Don’t mourn the passing of youth, 21st century kids now have baton
Published at 14:08, Friday, 18 May 2012
If I were to be truthful, I’d have to say I learned nothing useful from Blue Peter.
On red-letter days, during now iconic, eternally memorable episodes, I managed to glean that not even Val Singleton could toilet train an elephant – so good children shouldn’t try.
And if anyone should ever want a daft, excitable dog with waggy tail to jump up at his legs, he should shout the command: “Get down, Shep!” Repeatedly.
It always worked for John Noakes. Shep just kept on jumping.
Even having acquired nothing I could value as educational – although Noakes sliding around dangerously in elephant excrement was certainly cautionary – I found myself among whining complainers mourning the shift of Blue Peter from BBC1 to some other children’s channel I couldn’t be expected to have heard of. Not at my age.
It felt like part of my childhood – the bit that pretended to be disdainful and bored when Auntie Val set about her toilet roll inner-tubes and Fairy Liquid bottles with sticky backed plastic – had vanished finally and for good.
And it seemed for a little while that I might be going to miss it.
But it didn’t last long. Children’s telly can’t be expected to stay the way it was when we only had three channels and Lulu the elephant.
And anyway, Fairy Liquid doesn’t come in tubular containers any longer – which has surely put a stop to homemade Mother’s Day presents of crepe paper flowers in a sticky-backed, hand-painted vase.
The BBC reckons kids are cuter these days. Even at a very early age, they are more than capable of negotiating any number of TV channels with Mum’s remote. So, if they want Blue Peter, presented by Cumbria’s Helen Skelton, they can jolly well use their initiative and find it.
And by the way, the Beeb remains committed to children’s television – which is precisely how that statement sounded.
Ever the optimist, I favour an alternative take on the shift. Not only are today’s youngsters smarter than we were, they’re cooler too.
They have better things to do than sit cross-legged in front of the box watching somebody else have all the fun on a zip wire. They have after-school clubs, sports and arts, dancing, computer games, music downloading, Facebook chatting, texting – the kind of stuff that swept in to replace building Camelot with a Cornflakes box and a washing line, for which there’s not much call these days.
Having recently encountered at close quarters that energetic, noisy, bouncy bunch of dinosaur-hunters at Newlaithes Infants School, Morton, Carlisle, I find it impossible to imagine any of those youngsters – my new best friends – sitting still long enough to find the end on a roll of sticky-backed plastic.
On second thoughts, the boys and girls in year two must have spared a few moments from their busy day to make the beautiful thank-you card, with lovely photo on the front, they sent me this week. It made me all moist-eyed and emotional. My heartfelt thanks, guys.
Those are some cool kids. Doers, not watchers. Runners and skippers, not sitters. And that’s just as it should be... when you’re only six or seven.
We, who grew up with Shep and Lulu and Auntie Val’s pinking shears, were never so cool. Our children’s telly was like an extension of school. Presenters bore a striking similarity to our teachers.
I met Valerie Singleton some seven or so years ago on holiday. We were staying at the same hotel and I have to say, though we got on pretty well, I froze with the unshakeable inappropriateness of drinking cocktails poolside with Auntie Val – both of us in our swimsuits.
She told me she was thinking of retiring to France, where she felt there was a greater respect for older women than in youth-obsessed Britain.
And she confided she had been toying with the idea of saving up for a facelift.
Temptation was immense but I fought it off. “You don’t need one,” I said.
What had been on the tip of my tongue was: “Couldn’t you do it yourself with some papier mache and sticky-backed plastic?”
But as every child of the old Blue Peter will know, that’s no way to talk to Auntie Val.
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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