Roobarb and Custard

Roobarb (left) and Custard (right)According to Wikipedia, the program was just called Roobarb (the dog’s name) but we used to call it Roobarb and Custard, obviously a common error or it wouldn’t be mentioned in the fount of all knowledge. Custard was pink and Roobarb was yellow but apparently not, apparently he was green. I beg to differ. You see in reality, custard is yellow and stewed rhubarb is pink, so the logic is that the cat called Custard will be pink and the dog called Roobarb yellow. No-one ever heard of green custard unless it was that gross school dinners thing where a chocolate cornflake cake would be covered in green mint sauce which we used to call ‘hedgehogs and toothpaste’. I rest my case.

I loved this cartoon because the cat was so sarcastic and there were also loads of groany awful puns. “Roobarb shook off his disguise as he decided the whole idea of being a piece of bread had gone a bit stale.” It was basically battles between a cat and dog which was closer to my experience than the Tom and Jerry cat and mouse thing. And the birds were hilarious. I loved the music too, used to sing it loudly.

According to the creator Grange Calveley on roobarbandcustard.tv, the first Roobarb film was When Roobarb Made a Spike. He based the character on his own dog (who wasn’t yellow or green but a border collie) and stalked the BBC until they agreed to let him make some animations. They contracted him for 30 5-min episodes after watching the Spike pilot. Wow. Imagine that now? Another fave is When Roobarb Didn’t See The Sun Come.

It was narrated by Richard Briers and animated badly (deliberately according to Wikipedia) giving it a homespun feel. Animated by Bob Godfrey, this pair also wrote Noah and Nelly in the Skylark which was one of my favourite cartoons due to the knitting (and I’m sure will make an appearance on Popandcrisps soon). Kids now think it’s bad (see some comments on the youtube vids) but what they may not realise is that we thought it looked bad back then as well – compared to American slick animations – but it was cult-tacky and we loved it because it was so bad. The fabulousness was the story and character, the simple images firing our imagination. Slick animation with a boring plot doesn’t get close. In fact, the shaky animation was part of the appeal, and I would vibrate with excitement in a very good imitation of Roobarb.

There’s a new series now Roobarb and Custard Too, which is computer animated but is still shaky, which I’m glad about. Unlike many of the Seventies remakes, this is written by the same person as before and narrated by the same person. So it’s updated in some ways but retains the fabulousness.

Roobarb runningI have noticed something since watching these old episodes. When he runs with his ears up, Roobarb looks like my dog Mika.

 


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

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Good Old Bod

BodI loved Bod with his funny walk, bald head and apple pip eyes. All the characters had their own theme music including pom-pom-pom music for the policeman who had a plodding walk. Bod’s music was a chirpy little piccolo or flute. At the beginning you’d just see a blank screen with a little dot getting bigger and eventually this would turn into Bod or one of the other characters. You had to guess who it was going to be.

The actual program was called Here Comes Bod, I think, but we always called it simply Bod. The animation was minimal with the only things that moved on a character being the legs and the backgrounds were block colour. When they were walking towards the viewer, they just got bigger and their legs went up and down. It was very funny. The story was narrated so the characters didn’t even have to open their mouths and their speech was reported. As far as I can tell from research, the show was based on a series of books, though I don’t remember ever seeing the books. There is a current Here Comes Bod website, but no more Bod shows only repeats.

To watch it now is amazing nostalgia, not only for the simplistic animation compared to today’s children’s programs but for the fact that all the characters are white and holed up into nice little gender and class categories. Although interestingly the creators assert that Bod means anything with no race or gender. According to an interview with the adult children of the creators of Bod, there is a deep philosophical significance behind the program. I didn’t notice it as a child, possibly because everything was magical and philosophical to me back then. Great marketing though! They did it with Pooh Bear, now they’re doing it with Bod.

Bod and friends

 Each episode was only five minutes long according to wikipedia, but strangely I remember them as being longer. Maybe that’s just my faulty memory. At the end of the Bod adventure, there was another mini program within the program (see the post-modern metatextuality there?) about Alberto Frog and his travelling band. The band was made up of different animals and they usually had to play somewhere – the frog was the conductor. Then Alberto would ask for a milkshake and you had to guess which flavour he would choose. I didn’t like the Alberto Frog bit as much as I liked Bod. I think it was because I didn’t like how the Alberto narrator talked, and listening to her on youtube I can understand why, because I never did respond well to being patronised.


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

Lowry’s Matchstalk Men

An example of Lowry's art, one of many, see the video for moreThis 1978 song brought Lowry’s painting to a wider audience, before this most of us in the Midlands hadn’t heard of him and presumably the further south you went the least likely you’d be to find a Lowry fan. He died in 1976, and the song was written as a tribute by Brian and Michael who never had another hit. It went into the charts and everyone knew about Lowry’s matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs.

Perhaps I have skewed vision on this. It is entirely possible that many people in the midlands and south of England were aware of Lowry as an artist, it’s just that I wasn’t aware of him as I was growing up until this song became famous and his paintings started to be shown on the telly. Up to that point, my perception of art was the Mona Lisa and The Haywain (my mum was from rural Worcestershire and we had a print of The Haywain at home and this was my fantasy of pastoral life).

So when I started to see these cartoonish paintings of buildings and crowds of undernourished people it was quite mind blowing. That’s art? That was something that I could paint myself! That was something that a normal person could achieve. Apart from the main question of why on earth would anyone want to paint factories and streets as I had grown up to despise these scenes and idealise the countryside, I started to wonder whether it was possible for me to be an artist. This can only be a good thing as although I am not such an artist as to make a living from it, I do consider myself artistically creative.

Some of the lyrics of the song were confusing, for instance for me ‘clogs’ were something that people from Holland in the olden times wore. It blew my mind all over again when I realised that children ‘up north’ were wearing wooden shoes in my lifetime. I suppose it beats going without shoes altogether but it brought home to me how protected and fortunate I was, privileged compared to some though still in comparative poverty compared to many children today (again it depends on how you look at it, children today have a poverty of freedom compared to what we had in the seventies). Even though I used to walk around without shoes for most of my childhood, the point is that I had the choice.

I think a lot of it is a class thing, like the refusal to call himself an artist (Lowry said he was a person who paints, so I wonder if anyone hired him to decorate their dining room?). That demonstrates an inverse snobbery and a pride in his working roots. Perhaps this is not necessary now in our supposedly classless society, but it may be an interesting study to find out what a person considers beautiful, what they would choose to paint if they were an artist. Factories or fields?

Back to the record – it was the St Winnifred’s School Choir singing in the background, who were also famous for singing the godawful There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma.


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

The Bionic Woman

Lindsay Wagner as Jaime SommersI named my doll Jamie after Jamie Summers, the bionic woman (although I’ve just found out from Wikipedia that her name was spelled Jaime Sommers). Anyway the fact that I named my one and only doll after her demonstrates how much I loved the character and the programme. Although The Bionic Woman was a spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man (who cost about as much as a house in London would today so maybe not that expensive), for me Jamie was much more important than Steve Austin. Lindsay Wagner in 2007 receiving TV Land awardJamie was played by Lindsay Wagner who I always thought looked like she could be a member of my family and I imagined being like her when I grew up. And wow, she is still beautiful now. Isn’t it amazing what a bit of bionics can do for you? She only looks a couple of years older than me! One of the things that was excellent about having a bionic woman was that in most of the other action programmes around at the time, the woman would be the victim. But like with Charlie’s Angels and Wonderwoman, this was the new idea that women didn’t always have to be rescued but could rescue themselves. Annoyingly though, they were still soppy over men and swooning as soon as the male rescuer turned up. For instance, the whole reason that Jamie was bionic was because she was Steve’s girlfriend and if she hadn’t been then she’d have just died or been disabled after her skydiving accident. The Bionic Woman with the Bionic DogThere was also a fabulous dog called Maximillion who used to bite through iron bars to escape from the cages he kept getting shut in. When he did this, the film went into slow motion and there was this strange echoing music, the same as when Jamie jumped or listened through her bionic ear. I always marvelled at how he bit through the metal but my mum, ever ready to dispel my sense of wonder, told me that they were probably made of sugar. The Bionic Woman was remade in 2007 but according to Wikipedia was stalled during the Great Writers’ Strike and then didn’t continue. I haven’t watched any of it as I was quite cynical that it might spoil my memories of the original so I can’t comment on whether it’s any good.


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

Space Hoppers

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPANDCRISPS!

ONE YEAR OLD THIS WEEK WH-HOO!

Let’s play some bubblegum music and drink babysham in our hotpants.

(now, for today’s post…)

Space Hopper in original Seventies OrangeHopping mad I was that I didn’t have one of these ingenious devices for myself as I would have bounced all day. I think we may have had one between us for a short while, or a neighbour had one, or something. Anyway I do remember there being an orange inflatable with horns and a funny face in my life at some point. Those horns got very dirty and were prone to be sucked on by younger siblings. I still remember the rubbery smell of it.

I could go into all sorts of detail about the stories I’ve heard of what uses the double-horns of the space hopper got put to, but this is a reasonably clean site so far and I’d like to keep it that way!

They were introduced in the very early Seventies, according to wikipedia, and I believe they are still available, and in different colours to the original orange. The most popular period was definitely the Seventies and the name, the image and everything about the idea of bouncing down the street in the absence of health and safety rules conjures up the Seventies for me. It is such an iconic image that it’s on the BBC cult site.

There is no other purpose for the space hopper than bouncing, as this nifty bit of youtubery demonstrates. Of course you’re always going to get the idiots. And it’s interesting how many adults play with the space hopper now, perhaps because they loved it so much as children?

I’ll leave you with Coppers on Hoppers while I go and pee myself.


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

Johnny Morris and Animal Magic

Johnny Morris with a chimpAnimal Magic was one of the few children’s TV programs that adults liked to watch as well. Johnny Morris was the presenter and he used to climb into the cages with the animals and play with them. They would include him in whatever it was that they were doing, often it was monkeys and apes in my memory, or that might just be due to the repetition of one famous clip.

Anyway, there would also be footage of other animals like lions that Jonny couldn’t play with. So it was basically an animal clip show. Seeing the intro on YouTube takes me right back, especially the music.

What made it special was the voiceover that Johnny would provide, where he did a voice for the animal, usually a funny one, and he would speak for it. This method was used for great comedy, because as well as the antics of the animals you got Jonny’s interpretation of their thoughts. You still get the silly voiceover in clip shows today, like Oops TV and Harry Hill’s TV Burp, but Johnny Morris was there first.

I loved Terry Nutkins as well, I always thought his name was made up because it sounded like a squirrel. He used to be on the program sometimes, especially with a seal who did tricks. This documentary has Terry talking about good old Johnny.


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

Catweazle

Geoffrey Bayldon as CatweazleI loved Catweazle! I love cats and always have, and I wanted to be Catweazle because he lived wild, was a magician and completely barmy. Oh and he went around in raggedy old clothes and didn’t care how dirty he got. That would have been me at age around six. Catweazle has nothing to do with cats, by the way, but with the name and his whiskers there’s a link.

Catweazle had a frog called Touchwood (sounds a lot like Torchwood doesn’t it??) and he had funny names for things like he called the telephone the ‘telling bone’. There was a lot of real magic in the program, scrying and runes and things that are authentic for his period (1066, Catweazle was a Saxon). There aren’t a great many special effects in the program, as it was a budget British 1970 TV show, but some great acting. I always got the feeling that it was ‘proper’ magic rather than flash-bangs, and now I’ve found a photo of him I know for sure. Whoever designed the costume either was pagan themselves or knew someone who was.

In the beginning, Catweazle is escaping the Norman soldiers and accidentally escapes into a 1970 farm. There he meets the farmer’s son, Edward, and the first thing he says is ‘art thou Norman?’ to which Ed replies, ‘no my name’s Edward.’ Classic. I remembered this scene from the book, which I read when I was about nine.

In some ways, Catweazle is similar to Wurzel Gummidge who was a scarecrow that came to life. I loved Wurzel Gummidge but I loved Catweazle more because of the magic. According to Wikipedia, the programme was also popular in New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Sweden and Norway. There is a fan club and you can order the DVDs on Amazon.


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