Friday, May 04, 2018

Back After the Break (Again)

So, it's another Friday, the first day of my long Bank Holiday weekend, which means I've spent the day doing Bank Holiday weekend stuff: setting up my new watch, which arrived today, de-cluttering parts of the house, browsing second hand books and cleaning the car.  Consequently, I've got nothing to post about today.  Sure, there are still a plethora of schlock movies I've yet to write up, but I'm feeling too lazy to do any of them today.  Which means that we're back to that old stand-by: a selection of TV ads from my youth.

These are from the early eighties, the days when the railways were still nationalised and British Rail was marketing its cheap day return tickets to ordinary holiday makers.  It's fashionable to mock British Rail and its inadequacies - often poorly maintained stock, problems with punctuality and ageing and increasingly unreliable infrastructure and bad sandwiches - but at least people were able to afford to travel by train back then.  Fares were relatively cheap, making day trips to the coast feasible for non-millionaires.  And, in truth, although the corporate blue and grey livery was dull as ditch water, British Rail's services were no worse than their flashily liveried successors.  Still, the eighties were the days when teletext services were still both a novelty and considered a technological miracle.  Whilst the BBC version was always called Ceefax, the ITV equivalent, as seen in the Philips' ad, was originally called Oracle.  Later, someone had the bright idea that the commercial teletext service should be treated like a regional franchise and put out to tender.  Which resulted in Oracle being replaced by the inferior Teletext (such an original name), provided by the Daily Mail.  Although the BBC still runs a digital version of its service, teletext was, of course, eventually superseded by the advent of the web.

Moving on, I well remember the Princess, (not the Austin Princess, mind - Princess was, like Mini, a marque in its own right in the British Leyland of the seventies and eighties), which was BL's prestige model.  There were several variations, including, as I recall, a Vanden Plas model and a Wolseley version, but it was the standard Princess version which was built in the largest numbers.  Indeed, BL sold a good many Princesses back in the day, but you'll rarely see one on the road today.  Sadly, the build quality left something to be desired: I remember that a friend's parents had one and bits of trim (and worse) were forever falling off.  The Ford Fiesta, by contrast, was an instant success and remains part of the Ford line up to this day.  Unlike the Princess, you still see some Mk1 Fiestas (usually the XR2 version) on the road today.  I have a real soft spot for the original Fiesta, I still prefer its body shape to the current version.  It remember riding in one that my father was driving while his regular company car, a Mk2 Escort, was in the garage - its road holding was markedly superior to the rear wheel drive MK2 Escort.

Elastoplast is always one of those things I'm constantly surprised that the makers felt needed to be advertised.  If you cut or grazed yourself, what else were you going to use to dress the wound?  OK, I know there are other brands, but in eighties Britain Elastoplast dominated the market and all those cheap own-brand supermarket equivalents were yet to appear in force.  But advertise they did, implying that their product was even good for sawed or chopped off digits.  Who needs micro-surgery when you've got Elastoplast?   Cassette books - who the heck remembers what cassettes were nowadays?  But, like teletext, back in the eighties recording a book reading onto magnetic tape was considered cutting edge technology.  But those were the pre CD days when even the Walkman used cassettes.  Of course, even CDs are obsolete now, overtaken by MP3 downloads.  However, the cassette books were the precursors of today's audio books and proved that a market existed for such things, even though the technology being used back then was, actually, pretty cumbersome.  I have to confess that I actually still have a large number of cassettes (and the means to play them), including both music cassettes and quite a bit of spoken word.  I always preferred them to vinyl as you could play them in the car as well, (in the days before cars had CD players, the cassette deck was the ultimate in in-car entertainment).  Ah, those were the days!

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