Thursday, 31 July 2008

1980 - The World And Beckindale

1980 was the first faltering step into a new decade which would bring massive change to all our lives. So, what was it like in the real world and in Beckindale?

For a start, forget the rewritten version of the 1970s - that decade was, in reality, no gloriously funky idealistic love fest. 1960s idealism vanished like spit on a griddle in the early 1970s, and in 1980 Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) was asking the Rev Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning) whatever happened to idealism? From the conversation, it's evident that idealism had been gone for some time!

Not that there wasn't any idealism in 1980, but the 1970s had eroded it with a thick layer of cynicism, anger and violence.

Beckindale was in some ways still lingering in the distant past. Traditions were strong and storylines featured the annual village show, the Butterworth Ball cricket match and, regularly, Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) insisting that the old ways were best.

In 1980, there were no hand held mobile phones. Indeed, Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons), staying at Joe's house in Demdyke Row, phoned her father from a call box as Joe was not "on the phone" at all! In the street where I lived, which was working class poor, only one household had a phone in 1980.

The year saw the release of the ZX80, but computer technology was still alien in most of our homes. And whilst the internet had been invented as part of the American defence system back in the 1960s, the World Wide Web would not be invented until 1989. Video technology had been around for a very long time, but domestic video recorders only a few years. In 1980, just 5% of UK households had a video recorder. They were hugely expensive to buy and monthly rental commitments were also costly and unwelcome in those hard-pressed times.

As for telly, we had three TV channels - but as BBC2 was minority interest (or just plain "highbrow"), it actually felt like two.

New on telly in 1980 were Yes Minister, Juliet Bravo and Training Dogs The Woodhouse Way. This was also the year that fledgling American soap Dallas suddenly peaked with the phenomonal "Who Shot JR?" story line.

In Beckindale, folk didn't spend a lot of time gazing at the goggle box in 1980. In fact I don't think I saw any characters watching TV in the 1980 episodes I viewed recently. There were, of course, better things to do. Jack, Joe (Frazer Hines) and Matt (Frederick Pyne) philosophised and debated in the fields (especially if series creator Kevin Laffan had written the episode!), Annie (Sheila Mercier) cooked away at her faithful Aga, made chutney, went to a WI conference and arranged the flowers in church, old Sam Pearson took up oil painting, Dolly (Jean Rogers) delivered meals on wheels and worked at the local playschool, Amos (Ronald Magill) kept Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) well occupied with his moods and fads, and Seth (Stan Richards), who became a permanent full-time character in the summer of 1980, made mischief.

The vicar comes to tea at Emmerdale Farm.

In the news in 1980, England got its first nudist beach on April 1 - in Brighton, where else?! Racial tensions flared briefly, a foretaste of the turmoil to come in '81, and after much humming and hawing we were going to the Moscow Olympics - a highly controversial decision.

Behind The Iron Curtain, Lech Walesa formed Solidarity, and a beastie that would ensnare us all burst from behind the Curtain: the obscure Hungarian puzzle, Magic Cube, was remanufactured to Western World standards and renamed Rubik's Cube in 1980. The first of these arrived in the UK just before Christmas, and there was an initial shortage, but in the spring of 1981 we were fully stocked and they were everywhere.

In the Emmerdale Farm saga, a Cube appeared on screen in 1982.

The personal stereo, invented in Japan in 1979, reached the UK in 1980 - and was known as the "Sony Stowaway" here until 1981 when it was patented under its original name - the Sony Walkman. I haven't spotted any of these in my viewings of early 1980s Emmerdale Farm episodes yet.

Space Invaders, invented in Japan in 1978 and first exhibited at a UK trade show in 1979, were making huge waves - and eating up lots of pocket money. In Japan, a new game arrived - Puckman. Within a year, it would be renamed Pac-Man and by about 1982 was beating Space Invaders hollow in the pocket money wars in the UK.

In the Beckindale of 1980, Space Invaders did not seem to exist, although they would be making an appearance in 1981. But it seemed there were more pressing things for the villagers to puzzle over in 1980. The re-emergence of a feminist movement in the 1960s was making people question their traditional roles. But could one of Beckindale's staunch olde worlde types cope with his daughter becoming a farmer? That question was raised in 1980.

Children should be seen but not heard was Elsie Harker's maxim, so imagine her distress when Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) filled her pristine little cottage with glorious sounds like Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please!

Beckindale was a staid community, a safe haven for the likes of Nellie Ratcliffe (Gabrielle Blunt), but in 1980 it gained two permanent teenage characters in the shape of Jackie and Sandie (Jane Hutcheson).

And the fact that the sanctity of marriage was not all it used to be was brought home by the fact that Jackie and Sandie's mother, Pat (Helen Weir), was planning to divorce her husband, Tom (Edward Peel).

Fashion in 1980 was hit and miss. Flared trousers harked back to the late 1960s, and were still to be seen in 1980. The '70s had found it impossible to step from the '60s shadow fashion-wise. New Romantics flounced onto Top Of Pops - but, of course, there were no Adam Ant "looky likeys" in Beckindale.

The old folk wore what they were used to - and had been used to for donkey's years. Sandie and Jackie looked vaguely out of date - during the last couple of years of the '70s drain pipe trousers had been coming back into fashion and it was surprising to see Jackie in 1980 tramping around in the type of walloping great flares that had been so new, fresh and exciting in 1968 and had stagnated for much of the 70s.

But then that wasn't much brass about so clothes were often kept until the last ounce of wear had been extracted from them.

In the world of real life fashion trends, donkey jackets were becoming a youth fashion statement.

The biggest change of 1980 was the election of Ronald Reagan as American president in November. More than anything else, this was the pivot which set the 1980s on course. What happened in America had a great effect on the rest of the world, and it was in America that the '80s dream of wealth came about - the term "yuppie" was coined there c. 1981 or 1982 - and the decade altered dramatically.

But in 1980 there were no yuppies. And certainly nobody at all like that in Beckindale.

The old order in the village had taken a severe knock in 1978 when large farming corporation NY Estates had bought the local manorial family's house and land. In late 1980, a link was forged between the old established Sugden family and the corporate newcomer when Joe went to work for NY Estates.

Many Beckindalers still went to church and the vicar took his job very seriously indeed.

In the pop charts, we loved D.I.S.C.O., Ashes To Ashes - the video was absolutely groundbreaking, Ant Music ("Don't tread on an ant, he's done nothing to you..."), Oops Upside Your Head (down on the floor please!) and To Cut A Long Story Short...

On at the flicks were The Empire Strikes Back and Breaking Glass.

But Beckindale folk didn't worry about going to the pictures. There was far too much going on in the village...

Having taken a look at the background year to this special month of Back To Beckindale features, it's time to climb into our own personal Tardis, set the co-ordinates, take a quick trip through the time tunnel and step outside into Beckindale, 1980...

The birds are singing. The sun is shining. The air is sweet and cool. But there's a smell wafting in the breeze, a very disenchanting smell indeed... a kind of evil fishy odour...

Click on the 1980 Month label below from 1 August onwards to read more...

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