I was having a look in the attic this morning when I came across an old Betamax video recorder which had been bequeathed to me. Do you remember Betamax?
Weren't they wonderful machines... so state-of-the-art and so beautiful to look at. The first time I saw one was when I visited my dear old Aunt Gladwyn. She had a glass eye and for many years, worked as a seamstress, and then ran a fish 'n' chip shop (which apparently is a celebrated English cuisine). The first time I saw a Betamax was in her sitting-room in her coal-miner's house. I remember that it sat pride of place in the centre of the sitting-room, surrounded by chintz, whippets and flat-caps drying on the stove. She had even knitted a red, yellow and purple cover for it. Oh, I do love that era!
A little bit like Shakira, the Betamax promised 'Whatever, Whenever'. It was coloured brown and cream, gave out a constant electrical 'hum' when switched on, and weighed roughly the same as a breeze-block, and was just as visually appealing.
Also curiously like Shakira, the sound was so terrible, it was impossible to understand the words of anything being played.
But despite its massive shortcomings, the success of the Betamax was universal - millions of households up and down the country flocked to buy one and to relish the ability to play back episodes of Coronation Street, The Wombles, and Bagpuss (one of my all-time favourites).
I recall that children in my village were frequently caught 'bunking off school lessons' and spending the time at home - whilst their parents were out at work - avidly watching Deep Throat (a very interesting 'anthropological' film or documentary only screened very late at night) and its five sequels. There were also numerous national reports of abuse of the 'freeze frame' option on the Betamax whilst watching such documentaries.
Such was the problem that the Education Department of East Wiltshire council announced a ban on watching Deep Throat to all under 12s at the local village school.
Now, of course, I never got as far as Deep Throat but I always enjoyed watching every single series ever produced of The Wombles, recorded on Betamax, complete with plenty of screen-rolling and interference to the picture. I even recall that on my first ever visit to London, spurred on by my childhood reverie for Uncle Bulgaria, I went looking for The Wombles late at night on Hampstead Heath.
Always Fanny's most favourite TV programme - pictured here is Uncle Bulgaria, from The Wombles. Sadly, The Wombles is banned in many countries due to its intensely, graphic sexual scenes.
The only problem with the Betamax was that it invariably jammed the tape mid-way through a screening, usually due to the device overheating. The only way of fixing this was to immerse the Betamax in a bowl of cold water for half an hour.
Before tossing the Betamax in the rubbish bin, I decided this morning to have a peek and see what was on one of the old tapes that accompanied it. It was a recording of Songs of Praise, which I did not watch as I could not stomach that Thora Bird trying to sing, but I was horrified by this television advert that appeared half-way through:
Thank you, Mr Chocolate Manufacturer, for spawning a nation of fatties. Had it not been for you running this dangerous, ruthless advert in the 1980s, our streets would not today be packed full of the obese who believed that this dangerous little chocolate bar was full of "goodness". And it only cost 10p, so kids could afford to buy 4 of them in one go! A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat... I've got a finger for you - the middle one.