Iz wasn’t five (five, where did that time go?) until the end of August but with her birthday falling just after a Bank Holiday Monday and at the end of the summer hols, coupled with her leaving school, we thought we’d have it prior to school breaking up.
It all now seems such a longtime ago, all her friends from school were there for her Scooby-Doo themed party at The Fun Factory.
It’s great no mess, no fuss and all we brought along was a cake and some decorations, they even provide latter if you want. We came armed with our own Scooby-Doo ones and a rather spook-tacular Scooby-Doo cake complete with said great dane, haunted house, mystery machine and ghost.
As well as the soft play down the slides you can also go rock climbing or ice-skating for no extra cost, so of course wanted to have a drive on one of the bikes where there is! There was certainly no mystery as to who had the mastery of this machine.
Iz certainly had a fun-tastic time, although she wouldn’t have got away with having such a fab day without all those meddling kids!
Last year saw Isabelle’s second birthday party take place in glorious sunshine, it was pretty much text book and perfectly timed being in a garden complete with a bouncy castle.
Flash forward and it’s more of a case of happy bathday as we spent it at Marsh Farm on a day that was so wet that roads were flooded and even Southend sea front was under water and that was when the tide was out! In fact if it had rained any more they would have had to have renamed it Southend in Sea. Cue clever shark related photo from the Sea Life Centre, how very SharkNado!
As it turns out Marsh Farm was thankfully less Marsh marsh but boy did it rain and rain and rain. All of which meant I don’t know of a group of people who were ever so pleased to be spending a longer time in a piggery. I’ve also never been so jealous of pigs sat on dry straw under warm lights.
Talking of pigs, thanks in no small part to the Peppa variety, all the children weren’t fussed by the rain (to be fair even gathered parents were amiable enough – although I predict a years worth of undercover birthday party invites from attending children for the next 12 months!)
The deluge may have made us damp but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits and the brushing the pony experience went down a storm, which is rather fitting as the rain really clattered down on our parade at that point although again we were under cover so it mattered not a jot. It did give the kids to per some goats, although I’m not so sure the baby goats were quite as pleased to see ten pairs of tiny hands reaching for a feel.
It was then back outside for the world’s bumpiest tractor ride that hit every pot hole possible and had to be driven by Sandra Bullock as it was like they weren’t able to slow down, the only thing missing was the bridge jump.
Turns out we could have done with Sandra and her tractor on the way back due to the obscene amount of water on the road, parts if the a127 were flooded which meant we had to drive on the path in parts and had a Speed ‘stay on or get of moment’ learning that one section of the road had submerged cars in it.
We travelled as a convoy which made it feel like we were storm chasers from Twister, although the cars on the path moment was probably more akin to the scene in Dante’s Peak where cars try and cross the river.
Speed, Dante’s Peak, Twister – all these disaster movie titles being bandied about seems quite apt as when we finally got our wet selves home we were greeted by The Poseidon Adventure in our kitchen which had let water in.
The rain though was like water of the proverbial ducks back to Iz and she loved her day surrounded by her friends. And we enjoyed being surrounded by some of ours as well, who had travelled hundreds of miles to walk round and get wet, that’s friendship.
Of course, it would have been no birthday without a cake and this year it was of the Scooby-Doo variety, which seemed a popular choice with the gathered children and fitting with the er ghoulish weather, as was the sparkly candle which Iz took great delight in blowing out not once but twice.
As she sat, flanked by her friends either side, munching on her lunch I knew that despite us all looking a little bit like rats of the drowned variety Isabelle had a birthday that she would remember for all the right reasons even though for us grown ups it will be for all the wet and soggy ones.
Arthur had Excalibur, Luke his lightsabre and even He-Man (a quick nod to She-Ra as well) got his power from his sword. Following in that fine tradition is Isabelle with her ‘Sword of Doom’ – sounds a tad melodramatic I know but it’s named after a sword from a Scooby Doo episode apparently. She gave it the name not us.
It actual fact it’s technically a sword of Sherwood Forest as it was bought at Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre last New Year. Thankfully she doesn’t carry round on her back (just yet) like Conan or try and ride Missy or Max like Battlecat but she does insist on sleeping with it.
Obviously conversations about crime rates being down had very little impact on Iz, in fact it isn’t even as if she sleeps with it under her pillow she sleeps with it lined up next to her other menagerie of animals. Fittingly perhaps one of those said animals is a Robin Hood bear (from my days at The World of Robin Hood) who is rather battle-scarred as he has no legs, not that Iz is fussed.
Placing them and Anxious in bed are a part of the essential bedtime regime and of course all three end up in ours if she comes in with us.
Over the weekend Iz could be found using some of her unused nappies to dress her animals (or children as she sometimes refers to them) this of course included the Robin Hood bear and (hard to believe I know) her ‘Sword of Doom’, whose style and name was rather cramped I must say by suffering the indignity of having to wear a pink Disney Princess nappy. You certainly don’t get that on Game of Thrones!
Oh. My. God. It’s exit stage left for The X-Factor and sit this one out Strictly as the Don of reality gameshows is back.
The Apprentice, making its first Autumnal appearance due to fears of Lord Sugar’s mug – his face not his drinking receptacle (no doubt of Amstrad design) – may have had an impact on the outcome on the General Election with him being a Labour Peer and all. At least he wasn’t Hastings Pier is all I can say!
Anyway, back to the show and within the first five minutes you are left wondering if they shouldn’t have renamed the programme The A-pretentious. The voiceover said that there were 16 top candidates and 12 tough weeks, I can only imagine that he means they are going to be tough for us judging by this bunch.
A flurry of suits of nameless wannabe Sugar bitches and bastards who’ll say and do anything to get there. I personally can’t wait for the Saw inspired episode with Lord Sugar coming in on a little trike complete with the Jigsaw doll inspired white face. Talking of Jigsaw, the Janet Ellis TV show, it would actually be far scarier if he came out as Mr Nosey Bonk.
“I describe myself as a bit of a maverick”, spouts Alex Epstein, who looks like Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter. Neville, I mean Alex, also claims that he has a unique blend, and something tells me it’s not his brand of coffee he is attempting to get us excited about. He says, “I’m not just another corporate clone.” He’s right there; he’s more the corporate clown and a walking cliché to boot. It’s as if he’s been round all the dentists in the UK and read the words of wisdom on those pictures of lovely lakes and mountains.
Sticking with Hogwarts we also have Melissa, who is an amalgam of Velma from Scooby Doo with the hair and annoyingness of Draco Malfoy, who claims she has loads of business/ retail experience and is as if she is about to nominate herself for Team Leader but then says she doesn’t want it and then snipes at the Team Leader through the remainder of the show. She also had some brilliant facial expressions and I’m sure I saw her glasses steam up at one point.
The person who I hollered at the most whilst he appeared on my television though had to be Stuart Baggs, he with the hair of Eddie Munster. In his intro he claimed that there was no glass ceiling for him, which isn’t technically true as I can think of several I would like to shove him through, and that he was Baggs the brand. Baggs of shite more like.
He even came out with this bobby dazzler, “Everything I touch turns to sold.” Crap comment, plus never believe a man whose eyes are too close together.
We are told these 16 were chosen from thousands of applicants, the voiceover doesn’t say they were the best as obviously they were chosen to give us the best entertainment value in the same sense that people were chosen on the very same basis on how the misfits all complemented, or not, each other as a group.
For me it was the group names chosen that summed up this opening episode best, not exactly inspiring boardroom material. The guys basically had a toss up between Fusion and Synergy, both of which sound like really lame Gladiators, and went for the latter.
The ladies reasoning for their eventual name was my favourite though as they settled on Apollo, after dismissing the frankly bonkers Winning Women from Draco. Alas it was less inspired by Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed from the Rocky series and more the space programme as their motto was ‘failure is not an option’. Great sentiment, but I’m not sure that Gus Grissom (hang on wasn’t he in CSI?), Ed White or Roger Chaffee would agree as they were astronauts on the very first Apollo mission who burnt to death in a fire on the launch pad. There’s an irony of sorts then that the first show’s task was about selling sausages, perfect for BBQs.
The blokes sold budget bangers in boaters, even attempting to sell them door to door at one point. You can just see them feeding strings of them through letter boxes. At one point I thought they were going to start hurling packs of sausages into passing cab windows! At least they got their griddle going, unlike the women, who had an initial uphill struggle selling their bulging posh variety. Some clever number crunching was all that saved their bacon…er sausages.
Dan Harris, the Team Leader of ‘Synergy’ was onto a loser the moment he announced that he would lead the team and that they would do all the work, which saw stepping into the back of a black cab pretty much a foregone conclusion.
He signalled his own demise but dragged Eddie Munster hair and Neville into the boardroom with him. Stuart just doesn’t shut up, not even to Lord Sugar, and clearly his card is marked. He still bleated on about being unique and 21, surely not much of a USP!
Twilight might be riding the zeitgeist at the moment in cinemas, churning out yet another sequel before all the fans disappear, but for us people in our 30s the sight of folk with fangs and sprouting hairs at the first sign of a full moon were commonplace…in our Saturday morning cartoons.
Every 400 years, a baby werewolf is born into the Fangsworth family. And so when the moon shined on little Sherman Fangsworth, he changed into Fangface; (Ooowooo! Grrrrrr…) a werewolf. Only the sun can change him back to normal. And so little Fangs grew up and teamed up with three daring teenagers: Kim, Biff, and Puggsy. And together they find danger, excitement, and adventure. (Grrrrrr… Ooowooo!) (Ooh! Ooh! Grrrrrr!) Who can save the day? Who can wrong the rights, and right the wrongs? None other than Fangface! (Ooh! Ooh!)
So booms Mr Voiceover man at the beginning of each episode which practically combines the characters of Scooby Doo and Shaggy in one! The show even had its own ‘hip’ vehicle, the wolf buggy. Amusingly, Fangface, with his one large fang, can even turn all hairy at the mere sight of the moon, or anything resembling it!
The Funky Phantom
Essentially yet another riff on Scooby Doo and Co, The Funky Phantom featured three teenagers — Skip, April and Augie — and their dog Elmo. While trying to get out of a storm, they entered an old house where they found a clock telling the wrong time, which, .upon being set to midnight, released two ghosts: a Revolutionary War-era ghost named Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore (who sounds exactly like Snagglepuss as he’s voiced by the same man) and his cat, Boo. The pair hid from the British inside the clock during the War, but then couldn’t get out and died inside – cheery! Ever since being freed, Mudsy and Boo have acompained them on mysteries, always giving an invisible helping hand…and of course they had some smart wheels as well.
The Real Ghostbusters
This series made more of a thing of Slimer, resulting in him turning up in the film sequel, the series actually featured good storylines and monsters that would have made a better starting point for a story than what we saw in Ghostbusters 2.
Interesting fact is that Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman role was voiced by the man who also did the voice of Garfield in the cartoon and that several years later Murray went onto voice the voice of Garfield in the film. Life imitating art imitating art or something like that.
The king of the carton crypt keepers is Mr Doo, even though these aren’t essentially monsters just men, generally janitors, are just men in monster outfits. The fun is in spotting the clues though and of course earning those all important Scooby Snacks. Always viewed better when he was part of the Mystery Machine team than when his pesky little nephew, Scrappy Doo, was with him. This scaredy cat dog has been being spooked since 1969.
The Drak Pack
Now this really was something and was great 70s kitsch which essentially cast those who had always been seen as villains as the heroes of the piece for a change.
The Drak Pack was made up of the teen-age descendants of Hollywood’s most popular monsters. Drak Jr. (a vampire), Frankie (a Frankenstein’s monster) and Howler (a wolfman) formed a crimefighting squad in order to atone for their forefathers’ misdeeds against humanity. To show that the teens had the blessing of the previous monsters, they usually received their assignments from Drak’s great-grandfather, Dracula himself (known as Big D to the Pack), who always ended up trapping his fingers in his coffin.
The gang’s nemesis was the evil Dr. Dred, who from his flying “Dredgible” would hatch many an evil scheme along with assistants Vampira, Mummy Man, a Peter Lorre-esque Toad, and Fly. In order to defeat them, the Drak Packers would clasp their hands together and shout, “Wacko!” a secret word which gave the teens the super powers to succeed.
Looking like a throwback from one of the Dingles, Captain Caveman (how the Captain came about is beyond me). This magic club flying(er, again clueless) crimefighter was the same every week as part way through he gave chase in the air and (what a surprise) his club would run out of power…and it was the same week in week out. He did have three nice young ladies helping him though, a sort of Caveman’s Angels so to speak. Caveman himself was clearly some sort of relative of the Slag Brothers from The Wacky Races, both coming from the Hannah Barbara stable of animation of course.
Was friendly and a ghost. Probably died of boredom. More of a wet blanket than a white sheet. Also, post Chucky, his “Hi, I’m Casper, can I be your friend?” was somewhat sinister in a you just know he wants to turn into those demons at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know he does, type way.
Like Mork from Ork was a spin off from Happy Days, our green feathered friend started out as a nemesis for none-other than Dangermouse, with both characters voiced by David Jason of course.
With a reincarnation ritual that replaces blood accidently with tomato ketchup, thank you Nanny, the latest in the long line of vampirac ducks is not a blood-sucking vampire, but a vegetarian one. He is more interested in juicy carrots than hunting for victims. Naturally, Igor is appalled at this and even worse, his “new” master is obsessed with pursuing wealth and fame as an entertainer.
The stories often centre around Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability teleport around the world. Another regular theme is Igor’s attempts to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. Some episodes feature Duckula’s nemesis Doctor Von Goosewing (an obvious play on Van Helsing).
It was almost as if it had never left. I had remembered the titles with the gang members jumping up and down in the air in slow mo and the fantastically named James Bond III, but that was about it, until I popped in the DVD of the complete ‘The Red Hand Gang’.
It also reminded me of how my younger self was confused by the very being of James Bond III as, besides him being a young black kid with an afro, he couldn’t possibly be James Bond III as even I knew at that age that the third James Bond was of course Roger Moore! Today he, that’s James Bond III and not Sir Rog, sounds more like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost!
In truth there were only ever 12 episodes – and only two cases – of this Hardy Boys meets The Famous Five (dog included of course) late 70s programme, that, for some reason, seems to be more memorable to British viewers of a certain age than their American counterparts.
I may have only remembered scant details of the show but once those episodes started playing out those dormant memories of how the series thrilled came back in an instant.
Needless to say I was hooked and after only intending to watch one episode to see how it held up I soon found myself watching all the first six episodes and was as gripped today as I was when I was little as each episode seemingly peeled away the years.
The story focusses around the Gang stumbling across a young boy who has been kidnapped and spy him and his captors. Unable to convince the police they follow and set about foiling the kidnappers themselves, one of the delights of which includes Anthony Zerbe, as seen in the likes of The Omega Man and Licence To Kill. Okay, so it’s not exactly award winning television but as a youngster it was probably one of my first examples of ‘mild peril’ next to things like Scooby Doo, and this was bonafide live action.
Viewed today it is simple but solid storytelling and harks back to a bygone age of television that lingered a little and took its time to unfold, like another programme of that time, The Littlest Hobo.
One of the elements that struck my most was the evocative music featured in the episodes, it really helped rack of the tension and even had a Lalo Schifrin Dirty Harryesque feel about it. The title music wasn’t as effective in those stakes but was insanely memorable and seemed to share a thing or two with the Banana Splits theme.
I’m already looking forward to my second marathon which promises lots more intrigue, men in bandages and plastic surgery. I’ve not enjoyed being part of a gang so much since The Goonies and this deserves to be discovered by a whole new generation. There could be worse things then than a remake for today’s audience, the only question is should it be updated for today or stay in its original 7os setting?