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.
Posted by Jon Peake at 5:48 AM