You know you’re a Potteries child of the Eighties when…

The end of my first year of 80s nostalgia columns has prompted me to consider what it means to be a child of the Eighties.

I guess there are some general criteria, such as understanding the profound meaning of the phrase ‘Wax on/ Wax off’, knowing the words to the original McDonald’s advert off-by-heart and remembering when Betamax was the cutting edge of technology.

Alternatively, there’s being at school at the same time as Tucker and ‘Gripper’ Stebson, knowing what YUPPIE stands for and still owning a few cassette tapes.

Of course, these could apply to any children in the UK who grew up in the decade of decadence.

However, if – like me – you were raised in North Staffordshire during those years, here’s my somewhat localised list which defines you as a child of the Eighties:

*You were annually enrolled on the Staffordshire Police Activities and Community Enterprise (SPACE) scheme which kept you out of mischief during the summer holidays

*Your were dragged to the 1986 Garden Festival several times in all weathers because your family had bought a season ticket and the thought of the Twyfords ‘cascade’ still makes you laugh

*You remember the brown and cream Sammy Turner’s buses but more often caught buses run by PMT (Potteries Motor Traction) and thought nothing of the connotations of the acronym

*You can’t remember what was on the site of the Potteries Shopping Centre before it opened its doors in 1988

*You viewed it a badge of honour to have survived a ride on The Corkscrew at Alton Towers

*You either went to Rhyl or Blackpool for your holidays during Potters’ Fortnight and ate cold toast on the journey

*You remember the city centre having two cinemas on the same street – The Odeon (now The Regent Theatre) vying for business with the cheap and cheerful ABC down the road

*You considered Fantasy World and Lotus Records the coolest places in Hanley and knew Bratt & Dyke as that posh shop your mum took you to when the sales were on or you needed a winter coat

*You bought a 10 pence mix from ‘The Outdoor’, including Black Jacks and Fruits Salads, and remember some of the sweets costing a tiny half a pence

*Your drank Alpine pop in a variety of radioactive colours delivered by the milkman

*You remember when our Spitfire was displayed in a big greenhouse outside the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and the best thing inside the building was THAT skeleton

*You recall Stoke City changing their manager more often than their socks and poor relations Port Vale earning a reputation as FA Cup giant killers

*You viewed Eric ‘Crafty Cockney’ Bristow and Ray Reardon as local celebrities – even though neither of them were actually from the Potteries

*You were amazed when a newsagent from Cobridge won an Olympic gold medal in Seoul – mainly because you thought hockey was for girls

*You partied at The Place, attempted break-dancing at Regimes, fell in love with Indie music at Ritzy’s nightclub and should have known better than to have been seen dead in Chicos

*You remember people having jobs at Shelton Bar, Royal Doulton and ‘down the pits’ and being told during a careers fair at your school that a job at ‘The Mich’ was a job for life’

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

There was a time when we didn’t fast-forward through the adverts…

These days many of us deliberately record our favourite TV programmes in order to avoid the adverts.

Let’s face it, there are only so many times you can watch a skinny, unblemished Hollywood actress extol of the virtues of anti-wrinkle cream before you want to smash up your telly.

I honestly don’t recall adverts being either so bland or patronising when I was growing up.

Perhaps it’s just the rose-tinted glasses, but I remember actually enjoying many of the adverts from the Eighties.

Granted, there were some stinkers with infuriating tunes which you just couldn’t get out of your head.

I mean, when was the last time you did the Shake ‘N Vac and put the freshness back?

See what I mean? You’ll be humming that all day. I know I have been.

But among the annoying songs and frankly naff products were some genuine television classics which have stood the test of time and remain locked in our heads.

So here’s my homage to the marketing geniuses of yesteryear…

First is an advert for one of those Eighties gadgets I was desperate for my mum to buy – only to discover it was rubbish.

It featured people of all ages who seem to have been chosen for their ability to gurn while supping pop.

I never ‘got busy with the fizzy’ because, having experienced a Soda Stream drink at my mate’s house, I realised that the four bottles of pop we bought from the milkman every week tasted much better.

Next up it’s an advert which I, rather bizarrely, memorised the lyrics to and which I can still recite, word-for-word.

Yes, at number nine is the Um Bongo advert – all cartoon animals in the jungle and a lightning-quick song which begins: “Way down deep In the middle of the Congo, a hippo took an apricot, a guavo and a mango…”

I learned both verses to impress a girl in my class. What was I thinking?

At number eight I’m going for my first taste of the corporate behemoth that is McDonald’s.

The U.S. burger giant’s first store in the UK actually opened in Woolwich in 1974 but it wasn’t until the mid-Eighties that we all went Big Mac crazy.

The advert which began with the words “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickled onions on a sesame seed bun,” suckered us all in to an American legend. (Mainly because we were scratching our heads trying to work out what a pattie was).

The next one’s for my mum – a devotee of a certain type of confectionery which I used to fetch for her from the Outdoor.

Yes, in at number seven is the utterly preposterous Fry’s Turkish Delight advert which features a snake, a pair of unlikely-looking Bedouins and the award for most-inventive used of a scimitar.

Full of Eastern promise was the slogan. More like the promise of a trip to A&E if you ask me. That bloke was lucky not to have his girlfriend’s fingers off when he cut her chocolate bar in half.

Continuing the theme of cinematic adverts is on which borrowed heavily from James Bond or perhaps, more likely, Carry On Spying.

It starts with an inexplicable speed boat crash into a jetty to the surprise of assorted mustachioed villains and ends with a tracksuited frogman sneaking onboard a luxury yacht to deliver a box of chocolates.

Yes, in at number six it’s the Milk Tray man who clearly had issues with Royal Mail’s parcel delivery service.

Now if, like me, you remember walking to school on cold winter mornings and feeling invincible because of a certain breakfast cereal then number five is for you.

Ready Brek makes my top 10 on account of that advert showing the two lads wearing parkas surrounded by an orange glow which protected them against the very worst that the great British weather could throw at them.

At number four is a charming little gem which, in the pre-internet days of 1983, showed just how invaluable the Yellow Pages was to us all.

The advert in question featured an elderly gentleman visiting several second-hand bookshops enquiring after Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley.

His sympathetic daughter then hands him a Yellow Pages and, upon finding a store which has a copy, we hear the old boy proudly exclaim, at dictation speed, that he is the author of the book.

(I also enjoyed the Yellow Pages’ advert featuring a mop-haired lad vainly attempting to track down a French polishers who could repair his parents’ antique table after a raucous party).

In at number three is an advert which still makes me chortle to this day – even though I know what’s coming.

It featured actor Gregor Fisher as a man with the worst kind of flip-top hairdo desperately trying to look suave in a photo booth.

Excruciatingly, the camera only flashes when he looks his most daft – like when the stool collapses under his weight – and the advert finishes with only the top of his dome head visible, lighting a Hamlet cigar and blowing smoke rings.

Pipped to the top spot is an advert which straddles that fine line between catchy and annoying.

Featuring a skeleton and the immortal words “I’m gonna tell ya how it’s going to be…” this promotion for Scotch video tapes seeped into the nation’s consciousness.

However, I’d like take issue with the lifetime guarantee of being able to “re-record, not fade away” as I distinctly recall missing out on an episode of The Gentle Touch through tape failure.

Which, by a process of elimination, means the crown goes to an advert, and a soft drink, which knocked Soda Stream into a cocked hat.

I could face a stewards’ inquiry as it first aired in the Seventies, but I’m claiming it for the Eighties as I remember watching it on a Saturday night just after I had started high school in 1983.

It features a pyjama-clad bloke sneaking down the stairs in the dead of night to raid the fridge.

He then jiggles around the kitchen carrying a bottle of pop until his rather bemused other half arrives.

The accompanying, unfathomably-catchy rock ’n roll music made the R. White’s ‘secret lemonade drinker’ advert a favourite with my brother and I – even though we were still guzzling that cheap stuff from the milkman.

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

Fast food makes youngsters slow to choose a healthy lifestyle

Sajid Munir, owner of Bilaal's fast food takeaway, with protesters.

Sajid Munir, owner of Bilaal’s fast food takeaway, with protesters.

When people in North Staffordshire start raising a petition they generally mean business.

When they start a petition calling for a new chip shop near their homes they are simply helping someone else’s.

And that’s exactly what people in Trent Vale are doing right now after entrepreneur Rakesh Kumar resubmitted plans for an empty shop – despite being knocked back last year.

Apparently Hartshill or Oakhill is too far for these fast food fans to travel. I mean, it’s practically the other side of the moon, you know.

Meanwhile, back in my neck of the woods – Sneyd Green – an astonishing 400 people have been moved to sign a petition to save Bilaal’s Kebab and Balti house from demolition.

The circumstances are markedly different, of course. Bilaal’s is an established business and the city council wants to knock down the building as it is part of an ‘under-used’ row of shops.

Unfortunately, they forgot to tell owner Sajid Munir or consult with local residents about the proposals, which have left officials with egg – or possibly salt and lemon – on their faces.

I should declare an interest here.

Way back in 1988, when yours truly was in his final year at Holden Lane High, Bilaal’s – which is just over the road – was a chippy owned by the father of my classmate Justina.

When pocket money allowed that’s where we got our cut-price chips and gravy.

More recently my brother has treated me to the odd kebab from Bilaal’s which is opposite my dad’s local. Mighty fine they are too. (No relish thanks, Oz).

Thus in this case I’d be sad to see the bulldozers move in – particularly as it is a viable business and Mr Munir recently spent tens of thousands of pounds doing the place up.

But, as an overweight, middle-aged father-of-two with a tendency to blame his expanding waistline on illness rather than a poor diet and not walking the dog enough, I have to say ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to fast food outlets.

In our drive-thru, throw-away society do we really need more chippies, burger bars and pizza houses? Of course we don’t.

If we want fast food options we are never more than five minutes away from a retailer willing to oblige. Or we can nip to Festival Park and play spot the boy-racer while choosing between Subway, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut or Frankie & Benny’s – to name but a few.

Now take a look around you.

Take a walk through the Potteries Shopping Centre. It’s like a salad-dodgers’ convention.

Watch the crowds streaming out of the Brit or Vale Park on a match day. It’s not hard to spot who ate all the pies, is it?

Never mind political-correctness, the nation is getting fatter. Fact. And the people of North Staffordshire have been getting even fatter than their counterparts in other areas of the country.

I don’t need some sunflower-seed munching expert from the department of nutrition and dietetics to tell me why, either.

Sure, income plays a part in the diets of some families. Some people have ‘slow metabolisms’ or genuine health issues which mean they find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

And others, with very little motivation, self-esteem or willpower, gorge themselves on far too much of the wrong kinds of foods and do hardly any exercise and thus get bigger and more unhealthy every year.

The Potteries is full of such people. And, worryingly, more and more of them are children.

Currently, more than a fifth of Stoke-on-Trent’s 186,000 adults are obese (the highest proportion of any area in the West Midlands).

We are in the middle of an obesity epidemic and we need help now so that more people live longer and the local NHS doesn’t become over-burdened with generations of people suffering all manner of weight and diet-related ailments.

Stoke-on-Trent currently has 226 hot food takeaways, along with 131 cafés and snack bars, which include big-name fast food chain outlets.

So, what we certainly don’t need is more chippies.

The city’s future health and prosperity may not hinge on the decision over the empty shop in Trent Vale. But being careful about the kind of businesses we want in our communities is a step in the right direction.

I, for one, hope the city council does as it has indicated it might, and introduces new, tighter planning controls to reduce the number of takeaways opening in the city.

Meanwhile, we have to stop signing daft petitions get off our backsides, leave the car on the drive and – if needs must – walk to the nearest chippy.

Failing that, we could always have a piece of toast.

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday