Telly times

Mar 31st, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The school term finished yesterday. The end of term service taking place in the church at 11.00, followed by the holidays starting at 12 noon.

There was not the buzz of excitement one would have expected in times past. End of term in the 1970s was a cause for celebration, maybe school is an altogether different place now.

School holidays brought extra children’s television; children’s television now is not what it was.

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 – which shows how unreliable memory can be.

Youtube has the White Horses opening sequence – only an ignoramus would have thought the programme French. “But the captions are in German and those are Lippizaners”, said the young voice when I tried to share it with younger members of my own family a few years ago, “how did you imagine they were French?”

“What’s a Lippizaner?” I had thought at the time; had someone told me it was a brand of German lager, I would have believed them.

Belle and Sebastian was French, even an ignoramus 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 was and who knew what words are not French.

However, as an indulgence to an old ignoramus, (who now learned in middle age that Lippizaners are Slovene) the sweet sound of Jacky singing the theme tune brings memories of days when holiday seemed to last forever.

Leave a comment »

  1. I certainly remember White Horses, and also the evocative Robinson Crusoe serial, another French production that did sterling work during the school holidays on 1970s BBC1. This was of course in addition to RTE’s summer schedule, which was the testcard (if you were lucky) until the Angelus at six, and then Flipper as a concession to the young ‘uns after the News.

    In those days we had an enormous aerial on our roof in Kildare to pull in BBC1 from Belfast in glorious black and white on 405 lines – pre colour and pre cable! Funny enough, on more than one occasion down through the years in the Other Island (Britain) if I mentioned that we had access to British television in the Republic folks would get extremely shirty about it.

  2. Shirty – as though you were somehow stealing their television?

    The old VHF 405 signal was good at reaching remote places.

  3. That’s the one, I’ve had the “stealing our telly” line and variations on it down through the years. A bit weird and a bit insular, as if the Irish viewers somehow compromised their licence fee. In fact, it probably did a lot of good for British-Irish relations.

    Nowadays a satellite dish and a free-to-air box does the trick!

  4. A kind of Little Englandism!

    Didn’t you complain about eight centuries of English rule? 😉

  5. Hmm, makings of a good comeback there! 😀

Leave Comment