Further pre-pubescent ramblings

This is possibly the closest I could get to public humiliation (actually, who am I trying to kid, I could get a lot more humiliated than this, quite easily), but there’s something so innocent and enthusiastic about what I’m about to share that I couldn’t resist it.

Remember how last weekend I delved into my diaries? Well, there were a whole host of unexpected surprises in the box – in addition to the holiday diaries that proved to be so illuminating – not least an envelope marked ‘Random Diary Pages’. This contained a diary that my sister (I think, but it could’ve been me) had torn the cover off, as well as extracts from a holiday journal from 1991 and some very random pages of nonsense including the start of a story, some cartoon-like drawings of primary school companions and this…

You can probably read it if you click through, but if you can’t be bothered, this is the gist:

I, Elizabeth Lesiele [spelt wrong!] Clutterbuck vow that in at least 15 years time, I shall be competing in ice dancing at the Olympics. I have decided this after watching Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skate to Bronze at Lilahammer [also spelt wrong]
Hopefully I shall be able to bring home a GOLD medal! 

Oh dear. At least, aged 12, I had some sort of ambition – albeit a totally unachievable one! For one thing, I was rubbish (still am) at basic ice skating, let alone trying to leave the ice while jumping and pirouetting. For another, 15 years from 1994 would have made me 27 – which is old for an ice dancer – and 2009 wasn’t even a Winter Olympics year. Nevermind. 
Having read this gem, I wonder what my actual ambitions were at that age. I do remember a year previously declaring in a RS lesson (I’ve no idea how the topic came up) that I wanted to be Linzi Hately, who at that point was appearing as The Narrator in Joseph in the West End – I’d say this was possibly more doable than my ice dancing ambitions. It’s also possible that I still wanted to be Kylie Minogue, albeit in her new mid 90s more risqué incarnation. But there is nothing practical that springs to mind, clearly all I aspired to was Winter Olympic glory, the West End stage or popstardom – I guess that’s fairly typical for a 12 year old. 
It has to be said that re-reading these early diaries has been highly amusing and illuminating. There’s nothing more reassuring than realising how much you’ve changed (for the better) since your pathetic teenage days of writing about angst, reports, music and more angst. However, there is definitely nothing more depressing than realising that in some ways you’ve not changed at all and have simply repeated the same mistakes over and over for 16 years! 
On reflection, perhaps I ought to formulate a plan for these diaries once I’m gone. I don’t think I want the otherwise model archive I’ll leave behind to be tainted by these lunatic ramblings… 

And where are they now?

Do you have any idea where your beloved childhood companions are? The objects you spent hour upon hour with creating fantastical worlds, without whom you refused to sleep – insisting that they had to be tucked up alongside you…

Last night I slept with my rather threadbare ‘Big Ted’ (he is really not big at all, nor did I have a smaller version, so I have no idea how he got that name) for the first time in a good long while. Usually he lives in the airing cupboard (don’t ask) but I felt moved to rescue him after a rather traumatic evening.

Actually, it wasn’t overly traumatic – no one died. I had pleasant drinks with a friend recently returned from across the pond and then we watched Toy Story 3. This particular friend is my top film watching companion – not only have I watched more films with him than anyone else (probably into the 100s over the last 8 years) but I also generally trust his recommendations (unless it involves aliens or gore) – so when he mentioned that he was looking forward to watching me sob at its plot, I started to worry…

Toy Story 3 is not a children’s film. Sure, they might appreciate the general story line and some of the jokes, but most of it – the amazing animation, the nods to other films, the celebrity cast that you barely notice and adult plot – would go right over their heads. When I say ‘adult plot’ I obviously do not mean porn, more that a film about a child leaving for college is always going to have a particular resonance for those who have either left home, or had children who’ve left home. From the moment Andy’s mother began to instruct her son on how to pack, I knew the evening would end in tears.

It’s been too long since I watched the earlier two films to be able to compare them, but goodness me, this film is dark. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but the toys’ journey includes a 1984-esque daycare centre and a moment in which I genuinely believed that their end would be met (in a Terminator 2/Aliens 3 context). Oh, and a very scary clown doll (Don’t think clowns are scary? Watch Poltergeist.), not to mention a terrifying monkey with cymbals.

The last 15 minutes were heart wrenchingly painful. I defy anyone to watch the moment Andy’s mother enters her son’s now empty bedroom and not choke up. My friend had watched the film with his parents the night before and this was the point at which his mother completely lost it – and I’m not surprised, I’m not sure if my mother would be able to get through it in one piece. Imagine a screening with an audience consisting solely of fresher students’ parents? Horrific.

But back to my original question – where are your childhood toys now? The film is basically about what Andy decides to do with his one time favourite companions and without a doubt you’ll start getting misty-eyed about your old friends. When my friend asked me what I’d done with mine, he (and no doubt you) was unsurprised to hear that I’d had a logical system for what I kept and what I got rid of…

In my parent’s house is a wicker basket containing those that I kept. Specifically, these included toys with particular sentimental significance – like Pooh Bear who was my first every toy – and ‘toys of cultural importance’. Yes, I decided to keep toys which were particularly relevant to the 1980’s/early 1990’s. This means that the basket contains (amongst others) a Pound Puppy, Puzzle the Popple, a Gordon T Gopher puppet (still useful for freaking the Labrador out from time to time), my favourite My Little Pony (the rest of the collection & accessories made me a killing on eBay), a Sindy, a Rainbow Brite doll and my Care Bear.

You cannot watch Toy Story without having some kind of residual belief that your toys might actually be real and have feelings, so it’s rather unsurprising that I sought to liberate Big Ted from his exile in the airing cupboard. Perhaps all he’s been waiting for over the last few years is for me to realise how important he is in my life and bring him back to his rightful place on my bed…

Couldn’t find a photo of me & Big Ted, so this is me and ragdoll Jemima (also kept for sentimental reasons), which I think I’ve used before
Am fairly sure that I’m not actually naked in this photo, but it’s possible… 

Irrationality proved wrong

Ten years ago today, a small black creature came into the world. Unbeknownst to this fur ball, her birth and subsequent adoption would send shockwaves through my little world…

I was 19 and on a weekend home from uni when my mother let me in on a secret. After decades of resistance, she had finally given in to my father’s desire for a dog – not just any dog, a classic Labrador. It just so happened that someone in his office was expecting a litter of Labrador puppies, so she’d put our name down for one and would be surprising Dad with the news at Christmas (the puppy wouldn’t arrive till new year).

Thing was, what my mother had conveniently forgotten – or ignored – was my phobia of dogs. Ever since I’d been pinned up against the wall by a giant retriever when I was about 4 I’d had something of a loathing of them. I didn’t like seeing them on the street; was paranoid about them running loose in the park; and generally convinced that every canine in the world was out to get me. Aged 9, I even managed to run through a plate glass door in an effort to escape a terrier that had nibbled my ankles (yes, through the door – I shattered the glass with my super-human strength…).

You might think that as a newly independent grown-up I would have got over this phobia, or at least have the piece of mind to respond to the news with some sort of rationality. You’d be wrong. I believe my exact response was:
“If you get a dog I am never coming home ever again!” 
[Exit. Stomp upstairs. Slam bedroom door. Fling oneself onto bed. Sulk.]

Fast forward two months and you would have found me spending new year’s day sat on the sofa cuddling a tiny furry ball with big mournful brown eyes while watching Mary Poppins. The cute little animal won me over and I was hooked. Even her puppy/junior dog exploits of eating socks; chewing books [including the cover of a priceless Chalet School book]; destroying favourite shoes; eating cakes; and barking far too early in the morning didn’t change things – I had become a dog lover.

So now Megan is 10. She’s older, a little less mental and not quite so energetic, but fortunately still gets excited by the duff, duff, duffs at the start of the EastEnders theme tune (it coincides with dinner time) – a fact that still deeply disappoints my intellectual, soap hating father.

Happy birthday crazy dog. I’ll see you at Christmas when you’ll be super-happy because every single member of your family will be together and life – as far as you know it – will be perfect.

It may be Monday but…

…there are plenty of things to be happy about.

Firstly, it’s National Cupcake Week, courtesy of British Baker magazine. If you needed an excuse to bake and/or eat cupcakes this week, you now have one. Wonderful.

Secondly, this week marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of ‘the broom cupboard’ – a tiny continuity booth in the depths of the BBC from which the first live broadcasts of children’s TV in the afternoons took place – and to celebrate, the BBC have dug out some archive footage. Truly, it was a golden age of children’s television. (Not that I’m at all biased.)

There isn’t tons of footage, owing to most of it being live rather than recorded, but that makes for more of an interesting insight into both the programme and the era. There are the obligatory clips of Edd the Duck and Gordon the Gopher; glimpses of other classic programmes – Going Live, Blue Peter, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Neighbours to name but a few; wonderful 80s/90s fashion; precocious children giving their opinions of Andy Crane; and of course, the odd moment when everything went a bit wrong.

It’s still educational too. Until today I had no idea that Edd the Duck had been a mascot for the British Olympic team at the Barcelona Olympics – but having watched an old Blue Peter clip I now do and could construct my own duck, should I feel moved to. [How I miss the time of my life when Blue Peter provided me with most of what I needed to know and was essentially the highlight of my day. Did I ever tell you of the time I went and watched it live in the studio…oh, it seems I did – thank goodness for blog labels!]

It takes you back to a simpler time, when computers were still a novelty and instructions for Blue Peter makes could be obtained by sending in a Stamped Addressed Envelope.

Apologies to those who weren’t watching BBC1 between 1985 and 1993, this won’t make a bit of sense to you. But for the rest of us, this opens up good hour or so of reliving our childhoods. Beautiful.

Re-connecting with my inner child

I ought to be in bed. Correction – I am in bed and ought to be asleep, or at least trying to get to sleep. Problem is, a text conversation on my way home from a reinvigorating evening out had me craving a certain form of entertainment.

Earlier in the evening, Katie had ended a text with “Guess what I bought on ebay?!”. Once on the bus home I discovered the answer – a VHS copy of The Worst Witch, a film which instantly transports me to the late 1980’s, a chilly playground and endless hours spent pretending to fly a broomstick.

If you were a young girl in the 1980’s, chances are you came across the Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy. Pretty good books for the early days of independent reading – I loved them and was bitterly disappointed that when the last book came out (The Worst Witch All at Sea) I was deemed too old to have it. (My mother didn’t seem to realise that there was a need for closure as far as series were concerned.) Even if you didn’t have the books, then you almost certainly would have watched the 1986 film.

Any female of my generation probably still thinks of the Grand Wizard whenever Tim Curry is mentioned – it was years until I saw him in the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Home Alone 2 was my only other reference point). Many of us would still be able to quote vast chunks of the script and perhaps even still sport the scars received while attempting to fly or perform spells.

My point is that while writing this post, I’ve had the film on in the background. I discovered it in chunks on YouTube a couple of years ago and as soon as Katie reminded me of it I had the opening song in my head and had to watch it. In having it freely available, I am able to overcome the trauma of never having been allowed my own copy as a child. (It’s as painful a memory as the continual disappointment that a Mr Frosty wasn’t ever a Christmas/Birthday gift.) Even the taped off the TV version got chewed up quickly by a temperamental VCR. Ahhh, childhood nostalgia, you’ve got to love it!

Here’s the first part – it’s fairly easy to get to the others, should you want to watch the entire things. (And why wouldn’t you??)

Postscript: In having looked up some Amazon links, I’ve discovered that Jill Murphy returned to the series in 2005 and two more books have been published. Plus, I’m sorry to reveal this to Katie, but the film’s also available on DVD at a very reasonable price!