At the weekend, I bought for 20p from a market stall "Hunter Davies's Bigger Book Of British Lists", published in 1982. It's a book full of lists of trivia, most of it up-to-the-minute details of what was happening in British life in 1981, and there are some fascinating facts to be found.
Did you know that there were 27,870,000 telephones in Britain in 1981 (and a population of 54,129,000)? Or that there were 615.7 million calls to recorded information services in 1980-81 - 401.1 million of those being to the speaking clock? Second on the list was dial-a-disc, with 102.5 million calls, then cricket, with 30.5. I remember those - you dialled 16, and you got the latest cricket news if it was the cricket season, or a pop song (randomly selected) if it wasn't. No YouTube in those days, people had to entertain themselves somehow. Calls cost 10p, as I recall, although my recollection is based on a few years later, so it might have been 5p back in 1981. Still, to be amongst the top 10% of male wage earners in 1980, you had to earn at least £179 a week.
The top five television programmes for 1981 were Coronation Street, The Benny Hill Show, This Is Your Life, To The Manor Born, and Magnum. And even though there were only three channels to choose from in those days, the average individual watched 3.37 hours of TV a day.
Finally, and most interestingly, the top-selling toys of 1981 were...
1 - Rubik's Cube
2 - Star Wars figures
3 - Sindy Doll and accessories
4 - Lego
5 - Astro Wars
6 - Action Man
7 - Rubik Snake Puzzle
8 - Connect 4
9 - Britains Farm & Space figures
10 - Kensington
Kensington? Astro Wars? I don't recall what I got for Christmas that year (probably a kick up the bum and consider-yourself-lucky, but possibly some Star Wars toys too), but I've never heard of those two lines. Ah, poor people of 1981, still three years away from the glorious revolution that was Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, MASK, Action Force, all those classic toys of the greatest toy-and-cartoon era of history.