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Tag Archives: 1980s

Confessions Of A Vintage Magazine Junkie

I recently developed a new interest in something which unfortunately requires a pocket full of money – but then isn’t that true of all good things?

Woman magazine over the years

Woman magazine over the years

I have developed a fondness of collecting vintage women’s magazines. OK, strictly speaking, I suppose I should be using the term retro as the magazines are predominantly from the eighties and nineties but hey I like the word vintage better! And in any case I’m sure that I’ll soon start collecting magazines from decades prior to the eighties. And it’s not just women’s magazines – I’ve also started collecting pop and teen mags from those decades too.

 WHY THE SUDDEN INTEREST?

I have always been a magazine junkie – right from the time I was able to read. As a child I couldn’t go into a newsagents without whoever I was with purchasing a  kid’s magazine for me. And it just went on from there.

As a young teen, I started to keep all the magazines I bought rather than toss them out – proving they really were money well spent. But unfortunately as my collection grew, space became increasingly tight, especially as we were living in a pretty small place at the time. So feeling fed up one day, I threw the lot out, not realising that one day I’d regret that decision.

My interest was sparked when upon arriving home from America, I discovered that my mum had thrown out boxloads of the vintage recipe pages I was saving. I was livid! And that’s putting it very mildly!

Part of my recipe collection

Part of my recipe collection

However during the three months I’d spent in the States, I didn’t buy any magazines as I didn’t really like the selection that was available there (apologies to my American followers!) But then when I arrived back in the UK, I found that my usual weekly reads didn’t really entice me as they once did. I actually found them a bit soul-less. It was just full of ads, celeb gossip, and fashion features of clothes from stores that I don’t frequent. It was all starting to get a little bit dull. The quality just wasn’t there.

I started thinking back to the magazines I used to buy years ago. I loved the extraordinary stories from real life people. I couldn’t get enough of the fiction pages and the puzzles. I loved the homely way the food accompanying the recipes was photographed. I enjoyed the regular weekly features. I also liked how the cover girl was usually an unknown model or at the very least a relevant actor or actress from one if the top soaps of that time. Not a reality TV star in sight!

Woman's Own from the 1980s

Woman’s Own from the 1980s

I began to wish I’d never been so foolish as to throw out my beloved collection of mags – and set about trying to replace them.

WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT TO ME?

Well in a nutshell, it’s because it reminds me of my childhood. Bet you didn’t need me to tell you that! It brings back wonderful memories of going to the newsagent with my uncle and picking up a pack of jelly tots – and a kiddie’s mag which I would read from cover to cover; of going through my aunts’ bags to flick through their latest mag; of going to the shop after school with my friends, where they’d buy a chocolate bar or bag of crisps for the journey home, and I’d buy a ton of chocolate – and a very ‘uncool’ women’s weekly – which I’d always claim was for my mum. Yeah right – Mum was lucky if she even caught sight of it, let alone read it!

I loved best!

I loved best!

I actually believe that these magazines got me prepared for the adult world. Or perhaps I should say that in my very naïve teenage mind, I’d flick those pages and think that that was what being an adult was all about. As I looked at the fashion pages, I’d imagine that those would be the clothes I’d wear when I was all grown up. I’d look at the hair and beauty features, envisioning my chic and elegant future self. The interiors section gave me a lot of inspiration for my future home. I learned a lot from the sometimes unfortunate real-life stories of ordinary people. Furthermore, my love of cooking and interest in food stems from those recipe pages.

And where teen magazines are concerned, they played a major role in my growing up. They answered the questions my friends and I were to afraid ask our parents, teachers and other adults around us; questions about boys, dating, the changes that were rapidly occurring to our bodies, problems at school, fitting in with the crowd… And of course they enabled us to indulge in our teenage crushes, gave us advice on how to do our hair and make-up and gave us tons of freebies. And without Smash Hits, I would never have been able to learn the lyrics to my fave tunes.

 TRACKING THEM DOWN

Well it wasn’t easy, I can tell you that now! But once  I decided to try and track down vintage finds and stop buying modern-day magazines, I had to consider which were the best places to start looking. At first I tried many of the local charity shops but found no joy there, although one of the volunteers did suggest the Freecycle site to me. Unfortunately I had no luck there either. Nor did I find anything at car boot sales.

More recent issues of Woman's Own from within the last ten years

More recent issues of Woman’s Own from within the last ten years

I also tried people I knew who might have the odd mag or two or a hundred going back to the eighties but alas nothing. And I was practically laughed out of the newsagents when I enquired if they had leftover stock from thirty years ago (not as ridiculous as you might think seeing as my parents acquired stock from what seems like thirty thousand years ago when they took over a local shop!)

Finally I checked out sites like Gumtree and eBay which I suppose I should have checked out first. It was slow going but I soon discovered some real gems…

WHAT I GOT

I’m thrilled that in such a short amount of time, I’ve been able to get some really amazing finds. I’ve got a lot of the magazines from the eighties that my mum and aunts used to read such as Woman, Woman’s Own, Women’s Realm, My Weekly and Women’s Weekly. I’ve also got two issues of Bella which I’m thrilled about as well as Prima which were two titles that I – not my aunts – used to buy.

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Another thing I’m also thrilled about is that I’ve been reunited with a 1990’s mag called Me which I’d totally forgotten about! But flicking through it, the memories came flooding back and it was just as awesome as I remembered.

I never used to buy Essentials and neither did any of the women in my family but after I stumbled across a file containing pages from old-school issues of this publication, I made it a mission to track down some issues – and I haven’t been disappointed.

Essentials from the early nineties

Essentials from the early nineties

But one of the best finds, even though it isn’t a women’s weekly title, were a bundle of Smash Hits magazines from the late eighties to the early nineties – the exact period that I used to buy this fantastic pop magazine. And what I was most excited about was the issue that had the first ever cover of New Kids On The Block on it – the best pop band in the world! Upon contacting the previous owner to thank her, she revealed that she was sad to part with them but as she was a mum with a growing family, she had to let her Smash Hits collection go which made me feel guilty. I promised her that I’d give them a good home – as I will with every mag in my growing collection.

The issue now is (ha! Geddit???) Is how I’m going to haul my collection across the Atlantic to my new home!

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R.I.P Carla Lane

One of my friends told me last week that not only was it tragic that we’ve lost some big name stars before we’ve even reached the first half of 2016, but we’ve lost those who made up our generation; people who we grew up with, so even though we never met them, it feels as though we know them which makes us feel that loss so much more.

Today TV writer, Carla Lane, the lady responsible for Bless This House, Butterflies, and one I still remember, The Mistress, has gone on to join a very talented bunch in the sky. I grew up watching Bread, while my mother loved The Liver Birds.

I very much doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t watched something written by Carla Lane. She will be missed…

TV writer Carla Lane

TV writer Carla Lane

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Gone Too Soon

 

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A Few Of My Favourite Things

The hubby and I have been in America for over six weeks now and I’m slowly becoming accustomed to my new home. To be honest we’ve both been busy with all the usual hectic stuff that goes with a move abroad i.e. renting a flat; buying a car; settling into a new job; getting to know people; finding the best place to get a take away curry etc. etc.

I’m very excited about coming to America and all the opportunities it presents. From the time I was a teenager, I had a feeling that I’d one day end up living abroad. And now I’ve done just that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get homesick and miss England and everyone and everything in it terribly because I do. So I always take comfort in anything that reminds me of home… and some of these things even have a connection to my childhood!

BOOT’S PRODUCTS

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I remember when I was last in Oregon a few years back, Target had started stocking  up Boot’s products which I was very excited about. And I’d totally forgotten about it until we went into our local Target last week and found a small section of the store – and I do mean small – dedicated to Boot’s cosmetics and skin care products. That really did cheer me up – to see a little piece of home.

I’m not familiar with many of the brands available in the States although I will inevitably get round to trying them out – but right now its great to see a brand I know and trust.

JELLY

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Or jello as its called over here. OK, I know – jelly is such a kid’s dessert. No one with a sophisticated palate would even consider a bowlful of the wibbly-wobbly stuff and most adults will probably only touch it if you add alcohol and serve them up in little plastic shot glasses at parties.

But then I’ve never really been one for following the crowd and I’ve always loved jelly. It stems from childhood when a bowlful of jelly was an amazing treat – how easily pleased we were – and even now, when I’m feeling homesick or a bit low for any reason, jelly hits the spot every time. And if there’s any ice- cream or squirty cream to go with it, so much the better!

Funnily enough, most American adults I know have no interest in jello – unless we’re talking jello shots – but yet there’s such a fantastic array of flavours unlike the UK where we’re pretty much limited to five flavours. So far I’ve come across peach, melon, cherry, blueberry, apricot, grape, fruit punch, cola, pineapple, mango… and those are just the ones I can remember!

While the Americans beat us on flavours, the thing I love about jelly in Britain is that you can get them in the form of squidgy gelatine squares whereas over here in America it’s always in crystal form. How I love those jelly squares! Whenever my mum used to make jelly for us, you could be sure I’d pop a couple of squares in my gob. In fact, I’ve even been known to scoff a whole packet like sweets!

EGGO WAFFLES

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In Britain, waffles are either Belgian or potato which are both fab but I remember my aunt making a different type of waffle when i used to go round to her house which seemed to be made from batter. I have no idea what brand it was but when I was much older I used to look for them in the frozen aisles but could never find them so they’d obviously been discontinued long ago.

Eggo waffles are the ones that come closest to my childhood memory and they are a firm favourite in our household.

SARA LEE DESSERTS

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Who remembers those Sara Lee television ads of the eighties where we were advised that “If at first you don’t succeed – cheat!” I’m quite sure that Sara Lee gateaus would have been all the rage at dinner parties back in the day but this brand is another thing that seems to have disappeared over the years in Britain. It was only when I used to visit Oregon a few years back that I ran into this brand at the supermarket like a long- lost friend… and those Sara Lee fruit pies soon became a freezer staple.

These days I’m addicted to Sara Lee’s pound cake. Delicious!

 

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Brands

 

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That’s My Boy!

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TITLE: That’s My Boy

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United Kingdom

GENRE: Sit-com

CHANNEL: ITV

YEARS: 1981

NUMBER OF SERIES: 5 including Christmas specials

WRITTEN AND CREATED BY: Pam Valentine and Michael Ashton

  • Molly Sugden- Ida Willis
  • Christopher Blake – Dr Robert Price
  • Jennifer Lonsdale – Angie Price
  • Clare Richards – Mrs Price
  • Harold Goodwin- Wilfred Willis
  • Deddie Davis – Miss Parfitt
  • Thelma Whiteley – Mrs Cross

PLOT: No-nonsense housekeeper goes to work for a young doctor and his wife. The doctor and housekeeper have an instant dislike towards each other – until the housekeeper discovers that the doctor is the baby she gave up for adoption almost twenty eight years ago…

There are some comedies that stand the test of time and are repeated over and over again to be enjoyed by new generations of viewers. Then there are comedies that fade into obscurity and are never mentioned again. Eighties sit-com That’s My Boy is an example of a comedy show that fits into the latter category. But if anyone thinks that’s a sign that it wasn’t very good or watchable – think again!

Over the years, I was vaguely able to recall a comedy show from my childhood that featured a young married couple with an older lady, who I guessed was some kind of live-in housekeeper. However, I could never remember the name of the show, and moreover,  I’d never seen it on TV since it was first shown, and I don’t remember anyone even mentioning it. I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined it (like so many things from my childhood!)

A few of the things that I could recall were the appearance of the married couple’s flat; that the older lady looked like  Mollie Sugden;  the husband was very handsome, and whenever I thought of this comedy, I always associated it with the colour blue! I later realised that the older lady was indeed Molly Sugden, and that the blue association was because the opening and closing credits of series one to three featured a sketch of the apartment building where the trio lived with a sky blue background and also because Mollie Sugden’s character, Ida, often wore blue.

Despite there having been five series of That’s My Boy, my memories of this sit-com were a little on the hazy side but I did think about the sit-com over the years and was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and spend some very pleasant evenings (and weekend mornings!) watching this show all over again. I was amazed to learn that I was actually able to recall certain scenes and episodes, although I didn’t remember Wilfred or Mrs. Price, and neither did I remember the move to Yorkshire. I was also surprised to hear that it was shown on Friday nights, as for some reason, I remember That’s My Boy being shown on Sunday afternoons (?)

THE STORY SO FAR…

When Yorkshire-born Ida Willis turns up at the Muswell Hill flat belonging to Dr Robert Price and his wife Angie, a model, to work as their new housekeeper, she and Angie instantly become friends. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Ida and Robert who appear to loathe each other on sight. However all that changes one afternoon when Ida confides in Angie about the baby boy she gave up for adoption called Shane. After showing each other baby photos of Shane and Robert, Angie and Ida are dumbstruck by the realisation that the baby is one and the same – meaning that Robert is Ida’s long-lost son, Shane!

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Had this been a soap opera, this storyline would have been drawn out for several months (or years) with plenty of tears, tantrums, sobbing into bottles of wine, with shrieks of ‘you ain’t my muvva!’ once the secret was revealed but comedy handles such a heavy topic in an altogether light-hearted manner with much hilarity that doesn’t see Robert scarred of life or going on a killing spree! The realisation that they are mother and son doesn’t make them become best friends overnight. Ida tries hard to be a mother to Robert, but she still grates on him, especially when she insists on calling him by his birth-name Shane. And Ida isn’t afraid to give Robert/Shane a piece of her mind when she thinks it’s called for.

Much of the humour is provided by Ida’s wayward brother Wilfred and the power struggle between Ida and Robert’s ‘other mummy’ – his adoptive mother, Mrs Price, an upmarket widow who is as far removed from Ida as you can get. The two naturally don’t get on as they battle to become the number one  ‘mummy’ in Robert’s life, but there are times when the two have to form an alliance, especially when it’s in the best interests of their son.

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But Robert and Ida do indeed bond and it is delightful to watch their relationship develop. Robert becomes very protective of Ida and when attending the wedding of Ida’s niece, it’s really heart warming to see Robert affectionately declare Ida as his mother. What was probably slightly unusual was the relationship between Ida and her daughter-in-law, Angie. A typical situation would have seen glamorous model and actress Angie, snobby and aloof who seriously clashes with her newfound mother-in-law. But then Angie doesn’t get on with her other mother-in-law Mrs. Price so I think it was clever of the writers to create a different scenario where instead of being the archetypal interfering mother-in-law, Ida is a friend and an ally to Angie.

And later on in the fourth series, when the family leave Muswell Hill and move to Little Birchmarch in Yorkshire after Robert secures the post of village doctor, we meet the dithering Miss Parfitt, Robert’s mousy receptionist.

WHY I LOVE IT:

One thing that’s dawned on me after watching That’s My Boy! is that I seem to be a fan of sit-coms that are not considered ‘classics’ or that most people might have forgotten. Fawlty Towers, Only Fools And Horses, Open All Hours etc. are firm favourites with me and my family and are undeniably terrific, but I really do think that there’s something good and a lot of fun to be had in watching the lesser repeated comedies.

That’s My Boy is  a wonderfully pleasant comedy and one of the reasons why I think it works is because of Mollie Sugden’s immensely likable and highly amusing performance. Mollie is in good form and relies on her genius for visual expression and excellent timing. She is a wonderful actress with great screen presence and her portrayal of Ida is no exception. For most people, Sugden will always be best remembered for her role in  Are You Being Served? but it’s very easy to forget the other great roles she played with Ida being a good example with her witty one-lines and hilarious put-downs – this is a lady who has an answer for everything!

Another reason why I think That’s My Boy is fantastic is because of the rapport that Mollie Sugden has with the supporting cast and the likeable characters they play. All the characters work brilliantly together, with the supporting cast acting as a backdrop for Ida to bounce off.

I enjoyed the  warm yet amusing storylines that kept the audience laughing throughout.. I found each episode to be hilarious and enjoyable to watch.  watch them you won’t get them any more today. The theme tune may consist solely of the lyrics “that’s my boy, that’s my boy. Lalalalalalala…” the upbeat tune somehow suits the show well, and after hearing it just a couple of times, the tune will never leave your head. That could either be a great thing or an annoyance – for me it was a great thing.

I found That’s My Boy to be a very pleasant comedy but wondered how it would be received today. Certain quotes and the play on stereotypes would not be acceptable today as it would be considered racist or homophobic. And I did wonder if That’s My Boy could be considered light-hearted family entertainment with all of Robert and Angie’s saucy antics – but then again, I think today’s kids are exposed to a great deal more!

I do think it’s quite a shame that That’s My Boy never reached the great heights I feel it should have and has more or less disappeared. I also can’t understand why it was hardly ever repeated after it was first shown on TV. But I’m so glad that I discovered this little nugget of TV gold – definitely what I call comfort food television and I will most definitely be watching it again.

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Romance On The Orient Express

Year: 1985 (UK)

Time: 96 mins

Written by: John Worthing

Directed by: Lawrence Gordon Clark

Starring : Cheryl Ladd     – Lily Parker

Stuart Wilson  – Alex Woodward

Ruby Wax      – Susan Lawson

Julian Sands   – Sandy

Betsy Brantley – Stacey

Sir John Gielgud   – Theodore Woodward

Barry Stokes         – Flavio

Danielle Tylke     – Alexandra

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During my much-needed time off from work last week, I stumbled across a film I first saw when I was about seven or eight; a film for old romantic fools like me – and it would appear that I started being an old romantic fool way back in my junior school days! I still remember the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express. We were living in our first house in East London and it was a Saturday night – back in the days when Saturday night television was more varied and more entertaining than it is today and not overladen with irritating reality TV shows. Now I know it must have been past my bedtime when this film began but it might have been because it was Saturday that we were allowed to stay up late – and this film just happened to be on.

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THE STORY

The story centres around Lily, a glamorous and sophisticated American magazine editor who is traveling on the famous Orient Express train from Venice to Paris with her friend, the quirky, adventure-seeking Susan. The trip brings back bittersweet memories for Lily when she first travelled to Europe ten years earlier with her friend Stacey. It was on this trip that they met two handsome, young Englishmen, Alex and Sandy. Lily and Alex begin a relationship and their story is told through flashbacks. Their relationship ends abruptly when Alex walks out on Lily without saying a word leaving the devastated young woman to return to the States.

Fast forward ten years and the former lovers are reunited once again as Lily comes face to face with the man who broke her heart a decade ago. Alex, having tracked Lily down and knowing that she had booked a trip on the Orient Express, has booked himself on the same trip in a bid to explain to Lily what happened all those years ago. When the couple meet again, the pain and the anguish of the last ten years is still very raw, and Lily understandably doesn’t want to listen to anything that Alex has to say – but for how long can she resist him?

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And Alex’s reappearance plunges Lily into further turmoil as she now has to wrestle between her feelings for Alex and her obligation to her boyfriend back in the States. It is later revealed that her break up with Alex left Lily damaged and unable to form successful relationships with other men. And now she doesn’t know whether she should accept her boyfriend’s proposal or not – even though it’s very evident that she doesn’t love him.

Alex convinces Lily to meet him and the couple catch up on the last ten years and discover that they’d each been married and are now divorced, although Lily’s was the only marriage that produced a child. As the story unfolds, we soon learn that Alex isn’t quite the cad that we thought he was and that his feelings for Lily were genuine. We also learn that when he left Lily, she wasn’t exactly alone…

THE CAST

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When I first saw Romance On The Orient Express, the only person I recognized was Ruby Wax who was a big name in television back in the 1980s. I’d love to say that at infant-school age, I knew who actors Sir John Gielgud and Stuart Wilson were, but unfortunately I didn’t. I’d heard of Cheryl Ladd because I knew that she’d starred in Charlie’s Angels.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

Even though Romance On The Orient Express is a made-for-TV movie and not a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s something so beautifully moving and poignant about this film which has shades of Casablanca about it. You couldn’t fail to be dazzled by the luxury of the Orient Express and the stunning on-location scenes in Venice and Paris. The story, the setting, the scenery, the acting, the wardrobe… fantastic!   There is great chemistry between the lead actors Stuart Wilson and Cheryl Ladd, and I absolutely loved the riverboat scene with the significantly beautiful song, Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce.

I remember that the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express, I found the subplot of the romance between Susan and Flavio, a staff member on the train intriguing. Even though it started off as just a bit of light-hearted fun for Susan who was looking for Mr Right -Now, towards the end of the film, Susan had a change of heart and admitted that she does love Flavio but decided to end it because there was no future in it:

“He’s Italian, he lives in Rome. I’m American, I live in New York… I finally meet someone and geography kills it.”

But there is hope for the couple as Lily convinces Susan that if she loves Flavio then they’ll find a way, and you can’t help rooting for the pair hoping that they will indeed find a way because they seem like such a cute couple.

Stuart Wilson as Alex

Stuart Wilson as Alex

What surprised me was that even though I’d only ever watched this film once, an awfully long time ago as well I may add, I was amazed by how much I remembered, including certain scenes and parts of the dialogue. I also didn’t think that anyone else would have even heard of Romance On The Orient Express let alone watched it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there were others who had seen this film and remembered it very well.

I know that there are some that might find Romance On The Orient Express to be a little saccharine and predictable but I think it is a very memorable, romantic movie, with a simple, easy to follow yet entertaining storyline that keeps you watching til the end because you just have to know what happens to Alex and Lily. A delightfully charming, heart-felt tale about lost love, long-held secrets and second chances all bound together with the themes of friendship, family loyalty, and surprise revelations. Being a Mills and Boon fan, I feel as though I’ve just seen a classic Mills and Boon novel come to life on screen.

Will I watch Romance On The Orient Express again? Mais oui!

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Films, This, That and the Other!

 

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Old-Skool Ice-Cream Flavours

Today has been an absolute scorcher of a day. I swear half of me has melted away!

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If I could walk around the streets of London in a string bikini, I would. But unfortunately can’t (especially not with this bod!) so I’ve had to think of other ways to beat the heat and I’ve been downing anything that’s icy cold.

And thoughts turned to all the ice-creams we used to devour as kids. It goes without saying that we loved our ice-cream. For a number of reasons, this was not a freezer staple but rather an occasional treat. There’d always be tubs of Cornish vanilla or neopolitan ice-creams at family parties and gatherings; the ice-cream man wasn’t safe when we heard the van approaching our road, and ice-cream cones always featured when my family and I hit the local park. Unsurprisingly, Mum refused to stock up on ice-cream during the winter months, so ice-cream is most definitely synonymous with summer.

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Today ice-cream means Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, Carte D’or and (once) unusual flavours such as salted caramel, lemon meringue pie, espresso, and toffee apple. When I asked my class recently what their favourite flavours were, ‘pistachio’ and ‘green tea; featured in the answers. And me? Well funnily enough my favourite ice-creams are three which are very hard to find in England: I love butter pecan (USA) crème caramel/flan (Spain) and brown bread ice-cream (Ireland.) I must be the only person who needs to hop on a plane every time they fancy an ice-cream cone!

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

 

This is all good but it’s dawned on me that many of the ice-cream flavours from my childhood have either totally disappeared or they’re very hard to come by. Ice-creams in the 1970s,1980s and 1990s wasn’t necessary high-end or ultra-sophisticated. In fact when I think about it, there were very limited in their range of flavours (generally chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla) and packaging was anything but glam. Brands were typically Wall’s, Lyon’s Maid… and not much else! But it was fun, delicious and it kept you cool.

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I absolutely love ice-cream today: there’s a never-ending variety of flavours, including savoury flavours (avocado chilli or basil, anyone?) the quality has vastly improved, and it’s that much more creamier and flavourful. But I can’t help but get all nostalgic when I think about what ice-cream looked like back in the day and those retro flavours. So as an ode to summers gone by and staying cool, here’s a list of the ice-cream flavours that were around when I was growing up in the eighties. Some of them are still around; some are hard to find, and some seem to have melted away…

1. VANILLA

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Vanilla ice-cream needs absolutely no introduction! Vanilla ice-cream might be considered a bit, well, vanilla, but back in the eighties, in a world with limited ice-cream flavours, if anyone had a tub of ice-cream in their freezer, you could bet your life it would be vanilla. It was very popular in our house although Mum tended to buy it in block form rather than a tub. I suppose one reason it was so popular was because it was – and still is – so versatile: you could pop it in a soda float; add any flavour topping to it; layer it up in a sundae, or serve it as an accompaniment to a pudding such as a cake or tart – much like we do today. However most of the people I knew used to serve it with tinned fruit salad – a real treat back then for us kids (tinned fruit was the only fruit I’d eat back then) or jelly. It might not sound very sophisticated but if someone served that up for me now I’d still scoff it!

Today, vanilla has to work hard to maintain its popularity with all these weird and wonderful ice-cream flavours around that are tempting us away from this good, old-fashioned flavour. Vanilla is still tops due to its versatility but we’re much more fussy when it comes to the quality and won’t settle for any old vanilla ice-cream. It has to be super smooth and creamy, with an intense vanilla flavour – and if it happens to be vanilla bean ice-cream, so much the better!
2. CORNISH VANILLA

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Now this was the ice-cream flavour that Mum was most likely to buy and it was always the Wall’s brand that was in our freezer. Cornish vanilla ice-cream had a much deeper cream-come-yellow colour that regular vanilla ice-cream didn’t have, and what I remember most was that deliciously buttery flavour. Even as a child I felt that Cornish vanilla ice-cream didn’t really need any sauces or toppings thanks to that unique flavour; I preferred to have it ‘plain’.

Over the years I gradually stopped devouring Cornish vanilla. I’m not sure if it’s because I ate bucket-loads as a child or because I was tempted away by other flavours – or maybe both! But when I’m hit by nostalgia – as I so often am – I do treat myself to some Cornish vanilla ice-cream. However, I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed by it because that intense, buttery flavour that I remember doesn’t seem the same – no matter which brand I buy. But I live in hope of rediscovering it.

3. CHOCOLATE

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I didn’t know a kid back then who didn’t like chocolate ice-cream – and I still don’t! It’s still very much a firm favourite today with children and adults alike. When I was growing up but it was just ‘chocolate’. Now chocolate ice-cream has more varieties than Heinz: white chocolate, chocolate brownie, chocolate fudge; chocolate cookie dough; chocolate mud pie; triple chocolate; chocolate-til-it’s-coming-out-of-your-ears etc.

At secondary school, we were fortunate enough to have an ice-cream van arrive in the school yard every lunch time and home time, where after school, I would sometimes treat myself to a chocolate cone. I wonder what Mr. Oliver would make of that!

And you don’t need me to tell you, it’s still one of the most popular ice-cream flavours all over the world. But thenwith all those chocolate variations it would have to be.
4. STRAWBERRY

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My memories of strawberry ice-cream – a flavour both my parents loved back then – was that it was always an eye-catching shade of pink, from a pretty pastel shade to a very deep pink. However one thing I’m wondering about is whether any of the strawberry ice-creams I devoured contained a scrap of real strawberry at all. I suspect most of them didn’t and were simply strawberry flavoured but even if we knew that back then, I doubt we would have minded very much.

Of course today there is a real distinction between the brightly coloured strawberry flavoured ice-cream, and the frozen, creamy delicacy that’s made with real strawberries and often contains yummy chunks of strawberries – and I definitely know which one I prefer!

And as with chocolate, there are many variations today of the humble strawberry ice-cream: strawberry cheesecake; strawberry shortcake; strawberries and cream; strawberry and Champagne… oh it was all so much simpler in my day!
5. MINT CHOC-CHIP

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A childhood fave for me, as I loved anything that was mint flavoured (as a matter of fact I still do!) And contrary to popular belief, mint ice-cream tastes nothing like toothpaste. When I was around seven, I went through a phase where I would only ever eat ice-cream if it was mint choc-chip. I loved the cool, refreshing, minty taste combined with creamy texture. And those dark chocolate chips were a very welcome addition. Mint and chocolate – a winning combo if ever I heard one. And of course I loved the minty green colour too.

Mint choc chip is still readily available and although I never rush out and buy a tub anymore (I definitely overindulged when I was a child and can never finish a whole tub now) I never say no to a mint choc-chip cone.
6. RASPBERRY RIPPLE

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This was another ice-cream flavour I really liked: vanilla ice-cream swirled with raspberry sauce. Once again Mum used to by this in block form (yep, those blocks sure were popular in the eighties and nineties) which we would usually slice and serve between two wafers. I was always very fussy about which slice I got because it had to be very heavily rippled with raspberry sauce.

Thankfully this delicious ice-cream is still popular today.
7. NEAPOLITAN

Neapolitan: the ice-cream of my childhood

Whoever invented Neapolitan ice-cream is right up there with Einstein! It was a great idea to put the three popular ice-cream flavours together: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It meant that mums could buy just one tub and know it would please the whole family, and for those who just simply couldn’t decide which one to buy – they could just go for Neapolitan. One tub fits all!

It goes without saying that a tub of Neapolitan was always very well received in our house where we all had our favourites. And whenever we had guests over for dinner and there was going to be ice-cream for afters, if it wasn’t vanilla it was almost guaranteed to be Neapolitan because let’s face it everyone was guaranteed to like at least one of the flavours (unless they were strictly mint choc-chip in which case we were screwed!)

Neapolitan ice-cream is still around today but I wonder how many people have a tub in their freezer…
8. BROWN BREAD

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Although brown bread ice-cream was well-known during the eighties, I don’t ever recall it being available to buy in stores. Instead it seemed to be an ice-cream people were encouraged to make at home judging by the recipes I’d see in magazines and on cooking shows. At the time I remember thinking what an odd flavour it was for an ice-cream. Why on earth would anyone want to eat ice-cream made out of bread?

Well I’ve just come back from holiday where I indulged in the most gorgeous brown bread ice-cream. Words really don’t do it justice. Good on the ice-cream parlour for having brown bread ice-cream as one of its flavours. I hope other parlours and restaurants will follow.
9. RUM N’ RAISIN

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I never actually had rum n’ raisin ice-cream when I was growing up, despite it being quite popular, because I wasn’t keen on raisins and I was afraid I’d get drunk on the artificial rum flavour! How times have changed because now I love to get drunk on real rum… but I still have a love-hate thing going on with raisins. So good on rum n’  raisin for making it into the twenty first century but I really don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be wolfing down (it would have stood a better chance without the raisins.)

My mum, on the other hand, loves raisins but will never stock the freezer with rum and raisin because she hates the taste of rum!
10. BANANA

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This is an ice-cream flavour I loved back then and still do. Banana ice-cream wasn’t overly common when I was growing up – it still isn’t – but I remember that some restaurants offered it along with the top three. I really like banana ice-cream partly because I love the sweet, creamy taste of bananas but also because it made a change from vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. I’ve since discovered that banana ice-cream isn’t popular with a lot of people even now although I can’t understand why after all most people like a banana split and the flavours aren’t too dissimilar.

Never mind – I’ll still guzzle it by the bucketload!

11. TUTTI FRUTTI

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Meaning ‘all fruits’ in Italian, this ice-cream flavour containing mixed peel, dried and candied fruits was incredibly popular during the eighties and early nineties and was a huge hit with my family, especially my mum and aunts. But guess what? I HATED it! I couldn’t stand the stuff. I remember one occasion during a family get together when my five year old self had cried the house down because I wanted some ice-cream. And of all the flavours they could have brought me, they brought me a bowl of horrid tutti frutti.

“Now you eat that,” said my aunt in a very stern tone, “you asked for it, now eat it!” I didn’t dare tell her that even though I’d asked for ice-cream, I did not ask for that awful flavour.

Even though my palate has changed over the years and I now like foods I once detested, I don’t think I could ever get used to tutti frutti ice-cream. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to find out if I’m right because I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw it on sale… anywhere! In fact a lot of people I’ve spoken to have said the same. And despite my dislike of the flavour, I am sorry that it doesn’t seem to be around now as it brings back a lot of memories of my family, childhood and the eighties… and also because my mum likes it!

12. CHOC-CHIP

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Chocolate chip ice-cream is an absolute classic: smooth vanilla ice-cream combined with crunchy chocolate chips. This was a very popular ice-cream flavour as I was growing up but funnily enough I don’t remember us having this at home. On the rare occasions when we were fortune to sample a dish of choc chip, it was usually in a restaurant. And of course this flavour is still consumed by the truckload.

Right, now I’m going to stay cool with a huge tub of olive oil and bay leaf ice-cream. Bliss!

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Nul Points – No Way! My Most Memorable UK Eurovision Entries

It’s that time again. Eurovision is here. My mum no doubt is glued to the box right now and die-hard Eurovision fans across Europe – and for the first time ever, Australia (yeah I don’t understand that either) – are throwing Eurovision themed parties and trying to work out which country will be hailed this year’s winner, which will be revealed in just over an hour.

And this year’s Eurovision isn’t any old Eurovision either as the annual European song contest is in its sixtieth year. who would have thought that a musical competition that was initially created as a means of bringing peace and harmony back to post-war Europe would still be going strong today? Well it’s aim was to bring peace and harmony but as we all know that judging by the tactical voting and obvious bias towards certain countries, politics is very much at play. But it’s also a display of musical talent, fun, entertainment and over the top performances.

The Eurovision Song Contest used to be a big deal in my family, and every year we would huddle around the TV and watch all the acts. We’d even be allowed to stay up late to watch the voting. I remember one year in the mid-eighties, I really wanted Italy to win because one of the singers looked a lot like my aunt. When they didn’t win, I burst into tears – much to the annoyance of my dad!

I have to say that in recent years, I have been much of a Eurovision fan. I can’t really pinpoint why other than there have been quite a few changes over the years and it’s just not as good as it once was – in my opinion at least – and given the choice, I’d much rather be doing something else than watching Eurovision.

But I won’t knock it. I’m glad it’s still around as it brings back great memories for me. This got me thinking about some of my most memorable UK entries. The ones I’ve selected aren’t all necessarily the most amazing or my most favourite. But they are definitely the ones that are most memorable or most well-known to me, and good or bad, they’ve all stood out in some way.

1. 1981, DUBLIN BUCKS FIZZ – MAKING YOUR MIND UP 1st Place

I’d definitely entered the world by the time Bucks Fizz represented the United Kingdom back in 1981 with making your mind up. I’d either have been perched on my Eurovision nut mum’s lap or I’d have been fast asleep in my cot – either way I obviously don’t remember seeing the moment Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston, Mike Nolan and Bobby G – who had been specially put together for the song contest – performed in Dublin.

However I do remember seeing it years later, and that skirt ripping moment is definitely one of the most iconic in Eurovision history – that still gets talked about. Furthermore we were all big Bucks Fizz fans at home so they played a big part in our childhood.

 

2. 1984, LUXEMBOURG,  BELLE AND THE DEVOTIONS – LOVE GAMES 7th place

Even though I don’t remember the song very well, I did remember Belle and The Devotions. I remember them appearing on television a fair bit before they took part in the song contest. As I watched the contest, I remember wondering why Belle and The Devotions were the only act I recognized and moreover why the other acts were not singing in English. I remember very little about the 1984 show but I’m pretty certain I lost interest soon after Belle And The Devotions performance. I was still only a little ‘un and had a while to go before I entered into the Eurovison spirit of things – and under my mother’s influence I did!

3. 1985, GOTHEBURG, VIKKI – LOVE IS 4TH PLACE

To be totally honest I don’t remember the song at all but I do remember Vikki and seeing her perform on Top Of The Pops. despite finishing at a not-at-all-bad fourth place, Vikki didn’t become a household name unfortunately but she continues to work as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles where she is now based.

4. 1987, BRUSSELS, RIKKI – ONLY THE LIGHT 13TH PLACE

I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who would love to forget this song – Rikki included – but I think they’re being a bit harsh as listening to it years later, I actually think it’s quite catchy and a fine bit of pop music and Rikki’s vocals were pretty good. In fact it’s not just years later – I actually thought that at the time.

I remember Rikki and the track he wrote himself, Only The Light, much better than the previous UK entries because my sister and I not only used to sing Only The Light (much to the annoyance of the neighbours no doubt!) but we also came up with some choreography as well – though looking at the performance I think it’s fair to say that Rikki beat us hands down!

Although Rikki wasn’t the first UK entry to place below the Top Ten, never before had a UK entry placed so low at a disappointing thirteen – though I think this was extremely unfair as it wasn’t a bad song and Rikki, accompanied by his backing vocalists, gave it their all. I do remember this entry getting a lot of stick in the media the next day.

Then Jemini came along and all was forgiven!

5. 1988, DUBLIN, SCOTT FITZGERALD – GO 2ND PLACE

We all have our personal favourites and most memorable performances when it comes to Eurovision entries and Go, a track penned by Bruce Forsythe’s daughter Julie and performed by Scott Fitzgerald just happens to be mine. I wasn’t into ballady type numbers when I was a kid (that was more Mum’s thing) but there was something about this song that really jumped out at me. It could have been Scott’s powerful vocals, or the emotion in his voice, or just simply that it’s a great song. Naturally we always backed the UK when it came to Eurovision (even if we did sometimes secretly think that other countries had better songs and performances) but now we were convinced that Scott Fitzgerald was going to bring it home for us.

And he very nearly did.

It was nailbitingly neck and neck between the UK and Switzerland but Mum wasn’t too worried.

“That Swiss song wasn’t all that fantastic,” was Mum’s expert opinion.

By the time there was only one country left to vote, Switzerland was in the lead by only one point but we were so sure victory was going to be ours. I can’t remember who the last country to vote was but I do remember the moment when I knew it was all over:

“And finally twelve points goes to -”

Please let it be the UK, please, please…

“France.”

Cue much shouting, cheering and cartwheels from the Swiss team.

Of course the press had a field day about the unfairness of it all. Fancy the United Kingdom being beaten by just one measly point. It was like Mexico ’86 all over again – we’d come so far and victory was in our grasp only for us to have it snatched from us. But at least this time there was no cheating or Hand of God involved.

The press also commented on whether it was acceptable to have a Canadian representing Switzerland in the song contest.

Clearly the singer didn’t Think Twice about the fuss as she – Celine Dion – was on her way to bigger and better things.

6. 1991, ROME, SAMANTHA JANUS – MESSAGE TO YOUR HEART JOINT 10TH PLACE

When the future Ronnie Mitchell/Branning/Cotton was flying the flag for the United Kingdom back in 1991, I sadly was unable to watch it due to our prehistoric telly being on the blink! However I do remember a lot being said about the absolutely stunning, blonde twenty one year old then unknown, Samantha Janus,  who was going to perform Message To Your Heart, a song intended to prick the listeners’ social conscious regarding serious world wide issues. It was probably in the same vein as New Kids’ This One’s For The Children – and as everyone know New Kids On The Block can do no wrong in my eyes – but Message To Your Heart just didn’t make the same impact.

And for all those who suspected that Samantha Janus would probably end up pulling pints one day – they were right!

7. 1992, MALMO, MICHAEL BALL – ONE STEP OUT OF TIME 2ND PLACE

We just thought of Michael Ball as the Aspects Of Love bloke – the one who did a bit of musical theatre. So when we heard that he would be making a bid to represent the United Kingdom, we thought it would be a number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lloyd-Webber production.

So sis and I were amazed when Michael Ball rocked up with an up-tempo pop song – a song we couldn’t get out of out heads for days. And we loved Ball’s choreography!

I felt disappointed at the time that the UK lost out yet again but hey, we came second (again) so not all bad!

 

8. 1993, Co. CORK, SONIA – BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW 2ND PLACE

We’d always loved Sonia ever since she burst onto the scene with You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You and my mum was a huge fan:

“Aw that Sonia. she sings all the old songs and gets to number one.” Er, really Mum???

Well the fact that Better The Devil You Know (not the Kylie classic) wasn’t an ‘old song’ might explain why Sonia didn’t get to ‘number one’ in the Eurovision charts and win. Well that’s what Mum would have said anyway. But Sonia did us proud all the same. She sang her heart out and gave a great performance with a song that’s in my head to this day. Furthermore Better The Devil You Know did well in the national charts.

Plus I loved that purple jumpsuit!

9. 1994, DUBLIN, FRANCES RUFFELLE LONELY SYMPHONY 10TH PLACE

I have to admit, I didn’t know who Frances Ruffelle was prior to her representing the UK in Eurovision. She was – and still is – star of the West End stage, and also the daughter of Sylvia Young, and the mother of Eliza Dolittle.

Frances’ song was quite different to the previous Eurovision entries as it was less pop driven, more soulful, atmospheric song with a moving melody, and definitely not as cheesy as previous offerings. It also didn’t go for the novelty factor. Definitely one of the most sophisticated entries we’ve ever had.

 

10. 1995, DUBLIN, LOVE CITY GROOVE- LOVE CITY GROOVE 10TH PLACE

For the first time ever, rap came to the Eurovision song contest via the United Kingdom. And to this day I can still remember the chorus. I know this song was heavily criticised at the time for not being ‘Eurovision’ enough but I don’t think it’s a horrendous song at all, and as urban music was the only thing I’d listen to back then, I actually quite liked it. It had that cool summertime vibe and pop beat that was typical of all mid-nineties rap that didn’t come over all gold tooth and gangsta! It did placed tenth just as their predecessor Frances Ruffelle had done the year before but it did a lot better than most people had expected. I think the truth of the matter is that Eurovision just wasn’t ready for rap from the UK.

11. 1996, OSLO, GINA G – OOH AAH… JUST A LITTLE BIT 8TH PLACE

This stunning Aussie redhead, born Gina Mary Gardiner, represented the United Kingdom back in 1996 and whereas most Eurovision hopefuls are rarely heard of again once the contest is over, Gina was very popular in Britain for quite some time. She had four UK chart hits after Ooh Aah… she also did well in America where she was nominated for a Grammy award, graced the covers of many mags, and was never off the telly!

I have to say although Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit was very catchy and something of a club anthem back then, Gina’s brand of pop, house and dance wasn’t really my thing as I was very much an urban chick but it hearing this track does bring back tons of memories of my secondary school days.

After years of living in London, Gina eventually relocated to Los Angeles where she still resides today and is still involved in the music industry.

12. 1997, DUBLIN, KATRINA AND THE WAVES – LOVE SHINE A LIGHT 1ST PLACE

I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine…woah oh

And don’t it feel good! Hey!

It’s one of the most recognizable tracks from the eighties and the one that British rock band Katrina And The Waves were most well-known for.

But that was until 1997 when Katrina And The Waves represented the United Kingdom with Love Shine A Light. I remember watching lead singer, Kansas-born Katrina Leskanich, being interviewed just before the contest and being asked how she would feel if they ended up getting the dreaded ‘nul points’.

“But it’s not going to get nul points,” Katrina responded confidently, “come on – it’s a great song.”

Well she wasn’t wrong. That year, the UK headed to the top of the scoreboard and secured their first win since Bucks Fizz’s Making Your Mind Up sixteen years earlier.

It was the second time the United Kingdom have won the Eurovision Song Contest in my life time – but only the first time that I actually got to see and remember it.

Now if only I could see England win the World Cup…

13. 1998, BIRMINGHAM, IMAANI – WHERE ARE YOU? 2ND PLACE

Admittedly I’d forgotten this song and the singer Imaani – who still singning and putting out records – but as soon as I heard this song again, it all came flooding back. It was a very good entry and although it didn’t secure a second consecutive win for us, it finished at a very respectable place.

14. 2003, LATVIA, JEMINI – CRY BABY 26TH PLACE

OK, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’d like to forget Jemini but how could we ever forget the only UK act ever to get the infamous nul point?

 

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