Children’s TV nostalgia

Standard

I share my birthday with Mr Benn.  Well, sort of.  He first appeared on our TV screens on February 25th, 1971, so he’s just celebrated his 50th anniversary, on the same day as I sort-of-celebrated my birthday.  I’m younger than him, so he’ll get his Covid vaccination before me.  Yes, my brain really did bizarrely come up with that thought.  Anyway, this all got me thinking about the TV programmes we used to watch when we were little kids.  We were still watching some of them when we were big kids.  It was totally uncool to watch Play School or Rainbow once you were past about 6, but most people in my class at secondary school were still watching Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds when we were more like 14.

Mr Benn was more a programme for little kids, though.  So was Bod.  And the Mr Men and Little Miss programmes.  These were animated programmes, so there were no actual human presenters them, which was pretty cool because presenters were grown-ups.  Dastardly and Muttley used to be on just after school, and He-Man and She-Ra were also really big whilst I was at primary school.  Some of them were really ’80s – The Mysterious Cities of Gold was another, as was Pigeon Street, and then there was Danger Mouse, and Inspector Gadget, and Batfink, and Around The World With Willy Fogg – but there were classics like The Flintstones and Scooby Doo as well.  Pigeon Street was really feminist, because Long Distance Clara was a female lorry driver!   Oh, and there was Willo The Wisp as well.  I loved Mavis Cruet.  Most fairies were thin.  I really appreciated the fact that there was a fat fairy!

And The Raccoons was on at weekends.  I think it was actually on as part of those Saturday morning kids’ TV shows.  Tiswas was a bit early for me, and I never really got Swap Shop, but I liked Going Live and Number 73, and, although I was a bit old for kids’ TV by then, I watched The 8:15 From Manchester because it had “Manchester” in the title.  In the holidays, there was Wac-a-Day.  We’re wide awake!  Mallett’s Mallet.

Of the programmes with adult presenters, The Sooty Show and Emu’s World were very popular in our house.  We had Sooty, Sweep and Soo puppets.  We were never really into Jackanory, and only watched Crackerjack occasionally, although I still laugh whenever anyone says “Ooh, I could crush a grape”.  For reason, we never really got into Blue Peter either.  We weren’t that into programmes with presenters.

We watched Grange Hill, and a short-lived ITV school series called Behind the Bike Sheds.  And T-Bag.  And, when we were very young, we watched Bagpuss.

There were some programmes we watched at school as well.  Mainly in the third year infants.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I remember that as being the year of watching TV in the classroom.  Zig Zag did history programmes.  I can’t remember much about You and Me, except the theme tune went “You and Me, Me and You …” and some of the boys in the class would sing “Poo and Wee, Wee and Poo”, much to the teacher’s annoyance.  And there was Why Don’t You.

I’m going to remember a million other programmes as soon as I post this.  We really do seem to have spent a worrying amount of our childhoods watching TV 🙂 .

A lot of them had very catchy theme tunes.  The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dogtanian, Pigeon Street, He-Man … most people who grew up in the ’80s can still sing those theme tunes, which is rather embarrassing.  And know the words to the Wac-a-Day song, but possibly won’t admit it.  They stick in your head and never leave it!   And which TV programmes you watched as a kid really do mark out which generation you belong to!   You can read older books, or play older games, but you can only watch what’s on TV at the time!   There were no nostalgia channels in our day.

So happy 50th anniversary to Mr Benn, and I’m now off to think of all the programmes I’ve missed out.

 

 

 

 

Back in Time for the Corner Shop (fourth episode) – BBC 2

Standard

On into the 1970s, with products such as Angel Delight, Nimble bread, Opal Fruits, Pot Noodles and Curly Wurlies on the shelves. I can still remember the adverts for those, from the early ’80s, which says something about the power of advertising! The programme also mentioned the importance of local newspapers – in this case, the Sheffield Star, but here’s a shout out to our own Manchester Evening News for trying to keep spirits up by emphasising reporting on community help groups and acts of kindness at this difficult time. People handing out flyers whilst dressed in chicken costumes were definitely a thing for a long time, but I certainly don’t remember corner shops having snooker tables – I think the BBC got a bit carried away there.

Kids going to the shops to spend their pocket money on treats – now, that was more realistic, and those were the days!  We used to get told off for reading the comics in the newsagent’s before deciding which one to pick, and then we’d go in the food shop and buy KP Choc Dips.  Sorry, getting ahead of the programme there – that wasn’t until the ’80s.  I’m excited about the ’80s episode coming tomorrow!

This episode showed the ups and downs of the 1970s, from prosperity and boy band memorabilia to the three day week and rampant inflation, but the message in every episode’s been just how hard people running corner shops work. They do a sterling job, despite decades of competition from supermarkets. Three cheers for corner shops!

There was plenty of social and economic change, in this episode.  Shoplifting, made easier by everything going self service was the least welcome aspect of this, but, on a more positive note, chiller cabinets, freezers, cars, and cash and carries also featured.  In terms of cash and carries, I remember Makro being very big round here, and there was also one called Orbro which I think might just have been a local one.  The introduction of decimalisation did get a mention, but the introduction of VAT (in 1973) was evidently deemed too boring!   We also got football, which is hardly specific to the 1970s, but, hey, is always worth a mention.  (I’m really missing football and tennis.)

Another point made was the growing importance of the role of British Asians in running corner shops.  I can remember people referring to shops which opened all hours as “Pakistani shops” – meant in the most positive of ways, because the shops which were always open when you urgently needed something and everywhere else was closed were usually run by local British Pakistani families.  A wider range of foodstuffs from different countries and cultures was available too.

And the ’70s décor!  Talk about “the decade that taste forgot”.   The yellow and brown patterned wallpaper, very 1970s, brought back fond memories, though, because my grandma had something similar in the kitchen in her flat well into the 1980s!   So, this was a bit of a nostalgia-fest, but the 1980s was my decade, so I think I’ll be doing a lot of OMG-ing and reminiscing next week.

I’m really enjoying this series, so thank you, BBC 2.  At the moment, a bit of nostalgia is very welcome.  Even the three day week didn’t shut all the cafes and pubs.  But this too will pass ….

 

 

Back in Time for School – BBC 2 (episode 5)

Standard

I think this series, covering the 1970s this week, has lost the plot – which is a great shame, seeing as it’s doing the 1980s next week. Seriously, how many schools let kids skive off PE and spend the time in a meditation sanctuary room instead?   If only!   I’d have been the first one in there.  Not to mention missing lessons to play golf for “personal fulfilment”, calling teachers by their first names, and serving up the produce of home economics lessons for school dinners.  And please would someone tell the BBC that not all kids want lessons that involve role play and “active participation”?  Confident, outgoing kids might, but give me the set-up from the 1950s episode any day!  And did your old school have loudspeaker systems like Rydell High?  Mine certainly didn’t!   But, hey, they did mention Grange Hill!  Good old Grange Hill 🙂 .

I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed over the way the BBC’s used what began as a very interesting series to push its own political agenda; and it reached ridiculous proportions this week, when we were informed that the introduction of comprehensives was part of the same cultural shift that included women’s lib and the Race Relations Acts. What??  The most sensible comment in the entire episode was when one of the teachers said that education was constantly being used a political football.   I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, but need the BBC use programmes about education as political footballs, as well?  And every episode of Casualty and Holby City now revolves around criticising the NHS.  Enough!

Anyway. Back to the point!  I think this was the first time we’d seen inside a staffroom.  In between looking at copies of The Sun and discussing page 3 girls – the circulation of the aforementioned newspaper apparently doubled when the page 3 pictures started, which says rather a lot, and none of it good – the teachers commented that the loudspeaker system reminded them of Rydell High.  That was my reaction as well.  Did schools in the ‘70s actually have loudspeaker systems?  My school certainly didn’t have one even in the 1990s.  Announcements were made either in assembly or on notes sent to classrooms.  Assembly in this programme involved singing Kum Ba Yah.  The original version, not the one that goes “He scores goals, my Lord, he scores goals”.

Then on to a “commerce” lesson, in which everyone had to pretend that they were on an aeroplane. The BBC enthused about how brilliant this was.  I have no idea why.  What was it supposed to achieve?  And the gender division issue raised its head again, with girls being told that they couldn’t take the roles of pilots.

More interesting was the tuck shop, selling sweets. Oh yes!  We had one of these for a couple of years, although it was something to do with the Young Enterprise Scheme rather than actually being run by the school.  My then best friend and I – although this was in the ‘80s, not the ‘70s – used to buy X number of sweets each to eat on the bus on the way home, and we had a series of “landmarks” at which we ate the next sweet.  No wonder I was always so bloody fat!

Then on to decimalisation and school banks. This bit was fascinating.  By my day, we didn’t have school banks.  The big banks had all started running accounts for children, and tried to appeal to us by offering rewards or free gifts.  I had all the Nat West piggies.  Other kids had free schoolbags given away by the Midland – which was incredibly confusing, because it meant that umpteen people had the same bag.  I quite like the idea of a school bank, although it must have meant a huge amount of admin work for the staff.  Having said which, would you really want teachers knowing how much money you had or didn’t have?  Maybe not.

We then moved on to that staple of British school life – the lectures about how your hair was too long (for boys) or too messy, and how you shouldn’t be wearing make-up for school.   I’m amazed they didn’t add lectures about customising the uniform.  This is one that pretty much everyone in every generation will have memories of.  Being fat and uncool, I once decided that I was going to make myself look cool, just for once, by turning up at school wearing bright orange nail varnish.  One of the other girls told me that I looked as if my hands had been hit by the fallout from Chornobyl.  So much for looking cool 😦 .  The teachers weren’t impressed either.  Then there was the time that two of the lads at the boys’ school decided to see if it was true that, if you went for weeks without washing or cutting your hair, it would start cleaning itself.  Our jumpers were too long.  Our skirts were too short.  Our coats were the wrong colour.  Yep.  We’ve all been there!

In this programme, three kids were banned from going on a school trip because of issues around hair and make-up. Why are schools so obsessed with how kids look and dress?!  They are, though.  This bit was very realistic.  The trip wasn’t very exciting, though – it was to Spaghetti Junction.  Apparently, this was typical of a geography field trip in the 1970s.  How horrendously boring!

After that, the programme went a bit berserk, as the BBC tried to make out that the 1970s were all about schools letting kids do whatever they wanted. Student councils.  Were these common in the ‘70s?  And schools where kids called the teachers by their first names, and got to choose whether or not they even turned up at school, and, if they did, whether they went to PE lessons or sat in a very lavishly-decorated “sanctuary”.

PE in the ‘70s was apparently supposed to be about “personal fulfilment”. I have to say that that wasn’t a bad idea.  I was worse than useless at team sports, and something like golf or archery might have suited me better – but was it really practical?   A couple of kids go to the nearest golf course, or presumably the nearest municipal golf course as I can’t imagine private golf clubs wanting schoolkids wandering around their courses, others go to the nearest archery butts (if indeed there were any nearby archery butts), and so on?  I don’t really see how it would have worked.  Surely only very few schools can have done this?  I appreciate that the BBC was trying to make this entertaining, but I’d rather have seen something that was typical rather than something that was extreme.

There were also “Black Studies” lessons. Again, I don’t know how common these were – and two people who were called in to discuss them said that there’d been no such things at their own schools in the 1970s!   It was an interesting concept, though.  It was a genuinely well-meaning attempt to promote race relations by teaching about Afro-Caribbean culture, but there was something quite discomfiting about the idea of teaching “Black Studies” as if black culture was somehow “other” and apart from the mainstream; and that was how both the children and the teachers, of all ethnicities, seemed to feel as well.  It was meant well, but it just wasn’t the best of approaches.  It was mentioned that some schools had Afro-Caribbean carnivals, and these seemed to work much better.

Next up, home economics. This series is obsessed with home economics!   They made curry, which was then dished up for school dinners.  Hmm.  I know this happens in books, but I’m very glad that the stuff I made in the home economics room never got served to the other kids.  My mum and dad and sister had to help eat it, and I think they’d rather it’d all been chucked in the bin.  This was the first time that home economics lessons were co-ed.  Good to see – although this concept hadn’t reached our schools even by the time I left in 1992.  Although CDT lessons started at the girls’ school whilst I was there, cookery and sewing were not taught at the boys’ school.  But ours were fairly old-fashioned places, it has to be said!

Then, in line with the gender equality thing, we were told that, with far more mothers working, after school clubs were started. And the after school club was shown an episode of Grange Hill!   I loved Grange Hill.  I wish it’d never been scrapped.  It was great!  Even in the late ’80s, when everyone got obsessed with Neighbours and Home and Away, we still watched Grange Hill as well.

And, to finish up, a school disco. Er, yep.  As with role play and “active participation”, teenage discos were great if you were a confident, outgoing kid, but rather less so if you were the shy fat kid hiding in the corner or the toilets!   Mind you, if you’re the sort of kid who’s going to be on a reality TV series, you’re not going to be the sort who hides!

The teacher who complained last week that she’d never heard “Jerusalem” before said that she’d found this week “inspiring” and had taken a lot from it. It figured.  None of the other teachers were very impressed, and the pupils weren’t that keen either.  And now I’m waiting to see what they do with my era, the 1980s.  From what the preview showed, it’s going to suggest that all classrooms in the ’80s were full of computers, synthesisers and robots.   No.  They weren’t.  Any more than schools in the ’70s let you skive off PE to sit in a “sanctuary”.  This series has gone a bit mad!