Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Here's One I Made Earlier


I have always been a woman who arranges things……no that’s Dolly Levi, what I mean to say is I that I have always been a sucker for nostalgia. Taking that into account 2008 has seen me getting all nostalgic for two television shows that were a huge part of my childhood.

Recently I was quite saddened to hear that “Grange Hill” had drawn to an end after thirty years and thirty one series. Of course it’s many years since I gave up watching this once controversial hot bed of secondary school drama. I believe it was after Pogo Patterson and Suzanne Ross graduated that I decided I was “too old” for the children’s hour soap and, let’s face it, the latter being played by Susan Tully in her pre-Michelle Fowler (EastEnders) years, that’s quite a wee while ago now. It was back on my ninth birthday that the series debuted and I became serially addicted to the exploits of Trisha Yates and Tucker Jenkins (Played by Susan’s EastEnders “brother” Todd Carty) . I can vividly remember some of the early story lines, and was almost tempted to get the box set on DVD a while back. However good sense prevailed and I bought “Smallville” instead so haven’t gone down that particular route of reference just yet. I suspect that, despite my recollections, the series won’t have worn that well so I don’t expect to revisit Andrew Stanton in Grange Hill’s production of “Joseph!” or Susi McMahon and the scandal of her padded bra any time soon. In the words of later characters I decided to “Just Say No”

At the opposite end of the scale my other childhood favourite “Blue Peter” seems to be going from strength to strength as it celebrates it’s fiftieth birthday. I did make a point of catching it’s celebratory documentary a couple of weeks ago to see what memories it stirred and that really did hit my nostalgia button big time. I’m not quite old enough to remember the glory days of Valerie Singleton (although I do remember her spin off series of “Special Assignments”) but it’s the longest serving line up of John Noakes, Peter Purvess and Lesley Judd that were part of the fabric of my primary school days.

One of my earliest TV memories must be of Lesley Judd as she abseiled from the top of Bishop’s Rock lighthouse to what seemed a tiny boat at it’s bottom. Apparently this counts as one amongst many occasions when Blue Peter presenters have almost lost their lives. I also seem to recall Lesley going on Concorde’s first commercial flight, and then being shown on a live satellite link up from New York. Most impressive – these things just didn’t happen back in the seventies! Also I recall the indignity of when she was off sick from the show and Aunty Beeb sent a film crew round to her sick bed. My over riding memories of her co-presenter Peter Purvess are possibly of him climbing the forth bridge, but also of his emotion at the death of Blue Peter dog Petra and the subsequent unveiling of the statue in her honour. Last but not least was John Noakes with his frequent cries of “Get down Shep!” and his adventurous ascent of Nelson’s Column. Clips of all of these seem to be available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/classic/bluepeter/lesleypetejohn/video/video12.shtml I can’t wait to get a chance to check them out.

Sadly John, Peter and Lesley all seemed to leave around the same time and the show just wasn’t the same without them. Simon Groom stepped in and was often noted for his use of innuendo such as introducing “a lovely pair of knockers” when doing a feature on the restoration of a cathedrals door fittings, then there was the time when an ornithological competition saw runners up win the prize of a mug illustrated with a bird on a branch – or a tit on a stick in Simon’s words. Most of us kids had grown up watching the Carry On movies as well as “Blue Peter” so the innuendo was far from lost on us! Worst of all was when Lesley Judd left and was replaced by Tina Heath – previously best known for playing Lizzie Dripping in a kids tv show. Lizzie Dripping? This certainly wasn’t “Blue Peter” as I knew it. But all good things come to an end, and within the next couple of years my love for “Blue Peter” was superceded by “Grange Hill”. So no longer would I watch, rapt, as John Noakes made the advent crown from two coat hangers, a piece of tinsel and an empty washing up liquid bottle. My days of saving milk bottle tops to buy pit ponies for the Ethiopian donkey derbies were also consigned to the past.

But seriously, the enduring legacy of Blue Peter is what I learnt from it. I don’t think I ever constructed one of their “makes” – the washing up liquid bottle was only ever half empty (or should that be half full?) so I never got to make that rocket. What I did do was participate in a couple of the appeals, such as when it reported on the unfolding tragedies of Cambodia in the late seventies and the entire nation seemed to become one great big bring and buy sale. And yes, I did save milk bottle tops. Remember those? Yes, milk used to come in bottles believe it or not!

The big mystery of the show was “Whatever Happened To Lesley Judd?” she seems to have been away from our screens for over twenty years now. Never appears at reunions or in photo shoots. In fact she has all but disappeared. However the recent documentary finally solved that mystery and the location of my childhood icon was revealed. Lesley has done what we, at the Palladium, affectionately refer to as doing a Plum (for those of us who know Miss Peyton) and has re-located to France where she has renovated a barn etc. and does an occasional bit of conference work. Apparently Lesley feels that she lived her whole life in the seven years she spent on Blue Peter and is now happy to be away from the limelight.

So with that puzzle solved, I ask you to raise your glass (or cup of tea!) to fifty years of the great British institution that is Blue Peter and to John, Peter and Lesley – or who ever “your” particular team was. And may your days be full of sticky backed plastic!

1 comment:

Phoenix71011 said...

Aww..you're so right...so many memories!
I remember when they buried a time capsule in the sunken Italian garden...to be opened in 2000...it seemed like such a long time to wait.
And I happened to be watching when they dug it up. What a sorry, soggy, disappointment it was too, but I felt quite emotional! How odd!(Think it was a getting older-type thing!)
And Lizzie Dripping...one of Plum and my faves!