Neighbours: The Portrait Of Mrs Mangel... Who Did It?

Feast your eyes on the above - the divine portrait of Mrs Nell Mangel, painted by Mrs Helen Daniels in 1987. Both ladies, of course, were Ramsay Street fiction, but the re-emergence of the painting in a recent Neighbours storyline and the death of actress Vivean Gray, who was so spendid as Mrs Mangel, have prompted the following e-mail from Keiran:

I enjoyed your post on lovely Vivean Gray and Mrs Mangel. Another Neighbours legend gone! The painting of Mrs Mangel from the 1980s has recently turned up in 21st Century Neighbours. Do you know who really painted it? I don't suppose it was Anne Haddy, who played Helen Daniels?

Hello, Kieran! I can answer part of your question - no, Anne Haddy did not paint the Mangel masterpiece. The actress wanted it to be known in 1988 that the Daniels works were, in reality, the work of somebody "in scenery" and said: "They're awful, aren't they? The most upsetting fan letter I've received was from a little boy who wanted me to paint his dead cat. I had to explain I wasn't a real artist."

Who was the real life artist, then?

If anybody knows the person "in scenery" on Neighbours in 1987 who painted Helen's perceptive character portrait of dear old Nell, please let us know.

It's now an icon of 1980s artwork.


Vivean Gray - The English Actress Who Gave Us Australia's Mrs Mangel...

Mrs Mangel puts on a severe face as she prepares for another day at Lassiters. 

English-born actress Vivean Gray, who died recently, was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans before she became Mrs Nell Mangel in Neighbours. But she believed that there was one important difference between her two gossipy characters:

"... Jessup had saving graces, she would help people. Mangel is mean and bitchy."

All quite true. And how we loved Mrs Mangel for her foibles. Incredibly, the character was only a resident of Ramsay Street from 1986 to 1988, but she certainly left her mark - both on the show, and in our affections.

Of course, Mrs Mangel was not originally intended to be a permanent Ramsay Street local. Vivean Gray in another 1980s interview:

"Mangel was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but I think people like watching her. I think they say, 'Isn't she dreadful? Thank goodness she doesn't live near me!' "

Analysing the character, Miss Gray said:

"The Mrs Mangels of this world are people who are disappointed in themselves. Perhaps they are lonely, too. At any rate, they can't adapt to a changing society. Such people need counselling."

Mrs Mangel's lovely granddaughter, Jane Harris (Annie Jones), stood by her "Nan" - and took to heart Mrs M's advice to "keep herself nice".

Mrs Mangel clashed regularly with Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop (Anne Charleston). She was a bit of a lonely soul at heart, but had a great friend in the beautifully batty Eileen Clarke (Myra de Groot), and was rather an admirer of Mr Harold Bishop (Ian Smith).

She also had an estranged son, Joe, played by Mark Little, who turned up in Ramsay Street in 1988, just before Mrs M. left. The two were reconciled, and rough diamond Joe and his son Toby ensured the Mangel name lived on in the street after Mrs M. married Englishman John Worthington and moved to the "old country".

Fans took Vivean's portrayal of Mrs Mangel very much to heart, which led to some unpleasantness for the actress, and contributed to her decision to leave the role.

But Mrs Mangel is a telly legend.

And we treasure the memories. 

Rest in peace, Vivean Gray. 

And thank you. 

And our condolences to her friends and family.

Happy days - Eileen Clarke and Nell Mangel joined the local bowling club in 1987.


The '80s Sooty Show - Soo, A Personal Stereo, And Auntie Brenda...

The Sooty Show entered a new era in the 1980s, with a change of format. Matthew Corbett introduced a new setting - a lovely house called "The Sooteries" on the Christmas 1980 show, and this became the permanent home of the show from 1981 onwards. 1981 was also the year Soo the panda gained a new voice - that of the very talented Brenda Longman.

My own Sooty era was over long before the 1980s began, I'd been a kiddywink viewer in the days when Harry Corbett, Matthew's father, was in charge, but I glimpsed the show at times as a young adult in the 1980s, and had to smile.

Sooty and his friends had been wowing the kids for several decades by that time, and were continuing to do so - and indeed still do. They're still going strong under the watchful eye of Richard Cadell.

My favourite characters were Soo and Sweep, and Soo gained some street cred with me as an adult when she was seen with a personal stereo in 1985. It was more the size of a ghetto blaster to her, but I was heartened that my chldhood heroine was keeping up with the trends of the 1980s.

Soo gained even more street cred when an out-take from the show was included in the wonderful It'll Be Alright On The Night series.

Sooty, Sweep and Soo had been sent a flower press by their Auntie Brenda, but it was not easy to use with paws, and when a piece of it fell off the surface our pals were using, Sooty scuttled the rest of it, and the usually prim and proper Soo uttered the immortal words: "Bloody Auntie Brenda - she always was trouble!"

Of course, this was cut from the show, but the out-take survived for Denis Norden to delight us with. 

I laughed so much, it hurt.

Sooty, Sweep and Soo, we love you...

And Auntie Brenda, of course.


Enquiry: No, Robert Cailliau Did Not Co-Invent The World Wide Web

The original invention document for the World Wide Web, March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee. He had already produced what turned out to be a precursor project called ENQUIRE whilst working at CERN for six months from June to December 1980.

Had an interesting enquiry from Sam:

I'm studying the history of the World Wide Web and most sources state that Tim Berners-Lee invented it alone, but some say he co-invented it with Robert Cailliau, a Belgian scientist. There is currently controversy about this on Wikipedia. do you know which is true?

Yes, Sam - I can safely say I do. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in March 1989, when he submitted a proposal to his boss at CERN. Robert Cailliau became a highly valuble collaborator later. But the ideas and the invention and the writing of the first Web browser were all Tim's own work.

Robert Cailliau has never stated that he co-invented the Web. This inaccurate information has simply been parroted by certain Web users. In using the Web, one must be "information smart", and I don't recommend using Wikipedia for a start. It's an illogical nightmare of an idea, where uninformed, wishy-washy admins and silly, ignorant kids and adults can wreak havoc. Some people are so eager to thrust their own strange and inaccurate views on others they throw their rattles out of their prams and are amazingly persistent if challenged. Anybody trusting that source  for a homework study deserves all they get! This is Tim Berners-Lee's own comment on Robert Cailliau's initial contribution to the project:

"Some commentators suggest that Robert co-invented the WWW. To set this straight, he did not invent it. It wasn't his idea. He did not write the specifications for UDIs (later to be URLs, then URIs), or for HTML, the hypertext language, nor HTTP, the protocol, or the code of the original implementation. More than a year after my original proposal (March 1989), while I was working on the code, he wrote a proposal to CERN proposing some staff be allocated to the project. This was a brave thing to do, as CERN was always chronically short of manpower for the huge challenges it had taken on. So Robert put himself out there to claim that effort on WWW was worth it." (scroll down to section "Robert Cailliau's Role" for further information)

And you can read our own piece on the wonderful Web here.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee celebrating twenty years since the invention of the Web in March 2009. The event took place at CERN.


1980: Hissing Sid Is Innocent! Or Was He Guilty?

Back, back, to the beginning of the 1980s - to the far away year of 1980 - and Captain Beaky and his Band.

The bravest animals in the land.

Timid Toad, Batty Bat, etc, etc.

What a surprise that the record should get into the Top Five, and what a surprise that it should spark a national obsession with that lovable/loathsome snake, Hissing Sid.

Hissing Sid Is Innocent (occasionally Hissing Sid Is Guilty) was daubed on flyovers, brick walls, public lavatory doors, exercise books - just about anywhere there was space to daub.

1980 was soon awash with books, badges, and a follow-up record - The Trial Of Hissing Sid. Was he innocent? I can't remember.

Seeing the two badges pictured brings it all back to me.

We were seriously potty.

Read our main article on the wondrous work of Jeremy Lloyd and Keith Michell here


Victoria Wood

An Audience With Victoria Wood, 1988.

I actually cried today when I heard that Victoria Wood had died.

And it's rare that the death of a celebrity will do that to me.

Victoria scratched around for some years before finding fame, winning New Faces and singing her way through a brief stint on That's Life!

But then came the '80s... 

Back,  back, back in the early 1980s, Victoria starred in a Granada Television comedy sketch series with her friend Julie Walters called Wood and Walters.

Well, it didn't greatly impress me and I soon forgot it.

But, in 1985, with more creative control of her own over a new series, she returned to my telly screen - this time on the BBC.

And this time she was marvellous.

Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV.

Here was a show written by a woman which did not exclude men. Victoria had fun with human foibles of either gender, but there was no misandrist nonsense here.

This was a show for everybody.

And I loved it...

Bessie!... The Trivia Pursuit obsessed flatmates... Shopping... the guy with the telephone deodorising service... At The Chippie... Margery and Joan... Knock Knock On Your Knocker... Kitty... Let's Do It... Acorn Antiques... "It's Tofu" and so much more...

"Is it on the trolley?"

"They got on to politics, I ended up watching Take The High Road with the sound down."

"Never touch prawns, they hang around sewage outlet pipes, treading water, with their mouths open - they love it!"

"All the way to Nottingham, all the way back..."

 Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV brought Miss Wood stardom. And it was well deserved.

Victoria was a wit unequalled. And I always felt that if I'd ever met her I wouldn't be awe stricken (not like I was when I met Bill Waddington, Percy Sugden from Corrie!). No, Victoria seemed wise, witty, puzzled by life, funny, down to earth and a kind of absentee friend really.

I will miss her.

Our main blog post on Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV , from 2009, can be found here -  

And here we honour Victoria's fabulous comic creation Miss Babs of Acorn Antiques -


Easter EastEnders Greetings From 1986...

Compulsive viewing though it was - with some tremendous characters and writing, the BBC's EastEnders was also a bag of miserable, middle class, leftie propaganda in its early years. Not the sort of thing you'd imagine contributing to the spirit of peace and renewal at Easter.

But Auntie wanted to make a few more bob, so 1986 gave us the EastEnders Milk Chocolate Easter Egg - with chocolate beans. Cor! It also 'ad views of the Queen Victoria, Sue and Ali's cafe, the railway bridge and some of the grotty Albert Square 'ouses on the box. 

Lovely, eh? Unless Lou Beale misses 'er bleedin' bingo.

Then there'll be runctions. Not to mention if Sue and Mary get started.

And wot about Den and Ange?

Actually, I think it odd to have an Albert Square-themed Easter egg. But then it takes all kinds to make a world, dunnit, darlin'?

Wishing you a peaceful and happy Easter anyway! x


Spitting Image: Nick George - The Man Who Gave Us Nouvelle Cuisine Du DHSS

It's always a pleasure to get e-mails up here at '80s Actual Towers. We don't get many, but we treasure those we do get.

Recently, we had a corker from Nick George, regarding our post on Spitting Image, must-watch TV for us in the mid-to-late 1980s (let's face it, its "more peas, dear?" subject matter in the 1990s didn't really have the same appeal).

Nick wrote:


Way back in 1984 I was working as a very junior art director at an ad agency in London. I did an ad for Lego, it was photographed by a guy who had worked with Fluck and Law.

The photographer and I got on well. He introduced me to John Lloyd, the Spitting Image producer.

They were putting a book together.

I contributed a bunch of ideas, one of them got into the book though I didn't write the text I did title it:

Nouvelle Cuisine Du DHSS.

Over thirty years later it was pleasing to find a scan of that page on your blog. So, thanks, I don't have that book any more.

Trivia: the photographer also shot the model of Prince Andrew for the Spitting Image book.
The pic, attached, caused the book publishers, Faber and Faber, to lose their royal warrant.

London, eh.

Best regards,


And here we have it - Prince Andrew, in all his latex glory! '80s humour still floats my boat, although many "sensitive" 21st Century souls I know flinch from it. But then they also have an attack of the vapours and write outraged letters on Digital Spy if somebody so much as drags on an e-cigarette in their vicinity (whilst quite happily gumming up the atmosphere with walking or bussing distance "jaunts" in their broom brooms).

It's our considered opinion that the prissy 21st Century needs to do a bit of manning and womaning up.

The shape of things (then) to come - 31st December, 1983 - a preview of Spitting Image. And isn't that Mr President (gasp!). God bless America!

Anyway, back to subject. We wrote to Nick George to ask if he'd mind us publishing his email, and received a reply containing another goodie - the Lego Arthur Scargill pic at the bottom of this post.

Many thanks to Nick. His second e-mail, which also contains a link to a Spitting Image site, is included below.

Hello Andrew, glad you appreciated my memories. Please, publish the contents of my mail to you, I have no problem with that.

The photographer was John Lawrence-Jones. He had shot a Lego trade ad for me. Attached here, it shows Arthur Scargill, at the height of the contentious miners strike.

More background on Spitting Image here: 

Includes the infamous Randy Andy pic.

John also shot the Luck and Flaw Treasure Island book, a couple of years prior.

Really like your site. keep at it.

all best

cheers now.


Thanks again to Nick.


Home Beer And Wine Making In The 1980s

Ugh! Here's a Boots HOME WINE AND BEERMAKING catalogue from 1984-1985. Doesn't it all look complicated? My stepfather's attempts at beer brewing had me running for the loo, clutching my stomach, and although wine making was a bit posh for us, Terry of the BBC's Terry and June '80s comedy series, starring Terry Scott and June Whitfield, tried it in one epsode - and the bottles exploded in June's airing cupboard. Terry also tried his hand at beer making in the same episode - something called "Cock Ale" - which resulted in jippy tum. Believe it or not, "Cock Ale" is actually listed in my Boots reference book!

Ugh again!

What gave rise to the home brewing fad? Various things. The retro urges of the 1960s to return to the times of country frolics in the hay feild, galloping inflation later on (cheaper to brew than to buy a pint), and a desire to be posh and show off were major contributory factors.

But, from my own experiences (and Terry's), I would say avoid.

If you're planning to revive 1984, don't go for this catalogue - invite some friends round for a nice game of Trivial Pursuit instead. It was newly released in the UK in 1984, and a far healthier fad.


Back To A 1980s Christmas - Part 1...

This 1986 men's cardigan sums up a lot about why I love 1980s fashion. We men were free to wear nice colours without people making assumptions about our sexuality. Being a straight peacock, I was in my element. The cardie is, of course, suitable for Christmas wear too. I'll be wearing it this year, actually.

"I have a picture. Pinned to my wall. An image of you and of me and we're laughing with love at it all..."

Those were the days. When shoulder pads came in dinner plate sizes - complete with velcro, when jelly shoes were a wow, when Rubik's ruled, when Christmas was Christmas...

Well, it was too comercialised, of course. But then, I was born in 1965 and it's been said that Christmas is too comercialised for as long as I can remember.

But at least most shops were closed on Boxing Day.

And there was no greedy rumpus on Black Friday. In fact, we'd never even heard of Black Friday. 

Here is the start of a little series of posts that will bring the 1980s Christmas back to life...


Of course, in the 1980s, not all political parties were the same and the old Labour Party was vehemently anti-Tory, not merely the same thing (but less honest and sometimes worse) under a different name. In those days it was politics, not "The X-Factor" or ipods that occupied a lot of our thoughts. Here's a 1984 Labour Party Christmas card, with a privatised Santa selling toys on the street - complete with Rubik's Cube, of course...

Here's that strange, stuttering computer-animated bloke Max Headroom. He'd joined forces with the Art of Noise (remember "Paranoimia"?) and had brief chart success. Here's an unusual jigsaw promo from Chrysalis records. Relax. You're quite safe here...

Now, this was an excellent stocking filler. Ever since the arrival of the Sony Walkman in 1980, cassettes had been growing in popularity (although the compact disc arrived a little later in the 1980s, they were pretty expensive) and so the WH Smith cleaning cassette was a must for many of us. Keep those tape heads clean, and you might avoid having your tapes eaten by your machine.

Here's a lovely WH Smith personal stereo - complete with a radio. So you could listen to Steve Wright In The Afternoon or Our Tune on the move, then slot in the Thompson Twins. Swingorilliant!

Ah, 1981! Lovely radio cassettes, a digital clock radio, and a "phonesitter". Eh? Kind of answer phone thingy. Not cheap. And not at all common. But the 1980s saw the answer phone becoming more and more prevelant.

We end this first 2015 visit to the 1980s Christmas with a last bit of sauce (probably cranberry) from the dear-departed Labour Party. The spirit of protest was strong... the two humans seem to have got their placards jumbled, but the turkey knows what it's doing...


Snoopy The Cowboy

Cowboy Snoopy in the 1980s: "Howdy, Pardner!"

Pauline wrote to ask what my favourite Snoopy fantasy figure was after my post about Snoopy and Peanuts in the 1980s.

Well, Pauline, I have to say the classic Red Baron scenario is close, but my winner is Snoopy as a cowboy. I had the "howdy, pardner!" pic in my room (it dates from the mid-1980s) and found it a friendly and humorous companion!

Cowboy Snoopy was very prevalent in merchandising during the 1980s (perhaps as a tribute to former actor Ronald Reagan, well known for his cowboy roles). I also have a Determined Productions plastic figure from 1983, with Snoopy in the cowboy role.

Snoopy And The Gang Out West, a lovely book about the history and ways of the American Wild West, was published by Determined in 1983.

Below is Snoopy, with Woodstock, in "hog heaven" with raisin corn bread, and the attendant recipe from the book.

Snoopy And The Gang Out West - yummy!


My 50th Birthday - The Alannah Currie Card...

 For my birthday - it's 80's Alannah!

She had it all - talent, beauty and her very own '80s style...

My fiftieth birthday came and went in October with a great 1980s-themed party thrown for me by my wonderful family.

It was a terrific occasion, I had many cards and gifts from family and friends, and was made to feel thoroughly special.

One very thoughtful gesture of kindness came from my long-suffering personal trainer, Gary.

Gary is a bloke who has contributed a great deal to my health and general well-being over the last few years as I have an illness which necessitates a fitness regime. Gary is a top bloke who endures my endless whitterings during each PT session. "Gary! Name three major events of 1982!" "Gary! Why can't they play more '80s music at this gym? This modern stuff is so weedy!" "Gary! Who played Archie Gibbs in Crossroads?" "Gary! I can't possibly go on the treadmill today - I was on my feet all day at work yesterday!" 

And: "Gary! Don't you think Alannah Currie was the most beautiful pop star of the 1980s? Knocks spots off Madonna, doesn't she?"

I've written about my love for Alannah elsewhere on this blog (check out the Thompson Twins label below) but the gym I attend is at a residential centre I lived in for a while in the 1980s, and visiting it always makes me feel nostalgic for those days, and reminds me of my passions and torments from way back then.

Oh, Alannah! Alannah! Be still my fluttering heart! She joined the Thompson Twins when they assumed their classic line-up (the one we all remember - Alannah, Tom Bailey and Joe Leeway) and changed musical direction (switching to synthesizers) in 1982, and her beauty and style captivated me.

Being the absolute professional he is ("The customer is always right"), Gary always agrees with me about the loveliness of Alannah, although I know his tongue is firmly in his cheek. Anyway, for my birthday, completely out of the blue, he presented with me the home made Alannah card pictured above.

And I was dead chuffed.

And touched.

Cheers, Gazza.

But don't think I'm going on that treadmill, mateyboots...

Snoopy And Peanuts In The 1980s...

The release of the first personal stereo in America in 1980 sparked a huge craze, and coincided with - and contributed to - the peak of the roller disco craze. Here's Snoopy, wired for sound.

What a decade for Snoopy and the Peanuts gang the 1980s turned out to be! From Snoopy making his debut on home video and computer games (anyone for Snoopy Tennis?), and the opening of Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm, to Snoopy stepping out as Flash Beagle, Joe Vice and Boy George, and the continuing cycle of life amongst our favourite American comic strip characters as the strip roared towards its fortieth birthday in 1990, the 1980s were a glittering time for the world's best-loved beagle and his friends.

And they brought new challenges - mostly from new heroes and anti-heroes of the comic strip world, Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. But Snoopy and co were well able to hold their own and, indeed, the authors of the newcomers acknowledged Charles Schulz's wondrous creations as an inspiration for their own works.

The Snoopy "1980 Collection" mugs. Just how different for America would the decade have been if Snoopy had been elected president in 1980, not Ronald Reagan?

1981 - and Hallmark released a charming series of Peanuts mini-photo frames. Snoopy - "A Real Inspiration", Snoopy love heart, and "Let The Good Times Roll" and Lucy - "Perfect Like Me" - were part of the series.

Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm opened in 1983. Snoopy looks great as a cowboy!

Continuing the cowboy theme, Snoopy says "Howdy!" This is very similar to a picture I had in my room in the 1980s, with the red and black background and orange frame, but the straw was absent from the mouth,  the phrase was "Howdy, Pardner!" and the smile was wider and cheesier - more like a film star stereotype.

I adore Snoopy. As I set out on my life's journey in the early 1980s, I was given a small framed picture of Snoopy, dressed as a cowboy, with his thought bubble proclaiming "Howdy, Pardner!". I put it up on my bedsit wall. It was a comforting and encouraging presence in the room, and I found it very cheering. Now, with my 50th birthday just past, I have the May 1982 strip below framed on my hall wall. Isn't it fabulous? Snoopy is truly for the whole of your life, from the juvenile jollity of the cowboy pic to the oh-so-true advice for the rather more mature below, Snoopy hands out comforting hugs and sometimes pithy but always excellent advice to everybody. Forget the expensive jollop. There's really only one way to look younger...

1982 - childlike simplicity and tough love truth from Snoopy's Beauty Tips.

Why is Peanuts such a worldwide hit? You don't have to speak English to enjoy it. It's been translated into many different languages, been a huge success in many different lands.

The reason doesn't take much pondering.

It's because Charles Schulz's work is so human. And if you're a human being it's for you.

Well, my favourite character, Snoopy, is, of course, a dog.

But such a human dog, with his fantasy life and zany personality.

I've always been a bit theatrical myself, singing, dancing and experimenting with various characterisations throughout my life.

Life's too short (and reality sometimes too grotty) to just be one person.

So I identify with Snoopy.

I'm also given to low periods in which my self esteem plummets and life becomes one long worry.

So I identify with Charlie Brown.

There are times when I ponder the mysteries of existence, search for the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything and come up with some quite kooky ideas. So kooky, I could suck my thumb for comfort.

So, I identify with Linus. 

Many times I feel small and insignificant, totally swamped by the vastness of the world, the universe, and so on. And yet I have my life, my personality, my own pressing issues.

So I identify with Woodstock.

And sometimes, when I'm tired or unwell, I can rant and gob-off a lot.

So, I (occasionally) identify with Lucy.

1983 - and our very own Boy George's fashionable music loving friend, Boy Snoopy, appears as a cuddly toy.  Was there ever such a trendy beagle as Snoop?

Fads and new technology came thick and fast in the 1980s: in the wake of Flash Dance, Snoopy became Flashbeagle and got into aerobics; there was an outbreak of "temperament" on the tennis court in 1982, after John McEnroe had shaken up the staid atmosphere of Wimbledon in 1981; Lucy got some designer jeans; beanbags proliferated; Marcie attempted to give Peppermint Patty a very '80s hairdo - and Patty succumbed to some other weird do's during the decade (anyone for mousse?); Valley Speak invaded Peppermint Patty's schoolwork when her essay was graded "grody"; the aforementioned Peppermint P got a personal stereo; Trivia (as in Trivial Pursuit) briefly ruled; Woodstock got a beagle blaster - and was the only one in the neighbourhood to have a satellite dish; Charlie Brown discussed yuppies; Sally waited for Halley's Comet; computers began to accelerate into the everyday life of certain characters; and poor lonely Spike wrote to some of the female cast of Dallas to request signed photographs. 

One of my favourite pop culture inclusions from the decade came when Snoopy wondered if his old enemy, the Red Baron, might like a Garfield birthday card. Beautiful.

The Great Pumpkin was revisited on the animated screen in the 1980s Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. Linus, Sally (she was there for her "sweet baboo", of course) wait... Sally's "sweet baboo" was not impressed by her presence. It seemed that it was going to be another long, cold and fruitless vigil..

 ... but then something came hurtling across the pumpkin patch... Had Linus's faith been rewarded at last?

Linus, my second favourite Peanuts character, continued to be a (I mean THE) dedicated disciple of The Great Pumpkin in the 1980s, and found that his evangelical fervour could be lucrative. In 1986, the Great Pumpkin actually appeared (for us, not for Linus) and gave us a quick burst of Sinatra, whilst Peppermint Patty introduced other concepts - such as The Great Secretary, and became an involuntary pumpkin wearer.

The 1980s posed big questions for Linus - like how would he fare with a "younger woman" and (GASP!) could he give up his beloved powder blue blanket? No spoilers here!

The 1984 Snoopy Flashbeagle radio.

The sometimes harsh realities of life from an average kid's point of view were often present in Peanuts, but there were many "ups" in the continuing saga, and when Peppermint Patty succumbed to terrorizing herself over thoughts of the End of the World in 1980, good friend Marcie was there to comfort her. And it was touching. It's that same Marcie who called Peppermint Patty "Sir", and let her down when the two became "Mallies" (trendy hangers-out at shopping malls) by actually doing some shopping and being pursued by a certain beagle "punker". But at the end of the day, Marcie was always there for Patty.

Yep, it was touching - but without being schmaltzy.

Friendship can flip into temporary bouts of hatred, particularly when you're a kid, and Marcie and Peppermint Patty's ongoing rivalry for Charlie Brown's attentions actually caused Marcie to resort to hair-yanking violence on one occasion in 1987. There had been minor spats between the two friends before, and there were after. But this particular incident revealed an angst-ridden, passionate soul lurking behind Marcie's somewhat geeky exterior, and it was sad to note that her relationship with Charlie Brown was largely all in her head (CB didn't really reciprocate), just as it was with Peppermint Patty's pash for CB. But, with rivalry reaching boiling point, it was almost like the kids were reaching early teenage-hood at times.

But, of course, they weren't.

This particular strip marked a turning point in my perceptions of the Marcie character, it made her more real, took her beyond being just a quirky and rather cute regular. I found myself promoting her to a favourite character. A couple of years later, parental expectations and the stress this induced in the girl rounded her out even more.

1984 - and Snoopy - a legend in his own mind, is off to the Olympics with a terrific range of PVC figures. A little word about dating Peanuts merchandise here. Some will be dated to the year of manufacture, like the mugs and photo frames at the top of this post, but both dated products and others will probably also feature old copyright dates - 1958, 1965, etc. Bear this in mind as it can be puzzling to find merchandise copyright dated before the character depicted (Peppermint Patty, etc,) even existed, or with characters indulging in popular trends which  postdate the copyright date(s) stamped on the item. 

Some people think that Snoopy, whose character evolved more than somewhat in the 1960s, he of the Walter Mitty style fantasies, rather spoiled the reality of the strip. There's no doubt that the early years of the strip were grittier and somewhat darker at times. But latter-day Snoopy was wonderful. I wouldn't change a thing about him. I loved his caring relationship with Woodstock and his fantasies. But it always came back to reality - with Snoopy on his doghouse, often waiting for his supper. He always seemed a very heartening character to me, making the best of a rather boring existence. And overcoming the handicap of not being human and being able to fulfill his dreams with his fantasies.

At one point in the 1980s, Charlie Brown decided to devote his life to making Snoopy happy. He couldn't keep it up, and he couldn't, of course, read Snoopy's mind as Snoopy replied to Charlie's outpouring of regret at not being able to live up to his aim. Snoopy was already happy. Naturally. His fantasies transported him far away from the mundane realities of his suburban canine existence.

1984 - and with VCRs beginning to appear in more and more homes (in England still only around a quarter of the population had them in 1985), Snoopy's Home Video Library appeared in the States. Viewers could enjoy the exploits of the gang - including the awesome Lucy snatching the ball away from Charlie Brown - whenever they pleased.

What made America great? In the 1980s, we discovered that Peppermint Patty believed it was peanut butter sandwiches. I find it interesting that most of the classroom comic strips from that decade feature Peppermint Patty and Marcie, rather than the older established characters. Of course, Peppermint P was SO interested in her education, she couldn't help nodding off!

In the hi-tec '80s, Snoopy made his debut in computer games - like this Game And Watch Panorama Screen...

... and this Nintendo Table Top Snoopy game..

Here's the game in action - with Snoopy, Schroeder (at his piano, of course!), Lucy and lots of little Woodstocks.

Of the characters who fell by the wayside as the strip evolved, early years nasty girl Violet Gray made a few appearances in the 1980s - including an un-indexed one which appears on page 126 of the 1981-1982 Complete Peanuts volume, in which she is, predictably but enjoyably, snooty to Pigpen - another former regular from the early years.

Violet's role as nasty girl was taken over by Lucy Van Pelt, who was rather more likable (well, it wasn't her fault she had crabby genes!). I thought Violet's loss was a shame in some ways - Lucy couldn't "do" snooty at all! But, taken all in, I wouldn't have been without Lucy, she was a far more rounded character, and I suppose her presence meant there was little space in the stories for Violet.

A brief blow-in in the mid-1980s was a character called Tapioca Pudding, whose father was "in licensing" and, it seemed, wanted to use his daughter's image on various products. As well as  that popular cutesy dolly Strawberry Shortcake, this reminded me of a 1960s Bewitched story, in which Samantha created a doll based on her own daughter - "The Tabitha Stephens Doll" - to get her husband out of trouble with the advertising company he worked for. 

There's now't as queer as folk, as we say here in England.

Probably the ultimate piece of 1980s Snoopy imagery - Charles Schulz gave us Joe Vice in 1986. Forget the Miami version, Crockett and Tubbs? Pah! Snoops and Woodstock were the real deal!

This poster is from a 1986 Peanuts strip - featuring the ever-trendy Snoopy getting down to some serious aerobics, courtesy of a video. Jane Fonda eat your heart out! We love ya, Snoops!

Wow - how's this for a 1980s Peanuts cardigan?! Woodstock, Snoopy and Marcie are indulging in a little chatline chat. Chatlines were a great innovation - hugely enjoyable - until your parents got the phone bill. Peanuts was marketed to the max for decades. But that was OK, because the strip had soul.

So, which era is my favourite for Peanuts? Is it the 1980s? Well, funnily enough, although the 1980s are when I first came to really appreciate the strip, I would have to say no. Much as I love the 1980s Snoopy gang's exploits, having read the Complete Peanuts books, which feature every strip from its beginning in 1950, I would have to say that the 1950s and 1960s take the prize. Reading the debut and evolution of Peanuts has been a tremendous pleasure for me. In the 1970s and 1980s the strip was fully formed and up-and-running. And whilst the 1980s contain probably my favourite Peanuts strip ever ("Don't be born so soon"), and I certainly don't think the strip ever "flagged", I find the first fifteen to twenty years tremendously exciting to read. And re-read. What I missed! Still, I'm glad I wasn't born any sooner (!), and thank heavens for the Complete Peanuts series!

Here's more pearls of wisdom from the 1980s Peanuts strip - this time from Marcie. Charles Schulz was a wise man!

Sadly, Charles Schulz died in the year 2000 and Peanuts came to an end just before his death. But the characters have lived on through republished strips and merchandising and we're shortly to see the new Peanuts Movie.

Snoopy's a cowboy again in this 1987 collection of Peanuts comic strips, complete with neon cacti.

Here in England, Peanuts inspired The Perishers comic strip, which appeared in The Daily Mirror for many years. But while I loved Maisie, Marlon, Wellington and Boot, I loved (and still love) Snoopy far more. National boundaries or oceans were no challenge for Snoopy. He simply ignored them, flew over them (probably in his Sopwith Camel), and stole my heart away. 

Legal beagle Snoopy in England - depicted in this wonderful 1986 lamp, with one of our iconic old-style telephone boxes. If I'd known he was coming, I'd've baked a cake - or some of his beloved chocolate chip cookies!


Only Fools And Horses... ONLY Half-Brothers?

The Peckham Trotters in the 1980s. They bickered and fell out, they loved and supported each other - and Grandad watched two tellies at the same time. Just like any other family. Apart from that last bit.
I've had an interesting e-mail from Starvo. Here's an extract:

I know Only Fools... is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and that it began in the 1980's which you write about on here, but don't you think the revelation that Del and Rodney Trotter were only half-brothers spoiled it a bit? The writer had spent a lot of time building up a believable sibling relationship between the two lead characters, only to make a mockery of it with that. And it meant Rodney wasn't really related to Grandad at all. I felt let down.

Why did you, Starvo? I know a couple of "siblings" today who are "only" half-siblings, but they think the world of each other and have a better relationship than many full-siblings I know. Similarly, I know a "brother" and "sister" who are really only halves, but are unaware of the fact because according to their birth certificates they have the same father. And there are half-siblings in my family, too.

I think the "only" you use to describe the half-sibling bond between Del and Rodney is in a way quite sensible, after all they share half the same origins, not full, but in other ways it's quite odd because it implies that the relationship is less important than full-siblings. I don't believe that is often the case. When I wrote my Only Fools And Horses article on here, I didn't use "only" to describe the tie because Del and Rodney, I simply stated that they were actually half-brothers.

As for Grandad not being a blood relation of Rodney's, I suppose he wasn't. But he was still Rodney's grandad in every other way that mattered.

I think that was one of the greatest things about OFAH. The unity and love of the Trotter family, despite the fact that things were not quite as they might seem, and the situation not being as "respectable" as our squeaky clean 21st Century pundits might like it. Sometimes I think the attitudes of this century are far more old fashioned than the last.

Just a thought to leave you on: step-siblings and adopted siblings have no shared blood at all. Does that make the strong and very real sibling bonds that often exist between them any less real or important than blood-related full siblings? And if not, why did the revelation in OFAH that Del and Rodney were half-brothers make you think that it made a "mockery" of the close sibling relationship between the two?