Monday 27 September 2021


Copyright relevant owner

I think it's fairly safe to say I never owned a brand-new Fireball XL5 Annual when I was a kid, instead acquiring them in jumble sales up to a couple or so (or more) years after they first came out.  If I recall correctly, I remember seeing the second one (1964 for '65) on the way to school one morning with my brother and some of his friends, one of them showing it to the rest of us.  The two of us hadn't long moved to another domicile five minutes down the road in the same neighbourhood, but we'd ventured up to our old street so my brother could reunite with a few of his pals from the area for our trek to school.

That's why I associate one of the Annuals with a house and street we no longer lived in, though obviously you're not interested in such a triviality.  I mention it, however, because it later sometimes seemed that all four Annuals must've belonged to the period I was in those two houses and attended my first primary school, though I also remember them from our third house (and my next primary) because that's when I acquired second-hand copies for myself - usually from the church across the road when it had one of their Summer or Christmas Fayres.

Looking back, I'm kind of surprised to be reminded the initial Annual went on sale in 1963 when I yet lived in our first house, the second in '64 when I was in our second home, the third in '65 just before we flitted once again - and was still selling as a new book (being for the coming year - '66) when my family was freshly ensconced in our third abode.  The fourth and final Annual hit the shops after I'd been in our new home for around ten months, but due to me obtaining it second-hand a year or two after it came out, I assumed it was older than it was.  (I've absolutely no memory of seeing any of them in the shops.)

I likely had all four books in that third house (though probably not at the same time), obtained 'pre-owned' (as they say these days), so I now connect them with there, but at the time, I supposed all four predated my tenure and belonged to an earlier period.  (When you're between 7 and 10, a handful of years seems greater than it is.)  "What's all that got to do with the price of cheese?" some of you may be asking; nothing really, apart from the fact the fourth book was contemporary, and properly 'belonged' to the third house, being published while we lived there, though I didn't know it at the time.

The foregoing preamble is just my usual long-winded way of saying I'm surprised by that, and it also fills a space on the blog while at the same time giving you four nice images to look at.  I especially love the fourth one by Mike Noble - which is your favourite?

Incidentally, I typed all this while suffering from 'brain fog', so don't be surprised to see some revisions somewhere down the line if I can think of a clearer and more concise way to express myself. 


(Update:) Incidentally, some chancer is currently asking £99 for the fourth book on eBay - even though it has nearly a third of the spine missing.  I just acquired a complete second copy of the same Annual today (Saturday 2nd October) for a mere £10.99.      

Thursday 23 September 2021


The rubber-band version

1965 was the year I got my rubber-band-powered STINGRAY by LONE*STAR.  There was also a clockwork version which looked pretty much the same (see below), but it was the cheaper version I had.  Cheaper, but no less fun at the nearby pond just along the road from where I lived at the time.  And there was also the kitchen sink or the bath for Stingray to continue its undersea explorations when I couldn't be bothered going out or the weather was against me.

The clockwork version

I acquired a replacement for this childhood toy a good number of years back and proudly have it on display.  VIVID IMAGINATIONS produced their own, far more detailed version of this craft sometime back in the '00s, but there's something about the '60s original which is hard to beat.  The above two pictures are from the Internet - the one below is of my own toy.  For this 'update' I've also included a few of the Vivid Imaginations version from 2001/'02.

My very own toy - the camera flash has lightened the colours

The VI version works on the same principle as the LS one, though is a little more sophisticated.  The rubber-band on the '60s toy is wound by rotating the propeller, whereas the '00s toy has a 'dial' on the bottom which you rotate clockwise.  Interestingly, some of the blue areas now appear green, so I assumed the colours had faded over time (it hangs on my wall), but when I checked my unopened spare which has been wrapped in a bag and kept in a cupboard for decades, it was the exact same.  However, I'm pretty sure the green was blue when I first bought them (from my local Woolworth's), so don't quite know what happened there.  Still a cracking toy though, eh?

The Vivid Imaginations version

Sunday 12 September 2021


Images copyright relevant and respective owners

Take a look at this Burke's Law strip from TV Century 21 #2.  According to the terms of a murdered relative's will, his trio of surviving family members each have to break a world record in order to inherit a share of his fortune.  I couldn't help but me reminded of a later strip called His Sporting Lordship (in Smash!) in which labourer Henry Nobbins had to break a world record in a series of sporting events before he could claim his hereditary title of Earl of Ranworth and the fortune that went with it.

Only around four years stand between the two strips and I'm prompted to wonder if His Sporting Lordship was 'inspired' from this episode of Burke's Law.  Or could it even be that the same writer wrote both strips and he was simply recycling (with a bit of development) the basic plot of his earlier work?  Or was it all nothing more than a mere coincidence?  What do you think readers?  And if anyone happens to know who wrote both strips, don't keep that info to yourself now.

Comments and speculation (as well as solid details) most welcome.

His Lordship graced the covers on four of six Smash! Annuals

Monday 6 September 2021


Copyright relevant owner

Arrived today at Castel Crivens, the final issue I needed to complete the first full year's worth of TV Century 21 - #47.  I have quite a few subsequent issues of the comic in its various later incarnations, but I doubt I'll bother trying for a full set of year two's batch as I felt the comic was going off-the-boil with the arrival of Thunderbirds in 1966.

There's no denying Frank Bellamy could draw, but I get the impression he was rushing the pages for TV21, and he wasn't as dynamic a storyteller on the strip as Mike Noble on Fireball XL5, or Ron Embleton on Stingray.  I might've gone for year two for The Daleks (which ended in #104), but Marvel/Panini's Dalek Special made that redundant - and the first year was the comic at his best.

So - full first year of TV Century 21 - result! 

Saturday 4 September 2021


Thought you might like to know that WHS is currently selling limited edition packs of Opal Fruits (original flavours too) for only £1.  I purchased a packet yesterday and scoffed my way through them in no time at all.  Must buy another one as soon as I can and enjoy again a slice of my childhood.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Get along to the shops now.  Oh, and I've just noticed that Home Bargains also has them for a mere 99p.  (I see that some eBay sellers are asking for nearly a fiver a bag.  Tsk, tsk!)

And guess what - Farmfoods has them for only 89p

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