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

Jo Fox’s 1978 Diary

Joanne Fox, is a short story writer published in women’s magazines, and winner of Frome Festival short story competition 2007. “Looking at your great blog really jogged my memory about the 70s and so I had a root through my filing cabinet to see what mementoes I had tucked away.”

Radio One 1978 diaryI would have been fourteen when I tore the Christmas paper from my Radio One Diary for 1978. At that age I was obsessed with music. Few presents from my mum can ever have prompted as much excitement as this little book. And how glad I am that my diary has survived.

On the front cover, Leo Sayer springs into the air, wearing white trousers with braces and a slightly manic smile. White trousers were clearly the in thing in the late seventies because when I turn the page I find Canadian disc jockey Kid Jensen in huge white flares, white boots and a Radio One sweatshirt. I was more of a John Peel fan, but the biographies of all the Radio One D.J.s at the front of this diary were riveting reading. Ed Stewart, Dave Lee Travis, Alan Freeman, the lovely Anne Nightingale – their names conjure up hours of happy listening.

On the page for personal information, below my name and address, I have written three vital details:

“Rick Wakeman is ACE”
“Status Quo are excellent”
“Bay City Rollers should be boiled in oil”

Yes, at fourteen the evidence is that I wanted to be a rock chick! At the bottom of every diary page is a space headed “This week’s chart topper is…” I have to say I am impressed that I filled in all the number one hits, from Mull of Kintyre in January, to the Commodores Three Times a Lady in mid-September. So, apart from my opinions on the Bay City Rollers, what other gems did I record in my messy ballpoint?

Jo Fox in 1978On Friday the 13th of January I wrote “Today is here!” I quite like the celebratory tone of this observation. On the 24th I noted that the lead singer of the band Chicago had died, and a month later I saw Star Wars. I still remember queuing in the rain to get into the Odeon in Derby for the afternoon screening!

In March Kate Bush reached number one with ‘Wuthering Heights’. She seemed so different from everyone else in the charts, and I found her combination of weirdness and beauty fascinating. I too wanted to wave my arms around and sing in a high voice, “It’s me, Cathy, come home…” In fact, I probably did when no-one was watching.

Also during March I saw Gordon Giltrap at the Derby Assembly Rooms. I was learning guitar and I’d have loved to be as good as he was. The next concert I went to was in June – Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street fame. By now, Boney M were number one with Rivers of Babylon. I hated it! But not as much as I hated the hit that topped the charts after that, You’re the One that I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

In August I went on a family holiday to the Welsh resort of Tenby. We always stayed in ‘flatlets’, which was a posh way of describing bedsits-by-the-sea. Sadly my diary entries tail off soon after writing that Keith Moon had died on September 7th. What happened in September to end my devotion to my diary? I can only guess that once I moved up a year at school, filling in the week’s number one seemed a rather nerdy thing to do.

However there are still some surprises in the address section at the end of the diary. I had several penpals, two in Germany, one each in Austria, France, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Australia. A schoolfriend was part of a penpal club and she used to get a booklet, similar to a book of raffle tickets. For (I think) 10p you could buy a ticket with the name and address of someone abroad who wanted a UK penpal. Then you could start writing to a total stanger about your guinea pigs, your latest Abba L.P. or your crush on your physics teacher. Most of my penpals fell by the wayside, not least because postage ate up too much of my pocket money! When I look at their names now I wonder where they are. In their attics or filing cabinets, have they stashed away their old diaries with my name and address inside? I’d love to know.

As I close my diary, I see Elton John on the back cover. He has a gappy smile, sunglasses (despite being indoors) and that ubiquitous Radio One sweatshirt.

1978 was a good year for me. So, well done mum for choosing a present all those years ago that still amuses me today!

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

Joe 90

Joe 90 on his video coverOf all the supermarionations, my favourite was Joe 90 which was repeated through the Seventies though it was first shown in 1968 and according to Wikipedia only one series was made. So technically if you’re going to be picky I shouldn’t be talking about it here. However, this is my site so I will.

My name being Joe (and I spelled it like that then) and having blonde hair and glasses made me a candidate for being called Joe 90 as an insult. I think it happened twice before the children who were trying to insult me realised that I was pleased to be called Joe 90 and so they stopped. Of course.

Joe 90 inside the space ballThe idea behind Joe 90 was that he was the son of a scientist who created a machine called BIG RAT and these special specs that made him have superpowers and he was a the first Spy Kid.

During the opening sequence Joe was sat inside a big space-age ball, with a bells-and-whistles computer. It all looks laughable now but it definitely has the culty kitsch that will outlast computer fashion.

Joe 90 merchandising packagePersonally I think the whole thing was to get kids to think that glasses were cool. A bit like Popeye and spinach. Sort of. And sell toys of course.

The supermarionations were all interrelated with some of the puppets from one show appearing in the others. Now they are having a major comeback (again) so there’s sure to be more about them soon. It’s showing on Sci Fi UK channel. Like with many of these programmes from when I was a kid, it outshines the modern equivalents by far.


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

Captain Pugwash

Captain Pugwash with Tom the Cabin BoyOne of my favourite cartoons in the Seventies was Captain Pugwash. Although the last series was produced in 1975 (according to Wikipedia) I remember watching it throughout the Seventies, so was probably watching repeats.

Contrary to popular urban mythology, there was no Seaman Stains or Master Bates. I do remember references to Tom the Cabin Boy being ‘the Captain’s favourite cabin boy’ but that’s about the most innuendo that I can recall.

Captain Pugwash was a pirate but a nice one, not the nasty sort. He was funny and had a lot of funny swearwords, the only one of which I remember is ‘shiver me timbers’ but Wikipedia has a nice long list.

The animation style is minimal, like cardboard cutouts that move around on fixed backgrounds. You can see this from clips on YouTube. The modern reinvented Pugwash uses computer animation which is not so endearing.


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