In the last post, Getting lost with Doctor Who via Mary Poppins, a brief description was given of my early memories and encounters with books and television.
Whilst I was discovering my literary and televisual delights, my sister J was also discovering her own musical delights via the Beatles. We had this blanket, very similar to the one pictured here. At that time everyone had their favourite member of the Beatles. J’s favourite was Paul, Ringo was the joker of the group and John was, even then, the more avant-garde Beatle.
My Beatle was, the ever gentle, George Harrison. George reminded me of Patrick Troughton.
In fact I can remember thinking that George was Doctor Who’s son (Patrick Troughton’s incarnation of the Doctor). There was a gentleness and other worldliness about George and Patrick that I loved then and still do, now. This was a magical time in my childhood, with all of the buzz of the Beatles, the cosmic and quizzical Patrick Troughton as Doctor Who and growing up in the sixties.
A memorable book that was read to me at school was the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. There have been some name changes to some of the original characters. Fanny is now called Frannie and Dick is now called Rick. But despite this desire to censure names due to slang references to female and male body parts, the magic of this series still lays in waiting to introduce children to the world of imagination and magic. Wikipedia gives a brief introduction to the main characters below:
The main characters are Joe, Beth, and Franny, three siblings. Franny is the youngest, Beth is next in age and Joe is their big brother. They live near the Enchanted Wood and are friends of the residents of the Faraway Tree. Other characters include:
- The Angry Pixie : He lives in a house with a tiny window and has a habit of throwing cold water or any liquid at hand over people who dare to peep inside.
- An owl lives in the house after the Angry Pixie’s. He is a friend of Silky’s.
- Silky the fairy : Silky is so named because of her long, silky, golden hair.
- Mr.Watzisname- : He cannot remember his name (for a very good reason) and sleep and snores all the time. During a particular episode at the Land of Secrets, Mr. Watzisname discovers that his name is ‘Kollamoolitumarellipawkyrollo’. Funnily enough, this is forgotten by the end of the episode (even by the man himself) and he goes back to being Mr. Watzisname.
- Dame Washalot : She spends her time washing her clothes and throwing the dirty wash water down the tree. If she has no clothes to wash, she washes the dirty laundry of other people and even the leaves of the Faraway Tree!
- Moonface : Moonface is named because of his cute little round face that looks like the moon. His house is likewise round, and filled with curved furniture. There is a slippery-slip in the middle of his house, which is a slide which lets you slide down to the bottom of the Faraway Tree instead of climbing down!
- The Saucepan Man : lives with Mr. Watzisname. His name stems from the fact that he is covered all over with saucepans and kettles. Sometimes, he cannot understand what his friends are saying because he is quite deaf, which is further aggravated by all the noise from the pans and kettles which he carries all the time.
- The Saucepan Man’s mother- lives with Dame Washalot. She runs a cake shop.
- Dame Slap- runs a school for bad pixies which in adventures, the friends accidentally land in.
Where we lived, in North Yorkshire, our home was surrounded by trees and fields and I spent a large part of my time up trees, playing make-believe and pretending that I was living in the Faraway Tree. A bright and carefree time.
Then, came the first of a series of exams. The 11 Plus. Suddenly from being allowed to play with paint, plasticine and enjoy stories of magic, our worthiness was measured, based on our abilities in Arithmetic and English. Success at the 11 Plus meant you were considered suitable for further academic education, with a possibility of being considered for university. Failure meant you were considered suitable for a more vocational and practical education and perhaps with a consideration of further education at a Polytechnic. Looking back I wish I gone for a vocational and practical education, it would have been a lot more fun. Safe to say this is the time when I started to dislike school. Instead of being a place of stimulation and creativity, the daily schedule became mechanical. I remember thinking that my class teacher was trying to turn us all into Cybermen, soul less, joyless and identical. Apart from a few brief escapes (including pop festivals and holidays) 1969 – 1981 was a period of my life when I felt very much like I had been programmed to function in a certain way, behave in a certain way, work within a limited environment with fewer chances to enjoy the magical time of my early childhood. There were many joyous times, but from an educational and work perspective, those areas of my life were something that were endured, rather than enjoyed.
Back to the end of the sixties. My 11 plus was passed and the Junior School gave me a book as a reward. The book was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This book is written in the 1st person from the perspective of the horse, Black Beauty. Wikipedia displays an admirable and memorable quote as below:
“…. there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham….”
—Black Beauty, Chapter 13, last paragraph.
At the age of 11, this was the first book that made me think. It is not a children’s book or a fairy tale. There are many sad moments and I can remember this book making me cry. It is the first book I read that was not “sugar coated” .
My final summer days at Junior School marked the celebration of the Moon Landings, one giant step for man, etc. Although there was a lot of excitement and news coverage, I would still rather have jumped into the Tardis than have been a crew member on Apollo 11.
As the 60s was coming to a close – I felt scared of going to the High School and scared of the sense that my magical childhood days were slipping away. Like Black Beauty, I was no longer free to gallop amongst the trees, fields and grass but I now had to become a ‘work horse’.