Monday, March 19, 2012

When I was a Weetabix

My alter ego. Fo' real.
Back in the early 80s, Weetabix breakfast cereal was marketed using a collection of anthropomorphic wheat biscuits called the Weetabix Club. Like many multi-character gangs in the comics of the time, these were basically sterotypes. There was Brains (the brainy one), Brian (the normal one), Dunk (the thick one), Crunch (the hard one who wore bovver boots), and Bixie (the girl).

The Club were the stars of short comic strips – found on the back of packets and also printed in regular comics as adverts for the breakfast cereal. Comic strip adverts were quite common at the time. I remember half-page mini-series promoting The Goonies and the early-80s Biggles movie, among others. They’d run for a few weeks alongside the ‘real’ comic strips.

You could, as a buyer and devourer of Weetabix save up tokens and join the Weetabix Club yourself. (The devouring of Weetabixes by hungry children was something that was never discussed in the comic strips, funnily enough.) As a member of the Club you received freebies and could send off for other Weetabix-branded goodies. For ages I had writing paper with the gang members on, and I also had a bright yellow Frisbee I’d sent off for.

I’ve mentioned before how I grew up in a Christian family, and although we weren’t allowed to have Ice Magic dessert sauce due to its occult potential, our family wasn’t quite as strict as some. One day a slightly stricter family came round to our house for tea and I was sent out to play with my brother and their two boys.

Not just violent. It also made smoking look cool!
  We soon hit a problem. The trend at the time was to ‘play’ the TV shows that were popular. There were four of us, which was perfect because we could play A-Team. Unfortunately, the other two had never seen the A-Team, didn’t know the catchphrases, and didn’t want to play (understandably). It turned out that they watched very little television – The A-Team was considered too violent, as was Knight Rider, Danger Mouse, Thundercats, well, pretty much everything.

They didn’t like reading either, so we couldn’t play any comic characters. They weren’t allowed to play soldiers. As you may have guessed, their parents never took them to the cinema. The only possible play-characters we knew and they knew were the Weetabix Gang.

So, finally, with a set of characters we all knew, we started playing. I was Brains, naturally, as I was the one with glasses (I told you it was about stereotypes – brainy people wear thick specs!), the others were Brian, Dunk and Crunch. The game was we were looking for Bixie, who had been kidnapped. We roved the large field next to our house looking for ‘clues’ and avoiding possible threats for most of an afternoon.

I’ve told this story to a few people, but none have yet credited me and my pals with any ingenuity in finding something we could all play. Most people just laugh, long and hard, and then tell me I must have been a total lame-o. Maybe I was, and maybe my claim to fame is that along with those other three boys we are the only children to pretend to be wholewheat breakfast cereal for an afternoon.

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