All Posts by Michael

The Excruciating Excitement Starts Here!

When I was little the Christmas countdown, excitement and excruciating “why are these pre-Christmas days taking so long when what we really want is to wake up on the 25th December” torture started around the 15th December for us.

Yes, we had advent calendars from 1st December. And they were good… and all part of the ritual.

But we didn’t have loads of money when I was little so we reused the same advent calendars from year to year (true!)

Each year, when we took the Christmas decorations down, the advent calendars had all of their doors re-closed and about 11 months later they would re-appear to work their magic.

It didn’t matter to us… that’s all we knew and so it was just as magical as if we’d received a new advent calendar each year.

In fact it was probably even better, in its own way, because our calendars were like familiar friends… part of the Christmas ritual.

After all I wouldn’t have much to say about them had we had new ones each year. Where’s the nostalgia in new?

And let’s face it… if we’d been given a new calendar each year the images behind the doors would have been very much variations on the same theme… star, robin, snowflake, snowman, 4 french hens…

…or are those turtle doves (it’s hard to see… the picture is quite small)

…or geese

…or swans – no not swans because they aren’t a’swimming

…calling birds – or is it colly birds… and if it’s colly birds what are they anyway?

… anyway I know it isn’t a partridge because there’s only one of them and the image is severely pear-tree deficient!

…etc etc.


(phew… back on safe ground… and don’t you dare sing “golden”… is nothing sacred?)

So if it wasn’t the advent calendar that really started the pre-Christmas excitement then what was it?

Well it wasn’t that other “about 4 weeks before Christmas” annual ritual either…

Which one?

The making of the Blue Peter Advent Crown…

Remember that?

Think 4 coat hangers, tinsel, baubles and fork ‘andles (my little tribute to the 2 Ronnies… geddit?) and you don’t need a load of imagination to know pretty accurately what this annual masterpiece looked like.

It was Valerie Singleton that was the chief maker when I was little I think… and then probably the honour passed to Lesley Judd (was less sure about her personally) and then, as the hosts changed with alarming speed, to more recent presenters who the BBC have wheeled in to make the program more hip and groovy! (ugh).

And not only have the presenters changed beyond belief but I’m sure that, last time I saw it, the advent crown has been made 2019 friendly and the candles (ooh fire hazard… they shouldn’t be on birthday cakes either, it’s a death-trap!) has gone. I forget what they were replaced with (I think I had my head in my hands at the time, ranting about “what is the World coming to?” interlaced with the occasional expletive… only mild ones though!!!)

Here’s a picture of that glorious Blue Peter crown that I found online.


And having seen that picture I take back a load of the things I just said because look at the angle of those candles (including the one that’s just about to be lit). Were they mad? Is that an accident waiting to happen… or what???

Plus they are being lit by John “the man with the reputation for being entertaining because he was a bit clumsy, slightly inept – it anything was going to go wrong with anything Blue Peter did he would invariably be the cause or heavily involved at least” Noakes.

You certainly wouldn’t trust him with matches.  And you certainly, certainly wouldn’t let him light a candle which is at a 45 degree angle (how precarious do they look???).

No… you’d get Peter “Mr Perfect” Purves to do it instead… wouldn’t you?

So what was it, that happened each year about now, that made us (well my sister Jane and me anyway) so excited back in the 70s?

I’ll tell you in my next post! (aren’t I a cheeky tease?)

I’ll tell you what, though. To make up for my teasing naughtiness, if you can guess what it might be then tell me in the comments below. If you get it right before I put my next post live at 11am next Tuesday (17th Dec 2019) then I’ll send you a fab wicker hamper of retro sweets in time for Christmas.

And if more than 1 person guesses then the first entry wins.

Top Of The Cops

Remember Tim?

My mind has been wandering recently… thinking about things from when I was young.

Things that we didn’t think twice about at the time.  Some were almost essentials.

But mention them to anyone under a certain age now… and you’ll just get a blank expression.

So I thought I’d share some of my nostaglic wanderings with you in the hope that you’d enjoy them… starting today.

Do you remember TIM, AKA the speaking clock?

Back before the days of mobile phones & tablets, radio controlled clocks etc

When computers were still the size of rooms and featured those big tape reels that used to whirl round at irregular intervals…

… and they had lots of flashing lights (or was that just on the telly?)


Heavens before even Teletext…

The only way to find out the exact time was to either

1) wait for the pips on the hour on the radio

2) phone the speaking clock (or TIM as we called it).

When I was little (late 60s early 70s) TIM was a lady called Pat Simmons. If you’re a child of that era I bet this takes you back…

Listen To The Speaking Clock: 1963-1985

In 1985 it changed to a gent called Brian Cobby. Typical of the 1980’s that’s when the iconic message

“At the third stroke the time will be 10.59 and 20 seconds” was amended to “the time sponsored by Accurist will be…”

I always thought that Brian sounded like the man who voiced over the Mr Kipling adverts.

Mmmmmmmmm… Mr Kipling Almond Slices

He wasn’t.

And it seems that Mr Cobby was a little bit of a fibber (at least according to Wikipedia so please take this with a pinch of salt…).

He claimed to have voiced “5-4-3-2-1… Thunderbirds are go!” at the beginning of every Thunderbirds episode. And indeed he did, according to Wikipedia, create a recording of that epic countdown for the BBC in 1965.

Problem is… recording of Thunderbirds started in 1964… coundown and all!

So it’s thought that Brian’s recording may have been for a Thunderbirds Tracey Island toy (doesn’t have quite the kudos, does it?). Still at least we can be certain it wasn’t the Blue Peter cardboard, yoghurt pots, paper maché and Anthea Turner version!


Anyway, enough about what Brian didn’t do… want to be reminded of Brian’s golden tones? You can hear them here…

Listen To The Speaking Clock: 1985-2007

Nostalgic gold.

Bet These Adverts Take You Back…