Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1978: Tired old man

"It's Friday, it's 5.15, it's CRACKERJACK!"

I didn't enjoy hearing those words. After a week of enjoyable kids' TV, Crackerjack was a horrible end to the week. Needless to say we watched it though, if there was nothing better to do.

I can remember as far back as Leslie Crowther, but it was the Peter Glaze/Don Maclean imperial phase - if there is one - that I recall the best, mainly because I always found Peter Glaze rather creepy. He was one of many old men you'd see on children's TV back then, but the reason I disliked him was because he reminded me of the new husband of our beloved neighbour, a woman we all called simply Trimmer.

I loved this woman, she'd give me jelly snakes each week and take me on outings. I had already had two grandmothers, but she was like a third. And she adored me, having had no children of her own. I was allowed to come and go as I pleased and she'd always make a fuss of me. She even forgave me when I picked all her black tulips from her front garden, furious as she was.

One day, coming home from school, an ambulance was parked outside. Her husband, whom I always called Mr Basil, had been taken ill. In fact, he died, so it was just Trimmer from now on. She can only have been in her fifties but she seemed really old. She wore pointed 1950s bras and had grey hair. She had a cleaner called Mrs Whittington who gave me a sixpence she found while hoovering one day. It's another era.

Not long after Mr Basil died, she married again. I wasn't aware of any of this until I was at her house one day watching Superman (the cartoon) and new husband Bill came in to entertain me. I recall lots of tricks with rubber bands but I simply didn't take to him. He reminded me of Peter Glaze. I wanted to go home.

Soon, he made her move away to somewhere far from her sisters, who lived just around the corner in a bungalow with a massive fishpond. Dorothy, Iris and her huband Les all lived there together. They were frequent vistors to her house, but now along came Bill - or Mr Richardson as I had to call him - and nothing was ever the same again. I was hanging around her front gate wondering where she was, when the new owners arrived: Irish hairdresser Aubrey and his foxy wife Barbara. They're another story, though I've mentioned them in passing. Trimmer didn't live here anymore, they told me. They did.

So that's why Peter Glaze always made me feel uncomfortable. That's perhaps why I didni't like watching Crackerjack. That and the songs. Their half-singing the words to the pop hits of the day was ghastly, wasn't it? When they were joined by that really cringeworthy woman called Jan something it just got worse. She tried far too hard and she often got the words wrong. Memorably (to me) she got opening line to this Brian and Michael one-hit wonder wrong. He didn't paint 'smoky mountain tops' at all you execrable woman. He painted Salford's smoky tops. Why change it?

And as for Stu Francis, well, I could crush his skull.

I bought this record back then, then quickly disowned it. But listening to it now I think it's rather lovely. Crackerjack could never do it justice.


  1. I always felt a bit sorry for Peter Glaze - he usually ended up getting his foot stuck in a pot of glue, or being hit with a ladder (swung round by Don Mc Claine, whose teeth were too big for my liking.).

    The one I really hated was that Jan woman who sang operatically. And I didn't even have a neighbour who looked like her.

    'Trimmer' is a brilliant name, by the way.

  2. Yes, 'Trimmer' sounds like a character name from Blakes 7 or Dr Who. Or even a detective. It could be like this:

    Paul Darrow teleports down to a planet, which looks like a quarry, which it is. He and the good looking dumb boy rebel and the good looking smart girl rebel enter a red and grey factory unit, which has futuristic doors. Inside, a mad scientist is working on a super-weapon, which looks a lot like a silver spray-painted leaf blower, which it is. Servalan is standing there with a smart black and gold Gucci-edition hand gun, waiting for Avon to come through the door.

    "Ah, Trimmer", Avon purrs menacingly, "I see you have a new 'friend'. Don't think you can double cross me like you did poor Blake.." etc.

    In fact I now wish I was called "Trimmer".

    Very good story though Jon. I knew a lot of the old people when I was a boy and they were very kind to me. Made up a lot for some of the shit times at home to be honest. I hope I could be as kind but I fear I wouldn't be.

  3. I didn't realise until recently that Trimmer was her surname, but we all called her by it, even my mum and grandma. We don't know what happened to her but if she were alive today she'd be hovering around the 100 mark - and lobbying for the return of Blake's 7. Love it, OP

    I'm not sure I would have the patience or the wish to entertain neighbours' children. If only we were all more liker Trimmer.

  4. It's weird, when I was a child we moved very often, but always got to know new neighbours very quickly (a multitude of new Aunties and Uncles) and were in and out of their houses all the time. Two particularly memorable events for me were, firstly, being nipped on the back of my neck by our neighbour's Boxer and being 'introduced' to Frazzles for the first time by and elderly Scottish neighbour on Christmas day and being told I might not like them as they were 'slightly savoury' (sounded great in her accent), I loved them. Both events took place in Devon in 1976, have I bored you with my tales of the drought and standpipes yet?