Monday 20 April 2015

Mischievous Memories: 'Joke Shop by Post'

Another nostalgic rambling post I’m afraid because on Friday morning as I went to pick up the post there on the doormat was something I hadn’t seen for over 30 years, a catalogue from Joke Shop by Post! I was delighted, these catalogues shaped my life opening my eyes to the wonderful world of practical jokes and novelties! A world of hand buzzers, squirting flowers, whoopee cushions and horror masks! I knew about them having seen the ads in various Marvel comics but I couldn’t order them, they were either out of date or limited to the US customers only. But now I could order them! I would read these catalogues over and over, committing them to memory and then promptly save up all my pocket money and get my mother to convert them into postal orders for me! Happy times! Joke Shop by Post was the brainchild of one Mr Andrew Mulcahy, who having read ‘The Lazy Mans Way to Riches’ by Jo Karbo in the early 1970’s was inspired to start his own mail order business. He wrote a book aimed at teenage boys on how to get 100 Girlfriends and started selling it by mail order advertising in various pop and football magazines. Be a Hit with Your Friends’ which featured a list of practical jokes (stink bombs, joke teeth etc). As the orders for jokes started to come in he followed it with a second renaming it ‘Jokers Corner’ and running it under Matchrite Publications.The Bargain Place for Lots of Fun’). They even combined forces with TV prankster, the late Jeremy Beadle in creating his Jeremy Beadles guide to Practical Joking video (find out more here). They continued to advertise in comics and this is where I came in, having seen their advert in Whizzer and Chips, I sent away for a free catalogue and when it arrived I was amazed at the range of products available.
I buried my nose in the catalogue, filled with excitement and plots at revenge occasionally looking up and disgusting my mother by listing products such as Sick in Gift Box (‘give to mother, girlfriend or sister’). When I took it to school however it had the reverse effect and the catalogue would be regularly passed around at break times and orders would be combined to save on postage. As I did this I harboured aspirations of someday running my own joke shop (in later life I got fairly close to doing so, but that’s something for another day) I had big plans on joining the Jokers Corner Club and becoming a Matchrite agent but it all just stopped. I’m not sure why, I never stopped buying practical jokes. According to their website, having sent out over 1 million catalogues it seemed that the joke market fell into decline during the 1990’s but interest in magic tricks increased and so Joke Shop by Post became Magic by Post. Their adverts appeared instead in specialist magazines until the advent of the Internet when they became one of the first magic shops (if not the first) to have a website and that’s where you will find them today selling to magicians all around the world. They still sell jokes too so be sure to check them out and restock on Disappearing Ink, Sneeze Powder, glow in the dark snot and Blood Capsules!

My sincere thanks to Mr Andrew Mulcahy for 40 years of supplying us all with these gags and novelties and making our childhood fun.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Sunday 12 April 2015

Paddington Bear at Paddington Station

I was a frequent user of Paddington Station this week and so naturally I had to call on the bear that made the station famous, Paddington Bear. Located just under the clock on Platform 1 is a life-sized bronze statue of Paddington marking the spot where the Browns first found him having come from "deepest, darkest Peru". With trademark hat, note reading "please look after this bear, thank you" and of course his suitcase informing us that it would be wanted on the voyage.
Designed by Marcus Cornish, the statue is based on the original drawings of Peggy Fortnum and unveiled by Michael Bond himself on 24th February 2000. If you find yourself at Paddington Station seek him out and have your photo taken with him.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

Monday 6 April 2015

Arfon to Arfon Live via Arfon!

A personal piece, an idea I had some time ago, both addressing my name and saluting the days of analogue terrestrial television. We start at HTV studios Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff in South Wales circa. 1986. HTV (Harlech Television named after the head of the company, Lord Harlech) was the ITV franchise for Wales which started broadcasting from Pontcanna in Cardiff in 1968 before relocating to the newly opened, £14 million television centre at Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff in 1984. They broadcast from this location for 30 years before relocating to Assembly Square Cardiff Bay in June 2014. In the studio armed with his usual warmth and professionalism we see Mr. Arfon Haines Davies one of the main presenters of the channel for over 30 years, having joined the station as a continuity announcer in 1976. When he wasn’t telling us what shows where coming up next on HTV, Mr Davies was presenting his own programmes (my main favourites being ‘Brickabrack’ and 'Moneyspinners’) he also hosted the Welsh region ITV Telethons.
His image is then transmitted via the Television camera, an amplifier, a transmitter and transmitting aerial before being received over 160 miles away by the Arfon transmitting station in Nebo in Gwynedd, North Wales.  The Arfon transmitting station has long provided most of Gwynedd, Anglesey and central parts of the Llŷn Peninsula with television coverage. Built by the ITA in the 1960’s the mast is 317.4 metres (1041-ft) making it one of the tallest structures in Wales. And at the end of the line 18 miles away in the village of Nefyn, North Wales we find yours truly aged 7, exactly where you would have expected to find me back then, in front of the telly. Although the Arfon transmitting station still stands analogue terrestrial television is a thing of the past, phased out and replaced by digital terrestrial television in fact in 2010 Wales was the first to switch fully to digital TV. A little extra bit, the painting actually features 4 Arfons... Located behind Mr. Haines Davies you will see a backdrop (that used to feature various scenes from around Wales) this one features Caernarfon castle.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Lament for a Video Shop: Select Video (1991- 1994)

Back in 2013 I wrote ‘Lament for a Video Shop’ where I reminisced about the glory days of video rentals and the demise of the 'Ye Olde Video Shoppe' referring to one in particular in our village in North Wales called Select Video that I frequented 20 years ago. Select Video was owned by Mr. James Hookings who after supplying video rentals via his video van for 2 years (delivering to the Llyn, Caernarfon, Bangor and Menai Bridge area) set up the shop in the Old Workshop in Well St Nefyn in 1991. I was regular customer and would visit James, Andrea Wall and Kohler the Chow Chow dog once a week to ‘select a video’ but as Sky TV increased in popularity in the early 90’s the video shop fell into decline and closed for good in 1994. The shop never reopened and so the outside remained practically untouched for the next 20 years as illustrated in my last post. But since then new owners have bought the premises and the sign no longer hangs outside… it now hangs in my studio! Oh yes! Having survived against the elements for 24 years the 8ft long sign now hangs in my hallway in all its nostalgic glory! James very kindly provided me with these photographs of the shop when it first opened in 1991 to remind us of those great days!

Select Video in Well St, Nefyn open for business in 1991

Inside Select Video!

24 years later, the Select Video sign hanging in my studio

My sincere thanks to James Hookings for the photos.
© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Wonderments and Atrocities: Fred Dibnah Rivet

I never actually knew Fred Dibnah but felt that I did having watched his documentaries over the years and when he died in 2004 I was sorry to hear of his passing, it was the end of an amazing life. Dr. Frederick "Fred" Dibnah MBE (1938 –2004) was an enduring character, born in Bolton he was a steeplejack and television personality with an infectious interest in mechanical engineering and the Victorian way of doing things and a passion for preserving it. So much so that he devoted his home/base of operations a former Park keeper's lodge originally built in 1854 to antiquated machinery and Victoriana. His legendary yard complete with 50ft chimney and 70ft mineshaft was cobbled together over a period of forty years and filled with various machines including a circular saw, lathes, planer, a band saw, hydraulic hammer and 7ft drills and all of them powered by steam! It must have been a marvel to see when he had the yard at ‘full-steam’ working on one of his projects.
When he was alive, Dibnah had hoped that his home would one day become a museum, where his life’s passions could be preserved and that’s just what happened, it is now the Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre. Although I am yet to actually visit the famed yard for myself (something I hope to do very soon) they have helped me to create my own tribute to the great man. So I am pleased to share the latest edition to my ‘Wonderments and Atrocities’ with you all a genuine boiler rivet from Fred’s workshop! Adapting an existing vintage glass display dome with rivets (some with light rusting) and finished off with a miniature locomotive style nameplate created by Andy Dingley of Atelier Fabry-Pérot. A small tribute to the great man in my own studio/base of operations!
Follow the link to find out more about the Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre and show your support!

©Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world


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