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Dial-up internet

TIMES have changed. We expect things now! When it comes to connecting to the internet, we want to connect not just at home, but whilst out and about.

It doesn’t seem long ago that we were using dial-up internet. The memorable dial tone followed by a series of high-pitched screeches!




The price of dial-up internet varied during peak and off-peak times. I remember waiting until the evening to use dial-up – it was cheaper after 6pm. There were also a whole heap of companies fighting for a piece of the dial-up internet pie. BT was still a big player back then (in many cases you had to have a BT phoneline to connect) but companies like Demon, CompuServe and Zen come to mind. Whilst the likes of Demon and Zen are still going, they’re not household names.




The internet was considered a bit of a luxury when dial-up starting screeching. Having an email address and receiving an email was exciting!

Today we’re bombarded with emails that arrives every few minutes (ping ping or vibrate – smartphone technology rules). The thought of only picking up emails from a main computer at home now seems so alien. We are addicted to wanting things now and we’re hooked! Social media has ushered us deep into the internet ocean – Mark Zuckerberg had better have a well-built secret hideout if Facebook stops working for a day!


Are dial up internet providers still available today? Yes! Having done a quick search using my fixed priced broadband, Freeola, Nippy internet and Emergency internet still provide a dial-up service!

The odds are that BT, Sky, Virgin and Talk Talk roll off the tongue when asked about an internet provider. The days of dial tones and screeches are not quite finished – dial-up still churns away in the background.



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5 of the best aftershaves from yester-years!

I’m a cheapskate! I don’t splash out on expensive aftershaves.

If, like me, you’re old school and loves a fragrance that doesn’t break the bank, then feel free to chip in. Here are my top 5.



The splash on lotion and deodorant has a special place in my gym bag. A female friend said ‘I smelt like her dad’ after I’d freshened up with a Brut. ‘Splash it all over!’ was the strapline used by Henry Cooper and Barry Sheene back in the day. An iconic fragrance.




Old Spice

Whist not one of my favourite fragrances, I’ll still slap this on once in a while. The dominant top note seems to be cloves. The strapline from yester-years is still fondly remembered – ‘The mark of a man’.




Hai Karate

I do like this fragrance – unusual but pleasant. The advertising was memorable – doing karate moves to keep women away would now cause an absolute uproar! The strapline, ‘Be careful how you use it’, brings back memories of advertising in the 70s … politically incorrect!







The strapline, ‘Denim … for men who don’t have to try … too hard’ brings back memories of 70s advertising. I thought some of the modern adverts were provocative, but after watching the 1979 advert for Denim, they are timid!





Blue Stratos

Have we saved the best until last? The strapline: ‘Cool, quiet confidence’. The advertising was sophisticated. Blue Stratos distanced itself from the other ‘slap in your face’ fragrances. A bottle of Blue Stratos is currently sitting in the bathroom cabinet.








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Books glorious books

THE headline: ‘40,000 Children do not own a single book’.

The figure relates to children aged eight to 18 in Greater Manchester. They were obtained from the National Literacy Trust (NLT). The article didn’t go into much detail as to why 40,000 children didn’t own a book.


Even though I don’t know the reasoning for this, (the article mentioned disadvantaged children but we have no idea how the NLT’s classifies ‘disadvantaged children’), I was totally dumbfounded by the figure mentioned.


I was dumbfounded because I grew up at a time where books were part of my life. I didn’t have tons of books but always had a few that were mine. I grew up reading Ladybird books – my favourite was Rumpelstiltskin. I progressed onto Old Mrs Pepperpot. I managed to stagger through Shakespear’s Macbeth (aged 14) and ended up moving onto Steven King in my late teenage years.


Recently found in my loft. I had written ‘I’m going to have lunch at McDonalds’ on the inside cover.


Books have power. They improve literacy and drive imagination.


I had the pleasure of visiting two bookshops on Merseyside recently. The first, News from No Where on Bold Street (Liverpool) was packed with different genres and had books with challenging titles such as Abortion Wars and Great War to Race riots.

The other bookshop, Broadhurst, based in Southport, blew me away. This is an amazing bookshop that has everything!  It was established in 1920. Books spread across four floors! After browsing the four floors, I left the shop thinking ‘Wow’!




Visiting both News from No Where and Broadhursts got me thinking. I love when I’m physically holding a book. There’s something nice and relaxed about browsing through books inside a bookshop. I’d love to see the same level of traffic in independent bookshops as seen in an Apple store!


Whist I do find the 40,000 headline astonishing, there needs to be some scratching beneath the surface. Are children using alternative reading platforms (i.e. tablets, the internet or visiting libraries)?

If it’s a case of children not reading because of not having books, then how do we get books to them and get them reading? There are certainly no lack of books or authors!




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Sunny times ahead: Judith, Thomson and Ceefax

The excitement of Christmas is over and it’s back to reality. Many are back to the regular routine. January has greeted us with strong winds and Blue Monday. The first month of the year has a way of snapping us back to reality!

It’s usual for us to crave warmth and sunshine. Whilst it’s not advisable to ignore the weather and throw on shorts, bikinis and t-shirts, (‘I’ve had enough of this weather’ attitude), we can start looking forward to holidays abroad!

January is a time when we start thinking about summer holidays. These days, a trawl through the internet would get us to our sunny destination – click, click, click, enter credit card details, click … booked!

What was it like booking a holiday old school style?


Wish you were here?

I always wondered how many stamps Judith had in her passport. ‘Wish you were here?’ was essential viewing back in the 70s and 80s. Thousands were glued to the television drooling at the beautiful locations. Drooling is all we could do in our household – we couldn’t afford to visit the places where Judith hung out. Our summer holidays were  coach trips to the seaside – ham sarnies, bucket & spade and a clean pair of undies!


Judith 2



Get Away!

Nip into a travel agents, leave with a stack of brochures, go home and spend hours going through them. Once decided on your destination, then it’s back to the travel agents to get it booked.

Maybe we’d send away for a holiday brochure using one of the coupons in a magazine. Chances are that we’d have to wait 28 days for the brochure to arrive. Yep we had no choice but to be patient back then.





Oracle & Ceefax

I was a regular on oracle during the 90s. I’d have a notebook and pen handy to jot down telephone numbers of agencies advertising bargains. The heavily pixelated channels were the step-up from holiday brochures.





Bright future

Booking a break in the sun is pretty painless these days. I’m sure this blog will bring back fond memories and we’ll forget about dreary January. A place in the sun is now only a few clicks away.







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Coffee snobbery

SATURDAY afternoon. After ordering a cheese and tomato panini and mocha, I handed the barista my loyalty card. ‘That’s your Nectar card!’ was his reply. After apologizing, I quickly searched for the correct card whilst ignoring the queue of customers rolling their eyes.

Pulling out the wrong card was not my fault. I was pre-occupied – Sky Sports on my iPhone had my undivided attention. Funnily enough, just before the loyality card mix-up, a lady in the queue mentioned that we spend far too much time on our mobiles.


I’ve been a regular in the local coffee shop for a number of years. The staff know me very well. They know what I want when I get to the counter. They give me a light-hearted telling-off when they’ve spotted me in the competitors’ coffee shop.


I have to admit that I’ve become a snob when it comes to coffee, coffee shops and cafés. Allow me to explain. I was brought up in era where instant coffee ruled – add boiling water, a splash of milk and job done. Today, there’s not a granule of instant coffee in our household. Instead we have coffee for use in the cafetiere.




Another example was during a recent trip to the east of the country. We were driving along mostly ‘A’ roads so the usual premium services (containing M&S simply food, Costa, Starbucks etc.) were less frequent. We stopped at a café on one of the ‘A’ roads. The café was super clean but the decor looked like we’d travelled back to the 70s! I ordered a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich and a coffee. The bread used for the toastie was bulk standard square (not the Panini style I had become accustomed to). The side salad was unshredded iceberg and sliced tomato. The milk for the coffee was not heated the frothed the way my local coffee shop did it. Also I couldn’t use my loyalty card in the café.

Whilst I enjoyed the pit stop, I’d missed the usual luxury of my local coffee shop.


So the conclusion is that I’ve turned into a modern day snob when it comes to coffee and coffee shops. My snobbery has happened gradually. I’m not proud of my snobbery and I’m beginning to feel guilty. I’m considering going back to doing coffee old school (back to granules). Does Mellow Birds, Maxwell House and Nescafe original still exist?



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The name … J.R. Hartley

ONCE this was the first stop for finding a plumber. We’d flick through the pages to find an insurance broker. J.R. Hartley managed to find a copy of his book, Fly Fishing, by flicking through the Yellow Pages.




The chunky yellow book was packed with loads of contacts providing services. Back in the day, the yellow pages would have a usual place next to the dial telephone. In many homes, both telephone and yellow pages (perched on a table) would greet you when entering the hallway.


I spent hours going through the yellow pages in 1990. I was looking for a good deal on insurance for my red Ford Escort. There were adverts upon adverts for insurance brokers. I was spoilt for choice!




The yellow pages was huge and chunky. A massive thud on the doorstep was notice of it’s arrival!

The chunky book of contacts and services had other uses too. That ‘just out of reach’ book on top shelf became reachable with the help of the yellow pages. Over the years the yellow pages has also been successfully used a doorstop!


Nowadays the yellow pages is incredibly slim. It’s as if it’s been on a serious diet for the last 28 years. If we need a plumber, the internet will be our first port of call. The yellow pages is useless as a height booster or a doorstop these days.

J.R. Hartley may find it a tad trickier finding a copy of Fly Fishing in the trimmed 2018 version.




Enjoyed the blog? A nostalgic collection of blogs featuring a fun and factual look back at British advertising, leisure and entertainment from the yester-years are featured in the new hardback book, Section N Underpass. Release date early December 2018.

Section N Underpass Cover

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Health & Safety: British Rail, the routemaster and Belgian buns

I’VE been thinking about the old British Rail trains that were around in the 70s and 80s – the ones where we’d manually open the doors (twist handle on the outside and a latch release on the inside). As these trains pulled into the station, the doors were swung open before coming to a stop. Passengers on the platform took a few steps back to avoid a smack in the face from a swinging door! It was not only the passengers on the platform that were at danger – opened doors meant passengers on the train were in danger of falling onto the platform!




Think back to the open-backed busses (old style Routemasters). We had more chances of catching one of these busses than with do the modern ‘shut the door in your face’ busses. When we saw a routemaster about to pull away from the bus stop, we’d sprint, leap, then grab the support pole on the back platform. Getting off was fun too – no need to wait for the routemaster to come to a standstill – we’d leap off and our heels would be in close proximity to the back of head as we tried to remain upright.




It was the mid-80s that I’d first stepped out into the world of work (part-time in supermarket whilst still at school). I told my manager that I couldn’t get the packaging for the Belgian buns as they were too high up on the racking in the warehouse. He looked at me in disbelief. ‘Young boy like you scared to climb’ – he then stormed off to the warehouse. Five minutes later he was back holding a box of Belgian bun packaging. He’d climbed the warehouse racking (about 12 metres high) without ladders. His action inspired me and soon I was also climbing the warehouse racking unaided. I felt proud of my agility and the heights I’d scaled. More importantly I felt I proved something to my manager – I was not a ‘young boy’ and was not scared to climb!


These were fun but dangerous days. The trains now have automatic doors or door operated by the conductor. The old styled routemasters are only used to add a bit of nostalgia to weddings and special events. If I ever go back to working in a supermarket then I’d ask the forklift truck driver to get the Belgian bun packaging. There is a lesson to be learned in the case of the Belgian bun packaging – I now think and question myself before following the action of a leader – sometimes the consequences outweigh the benefits.


We’re in a better place – safety is high on the agenda nowadays. Part of me still misses the excitement of being agile with the total disregard to safety, but I now have a different  mindset. I’ve some stuff that needs going back into the loft. My neighbour has been saying that I need to get a loft ladder – I’ve been using a standard ‘V’ shaped ladder and hoisting myself through the hatch into the loft. Getting out of the loft is interesting too! I think I’ll take my neighbours’ advice.





The Great British Blog Book for Nostalgic Geeks is now available


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The freezing cold office, gyms and New Year’s resolutions

A NEW YEAR begins. Plans and resolutions are made as we look to get areas of our lives into some kind of order. Finding a new job, starting up a business, healthy eating, doing some kind of charity work and Dry January are some of popular promises we make to ourselves and others as we look to turn over a new leaf. I was asked in a text message about my New Year’s resolution – I promptly replied that I don’t really make resolutions.

Strangely enough, last night I decided that I’d make an effort to start work earlier – I’ll get into the office at around 6.30am and crack on. To put things into some kind of context, our office is the box room at the back of the house – it’s always freezing and for one of the smallest rooms in the house, it takes ages to get to some kind of normal working temperature. So here I am – sitting in my office wrapped in a heavy dressing gown. I made it to the office at 6.09am! I’m feeling rather chuffed at my achievement but I’m also feeling incredibly cold even though the little oil heater is on full blast! The thing is this … for someone who does not make resolutions, I’ve actually made a resolution!


So why did I make a resolution to get into the office at stupid o’clock in the morning? Well a number of reasons really –  the main one being that my attention span usually starts to diminish from 3pm. Another reason to finish work slightly earlier so I can get to the gym before rush hour. Getting to the gym before the rush hour kicks in means I can avoid the gym stampede and drive home in moving traffic. From previous experience, going to a gym between 5pm and 7pm during the first week of January equals a very busy gym! The gyms are usually packed to the brim as we begin our fitness resolutions.


The whole gym scenario makes me think of how lifestyles have changed. I cast my mind back to my upbringing in the capital. My parents worked locally – they would walk to work (approx. 1 mile). When at work they’d still be pretty physically active. At the end of their shift, it was the mile long walk back home. During my school years, I walked to and from school (approx. 2 miles each way). When I’d finished my education, my first full time job was in central London that meant walking to the train station, piling onto the Bakerloo line train, then more walking before reaching my place of work. In the late 80s there seemed to be subtle changes in our lifestyle. The popularity of Mr Motivator and Lizzie, whilst fun to watch (actually totally hilarious), was a sneak preview into the future of how our lifestyles would change. Back in the 80s, private/membership gyms hardly existed. By the 90s they started to appear and now, in 2018, they’re scattered over the country! Its pretty common to ask someone ‘Which gym do you go to?’ or ‘How are you getting on with the personal trainer?’ and ‘What class is it tonight?’ Mr Motivator and Lizzie were winking at us and grinning like a couple of Cheshire Cats. Behind those Cheshire Cats smiles were visions of the future … increased automation in the workplace and the need to adapt to a more active and healthier living. Lifestyles have changed.




So the plan is to get to the gym this afternoon. Actually another resolution (from the guy who does not make resolutions) is to get to the gym at least 3 times a week. I have calculated that last year the gym received 4 months worth of free payments due to my non attendance. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep up my resolution of starting work early and getting to the gym 3 times a week, but I’m going to give it a good bash. Happy 2018 to everyone – I hope it turns out to be fruitful and fabulous. Hold onto those resolutions … hold on tight!


1987 lizzie




The Great British Blog Book for Nostalgic Geeks is available from the retrohen website