Posted on

Rubik’s cubes, straplines and nostalgia

I’M a nostalgic geek. I’ve spent so many evenings watching old television adverts from the 70s and 80s. At the end of the day, whilst tucked up in bed, I’m diving in and out of the retro/nostalgic groups on twitter – the screen from my trusty iPhone illuminating the darkened room. The whole process is addictive. My wife, who is not a nostalgic geek, has now started peeking at the nostalgia whilst I scroll through the groups. One of the last conversations we had before we fell asleep was about the Rubik’s Cube. My wife proudly admitted that she effortlessly managed to complete the cube back in the day. I admitted that I could only manage to complete one side of the cryptic cube. ‘Do you remember the Rubik’s Revenge?’ I asked. I can’t recall her answer – it seems like we must have dozed off and dreamt about how to conquer the Rubik’s Revenge.




Straplines – they stick in our minds for decades even though they may no longer appear in advertising. ‘They’re tasty tasty, very very tasty’, ‘made to make your mouth water’ and ‘a hazelnut in every bite’ (bonus points if you can name the 3 related products) are a few that stick in my head. I mentioned a television advert from the 80s to a potential buyer of my book, and the strapline shot out of his mouth without prompting!




My book, The Great British Blog Book for Nostalgic Geeks, contains a few straplines from the 70s and 80s. I noticed the ‘Ohh yeah!’ look the faces of readers. The book, the first in a series, pulls of the strings of the memory bank – it’s a roller coaster ride through the 70s to the mid 90s.


‘What’s the book about?’ asked the lady. ‘Ohh that’s different – I’ll take a look at it’. Doing something different attracts interest. Its not always successful but it certainly attracts interest.  The title of the book is different and fun. The text inside is written in nostalgic typewriter font. The images inside are a mix of yester-years photos and sketches drawn by my illustrator.

So tonight I’ll be hiding beneath the 15-tog duvet with the hot-water bottle, watching adverts from yester-years. Tomorrow new straplines will be flowing out my mouth and a rubik’s cube is on the shopping list.


cube 1980s 8









Posted on

The heist of 1988

I’M old school. I love books – the kind you hold in your hand, flick the pages and slot a bookmark into. Many of my books end up with dirty fingerprints and frayed edges after they’ve been read. I have lots of books sitting on my bookshelf – some quite old and some modern.


Whilst scanning my bookshelf, I clocked a hardback book entitled ‘Bakery Flour Confectionary’. I picked up the book and flicked through the first few pages. The stamp on page four told me that it was the property of the college library … then I remembered! It was a Thursday afternoon in 1988. I was a student at the bakery college in Hertfordshire. This particular afternoon I went into the college library and saw the book. After flicking through the pages I decided it was worth a more detailed read. I took it to the counter to sign it out, but there was no member of staff at the desk. After two minutes of waiting and no sign of anyone, I casually strolled out with the book clutched under my arm. Once back in the lecture room, I boasted to my friend, Daniel, about my successful heist. ‘Did the alarm not go off?’ asked Daniel. It didn’t go off and I didn’t even know that there was an alarm to stop students stealing books! Still, the fact I managed to evade the alarm made me feel even more proud of my achievement.

So when I saw this book on my bookshelf, my memory was jogged back 29 years ago. There are numerous other books on the shelf that remind me of a particular year and location. The Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg – 2006 – when I moved to the northwest and was renting a basement apartment that got flooded. Chocolat by Joanne Harris – 2011- whilst on an assignment in the Catalonia region. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – 2015 – spending Saturday mornings in the local coffee shop with steamed up windows and being gripped by the character Josey Wales.


Time, place and memories. Of course I fondly remember the theme of the books, but time, places and memories always follow. I see my mocha stained fingerprints on some of the books. In one book, I found a flight boarding card acting as a bookmark. Inside another book, lock instructions for a suitcase.


On a recent visit to the magnificent Nunnington Hall, I was struck by the importance of books and magazines in the physical form. As I jumped from room to room, there were several magazines and books scattered around which give us a glimpse of what it was like in that era. I learned that a mustard bath is good for sleep!


In an age where we are using more and more digital material, when it comes to books and magazines, I’m still stuck in yester-years. It’s no surprise that my debut book will only be available in paperback. The fact it contains many images deterred me from publishing an online version.


Staff members at the college library in Hertfordshire, who’ve been scratching their heads since 1988, wondering where Bakery Flour Confectionary disappeared to, now you know! I still have the book – I can post back to you. Please go easy with the late fees as I’m a full time author and money is scarce. You’ll be happy to know that the heist carried out in 1988 was my one and only. I now live a life free from crime. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a full-time author, money is scarce so I can’t completely rule out doing what I did in 1988 … on a bigger scale of course!






Posted on

10 ‘no way’ items that have become the norm

GROWING up in the 70s – I could never predict what the future would look like. I never would have believed things would change so much!

Here are 10 ‘no way’ items and experiences that have become the norm.


  1. The electric toothbrush

The manual brush was the only way to go. We’d squeeze on a healthy amount of toothpaste then brush hard and fast. After a couple of months, the brushes would end up with bristles sticking out in all directions! The electric toothbrush is gentle and much more effective.



  1. Bottled water

Who’d thought that we’d end up shelling out to get something that’s readily available from our taps? Amazing! In the 70s, if you’d mentioned that eventually it would be the norm to buy bottled water, you’d probably be laughed at.


Picture - Rick Wilson   Dept. News   2-3-04 Bottled water survey


  1. Coffee shops – so many of them!

It was usual to invite a friend over for a coffee. One teaspoon of Nescafe, a couple cubes of sugar and a dash of bottled milk – job done! Sipping a beautifully frothed coffee whilst having a good chinwag is now the norm for many.



  1. Compact discs

No record player, much smaller and more durable than vinyl! I remember deliberately throwing a compact disc on the floor, then putting it into the player to display its durability to my aunt. She was impressed when the disc played with no skips or jumps.



  1. The thermostatic shower

Back in the day, baths, sinks and bowls ruled. The showers that were available were the ones that connected to the taps of the bath. Careful adjustment of the hot and cold taps was needed. Today, a press the button or twist of the dial usually ensures a comfortable shower experience.



  1. The microwave

This caused a massive argument in our home. My dad questioned how ‘the box’ could make a cold plate of food steaming hot within two minutes. The cooker was the traditional way and the only way. Step into a kitchen now and you’ll most often see a microwave seated on the side.31m+lUHN63L


  1. Liquid hand-wash and shower gel

It was usual bar of Imperial Leather by the side of the sink. Whilst there’s still room for the bars of soap in the home, sleek liquid versions now dominate many households.


  1. Wiring a plug

Many years ago, if you’d bought an electrical appliance, there was no guarantee that it came with a plug. A plug with fuse would be bought separately and the wiring would be completed at home. How many of us (non-electricians) would know the colour of the neutral, live and earth?





  1. Doubled glazed windows

Single panes of glass were usual. In the 80s, huge amounts of households splashed out on double-glazing. Lower heating bills, improved insulation and quieter rooms made double-glazing attractive.



10. The remote control

Imagine having to stand in front of the television and manually select a channel? This is how it was many years ago. Luckily the remote control has come to the rescue and now we flick effortlessly between channels.





Posted on

The Pager: cheated and dumped!

I had one in 1996. It clipped onto the belt of my 28-inch waist. It looked cool and trendy. Hearing a ‘beep beep’ meant I’d received a message. A quick look at the screen revealed a message like ‘give uncle Byron a call’.

21 years later, there’s no device clipped to the belt of my 32-inch waist. If someone wants to talk to me, I’d be alerted by the default Apple ringtone and reach into my pocket (funnily enough, others in close proximity will also reach into their pockets when an iPhone rings). If someone sends me a text message, I’ll usually text them back pretty sharpish.


So where did the relationship with the Pager and I break down? We really had a good thing going back in 96. We didn’t argue or fight. We spent lots of time together with no disagreements between us. Her name was Cello. When someone wanted to get hold of me, they’d call my pager number, which took them through to a real person on the switchboard. The message was left with the switchboard operator who’d then relay the message in text form to my pager, Cello. It worked well. It was reliable and didn’t need charging every day. No frills, bells or whistles.


Motorola pager


So how did the relationship end? What did Cello do to make me put her in a box, then lock her in the cobweb-ridden loft? Well I learned a lot about myself back in the 90s. When it comes to technology, I’m a fickle guy. I spotted another model that could do a bit more than my Cello. Her name was Nokia 1620 – a mobile phone. Now that I had a mobile phone, I could make phonecalls whist out and about. I didn’t need to hunt down a phonebox or wait until I got home to call someone. I remember the first ever text message I received on my mobile phone – I was so scared and thought it was the work of the devil. After realizing that the evil one was innocent, I began to enjoy the features of my new model. It’s not the only time I’ve been unfaithful … I’ve been unfaithful on average every 2 years since Cello.




The reassuring thing is that I’m not the only unfaithful one. During a shopping trip on Friday morning, I spotted huge queue outside the Apple store. This was no ordinary queue – this queue needed security guards to keep things under control. I realized that all the fuss was over the release of the new iPhone. I felt reassured seeing hundreds of people queuing for the latest model. I realized that the people queuing were barefaced cheaters, showing the same degree of disloyalty as me!


I’m not sure where my Cello pager ended up. I’m not sure where the Nokia 1620 ended up either. I’m not sure where all the other devices were dumped off over the years. Still for now I’m happy with my iPhone 6. I love it and can’t live without it. I’ve had it for about 18 months. It’s trouble-free and does the job. 18 months … maybe it’s time for a trip to the Apple store.