Like many people, I own a copy of the 1986 Argos catalogue. I like looking at the old stuff, because it makes me feel all futuristic. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have jet packs yet; at least we no longer buy those weird video cases that are meant to look like books, but in reality look like nothing of the sort.
Because I am a kind hearted, generous person, and because I am bored, I am going to share some of my Argos finds with you. Some will make you raise your eyebrows in mild surprise, some might make you cheer with joy, but I guarantee that once you get to the end of this article, you’ll be rewarded with the urge to ask yourself the question ‘Why did I just read this?’.
1. Carriage clocks
Everyone has a carriage clock somewhere in their house. Not me, obviously, because I have never given sixty years of loyal service to a company. One day my place of work might give me a ‘thanks for not being too shit’ award, which will probably take the form of a spare mug they have lying around. It is this hope that allows me to get out of bed every day.
A carriage clock is the ultimate present to get someone when you don’t know them and have no idea what their interests are, yet have to be seen spending money and making an effort. That’s why the big, suit wearing, millionaire boss of the factory will sweep down the stairs and onto the factory floor, probably without leaving his Rolls Royce, in order to present “Deirdre, sorry, Janet, sorry, I mean Ethel!” the cleaning lady with one of these crappage clocks. We all know that Mr Hetherington-Smythe doesn’t give a shit about Ethel, and would set her on fire if it would boost his profits, but he has to give the impression that he cares.
In fact, this is the only purpose served by carriage clocks; this is why they were invented. Given this, why do Argos in the past stock so many different carriage clocks? They’re all basically the same, in that no one really wants one. Mr Hetherington-Smythe will no doubt go for the cheapest one, thus rendering all the other clocks obsolete. I see no need for Argos to stock thirty different ones.
2. Brass… things
Right, let’s see. For the loved one in your life, you can buy a brass shoe with plants sticking out of it, a brass prosthetic pirate arm, or big massive brass pineapple. If you buy someone a brass pineapple, what exactly are you trying to say to them? What is the correct occasion to buy someone a brass pineapple?
All the objets d’art on these two pages look like rejected Monopoly pieces, apart from that weird belt thing, which doesn’t belong on these pages. My grandparents had something similar to that belt thing hanging on their wall; it had ‘Mallorca’ written on it. For years I looked in various atlases to try and find out where Mallorca was, not knowing it was another name for Majorca, before giving up and just assuming they’d demolished it or something. I used to be an idiot.
Incidentally, congratulations if you’re still reading this.
3. Cigarette lighters
Most kids these days wouldn’t know what a cigarette lighter is or what it is used for. I do though, because I’m cool, and also because I’m roughly twenty years behind anyone else when it comes to, well, everything.
These pages are a tribute to the days when everyone smoked and/or was an arsonist. Not that I smoked in 1986, because in 1986 I was three years old. But a lot of the adults around me did, and as such these were quite common presents.
No. 4 looks like a taser. In fact, it probably doubles as a taser. I don’t know if the modern Argos catalogue sells tasers; I wouldn’t like to guess. They probably will at some point in the future if they don’t already.
The modern Argos does still sell one Zippo lighter for twenty quid, but it probably comes with a thing to sign that says you’re only going to use it for lighting candles.
4. Duvet covers
I had the Care Bears duvet cover. In fact, I had a whole Care Bears themed room, which you can sort of see here, underneath my thousands of cheap knock off soft toys that came from 20p grab machines and tele bingo –
5. Naked ladies
The 1986 Argos catalogue is surprisingly pornographic. Never mind the underwear pages of the Freemans catalogue, if you were a teenage boy in the 80s, all you had to do was take the family Argos catalogue upstairs, under the guise of ‘looking for a new Walkman’.
Check these out –
I’m not sure it’s necessary to show so much nipple and bumcheek. We all know what showers are for. They’re for posing in. Apparently.
6. Wolf from Gladiators
I’ve talked about this before, but I’m going to talk about it again because it’s so good. Look! A pre fame Wolf, modelling various bottom of the range exercise equipment! Please note that not all of these models are Wolf. That woman isn’t Wolf. Neither is that guy who isn’t Wolf.
I don’t know if that other guy is in fact different guys who just look similar, but sod it, as far as I’m concerned it’s one guy. The guy who isn’t Wolf is pathetic and crap. Look at him, stretching a piece of elastic and lifting the equivalent of a tin of beans, while Wolf lifts a barbell that weighs more than a car.
As a bonus, on page 2 we can see the mysterious ‘three ladies on one exercise bike’ phenomenon. This occurs every September 22nd and lasts until a pound shop somewhere in the country shuts down.
7. Video and cassette storage
Featuring the crappy fake book style video cases mentioned above. Also featured are various brands of blank video cassette. Scotch clearly won the 80s video tape brand war for two reasons –
1. Scotch had an ace, tie wearing skeleton as their mascot
2. No one had even the slightest idea how to pronounce BASF.
I have no comment to make on AGFA, because I have never heard of them. I bet they didn’t have a skeleton on their adverts though.
AGFA and the mysterious BASF also did audio cassettes, which were perfect for recording that 20 seconds of your favourite song off the radio. Also, if you had a double tape deck, you could just record albums you borrowed from the library. God, those were the days, when we used to be able to get any music we wanted almost instantly, and for free.
8. Board games
Some of the classics are featured here, such as Mouse Trap, Ghost Castle, and Guess Whom. Also featured are some of the more obscure games of yesteryear, such as the My Little Pony Carousel board game, Time Factor, and the TV Times quiz game. Incidentally, we acquired the TV Times quiz game a couple of months ago, and it is insanely hard. Questions are things like ‘Who was the vision mixer for the September 19th episode of Home To Roost?’ Obviously we will be documenting our increasing frustration with this game in a future article.
Argos still carries a fine selection of board games, but included in the modern selection are some rather questionable titles, such as Doggie Doo, where you have to make a dog do a shit then clean it up, and Gooey Louie, where you have to pull snot out of someone’s nose. I might stick to Ludo, thanks.
Interestingly (if you’re me), there is a cake company in the US called Gooey Louie. I can only imagine that their sales are on the decline, thanks to no one wanting to equate cakes with snot.
9. Creepy toys
Look at them, they’re like a weird stuffed Mafia. The doll in the middle is clearly the leader, showing off her weird henchmen, while doing a sort of Fonz style ‘Aaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!’. As for the bear at number 4, have you ever seen so much evil radiating out of one face? He’s clearly he head henchman, the one the others call in when the guy won’t talk, and they need his knees sawing off or something. Number 5 looks harmless enough, just a bit derpy, so he’s probably the muscle of the group, and his job is to kick down doors and stuff. The elderly teddy at number 2 is most likely the dad of the main doll boss (don’t ask me how these things work). He still commands great respect, but is a bit old for gangstering now. He will meet you for a ‘quiet chat’ in a restaurant, during which you will shit yourself as he shakes his head and tells you that he really wishes he “didn’t have to get my daughter involved, but you tried to make a fool out of our family…”
Ok, number 1 is probably just a cat, but he’s still a creepy, mangled looking cat. Why is is head all squashed? He looks like someone’s tried to use him as an accordion.
These are like the carriage clocks, in that they’re all basically the same, and everyone has one they don’t really want. No doubt each of these keyboards features weird synthasised versions of instruments you’ve never heard in real life, such as the ‘marimba’ and the ‘clavichord’. They probably also have a ‘rhythm bank’, which will include drumbeats that are only slightly distinguishable from each other. These rhythms will have names like ‘Swing 1’, ‘Swing 2’, and of course ‘Bossa Nova’.
Here’s what you do when you get a new keyboard. You unwrap it excitedly, and completely ignoring the ‘play in a day’ instruction manual, proceed to hammer out ‘When the saints go marching in’ using the trumpet setting. Then, after playing the ‘Bossa Nova’ rhythm a thousand times, you will get bored and put the keyboard away in the cupboard under the stairs. This is why Argos don’t need to sell so many different ones, as they will ultimately all meet the same fate.