Quiz: How To Tell If You’re ‘Of A Certain Age’



Every now and again it strikes home that I now live in a city where those born here are in a minority – at dinner the other night I realised I was the only born Londoner – indeed, born Englishman – around a very large table. It doesn’t remotely bother me – why should it? – except when I make a joke that falls flat because nobody recognises its genesis. English humour is bloody complicated at the best of times, and then having to go on and explain it is doubly a chore.

In the interests of this, I present ten questions which should provide you with a barometer of how old you are, and whether you were London-born.

1. Where was London’s most spectacular visit to Santa, now sadly knocked down?

2. Winifred Atwill, Russ Conway and Mrs Mills were all – what?

3. What was a Red Rover?

4. Picture Book. The Flowerpot Men. The Woodentops. Andy Pandy. Who’s missing?

5. What did you win on Crackerjack? What did you get if you lost?

6. Name the department store that stood on Piccadilly Circus.

7. What did men in lab-coats do in the window of the building on Great Portland Street until very recently?

8. Before London’s traffic signs and lines erupted into a riot of red and yellow, what was the colour-coding of all London signage?

9. Who was still performing sand dances in Leicester Square right up until it was pedestrianised?

10.  ‘Stone me – what a life.’ What day of the week is it?

21 comments on “Quiz: How To Tell If You’re ‘Of A Certain Age’”

  1. Vickie says:

    Well, my score is a resounding zero/zilch/nada, having been born nowhere near G.B. However, I LOVE the little flowerpot people and regret I have been unaware of them all these years…

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Red Rover, Red Rover, come over, come over. Played it as a tot.
    Crackerjack prizes were baseball cards originally and then tin toys and now it’s a bit of paper. Have no idea what you got when you lost, although – if I’m not mis-remembering(a Bushism I think) Mr. Slander lawyer – someone in the 50s/60s got a honeyroasted roach, complained, and got a nice cash reward.

  3. stephen groves says:

    Hi Chris,

    Is it ”Muffin the mule ” or is that something I could get arrested for ?

    All best

  4. glasgow1975 says:

    On Crackerjack (CRACKERJACK!) (the UK kids tv show not the American snack) you got a cabbage if you lost didn’t you, and as much as you could hold if you won? Although maybe it was different in Admin’s b&w days 😉
    Winifred Atwell, Russ Conway & Mrs Mills were pianists
    Red Rover was indeed a playground game, but British bulldog was more popular & violent, I think we were banned from playing it.
    Is it Louby Lou that’s missing? Or Muffin the Mule?

    The rest are too London-y for me 🙂

  5. GB Steve says:

    Red Rovers were great. As a kid visiting my grandparents in London, we’d get one of these and go for miles.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    The sign colours were black and white, I think, but I know it from Admin.
    Crackerjack is a snack for me, too, and the metal toys go a long way back because the handmade Monopoly set my Dad & his friends made in the mid thirties has crackerjack toys as markers.
    I knew Mrs. Mills, but not the rest of that group.
    Red Rover is a game for me & the boys played British Bulldog – in gym class, yet.
    The flower pot men. All I can think of is a funny little guy with a little car.
    The sand dancer was mentioned in The Water Room (I think) or in Full Dark House? I’m rereading them all.

  7. agatha hamilton says:

    6 Simpson’s of Piccadilly.
    9 Keppel, Keppel and Betty.
    10 Tony Hancock, and that made me remember the wonderful Patricia Hayes as his grim cleaner, Mrs. Cravatte, and her daunting toque – I think you’d call it a toque. A tall brimless hat of the same shape as Marge Simpson’s hairstyle.

  8. Nell says:

    4 – Rag, Tag & Bobtail. On Thursdays. Picture Book was Monday, Andy Pandy Tuesday, Bill & Ben (The Flowerpot Men) Wednesday, Woodentops Friday. Early afternoon, as I remember – about 1:30 or 2:00?

  9. Steve says:

    Not a clue for the same reasons as Helen.
    But I DO remember when I first started feeling, ah, of a certain age? It was when I was browsing in an Antique store and – horror of horrors – there, on display, were several toys I had played with as a child.

  10. Alan Morgan says:

    Crackjack pencil! *Cheers from audience*

    I’m a bit worried at how few I got. Simpsons, Muffin the Mule – street signs aren’t black and white now?

    Stone me, what a life – that’s Hancock. Still to be heard on Radio4Extra and for me, at first, on old reel-to-reel tapes my Dad recorded. Thursday I think it was put out, though I can’t remember why I’d think that. But I’ll say Sunday since one of the most memorable episodes is Sunday Afternoon at Home.

    I dunno, I’m away from the net for ages, miss a quiz, and find it mostly defeats me anyway. What’s it all about, Alfie?

  11. Tigger Snapper says:

    Not a Londoner but #6 Swan & Edgar?

  12. Porl says:

    WILSON, Keppel and (several!) Betty(s)!
    muffin the mule and Annette Mills
    Crackerjack pencils
    Mrs mills played piano & I guess the others did.
    I didn’t get to London til I was 22, though. it was a million miles away from “up north”!

  13. Anne Billson says:

    Oh Chris, I think we are EXACTLY the same age – Paperboy rang so many bells. I wasn’t born a Londoner, born in Southport, grew up in Exeter. But –
    2) Pianists!
    3) a bus pass?
    4) Rag, Tag and Bobtail – by far the most sinister of the Watch With Mother stories.
    5) Pencils! Cabbages! I hated Crackerjack – yet kept watching it obsessively.
    6) Swan and Edgar!
    I do hope you’ll be publishing the answers at some point.

  14. Graham says:

    Crackerjack Pecils! Baseball cards? This is about London in the UK! Before we became another American State!

  15. Helen Martin says:

    I watched a Lewis mystery the other night and someone referred to the police as wooden heads.I actually know the reference now.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    I mean wooden tops. That’s what they said and I wondered at the time if they meant wooden heads. Sheesh! Go unfocused for a second and that’s what happens.

  17. Vivienne Cox says:

    No 10 is of course Tony Hancock

    Signage just black and white?

  18. admin says:

    Vivienne, your answer to No.10 is not a day of the week! Dear Lord…

  19. Peter says:

    Usual procedure with Leslie Crowther was, ‘So little boy, here’s your CRACKERJACK pencil!’ and audience of excited cheering kids would respond ‘CRACKERJACK!’ right on cue.
    Saw an interesting variation in an old underground comic (Could have been OZ ?)where audience, upon hearing key phrase, simultaneously shouted out ‘PENCIL!’ instead. That’s always stayed with me but nobody sees the irony of it when I try and tell the joke. I wonder why?

  20. Peter says:

    Was the Red Rover a special day or weekly ticket – bit like an earlier version of the Oyster Card?

  21. admin says:

    I remember the ‘PENCIL’ joke too, but have a feeling it might have been made on ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again’.

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