Happy Seventies New Year Everyone

Snowball made from advocaat, recipe from Nigella and my GranNormal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Once I’ve finished overdosing on the Babycham, Snowballs and Cherry B.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

White Christmas

Snowed in looks pretty but may not be so nice if you can't get warmIs it my imagination or were there more white Christmases in the Seventies? Let’s look at wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge. Well what a disappointment, it looks like it was my imagination after all. Apparently in Birmingham there was snow at Christmas in 1970 which I would be too young to remember, and in London snow in 1976 which I would only have seen on TV. Then the next snow at Christmas was in 1981.

The Met office have a fact sheet outlining the instances of White Christmases, where they demonstrate that there is harsher weather now than in past years. “In fact, in terms of widespread sleet/snow falling across the United Kingdom on Christmas Day, between 1971 and 1992 there was only one year (1980), whereas in the years 1993 to 2003 there were five such occasions.”

The reason that a white Christmas is so ingrained in the British culture is due to the extremely cold ‘Little Ice Age’ between 1550 and 1850 when the River Thames would freeze every year. Our romanticising of the harsh weather may be linked to our romanticising generally of the pre-industrial age. When an elderly or infant relative dies through lack of a well-heated house (which happened quite often in 1550-1850), then snow at Christmas may not seem so picturesque.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Fanny Cradock

Johnnie (left) and Fanny CradockIt’s just not Christmas without some Fanny. I mentioned her earlier in the year when talking about Seventies food. Fanny Cradock had a cookery show which may well have been the first of the ‘performance cookery’ style shows you still see today. Every year we watch the same Christmas series of Fanny in repeats, and snigger at the scene where she lubricates the dry bird.

What I love about Fanny Cradock is the way she dresses as if for a dinner party, jewellery, makeup (her eyebrows two inches higher than they should be), and this fixed big hair that makes her look like a doll or a drag queen. I find this appearance so fascinating that I watch her moving more than what she’s cooking.

Then she’s so bossy, really stroppy about people who don’t do things her way and don’t listen to her instructions. For instance she tells the story of the woman who bought orange flower face wash to put in a cake because Fanny’s recipe had orange flower water in it. And she bosses around her assistants who come in to clear up after her. We’re all used to this sort of thing from chefs now since seeing bad tempered people like Gordon Ramsay, but it was quite shocking in the Seventies to see someone so rude on telly.

Fanny fell out of favour in 1976 by crossing the line in rudeness. She insulted a woman who’d won a prize to cook with her and her show was taken off the air. Full story on Wikipedia.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

The Good Life

Tom and Barbara of The Good Life in their gardenMost people who decide to go self sufficient will move to the country to live the good life on a farm. Tom and Barbara Good didn’t want to move so they converted their suburban semi into a small holding, much to the dismay of Margot and Jerry, their neighbours. This was the premise of the sit-com The Good Life which was one of my favourite adult programs when I was a child.

The main reason that I loved it was because it seemed so lovely to be able to live off the land like that, grow your own food, make your own clothes etc. Though it seems in retrospect (repeats on satellite) that it is a bit too twee and not realistic at all. It was, apparently, based on a true story of a couple who did just what Tom and Barbara have done. But probably with a lot more hard work and less laughs. The run-in with the local fruit&veg seller could have been much more dangerous for instance.

Tom and Barbara on left, Margot and Jerry on rightThe comedy stems from the difficulties Tom and Barbara encounter by trying to live a simple life in complex surroundings. For instance they have no income and have to pay their rates, so raid a pennies jar and go to the council offices with a large bag of coins. After they’ve paid the tax, as they walk through town they realise that they have no money left in the world, and Barbara needs the toilet but they have no penny for the public loo.

There is also a lot of comedy surrounding Margot’s distaste at the home-made food and wine Tom and Barbara serve when she visits, and the mud in their garden. There is nearly always a scene where Margot falls into something horrible or gets splashed and of course she is very fashion-conscious with high heels and expensive clothes. Margot was very houseproud and Jerry generally portrayed as hen-pecked.

Bird and flower from opening credits of The Good LifeThe opening credits were an animation of a bird flying around a daisy which loses its petals and they are replaced by the letters of the title. I really liked that as it was quite simple and very Seventies. Huge flowers and birds were ‘in’.

Tom and Jerry annoyed me but I loved Barbara and thought Margot was fabulous. Barbara was played by Felicity Kendall and Margot by Penelope Keith. These were my favourite characters, though according to Wikipedia, the show was written as a vehicle for Richard Briers who played Tom.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Trumptonshire Folk

Trumpton firemenTrumpton was the major town of Trumptonshire, in which there was also a neighbouring village of Camberwick Green.

This was the name of the stop-animation children’s program which was first produced about this fictional English county. The shows were all named after the location, so there was Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley (also a village).

Windy MillerThe characters are reminiscent of Playmobil models, and I used to think that’s what they were. I loved all of the shows and characters, especially Windy Miller who would always manage to walk out of his mill without having his head chopped off by the sails.

Other memorable characters are the women who worked at the biscuit factory and stopped for the six o’clock whistle and the firemen: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb, and their commander Captain Flack. (Pugh and Pugh were twins) According to the Trumptonshire Web, these names are often remembered wrongly, but they very handily have the original role call on audio on the site.

The problem for my memory is that because of the shows being interlinked, some characters appearing in two or all three, and narrated by the same voice – Brian Cant – I always mixed them up. And if I mixed them up as a child, there is no way I’m going to distinguish them nearly forty years later. Luckily Wikipedia has some quite comprehensive information about Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green.

Opening and closing credits were different for the three programs, with the firemen playing a brass concert on the bandstand in Trumpton and one of the others finishing with the six o’clock whistle and all workers in the biscuit factory having a dance. One of the programs opened with a toybox like a drum opening up and a figure appearing, it would be a different figure each day and you would have to guess who it was. The last time I watched any of these programs was when I was about five, so I’m amazed I remember this much.

My favourite song was Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train and I still remember the tune. Brian Cant, in this BBC interview says that Wallace and Gromit was influenced by the Trumpton trilogy. It’s nice to know that it wasn’t just me that dreamed about making my own models and animating them. And at least the Aardman people actually did something about it.

If you’re interested in Trumpton trivia, you may want to try out the BBC quiz – at least one of the questions has already been answered for you in this blog!

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


Parky (left) with Michael Caine and Elton John in 1971‘Parky’ is the eponymous interviewer of stars. His show was one of many talk shows during the Seventies, but Michael Parkinson has outlasted and returned.

Lately it seems that he is the one everyone wants to watch and his is the show the stars want to be seen on. One of the marks of major celebrity status is to be interviewed on Parkinson.

There aren’t many talk shows that stick to the format of having the interviewer and interviewee just sitting on chairs in front of an audience and it’s actually quite refreshing to see this simple set up now. It gives more of a focus to the guest I think.

Parky being bitten by a puppet he was interviewing in the SeventiesA famous Parky moment was when he was attacked by Rod Hull’s Emu (which was a puppet so actually attacked by Rod Hull) during an interview. I remember as a child I didn’t really watch Parkinson as it was quite a grown up program and boring for me. However, when the clip of Emu attacking him came on the news, I watched that and laughed!

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

High Street Hardship

Bread queue in London from BBC websiteToo much talk is going on lately about how we can’t afford to buy stuff. This is driving me bonkers. In the Seventies we had to queue up to buy bread and there was a rule of only one loaf per family. How on earth would today’s families cope with that? There’d be a public outcry with people complaining that the government should do something. Actually, the reason for the shortage of bread was a bakers’ strike, but there were all sorts of other shortages and people just didn’t buy the number of non-edible consumables that they do today.

Many people then didn’t have one car, let alone two. If you had a fridge that was good, and very few families owned a freezer. One TV for the whole family was the norm, situated in the living room. Kids who had TVs in their bedrooms were considered spoiled. There wasn’t such a thing as a games console, but when personal computers started appearing, they would also be used in the family main room – generally because you had to hook them up to the TV to use as monitor. I remember laughing when I found out my Gran had got a little black and white portable TV for her kitchen. It seemed completely crazy.

We didn’t have carpet upstairs. It was this awful green ancient lino that was brittle and had holes in it. Under the green it was black, and the edges of the holes were black soft plastic stuff a bit like tar. Where the holes were the floorboards showed through and you’d get splinters if you went around in bare feet. I was about fourteen when I first had carpet in my bedroom and it seemed an amazing luxury, yet this is something we take for granted now.

Our infants’ school uniform was gingham, bloody horrible gingham. My mum bought yards of the stuff and made dresses for us all from the same pattern. We had pants and socks new but everything else came in large bin bags from Gran, where she’d got all her friends in the village to donate their children’s cast-offs. I remember going shopping for clothes for the first time with my Mum when I was about twelve, to the market and I had my first ever pair of jeans.

Let’s face it, the people who are suffering in this credit crunch are not the people who have stopped buying all this junk. They (we) don’t need it, don’t know we need it until the advertisers tell us we do. We can easily do without it. The people who are suffering are the retailers and manufacturers of the junk, who have got used to a certain level of goods sold. They are going to have to find something else to do with their business instead of being purveyors of trash. Perhaps they could go and work as farmers or doctors or something more useful?

Next time I hear someone complaining because they can’t afford the latest gadget or clothes that are ‘in season’ I’m going to scream. Really scream. And then I’ll be locked up. But at least I won’t have to listen to spoilt Thatcher-generation whiners.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

The Clangers

Clangers from BBC Cult ClassicsThey were aliens for children, little pink knitted creatures with long noses that made funny noises and lived in the craters on the moon.

The Clangers used dustbin lids to cover the crater holes and wore metallic clothes that looked a bit like armour. They would make things out of scrap, a bit like The Wombles, and ate blue string soup. The Soup Dragon would come to steal the soup. It was marvellous. I loved the voice of the narrator (Oliver Postgate). He sounded very friendly.

I actually didn’t know they were pink until I was much older, because we watched it in black and white. Likewise with Bagpuss, which I’m sure I’ll blog about at some point.

I don’t remember any of the storylines, but they all sort of meld into one in my brain, where the soup dragon comes after the clangers and they manage to get rid of him but not before he’s stolen the string out of the soup. I also seem to remember there was usually a message about peace and loving each other, not overcrowding or polluting. There nearly always was that sort of message in children’s TV of the Seventies.

Froglets!I’d forgotten about some of the characters like the Iron Chicken and the Froglets until I started researching for this. Also I have found out that the blooping noises they make with a whistle are actually translatable into real words, including swearing!

According to Wikipedia, the last episode was a four-minute election special broadcast on my fourth birthday. I must have missed that one. I seem to remember there was a power cut on my fourth birthday but it might have been my fifth.

As the episodes are only 10 minutes long, a whole one can be fitted on YouTube. Lovely. Treat yourself to some nostalgia.

EDIT Tues 9th Dec 2008. I found out this morning that Oliver Postgate has sadly died. His death is a great loss to imagination and creativity.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Close Encounters

One of the posters for Close EncountersThe full title of the film was Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but everyone called it Close Encounters for short. This was a modern aliens film, before which all sci-fi films had cast the aliens as hostile invaders. Though the mind control business was a bit scary, especially things like the repetitive tune (buh-buh-buh-boo-boooo) and the mashed potato mountain, the film was essentially about a benign visitation with attempted communication.

Richard Dreyfuss, who was in Jaws, played the lead character (according to Wikipedia, director Steven Spielberg wanted Steve McQueen in this role). He was a normal American bloke who had witnessed a flying saucer along with a group of others. Afterwards all of the people who had been there had visions of a mountain and had that tune in their heads. It became more imperative as time went on and he started to build the mountain in his home, which prompted his wife to leave him. I loved this bit because he was acting completely crazy and she was worried about what people would think. aliens in silhouette on Close Encounters

All the people went up to the mountain even though officials had tried to block it off and met the spaceship, which played music. People came out of the spaceship, and they were all past abductees. We saw the aliens right at the end and even then only in silhouette. It was quite a simplistic storyline, but the power of it was in the special effects and the strength of the characters as they were slowly driven crazy by the calling to visit the mountain.

I first saw the film in the early Eighties but it was made in the 1977 so warrants a place here. We used to sing the tune in a spooky way whenever we were thinking of UFOs. I had to have ‘the third kind’ explained to me, as I’m sure many others did, because it was an era of sequels and I wondered what had happened to the first two films.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Morcambe and Wise

Classic posed shot of comedy duo Morcambe (left) and WiseThe Morcambe and Wise show, and especially the Christmas special, has Seventies written all over it. According to Wikipedia, families would judge the quality of their Christmas on the quality of the M&W Christmas special. What do you think of it so far? Rubbish!

The show was a basic sketch show/variety show which was common of the time and featured guest stars playing bit parts in the sketches and musical interludes from popular groups who would then often play bit parts as well. What was funny was the way that Eric Morcambe would constantly take the pee out of everyone, Ernie Wise mainly being the butt of his jokes, but also various guests.

They used to share a bed on set, and often performed sketches in their pyjamas as they were going to bed. Arguing over who took the blanket, or switch off the light etc. Sometimes they would do sketches over a breakfast table. There was a very famous one where they danced to The Stripper. They did all this in front of a live studio audience. I was never sure whether the intention with these sketches was to make them out to be a couple. There wasn’t any sexual content at all, but the sharing a bed thing made it dubious.
The more recent comedy duo that bears the most resemblance to Morcambe and Wise are Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, perhaps because Vic is quite similar to Eric Morcambe in his humour and the faces he pulls.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room