Back to the 80s

I’m currently working on my third as yet unnamed novel. Part of it is set back in 1985 and during the course of research today (involving hours of distraction on the web) I was thinking about all those Hollywood Blockbusters from that decade. Some have become iconic, for good and not so good  reasons. Some have stayed with me personally for special reasons, bringing back happy memories of being a teenager (there were some). Others have become part of our national consciousness, the States’ popular culture really becoming enmeshed with ours so that language and looks and attitudes changed Britain as much as Thatcher.

So here is my top five faves and top five shockers (in no particular order).


1. Rainman: Touching and moving and a reminder that Tom Cruise could actually act, despite Top Gun, and before  Scientology made him a joke. Dustin’s acting ability has never been called into question. This film just confirmed it.

2. ET: Quite possibly the best family film ever, always guaranteed a smile and many tears. Introduced the concept of Hallowe’en trick or treating to the UK (not so good).

3. Beverly Hills Cop: Action, drama and laugh-out loud moments. And some bromance going on.

4. Fatal Attraction: The feminist in me shouldn’t like this portrayal of a woman who brought us the phrase ‘bunny boiler’. However, it’s exciting and the tension at the end is spectacular. And Glenn Close superb.

5. Back to the Future: Still amazing after all these years….


1. Rambo – Muscles and violence never did it for me

2. Anything with Swarzenegger for the same reason as above

3. The Breakfast Club: Boring and annoying

4. Porky’s – Sexist nonsense – can’t believe I watched it all the way through with a boyfriend who should have known better

5. Flashdance: Welder turns ballet dancer… I mean, really?

Gosh, I could go on and on but I’ll let you have your own memories of the days when it was cool to have big hair and big egos.


Back to the Future

There were some classic Hollywood blockbuster films back in the eighties: Top Gun, Ghostbusters, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, Flashdance, Fame, An Officer and a Gentleman, Big, Tootsie… a whole load  of movies that cashed in on merchandise and music and videos and the cult of the film star… But one has stayed with me for some reason and that is Back to the Future …

I first saw it on its release in Canada with a good friend in 1985. It blew me away – one of those films which you have to keep on playing inside your head to make sense of it all:  the way it plays with time and destiny and the decisions we make – it is a much deeper film than the slick production, special effects and fab actors suggest.

It was great to see it again on telly tonight, watching it for the hundredth time but now with my daughter who was equally blown away. It’s hardly aged – except that the ‘present’ of the film – 1985 – is now very much in the past – 26 years ago! Though for us teenagers of the eighties it seems like yesterday…

For anyone who has read my novel The Generation Game, you will see that I am slightly obsessed with the seventies and eighties – my childhood and teenage years. I love nostalgia and anything vintage or retro – you should see the junk I’ve collected in our house. It’s not just looking back with rose-tinted glasses – I remember Mrs Thatch all too clearly – the miners, the unemployment, the negative equity, the end of society and the worship of money and the individual (I went on the marches…Smash the Tories!!!). But I also remember a happy childhood with only three TV channels and a pogo stick.

So Back to the Future offered excitement and deep existential questions, a type of science fiction that has never grabbed me since, as it is founded in the possible. OK, so time travel isn’t necessarily possible but it is something that we as humans are drawn to. ‘Space the final frontier’? – actually, no it is quite possibly ‘time’. What would you do if you could go back and change one thing? I know what I would do … but you out there will never know that…. Each of us has our own regrets and it is what we do with those regrets that matters.

Ruby Slippers

Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers are being auctioned in LA later this year at a guide price of $2-$3 m. Slightly more than my fluffy slippers from M&S.

This got me thinking about the things I have in my home that are worth anything – of celebrity value. I’ve got a stone from Southfork Ranch that my brother brought back for me from a trip to Dallas circa 1982. I have a signed photo of Slade given to me by my Uncle Dick after he bumped into them in a Brummie hotel at the height of their long-haired pop stardom.

And I have a first ever edition of Smash Hits magazine – though I’ve vandalised it with stickers (remember the ones you used to buy from WH Smiths with chewing gum – the best!).

That’s about it.

I don’t think I’ll be getting rich anytime soon.

But if money were no object, what would I buy? A first edition of Brideshead Revisited? The Delorean from Back to the Future? Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Fred Astaire’s tap shoes? Jacqueline du Pre’s cello?

What piece of memorabilia would you like to get your hands on?

This is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night…