The half-term holiday began at three o’clock, not that it seemed to create much excitement among the students. Some meandered out of the gate in clusters, some were still lingering in the school grounds an hour later. I had been wanting to ask what they thought about the fact that Crackerjack was returning to BBC television, but suspected the question would have drawn a mystified response. I asked members of the tutor group what they might do with their time, some said they would lie in bed until midday.
School holidays in the 1970s brought extra children’s television; children’s television now is not what it was. The idea of programmes on demand would have seemed the essence of a childhood heaven.
Children’s television in the 1970s was rationed and it was serious.
The special indulgence by the BBC was to show programmes for a period each morning during the school holidays, but they would be cultured and they would be improving. White Horses was screened one summer and Belle and Sebastian also got summer airings (unless the memory is unreliable). In the memory they were the height of sophistication, pictures of a world far more exciting than the depths of rural England. White Horses came with the sultry tones of the female singer who sang the unmistakable theme tune. In the memory, they were both French series, only forty years later did I discover that White Horses was Slovene and that the white horses were Lippizaners.
Belle and Sebastian was French, even an ignoramus like myself could be certain of that, it was Belle et Sébastien and the primary school teacher taught that “et” was French for “and”.
Belle and Sebastian had characters who were suave, who dressed like people from magazines. What had England to offer in response to French sophistication? The Double Deckers.
In retrospect, the programmes most suitable for someone like myself were the anarchic ones – The Monkees, The Banana Splits, Crackerjack. The subtlety of White Horses and Belle et Sébastien would probably have been more appreciated by those who knew what a Lippizaner horse was and who knew what words are not French.
However, as an indulgence to an old ignoramus, the sweet sound of Jacky singing the theme tune brings memories of days when the end of the school day meant racing out of the gates and when a school holiday seemed to last forever.