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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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A Tearful G’bye To Doug: A Look-Back At Ramsay Street’s Willis Family

 Hotel Death Trap week on Neighbours was truly gripping stuff! But it’s also been incredibly heartbreaking, and I think it’s safe to say that life on Ramsay Street will never be the same again. Viewers watched Josh Willis die after bravely sacrificing his life to save his nemesis, Daniel. Today his grandfather Doug collapsed and died shortly after reuniting son Brad with his own estranged son, Ned. What is it with those scriptwriters – they really had it in for the poor Willis family!!!

The scenes of Doug’s death, featuring three generations of Willis men, were extremely poignant. When you mention the Willis family, fans of Neighbours  today will think of Brad and Therese, their three children, Josh, Imogen, and Piper plus Brad’s daughter Paige. But when I think of the Willises, I go right back to the early nineties, when the Willis family consisted of Doug and his wife Pam, and their children Adam, Gaby, Cody and of course – Brad!

When Des Clarke sold his house to Doug Willis, I didn’t think that I’d take to the Willises the same way I did with the Clarkes – I was wrong. I  absolutely adored this family and still do. At this time there weren’t really many families as such living on Ramsay Street so this new family unit made a very welcome addition and their lighthearted attitude to life proved to be a breath of fresh air.

THE MARRIAGE

Neighbours Viewers already knew Cody Willis but they got to meet her parents Doug and Pam just before they took over Des Clarke’s  house and set up home in Ramsay Street. They may have been married for over twenty years but anyone could see that the spark was very much there between Doug and his wife. And they didn’t behave like a couple of old marrieds either. Who can forget when Pam tricked Doug into removing all his clothes before locking him out of the house and refusing to let him back in until he promised to take her out dancing?

It was probably because the Willis marriage was so strong that Doug’s habit of flirting with attractive women didn’t bother Pam at all. But there were times when it caused Pam to worry: when Doug’s ex-girlfriend, Alexandra showed up briefly in Erinsborough, and when Lou’s sister, Brenda, became infatuated with Doug.

Both times Pam’s fears proved unfounded. But neither she nor Doug could have predicted what was around the corner…

While nursing neighbour, Jim Robinson back to health, Pam realised she was attracted to him. Her behaviour caused Doug to become quite suspicious of her and Jim but Pam made the fatal error of confessing her feelings for Jim to her ‘good friend’ Jill Weir – not realising that Jill had set her sights on Doug.

Jill used this information to her advantage which resulted in her spending the night with Doug in his hotel room. When she found out, a furious Pam threw Doug out of the house and started divorce proceedings before embarking on a brief fling with Jim.

But it took Doug getting lost at sea to make the warring Willises realise they still loved each other and reunited, ending one of the lowest points in their marriage. And after four years in Ramsay Street, Doug and Pam upped sticks and moved to Darwin after Doug was offered a job there.

THE KIDS

Doug and Pam were the proud parents of four children: two boys, Adam and Brad, and two girls, Gaby and Cody. 

All the Willis kids were extremely close and looked out for each other. They were all fun-loving  but they were also as different as they were alike. Adam was studying to be a doctor who couldn’t decide between Caroline Alessi and Gemma Ramsay (although he eventually left the Street to start a new life with Gemma.) Gaby had been studying business in Hong Kong before coming to live with her family in Erinsborough. Brad was the typical, ultra laid- back surfer, and as a sign of what was to happen in years to come, was caught up in a love triangle between Beth and Lauren. Brad eventually chose Beth but Lauren would get her chance in years to come… Then there was baby of the family, Cody. Headstrong and independent, Cody was a rebel who was always determined to get her own way but nonetheless was doted on by both her parents. She was madly in love with Todd Landers but left to study in America.

All the Willis kids eventually left Ramsay Street to start new lives elsewhere. After a while the characters of Cody and Brad were brought back – although they were not played by the original actors – and Gaby made a cameo appearance in Annalise Hartman’s documentary. Only Adam seems to have been forgotten about but viewers can only assume that Dr. Adam Willis is still living happily in Newcastle with Gemma.

THE LAUGHTER

One thing that I loved about this family was that there was always a lot of love and laughter in the Willis household. Sure they had their problems like everyone else and they endured some pretty rough times, but on the whole, they were very fun loving and never took themselves too seriously. I loved the scene where Brad and Gaby were play fighting with Doug despairing if they’d ever grow up because it reminded me of my own family.

Adam once explained that practical joking was a family tradition, and the Willises did indeed like pranking each other. I remember after one prank got Doug arrested, he got his own back by getting Cody arrested by a police officer. The way it played out was so funny.

And then there’s was Adam’s disastrous first date with Caroline Alessi where his car broke down. It would have infuriated most people but not Adam. Ever the optimist, Adam got a take away pizza and then turned on the radio so that he and Caroline could dance while roadside assistance repaired the car. “Told you I’d take you out dancing after dinner,” Adam told Caroline, looking thoroughly pleased with himself, demonstrating the Willis ability to look on the bright side.

THE HARDSHIPS

Despite all the fun and laughter, the Willises also faced some pretty testing times when laughing was the last thing they wanted to do. There was the time Pam was arrested after being accused of helping one of her patients to die. It was a very worrying time for the family and Pam was determined not to go to prison for something she didn’t do. Thankfully charges against her were dropped.

But worse was to come when the Willises youngest son, Brad, was imprisoned on false drug smuggling charges in Asia- a crime which carried the death penalty. An extremely frantic Doug and Pam flew out, leaving the elder two kids, Adam and Gaby, to raise the funds they needed to get Brad out of jail. After a while Doug and Pam arrived in Erinsborough – with Brad in tow!

Despite Doug having his own business, the Willis family weren’t exactly rolling in it. Pam often took to driving her father’s cab when money was tight, and once many years ago, Pam was forced to pawn her engagement ring, and was extremely relieved to get it back. So financial worries were nothing new to the family.

But things went from bad to worse.

After a joint business venture with Paul Robinson went wrong, Doug found himself in debt. Forced to sell the business, Doug was then employed by the new owners but a difference of opinion led to Doug being sacked. He then spiralled into depression, leading to excessive drinking and a near- breakdown.

But being made of tougher stuff, the Willises got through it.

THE TRAGEDIES

Despite their happy demeanor, the Willises experienced more than their fair share of heartache. Doug and Pam lost one of their children – a baby boy called John – when he was around eighteen months old. Then tragedy struck again years later when their youngest child Cody was accidentally shot and killed during a shoot out on Ramsay Street, leaving the family distraught.

In more recent times, Doug’s health began to deteriorate rapidly as he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Unable to cope with the demands of looking after her husband, Pam sent Doug to stay with Brad where the whole family rallied round and did their best to care for Doug but it was painfully clear to everyone that Doug was steadily getting worse.

And of course as viewers saw last week, fate decided that it wasn’t done with the Willis family as the explosion that rocked Lassiter’s, claimed the lives of Doug and his grandson, Josh, ensuring that the Willis family would never be the same again and that the union between Doug and his beloved Pam had finally come to an end. However will Pam cope?

THE NEXT GENERATION OF WILLISES

The fact that a new generation of Willises were brought back to Erinsborough almost twenty years since Pam and Doug had left for Darwin proves that the Willis family had indeed made an impact and were still fondly remembered. Brad, his second wife, Therese, twins Josh and Imogen, together with youngest daughter Piper, and Brad’s long- lost daughter Paige make up the new Willis family. There may not be as much larking about in the Willis household this time round but they’re definitely not short on drama!

I had always believed that it was the decision of the actors who played Pam and Doug – Sue Jones and Terrence Donovan – to leave Neighbours, marking the departure of the last two Willises left in Ramsay Street. But an interview with Terrance Donovan revealed that Pam and Doug were written out to make way for a family unit with teenage kids, thus keeping in line with the hotter, younger, sexier new image the show was trying to convey. Enter the Kennedys! To be honest its only in recent years that I’ve grown to love Karl and Susan which means I’ve finally forgiven them for ousting the Willises from their home! But I never really did take to the Kennedy kids the way I did with the Willis kids and I would have loved for them – the whole family – to have stayed.

I think another reason why I’m so fond if the Willis family is because the were around during Neighbours’ heyday – a time when we all rushed home from school to watch Neighbours so that we could discuss it at school; when Neighbours’ stars got all the magazine covers, and the show’s actors appeared on our TV screens more than our own homegrown talent. The Willis family are a reminder of those days and of everything that was going on in my own life at the time.

It’s sad that Terrence Donovan’s association with Neighbours which has spanned a period of more than twenty five years has come to an end. And as Terrence is the real-life father of Jason Donovan – who brought the role of Scott Robinson to life – it makes that association somehow stronger. And let’s not forget Terrence’s sensitive portrayal of a man battling Alzheimer’s which raised further awareness of the illness. Doug’s time on the Street has come to an end but we will always have very fond memories of Doug and remember him as a hardworking, down-to-earth family man who loved his wife and kids – not to mention having a laugh.

G’bye Doug – Ramsay Street just won’t be same…

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in TV Shows

 

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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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Video

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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Video

Happy New Kids On The Block Day

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It’s that time of year again. The one where I get to dress up and go back to being a thirteen year old again.

No Halloween has not come early. I’m talking about New Kids On The Block Day, and as I’m a die hard fan, I absolutely love this day which remembers all that is fabulous about the most awesome boy band ever to walk this earth: Jordan, Jon, Joe, Danny and Donnie.

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So come on Blockheads: don those ripped jeans, flash those smiley faces and peace sign medallions, wear your New Kids T-shirts with pride, and crank up the volume so that the whole neighbourhood hears those NKOTB tunes. Watch those videos to your hearts content, and prepare to fall in love with the Boston boy band all over again. It’s what today is all about.

Back in 1989, then Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, declared 24 April to be National New Kids On The Block Day (for that alone, Mr. Dukakis should have been president!) National it may have been, but it didn’t stop fans from all over the world from honouring them. And twenty six years later it’s still a pretty big day in the Blockheads’ calendar.

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I’ve already driven the Hubby mad by singing New Kids On The Block Songs on the tube on the way to work. He should just be thankful that it was a packed carriage or I would have had to get on the floor and do the New Kids dance!

I’ve been in love with the five bad brothers from the bean town land from the moment I clapped eyes on them, and whereas most people go through phases of liking bands before moving on to the next big thing, it’s always been the New Kids for me and I’m so proud to say that they were my boy band when I was growing up.

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So as it’s National New Kids On The Block Day, I’m going to share the New Kids moments, experiences, memories and events that are special to me personally.

1.  BEFORE I’D EVEN SEEN THEM

“Do you lot like that new group, what are they called again? New Kids In The Neighbourhood?

“Oh you mean New Kids On The Block!”

“Oh my gosh, I really like them.”

“I really like them too!”

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That was a conversation that took place in my Year 7 class just as the New Kids were really starting to take off here in Britain. I can still  vividly remember this scene as we waited for our form tutor to arrive. At this point I’d definitely heard of New Kids On The Block but I hadn’t seen them and I didn’t really know anything about them. I wasn’t even a hundred per cent sure I’d heard anything by them. But I remember for the upcoming Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards many of the pop stars du jour were casting their vote for a little known band called the New Kids for Best Newcomer and various other awards so I knew there was something special about this band.

Little did I know just how special.

2. NUMBER ONE ON TOP OF THE POPS

It was Thursday night which meant that it was Top Of The Pops night, so us kids and Dad – who always likes to think he’s down with the kids – were huddled around the TV waiting to check out that week’s chart climbers and sliders and more importantly, who’d hit the top spot.

When the new number one was announced, I was thrilled to hear that it was that cool new group that everyone was talking about,New Kids On The Block with You Got It (The Right Stuff.) That was great because I’d finally get to see what they looked like – and what was so great about them. Little did I know that my little pre-pubescent self was NEVER going to be the same again.

The New Kids didn’t make a live appearance so the video was played instead, and when I tell you that it was love at first sight, I am not kidding. I’d had lots of crushes up until that point (yep, always had an eye for the boys!) but this was indescribable. I’d never seen a whole bunch of really great looking boys before. They sang and danced amazingly. I loved their style and they just had this thing… this thing that I couldn’t and still can’t quite put my finger on. And when a band or artist has this special quality, you just know they’re going to be huge. So it was no surprise when the New Kids blew up big time.

My sister and I had found our new crushes – as did most of the female population under the age of twenty five. I still didn’t know their names but the one who made the biggest impression on me was the extremely handsome, dark-haired boy who appeared to be the lead singer…

3. SMASH HITS COVER

Shortly after seeing them on TOTP for the first time, New Kids On The Block graced their first ever cover of Smash Hits magazine. And they were every bit as gorgeous as I’d remembered. I learned that their names were Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood, Donnie Wahlberg, and Jordan Knight was Jon’s brother and the hottie who’d caught my eye. I’d never heard of anyone called Jordan before (we weren’t that exotic growing up in North-West London!) but it soon became one of my favourite boy’s names and remains so to this day – although Hubby is adamant that if ever we have a son, he is NEVER going to be called Jordan!

Thanks to that issue of Smash Hits, we also got to learn all sorts of other extremely useful snippets of info about them which came in very handy for discussions with our classmates. It was long before I was buying every magazine that they featured in.

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I bitterly regret not hanging on to that issue of Smash Hits.

4. WINNING SMASH HITS AWARDS

The year was 1990, the year my baby brother was born and the year New Kids On The Block scooped almost everything at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards. I’ve always loved watching the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party on BBC One, and then reading about it in the following issue of the magazine.

That year the New Kids appeared at the party via satellite link (that’s kind of when you know someone’s really famous!) but for the screaming girls present and those watching at home, those boys from Boston were definitely the highlight – as was seeing their excitement every time they got an award. But oh my goodness that was nothing compared to the hysterics when Jordan Knight found out that he’d won the award for most fanciable male. I loved when he looked in to the camera and said, “It’s me, boys” and then went on to thank all us “fine, English girls” for the award. Ooh, I’ve come over all funny!

Jordan Knight winning the award for most fanciable male was hardly a surprise but as all the New Kids are hot, it’s a pity they weren’t all joint first.

5. NEW YORK GIG

OK so I never got to go to the New York concert as part of the Hanging Tough Tour but I did get to see it and I loved it! I enjoyed every second of the show and so it seemed, did the New Kids, who looked as though they were having an awesome time. The bond between the boys has always been obvious but it was even more evident here. There have been many renditions of I’ll Be There but I definitely think there’s is the best by a long shot. I loved watching Jordan pulling faces into the camera and showing off his breaking dancing skills, Wild man Donnie serenading a little girl, and the boys really working that crowd.

Awesome gig!

6. PROVIDENCE GIG

I’d never even heard about Providence, RI before (sorry to all the residents there!) But now when I hear it mentioned, I immediately think of the gig the New Kids did there back in 1991 as part of the Magic Summer Tour. A friend recorded it for me and I’d never get fed up of watching it. In fact I spent more time watching it then I did studying for end of year exams. But it was worth it seeing Jordan perform Baby, I Believe In You.

I wish I had been there.

7.THE COMEBACK PT.1

I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled when the New Kids announced that they were reuniting but I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to happen. There were apparent recording hitches and all kinds of other calamities that they had to contend with. And their eagerly-awaited appearance at the 1993 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party mysteriously never happened (Donnie later said that it was because the band were asked to change some of the lyrics to their very risqué hit, Dirty Dawg, which they refused to do.)

They did a feature in Smash Hits and it was awesome to hear what they’d been up to during their two year break. And I loved their lively banter with Clive Warren on capital Radio, as they promoted their new album Face The Music. It appeared that the boys were back, and us Blockheads – the real ones who never went away – were doing cartwheels.

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But this is where the memories aren’t so good. Even though I loved Face The Music, and I think it was lyrically and vocally one of the strongest out of all their early offerings, the critics and haters had it in for the New Kids. They slammed the boys’ harder, edgier street image and sound, and claimed that the lyrics in Dirty Dawg degraded women. Dirty Dawg only got as far as number twenty seven in the UK charts and the following single Never Gonna Let You Go barely made it into the Top Forty. Then Jon quit the group the New Kids soon disbanded. What I call the ‘wilderness years’ soon followed.

It is such a great pity that the boys weren’t as successful as they could have been because everything was put in place for an awesome comeback but there was so much stacked against them. But we can be thankful that they gave us another fantastic album.

8. THE COMEBACK PT.2

When it came to chart music and boy bands, no one could ever match up to New Kids On The Block. From being everywhere they were suddenly nowhere – and us fans missed them like crazy. I would get so excited if I so much as saw them mentioned in an article or if one of them made a fleeting appearance on a TV show.

And my biggest regret?

My biggest regret was that I got to see them perform live. That’s right – I might have been a fan for most of my life but I never got to go to a concert for many reasons and that did make me sad.

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I used to wish that they’d get back together if only for a little while so that I’d be able to fulfil my wish of being a hysterical Blockhead at one of their gigs. But I knew that it was unlikely to ever happen. The band had always seemed reluctant to get back together with many of them clearly stating that they’d moved on to other things.

So I was stunned, totally stunned when the New Kids reunited back in 2008. I was thrilled but apprehensive. What if this comeback was like the first one?

Luckily for us, it so wasn’t.

The group are still going strong today.

9. MY FIRST CONCERT

As soon as the UK tour was announced, I got tickets to the gig in Wembley. There are no words to describe how excited I was. For the New Kids to have gotten back together was beyond my wildest dreams. But to actually be going to their concert was a case of if-this-is-a-dream-please-don’t-wake-me. I was so happy that my dream was coming true.

But then tragedy struck when I lost my beloved grandfather just three weeks before the concert. In my grief the last thing I wanted to do was have a blast. I just wanted to curl up in a ball in a corner and stay there for a year. But my family had other ideas and persuaded me that it was what I needed.

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They were absolutely right. So a slightly subdued me went to Wembley with a very dear friend and we had an amazing time. We laughed, we sang, we danced, I may have shed a tear or two. It’ll always be very memorable for me. I loved the intro when the boys walked out on stage, and during If You Go Away, they displayed an emotional montage as a tribute to the loved ones they lost, which obviously struck a chord with me.

It was an extremely bittersweet experience and one that I’ll always be thankful to the New Kids for. I feel that they played a part in getting me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, and I fulfilled my wish.

They were definitely worth the wait.

 

10. STAR ON HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

When New Kids On The Block got their star on Hollywood Walk Of Fame it was as though they’d come full circle and there wasn’t a prouder bunch than us Blockheads. All I could think was “It’s about time!” New Kids have their place among the stars where they belong.

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Happy New Kids Day!

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Ten EastEnders Mysteries – Solved!

It’s the whodunit that’s gripped the nation and in just a matter of days, we’ll discover who it was that killed EastEnders’ Lucy Beale. It’s a pretty big week for the long-running soap as it enters it’s thirtieth year and to celebrate there are a week of live episodes which will no doubt culminate in shocked gasps which are most likely to be heard all around the country as we find out exactly who it is that has blood on their hands. Bookies are taking bets and I have my own suspicions as to who it might be. It’s one of the biggest storylines to date.

However as every EastEnders fan will know, the show is well known for its mysteries and whodunits that are guaranteed to keep viewers tuning in to discover who the culprit was and their motives. Let’s not forget, the very first EastEnders scene involved the murder of Reg Cox. I think if Hercule Poirot lived on The Square he’d never be out of work with all the murders, shootings, thefts and other mayhem that takes place.

So as we reach the conclusion to what is going to be a classic Walford whodunit, I’m taking a look at what has been for me, some of the most memorable mysteries ever to occur on the Square, with some going practically as far back as the beginning of the show. They definitely had us on the edge of our seats!

1. FOWLER BREAK-IN

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When Pauline and Arthur invited a group of their friends and family back to theirs, they weren’t expected to be greeted by the sight that awaited them: their home had been ransacked and the Christmas club fund that Arthur had recently withdrawn from the bank was gone. The question is, who could have done it?

As far as mysteries goes, this was pretty tame stuff. But then again it was back in the eighties when EastEnders was just getting warmed up. And far from it dragging on and on, the culprit was revealed within a couple of episodes as loveable Arthur Fowler who’d used the Christmas club money to pay for his daughter Michelle’s wedding and then staged the break-in to explain the missing money to all his friends, family, and neighbours. This incident lead to Arthur’s eventual breakdown and imprisonment.

2. WHO FATHERED MICHELLE FOWLER’S BABY?

Drama didn’t follow anyone around as much as it followed Michelle Fowler, and it all began when she got pregnant at sixteen and refused to name the father. This storyline occurred very early on for EastEnders and it is still one of the most memorable and still talked about today.

There were several characters who were in the frame for being the father of the future Vicki Fowler. On the day of the big reveal, viewers saw Andy O’Brien, Tony Carpenter, Den Watts, and Ali Osman hurridly getting into their vehicles and driving away – just as Michelle was on her way to the canal to meet the father. We knew it was one of the four; we just didn’t know which one.

Then a car appears at the canal and we see a man step out of it before going to open one of the rear doors – as Roly jumps out of the car. Yes, it was none other than Den Watts. Even though I’d watched these scenes the first time round, I was too young to understand the relevance of what I was watching  (strange as it may seem, I innocently thought Michelle was having a chat with Sharon’s dad) but now I’m so glad that I got to witness this piece of soap history.

3. DEBBIE’S PHONE PEST

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When Debbie Wilkins began getting obscene phone calls, she naturally didn’t know who could possibly behind them. Then she realized that the voice belonged to café owner Ali Osman. Her enraged boyfriend Andy wanted to storm over to Ali’s and have it out with them but Debbie had another idea: she was going to invite Ali and his wife Sue over for dinner and confront him about the calls. It was a very tense dinner as Sue worked out that Debbie and Andy were blaming Ali for the phone calls… and then the phone rang.

You guessed it – it was the phone pest. And a horrified Debbie realised that she had made a mistake and still didn’t know the identity of the person making the malicious calls.

It was during a visit from Debbie’s phone Naima that the identity of the caller was revealed. Naima had answered the phone when it rang and despite Debbie’s attempts to take the phone from her, Naima insisted on speaking to the caller herself. So she did – in Bengali.

The caller was none other than Naima’s husband Saeed.

I actually remember the scene where Saeed was exposed, as well as an earlier scene where Saeed was queuing up along with other residents to use the payphone in the laundrette which was already being occupied by Ali who was making an important phone call. Looking back it was probably to keep viewers guessing as to who the phone pest was.

4. WALFORD SERIAL ATTACKER

This was a storyline that particularly sticks out in my mind even though I was so young when it aired. In 1987 an unknown man was terrorising the women of Walford. He’d stalk them at night and there were references made by the characters of hearing about yet another woman being attacked. It wasn’t long before some of the Square’s residents were having close calls with the Walford attacker. Sue Osman had had an encounter with him, as had Sharon Watts but both had got away unharmed. In fact I remember the episode in which Sharon was almost attacked. I was watching it with some of my little friends and we all played detective: discussing who we thought the attacker might be and who could be his next victim.

Unfortunately Pat Wicks didn’t fare so well. She was brutally attacked and left for dead. Her ex-husband Pete became a suspect, but although he had a motive for attacking Pat, there was no reason why he should go after the other women.

Eventually the Walford attacker was caught when he tried to assault Debbie Wilkins after finding her alone in the laundrette. Unfortunately his capture was a bit of a let-down because instead of being a well-known or at least easily identifiable character, the attacker just turned out to be some random guy who I believe was called Oxley.

Still not bad for a soap that was pretty much just starting out.

5. MURDER OF EDDIE ROYAL

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Ex-policeman Eddie Royle hadn’t been landlord of The Queen Vic when he had been found knifed to death in The Square’s gardens back in the early nineties. Dot stumbled across his body when she found Roly stranded in the Sqauare who led her to Eddie’s body. But what Dot didn’t know was that she wasn’t the first person to discover the dead body…

Viewers saw Clyde Tavernier standing over Eddie’s body with a knife in his hands before wiping the blood from his hands and fleeing. He then set about acting very suspiciously: tiptoeing back into his house so as not to alert his family to his presence before burning a shirt with Eddie’s blood on it – under the watchful eye of his grandfather Jules.

However Clyde was innocent. He’d found Eddie lying in the gardens and foolishly picked up the murder weapon thus incriminating himself. Not only that but Clyde also had a motive for killing Eddie after they fell out over a boxing betting scam. But then Eddie was hardly a popular man in The Square with a few of the residents including Grant and Sharon having a grudge against him.

Nick Cotton then told police that Clyde had killed Eddie causing a terrified Clyde to go on the run with his son Kofi, on-off girlfriend Michelle Fowler and her daughter Vicki.

Thankfully Mark’s friend Joe came forward and told police that he had seen Nick Cotton in the Square that night after watching the recovering drug addict shin down the drainpipe outside his bedroom window. It was clear – as I’m sure many people had long suspected – that Nick was Eddie’s killer.

But despite being arrested and tried for the murder, Nick is found not guilty due to lack of evidence, leaving him free to wreak havoc in the Square for years to come.

6. WHO SHOT PHIL MITCHELL?

Our very own version of the who shot JR saga was who shot Phil Mitchell – the first time back in 2001. And with the number of Square residents who he’d rubbed up the wrong way, it could have been anyone. On the evening he got shot, a very drunken Phil was irritated by what he thought were kids playing knock down ginger. So he went outside and hollered in typical Phil fashion that if they did it again, he’d tan their backsides. Then as he turned around to walk back inside he was shot in the back. But before losing consciousness, Phil caught a glimpse of his assassin fleeing… and we all waited until Phil was out of hospital for that humdinger of an episode where Phil confronted the person who shot him.

Steve Owen, Lisa Shaw, Dan Sullivan, and Ian Beale were all suspects – but it turned out that it was little Lisa who pulled the trigger.

7. DENNIS RICKMAN’S KILLER

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I had the biggest crush ever on Dennis Rickman, so I was absolutely heartbroken when he was killed off in 2005, especially as it was in an extremely brutal manner. I remember my sisters, who were massive Dennis fans too could hardly bear to watch the episode where Dennis died.

After marrying Sharon, the woman of his dreams, the newlyweds were thrilled beyond belief to discover that they were going to have the one thing that they didn’t think was possible – a baby! I still remember the scene where Sharon broke the news to Dennis and how jubilant they both were.

But sadly their happiness wasn’t to last. Johnny Allen, furious with Dennis for having crossed him, threatens Sharon and tells her that if she and Dennis don’t leave Walford before the new year, her baby was grow up without a father. Sharon manages to talk Dennis into leaving for a new life in America but on the day they’re due to leave, Phil Mitchell tells Dennis that Johnny Allen attacked and threatened Sharon, and that he was responsible for killing Dennis’s friend Andy Hunter. A furious Dennis goes over to Johnny’s, where he beats him half to death. But then Dennis makes the mistake of throwing Johnny a phone so that he can call for help, thinking it won’t matter as he and Sharon will be long gone by the time help arrives.

But Johnny doesn’t call for an ambulance; he calls for someone to take care of Dennis in revenge for the vicious attack. As Dennis and Sharon look for each other among the crowds of New Year’s Eve’s revellers, they catch sight of each other – and as they do so, someone brutally stabs Dennis leaving him to die in a hysterical Sharon’s arms.

It’s in Spring 2006 that we find out that the man hired to kill Dennis was Alfie Moon’s second cousin Danny.

8. FATHER OF LAURA BEALE’S BABY

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Laura, the third Mrs. Ian Beale was ecstatic when she discovered that she was pregnant with her much longed-for baby. In her excitement she got caught up in babymania and failed to notice that husband Ian wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels – although he did a good enough job of pretending to be happy. The reason? Ian knew that the baby wasn’t his as he’d secretly had a vasectomy. And not willing to bring up another man’s child as his own, Ian was biding his time until he could exact his revenge on Laura.

He conned Laura into signing over her share of the business to him, and then on Christmas Day Ian revealed that he knew that Laura had cheated on him and that he’d had a vasectomy so he couldn’t possibly be the baby’s father. Then Ian threw Laura out of their home – much to the disgust of Ian’s young daughter, Lucy.

Meanwhile Laura had been genuinely certain that Ian was the baby’s father and had no reason to believe any different – until she recalled a drunken one-night stand. So she notified the man in question that he was about to become a dad. The man was a very shocked and very married Gary Hobbs!

But the shocks didn’t stop there…

After his arrival, baby Bobby is in need of a blood transfusion. Tests showed that Gary wasn’t the father…

…it was Ian Beale!

9. GEORGE TROTT’S FATHER

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It was the storyline that kept EastEnders’ fans guessing for nine months: who was the father of Heather Trott’s baby? Just hours after giving birth to a baby boy, who Heather named George Michael Trott, she then made a phone call to let an unsuspecting male know that he had just become a father. And in typical EastEnders style four men – Billy Mitchell, Darren Miller, Phil Mitchell and Minty Peterson – were seen getting calls.

I didn’t get to see the episode when it first aired in which the identity of George’s father was revealed. Instead it was left to my sister to tell me that Darren Miller was George’s dad. It’s a good job I’m not a betting person as my money would have been on Heather’s ex-husband, Minty Peterson.

10. WHO KILLED ARCHIE MITCHELL

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This was the last big whodunit before it was topped by the Lucy Beale saga. And just like the episodes which are going to air this week on EastEnders, Archie Mitchell’s killer was unmasked during the show’s first ever live episode as part of EastEnders’ twenty fifth anniversary celebrations.

Over the years, we’d heard a lot about ‘Daad’s bruvver, Archie’ from the Mitchell clan, but it’s only when he appeared on screen that viewers saw what a thoroughly unlikeable character he was. A philanderer, liar, control freak, rapist and trouble maker, Archie Mitchell made a lot of enemies – especially among his own family. His daughter Ronnie, in particular, hated her father for forcing her to give her baby up for adoption.

Archie was killed on Christmas Day 2009 when he was hit over the head with the bust of the Queen Victoria. There were many possible suspects including Ian Beale, Bradley Branning, Ryan Malloy, Stacey Branning, and practically the entire Mitchell family. During the live episode, it appeared that the murderer was a panic-stricken Bradly who was fleeing from the police and was killed as he fell from the roof.

The murderer turned out to be Bradley’s wife Stacey.

And this Thursday, another EastEnders mystery will be solved…

Here’s to another thirty years of murder, mystery and suspense on the Square.

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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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30 YEARS OF EASTENDERS: EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT

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It’s impossible to have failed to notice that EastEnders is about to turn thirty. It’s unbelievable! I remember being a kid and watching the trailers for a new BBC series that was about to hit our screens in which a host of characters introduced themselves and their families. At the time I was too young to understand what was happening, but looking back it’s very obvious that hopes were high that this soap was going to be something huge – and it was! Thirty years on, EastEnders is still going strong but it’s so surreal to think that there are people under thirty who will never have known a time when EastEnders wasn’t on the box.

When the Cockney soap, which is set in the fictitious London borough of Walford, was first screened, it was only shown twice a week: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30. As the show gained in popularity, I began to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays which became known as EastEnders days, and felt quite bored on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – which became known as Wogan days – because there wasn’t anything worth watching. Unless Terry Wogan had some interesting guests on!

In the early days, EastEnders centred primarily around three families: the Beales, the Fowlers, and the Watts. It was only when the character of Dot Cotton was introduced several months later, did the Cotton family become another well-known family in the Square – although many would say that it was for all the wrong reasons!

Over the years, EastEnders went through periods where it was gripping, unmissable stuff to times where I’d rather have a nap than tune in to what was happing in Walford. In fact from early 2011, I pretty much stopped watching the soap – something I never thought would happen. It was a combination of ridiculous storylines, dull characters, and awful actors that just made me want to switch off. And I know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that EastEnders had lost the plot. But I have to say that in recent months, the show’s gotten to be very interesting again, and it takes me back to the days when EastEnders was nothing less than brilliant. But whether I tuned in regularly or not, one thing was for sure – that missing the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders was not an option! It has been a family tradition for so long, and it doesn’t matter what we’d be doing but everything stopped as soon as we heard the familiar opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune. My Aunt and Uncle have been having huge Christmas bashes at their house for years but as soon as it was time for EastEnders, everyone would huddle in their front room; it was an episode not to be missed.

The dominant storyline right now in EastEnders is the murder of Lucy Beale whose killer is going to be unmasked during the week of live episodes – and we cannot wait. It’s absolutely exciting stuff and I’m so glad that EastEnders is back on form. So to celebrate this momentous occasion there’s going to be a host of EastEnders-inspired blog posts honouring this legendary soap and having us skipping down memory lane. In this post, we’ll look at thirty factors that make EastEnders what it is…

1. THE QUEEN VIC

The Queen Victoria public house is the hub of Walford and was named after er, Queen Victoria. It’s where the locals meet and have a night out. And if any of the residents are having a wedding, funeral wake or christening, you can be sure that they’ll hold their event at The Vic. And let’s not forget it’s also been the venue for many a showdown, bust-up and shocking revelation!

When EastEnders first began, The Queen Vic was home to the Watts family. Since then it’s been owned by the Mitchells, the Butchers, and run by Kat and Alfie. Nowadays it’s very much the domain of the Carters.

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2. THE LAUNDERETTE

It appears that no one in Walford actually owns a washing machine, so they’re always popping into the laundrette with bags of laundry, keeping Dot busy with service washes. It’s also quite bizarrely something of a meeting point and quite a few argy-bargies have taken place there. A bit like the Vic but without the drinks!

Dot has always worked in the laundrette and she used to work there with Pauline Fowler. However the often-mention Mr.Papadopolous, the laundrette’s owner whose name cannot be pronounced by Dot, rarely appears on screen.

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3. THE CAFE

It was first owned by Sue and Ali Osman, a couple who made Den and Angie look like Terry and June. It was later taken over by Kathy Beale who thought that Walford needed something a little upmarket and transformed the day-time café into a late-night bistro. But I don’t think the locals were fooled – it was still the café! Today it’s owned by Walford’s answer to Alan Sugar, Ian Beale. It’s the place where everyone meets, especially when they have private matters to discuss, because let’s face it, there’s not much chance of anyone overhearing your conversation in the café!

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4. THE FRUIT AND VEG STALL

It may just be a humble fruit and veg stall but it’s been a part of EastEnders from the very beginning and you just can’t imagine Walford without it. The fruit and veg stall has been in the Beale family for years. Viewers first saw it run by Pete Beale with help from his then wife Kathy and son Ian. After his death, the stall was run by Pete’s nephew Mark Fowler for years, and it’s currently Pete’s grandson Peter who now works the stall. Although most of us tend to visit the supermarkets for our five a day, the Walford locals won’t think of going anywhere else for fresh fruit and veggies.

Who’d have thought the stall could be a nice little earner?

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5. THE MARKET

I remember when Angie Watts used to head ‘up west’ on many of her numerous shopping expeditions despite having a market on her doorstep. These days, the market seems to be the only place the locals will shop. They buy just about everything there including outfits for a night out. And many of the Square’s residents have been market traders at one time or another including Sanjay and Gita Kapoor, Bianca Jackson, Stacey Branning, Zoe Slater, Kat Moon and Ronnie Mitchell’s long-lost daughter Dannielle.

And who could forget slimy market inspector Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Cole? A corrupt lothario, Richard was more concerned with trying to get into the pants of the female population of Walford than the stall holders selling them! And when he wasn’t on the look-out for new conquests, he wasn’t averse to taking a few backhanders from stall-holders. Of the monetary variety of course but there were a few times he got himself a well-deserved slap!

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6. THE CAR LOT

Even though it’s now owned by Max Branning and was previously run by David Wicks and Roy Evans, whenever I think of the car lot, I still think of Frank Butche as he’s the one who opened the car lot in the square. It may just seem like an ordinary car lot but if the walls of the portacabin could talk, it would have more than a few stories to tell: romantic trysts, dodgy deals, vicious attacks… it all took place here. And that’s before we even get to Frank torching the place as part of an insurance scam in which a homeless man was killed.

I still remember the episode where a few of the Square’s residents went to Spain and David Wicks picked up Sam Mitchell in a bar not realising who she was. She then told him about the car lot her father-in-law used to own.

“But it’s not like the car showrooms you have,” Sam said, “it’s just a tatty little  car lot.”

“Yeah, I think  know what you mean,” David smirked.

Indeed you did, David. Indeed you did!

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7. THE ARCHES

The Arches – a garage – was what brought the Mitchell brothers, Grant and Phil, to Walford, and it was always considered Mitchell territory. Well at least until recently when Max Branning conned Ben Mitchell into signing it over to him. Like many of the establishments on the Square, The Arches have witnessed it’s fair share of drama including Ricky Butcher and Natalie Price conducting their affair behind Bianca’s back; Ben Mitchell undergoing a personality transplant and attacking his friend Jordan, and that fight between Phil and Grant after Grant discovered what Phil had been getting up to with Sharon for months. mechanics who have worked there included, Phil, Grant, Ricky, Gary, Minty, Jase and Ben.

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8. ALBERT SQUARE

I don’t know why but for a long time, I thought that ‘Albert Square’ referred to the little bit of enclosed greenery where the residents often sit and mope. But it isn’t – that is actually the Square’s gardens. Albert Square refers to the row of terraced houses where most of the residents live and it is named after Prince Albert. The Beale family live at number 45, which used to be home to the Fowler’s when the show first started. The Masoods live at number 41; Phil and Sharon are at number 55; Patrick Trueman resides at numbers 19-20 with Kim and Denise, while Ronnie and Roxy live at number 27. And of course The Queen Victoria is the focal point of the Square.

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9. THE GARDENS

The gardens are central to the Square and it houses Arthur Fowler’s bench which was placed there in his memory. There is hardly an episode that goes by when someone isn’t sat on that bench – known by viewers as the Bench Of Tears –  crying, brooding, sulking, moaning or threatening another resident. Though as they all have houses on the Square it’s not quite understood why they can’t do all the above from the comfort of their own home and not publicly out in the Square!

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10. THE MORE-THAN-EXTRA EXTRAS

The Queen Vic’s resident barmaid Tracy has been in EastEnders for years. The pub is always changing hands but it doesn’t matter who the new owners are – Tracy stays! Then there’s Winston who runs one of the stalls in the market who’s been in EastEnders since 1986 – who my family absolutely loved and cheered when he made an appearance.

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But get this Tracy and Winston aren’t members of the main cast but humble extras. They’re often seen whenever there is an important event in EastEnders and every now and again, they may get the odd bit of short dialogue. Tracy did have a (speaking) part in a storyline that was fairly major (for her) when she was attacked by Sam Mitchell as Sam dug up the body of Den Watts on Dennis and Sharon Rickman’s wedding day. That’s the closest she’s ever got to having a role in a major storyline and there are often calls from the public to give both Tracy and Winston more prominent roles – and I agree.

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And we can’t forget Big Ron played by actor Ron Tarr. Big Ron appeared in EastEnders since 1985 but was never given a main role. I remember that in the 1990s, a TV mag even had a campaign for Big Ron to get a bigger slice of the action but it never happened as Ron Tarr passed away in 1997 after battling cancer.

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11. THE FOWLER HOUSE

Just like The Queen Vic, 45 Albert Square stands the test of time – and is probably the only house where people tend to enter via the back door rather than the front! Now owned by Ian Beale, at the start of the show it was still very much the residence of Ian’s grandmother Lou Beale who lived there with her daughter Pauline and her family. Back then the house seemed very small, cramped, and extremely dated, but nonetheless it had a certain charm to it. Of course when Ian bought the house, he set about making changes, turning it into the more roomy, modern pad that it is today.

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12. THAT THEME TUNE

Composed by Simon May and Leslie Osbourne, the Eastenders theme tune is easily one of the most recognizable theme tunes around. Producers had requested May to come up with something melodic which would “bring people in from the kitchen or garden” – and that’s exactly what they got. The theme tune is so iconic that people know the show is starting when they hear it without having to look up. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t whistle or hum that tune every now and again.

In 1986 the theme was turned into a song called Anyone Can Fall In Love sung by Anita Dobson who played Angie Watts,which reached number 4 in the charts.

The EastEnders theme tune has undergone a few tweaks and changes over the years although it has generally been kept as close to the original as possible. During the mid-nineties, the theme tune underwent a major revamp which didn’t go down too well with viewers, so it went back to the original tune.

13. ‘DOOF DOOF’ SCENES

Every EastEnders fan is familiar with the ‘doof doof’ scene. It’s that famous drum beat that can be heard at the end of the last scene which signals that the episode has finished and that that famous theme tune is about to begin. This type of scene is now synonymous with EastEnders.

It wasn’t until the late nineties that I realised that this type of scene actually had a name. It was Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Melanie Owen, who said in an interview that cast members naturally wanted to be in the ‘doof doof’ scene, especially if it featured a cliff-hanger. The scene got its name from the sound of the drum beats that sounded like ‘doof doof.’

I was impressed that the scene actually had a name!

14. THE OPENING CREDITS

The opening title sequence of Eastenders is as well-known as its theme tune. It’s been revamped a few times but it’s essentially a map of the East End of London. It starts by zooming in on the River Thames before panning out to give an ariel view of London. Easily one of the most iconic opening sequences.

15. CHRISTMAS EPISODES

There were always two things we had to do on Christmas day without fail. The first was go to mass, and the second was to watch the Christmas day episode or episodes of EastEnders. This was something we always looked forward to, and it didn’t matter whose house we were celebrating Christmas in, as soon as we heard that familiar theme tune we dropped whatever it was we were doing and gathered in front of the telly. Not only was it a family tradition, but we also knew that the Christmas day episode was one that was guaranteed to have us on the edge of our seat. Yes, the public often complained that the episodes were often depressing and full of misery and often featured someone dying, but most of us found them to be full of drama and either featured a whopper of a cliff-hanger or resolved one.

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16. WHODUNITS

Anyone would think that Ms. Marple resided in Albert Square with the number of murders, attempted murders and other crimes that take place. The very first episode of EastEnders opened up with the murder of Reg Cox and these whodunits have been keeping us enthralled for years. There was the shooting of Phil Mitchell (the first time) the murders of Dennis Rickman, Eddie Royal, Archie Mitchell and we’re currently gripped by the mystery of who was responsible for the death of Lucy Beale which is going to be revealed very soon.As with the murder of Archie Mitchell, many of the cast members only found out at the same time that the public did in a live episode – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the Lucy’s killer is going to be unmasked.

And let’s not forget there are whodunits of a different variety, which have nothing to do with crime,  where pregnancies are involved where viewers are trying to work out who the baby’s father is as in the case of Michelle Fowler’s, Laura Beale’s and Heather Trott’s pregnancies. There was also one occasion when viewers had to work out who a positive pregnancy test belonged to with suspicion falling on the Fox-Wicks women.

It eventually turned out to be Dawn Swann’s.

17. THE NEIGHBOURING STREETS

Although most of the residents live on Albert Square, many of the small businesses are based in neighbouring streets such as Turpin Road, Bridge Street, and George Street. These places are often mentioned by the characters.

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18. JULIA’S THEME

Julia’s Theme is named after the show’s creator, Julia Smith. It is used in place of the regular theme and emphasizes a particularly emotional event such as a character leaving or dying. Each episode normally ends with the ‘doof doof’ drum beats, but with Julia’s Theme, the ‘doof doofs’ are replaced with a slow melody played on piano.  Julia’s Theme has been revamped a number of times, so there are different versions of this tune. Sometimes the beginning of Julia’s Theme is used as the intro to EastEnders‘ main theme tune.

I remember Julia’s Theme being played when Lofty proposed to pregnant Michelle Fowler, after Debbie Bates had been killed in a road accident; as Cindy Beale fled to Italy with her sons and was forced to leave her daughter behind; while Sharon watched Phil and Kathy embrace on their way home from France, and when Jim Branning proposed to Dot.

19. THE TRAILERS

Right now we’re all a bit spooked after watching the trailer promoting the unveiling of Lucy Beale’s killer. But spooked or not it’s a fantastic trailer, and you can’t expect anything less from the show who release great trailers whenever a major, new character is about to descend on the Square, a new storyline is about to hit, or when an old face returns. I especially liked the ‘Everyone’s talking about it’ slogan which accompanied some of the trailers.

Trailers were used when Kat and Alfie returned to the Square, just before Archie Mitchell’s killer was revealed, for Den Watts’s shock return, the Zoe, Dennis, Sharon love triangle which exploded on Christmas Day, the murder of Den Watts, Sharon’s return, and the arrival of the carter family.

20. SUNDAY OMNIBUS

When I was growing up, we all looked forward to the omnibus edition of EastEnders where Tuesday’s and Thursday’s episodes were repeated for those who had missed them. Well I say we all looked forward to them, but I’d say it was probably us kids who looked forward to the omnibus (nicknamed the ‘lonely bus’ by my brother) because we would watch it whether we’d seen the episodes during the week or not! I’ve lost count of the times Mum or Dad would walk into the living room see us all glued to the TV and exclaim, “But you’ve already watched this!” That’s right and now we’re watching it again! The EastEnders omnibus was the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon.

In more recent years, there has been a change in the scheduling of the omnibus but it has now emerged that the BBC are going to scrap the Sunday omnibus from April of this year, as the thirty day catch up on iPlayer means that broadcasting the omnibus is no longer necessary. I agree but it’s sad to lose this classic Sunday afternoon tradition.

21. THE FAMILIES

EastEnders is just about people being miserable; growling at each other; screaming their heads of in the market, or starting fights in The Vic. No EastEnders is all about family and the importance of familial relationships –  or perhaps I should say faah-mily! During the last three decades there have been many prominent families who have made their mark in Albert Square: The Watts; the Fowlers; the Beales; the Mitchells; the Jacksons; the Butchers; the Slaters;  the Wicks; the Brannings; the Moons; the Masoods, and now the Carters.

In each of these households there’s usually a fairly loud-mouthed matriarch who comes across as bossy, domineering, interfering and in danger of suffocating their children. But at the end of the day, to these women, family is everything. Who can forget Pauline Fowler bleating on about the importance of family? Or Peggy’s famous, ‘You’re a Mitchell’ line. I even heard Cora Cross tell Tania that she’s ‘a Cross’ but sorry – it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Mitchell line!

Of course there were some families who couldn’t quite cut the mustard and were sent packing. When you think of the great families who graced the Square with their presence, who thinks of the Kapoors, the Ferreiras, the Di Marcos or the Flaherty family?

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22. THE PETS

It’s not just the characters who have endeared themselves to the public, but we’ve also grown quite attached to the four-legged, furry creatures that have appeared in the Square. Wellard, Roly, Freida, Ghengis, Terrance, Bella and Betty – we loved them all. And during the eighties, we were asking everyone if they’d ‘seen my Willy?’

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23. FAMOUS FACES

A few famous faces have popped up in Walford either as a cameo or a guest role. There was Robbie Williams using the phone in The Vic; Goldie played a gangster; Susan George appeared as Terry Raymond’s love interest; Bobby Davro played Shirley’s on-off boyfriend, and Madhur Jaffrey appeared as the Ferreira matriarch. Mike Reid, Shane Richie, Phil Daniel, and Samantha Womack are long-established actors or comedians  who had or have long-term roles in the soap. And of course after Barbra Windsor started her role as Peggy Mitchell, no one ever saw her as the girl from the Carry On movies again!

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24. CROOKS AND GANGSTERS

As the East End is Kray’s territory, it goes without saying that there have to be a few major league villians. Phil and Grant Mitchell might have fancies themselves as a couple of tough nuts but compared to the likes of Jack Dalton, Johnny Allen, Andy Hunter, Steve Owen, George Palmer, not to mention Den Watts’s associates, they were pretty much small fry!

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25. TWO-HANDERS

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another soap opera do a two-hander: an episode which has only two characters. The very first one I remember was back in the eighties and it featured Den and Angie Watts. Den announced that he was leaving Angie for his mistress Jan and Angie played her trump card, telling Den that she only had six months to live. Another memorable two-hander was when Michelle Fowler finally told Sharon Watts the truth regarding Vicki Fowler’s paternity. Other two handers have included episodes featuring Den and Sharon, Phil and Grant, Dot and Ethel, Max and Stacey among others.

There have also been three-hander and four-hander episodes too. The episode featuring Phil, Grant and Sharon after Phil and Sharon had slept together for the first is particular memorable, as is the episode featuring Grant and Michelle, and David and Cindy in two different sub-plots where the two couples, er get it on!

The reason for these two/three/four hander episodes was that it sped up the filming process, and while the two actors were filming the two-hander, the rest of the cast could be filming another episode. These special episodes look like mini-plays and are a pleasure to watch as it relies usually on just one storyline and a limited number of actors, and it’s very clever of EastEnders to come up with that.

Incidentally, there has only ever been a single one-hander episode in the show’s entire history which featured Dot Cotton.

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26. GRITTY REALISM

EastEnders isn’t one for shying away from hard-hitting social issues. It’s tackled storylines involving cot death, homophobia, prostitution, rape, mental health issues, HIV, paedophilia, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism… the list is endless.

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27. RATINGS WARS WITH CORRIE

There were other soap operas around when I was growing up, but when it came to ratings, it seems that it was firmly between Coronation Street and EastEnders. The Sunday papers would always show who’d hit the top spot in the TV pull-out section and it would alternate 9or so it seemed) between EastEnders or Corrie. The others didn’t even get a look-in!

28. COCKNEY ACCENT – WITHOUT THE RHYMING

You can’t have a soap set in the East End of London and not expect to hear a few Cockney accents. And being a real-life Eastender myself, I’ve always said that Cockney accents are the most endearing in the world – although I’ve never used rhyming slang, and it very rarely features on the show. I hardly ever hear real-life Cockneys use it so it just wouldn’t be realistic.

Of course in recent times, there have been complaints that the EastEnd just isn’t Cockney enough and there are too many different regional accents. But then anyone who’s ever lived in the East End will know that it’s not just Cockneys who live there. There are people from other parts of the country and of course other parts of the world. My complaint is that I don’t hear Cockney accents enough where I live and I’m sure that the show is reflecting the diversity of the area.

29. THE CHIPPY

You can’t have an East End district without a fish and chip shop so thank goodness for Beale’s Plaice – although when Ian first purchased the shop, no way was it to be called a chippy. Ian was aiming for the rather more upmarket sounding ‘fish restaurant’!

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30. THE AWARDS

To say that EastEnders is an award-winning soap is something of a understatement. So far it has won around 316 awards (roughly ten a year) and just like in the ratings wars, it often goes head-to-head with Corrie for the Best Soap category.

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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