What do I most miss about England? The BBC.
On the East Coast of Ireland, BBC Radio 5 and BBC Radio 4 Long Wave were audible in the car; in the midlands, nothing but static fills the car.
Driving around London on the M25, from the M11 to the M3, last Saturday evening, Alan Carr’s programme was on Radio 2. Silly, inconsequential nonsense, including Carr describing how he had split his trousers in public the previous week, it was the sort of stuff which would have been barred at our austere, puritanical school, so was great fun.
Perhaps it was because it was the Bank Holiday weekend, they were discussing memories of the 1970s. Carr, not being born until late in the decade, confessed he hadn’t a clue what most of the callers were talking about, but enjoyed listening to them anyway (clergy could take lessons from him in affirming people!). All those programmes that leave an indelible mark upon the memory came up in the conversation; programmes from the days when the very serious BBC Radio would have found no place for the anarchic Mr Carr.
Strangely, the programmes that linger in my own memory from those days were mostly those that rarely appeared. It is hard now to imagine times when there was “Children’s Hour”. The BBC rationed television, and it had to be serious.
Summer holidays meant the Corporation allowed a special treat. For a period each morning during the school holidays there would be children’s programmes; not for too long and 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.
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. The subtlety of White Horses and Belle et Sébastien would probably have been more appreciated by those who knew what the white horses were and who knew that words were not in French.
In retrospect, the programmes most suitable for an ignoramus like myself were the anarchic ones – The Monkees, The Banana Splits, Crackerjack. Combine The Monkees with the 21st Century and anarchy and maybe you end up with Jack Sparrow – perhaps that is why I like him. Jack Sparrow and Alan Carr would together recreate a perfect childhood.