Thursday, 14 July 2011

Grow, grow the lightning tree

We are a television-rich household, I admit it. My children simply can't conceive a world where television was not.  When I was a child, we had a television, which received all of, ooh, one, chanel.  BBC1.  I knew Playschool existed, but it was on BBC 2, and we didn't have BBC 2, so Playschool remained a dim and wistful fantasy for me.  We lurched into the modern age with a bang after the science programme Tomorrow's World "experimented" with colour television, which had hoards of people rushing home to see if they could see this attempt at getting us to see colour through our black and white screens.  Yes well.  I couldn't see anything myself, and frankly didn't believe anyone who said they could at school the next day.

My stepfather had a similarly robust view, and rather than squint and attempt to "see" colour, he simply went out and bought a new television.  Not only was it colour, but, almost more exciting, it had more than one channel.  THREE! BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV.  Not that this panorama of richness was opened up to us, because my mother had (and still has) a deep and abiding suspicion of ITV, which she thought was low.  We were not supposed to watch ITV.  We were particularly not supposed to watch Magpie, ITV's equivalent of Blue Peter.  We were lucky enough to live in a house large enough for the kitchen to be a good distance away from the television room, and so my sister and I would take turns to be on watch during Magpie, listening for Mum coming down the hall, at which point one of us would lunge for the tv and change the channel to virtuous BBC 1.

This left me with two things: a soft spot for the Magpie presenter Mick Robertson; tall; lean and curly haired, and a tendency to never read the tv listings for ITV because they don't count.  Possibly spurred on by my infant passion, I went on to marry someone tall, lean and curly haired, and that wasn't the wisest decision of my life.  Maybe my mother's anti-Magpie feeling was a presentiment of the doom that her daughter would embrace, and the first move in a decade long (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to get her daughter to see sense.  As for ITV, I occasionally regret my automatic passing over of its listings, but technology has moved to accommodate me there.

All this anti-commercial television sentiment in our household is possibly why I don't remember the Follyfoot television series with quite the same passion that many still do.  I certainly had (and still have) the books, written by Monica Dickens - the series was based on her book Cobbler's Dream, and she wrote the books that then accompanied the television series.   I can't remember my mother having a particular down on Follyfoot - she certainly didn't for ITV's Black Beauty as I watched that, presumably its status as a classic meaning Mum was able to overcome the commercialism that studded the breaks.

I can't remember the tune that introduced Follyfoot, either.  Well, to be more accurate, I couldn't.  It is now my resident earworm, having heard it on this snippet from Yorkshire Regional News.  Follyfoot is now 40, and to celebrate there was a day of events, with visits to the locations, and star turns from the hero and heroine of the series, actors Steven Hodson and Gillian Blake. If you haven't clicked on the link in the rush to get on to the Youtube clip you have spied, here it is again.  It's fascinating viewing.

If you want more of The Lightning Tree, (sung by The Settlers, I see) here it is:




I think I might, just might, have to buy the full set of DVDs.

And for those who are curious, there is apparently a phenomenon known as as the Fechner colour effect which gives the impression of rapidly moving black and white images being in colour.

7 comments:

Christina Wilsdon said...

Being a Yank, I've never seen the Follyfoot series, more's the pity. But I totally identify with the confusion about color TV...we used to be so puzzled as kids when watching "The Brady Bunch" on Friday evenings because the show was preceded by a screen boasting it would be "In Color!!!"....and it wasn't.

Nor did we understand what the big deal was when Dorothy stepped out of her b&w Kansas world in "Wizard of Oz" and saw Oz in living color...it was all still b&w to us...

However, we Yanks were not totally deprived, as PBS ran "Monty Python" for us. It was forbidden in our household but we did sneak to the farthest TV in the house to watch it after cleverly signalling a gathering by using our top secret code "MPFC." (Navajo coders in WWII had nothing on us.) This involved lots of anxious listening and lunging to change the channel, as you describe.

Jane Badger said...

Today's children, zapping the channel changer, just don't know they're born. And how fit it kept us, all that lunging.

Mind you, I'm sure there is plenty of stuff my children don't want to see that they're up to. Bearing in mind what there is out there now, illicit Monty Python and Magpie watching does seem very innocent.

I'd forgotten, until you said, Dorothy and Kansas. I think the b/w to b/w experience is one of the (many) things that put me off it.

Juxtabook said...

I never saw Follyfoot (I wasn't born when it started!) but I bought all the books (2nd hand - some of my earliest purchasing in that arena!) and loved them.

My husband, who is a bit older than me, and who neither rode nor read pony books, loved Follyfoot when he was a boy. One of his first acts on discovering YouTube a few years ago was to find the theme which seemed to have figured large in his memories of childhood. Mind you so did The Double Deckers as he plays that on YouTube too. Apparently one of the girls from the Double Deckers was Cally in Follyfoot. All this I missed being five years younger.

Sharon2306 said...

I loved Follyfoot and couldn't be dragged away from the TV when it was on! I don't know how old I was but I remember being given a book token one birthday and using it to buy Dora At Follyfoot which my mother was worried would be too old for me! I had all the books and am currently collecting the new editions. I also have the theme tune as a ringtone on my mobile. My eldest son bought me the first two series on DVD so yes, you could say I am a fan! I also loved Black Beauty and have the ring tone to that too as well as the complete series on DVD. You're right about Cally. She was played by Gillian Bailey who was in the Double Deckers, another programme I loved. Gosh, they just don't make programmes like that any more. Three of the best ones I remember from childhood.

Jane Badger said...

Juxtabook - now there's something I'd forgotten - Double Deckers. Do you have the Follyfoot DVDs so that you can make up for your grievous lack of years?

Sharon, I really am going to have to work on my DVD collection, though this will give the family plenty to go on for Christmas etc. Did you like Tomorrow People? I loved that and can still sing the theme tune, wee-owws and all. I was a teenager by the time I was watching that and Mother's grip on the tv had lessened a bit.

Sue Howes said...

I remember the Tomorrow People. I expect if I saw it now I'd thin kit was awful but at the time I liked it.

My sister was on Magpie once!

Jane Badger said...

Gosh really? Oh so envious!

I suspect we would find that The Tomorrow People was a bit... feeble these days, particularly in the special effects department, but who knows? Maybe it wouldn't. Do you remember jaunting? The ability to jaunt would be really, really handy.