Saturday, 18 November 2017

BABE OF THE DAY - NICHELLE NICHOLS...



The radiant NICHELLE NICHOLS is our
'babe' today, fellas.  It's fitting that she appeared
in STAR TREK, 'cos she sure has one heavenly
body.  (Winner of the 'most obvious pun of
the year' award, as if you hadn't guessed.)

IS THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE A 'PHOTO-FINISH' - OR IS IT MORE NEGATIVE THAN THAT...?



In an age where just about every new mobile 'phone has a built in camera, younger readers may find it hard to believe that cameras were once not considered essential items, and were, in fact, regarded as a bit of a luxury.  It's only in relatively recent years that people seem to have developed (no photographic pun intended) a need to document their life story by taking constant photos of themselves and their pals, as previous generations didn't give quite the same degree of thought to it.

My father owned an old Kodak Box Brownie in the '60s - at a time when they were considered 'old-fashioned' and far from state-of-the-art.  He never had a flash for it though (flashbulbs were too expensive), so took any photos out-of-doors - in the back garden when we were at home, and on or near the beach or out-and-about when we were on holiday.  And, looking back at the photos from over the years (including colour ones from when he got a new camera in the '70s), there aren't really too many of them.  Unlike today, photos were reserved for 'special occasions', and going from the paucity of pictures from my childhood, there can't have been too many of them.  (And several snaps have heads cut off, or dutch-tilt' angles like something from the '60s Batman TV show.) 

Perhaps the cost of processing was considered too expensive to take photographs willy-nilly, but I find myself wishing that there were more of them from my youth, and that some of them had been taken indoors.  The only interior one that readily comes to mind was taken by a visiting relative on their camera, and we were given a copy when the spool was developed.  I find myself fascinated by such photos for the glimpses they give of long-vanished furniture, ornaments, wall-hangings and the like, and wish I had more of those 'windows into the past' so that I could luxuriate in the self-indulgent pastime of revisiting former homes and neighbourhoods from my period of residence.

What about yourselves, readers?  Do you lament the fact that your early years were not more extensively recorded for posterity, or was a member of your family a keen 'shutterbug' who snapped just about everyone and everything around them?  Is there one particular incident or special occasion in your life that was never photographed, but that you dearly wish had been?  Feel free to tell your fellow Criv-ites all about it in our scintillating comments section.

Friday, 17 November 2017

NEVER MIND THE CENTURY - JUST WHAT WORLD IS THIS EBAY SELLER LIVING IN?



Look at the state of this issue of TV CENTURY 21 for which some seller is asking £75 on eBay.  The same seller was asking £229 for an even poorer condition (by far) copy of #1, which he eventually sold (he says) for £59.  His ads say that he's unsure of their true worth so is open to reasonable offers, but he must surely have seen what other sellers ask for issues of this particular title.  In my opinion, whether he has or not, he's simply chancing his arm to see what he can get away with.  What price would you be prepared to pay for a comic in this tattered, ragged condition, readers?  I'd rather do without the comic (though I don't have to, 'cos I've got great condition copy) than have this abomination.  What about the rest of you?



A NEW CHRISTMAS CARD...



Meant to post this a couple of hours or so back, but fell asleep.  It's a Christmas card I made at the suggestion of regular reader CJ, after I showed a photo of my dog Zara in the previous post, taken around 1987 or '88.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (namely an Epson printer and Wordpad), I 'created' this in about 10 or 15 minutes - and that includes the printing, cutting, folding, and placing the message inside.  I think it looks great and will be making some more to send out this Christmas.  What do you think, readers?


Update:  I've changed the layout of the greeting, which you can see below.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

ANOTHER RUMINATING REPOST - A DOGGIE TALE (EXPANDED)...


Zara circa December 1987

After publishing the previous post, I realized that I hadn't mentioned our first dog, so although this has a similar theme, I thought it deserved to be seen again so that he got his fair share of attention.  I've added three photos that didn't appear in the first version, and also updated the original to include them.

******

I was in the back garden filling my bird feeders the other day (as I do every day) and, coming in through the porch door, I spied scratches in the paintwork on the lower part of the exterior of the kitchen door in front of me.  I'd seen them before, naturally (many times), but so used to them am I now that they don't really register with me anymore, so why they did on this occasion I'm not quite sure.

The scratches had been caused by not just one dog, but three.  First, PRINCE, a mongrel we'd owned back in the early '70s that looked almost like a 'miniature' German Shepherd;  then TARA, an actual German Shepherd we owned from around the mid-'70s to 1986.  Finally, ZARA (another German Shepherd), who I'd bought to replace Tara when her time had come to an end earlier in the same year.

Zara circa 1987

What's interesting 'though, is that we'd moved away from this house in 1983, when Tara was eight and a half years old.  Tara died three years later, which is when I got Zara - and a year after that we moved back to our previous house (as regular readers will be tired of reading).

So what's interesting about that?  Well, the back door of that other house likewise has scratches from both Tara and Zara (made when they were seeking re-entry after being out in the garden 'watering' the plants), so both houses bear the marks of the same two dogs, but, in the case of this house, made with a four year gap between them.

It had occurred to me a few years back to fill in the scratches, but now I don't think I'll ever bother.  It's somehow oddly reassuring to see the 'footprints' of our three dogs still there after all this time (Zara died nineteen years ago), as fresh as when they were first made.  It's as if Prince, Tara and Zara are still around in some way.

Tara circa 1984

In fact, sometimes, when the wind is howling late at night, I seem to hear scratching at the back door and a muffled whining, as if something is seeking shelter from the elements.  My first thought, of course, is that my ears are playing tricks on me, but then my curiosity kicks in and I make my way through to the kitchen to check things out.

Whenever I open wide the door, however, only the inky blackness of the night beyond stares back at me - but the unmistakable smell of doggie fur hangs in the midnight air, as if I've only just missed a canine visitor or three wishing to remind me that their spirits yet linger out in the garden in case I should ever forget them. 

Never, my doggie pals - never.

******

Finally managed to find some pictures of Prince.  The original photos bear the printed date of July 1974 in the margins, but whether this is when they were taken or developed, I'm unsure.  If the latter, there wouldn't be much of a gap between the two occasions.  Alas, poor Prince.  We only had him for about a year-and-a-half.  In fact, as I've only got three photos of him, I might as well show them all here.



RUMINATING REPOST: THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND...



The row of houses I once lived in

Ofttimes, when we move from one phase of our lives into another, we do so without a backward glance and with nary a thought to what we're leaving behind.  For example, when I passed through the gate of my primary school for the final time, the fact that it was part of my life that was seemingly gone forever didn't, as far as I recall, perturb me in the slightest.  Soon, the classrooms and corridors of my secondary school became the familiar routine of my daily life, and I'm surprised, looking back today, at just how quickly and easily I adapted to the change without even realizing it.

The front gate of my old primary school - from the inside

It wasn't until I revisited my old primary a few years later, after having left secondary and joined the working classes, that it dawned on me that, in some mysterious, mystical, magical way, I was still connected to this aspect of my past and, in truth, had never really parted from it.  You see, not thinking about a thing is not the same as forgetting it.  The memory yet dwells in our subconscious;  what we forget is the act of remembering - until, that is, something suddenly triggers the memory and causes it to erupt in our minds like an exploding firework.

The toilets - listen to that water trickle

I remember one day a few years back, when I suddenly caught a whiff of disinfectant and was instantly transported back to the toilets of my old primary school, where I often used to retire to during lessons for a bit of peace and quiet in the cool of the tiled environs, with the sound of gently-gurgling water emanating from the cubicle cisterns and porcelain urinals.  I felt such a soothing sense of tranquility there, and it was my very own 'fortress of solitude' for five minutes at a time whenever the confines of the classroom became too claustrophobic for me.  ( I assume my teacher simply thought I had a weak bladder.)

I can see my house from here.  The view from my classroom

I've previously mentioned how I felt when I revisited a former home for the first time since I'd left 16 years before (which, at the time, was more than half my life away), and it was practically the same as when I'd left.  As I said in this post,  it was as if the intervening years and two houses I'd lived in since were only a dream, and I still felt right at home there.  I'm sure we've all had the experience of meeting someone we haven't seen or thought of in years and it's just as if we saw them only a short while before.  That's how I felt on that particular day.

My former back garden - ah, happy memories

When we moved back to my present house after four years away, I was surprised to see the hand-shovel we'd kept outside the back door for lifting our dog's 'number twos' from the lawn was still where we'd inadvertently left it.  The couple who'd lived here in our absence had used it for the very same purpose (I assume) with their own dog.  We'd already acquired a replacement, so I don't think we kept the old one (for long anyway) after moving back, which is rather sad.  To wait there (loyally) for four years, only to get so callously discarded when we returned - ah, the injustice.    

Tara - in the 'other' house.  She spent the last three years of her life
 there, after living eight and a half years in the one I again occupy 

One thing I remember being pleasantly surprised at was again seeing the scratches our dog (Tara) had made in the door when we first lived here.  She'd also scratched the back door of the home we'd just left (and in which she'd expired) to return here, but I was saddened to see on a recent visit to that house after 30 years, that the doors had been replaced and her 'presence' there obliterated.  As was her successor's (Zara), who spent her first year in that house and who also contributed to the back door 'etchings'.  Of course, Zara added her own 'signature' to the back door of this house when we returned, so two different doors in two different houses once bore the marks of the same two dogs for a goodly number of years.
  
Tara's successor, Zara (who was born a month before Tara
died), in my present abode not too long after moving back

Well, I could labour the point I suppose, with example after example, but I'm sure you're all smart enough to catch my drift.  Things we may think we've left behind (whether or not, at the time, we were even aware of it) come with us without us realizing it.  They reside in the caverns of memory, reluctant to let go of us despite our seeming indifference to them.  Whether it be garden gates, bedroom carpets, once favourite toys, favoured friends, or whatever, they follow us throughout our lives, just waiting for an opportune moment to renew the acquaintance.

Long may it ever be so.   

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

READER'S VOICE - "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO CALL THIS POST, KID?"...



One thing that always annoyed me about British humour strips was when the characters were portrayed as being aware that they existed only in a comic strip that was read by 'real' people.  If a character spoke directly to the reader, it told me that the writer had struggled to come up with a decent idea that particular week, or had simply taken the path of least resistance.  I didn't mind it when it was a puzzle or activity page, and STEADFAST McSTAUNCH (or whoever) was inviting the reader to join the dots or colour in a picture - that was okay, but when it was part of a story, it could be irksome.  I don't mind when a character is 'looking out' of a panel and speaking for the reader's benefit in an indirect way, but not when he's addressing the reader 'straight-on'.  (Incidentally, I'm not talking about host-type, 'serious' strips like TALES Of The WATCHER, only humour ones.)   

Even worse though, was when there'd be a speech balloon from off-panel, with a 'reader's voice' label advising us of the fact.  What's wrong with just having a friend, neighbour, bystander, or passerby asking "How will you get your homework finished in time now, Roger?" instead of an intrusive comment from an imaginary reader?  As I said in a previous post, this constant reminder that we're reading a comic ruins the sense of internal 'reality' required to make a strip believable.  (Even 'funny' strips require an element of reality to accentuate the humour of the piece.)

Don't get me wrong though - a 'reader's voice' word balloon can sometimes be used to good effect on occasion, but it loses it's ability to surprise, amuse and entertain when it's the 'default setting', resorted to as a matter of course rather than for a specific and surreal effect.

So tell me - did this ever bug you as much as it did me, or am I 'shouting at the clouds' again?  The comments section awaits (and awaits, and awaits, and awaits...).

******

(I couldn't be bothered searching through a pile of comics to try and find a suitable pictorial example, so I quickly drew the above one myself with a Sharpie fine marker.  Remember, it's only a 'quickie'.)

Monday, 13 November 2017

BABE OF THE DAY - IMOGEN HASSALL...



This is how IMOGEN HASSALL looks when
she catches sight of me across a crowded room -
or even an empty room in fact.  (Face it - when
you've got it, you've got it.  And I've got it.)

AN ANNUAL EVENT - THE FIRST AND THE LAST...



Remember in the good ol' days (1960s & '70s), when Annuals seemed to be about an inch thick, with loads of content and felt like an event?  They started getting thinner in the '80s, and nowadays Annuals don't look even as thick as a '60s or '70s Summer Special.  Take a look at this WHIZZER & CHIPS Annual for 1994 (issued in '93) which I received today.  It's the final Annual in the series and isn't a patch on the very first one for 1971 (issued in '70).  I've scanned the spines so that you can see the difference, though it must be borne in mind that thicker paper was used in the earlier Annual, which was true of most titles.  The first Annual had 160 pages (including covers) and the last had only 80 (including covers), so it had half the page count of the first book, though with 46 interior pages in full colour, it beats the 15 of the first (though that had spot-colour and two-tone pages).

Will you be buying any Annuals this year, Readers?  If so, which ones?



Sunday, 12 November 2017

ALAS, POOR MARVEL - I KNEW IT WELL...


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

Regular readers will be aware of my quest to brighten up my room by replacing old, worn, faded 'wall adornments' with brand-new, gleaming, pristine ones.  Here's the latest, just put in place a few moments ago - the cover of The MIGHTY WORLD Of MARVEL  #13 from 1972.  I'll spare you a comparison with the old one, as it takes no great feat of imagination to visualise a piece of rippled, yellowing paper.  Suffice to say that it makes a huge difference to the 'hue' of my room.  Won't be long now 'til my bedroom walls look as fresh as they used to almost 30 years ago.  Excelsior.

******

(The original was given a 'Viking funeral'.  I don't like discarding things that have served me faithfully for many years, but at least its 'spirit' lives on in its doppelganger.)

JUST WILLIAM...



The covers you see here are from a boxed set of four WILLIAM BROWN books (also sold individually) by RICHMAL CROMPTON.  The illustrations on numbers two to four are from the original 1920's dustjackets by THOMAS HENRY, while number one is from an original dustjacket from the '40s.  The SUNDAY TIMES described the series as "Probably the funniest, toughest children's books ever written", but the stories were originally aimed at adults and appeared in HOME magazine in 1919 before being collected into book form, the first of which appeared in 1922.  There were 38 books in all, the last one being published posthumously in 1970.  The earliest ones are the funniest though, and if you've never read any before, you should give 'em a try before you fall off the twig 



Saturday, 11 November 2017

BABE OF THE DAY - NICHELLE NICHOLS...



"Mr. SCOTT, the transporter's on the blink
again!  It's beamed down my uniform to the
planet STARFAX 5 and left me behind!"

WHIZZER & CHIPS HOLIDAY SPECIAL 1970...



Look what just arrived for me this morning - the very first WHIZZER & CHIPS Holiday Special from 1970.  A bit of shading on the cover, but apart from that, a nice solid copy.  I would've had this as a kid no doubt, so it's good to own it once again and to be able to relive halcyon days of yore.  One thing that's always puzzled me is why some of these mags were called 'Summer Specials', while others (like this one) were called 'Holiday Specials'.  Does anyone know?  I'll be showing some of the contents later, so don't stray too far now, okay?  In the meantime, below is the inside 'cover' of the Chips section to whet your appetite.   

'TIMESLIP' - 30 YEARS AGO REVISITED...


A photo of the house from a few years ago, taken in passing

I had an interesting experience earlier tonight (Friday) and, because I know all you pantin' Criv-ites devour every word I type like ravenous wolves tearing into a mountain elk, I'm going to share it with you here.  (Maybe some slight hyperbole there, but not much.  Cough.)

30 years ago, when my family returned to the house in which I now live after four years living in another, I was overjoyed.  I had never wanted to move from here in the first place, and to flit back fulfilled an ambition of mine.  I never spared much thought to the new house we'd abandoned, but after around 20 years, my buried memories of our former abode started to resurface, and I developed a warmer and fonder regard for the place than previously.

A few years ago, I was looking for something in my loft, but couldn't find it, so began to wonder if I'd inadvertently left it behind the water tank in the loft of our former residence.  I'd done the exact same thing before in 1972, and 19 years later, in 1991, I returned to what was then our previous residence and reclaimed the item from where I'd unknowingly left it.  Could I have carelessly repeated the oversight.  (Behind the water tank seemed to be my favourite place for storing certain things - not quite sure why to be honest.  Because no one would look there perhaps?)

The thought started to grow in my brain like a canker, and a few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and contact the new tenants/owners of the house we'd left back in 1987.  I explained the situation and, surprisingly, they consented to allow me access to their loft to determine whether I'd left the item there or not.  Whatever the result, at least I'd be free of the nagging doubt that assailed my brain.

In case you're wondering, the 'item' was a small cardboard box containing two diecast metal ships (can't remember whether they were by DINKY or TRI-ANG) of, I think, the QUEEN MARY and the QUEEN ELIZABETH, as well as two small wooden tops.  I'd owned these items from the early '60s and was loathe to be without them, so if there was a chance of them still being in our old loft, I had to explore the possibility or never know peace.

Anyway, tonight was the night, but unfortunately, the item wasn't where I last remember it being.  Either I did take it with me when I left, or perhaps the tenants between us and the present inhabitants found and disposed of it.  However, it's a relief to know that it isn't lying up there abandoned and forgotten, and there's still a slim chance that it could be in a box somewhere in my current loft.

I can't finish without mentioning how welcoming the family who now own the house were, and how kindly they treated me.  I was under no illusions as to just how weird my request might seem, so to be treated so well (being given tea and biscuits) was extremely heartwarming.  It was strange to step foot in the house again after 30 years (I'd been back once, a fortnight after moving out, to collect an ironing board we'd left), but there've been quite a few changes made since then, so it doesn't have quite the same degree of the 'familiar' as previous former homes I'd revisited.  (For an example of what I mean, click here.)

It was an odd feeling to say hello again and goodbye to the house for what was most likely the final time, but at least the place as I knew it yet exists in photographs I took when I lived there, and I can visit it again whenever I like in the hallowed halls of memory.

The view from my old bedroom window in my day

Friday, 10 November 2017

LOOKING FOR AN ILLUSTRATION? HOW ABOUT A VERACIOUS ONE?



If you're looking for a unique present for any of your friends or family, why not take a look through talented Scottish artist LYNN CRAIG's site, VERACIOUS ILLUSTRATION, for a selection of prints of her mixed media paintings?  With Christmas coming up, one of Lynn's pictures would make a welcome gift that's bound to be appreciated more than the usual boring aftershaves, bath salts, soaps, deodorants or perfumes.  (Whatcha trying to do - give someone a complex about their personal hygiene?)  Just click on the above name of her site and have a browse.

BABE OF THE DAY - GAL GADOT...



Fwibble-bibble, fwubble-bubble, fwobble-
bobble.  (You expect sense at a time like this?
It's GAL GADOT for feck's sake!)

Thursday, 9 November 2017

WHAM! - THE FIRST AND THE LAST - AND LEO BAXENDALE'S PLACE IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS...



The late and legendary LEO BAXENDALE was once a figure who loomed large in British comics.  Of course, in a sense, he still looms large, given that some of the characters he created or co-created back in the 1950s still appear in comics and Annuals today.  They're 'ghosted' in an approximation of whatever style he was using at the time, but today's kids most likely wouldn't know his name from Adam.  He left comics in the mid-'70s, unhappy that old strips he'd drawn were being reprinted without any financial remuneration to him, and as far as comic-strip content went, he faded from view after producing his three WILLY The KID hardbound books in the latter part of the '70s.  True, he did have a strip in The GUARDIAN newspaper, but most children would've been unaware of it (not that it was aimed at them anyway).

Given the enormous enjoyment he gave many readers over the years, it may seem unfair to use the word 'failure' to describe any of Leo's projects after he left D.C. THOMSON, but when the actual achievements of these projects are measured against their original expectations, they fall quite a bit short.  Take WHAM! (above) for example.  Conceived as a sort of 'SUPER BEANO', it was intended to knock spots off DCT's star attraction and leave it writhing in the dust, but it didn't even land a glove.  Lasting for 187 issues, it must've come as a bitter disappointment to Leo when the title was merged with POW! at the beginning of 1968, a scant three and a half years after its debut.

His next big original endeavour was the Willy The Kid books, which Leo (perhaps hyperbolically) claimed were going to be published every year forever!  (Or at least as long as he could write and draw them.)  After three books, publisher GERALD DUCKWORTH pulled the plug, and although the titanic trio of 'Annuals' are probably the finest examples of Leo's humour at its funniest, they failed to achieve the longevity (or the sales) that Leo had hoped for.  That placed him in the almost unique position of continuing to be a prominent name amongst his peers even as his career (in the public eye at least) went into decline.  However, I'm not suggesting that Leo himself was a failure;  he continued to earn a living and provide for his family, but as far as ambitious, high-profile projects were concerned, his newer efforts never made quite the same impact that his earlier work had done.

Today, even his drawing style is not immediately recognised as his by the newer breed of reader, being more associated with 'imitators' like TOM PATERSON and others, who quickly stepped into the gap left by Leo when he departed comics in the mid-'70s.  This was a repeat of what had occurred in the early '60s when Leo left DCT to go to ODHAMS.  Other artists continued his strips in his style (or as close an approximation as they could get to it), and it's perhaps debatable whether readers of the time (apart from die-hard fans) even noticed his departure.  When Leo passed away earlier this year, many former Beano readers (particularly of the Annuals) from the mid-'60s, '70s, and '80s who claimed to remember his work from their youth, were surprised to learn that it was the work of 'ghost' artists they recalled, not that of Leo himself.

It's a shame when you think about it.  For a cartoonist who made such an impact on British comics in his heyday, the fact that the general public don't instantly recognise his name means that Leo is denied the fame and respect which is his due.  Sure, older comic fans of a certain age know who he is, but we're a dying breed ourselves, and when we're gone our memories of the man may well go with us.  Perhaps that's the way of things and 'creations' should always be bigger than their creators, but I can't help but wonder whether Leo ever regretted leaving the world of comics behind to follow new trails that, in light of their intended destinations, ultimately led to nowhere.

What do you think?  While you ponder your response, enjoy these images from the first and last issues of Wham!  (Incidentally, The TIDDLERS strip isn't drawn by Leo, and is included only because it's on the covers of the final ish of Bax's brainchild.)               




Wednesday, 8 November 2017

DALEK OF THE DAY - DAVROS...



Here's DAVROS, flanked by DELBERT and DARRYL.  Three
DALEKS for the price of one - generosity is my middle name!  There
 should've been six, but DONALD was out exterminating somewhere,
and DEREK and DAVID were away doing the weekly shopping.

EBONY - JANUARY 1967 ARTICLE...



After showing this great cover image of NICHELLE NICHOLS a couple of posts back, I thought some of you pantin' Criv-ites might like to read the actual article contained within - so here it is.  Click on each image to enlarge, then click again for optimum size (though you'll still need a good eyesight).  Just think - this mag was published 50 years ago - wow! 




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