast chicken at Sunday lunchtime. I would beg my mother to let me eat it in the lounge, with my knees stuffed under and ancient, miniature titling stool like a piano stool and, if I succeeded in persuading her, my dad would watch too. The amount of testosterone pumping through my system after watching these superhero brothers dicing with death in futuristic, jet or diesel powered behemoths probably gave me indigestion!
Then there was Captain Scarlet. This was one man against the evil Mysterons. And he was reincarnated! In fact, he died in every episode and his steady stare above a square jaw, only slightly more mobile than Mount Rushmore, gave no emotional hint of his suffering! I was hooked! Unfortunately it was rarely shown. A rumour would go around that there was one on TV (God knows where kids heard about it) or I would see it in the listings and then tune in, goggle-eyed! I would later learn that not only was the theme of death and reincarnation, Captain Scarlet representing a modern ‘Jesus’, considered too scary for kids but apparently Anderson had had his funding cut and all the character represented his revenge’portrayal of senior ITV management personnel. Captain White was Lew Grade, for instance. Soon the programme was moved to a late night slot. It was followed by UFO, which I also loved, but again, it seemed to be rarely shown on TV, unless I was out playing at the time. I did’t get to see the full series until about 2010.
Then there was Star Trek! By 1970, I was allowed to stay up until about 8.30 pm, twice per week, with my father chaperoning me. He loved Star Trek so I was able to drink in the colourful American vision of the future. The other evening programme, which I watched a lot, was The Virginian. This may seem vastly different from Star Trek, and it was, but it featured many stars of the future; Angie Dickinson, Doug McClure, Lee Majors and many others. And how can I ever forget the dry wit and calming influence of Medicine Bow’s sherrif, played by Clu Gulager?
In 1970, my father brought home the first portable television I had ever seen. None of my friends had one, or had even seen one. For me, it wasn’t that surprising – I regularly found bits of TV cameras strewn across my father’s study – but it was a mouth-watering opportunity. With two televisions, and one being portable, I could finally see a way to get access to the mythical ‘European movies’ that my friends whispered about reverently at school.
The portable TV was only black and white and only had a ten inch screen (I think, possibly twelve) but I quickly made excuses to watch it:
“Oh, star Trek is on at the same time as that film, you and mum want to watch. Can I take the portable upstairs?”
My parents, trusting me as they did, let me take it to my room on condition that I would turn it off after Star Trek. Of course, I did. But then, a careful perusal of the Radio Times’ late night schedule would reveal some dubious ‘European’ movie, usually with no, or very little, description and no (in those days) cast list. I would put the TV in my bed, so that the sound and light were muffled. Then, until the early hours of the morning I would watch Sylvia Kristel (only guessing here, I don’t remember who these people were) undressing and committing carnal acts on wiry, shady men, who always wore socks, and usually their underpants, I seem to remember. Thankfully, they usually left their umbrellas and bowler hats at the door. I guess I nearly came unstuck when I saw Get Carter (1971, I know, but indulge me!). The violence in the film didn’t bother me too much but when he murders the prostitute by injecting her with heroine, I was shocked. I think this may have left a lasting mark on me but I do think the late-night films widened my horizons considerably.
The daytime and evening film fare was usually a Western but the first daytime film I (vaguely) remember being impressed withe was The Wages Of Fear. I had to see it again recently to remind myself of the nitro-glycerine, nerve shattering tension in the film. If you haven’t seen it it yet, make sure you do.
Finally, I have to mention other activities resulting from watching TV (apart from romantic, that is). I probably first felt the inspiration to try fishing while watching Out of Town. During the massive interest in the Gerry Anderson programmes, there was the TV21 annual. 21 stood for ‘Twenty-first Century,’ and the annual, much more exciting than the Blue Peter annual, had plans for all sorts of crazy things you could build.
My two favourites were a version of a tree-house, which you actually suspended from the eaves of a house using pulleys, rope and packing crates or bits of destroyed go-carts, and an SPV simulator. The SPV was Captain Scarlet’s vehicle and SPV stood for ‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle.’ Of course, nearly every boy I knew had a toy SPV. But to actually drive one? That would be something. The detailed drawing showed you how to make scenery, which would then run endlessly on a conveyor-belt within a cardboard box, cut to look like a TV monitor. In the full-sized SPV (nobody ever built one, but indulge me again here), the driver faced backwards, to save his body from damage during high-G braking, so he could only see the road through a monitor. The conveyor belt was powered by pedals which in turn were powered by the ‘driver’s’ feet. It was all hilariously good fun. I didn’t, but if anybody did build any of these things, please let me know!
Well, I think that’s about it. Please let me know your memories by posting a comment below.