Derek and Clive Get the Horn VHS

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Like most British teenagers in the 1980’s, I was introduced to Derek and Clive through a grubby cassette tape thrust into my palm by a friend. “Listen to this”, he said. “It’s the funniest thing you’ll ever hear”. That night I put it on my hi-fi for about 20 seconds, before switching it off as quickly as I could, decanting it into my Walkman instead.

I was utterly shocked. I could not believe for a second that such a thing existed. I was 15, and whilst I obviously knew all the swear words, I’d never heard them used so comprehensively, so offensively, with so little regard for taste and decency. And not only that, this was coming out of the mouths of these two middle aged men I was used to seeing on television. That short bloke from Arthur, and the tall man who was in Supergirl. How did this happen? Did they know?

I told my older brother about the tape, but he just laughed and told me he already knew about it – everyone knew about it. I managed to keep it from my parents, writing “CHART HITS” on the tape sticker and keeping it out of the way. A friend had a story about how he was listening to it on a train too loudly through headphones, and how the sound bleed into the ears of an appalled woman sitting opposite. She hit the roof, he said, nearly smacking him with her handbag.

Now in my forties, I have a son who is a fan of old comedy, but the prude in me hopes he’ll never stumble across Derek and Clive. Although I have to confess, there are parts I still find funny. Dudley Moore shouting “nurse”. His song about when he was ‘walking down the street one day’. Peter Cook’s stream of nonsense about breaking a world record (before it gets nasty). But there is such a strong undercurrent of unpleasant throughout, not just in the language or imagery, but how aggressively Cook turns on Moore, with spite that is painful to listen to.

This is so apparent through this VHS I bought in 1993. It was much trumpeted at the time, the pair even turning up on television together to talk about it.

I somehow felt that I had to have a copy, and so purchased the VHS from Woolworths. I shouldn’t have bothered, I should have sat patiently for Youtube to be created and watched bits of it on there. It has a distinctly grubby feel, shot in a scruffy recording studio that looks as if it stinks of smoke and sweat. Dudley Moore comes across as if he wishes he could be anywhere else but there, whereas Cook, bloated with booze, displays a nasty temper that at times turns to bullying.

Low-lights include the appearance of a stripper, and a “drugs bust” led by a policeman which happens to be none other than Virgin boss Richard Branson. Seeing the two performing the skits visually makes the whole experience far worse. On record, it somehow takes the sting out the unpleasant. It is easier to imagine that Derek and Clive actually are lavatory attendants who don’t know any better, rather than two respected comedians, with one doing everything he could to make his colleague uncomfortable.

But somehow, they got away with it. I don’t know if future generations have delighted in Derek and Clive as much as mine, but me and my peers passed many tapes around. Clearly comedians David Baddiel and Rob Newman also heard it, as evidenced in this tape they sold on one of their tours.

So I spent about twenty pounds on Derek and Clive, though everything has been thrown away or Ebay’d, not out of some purist scourge, more because I merely didn’t want them anymore. They are on iTunes, but somehow its not the same in middle age. Would kids today like it? Do they hear worse? I somehow doubt they do, and maybe that’s for the best.

Threads on DVD

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I’ve always had an anxious disposition. Things worry me, get stuck in my head. Some people drift through life with barely a care in the world, but I brood, and allowing concerns to erode my thoughts. And I know that this is not just in adult life, due to my overwhelming concern as a teen that I would be blown up by a nuclear bomb.

I was terrified of nuclear war, and obsessed by the notion way more than was necessary. Childhood diaries are full of nuclear predictions, fears of sudden escalation between world powers, and of accidents and disasters. I worried far more about Chernobyl than I needed to. You’d think I lived in Kiev, not a sleepy town in the Home Counties of England. I was staying at my Grandparents at that time, and remember lying in bed, convinced that thick clouds of vapourising dust were steaming over Europe, ready to turn crops to powder and blacken my lungs.

I don’t why I felt this way. I once asked my Father about the Cuban Missile Crisis, which he lived through as a teenager. He response was purely based on facts, devoid of emotion and concern. To him it was news, despite the potential impact it could have had on his life. When I was a teen every mention of missiles sent my mind into spasm. To fuel this, I sought out any reference to nuclear war in books or television.

Domain by James Herbert is a good example. Its about killer rats, but starts with a terrifying, vivid description of a nuclear strike over London, bodies bursting like piñatas, skin crisping to pork scratchings. I was far too young for American TV movie The Day After but watched it anyway, which despite its attempt at an upbeat ending chilled me to the core. I videotaped it and watched the attack sequence over and over, soft pulpy humans flashing into skeletons around the city. Even the video to Two Tribes unnerved me, as did Midge Ure’s Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.

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I was eleven when the BBC showed the programme A Guide to Armageddon as part of their QED strand, again far too young, and had many a bad dream. But nothing could prepare me for Threads. Again, I clearly wasn’t old enough, but my parents even let me set a video so I could watch it again and again. It follows two families, soon to be joined by marriage, who live their normal existence against the background of rising global tension. The first third of the film displays this beautifully, how people, powerless to do anything, just get on with it. Plans are drawn, walls are painted, we go to work and do the mundane, unable to do anything else.

The attack itself is a visceral experience that smashes the senses. It sounds wrong to call this a disaster movie, but no film before or since shows a scene of utter devastation more accurately. Some Hollywood movies spend tens of millions to achieve such an effect, but the BBC did it on a £400,000 budget, an astonishing achievement. The aftermath is the most frightening, Characters from the first third are just dead, forgotten, never mentioned. There is a scene where the parents, the children killed, lie cowering behind doors and mattresses. ‘I wish I was dead’ says the Mother, who was caught in the blast, her face burnt to pieces. The Father breaks down and starts to cry. Around you can hear distant screams from neighbours. No one is coming to help. Society has ceased to exist. No one will ever help again.

Whoever came up with the name Threads deserves to get the rest of the day off, because its a genius title. The bonds that join us, Government, friendships, the fragile links of society itself, would be torn to pieces in an attack. When you watch it again the scenes before the attack take on a special poignancy, this feeling of how all this will soon be forgotten and destroyed. Shops, offices, cars, radio broadcasts, television, the art of conversation, hopes, dreams, society itself, will soon be turned to dust. Never to return.

To say Threads ends on a downer is to do it an injustice. It is as bleak as it comes, Britain this curious mixture of the Dark Ages, with brief glimpses of the new world. There is a strange disconnect between people haggling over rats for eating before placing them in a Sainsburys plastic bag. One particularly haunting scene involves an old woman wheeling in a television for a group of children, playing them a fuzzy video of School’s programme Words and Pictures. She absent-mindedly mouths every word, hinting that this is the only tape they have. The jauntiness of the music and tone of the programme juxtaposes the grime and squalor of their surroundings. The fact the episode is called Skeletons and Skulls doesn’t help much either.

Threads had a lasting impressing on my teenage mind. I watched that VHS recording many times. Twenty five years later, the BBC repeated it on BBC4 and I watched it again. It had the same effect. I have bought it on DVD twice, purchasing the new edition issued in 2018.

I’m older, but remain scared stiff of nuclear conflict. I still keep a diary, and got my knickers well and truly in a twist during the North Korea posturing in 2018. In fact, that happened at the time this DVD was released, and I could not bring myself to watch it. It seemed too real, to close to comfort. It is such a powerful piece of television, and its hard to imagine such a programme being made today.

Threads has cost me about £40, for the two editions I have bought. And many sleepness nights.



River Cottage Forever DVD Set


Here is proof that I shouldn’t be allowed a bank account, let alone a debit card or an Amazon account. Purely on a whim, I decided to purchase not one, but two River Cottage DVD’s. The programme that is on British television as frequently as the news and weather. Our house needs painting, the shower leaks, and I go out and buy Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall programmes. Let me try to explain…

I first saw him on television in the late 1990’s, when he hosted a show called TV Dinners. It was a peculiar programme, not particularly suited to his talents, where Hugh was tasked with cooking a meal for a group of civilians. More up Ainsley Harriott’s street, but Hugh managed to make his mark, cooking up human placenta in the first episode. He soon found a more comfortable setting in his River Cottage series, which was as much a rural soap opera as a cookery show.

Stick me in front of a TV and I could watch River Cottage all day. There is something very comforting about the cosy nature of his very existence, how he ingratiates himself into the community, making friends and cooking them meals. You get to know the characters and they become as important to the programme as the star. People such as Michael Michaud, the vegetable expert, and his slightly dubious butcher Ray, add a lot to the show, and you enjoy their presence when they make an appearance.

My favourite series is Beyond River Cottage, which was broadcast in 2004. I bought it because I came across the series on the lifestyle channels on Virgin, but had missed some earlier episodes. Rather than wait 10 days for the series to rotate round again, I hopped onto Amazon and bought my own copy. This series is larger in scale, with our hero purchasing more land and buildings, expanding his empire in an attempt to attract tourists and food lovers. It ends with a ludicrous Christmas special, where Hugh somehow manages to place ten birds inside each other, an avian Russian Doll that looks impressive but practically inedible.


As I sit and watch, I envy his life, although I know I lack the tenacity he has in spades to make his situation work. I would love to sample his lifestyle, but you can tell it is far from simple. His rustic surroundings are clearly the shop window for whirring industry, as his empire expands from stickers on soup pots to a High Street dining experience.

But at the centre are the characters, like foraging expert John Wright, or the unassuming Gill Meller, a chef of considerable skill. And all the background residents, members of the cider society or vegetable contest entrants, who pepper the scenes with colour. I’m sure for every person  in the area who welcome Hugh there are five who hate him, but the positivity of the programme is attractive and makes the area seem a wonderful place to live.

So that’s why I bought those DVD’s, despite the fact there is zero chance it will never be on television. It would take a scandal of epic proportions to drive it from our screens. It is a programme I can watch again and again, and I’m not really sure why. But I return to it, and because of this rather daft purchase (£30), I can do that whenever I want.

Robert Gillespie ‘Are You Going To Do That Little Jump?’ hardback book

img_0020Britain in the late seventies only had three television channels, so I was somewhat limited in what I could watch. It also meant the same for jobbing actors, who moved around the channels popping up in any show that would give them work. Often, it felt as if television was resourced by a repertory company, particularly in sitcoms, with the person you saw as a milkman in Rings on Their Fingers suddenly popping up as an insurance saleman in Fresh Fields.

Some performed within a particular niche. Reginald Marsh would always appear as a gruff, no-nonsense company director, playing such a role in The Good Life, George and Mildred, and of course as Sir Dennis in Terry and June. If he were my boss I think I’d tell him where to stick it, but Terry seems to take it on the chin. The superb Milton Johns played dull, rather wet characters, but usually stole the scene. He adds extra value to an episode of my favourite sitcom of all time, Ever Decreasing Circles. There is something deliciously subversive about this exchange, despite its apparent banality.

Another favourite of mine is Roger Sloman, who appears as Keith in the incredible Mike Leigh television play Nuts in May. His performing style is very unique, on the cusp of caricature, but somehow managing to stay believable. He was never leading man material, but still acts to this day. He was great in the first series of Grange Hill, and of course was in The Young Ones, adding to his legend. You can read about my thoughts on that programme here.

My absolute favourite of this type of actor is Robert Gillespie. As he himself puts it in his book blurb, he is a non-award winning actor, who has worked continuously since 1953. A quick glance at his IMDB page shows how he used to pop up everywhere, from sitcom to drama. His characters always seemed to have a hint of rebellion. Even when he played a policeman (which he did on many occasions in the Man About The House extended universe) he had an edge to him. In The Good Life he plays a residents association chairman with charm and elegance, even giving Margot a run for her money.


In 1980 he was awarded the opportunity to star in his own sitcom, something he seizes with both hands, putting in an excellent, eccentric performance as Dudley Rush in Keep It In The Family. I was nine at the time and loved this show. It was made by Thames, the TV region for where I lived, and I never failed to miss an episode. The theme tune was indelibly burnt into my brain and I was thrilled when Network released it on DVD a few years ago.

Keep It In The Family is quite an odd sitcom at times. The premise is a long married couple, at that point in the relationship where they are comfortable friends rather than lovers. They live in a big house with a rental flat underneath. They let their daughters rent this space, rather than leave home, so the parents live upstairs and the children beneath, hilarity never far away. Dudley Rush’s boss is played by Glyn Houston, another actor of this type who would pop up here, there, and everywhere. His IMDB page is longer than a boring opera.

Without Gillespie, the programme wouldn’t work. His character is a comic strip artist, who often works at his drawing table with a puppet holding the pen. He puts so much of his personality into the role, making his character likeable right from the first episode. You can tell that he is working incredibly hard, his mannerisms and expressions scaled down for television. His onscreen wife sometimes edges towards theatre, projecting her part, but Gillespie forms a relationship with the viewer, which prevents the quirkiness from being annoying. The cast do talk to each other in a stilted manner, where you can tell the conversations have been reversed engineered back from the punchline, but it is often very funny and engaging.

Keep It In The Family ran four years before reaching a conclusion, with various changes of cast along the way, although Gillespie remains a constant. As far as I know, it was never repeated, so I approached the DVD’s with mild trepidation, wondering if my 10 year old’s memory was misleading. I was wrong to worry. Myself and my wife watched the first series in one happy sitting, and I’ve watched it again since then.

This book was published about two years ago, and my wife kindly got it me for Christmas. It is a great read, although talks solely about his time working in the theatre, with nothing on his television work. His writing is as quirky as you would imagine, so sometimes you do have to read a sentence again for it to sink in, but the presentation is superb and it makes for an interesting story. He has promised a second volume about his television roles, which I am looking forward to.

In my professional life, I am somewhere in the middle. I’m not destined to be a company director like Sir Dennis, but I’ve done well enough to be proud of my achievements. In the world of acting, Robert Gillespie rose to middle management, never quite hitting the heights of Richard Briers or Anton Rogers, but enough for what I’m sure has been a happy and satisfying life. The DVD’s cost me about £50, and for the number of times I’ve watched them, that’s pretty good value.

V The Final Battle DVD Box Set


I was thirteen when V first aired on British television. Also, I was in a caravan.

In 1984, the BBC had the rights to air the Summer Olympics, which took place in America during July and August. Every year, my family took a trip in Hopton on Sea, sharing a tiny caravan and enjoying everything a British holiday camp had to offer (you can read more about this here). At the time there were only four television channels in the UK, and so ITV, the main commercial rival to the state run station, stripped V to play every night of our holiday week.

This did not go down well with me, or my parents. They had plans to go out in the evening to the Razzle Dazzle Disco at the entertainment complex, sipping a half of lager whilst enjoying a slightly blue comedian. I had my sights set on settling down in front of the television night after night, watching what looked to me to be the greatest sci-fi epic since Battlestar Galatica. A compromise was formed, where I would stay and they would go, but wet weather meant my dad and brother stayed the first night, watched it, and were soon hooked, much to my mum’s disgust. Therefore, it became the holiday of fun on the beach and arcade by day, reptilian overlords by night.

I loved V. I thought it was the business. It was on for two hours a night, Monday to Friday, and I lapped it up. Americans got the original two part series, followed by The Final Battle the next year, but us plucky Brits got the whole lot in one data dump. I was in Heaven, sat there in a little caravan, watching it on a television no bigger than a microwave door.

I loved the premise, the story, the characters, the effects, everything. The pitch shift on the Visitors voices unnerved me, and I nearly lost my mind when Diana ate that hamster (the tiny television being kind to the special effect team). I thought Donovan was the business, but it was Ham Tyler (and his fat buddy) I remembered most. In my mind, he was in every episode from the start, and it was a real surprise upon viewing it again how late in the day his character made an appearance. My other main memory from my holiday viewing is the grisly alien baby, and Willy, another great character, with the added bonus of an amusing name.

I went home from that holiday without much of a suntan, but with fond memories of alien invasions. As far as I know, the rather dire series that followed completely passed me by. In fact, I don’t even know if it was shown on British television. I mostly forgot about V, despite the impact it had on me back in Hopton on Sea.

Fast forward 17 or so years, when the whole package came out on DVD. When I saw it advertised on some website it was as if a door had been opened in my mind, and I was transported back to that caravan. I bought it as soon as it came out, wondered where Ham Tyler was, before catching up with him again when the sequel mini-series was also released. I even bought the following full series, which was indeed absolutely terrible. Even Janine from Spinal Tap can’t save it. I didn’t make it all the way through the DVD’s, which proves how awful it is.

As far as the original five episodes go, I was captivated all over again. I tried to get into the remake but didn’t enjoy it. But the original, particularly those first two episodes, is amazing. The story is more allegorical than I remember, maybe a little heavy handed at times (thank you Mr Bernstein), but really well written and engaging.

The DVD’s cost me about £50. I Ebayed the series, so got back about a tenner, so I’m £40 down on the deal. Happy with that. As the Starchild would say, ‘Pretenama‘. What more can I say.


BBC series All Quiet On The Preston Front on DVD

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Sometimes, a television series comes along that simply captures your imagination, and you fall in love with it. It doesn’t bother you that hardly anyone else shares your opinion. In fact, that makes you love that show even more. That’s exactly how I feel about BBC comedy drama All Quiet on the Preston Front, a simply superb, character driven programme, that I still love to watch to this day.

So what’s the programme about. It’s set in the North, in a fictional Lancashire town called Roker Bridge. It follows the exploits of a gang of friends, all in that weird inbetween stage between being a teenager and being a grown-up, where you’re starting out on your own but not yet mature enough to leave the gang behind. The glue that holds them together is their participation in the Territorial Army, although this is purely a premise, no more important to the plot than the coffee shop is in Friends.

In fact, the army element very much drifts into the background, particularly in the last set of episodes. It also shows how outside of the army, their roles are often reversed, where those in command in the TA are in lower ranks in normal employment. Each series is structured so each of the main characters get a chance to shine, so whilst all feature prominently each member of the gang has an episode where they are central. The principal characters are Hodge, and his best friend Eric. They’ve been friends since primary school, very different individuals, bound together by history, a relationship so close that they almost seen resigned to the fact they will always be in each others lives.

What did I see in Preston Front? I think its mostly because at the time, I was in a similar gang myself. In my late teens and early twenties, I had a bunch of mates I met through a youth group, and we used to do everything together. Within the dynamic would be very close associates, and then people in the group that you only knew because of other people in that group.

All my social life was bound up in that gang, in much the same way displayed through this series. There was one friend I used to hang out with the most, much like Eric and Hodge, and others people bonded in a similar way. But at the same time, we could all easily and casually interact together. So we would go to the cinema in threes, or fours, or to the pub in an ever changing combination of friends. We would sometimes all go together as a gang, on camping trips or visits out.

We used to treat each other terribly. There was never much evidence of love or kindness in our group. We would regularly squabble, tease, get annoyed and verbally abuse each other. Again, this is shown in Preston Front, where characters get exasperated, with lots of eye rolling and arguments. But within our gang, none of that mattered. We’d all fallen in together as a group, this disparate bunch who had only the original connection to bind us together in common.

I don’t belong in a ‘gang’ anymore, and thats a shame. I have friends, but nothing that connects them, just scattered individuals who don’t know each other. I miss that, and enjoy seeing it through programmes such as this.

There is a moment in the second series which i think is magical. Eric starts a relationship with teacher Dawn, played by Caroline Catz. The two of them set up home together and there is a wonderful scene where they open the window of their new flat and look with utter contentment upon the rolling moors, beautiful and lush green fields stretching to the horizon. The scene gives a feeling of such promise, of a peaceful future, free of concerns and stresses, just the joy of starting a relationship and being together. And what do you know, its on Youtube.

My favourite episode is called ‘Diesel’s Garage’, from the first series. Diesel is played by Tony Marshall, a fine actor, the story concerning a Church spire he has managed to place on top of his petrol station collapsing on the forecourt. It is beautifully written, showcasing the skill of Tim Firth to tell a standalone story whilst driving the main character arc of the series.

So in short, Preston Front is brilliant. It lost its way slightly in the third series, especially with the rather daft story involving Prince and one with an ostrich, but its still wonderful. There are excellent background details, such as the man with a plastic heron and Freddy ‘Parrot Faced’ Davies popping up.

In short, the programme ‘makes me laugh’, to take the catchphrase of character Lloydy. And it also made me think, and made me cry, and makes me miss the days where there was this big, accessible group of people I could hang out with. Each DVD cost twenty pounds each, so I’ve spend sixty on Preston Front. Its a little harder to come by these days, but if you ever come across it, give it a go.

Grange Hill novel ‘Home and Away’ by Robert Leeson

img_0018Back in 2007, me and my wife anticipated the birth of our first child. In her third trimester we did all the things you are supposed to do. I decorated the nursery, while she purchased baby clothes, nappies, and a pram. We went to prenatal groups and met other parents to be. And in the evenings we watched the first 11 series of Grange Hill.

This obsession was triggered by a chance find at her parents house. At the back of a cupboard one wet Sunday afternoon we discovered a BBC Video Grange Hill VHS, which was an edited version of the first series. We watched it and loved it, as both of us had been huge fans as children. It left us wanting more, and sure enough Ebay came up with the goods. There were lots of people selling decent DVD versions, mostly recordings from the Sunday morning repeats shown on BBC2 in the nineties.

We got the first eleven series, the year after the Harriet the donkey storyline. Before we made this decision, we brainstormed our last Grange Hill memory banks, settling on the ‘Fresh and Fly’ storyline which is part of this season. This was broadcast in 1988. In 1989, both of us started work, leaving the world of children’s TV sadly behind, proving as well that we both watched well beyond the age we were supposed to.

Every evening, when I got home from work, we would watch a minimum of six episodes. We watched little else. Each lasts about 25 minutes, and so we raced through the years. Within a week Tucker went from fresh faced youngster to becoming the UK Fonzie. Soon Pongo, Claire and Stu-pot ruled the roost, swiftly followed by Zammo’s gang. And before too long, it was Gonch, Calley and Danny Kendall getting up to no good.

And of course, Roland, possibly the most fascinating of all the GH characters. Some may see him as a figure of fun, but I think his storyline is deeply moving. This poor child, who like most of us just wants to be at home eating crisps watching Trumpton, but instead has to endure school and bullies and games teachers. Watching his story unfurl after all these years was wonderful, particularly his sweet relationship with kind and loyal Janet. I like to think that Roland is out there somewhere, in his early fifties, maybe working a staff canteen or a greasy spoon cafe.

We managed to get to the end of the DVD’s a couple of days before my daughter entered the world. She was a fortnight late, and I wish she was half as considerate these days as she was then. Even now at the ripe age of 11 she turns her head every time she hears the theme tune Chicken Man, given the number of times she heard it whilst floating in the amniotic sac. Me and my wife often talk of watching through again, especially now the first six series are available commercially, but somehow, it wouldn’t seem the same. Those pre-children days seem so carefree, where you could fill your spare time with any old rubbish. Now, time on our own seems more precious.


Which leads me nicely to this paperback. Its a curious story, set between series 5 and 6, involving plans for a ‘School Journey’. Mrs McClusky gets an idea in her head that the children have been working too hard over the past five years, and that some sort of a school trip would be in order. The teachers get together and finalise plans for a walking holiday to Austria. The teachers get equal billing, meaning chapters spent in staff rooms and pubs as well as the classroom, with Mr Baxter, Mr Hopwood, Ms Lexington (good old Sexy Lexy) and gang having as much to do as Zammo and Pogo. They even manage to shoehorn a way to get Tucker into the mix.

The  school journey itself doesn’t actually get underway until two-thirds into the book, by which time the story has well and truly run out of steam. The trip is as artificial as the photo on the front cover, where Annette and Pogo clearly went to stand in front of a poster of an airport rather than Heathrow itself. There is also a strange subplot concerning Gripper and some Nazi memorabilia (which to be fair has a rather delicious punchline). Sadly, my beloved Roland doesn’t get a look-in either. The size of the school shrinks down to about a dozen, so lots of characters get sidelined, even Belinda and her cherished clarinet. The students who do feature lose their character somewhat, only Pogo and Jonah seeming anything like their onscreen personas. Time and again they are referred to as the ‘Grange Hillites’, which soon gets annoying.

Sadly, the author Robert Leeson is no longer with us, passing away in 2013. He wrote scores of books, writing this whilst in his mid-fifties. This wasn’t his only Grange Hill book, as another four were published under his name. How did I come to possess it? A friend saw it in a charity shop and thought I would like it, and to be fair, I did, even if the story is a bit strange.

Grange Hill has given me much pleasure over the years. I was sad when I heard it was finishing, and its no surprise there are many fan sites and clubs in existence. Buying all those DVD’s cost me a good hundred quid, but it certainly made the period leading up to my daugther’s birth a lot more bearable. Here in 2019, I have a daughter who has just started secondary school, and can’t help but wonder if it bears any resemblance to this. Or is it a bit more Rodney Bennett.

The Young Ones – Batchelor Boys Book


I was the perfect age for The Young Ones. I was eleven when the first series aired on the BBC, and it largely passed me by, but by the time of the second series my juvenile brain was ripe and ready. I was old enough to find the swearing hilarious, and young enough to know that the fact I was watching it would not go down well with my parents.

For those who don’t know, The Young Ones was in essence a sitcom, but it was so much more than that. It was a riot of silliness, character and colour, showcasing the talents of most of Britain’s top alternative comedians. The situation was four students, renting a grotty shared property, who were visited from time to time by their seedy landlord. The comedy was whatever they wanted it to be. There was a loose narrative to the episodes, with sketches, music, puppets, and even stand-up providing the connective tissue.

At thirteen I was allowed an old black and white portable in my room, and it was on this that I used to watch. It was on quite late, past the time I supposed to be in bed, so I used to sit watching with the volume so low I could barely hear, hoping my parents on the landing wouldn’t tumble me. Although I was allowed free reign to watch whatever television I wanted, they weren’t great fans of swearing, and I would not have been comfortable watching it with them. My wife has a great story of her Mum coming in the room at the moment Rik declared, ‘what’s it to you, piss face‘. This would not have gone down well in my house.

I had two episodes taped on VHS, and I used to watch these over and over. One of these episodes was Bambi, the Open University episode, the other Time, where the gang are visited by a strange woman called Helen and are transported to the Dark Ages. Bambi contains what I think is the funniest four minutes of television ever committed to tape. Although it only contains two of the regular characters, I think it sums up the programme perfectly.

Which leads me nicely onto the book. I don’t know how I happened to possess a copy, which was produced during the run of the second series, but a copy found its way into my possession. I can only imagine it was a gift from my older brother. I used to love this book, and thought it utterly hilarious. I mean come on, who couldn’t find this funny.


What’s apparent, looking at it after so many years, is how I didn’t really get some of the jokes when I was 13. Parts of this book are filthy, and whilst the language doesn’t stray from the TV show, some of the content does. I used to find this page particularly shocking when I was younger, even though now it’s clear to see that they’ve got their pants on.


Again, looking at this now, a couple of things strike me. The complete absence of Alexei Sayle, for a start, who either wasn’t available at the time or didn’t want to be involved. I get the impression that all the photographs for the book were probably taken over one intensive day, with the actors coming in, dipping into the dressing up box, taking a few snaps, before leaving it to the writers to come up with the goods. It is though credited to the original writing team of the BBC series, and the spirit of the show is very much alive.


The above page gives advice on how to cheat at exams, the main tip being on the night before the exam to think dirty thoughts and write the answers on your ‘thingy’. The next day at the exam, think dirty again and hey presto, the answers will ‘rise up and appear before your very eyes (well, before your very belly button’). Great tip. I also used to find the picture below far more amusing than maybe I should, which I guess indicates the level of my humour at the time.


I like the fact The Young Ones lasted for two series, and then went. They did reprise the characters for Comic Relief in 1986, and for a strange ‘Friends Provident’ advert towards the end of the decade that suggested two members of the team had recently taken on rather large mortgages. This book gave me hours of fun – in fact, it still does, I just spent a happy time looking through it now. I also own the DVD’s, which means a spend of about thirty quid on these most desirable Batchelor Boys.

Eastenders Novel ‘Good Intentions’

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Throughout my teenage days, I was an occasional diarist.

I’d start the year with ambitions to keep a daily record, fizzling out part through the year, due to apathy and the absence of anything exciting happening. The records I do have frustrate me, as I spend most of the page describing what’s happening in the world, rather than what’s happening in my life. For example, I report in great detail matters such as the space shuttle exploding, or Chernobyl, as if I’m concerned it may pass other archivists by. I should have left the heavy lifting to the likes of Max Hastings and Dominic Sandbrook, and concentrated on what I had for tea or did at school.

The worst offender is my 1986 diary. All I do is bang on about Eastenders. I was obsessed with it that year, and every Tuesday and Thursday’s entries are exclusively about Albert Square. Why I felt the need to review the plot of each episode I’ll never understand, but I faithfully give my thoughts and opinions, sometimes again for the Sunday omnibus. When Andy the nurse got knocked over I even gave the page a black border.


So what actually happened to me on the 14th August 1986, we will never know. And my obsession with Eastenders didn’t end at BBC1. With my pocket money, I bought these flimsy fiction paperbacks as well. I was a relatively normal teenager, but my reading material consisted of these trashy novels telling the back stories to my favourite characters, such as what Ethel did during the War, or how Lofty coped in the army.

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My favourite was Good Intentions, which covered the blossoming relationship of Debs and the aforementioned Andy. I thought Debs was the most beautiful woman to grace the planet, and read this paperback again and again. They make Mills and Boon look like a Man Booker Prize contender, but that didn’t stop me. I’d daydream that I was Andy, particularly when I got to the racy bit on page 148. During 1986 I went on a two week exchange trip to Germany, and took two items of reading material for the whole fortnight – The Eastenders book, and the April edition of Spectrum magazine Crash. It was all I needed.

Now, in 2019, UK digital channel ‘Drama’ are repeating Eastenders, right from the beginning, and I’m hooked all over again. They show two episodes a day and I’m gripped. At the time of writing, it’s the early Spring of 1987 in Walford. Pete has just beaten up Pat, Barry and Colin keep falling out, and Arthur’s been released from hospital after his Christmas Club related breakdown. I can’t get enough of it. If they showed six episodes a day, I’d still be up to date.

My relationship with Eastenders came to an abrupt end around the time Huw and Lenny left in the late 90’s. I just stopped, and now it’s as incomprehensible to me as a foreign language comedy. But these old ones are so watchable, and I can’t get enough. Though  I have no idea why I loved these trashy paperbacks so much.

I bought about a half dozen of these books, retailing for two pounds each. Twelve pounds for a little bit of Walford magic. I definitely got my money’s worth out of Good Intentions.

Trev and Simon’s Stupid Video


It breaks my heart that my young children don’t get the opportunity to waste their Saturday mornings in front of the television. Each week I started the weekend slumped on the floor, usually wearing velour pajamas and a dressing gown, watching the flickering screen.

I was very much a devotee of the BBC. I found Tiswas somewhat vulgar, preferring the more organised and civilised Swap Shop. I occasionally watched Number 73, even a bit of Get Fresh, but would much rather join Mike and the gang on Superstore.

My appointment with weekend children’s television continued well into my adult years. I even used to watch Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow, for heaven’s sake. In the early nineties my perfect Saturday meant staying in bed until noon, more often than not nursing a hangover, watching Going Live before turning over for The Chart Show, with the occasional visit downstairs for toast and a disapproving look from dad.

And of course, Going Live meant Trev and Simon. I thought they were hilarious. Their remit was clear – keep it clean, but do whatever you think is funny. Which meant their comedy had a delicious ‘stupidness’ to it, which chimed well with my love of comedians such as Reeves and Mortimer at the time.

In fact, it seemed to me that much of the humour probably soared over the heads of the children watching, the ideas aimed more at the likes of me and my peers. It was the one of sketches I enjoyed the most, more so than their character pieces, where they were silly for the sake of it.

And they could do surrealist silly very well. They had fantastic chemistry together, with nice Northern accents and no ‘Footlights’ pretensions. They took a hiatus from Saturday mornings in the year 1991-2 and their replacements Nick Ball and James Hickish seemed posh and awkward by comparison, trying too hard and coming across like the sort of drama group that used to visit your school.

Stupid old Ray. So there was much rejoicing when Trev and Simon came back the next year.

They released two home VHS compilations, and I bought both of them. They bought together all their best sketches along with newly recorded inserts. These filmed pieces don’t feel particularly planned, and are mostly the two of them mucking about. I even went to see them live. They toured towards the end of the their tenure at the BBC and were very good, doing the greatest hits in front of a University age crowd.

It’s always nice to see them pop up on television these days, even if it’s just on Pointless. As far as my finances go, I got both their videos and a live ticket, so I’d say I spent about forty pounds on them. But they gave me lots to laugh at, and good advice on what to do if I ever found myself stuck in a bog with a jacket potato.