Living the Dream?

It’s been two weeks into my new lifestyle. I have broken off the shackles of working under the English education system and have a whole new found freedom and luxury of six hours a day all to myself whilst the 8 year old is at school. I have this time to write my novel and paint pictures, go for long walks, and do all the things I love (and have wanted to focus more on) before I skip down to school and collect him, work for an hour at my newly set up Homework Club and then it’s home for a relaxed evening with the boy, dinner, games and reading. Right?

Wrong.

So far I have written once in two weeks (not counting the last blog post and the co-written article which came from that published in the TES about leaving teaching). So my novel hasn’t progressed anywhere near to where it should have. I haven’t painted a single picture or sketched a single sketch. (Though I have painted two and a half walls of my lounge – the other one and a half is still waiting to be done.) I have had five small walks and one bigger one (though that knackered my bad knee out a bit too much so still not ready for that).

So what have I done in two weeks? Sat around watching daytime TV? Become a lady that lunches?  Well not quite. The work for Homework Club hasn’t been the avalanche, or even waterfall, of clambering kids (parents) I hoped for once the flyers finally went out at the start of this week. More of a dripping tap effect thus far. So at the moment I’m not actually working and real panic has started to set in about the financial viability of my future work plans. Paying for room hire means I’m in deficit finance wise right now, but I guess this is how all businesses start. Trouble is, I didn’t have the luxury of a start up loan and the mortgage is due in 14 days. Okay…so I’m not panicking, thing’s will pick up, right? Once word spreads. I’ll keep telling myself that. Meanwhile, tomorrow I start private tuition for two children (yes – Saturday mornings are now working mornings) and I have another two for a Thursday evening (sacrificing any chance of my free evening a week for socialising in favour of paying the bills). But that’s okay, because I wanted a change. I needed a change. I had to get out of the system because it was slowly eroding my soul and goodness knows I’d already been to the dark side in terms of my mental health and another scare due to work stress earlier this year only confirmed to me I needed to get out. This is all change I wanted. So why this week, (after a euphoric first week) do I feel so… low?

Well I guess it comes back to this idyllic stress-free lifestyle I envisaged for myself. So far it’s involved, as I say, not much of the things I gave up work to do! Instead it’s been: Lots of admin, housework, gardening, grocery shopping, painting and decorating, running an 8 year old round to various clubs, (which all started up again this week), and to THREE dental appointments  and to the hairdressers, (school photo alert!), my physio for my dodgy knee, meeting prospective children for tuition, emailing, constant checking of finances (and fretting about it), and finally cramming in a flying visit to a couple of friends today (agreeing to make 3 loaves of ham sandwiches for one who’s having her children christened this weekend) who of course all think I’m now a lady of leisure and have time to meet up more. I don’t. It was lovely to see them, of course, but the thought of another morning out of doing anything for me (ie creative stuff) just has left me feeling as though those extra six hours I thought I’d have for me isn’t a reality which will happen. In fact I’m already beginning to wonder how I actually managed to fit work in at all before!

I think I’m also feeling a little low, simply because I am adjusting to a new lifestyle. Periods of change and adjustment inevitably come with the lows as well as the highs unfortunately. And I’m adjusting to a lifestyle whereby I’m not in quite such a rigid routine and although I deplore too much routine, I think I’m someone who actually needs it, because I’m not terribly self disciplined! I am also still  finding it a bit weird not being part of something; the staff room banter, the chat and laughs and unpredictability of the kids. Hopefully once I start tutoring tomorrow and get to the Homework Club (even if only with a handful of children) I’ll start to feel more like myself again.

Living the dream? Well it doesn’t happen overnight.  And I have to keep reminding myself that five years ago I went through a much bigger lifestyle change than this… and survived!

How about you? Have you had a big lifestyle change and how did you cope with the inevitable lows after the highs?

 

 

 

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New Beginnings

Wow… Hi! It’s been a while hasn’t it?!

It’s September 6th. Usually I’d be now in school teaching. I’d have had an INSET day yesterday to ease me back in to the school year, catching up with colleagues, politely swapping stories of holidays (theirs abroad in exotic locations, mine the usual short trips to Devon and Edinburgh) and discussing how quickly six weeks has gone by, as it invariably always does and how good/bad the weather has been.  I’d have had a restless night’s sleep last night with the annual ‘I can’t control these kids’ dream/nightmare as the subconscious anxiety of each new class/classes hasn’t diminished in eighteen years in the profession.

However, none of that has happened this year, because on July 20th I hung up my teaching cape and mortar board (okay we don’t actually wear those, though I did start teaching at a time when chalk boards were still a thing) for what I think/hope will be forever.

So it’s a Tuesday morning and my 8 year old has gone off to school for his first day in a new class – something he will repeat for the next seven years (and I’m already wondering where the time has gone)! And here I am – officially unemployed. Sort of. It feels really weird to be not driving off to work. Weird not to be immersed in everything new that September usually brings as it’s what I’ve done for all of my adult life.  Weird, yet at the same time good and right. I thought I’d miss it more than I do, but I actually don’t. I guess I’ve been gearing up to this day for the last six years or so really. Since my breakdown in 2009 – things in my professional world just haven’t been the same. And my personal circumstances changed immeasurably and in ways back then I could not have envisaged.

So what will I do for a wage, you may well ask? I’ve no spouse bringing in the dosh so I can sit around living the dream! There’s just me and a fostering allowance paid for looking after my nephew. BIG responsibility! Gulp. Well, from next week, the plan is I have a homework club to run for an hour after school four nights a week, when I get some customers that is. I’ve spent the summer setting up the business (though ‘business’ sounds the wrong word to be using when working in education in whatever capacity it may be). However, that is what it is, I guess.  Next I have to market it (see,  business words already in use) now that there is a website up and running (thanks to an amazing friend of mine).  In the meantime,  I have a couple of children whom I will be privately tutoring, and I have been lucky enough over the summer to have sold a painting and given my services over to ironing for friends to earn an extra bob or two whilst things may be slow to start up. None of this, nor my fostering allowance, will pay the whole mortgage at the end of the month though, and so I really need my business idea to work.

When my final wage was paid in to my account on August 31st – there was a ‘gulp’ moment. There still are ‘gulp’ moments. There’s no wage at the end of September until I secure children to come to my homework club… eeek!

BUT…

I had to take a leap into the unknown. I had to whip away the safety net. I have to remember my long term goals. Or even the short term ones. I want to finish my book. I want to paint more. I have a little boy to raise and look after and those who think they don’t need so much as they get older couldn’t be more wrong. They need less of certain things, but more of others. Teaching is, even in a part time capacity as I’ve been doing for the past five years, a time consuming, mentally draining distraction I don’t need or want anymore. I have a goal of enjoying life and to do this I need it to be multi-faceted.  Working yourself into the ground in a stressful occupation, even if it is well paid and has a secure pension arrangement, doesn’t equate, for me at least, to a happy and fulfilling life. I don’t hate teaching though. It’s what I’m good at and enjoy the basics of what teaching is all about.  I’d miss working with kids if I don’t do anything in the line of work I’ve done all my adult life.  But there is more out there I want to do in addition which when working in school, I have little time or energy left for.

And so…my plan is… (has been since April time when seeds first started to form, only now it all feels a bit more real!)  to earn an adequate amount through tutoring and running the homework help club under my own terms. Working for myself, working for children and parents, rather than a misguided government I don’t agree with.  This will be done in evenings after school or on Saturday mornings. Meanwhile, during term time I can use the mornings to write and hopefully finish this novel. I often think it’s been taking too long, but I only started the new total re-write last November. I’d had a target of finishing first draft by June, but this didn’t happen. Now I have more time, I’m hoping by October half term I’ll have reached the end. Over the summer I had a breakthrough in a part towards the end where I was struggling to see where to go with it next – or at least how to get to the next part to bring the story to its planned climax, and now I’ve had that I can crack on. It’s been a while, so my writing fingers may be a bit rusty, but I’ll soon get into it I’m sure.

But it’s weird…this been at home (alone) in the daytime thing – though like anything I’m sure I’ll get used to it. My only fear is…there still won’t be enough hours in the day!

How about you? Have you changed your work life in a big way? How did it pan out for you? Are you a teacher who gave the profession up for something else?  (I often read of folk who go into teaching after something else, but rarely of those who escape it permanently – unless at retirement) Will I be back in the classroom before the year is out?!

I’d love to hear of your experiences.

Thanks, as ever,  for reading.

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30 Days of Summer

(Adapted from an original post from 2014, re-posted in 2015.)

Allow me to present…in no particular order (though think Channel 4/5 countdown programmes, but without Stuart Marconi)...My Top 30 ‘Reasons Why I Don’t Like Summer.’ (In the city. In Britain. On a normal, average working day, bearing in mind that weekends are often worse and bank holidays even more so.)

The emphasis being on MY reasons. As I say completely biased, personal experience led reasons.

1) June, the start of summer, (as well as May) is the month when exams and tests take place in educational establishments across the land. Now this, in my humble opinion, is just the most stupidly bonkers thing our education system has ever thought up. Hmmmm. Hot, sticky, greenhouses for classrooms? I know! (thought some bright spark once upon an ice age)..Let’s get the kids, who resemble lethargic wasps by this time in the term, to sit in these hothouses and sweat it out over exams and tests. It really is the best thing to be doing when the sun is shining and one in four of them are suffering from hay fever. Not only that, let’s ensure they don’t get to enjoy any of the rare sunny, dry weather (if they are that way inclined) whilst they cram their revision in. Ah ha! You may argue. But there’s still July and August to enjoy. Oh Really? Nine years out of ten, as soon as the academic year ends, so does any sign of the sun. Until September 2nd. When it returns with a vengeance, ready to bake the children at gas mark 6 for six hours a day until at least September 29th.  This is *fact. I bet there are statistics on Wikipedia about it and stuff.

*According to me.

2) The stupidly light, humid nights of June especially mean kids don’t go to sleep until it’s time for us adults to hit the hay, which is earlier these days since we got old, tired and grumpy from having kids.

3) Apparently unconcerned that they have school the following day, and more than likely some important test or exam revision to do, older kids roam the streets until at least 9:30pm, making noise and keeping said younger children from their sleeping (refer back to point #2.)

4) Apparently unconcerned that, despite the hot weather, they have work the following day, neighbours, (who have no kids) lounge around in their gardens supping beer and laughing raucously with their mates until some ungodly hour. Thus keeping your child, whose bedroom window happens to overlook their garden, awake. (refer to point #2 again.)

5) It’s too damn hot to do anything. Anything. Other than sit writing blog posts about how too damn hot it is.

6) End of year school reports have to be written. (Refer also to point #1 about how stupid and illogical the organisation of the school year is.)

7) The lawn and garden requires care and attention at least once a week, whereas in winter this is one less job to do, thus providing one with more time to do things such as, oh I don’t know, write school reports.  Oh wait, no that’s in the…(see point #5)

8) Feet are on show. Feet are not pretty things. Not even the pretty ones, so stop kidding yourselves. A necessary evil because of aforementioned ‘it’s too damn hot’ point.

9) The acrid stench of stale body odour, sweaty feet mixed with barbecues fill the air.

10) After months of it clogging up the house, there is a false sense of security that once more the wet washing can be hung outside to dry. But wait! Just hold on there. The neighbours have oh so considerately got the barbecue going and have soiled the fresh, meadow-grass scented clothes with the oily, greasy stench of cheap burgers and pork products.

11) The light nights bring about a false sense of having more time. It appears to be 6pm, but upon inspecting the clock it is apparently actually 9pm. It’s bed time soon, but the kids are still awake (see point #2). Staying up later is the only option in order to make it feel as though you’re going to bed at a grown up time. This means a reduced amount of  sleep and waking the next morning, grumpy and irritable. The hot, humid heat wave continues and the grumpiness intensifies due to lack of said sleep.

12) Shaving becomes imperative. Daily. The need to apply products like tanning moisturiser seems necessary just so no one is mistaken for a slightly off colour snowman. Or a bad case of blue cheese. All of this takes up more time. Stuff one just doesn’t have to worry about so much in the winter.

13) Summer brings with it the ‘what to wear’ debate. Is a waterproof needed? (Yes, just in case.) Is a cardi or pullover necessary? Probably, but maybe not. It’s difficult to tell. One might be required once evening sets in, but then again does one wish to carry it around all day in the heat? Hmmmm. Skirt or dress or trousers? Oh, a pretty floral summer dress! Yes! No, wait: you have big thighs. Big thighs don’t like heat. They have a habit of sticking together. Better put some cropped leggings on underneath. Oh but now it’s too hot. Hummpf. Okay, now, which shoes? Sandals?  Oh bugger, nails aren’t painted. Canvas pumps? Yuk; sweaty feet. Flip flops? How much walking is planned today? Not much, but does one really want to look as though one is on the beach in St Tropez on a Monday afternoon whilst trying to give an air of at least possessing an ounce of professionalism? Not really.  Massive dilemma after massive dilemma. Every day of every summer. Never exactly sure how the temperature’s going to pan out.  In winter it’s just cold. Everyone knows where they stand. Everyone knows they’ll be dressed up in layer upon layer with no need to shed. Everyone knows tights won’t become uncomfortable. Everyone knows feet won’t drip with sweat. In Winter, all is simple. But British Summer is tricksie.

14) Leaving  the car for two minutes, only to return and find it’s actually an oven in disguise and everything you left in it resembles something from a Salvador Dali.

15) Sport suddenly becomes important. To everyone. The Football World Cup, or European Championships, or the Olympics rear their heads, meaning a deluge of St George’s crosses and Union Jacks suddenly appear overnight flapping wildly from car windows and council estate bedroom windows across the land. It means the pubs become full of loud, obnoxious types who think they know everything about every sport ever invented. “Oh yes, the optimum angle a javelin should be thrown is 45 degrees, and he got it all wrong. All wrong mate.”  Then there’s the women who pretend to be interested in football for the month, just because “Well, you know England are playing.” (Ironically these are the same women usually cursing the networks for interrupting coverage of Coronation Street as Manchester United trounce Liverpool. Or vice versa, let’s not be biased.) And of course, each June, Wimbledon dominates the BBC for a whole fortnight. How the schedulers get round this must be a logistical nightmare when there are Olympics or World Cups to consider too. They must love the one year in four when there isn’t anything else to compete with. I know I do. It’s not sports themselves which are the problem. It’s the assumption of the media, and the majority of the populace, that everyone should be interested in it or care about it. NOT EVERYONE DOES. PLEASE STOP RAMMING IT DOWN OUR THROATS.

16) Skinny, pale chested men, take their tops off in public. (More so when there is a football tournament on, refer to point #15)

17) Overweight and obese people show too much flesh for it to be comfortable for onlookers to observe. See point #16 so I am not accused of fatism.

18) There is NO happy medium on points #16&17 without giving you a complex your bod is not ‘beach ready’.

19) Everyone. EVERYONE gets grumpy, especially once England get knocked out of said football tournaments. (For other, better, more sensible reasons for summer grumpiness, see points #1-14 and #20-30)

20) Some inconsiderate neighbours (there’s always at least one) open all their windows and play their music at top volume because, well why wouldn’t everyone else want to listen to The Greatest Hits of Crap on a loop?

21) Once the neighbours have turned off their (inevitably crap) music, finished their barbecue and put their offspring to bed, and it’s time to turn in for the night, it’s too damn hot to sleep anyway.

22) Chocolate melts merely from glancing in its direction.

23) Wasps and flies. But mainly wasps. Oh and flying ants.

24) By the time schools break up for summer holidays they and teachers have already sweated their way in work through the ‘best’ of the what the British climate has to offer and so spend most of August dodging rain showers, watching the nights slowly draw in and feeling depressed about the fact September is looming.

25) It’s too damn hot to actually sit out and enjoy the garden (after spending the time tending to it whenever there’s been a break in the rain) for any prolonged period of time. This is because pale, pasty British skin is prone to burning even when slapped in Factor 30. Other than that it’s just too uncomfortable to sit. “It’s the wrong kind of heat.” Apparently. Which brings me neatly to…

26) Pale, sensitive skin burns from a mere 20 minute stint in the sun.  It doesn’t do this evenly of course. A little skin, mainly of the ‘driving arm’, actually tans; some turns pink; but most, in the main legs, seems impervious to the sun no matter how much exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays it’s put through. As a result, the next three weeks are spent looking like an oversized, inedible portion of Neapolitan ice cream. The days following this brief vitamin D collecting exercise necessitates wearing none- summer clothes in order to hide the embarrassing bright red patches. Those lucky enough to burn all over, can enjoy the pain and itching for at least a week to come as well as the stares and pointing fingers at the cooked lobster look.

27) Humidity does no favours to those of us in possession of thick hair. Think Monica Geller in Friends when she visits Barbados. Yep. That. Humidity and rain? Double the pain.

28) Headaches. Summer brings more headaches and the heat only intensifies them. Once a summer heat headache kicks in the only thing which will shift it, is sleep. But then it’s too hot to sleep….vicious cycle! (See points 11 and 21).

29) Finally, the pressure and compulsion to be outside just because it’s nice is like some sort of social expectation which, if not met, results in a guilt complex bigger than any Roman Catholic could declare. Work still needs to be done. It doesn’t just go away because the thermometer has realised there is a 30 on its scale.  “Oh, why don’t you sit out and write your book/ reports/do your lesson planning?” some helpful person may suggest  “Oh I don’t know: where would you like me to start?” Other than the fact it’s too bright to see the screen, sitting out in the sweltering sun for prolonged periods means having to: listen to the neighbour’s stream of chronically bad music; get sunburned despite stopping work every five minutes to slip, slap, slop; develop a headache; grow uncomfortably hot and sweaty and stick to the garden furniture; develop squint eye and frizzy hair; fight off swarms of wasps, flies and any other insects who take a fancy to buzzing around; have to listen to other people’s kids screaming  and yelling whilst trying to concentrate;  drink warm lemonade as it heats up in nanoseconds. In other words see points 1-28!

And finally new for 2015…

30) Hayfever. I don’t suffer myself (thankfully), however just after I published this post last year, my 6 year old developed an allergy to grass pollen for the first time. This year it has returned and with it itchy, watery, red eyes which also swell to the point they look bruised and it looks as though he’s been punched. So now June is also a month whereby I feel the need to start every conversation with “I haven’t punched him, he has really bad hay fever.”  Hayfever is rotten for him. It makes him lethargic and his nose runs and then is blocked, his eyes are sore and he can’t sleep very well for it. From my whining point of view, this part of summer now means as well as preparing his birthday celebrations (which of course fall slap bang in the middle of the grass pollen season) and me writing school reports, I have to play nurse and be extra vigilant in easing his suffering. This means constant checking of the wearing of eye shields. It means not being able to go outside after school with him as he is a) too tired and b) at his weakest point by 4-5 o’clock. It means fighting to put eye-drops in (try it whilst they have their hands covering their eyes…yeah….not happening), and administer regular doses of medicine. It means washing his arms and face and eyes down with a damp flannel and changing his clothes when he’s been outside. It means closing windows and staying in at weekends to give him some respite from the worst of the symptoms. Basically it means more hard work in a month I already don’t especially like for the other 29 reasons!

What about you? Do you loathe or love the hot weather and all that summer brings? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks as ever for reading.🙂

Addendum: It’s mid July, 2016 mid heat wave. It’s 34 degrees celcius outside, (after a month of seriously unpredictable yet much lovely cooler weather which I have not moaned about once!) This year I have learned from previous summers. I have given up teaching and simply spend my evenings eating salad and drinking cider in the garden. The neighbours are still playing chronically rubbish music though!

 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…Y

Honestly, truly I have not lost my ability to sing my ABC. However, sadly, like with V, I have no TV programme from my youth for X in my A-Z challenge, (no X factor was not an option!) So here I am at Y and an epic failure at the challenge this year!

As I have nothing for Z either, this will be the last post for the challenge, apart from maybe a round up post  of the near misses of shows that might have made the final cut had I had: a) a better memory or b) more time to do multiple posts.

Today’s TV show choice  is actually quite fitting as it happens, as it is all to do with challenges and whether or not they would be met. For today, Y is for that Saturday/Friday night game show…

You Bet!

 

Wow, my memory is shocking. (A theme which has run through these posts!) Before I delved into the archives of You Bet! (a game show where celebrities would bet on unusual challenges performed by members of the public usually under a time pressure), here’s what I remembered about it:

A rap, (how very 80s) which the host used to sing:

Host: Do you want a bet on it?

Audience: You Bet!

Host: Are you sure you want to bet on it?

Audience: You bet!

Host: So don’t fret, get set. Are you Ready?

Audience: You Bet! 

I say ‘host’, only because I had Matthew Kelly in my head as the host (and who did indeed host it), but he hosted it after Bruce Forsyth who was the one who would have sung this chant because I can hear his voice. But I didn’t even remember Bruce Forsyth being on it until I’ve just tuned into an episode on You Tube. Watching it back though now, and he hasn’t sung it yet! Maybe we made it up! Maybe he never sung that at all! (Although I’ve just seen a comment on You Tube from someone else who says he did it in later episodes – so my memory is correct. Hazaar!) Oh and Post Script: Just got to the end of the episode: He did it at the end of every show!

What else do I remember? Well I only ever remember one of the challenges from the shows even though I must have watched countless episodes of You Bet! from 1988 into the early ’90s. It was one which totally amazed me and so has stuck with me. Even now I remember how utterly gob smacked I was by it. In the challenge a man could guess a song (pop/rock etc) being played simply by watching the graphic equaliser bars on a music system! Now, in my 13-14 year old naivety, I believed he could do this for any song at all. However, my more cynical 40 year old self is guessing there would have been a set bank of certain songs he’d learnt the graphic equaliser sequence for  by memory. Not so impressive really, and why I prefer to just remember things my child/teen memory recalls. Talking to Brother Number 2 tonight, his only memory of one of the challenges was one where a man could tell a car just by listening to its door shutting! (Funny the ones we remember kind of link to our individual interests.) But how awesome is that? These are the sort of challenges people would put themselves forward for and the celebrities would back them on.

I also remembered what the studio looked like, but I remember the later logo more than the original one for the show(see picture above). However, as soon as I’ve watched an episode so many things I loved about You Bet have come flooding back to me:

So what didn’t I remember until re-watching?

  1. Well as already stated: the original logo which was a swirly, neon affair with lights pinpointing the end of the letters and was on the You Bet! ‘Betsie’ trophy handed to the challenger if they won. (something else I didn’t recall.)

Bruce with the old style logo. 

2) The whole format of the show: Like the fact that the celebrities backed their challenger (explaining the background and the challenge for them) and then the other 2 celebrities would bet on the challenge by pressing a yes or no light next to them. After that 100 members of the studio audience would vote and this would provide a score for the celebrities. The points would be added to and converted to money for the celebrity’s charity if they won the whole show. If the celebrity lost their own bet they had to do a forfeit. I had completely forgotten about that part of the show. The following week, the forfeit would be shown.

3) Some challenges were not done in front of a live studio audience but out on location with Ellis Ward (a woman who was Bruce’s side-kick on the show and had a very sharp 1980s bobbed hairstyle – and I’d forgotten about her too!)

4) I couldn’t remember the theme tune, despite the fact this has been the factor I usually remember most and has been throughout this series of posts! However, listening to it now I’m not surprised, as it wasn’t especially memorable. But of course I did remember the rap so I wasn’t devoid of all musical memory!

5) Bruce would also back his own challenger and then he had to do a forfeit if the challengers weren’t successful. There was the large voting results board above the audience I’d also forgotten about! All gold and glittery! Seriously how did I even remember You Bet! existed?!😀

I think though that the fact I can’t remember specific details of most shows isn’t a bad thing. I think it highlights clearly how memory is far more linked to how things make you feel than the specifics. You Bet! was a brilliant feel good Saturday night show and it’s obviously stayed with me more for that as much as, if not more, than the content of the show. Although, of course, the challenges were always great and edge of seat stuff and it was always a real family thing to sit back and place our own bets on whether the challenge would be met or not.

And I’m afraid that’s all, folks for this particular challenge. If I’d have had you all bet on whether I’d complete this A-Z challenge at the start, well I don’t think there’d be any money going to charity on my behalf as I’m three letters shy this year! Ah well, I’ve still had fun reminiscing. Hope you have too! And thanks for reading.

Maybe see you back here next April?

Do you want a bet on it?😉

 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…W

Yes, yes, I know V comes after U in the alphabet. I’ve not lost my mind, but as explained in a previous post, I have no TV programmes from my youth starting with V to write about (and I’m also running out of time as April is nearly at a close), and so today I am skipping straight to W. Super cheaty I know.🙂

And today we’re back with a humdinger of a freaky piece of kids television for your delight. Brace yourselves and arm  yourselves with a magic wand, for today W is for…

Wizbit

Wizbit (left) and his over-sized white rabbit friend!

“Ha, ha this-a-way

Ha, ha that-a way

Ha ha this-a-way

My oh my!”

Wizbit was probably one of the most bizarre children’s TV shows ever to have been made in Britain. It was, essentially, a magic show hosted by the recently deceased Paul Daniels. It was set in the fictional magical world of Puzzleopolis where every thing  (magic related items such as wands and packs of playing cards), and every body seemed to be made from over-sized foam, even the character of Wizbit himself.

The mystery of  the character of Wizbit for me has always been: what the heck was he? Sure, he was a large yellow, foam cone – slightly reminiscent of a yellow version of the sorting hat in Harry Potter. Maybe he is meant to be a wizard’s hat? I still don’t know! (Ah…Wikipedia tells me he was an alien magician. Yeah..okay.)

Anyway,Wizbit  was joined by his sidekick Wooly the rabbit, who, if memory serves correctly, was a bit dense. Though I might be making that up! No, no I’m not. Check out this episode! Hahaha! – Oh and on this there’s also an evil version of Wizbit – Wozbit! hahahaha!

The odd thing is, once again, my memories of what Wizbit was actually all about is quite vague. I know there was a bog  in it- a talking purple plastic bog at that. Now I used to think bog meant toilet (as it does in slang where I come from), but this taught me a bog was a totally different thing to what I’d believed until I was 11 years old when Wizbit hit our screens! Even then, I probably thought a bog was purple and plastic!  The show was only on for 2 years,  (27 episodes in total apparently) so a short run probably once again ensures my memories are fuzzy. Some might say that’s no bad thing where Wizbit is concerned!

What I do remember of the show was this: Wizbit couldn’t get into (or out of???) Puzzleopolis unless he got past the ‘Gatekeeper’ (a scary woman if I recall correctly) and I think he had to solve a puzzle to do this. There was also a ‘baddy’ with a twirly-whirly moustache I seem to remember and he had a cat called Jinx. I remember the cat’s name because, of course – those of you old/young enough to remember, will recall that at school in the ’80s if someone said something at exactly the same time as you, whoever said “jinxed” first was…er…jinxed! I think it meant you couldn’t speak again forever and ever or something! I wonder if the yoof of today still jinx each other?  Anyway, they are my vague memories of Wizbit, other than the theme tune which (as most of these theme tunes seem to have done) has stuck with me 30 years later and is not vague at all.

Now it is pretty much universally acknowledged that Wizbit was a bit rubbish. In fact looking at the episode I’ve linked to here now – Wizbit was rubbish!😀. Not only that, but Wizbit had a really silly, voice – but knowing me I liked that at the time! It was very weird  and not a top quality kid’s TV show at all, looking back. Nevertheless, for some reason we loved it! Looking at it now, I can’t think what held the draw for me. Perhaps it was purely the oddball nature of it. (There’s a modern kid’s TV show called Bear Behaving Badly which I love now and that’s a bit weird and wacky! The ‘baddy’ on that has a strange, mangy looking cat too, just like Professor Doom has on this with Jinx!). If one thing has come to light doing this challenge, it was that I liked shows which were a bit left of field most of the time! Perhaps it was the fact Wizbit was just so ridiculous. Maybe it was the car-crash TV quality of it. Perhaps I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing! Looking at it now, I’d assume that Paul Daniels and Barry Murray (former record producer for Mungo Jerry – fact fans) were tripping out on something when they came up with Wizbit! (I think most kid’s TV shows are based on some form of hallucinogenic drug!) But Wizbit certainly had that odd, slightly creepy and scary Alice in Wonderland feel about it. Weird that I even liked it then, as I was never a fan of the Lewis Carroll classic.

Finally: Two randomly related to Wizbit memories. Brother number 2 (I think it was) had this Paul Daniel’s magic set for his birthday or a Christmas one year and I can only assume was a direct consequence of watching Wizbit! Maybe it wasn’t, but in my head it is!

And the other random thought I had when doing this post was the other day when Brother Number 1 was trying to guess what programmes I’d be doing for U and W. To give him a clue to this one I said his best friend’s name. This was because, for some loony reason, one of the nicknames for his friend was Wizbit. To this day, a little bit like why I liked this show, I do not know why!

And with that all that’s left for me to do is vanish! So…as Wizbit himself would say…

Ostagazuzulum!

*Vanishes in a puff of smoke!

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Today is brought to you by the letter…U

Hello!

Well it’s day…erm…21. Yes, day 21, though it’s the 26th April so it wouldn’t take a math’s genius or even any child in my maths sets to work out I’m going to run out of days to complete the challenge. But no matter as I have nothing for the letters V, X or Z, so we’re bang on target! Haha!😀

Luckily I do have something for U…and this one is a real blast from the past.

Today U is for…

Ulysses 31

In the same vein as Battle of The Planets, I have strong recollections of the theme tune to Ulysses 31 and the cute little red robot character – Nono – but I don’t really have any strong memories of story-lines or what was going on much, but I do know I really liked it! I remember the blue faced characters vaguely too, but have no idea what or who they were!

I’m pretty sure, along with the film Jason and The Argonauts, that all my knowledge of Greek Mythology came from watching Ulysses 31, which is probably not the best place to start, or maybe it is, even if it was set in the 31st Century! I don’t know. However, as Ulysses encounters lots of other figures from Greek mythology who have been given a futuristic twist, it did at least give me an idea of some of the stories of the myths. Given I’ve never studied Greek myths in any other setting or shown much interest in them, I must know Hades and Neptune and Zeus from somewhere, so I can only assume it was from this! Why I never wondered why a robot was mixed up with Greek mythological characters travelling through space,  is one of those wonders of childhood imagination. Kids just accept things! Greek myths in space with little red robots? Yeah, why the hell not?!😀

Although the series originally aired in 1981, it didn’t reach British shores until 1985 and only ran until 1986 (so when I was 10/11), but despite my age I think the only reason I don’t have massive memories of it was that it had a short run.

I have to say though, if you’re reading this, you HAVE to listen to the theme tune from the opening titles. It is, possibly (with even the exception of Round The Twist), the best kid’s TV theme tune ever. It’s funky, it’s VERY 80s and electronic, and I always really liked the middle bridge part when Nono comes in and says: ”

“It’s me Nono small robot you know, friend of Ulysses.
It’s me Nono small robot you know, friend of Ulysses.”

So a short post, today as I have such limited memories, though it was a great animated series which I liked a lot and perhaps it’s brought back memories for some of you too.🙂

 

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Today is brought to you by the letter…T

Well after a busy and very lovely weekend of wedding celebrations and birthday partying. it’s time to tackle T. I was going to do 2 programmes for T, but unfortunately I have some boring admin stuff for my actual job to do this evening too, so I guess I should get on with that. Today’s characters from today’s TV show from my childhood never had such dreary problems to contend with. Oh no, for today T is for…

Thunder, Thunder, Thunder…

ThunderCats!

Ho!

ThunderCats (the animated series) ran from 1985 up to 1989, so I was getting on a bit in terms of my childhood when it was on as I was between the ages of 10-14. (I’m discovering I was quite a late developer in terms of my TV viewing as a child, and I wonder if this was to do with being the oldest of 5! i.e: TV shows I might not have otherwise bothered with, came under my radar.) I’m pretty certain this one would have been down to Brother number 1 and Brother number 2. One of them had a Mumm- Ra figure (clearly not just me who was obsessed with the villains of 80s cartoons then!)

Anyway, ThunderCats told the story of the Thundarians, who guarded the precious Eye of Thundera (as they lived on, wait for it…Thundera), which was housed in the hilt of Lion-O’s sword mystically named The Sword of Omens. They were always under attack from the mutants led by Mumm-Ra, a mummified sorcerer who would be given a new life if he were ever to possess the Eye of Thundera. Mumm-Ra lived in a sarcophagus where he was decaying, but occasionally came out, breaking  the bonds of his bandages and becoming a more powerful version of himself, though he always needed to return to his coffin to replenish his energy afterwards, which happened especially upon seeing his reflection. So basically  Mumm-Ra was a kind of a mummy/vampire hybrid. -A green, red-eyed mummy vampire.

Mumm-Ra

You will know by now how this goes and you won’t be surprised to hear that Mumm-Ra was definitely my favourite character on ThunderCats – the Third Earth equivalent to Eternia’s Skeletor. He wasn’t as funny or ridiculous as Skeletor, but there was something quite fascinating about his character which used to hold my attention. However, if I had to pick a favourite actual ThunderCat, rather than a mutant, then it would  be Panthro. I think he was the toughest, least cheesy and least irritating!

Of course, all the ThunderCats were alien/humanoid forms of various wildcats. So the leader was Lion-O (who was, oddly enough, a lion). He was kind of like the He-Man of the outfit. He had a sword, he had muscles, wore very little clothing and was very cheesy. Then there was Cheetara  – er – a Cheetah. I guess she’d have been your equivalent to Teela from He-Man character. Tigra was, yes, you’ve guessed it, a tiger – Lion-O’s Man -at-Arms, if you will, and finally, Panthro was a panther. I always thought he was a bit of a BA Baracus type character because, from memory, he always seemed to come in when they needed a bit of braun. I also recall he had a vehicle of some kind which he was in charge of and used to smash through walls and stuff, so perhaps that’s why he reminded me of him.

Lion-O: check out that ’80s Big hair and extendible sword!

My memories of ThunderCats is that it seemed a bit slicker in production than He-man, perhaps on account of it being slightly later when it started. The theme tune and opening credits were certainly slicker, sharper and faster paced than those of He-Man (and as ever with all my favourite TV programmes, memorable to the point of recalling all the lyrics). But also, Lion-O’s sword actually GREW with each shout of “Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats Ho!” He-Man’s sword never grew, though I guess if we’re point scoring The Power Sword did change a pathetic, cringing cat into the wild and mighty Battlecat. Speaking of  wild cats, the ThunderCats, on account of them being wild jungle type cat hybrids I guess, also meant the characters were more athletic than those from Eternia. The action scenes were  based more on their agility rather than use of weapons, (though they did have weapons -Tigra had some whip thing I recall) and so, as a result, were faster paced. Actually, I’m sure Cheetara had something resembling a pole vaulting pole too, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I can’t remember. (Just for info – the way I do these posts is to write from memory and then go and watch on You Tube to see if what I remember is right. If it’s not I leave in what I’ve written though, as it’s fun to see what I remember from 20-30 years ago!)

When I was in Year 6 of Primary school (in my school called Junior 9 as this was 1986/1987) I did a whole project on wild cats and I’m now wondering if this was a direct consequence of liking ThunderCats. We were allowed to choose our own topic, (none of this enforced rubbish kids get nowadays), so maybe ThunderCats is the reason I chose that. I know I used to draw the ThunderCats all the time when I was in Junior 9, as kids in my class found out I could and would put requests in. I think I even sold a few sketches for 10p a time! Hahaha!

Of course, no 1980s animated series would be without it’s irritating little squirt characters. However, ThunderCats went two better than He-man (Orko) and Battle of the Planets (7 Zark 7 whom I actually quite liked though I know most found annoying) as in ThunderCats we had not only Snarf (“Snarf, Snarf” uuuuuuurghhhhh) – a little red and yellow ball of fluff who was just more pointless than a blunt pencil and I assume the ThunderCats’ pet, but we also had to endure WilyKit and WilyKat. Or as I liked to call them WhinyKit and WhinyKat. Can’t remember why, but I’m guessing they must have been a bit whiney!

L-R: Tigra, Panthro (both looking very blue), Lion-O (with a human skin-tone), WileyKit, Cheetara and Wileykat. And up front – Snarf. Their pet something or other.

 

I believe there has been a re-make done of ThunderCats, a bit like they’ve done with ThunderBirds, and although I can watch the ThunderBirds remake quite happily because the original was not of my time, I cannot bring myself to watch a re-hash of ThunderCats for fear of all I remember being soiled and sullied.

My other choice for the letter T was going to be T-Bag, but alas, there is no time.

However, here’s a picture to remember it by!

The original T-Bag (Elizabeth Estensen) and T-Shirt (John Hasler). 

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