Thursday 29 May 1986

Today I had one of those potentially history changing moments.  Yes, I spilled my tea on my desk.  As tea does when you spill it, it went absolutely everywhere.  My diary was on my desk and I very nearly lost it.

There were only 3 days to go now , until Mexico 86, and I couldn’t wait.  My thoughts turned again to my dream girl, ‘B****y Hell, I fancy ***** – sexiest thing this side of the nude on the wall.’  The ‘nude’ was actually a scantily clad young lady, one of those Athena posters that so characterise the 1980’s.  She had one thing in common with ***** and one difference.  The difference was that she was a poster, whilst ***** was real flesh and blood.  Their commonality?  Well there was no chance for me with either!  This was brought home to me on 18 October when I saw her (the real girl!) out with her boyfriend.  I scribbled something not terribly nice about her in my diary on today’s page.  A classic example of wallowing in self pity at which I was particularly adept.  It’s so bloody self defeating because it’s not as if I’d ever asked her out.

Poor girl (the poster), she was stuck on the wall next to my desk, and once upon a time she’d got the full blast from one of the largest spots that I had ever had on the side of my nose.  But that’s another story

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The Rubik Cube (Rubik’s Cube)

What happened in Hungary on 13 July 1944?  Erno Rubik was born, that’s what.  You may already know what impact he had on the 1980’s, but I feel that a little more information wouldn’t go amiss.

We all know what a Rubik’s Cube is.  It’s one of those 3x3x3 cubes with the coloured stickers – yes, but can you do it?  Could you do it?  Do you need a book to tell you how?  Do you still own one?  I used to have one, and apart from completing one side was pretty clueless as to how to go any further.  We used to unpick the stickers and re attach them in the right order, and when we became bored with that, we started to dismantle the cube, but this was all so unsatisfactory. I mean, the blessed thing then kept falling apart.

But then I got hold of a book, and managed to solve it.  By rote I might add, but I could solve it, and I think that my record was something like 2 minutes.

Anyway, the Cube is one of the great 1980’s icons.  It was Noel Edmonds who first encouraged the British Public buy the Cube.  In the early 80’s on Multi Coloured Swapshop (01-811-8055!) he featured one for 3 weeks running.  Where previously sales had been sluggish, now they soared.  Eventually some 15 million were shifted in the UK.

It continues to be featured in popular culture.  You will no doubt have seen it in 3 episodes of The Simpsons (where Homer eventually solves it), or Armageddon (Steve Buscemi), The Pursuit of Happyness (Will Smith) and also in Wall-E.

See also – Googling the Cube

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Grange Hill

OMG!  If there was ever a must watch television programme for me then this was it.

Grange Hill started in 1979 when I was still a couple of years away from Secondary school. It was the ultimate in cool at the time, I don’t think that there can be much debate on that. I remember that me mum tolerated it, although if he was ever at home at the time it was on – very rarely – the old chap would insist that the TV went off.

The first icons delivered by Grange Hill were of course Peter ‘Tucker’ Jenkins and his gang, Benny (Green) and Alan (Humphries).  Then there was Mrs ‘Ma’ McCluskey and Bullet Baxter, not to mention Trisha Yates and Cathy Hargreaves.  And these were just the first lot!

I guess that the Grange Hill characters with whom I most closely identified were the likes of  ‘Zammo’ McGuire, Ziggy Greaves and ‘Jonah’ Jones. Later, I was quite into the Luke ‘Gonch’ Gardner gang too. Of course I will never forget the  ‘Gripper’ Stebson and Roland Browning axis, Gripper, proving that Ben Elton in The Young Ones was right, ‘Oh, come on, sir. We’re the only kids in Britain who never say ffffffffff…’  And who can ever forget, ‘Danny Kendall… dead!’

For me, the secret of Grange Hill was the seamless introduction of new faces.  As evidenced by the list of my favourite characters, they didn’t all appear together, but the are all but indistinguishable in terms of their era.  Phil Redmond, Grange Hill’s creator, could devise a hundred more television series but he’ll never come up with anything quite like Grange Hill.

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Multi Coloured Swap Shop

Ok, ok. It started in 1976, but I don’t remember watching it when I was only six. It was an 80’s phenomenon alright! Having said that, it gave way in 1982 to Saturday Superstore – Mike ‘Auntie’ Read taking over the mantle (surely cudgel) from Noel ‘Tidybeard’ Edmonds.

But enough of this, what about Swap Shop?  Well for a kick off, it wasn’t TISWAS.  Featuring Edmonds (never really liked him, mesel’), Keith ‘Cheggers’ Chegwin, Maggie Philburn and John Craven, Multi Coloured Swap Shop bestrode Saturday mornings in my formative years, as I yearned, nay ached for the chance to get up and turn over to watch Tarrant and the guys on the other side.  Sadly, this was the one time when me mum put her foot down and told us what we were going to watch.  Boo hoo.

I can still recite the now defunct telephone number – 01-811-8055 – wouldn’t it be cool if BT could allow us to dial the number and leave us a message on answering, something like, ‘Hi there, you’ve got through to Multi Coloured Swap Shop, unfortunately, you’re 27, 28, 29… years too late.’  But they don’t, probably.  Perhaps you could try it and let me know?

Anyway, one of the first times I saw it, I though that I had seen a ghost.  No I really did.  A girl from our school had recently died and Maggie Philburn was an absolute spit for her.  It shook me for a while, I can tell you.  Cheggers was his manic self, wind, rain, snow, sea spray, you name it, he was out in it.  I think that he was the nearest thing that they ever got to what was going on over on ITV, but even that was in a controlled, BBC kind of way.  And John Craven was, er, John Craven.  Enough said, he presents Countryfile now…

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Cheggers Plays Pop

This complete load of old nonsense was an absolute blast from start to finish.

The show started in 1978 and ran until 1986, with some 70 episodes and 4 Christmas specials (1980 – 1983).  This was madcap Cheggers at his very best.  After the preliminaries (i.e. the theme tune), the show would start with our hero dashing out to centre screen and going ‘Yerrrsss!’

Then the fun would really start, two teams of school kids, a red one and yellow one, would answer all sorts of pop trivia, jump round on inflatable things, get covered in foam and stuff, generally have a whale of a time, then there’d be a musical interlude from one current pop colussus or another, more jumping around and then time to go home.  Or in Keith’s case, out on the lash… allegedly, possibly…

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Johnny Ball

There aren’t a great many television presenters who could make maths and science cool.  Johnny Ball is one of them.  From 1977 right the way through the 1980’s, up to about 1990, this man probably was children’s television in the UK.

He seminal show has to be Think of a Number.  Starting on BBC1 on 12 April 1977 right up until 31 October 1984, there were a total of 36 shows, spread equally over 6 series.  Running in parallel was Think Again, which ran from 9 January 1981 until 15 October 1985 with a total of 29 shows over 5 series.

Looking back on it, the guy just oozed class.  If you want a comparison, he did maths and science in an OU (clothing) stylee for kids, but made it interesting, exciting, beguiling, fascinating.  My best memory is when he took a cut out of the British mainland and proved that the centre of gravity of Britain was somewhere around Blackburn.  Of course, this took no account of the height of Ben Nevis and the rest of the Scottish Highlands, but who cares?  We didn’t, cos we wuz kidz…

He would dress up to portray famous mathematicians / scientists from history, from Galileo, thru Newton and Einstein to John Napier (the inventor of logarithms) and beyond.  He also used to love the odd pun, such as ‘Why is the nose in the middle?  Because it’s the scenter!’  They didn’t ever get any better than that!

Of course, there was a very wide range of topics, from energy, the body, materials, wealth, time, odds and probability, planes, gravity etc etc…  It was great stuff, and a very important part of my childhood.  Thank you Johnny Ball!

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Adam Ant, Adam and the Ants

Stuart Leslie Goddard.  There’s a name to conjure with.  A A Diddler Ulster Togs or Radiated Lodger Lusts to name but two possible anagrams.  Adam Ant, however, is not an anagram, but it is the name by which posterity will remember our hero.

Now, that word, hero.  On the face of it, four letters (not much scope for anagrams), and probably an overused word.  However, in Adam Ant’s case, definitely applicable and supremely appropriate.  Sporting stars aside, Ian Botham and Kenny Dalglish, Adam Ant was my first pop music hero.

My brother was given a model casting set for Christmas one year.  I think it was Paddington Bear.  So far, so relevant.  However, at the same time, Adam was wearing a white line across the bridge of his nose, and if you scratched the base of a Paddington Bear you could use the resultant white powder to draw your own white line across the bridge of your nose.  Wow!  How cool was that?

Anyway, enough of this nonsense and back to the nitty-gritty.  Conveniently enough, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK chart hit in 1980 with Kings of the Wild Frontier, which made it to the heady heights of number 48 in the UK singles chart.  It kicks off with the immortal line, ‘A new royal family / A wild nobility / We are the family’ and just goes on from there.  If it had perhaps been a later single it would have risen higher in the charts.

Next up was Dog Eat Dog which truly saw Adam and the Ants’ arrival.  Making number 4 in the UK singles chart, this time Adam boasted that, ‘We’re gonna move real good’, and boy could he move.  The ‘B’ side was Physical (You’re So) – perhaps one of the better ‘B’ sides put out in the ’80s.  Antmusic was next, getting agonisingly close to number 1, in early 1981.  In fact, it was only John Lennon’s Imagine that prevented this.  On the face of, nonsense lyrics, but it had me spellbound, and still does…

‘Don’t tread on an ant / he’s done nothing to you

There might come a day / when he’s treading on you

… You cut off his head / legs come looking for you’

Next up were three not so hot singles (well they’re not my favourites, Lol!) – Young Parisiens (number 9), Zerox (a reissue – 45) and Cartrouble (33), before the proof of my earlier statement as the reissued Kings of the Wild Frontier made it to number 2.  Another John Lennon song, Jealous Guy, performed by Roxy Music stood in the way of an Ant’s single making number 1.

Now, as we moved into the glorious Summer of 1981, Adam and the Ants scored their first UK singles chart number 1 with the magnificent, Ivor Novello winning, Stand and Deliver.  What a song.  There is perhaps no more iconic 1980’s song than Stand and Deliver.  From the start, ‘I’m the dandy highwayman / who you’re too scared to mention…’ to the final ‘Da diddley qa qa da diddley qa qa’ refrain, it just epitomises the classic 3-minute pop song.  I detect some hint of a jibe at Malcolm McLaren – he and Adam weren’t exactly the best of mates after the formation of Bow Bow Bow – but that’s another story.

As we moved towards the end of the summer, Adam and the Ants proved that they could do no wrong, as they scored their second UK singles chart number 1 with Prince Charming.  In my opinion lacking that certain je ne sais quoi with which Stand and Deliver is blessed with (it seems like more of a chant), but still head and shoulders above much other pop output during that time.  And of course, Diana Dors in the video.

Released towards the end of 1981, Ant Rap made its highest UK chart position of number 3 in early 1982.  It is another slab of pop perfection.  Show me a person of a certain age who doesn’t know the chorus, ‘I’ve got Marco, Merrick, Terry Lee / Gary Tibbs and yours truly’, and I’ll find you a four-leafed clover.  It does, however, represent the high water mark for Adam and the Ants, as their last single Deutscher Girls, although charting at a respectable number 13 isn’t quite on a par with their three massive UK singles hits of 1981.

After going solo, Adam Ant had a similarly short-lived period of pop ascendancy.  His first single Goody Two Shoes, written with former Ant and long time collaborator, Marco Pirroni, was a massive UK number 1 hit, even making it to number 12 in the Billboard Hot 100.  This one is a cry of angst against the press (in the UK) and of course, represents the eternal paradox of the reclusive pop star.  He wants to be left alone to live his life, but he has a number 1 single on his hands – go figure.

His subsequent singles, which include Friend Or Foe (UK number 9), Desperate But Not Serious (33), Puss ‘n Boots (5) and Apollo 9 (13), although decent enough pop songs just don’t have the gravitas or the impact of those monster smashes of 1981.

For me, Adam Ant is one of, if not The Pop Icon of the 1980’s music scene.  In ’81, there was nothing to touch Adam and the Ants.  But for John Lennon’s death, they’d surely have had two more UK number 1 hits.  My biggest regret is that I wasn’t old enough to have gone to a gig.  You know, I’ve seen Oasis and Blur, the biggest pop/rock phenomena of the 90’s live, and they were very good gigs (Blur had The Shirehorses as their support and Oasis gave a helping hand to the returning Manic Street Preachers). But, and there is no doubt in my mind, Adam and the Ants would have surpassed both!

Commodore 64 (C64)

Bit of a toughy this one.  Where to start?  Well, we (I say we, I really mean I) received our C64 for Christmas 1984.  I sold it to my mum ,’Here’s the deal, you buy us the computer and I’ll buy the tape machine.’  Deal?  Done!

As she had a Kays catalogue account we ordered it from that – as agreed she paid for the computer and I paid for the tape deck – probably a couple of quid a month for my part of the deal.  And the best bit of it all? We got the C64, a Christmas present, in September!  Oh yes, we were able to plug it into a portable TV that we already had so no extra costs to be able to see what we were doing.  Oh and finally, bonus number 2 (at least), next door also had a C64 so there was a ready made set of games for us to copy (no – that’s illegal – really?!!).

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So where did we start? Well, the first game that we blagged from next door was the age old classic, Frogger. You must remember, get the frog across the road as the cars get faster and faster. Simple but breathtakingly effective fun. The first game that we bought for ourselves was one called Harrier Attack. Looking back, there didn’t appear to be a defined mission, you just flew across the top of the screen bombing what was beneath you. I’m not sure, but perhaps there was a fuel gauge which you had to watch and make sure you made it back to the ship before you crashed.

My four favourite games were Kevin Toms Football Manager, Spellbound, Raid Over Moscow and Daley Thomspon’s Decathlon.  I spent hours and hours playing all of them – Daley Thompson’s Decathlon was especially hard on the keyboard.  You had to hammer the space bar to make him run faster.

Spellbound was extremely addictive. You had to help the hero, Magic Knight find his mentor Gimbal the Wizard who had accidentally caused a white out situation whilst trying to perfect his recipe for rice pudding. This was probably the last game that I played constantly – could I suggest that I was growing up at this stage? Raid Over Moscow required some nifty joystick control – just getting your plane out of the space station was hard enough work, and as for the discus throwing at the end…

But it was Football Manager that really grabbed my attention.  This was a close the curtain, ignore the world and get lost in the game game.  You could take a team, Doncaster Rovers say, start them in Division 4 and within hours (!) have them beating Man Utd and other, even better, teams in Division 1.  Kevin Toms, we salute you!

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And finally, on occasion, I used to attempt to copy out the programmes that were featured in Your Computer. To tell the truth, I never really had much luck doing this. They were usually spread over several pages and if you made the slightest mistake, you know getting your ‘peek’ or ‘poke’ address wrong that was it. I did once manage to make a programme that simulated an piano type thingy work but that was about it.

1981 Ashes Series

Having retained the Ashes in 1978/79 in Australia, when the impact of the Kerry Packer series had been felt disproportionately by the hosts, England were determined to prove that it was no fluke in the glorious summer of 1981.

The series started well enough for the tourists as they won the first test at Trent Bridge, comfortably enough, by four wickets.  With the second test, at Lords, ending in a draw, things were really looking good for the Aussies.  They were even better placed at the end of the third day’s play in the third test at Headingley – having made 401-9 declared, they had bowled England out for 174, and having enforced the follow on had the hosts on 6-1, with Graham Gooch adding a duck to his 2 from the first innings.

However, they had not reckoned on the new life that Ian Botham was able to draw on since being relieved of the England captaincy following his record of 12 games, 8 draws, 4 losses and no wins.  In their tempestuous second innings England were at 105-5, still needing 122 to make Australia bat again, when Botham came to join Geoffrey Boycott at the crease.  In sharing stands of 28 (with Boycott), 117 (Graham Dilley), 67 (Chris Old) and even 37 with Bob Willis, Botham finished on 149 n.o. and Australia needed 130 to win the test match.

Still, 130 was no sweat for Australia.  And they proved it, getting to 56 -1 with little incident of note.  It was at this point that England skipper Mike Brearley switched Willis to the Kirkstall Lane end in order for him to take advantage of the downhill slope.  It was as if Botham’s knock and /or his own part in the England innings has imbued Willis with super human capabilities as he tore into the Aussies, leaving them reeling in the pavilion as they capitulated to 111 all out with his own figures reading 15.1 – 3 – 43 – 8.  Stupendous.

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In the fourth test at Edgbaston, England’s below par batting performance in both innings left them in danger of undoing their Leeds heroics.  Batting first, their 189 left them 69 runs behind Australia at the start of their second innings.  A total of 219 meant that the Australians needed the comparatively modest sum of 151 to win the game and take a 2-1 lead with 2 games left.  This time it was Botham the whirlwind as his 5-11 helped scuttle Australia for 121 – thus it was England who won the game, by 29 runs, to take a 2-1 lead with 2 matches left.

Next stop was Old Trafford.  Batting first, England made a respectable, if not awe inspiring 231 (Botham getting a duck).  However, even this was too hot for Australia who struggled to 130 all out.  Thus a lead of 101 for England on the first innings.  This was to prove decisive.  In their second innings, in which Botham scored 118 from 102 balls including 13 fours and 6 sixes (Tavare, Knott and Emburey also made 50’s), England made a much more challenging 404 all out.   In order to win, Australia needed to scale a mountain (506).

Having made it to 210-5 at the end of the fourth day, Australia held on to the hope that they could keep the series alive by eking out the draw that would see them needing a win at the Oval to draw the series.  Border and Marsh offered stubborn resistance, taking the score along to 296 when Marsh was dismissed for a typically robust 47.  England were now into the tail.  In his own, inimitable, style Dennis Lillee assisted Border most effectively, making 28 in over an hour, but the other bowlers were dismissed fairly cheaply (although they all hung around with ARB) as England bowled them out for 402 to win by 103 runs taking an unassailable 3-1 series lead with one to play.

The series ended anti-climactically at the Oval.  Australia making 352 and 344 with England scoring 314 and 261-7 in reply.  Dennis Lillee took the man of the match award for his overall match stats of 61.4 – 14 – 159 – 11.  So the series ended with a tame draw, but the rest of it, particularly that Monday and Tuesday in Leeds, is seared on the memory of anybody who witnessed it.

Sunday 22 June 1986 (Maradona’s Hand of God)

What’s to be said about today?  Let me just get the mundanities out of the way first.  Because my ankle was in a state after spraining it on Friday, my brother did me paper round, and in putting one of my contact lenses I managed to scratch my eyeball.  Sorry, I should have advised looking away, for those of you who are squeamish.

Anyway, at the Estadio Azteca, Mexico City in front of 115,000 punters, England departed the world cup 2-1 at the hands of Argentina.  Well more accurately at the hand of one Diego Armando Maradona.  But hey, whatever you say about the first goal (and it was handball) I agree with Barry Davies for the second, because it was magnificent and is arguably the best goal ever scored.  England then, belatedly, woke up and pulled one back through Lineker and even had a chance to level it at 2-2, but our Gary’s not tall enough.

In the other game, red hot favourites Spain, were sent packing by a determined Belgium team after a penalty shoot out.  So, the semi finals would see an all European clash and a Europe versus South America clash with France against West Germany and Belgium taking on Argentina.

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