Belfast Telegraph

Why I just wouldn't swap being a child of the Eighties

By Claire Harrison

The Eighties was a bad decade for many, many reasons. Shoulder pads, mullets, crimped hair, political unrest, football hooliganism, unbridled consumerism and yuppies – that's just for starters.

Where better to begin criticising those years than the fashion. It was truly hideous and should be the only era banned from coming around again, in any form. You'll have to hunt hard to find a photo of me in a purple shell suit or neon yellow ra-ra skirt because they were destroyed long ago. We've all had a fashion faux pas trying to keep up with the times, but a whole decade's worth?

I'm a child of the Eighties and while I had a happy childhood, I've never really looked back on the times themselves with any great fondness. That was until this week when I found myself in a toy shop, embarking on a powerful trip down memory lane.

I was there to have a scout around for Santa ideas and ended up getting lured into some wonderful nostalgia, so much so I forgot who I was shopping for. The world – and technology – has moved on rapidly in three decades but I was stunned at how many toys I found from my own favourites.

I found Barbie dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Smurfs, Hungry Hippos, My Little Pony and Postman Pat. My younger self was looking around goggle-eyed. Sure they've had a little work done in 30 odd years (Barbie particularly but then she is in her 50s) but they're still fundamentally the same.

It's comforting to know that no matter what era a little girl is born into, all she wants is a doll to hug and mother. It's also good to realise that no matter how technologically advanced toys are, it's still hard to beat battering the life out of a plastic hippo trying to gobble up more balls than anyone else.

Given all its unforgivable faults, it's easy to forget that the Eighties was a glorious era for something – and I was lucky enough to be the perfect age to take advantage. It was the time when popular culture reached its heyday and the children's television, toys and movies produced then stand unsurpassed.

Remember kids' TV like Saturday Swap Shop? Those were the days when it was done properly. Only a child of the Eighties knows whether the characters in Dungeons and Dragons ever made it home and the significance of having the power of Greyskull. Only a child of the Eighties has attempted a crane kick, knows what 'wax on, wax off' really means and can do the Care Bear stare. Children of my generation can't say the words 'bright light, bright light' unless it's in a squeaky voice and we've all tried the Truffle Shuffle.

Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion, particularly when it involves childhood memories. That's why there's a plethora of websites dedicated to pop culture from that time and what made it so special. Have a Google but be warned you'll be reminiscing for a couple of hours.

Perhaps I am looking back with rose-tinted glasses. Maybe everyone looks at their own childhood pop culture and deems it the best. But the fact that so many of these toys and shows are still around or regularly still referenced makes me think I'm right.

I love that my daughter loves the Care Bears, Postman Pat and Pingu as much as I did. She doesn't know yet that she'd like a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas but I'll bring her round.

As I stood between the towering aisles in the toy shop, I wished that Marty McFly would arrive in his time machine and take me back to Eighties just for one day to experience that fun again.

But everyone knows DeLorean went bust a long time ago and that's unlikely to happen. So I'll have to delight my inner child by proxy instead. Just no shell suit please.

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