Back for Good


This one's for you Charlie.  I read Charlie Brooker's column religously to jolt or depress my Monday morning depending on what he's harping on about.  This morning, Brooker has added his own two cents to the mass of post-riots analysis and cites modern TV as a glut of bling-bling propaganda, a far cry from the British TV of 70s/80s when we grew up with four channels of slightly naff but lovingly fuddy duddy programming.  I'm somewhat trapped in a pattern of being somewhat fascinated by the MTV Cribs/Sweet Sixteen/Pimp this, Pimp that type of TV (which I associate with wasing time in hotel rooms as I don't have MTV) which is then followed up by a feeling of wanting to douse my brain with a sponge because I feel total repugnance for what I've just seen.  

I think these are the symptoms of being an 80s baby, a 90s child/teen and going about the world as a young person in the 00s.  Whilst I don't share Brooker's complete renunciation of MTV culture, his recollections of kids TV shows with "presenters cheerfully making puppets out of old yoghurt pots" hit a chord though.  Without watching the box as much as I used to, it's hard to compare, but that spirit of making something out of nothing, practise-makes-perfect, working hard to yield results were things that were drilled in through the sort of media I engaged with back in the day.  I therefore had to dig out some of my own significant pre-internet TV/paper-based moments not to try and say "Hey, wasn't it so great back then?"  We all know that rose tinted vision isn't going to solve present day shortcomings but for my part, the fact that I still carry these specific memories goes to show how much they did impact on the way I do, think and carry on in the world. 

This blog for instance – is it not just a far more evolved version of my poor attempt of a Blue Peter Thunderbird Tracy Island?  With each project/task I do – is the giddiness/verve over the results not similar to seeing bits of Fimo jewellery come out of the oven aged eight?  Constantly asking why/how questions to TV presenters on the telly (who would never reply back of course) points to my incessant need to KNOW everything, which makes me one of the more annoying journalists/members of press to deal with at press days/trips etc.  


I've focused purely on period-specific things that will probably only be hazy memories and jumble sale items to most people.  Literature and films thankfully fall into a regenerating category which aren't buried so easily.  

1) Come on, surely everyone in Britain remembers THIS Blue Peter episode?  It didn't matter that in my house, we rarely had margerine tubs to spare or the right shaped plant pot bottoms.  I still got down with slathering floury paste paper mache mess over anything and everything.  I thought it was an awesome idea to add lumpy misshapen bulges to a perfectly existing bowler hat.  Don't think dad felt the same way.  Watch part 2 when the 'fun' finishing touches are put on the island.  Also, is it just me or is John Leslie's raglan sleeved jacket looking very Proenza Schouler A/W 10?  Had to put it out there…  

2) Tony Hart holds a special place for most people my age.  His was a gentle and calm approach with ambient music.  He led me into uppity hoity toity art stores where tubes of oil paint and brushes were eye popping expensive in my eyes.  My Christmas supply of Caran D'ache pencils were put to good use all because of Hart.  He did get me a little obsessed with smudging things a bit too much (chalk pastels were my downfall) but Hart really taught me about the merits of having 'art hour' at least twice a week at home.  It's probably going to be laughable when I come to have kids of my own and I try to impose 'art hour'.  Afterall babies will probably come with chips programmed with Cezanne/Degas/Picasso brushstroke techniques in their heads.  

3) I rarely defected from BBC.  Something about Edd the Duck, Andy Peters and a broom cupboard that kept me stuck on the channel and the fact that my parents thought ITV was a little bit 'dodgy'.  For a brash and slightly more crafty take on art though, I needed my fix of Neil Buchanan's Art Attack.  I especially liked the HUUUUUGE art attacks when Neil would somehow have the helicoptor vision to create giant art pieces on fields and beaches.  I always suspected there were cheat lines though.  

4) Google Fun Fax (Filofax's CHILD spinoff) and you'll get a better idea of the subsequent versions it spawned.  After going through my Fun Fax and Spy Fax, I wanted to go all sophisticated and upgrade to Style Fax.  Style Fax came and went in a flash and I was probably one of the few saddos to buy one.  I think my mum liked the idea of 'Style' being doled out in neatly categorised tabs (she was a fan of folders, tabs and anything that would 'organise' life).  I learnt about COOL and HOT colours and spent hours trying to figure out whether I had olive-based skin or not.  This was my first interaction with the word 'calorie' which had zero meaning to me because I couldn't figure out whether my daily bowl of rice hindered and helped my 'weight maintenance'.  It kept on telling me to re-dye my jeans to 'refresh' them even though I never wore jeans so I dyed shirts instead to variable results.   


5) I can't find a picture to illustrate this AT ALL but remember those ads which would urge people to buy introductory magazines for a special price of ¬£1.95!!!!!! on specialist subjects like dinosaurs, doll's houses, quilting or other such subjects that no publisher would dream of putting out paper mags on these days?  Well, I was a fool who didn't read the RRP4.95 small print in the ads and begged my mum to get me the introductory issue on doll's houses with a teensy weensy freebie chair to start me off only to find out that we couldn't afford subsequent issues.  So I'd stare at my teeny weeny chair trying to get some meaning out of it.  Then I'd string it up into a necklace and move on to the next introductory offer mag…

6) If ¬£4.95 was far too much for a magazine, then Bunty/Jackie journals were certainly out of the question in our house.  Thank god for jumble sales and charity shops where I'd encounter these journals second-hand, that come with useful notes and page folds.  The comic strip characters were annoying most of the time and the resulting morals were never all that satisfying.  I did however soak up whatever style tips they doled out, which most of the time made no sense to me because they were dated.  It involved a lot of fabric dye, cutting things up and lots of simple running stitches.

Bunty1 Bunty2

Jackie1 Jackie2

26 Replies to “Back for Good”

  1. I remember wanting to make everything on Blue Peter but never had the right things in the house to make them with! haha
    I agree though I think things we learn as children do tend to shape us later on.
    Leeds Fashion and Style Blog

  2. Spot on! I loved making stuff when I was a kid – yoghurt pots made great chairs for Sylvanian Families, and I got pretty trigger-happy with the Fimo too. My parents wouldn’t let me watch ITV cos it was ‘dodgy’ either. Didn’t they realise Poirot was on ITV? Ahem…

  3. I remember making Tracy Island when Anthea Turner told you how to do it. I had no interest in Thunderbirds what so ever but was determined. Same with the Batcave. God, the Batcave was amazing.
    I had no Batman figures to play in it with or anything. I just liked to everything Tim & Anthea told me to.

  4. Charlie Brooker always manages to make me smile/laugh and splutter my coffee all over his articles/the tv! Funny that the piece linked into the old ‘here’s one I made earlier’ bit seeing as his wife is none other than an ex BP presenter, Konnie Huq. I too wear my rosie specs when thinking of those scrap booking, friendship bracelet making, flower pressing, fashion-wheeling, loo-roll-based crafting days… Off to watch intros on 😉

  5. christssakes you are under 30, don’t pull the ‘oldskool’ rubbish…you only sound like a ninny

  6. sicofallthetehtoric: Did you mean to misspell rhetoric in your name? Not sure there…
    In any case, I did make a point NOT to retrogade for the sake of retrogading. I merely drew parallels between the stuff I watched between what I do now – I’m an old fashioned cause and consequence kinda person… Is remembering things in all instances a ninny-like activity?

  7. You should launch a ‘Susie Doll’ series with collectable outfits and accessories. Collect them all! I can see the ad now…

  8. OMG I had a Stlefax, forgot all about it until I read this post. I hope I still have it somewhere. My Mum never let me get those introductory magazines but I was allowed Bunty. I also really loved that ITV prog called Zzzzap with Daisy Dares You and looked forward to an episode every week. Such a change from this whole tv on demand phenomenon, we actually had to be patient and wait for our favourite shows to come on. Now maybe we have too much access and know too much.

  9. I can’t remember if there were two versions of DIY Tracy Island.
    I created a miniature Japanese garden from house compost, mini cactus plants, pebbles and grains etc – turned out chaotic but beautiful, thanks to Blue Peter.
    RIP Tony Hart! I sent in a collage of E.T when I was 8, he didn’t show it on tv :S

  10. I read that Charlie Brooker column and I loved it for being a breath of fresh air (the amount of bollocks being talked about the riots is pissing me off almost as much as the riots themselves). I loved this little nostalgic jaunt, I guess I didn’t realise how much TV had changed and it’s always nice to see Tony and Neil’s friendly faces again!
    I’d love to see a Bitsa version of Pimp My Ride…

  11. Omg I had the spy fax, totally loved it. Never upgraded to the Style fax though but sounds like I would’ve really enjoyed it. I collect old annuals like Jackie and Bunt. I have my dad’s one from the 1950’s and my mums from the 60’s and 70’s as well as 80’s ones picked up at markets.

  12. Yes! I never successfully made any of the diys though; I just never had the right materials! After an especially good episode I would feverishly stockpile toilet rolls and empty washing up liquid bottles etc for a fortnight before losing interest and chucking them away, only to regret it next time around. I still have a mild obsession with pva glue because of art attack…
    I know someone’s mentioned that those introductory offer magazines are still sold, but thought I’d say that they ARE still advertised on tv! I’ve definitely caught a few of those adverts. Not quite as frequent as they used to be though, and mostly on weird channels.

  13. Haha ditto on the style fax, I wonder if I can still find mine in the house somewhere, I hope so! Along with books on craft, crochet and needlepoint from the libary it piqued my interest in fashion. Thanks for reminding me about it Susie! Also thought that Charlie Brooker column was fab – absolutely love him.

  14. I cannot put into words how happy it made me to see a link to the Blue Peter Tracey Island on a fashion blog! I laboured over it for hours as a child only to have my brother stab it with Meccano when in a bad mood 🙁

  15. i don’t remember bunty but every other thing you mentioned made me squeal… i love any opportunity to read about other people remembering the same things i do!!

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