TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
It appeared on our TV screens in 1964, the year I was born. In those early years of black and white television, the colourful world of Play School lit up my days at home in Newcastle.
And now those memories have come flooding back with the sad news that Brian Cant has died. His sense of fun and infectious smile made him a well-loved presenter of the programme, whilst his warm, calming voice could be heard all over children’s TV, as the narrator of Trumpton and Camberwick Green.
From the opening shots of that iconic house to the excitement of wondering which window they would choose to show the film of real children playing in a park or visiting a canning factory – please let it be the arched window – Play School was a huge part of my early years telly watching.
Which toy was my favourite? Probably Little Ted, as I was always a teddy bear lover: never much a fan of dolls. Rag doll Jemima didn’t interest me at all and creepy old Hamble with her squashed face was the stuff of nightmares. As for Humpty with his green velvet face and tweed trousers, I could take him or leave him.
With such a motley collection of toys, it’s no wonder the presenters became the stars. I remember Toni Arthur with affection plus Derek Griffiths and Johnny Ball.
You can imagine my excitement when my son, Rory, began his studies at Exeter University, to learn that the Chancellor was none other than Floella Benjamin.
She was well-known for hugging every student during their graduation ceremony.
Sadly she stepped down from the role last year so Rory will doubtless have to accept a firm handshake from her successor.
I’m sure he’ll be perfectly agreeable to that, but I would have treasured a childhood favourite of mine giving my boy a big cuddle.
2016 was a year for losing many celebrities. 2017 looks to be going the same way but that’s just because it’s the natural order of things as I become older myself. The news about Brian Cant stopped me in my tracks and unearthed all those childhood memories which were lying dormant.
Likewise, when John Noakes passed away in May, thoughts of his Blue Peter antics suddenly returned to my mind.
Only last week we heard that Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington books, had also left this world. This had me rummaging in the loft trying to locate my own bear, complete with felt coat but looking a little worn and missing his wellies.
“Oh Paddington, you deserve better than that,” I said, as I fastened up his toggles, brushed back the fur from his eyes and brought him down the stairs. I won’t forget you again.