For those of us who teach lessons on less important subjects, like good and evil relationships, human rights and life and death, as opposed to more important subjects such as algebra and books like An Inspector Calls, lockdown has been an unexciting time.
Days are passed with pods of children from vulnerable backgrounds or the children of key workers, each works at an assigned computer terminal completing work downloaded from websites. The task has been to try to keep them focused, to try to encourage them to engage with the tasks they have been set.
The conversations among some of the staff have steadily lost any sense of intellectual rigour, or even any sense of seriousness. The daftest topics can now merit lengthy discussions, trivia can prompt the only moments of enthusiasm during the day.
So it was that children’s television in the 1960s and 1970s came to be discussed. Not children’s television generally, it would merit at least a week of exchanges, just the short programmes, the ones that filled the traditional Watch with Mother slot at lunchtimes, and the five minutes at the end of Children’s Hour before the the evening news came on.
The lunchtime programmes seemed more easily remembered. Trumpton was easily recalled. Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb were straightaway remembered as the crew of the Trumpton fire station. I could only remember one occasion where the Trumpton fire brigade actually went to a fire, I think something valuable had accidentally been placed on a bonfire.There was also Camberwick Green, which, along with Chigley, was associated with Trumpton.
Only The Herbs prompted a recall of as many names as Trumpton: Lady Rosemary, Sir Basil, Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog, Bayleaf the Gardener and the Chives. Our list of lunchtime programmes did not run much further, Mr Benn, The Woodentops, The Flowerpot Men, there must have been many more that we forgot.
Our memories of the teatime five minute programme were very scant. Of course, we remembered The Magic Roundabout, Dougal the dog, Brian the snail, Dylan the hippy rabbit, Florence and Zebedee. When I was young, it was said that the apprentices at Westland Helicopters made a new spring for Zebedee. The only other five minute animation we could recall was Captain Pugwash, mainly because of the misrepresentations of the programme in later decades.
It was odd, we must have watched literally hundreds of those programmes and yet could not remember them.