Remember those endless school holidays and the similarly endless rainstorms that kept us all inside for days upon days? Remember how we whiled away the hours playing board games like Totalitarian, Escape From Butlins and Whisk?
If you grew up in the '70s or '80s you'll know that those games are as much a part of childhood as falling off your bike, chicken pox or playing on dangerous construction sites. In this article we revisit a few of our favourites.
It's Britain in the 1970s and widespread industrial action means power cuts and shortages for many UK families. With no TV, no electricity and with the long nights drawing in, what better way was there to spend an evening than playing Blackout, the industrial-relations-based board game for all the family? It was a game of tactics, diplomacy and negotiation as, playing as either a union official or an industry bigwig, you tried to outmanoeuvre your opponent and emerge with a better deal. No wonder it was one of the bestselling games of the decade, even though you couldn't actually play it in the dark.
Dare you put your pork in the haunted fridge? That was how I remember the TV ads for this wonderful game. The '70s and '80s were great for games involving elaborate devices and gimmicks - games like Buckaroo, Mousetrap or Kerplunk. Haunted Fridge was easily the best of the bunch. It revolved around a wonderfully realistic three-foot-high plastic fridge - even the light came on when you opened the door! You took it in turns to place a small plastic item of food into the fridge - a chicken, a bottle of milk or a pork chop, for example. If you were lucky, nothing happened; it not, the door would slam shut and your food would be snatched away into the 'spectral realm'.
The major flaw was that the items genuinely did seem to disappear into another dimension. Certainly, we never managed to figure out where they went. What this meant was that the plastic food counters didn't last very long and we had to improvise with other items: marbles, toy cars, dad's keys, the gerbil and so on.
We were finally banned from playing it after we stuffed the boy from next door in there. Thereafter, our edition of Haunted Fridge was consigned to the attic, from where we occasionally heard the odd muffled thump and cry for help.
The first time I played this game was at school. At the end of term we were allowed to bring in games and one boy turned up with this classic. You control one of six companies and the idea is to cover as much of the road network with roadworks as you can and ultimately bring traffic to a standstill. You get extra points for setting up roadworks where there is no visible sign of any work taking place and there are bonuses for things like using warning signs that cause a greater obstruction than the works they are supposed to be warning people about, or successfully rerouting traffic so that it ends up going back where it came from. The winner is the person who spreads their cones over the greatest area, or whoever is the first to get punched in the face by an angry motorist.
TV tie-in games are notoriously disappointing, but BBC Weather is actually a breath of fresh air. It's enlivened by the inclusion of some nice magnetic weather symbols and there is a spinner in the middle of the map which predicts the weather. Surprisingly, it's often more accurate than the real thing.
But what really livens up the game is what happens when you land on a raincloud. You pick up a 'drizzle' card, which is supposed to have some mild penalty on it - 'thunderstorm, go back three spaces', that sort of thing. In fact, due to a mix-up with some other, more adult, game, the card instructs you to perform a lewd and obscene act with another player.
Once this error had been discovered, the makers were faced with a choice: either recall every copy of the game and replace the smutty cards, or do nothing and continue to enjoy the unexpectedly high sales. Unsurprisingly, they chose to do the latter.
This game rode the wave of electronic toys that arrived at the beginning of the 1980s. Up to eight people could play, connected to the central 'call centre' via headsets. You selected your potential customer by drawing a 'customer card' and then tried to tempt them to buy insurance, complete a market research questionnaire or so on. Pre-recorded responses told you how successful you were being - although it wasn't particularly true to life because they were completely random.
Poor results would mean players would be sacked. The winner got promoted to a more responsible and worthwhile position cleaning the toilets. This bit, at least, was realistic.
The medical diagnosis game that provided hours of educational fun, featuring everyone's favourite patient, Dirty Simon. It was a game of deduction in which your task was to guess what was wrong with Dirty Simon from the symptoms. Does it bring him out in a rash? Did he catch it off a toilet seat? Has it made bits of him drop off? We all have fond memories of finally working out the answer, jumping to our feet and shouting, "You've got herpes!" We used to hear the people next door doing it all the time, and they didn't even have the game.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2020. Coming soon.
Very little can compete with Formula 1 when it comes to glitz and glamour, but what is it really like to find yourself behind the wheel? We spoke to F1 racing legend Ralph Trundle.
Hi Ralph, many thanks for speaking to us today. Can you tell us what made you decide to be an F1 driver?
Oh yes. Well, being a racing driver is dead good because you get to go really fast. Really, really fast - much faster than you can go on proper roads. During a race you can go over seventy and the police can't even pull you over, or anything. And Formula 1 is the best one of all the formulas. It's one better than Formula 2, and it's two better than Formula 3.
So is it difficult being a racing driver? What skills are needed?
Well you've got to be able to drive. I can drive, I've passed my test. Have you passed your test? I have - I did it last week. It was really tricky. You have to check your mirrors - we don't have mirrors on F1 cars. Also, you have to do three-point turns. You don't do those during a race. Not on purpose, anyway.
Tell us how you prepare for a race. Do you have a special regime?
I don't have a regime. I've not seen one, anyway. I'm not sure what a regime is - what would it look like? Anyway, I've got too much on my mind before a race to go looking for regimes. I'm not allowed to watch TV after 9.00 o'clock the night before and I have to go to bed early.
When I wake up in the morning I put on my lucky underpants, brush my teeth so they're minty fresh then I set off to the track. When I get there I have to sit in the pits while a big scary man with a red face talks me through the team tactics. He gets really angry when I don't pay attention but I've got a good memory and the tic tacs are usually something simple like 'go fast' and 'try not to crash'. Then it is time for my toast.
Take us through what goes through your head when you're on the starting grid. What do you think about?
Oh well, I think about what I'm going to have for my tea. And I think about what I will do if it rains, because F1 cars don't have roofs, so they can fill up with water really fast and the noise of the rain drumming on my helmet makes my head feel funny.
I also think about my hobby, which is collecting pictures of tractors and pasting them into my scrapbook. I like tractors a lot and if I wasn't a racing driver I would probably be a farmer, although I don't much like cows because they look at me funny. But the thing that I think about most when I am waiting on the grid is the angry man with the red face in the pit.
Most people don't realise how difficult it is to be a successful race driver. It's more than just going the fastest, isn't it?
No. It's pretty much all about going the fastest. You have to cross the line before all the other drivers. The only why you can do that, as far as I can see, is to go the fastest. I suppose you could take a shortcut but I don't think it would be allowed. It would certainly be frowned on, anyway.
But what about reading the track, getting the most out of the car, applying the right tactics?
Oh yes, well of course you've got to read the track and apply the tic tacs and the other thing you said. It's not just about putting your foot down. For instance, did you know that most race circuits have corners? In fact, that's probably why they call them 'circuits', now I come to think about it. And when you've got corners then the steering wheel becomes really important, so you've really got to learn to handle it.
Then there's the brakes - they're really important too, so you need to try and remember where they are. They are especially important at the end of the race because if you forget about them, you'll just end up going round and round until your petrol runs out. And that's really all you have to remember. As long as you don't fall out when you're going round the bends, then you can't really fail.
And you would know: you've been incredibly successful throughout your career. What's your secret?
I like to stick vegetables up my bum. How did you know I had a secret?
Actually, we meant what's your secret to being a great racing driver?
Oh I see. Well, as I said earlier, you really mustn't fall out of the car if you can help it. Also, make sure you go round the circuit the right way. That can be really embarrassing when you get it wrong. I would suggest that you hang back and see which way the others go, but that's not really helpful if you want to be out in front. And finally, try not to stick vegetables up your bum during a race. It can be very distracting, so best to save it till afterwards.
Finally, many readers may have ambitions to become professional racing drivers themselves. What advice would you give them, and is it something that anyone can do?
Yes. Yes. Yes it is. Anyone at all can do it as long as you have ambition, determination and, like me, a father who is an angry, red-faced man, who happens to own a Formula 1 racing team.
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There were scenes of confusion at Rutland Crown Court yesterday when angry defendant Carl Spanners told the judge to 'bugger off', and he did. This is thought to be the first time that a sitting judge has acted upon the instruction of a defendant, and there are concerns that this may set a legal precedent.
As a serving police officer, Constable Gavin Trotter has attended many criminal hearings, either as a witness, as a police escort or, occasionally, as a defendant. He was present in court on this occasion and was stunned by what took place.
"I was proper gobsmacked," he told us. "It ain't unusual for a felon to get a bit lippy, but it's nothing that a belt around the back of the 'ead wiv a truncheon won't fix. And if fings get really rowdy the judge can always clear the court, and that gives us an opportunity to go to town on the scumbag good and proper, like. One time, I even seen a judge hitch up his robes and get stuck in himself. But this... Well, it makes you wonder what the world is coming to, don't it?"
According to reports, the incident happened after Mr Spanners became quite excitable in response to the prosecution's line of questioning. The judge, Mr Ernest Barrow QC, interceded to request that the defendant refrain from raising his voice, at which point Mr Spanners told him, "Bugger off and bother someone else, you ponced-up ermine-clad transvestite." Mr Barrow then got to his feet, said calmly, "Very well," then left. He has not been seen since.
"It seems that Mr Barrow has not merely buggered off - he has, to use the correct statutory phrase, buggered right off," said legal historian and commentator Giles Tremble. "In fact, to my knowledge, there has never been a case in which the judge has buggered off to this extent before. The closest comparable episode was in 1856 when a magistrate temporarily went missing during a boundary dispute, but was discovered three hours later hiding behind a curtain in a snooker hall.
"However," Mr Tremble continued, "perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by these latest events. Ernest Barrow is a stickler for process and notoriously thorough, so if he feels that it is his constitutional duty to bugger off, then he's going to bloody well bugger off properly."
All this means that the case of Her Majesty versus Carl Spanners will have to be abandoned and a retrial will be ordered. It is not known whether the defendant will use the 'bugger off' defence again, but experts believe that since it has already proven so effective, there's really no reason why he wouldn't.
After being caught in a storm on Dartmoor yesterday, keen rambler Daisy Boot astounded rescue services by somehow managing to drag herself to safety with a broken leg.
"It wasn't my leg, " Daisy said, keen to correct any misunderstanding. "I found it. I'm quite anxious to reunite it with its owner, so if anyone recognises the sock, please do get in touch."
Bob Flapjack, senior ranger at Dartmoor National Park, explained that careless hikers are always leaving their body parts on the moors and so he encourages people to take a bin bag with them when they go out walking. "Technically, it's littering," he said, "and it could result in a hefty fine. Over the last few months we've had four elbows, a pair of knees and three buttocks handed in. It's the buttocks that are the real puzzle. I mean, three? What's going on there, then?"
"I once found an armpit by that tree. Messy buggers. Why can't people take their armpits home with them?"
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of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2019, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.