Children’s television in the late 1970s, early 80s was hit and miss. During the school holidays there was an eclectic mix of children’s shows to watch, to suit every taste, my favourite ‘Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead.’ In the early evening during term time, there were other exciting programmes, forever linked with my childhood - ‘Grange Hill,’ ‘Emu’s World’ and ‘Think of a Number,’ with the unforgettable Johnny Ball. There were of course many other productions too numerous to mention; at the time they were a link to the outside World, that a small boy like me could only dream of. I became interested in television, the celebrities, their lives and always dreamed of being an actor, in a World far removed from my own.
Children’s TV was an escape from the difficulties at school. As a child I was brought up on ‘Blue Peter,’ ‘Playschool’ and my favourite ‘Chorlton and the wheelies,’ a rather psychedelic, at times disturbing, typical of the time, animated children’s television show. They were a big part of my childhood and hold many happy memories for me, sat with Mum, happily involved with the saga on the screen. After watching similar, modern performances today, I can safely say the shows are a poor relation of those produced in the 1970s.
The school bell sounded twelve fifteen, it was time for lunch, my brown Adidas bag was already packed, as I sneakily put my school work into the holdall ten minutes before we were due to leave. It was the early 1980s and I was walking home for lunch each day. Our house was situated a short distance away and I no longer wanted to stay at school, eating the by now unpalatable school dinners. Getting home as quickly as possible was important, not only was I hungry, but my favourite television show was only fifteen minutes away, ‘The Sullivans,’ a period Australian drama, following the exploits of a middle class family in Melbourne, living through the stress of World War II. This show was popular with all my peers in the time before ‘Neighbours,’ that other famous Ozzy show, took to the air. The Sullivan’s was a stepping stone into adult television, leaving the early years behind.
Running down the side of the house, I could hear the opening credits playing on the box. I threw my bag and coat down on the kitchen floor, shouting ‘Hi Mum,’ as I turned right into the lounge, laying flat on the floor in front of the set, just in time for today’s episode. ‘Remove your shoes!’ I heard Mum shout, just before I began to kick off my scuffed pair of shiny black Clark’s that I had forgotten to take off. Excited, I laid fixated on the screen, not wanting to miss a moment, oblivious to everything else that was going on around me.
Mum called through the kitchen hatch. ‘Come and get your dinner, eat it while it’s hot.’ Still glued to the television, I walked over to the dining room and took the plate from Mum – Beans on toast, with a sprinkling of strong cheddar cheese, followed by a hot cup of tea and a chocolate Swiss roll! As I sat there eating, watching the television I was conscious of the time, constantly watching the clock.
Seconds after ‘The Sullivans’ ended, I ran into the hall, replaced my shoes, laces left undone and grabbed my discarded satchel and jacket, that had by now been neatly placed on the hooks in the porch. ‘I’ve got to go, I’ll be late!’ I exclaimed, jumping up, kissing Mum on the cheek. ‘Don’t run, you’ve just eaten, you’ll get indigestion!’ she shouted, as I scooted out of the back door, heading towards my friends house in Fareham Park Road, picking him up on the way to School. We both began to short walk back to Henry Cort, talking about the drama on the screen, what would happen tomorrow, and what we had for lunch? Falling through the gates, we headed towards the gym for an afternoon of PE, my least favourite subject; it was time to work off our tea!
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