Get Down Shep!

With autumnal temperatures starting to drop in West Yorkshire, it appears the season has shaken off it’s apparent indifference to conclude 2018’s warm spell.

The death knell is ringing for deciduous flora and fauna that over the last eight months have graced the front and back gardens of casa Strachan. Soon it’ll be time for the garden furniture to hibernate until next March/April, not returning until post-winter dormancy ends, providing an agreeable viewing point for the horticultural class of 2019.

When I write that my patio furniture hibernates over winter, I’m alluding to nothing more than I’ll be covering it with a parachute sized waterproof sheet. Not I employ hibernation methods used by presenters on children’s TV show Blue Peter for show’s tortoise Fred.

That being said, I’m sure you didn’t really need confirmation my rattan table and chairs don’t spent the winter months in a cardboard box stuffed with straw, newspaper and cabbage leaves. Prior to the box being unceremoniously shoved in a cupboard somewhere at BBC Broadcasting House.

Talking of the BBC TV’s kids magazine show, last week saw it celebrate 60 years on the old goggle box. The kids show that in childhood introduced me to the saying “Here’s one I made earlier” while undertaking craftwork with raw materials of washing up liquid bottles and sticky back plastic.

Other invaluable life lessons learned from the show included making unconvincing Christmas decorations out of coat hangers, along with positively influencing the less fortunate’s Christmases by sending in used stamps en masse.

In my fledgling years of watching this iconic programme, it’s presenters included Valerie Singleton, John Noakes, Peter Purves. Lesley Judd and Peter Duncan. Their own pieces of broadcasting history including Noakes’ involvement in a bobsleigh crash, a zookeeper losing control of a defecating baby elephant live in the studio. In addition to numerous ventures around the UK with the show’s canines Petra, Patch and Shep.

Events that not only taught me John Noakes was a chuffing lunatic, but avoid working with bobsleighs, young elephants and giddy collie dogs that require regular admonishment with the words “Get down!”

At this time I also developed a pubescent boyhood crush on golden haired presenter Lesley Judd. Not an obsession that these days would lead to a restraining order, moreover the type causing trouseral stirrings that weren’t there when the seemingly more straight laced Val Singleton took to the screen….. Urges that caused me to mimic John Noakes and exclaim “Get down, Shep!”


In the mid-1980’s a lad who grew up on the same Leech*** estate as me in Low Fell, Gateshead, became a Blue Peter (BP) presenter for two years – The chap in question going by the moniker of Michael Sundin. A kid I didn’t know to talk to but, as he was a bit of a local celebrity for his childhood international trampolining exploits, I did by sight.

*** – Leech was the builder of the houses. It didn’t get the name because it was the residence of massed parasitic invertebrates.

Sundin had left Low Fell by the time he made it in showbiz as a dancer, prior to joining the BP team. The Geordie lad was a couple of years older than me, attending the same junior and secondary schools as yours truly. That being said, I don’t ever recall meeting him but, like others on the estate, that fact didn’t stop me basking in the glory of a local lad presenting Blue Peter.

Maybe unsurprisingly, this recognition wasn’t as readily sought by town folk after he sadly passed aged 28 years old from an AIDS related illness. A reaction possibly related to the nation’s rabid anti-AIDS stance in the 1980’s/90’s.

One thing that I’m certain of was around that time the disease was receiving lots of negative column inches, along with claiming the lives of several high profile gay men. Subsequently, stirring a storm of homophobia around the globe.

Anyhow, I need to bring this narrative to a conclusion as I’m going to source my wife’s Christmas present……. Now where’s the sticky back plastic and empty washing up liquid bottles when you need them!…… A belated happy birthday Blue Peter.



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