Friday, March 13, 2009


For children who lived in Portsmouth circa 1984, the Commercial Road shopping centre held two principle points of interest. One was the Jubilee fountain, which has lions and unicorns and an ideal sitting-rim.

Punks used to put washing-up liquid in the fountain sometimes and it bubbled wonderfully over everything and made councillors cross.

The other was a joke shop called U-Need-Us (I never got that name, I thought it was called Yewneeders. Kids are so stupid.) U-Need-Us relieved me of pretty much all of my pocket money (when I wasn’t collecting Panini football stickers), and one particularly prized piece of crap I bought there was this kind of squishy face-puppet thing.

It had a Popeye-ish visage on the front and three fingerholes on the back which you could squiggle to make Popeye gurn. I was very keen on this thing, but one day I left it on the rim of the Jubilee fountain, and when I realised and ran back for it, it was gone. Then I saw another boy with one just like it. “That’s mine,” I said. “No it isn’t, I’ve had it ages,” he replied, lying through his nasty little teeth. Before I could formulate a proper counter-argument his parents appeared and swept him and my squishy face-puppet away forever.

This episode, or a warped version of it, came back to me in a nightmare last night. But Popeye had a flat, 2-dimensional body, and Jason my childhood dog was there, and they were all running laughing away from me, and men in grey Panama hats loomed in tunnels, and there was a pounding drum and a scratching, squealing guitar sound.

And I churned helplessly through thick air. “Wait!” I cried. “They don’t love you like I love you…Wait!”


Nige said...

Blmiey - sounds like a real heartbreaker, that dream... I had a childhood dog called Jason too - long-haired dachshund, not a proper dog...

Nige said...

as in Blimey

Brit said...

The human condition, Nige.

Our Jason was a border collie cross, much like this one. Goes without saying, the best dog in the world.

Katie M. said...

Holy crap, I TOTALLY had one of those Popeye-ish hand-puppet things!! I'm so glad to know that random American crap made it across the pond. (Or was it the other way around? I didn't check, I was only 4...)


Brit said...

Almost certainly Made in Taiwan, I'd have thought, Katie.