This time last week, I was in Cornwall, with several quarts of St Austell brewery’s very fine Proper Job lapping around my back teeth. The occasion was the wedding of some friends and it all went off beautifully, despite the heavens opening during the marquee-bound ceremony, rendering the registrar inaudible. I didn’t even look at the television once during my stay, which would have been unthinkable even 6 years ago. One of the great excitements of my childhood holidays was to see a different TV region’s output and bring home different editions of the Radio Times and TV Times. We never went to the west country, so I never saw anything of Gus Honeybun until adulthood, when I was given some recordings by a similarly-afflicted friend, including this Ed Welchfest, which is, I think, the one that Phil Norman’s on about in the comments.

However, I had a pretty good working knowledge of Granada and Anglia from holidays in Blackpool and Great Yarmouth, while visits to relatives in Portsmouth scratched my Southern/TVS itch. On a school trip to Wales in 1985, I peered through people’s windows to get a glimpse of S4C.

I haven’t changed, but television has. For one thing, I can see all of the different regional variations from my Suffolk sofa, thanks to digital satellite. For another, the regional variations aren’t terribly varied anymore. A couple of decades ago, it was impossible to look at TV listings without noticing something being shown in a far off land called Tyne Tees or Grampian that appealed more than whatever Thames or LWT were pumping out at that moment in time. Either that or you’d missed the start of something, which was being shown an later in the evening on Yorkshire. All of this is without getting started on the in-vision continuity announcers, the best of whom – Redvers Kyle, Philip Elsmore, John Benson, Arfon Haines Davies – became inextricably linked with the areas they spoke to. What I wouldn’t have given for access to all of the regions and a pile of E180s back then. Sadly, it’s going to get even less varied and interesting, if ITV is allowed to merge regions, as it currently wishes.

Visiting my mother on the way back from Cornwall, I glanced at her Daily Mirror. The front page story concerned the furore over ex-TVS autocutie Fern Britton’s gastric band. The choicest quote from the story: “One fan said ‘This is the most sickening act of deception I think I have come across’.”. It’s a doozie on so many levels. Firstly, isn’t it a bit of an over-reaction to be “sickened” by a mild porkie told by someone you’ve only ever seen on telly? Secondly, if it’s the “most sickening act of deception you think [not quite sure, though, eh?] you’ve ever heard”, you must have led a hell of a sheltered life. Thirdly, is it a more sickening act of deception than that perpetrated by the journalist who so obviously made you up, you anonymous non-existent twat? Although she omitted one important, nay crucial, detail, Fern Britton was telling the truth when she said that diet and exercise were the cause of her impressive weight loss. A gastric band is a head start, not the Victor Ludorum trophy. I’ve known people who’ve undergone the procedure and remained fat bastards simply because they managed, by dint of applied noshing, to re-build their gut to its pre-op capacity.

Elsewhere in this sorry rag (What’s that sound? Oh it’s Hugh Cudlipp rotating in his grave at warp speed) is the tale of a mother who shopped her son to the police when she found a knife under his bed. Fair enough, tough love, he’ll be grateful one day, etc. Until that is you see the picture. It’s a perfectly normal round ended piece of cutlery. The poor lad was probably just buttering toast in bed. It seems that in the modern world, and especially in the tabloids, for every action, there is an unequal but opposite over-reaction.

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7 thoughts on “

  1. Gus Honeybun was a revelation to my ten-year-old self when I finally saw him after years of staring at that mysterious local listing.

    As I recall, as well as doing the ‘I’m not Fatima Whitbread’ birthday hops (and anarchically waving his arse at the continuity announcer betimes) he had his own theme song and accompanying full-length video in which he ‘wandered’ about (presumably) Exeter city centre like he was Joe Longthorne or something. As the song had it, he was a star on TV, just for you and for me.

    On the flipside, Channel TV’s Puffin’s Pla(i)ce was a crushing disappointment. I was sickened!

  2. I think that was Plymouth city centre, if only because Westward and their successors have always been based there. Puffin’s Pla(i)ce is the only one of those progs that’s still going, but then Channel is still not part of ITV plc.

    The Mirror today is a disgrace not only to the Cudlipp era, but to what it was circa 2003 (which was a genuine attempt to create non-Murdochian populist journalism) before Piers Morgan (call him what you like, but he did at least have higher aims for the Mirror than simply being a less convincing xenophobic haterag than the Sun, rather as Brown is a less convincing promoter of the Blunt/Coldplay false consensus than Cameron). It is entirely because of Murdoch that the Mirror is what it is today, and anyone who knows the history of British newspapers knows that that is entirely self-inflicted.

  3. I missed something out. I meant to say “before Piers Morgan was sacked on highly dubious grounds”.

  4. Ah, wonderful stuff, Louis! Possibly the least appropriate waist-down design for a children’s puppet ever seen.

  5. Sigh… I miss the regions. The excitement of seeing the Westward ship on trips to Exeter or the Anglia knight on trips to Ipswich was incomparable for me. And as a child Puffin’s Pla(i)ce was a dream come true.

  6. Not strictly regional-only programming as such, but I was always delighted when visiting Other Regions in the mid-eighties and finding that they were still showing such even by then consigned to history gems as Sally & Jake, The Lost Islands and Here Comes The Grump.

  7. Re: Our Fern. It’s not like the tabloids have ever lied, is it?

    And I heard a MUCH worse story about a top TV chef yesterday, whose despicable behaviour in dealings with the press – and his family – make him a real monster.

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