I’m lounging unceremoniously on an arm chair in my mother’s dining room as I pen this prose. Outside’s solar rays producing a Super Trouper like beam, highlighting the recently unkempt lawn and borders which for weather or health reasons I’ve neglected for the last two weeks.
I’ve one eye on a corner of the room where a catchup broadcast of ‘Countryfile’ plays out on TV. My other eye is on my laptop screen…… Being wall-eyed has it’s advantages at times.
As the bright sun reflects off the screen, I can just about make out tonight’s guest, veteran TV presenter John Craven. A man who during my 1970’s childhood was the authoritative voice of children’s news and current affairs programme, via the conduit of a show titled ‘John Craven’s Newsround’…………….. As a young boy, I often thought it was an incredible coincidence he got a presenting role on a programme that bore exactly the same name as him.
His show was how we kids wanted our news stories delivered in the 1970’s/80’s. Slick, bitesize stories to engage our goldfish like attention spans, filling voids between arguments with mates about shuffling Subbuteo players and wondering how the hell to complete a Rubix Cube.
More importantly, though, we got to witness cutting edge informative videobites; such as whimsical yarns of skateboarding squirrels, and clips of a duck that could quack the National Anthem.
John Craven (below) back in the day (a Thursday in this pic) and a skateboarding squirrel (it’s bl**dy amazing what you can find on google!).
The Leeds born anchorman’s show the intellectual part of 1970’s early evening entertainment. A informative beacon cast across UK living rooms prior to the incomprehensible Clangers taking over the kids entertainment baton at 5.50 pm.
The Clangers, broadcast during the ten minute pre-BBC news slot, wasn’t a programme I recall with any real fondness. Lacking any real endearing qualities, the moon-dwelling pink biped anteater-like puppets, who communicated via a series of hoots, not the most engaging of characters. As you couldn’t make out what the were saying a narrator acted as interpreter.
I often thought that if the narrator had been thus inclined he could’ve had a field day mischievously fictionalising the puppet’s dialogue. Exacerbating the bafflement already being experienced by the young audience. Topical early 1970’s related conversations, such as:-
Clanger One – “I see Richard Nixon has been up to no good in that Watergate Affair.”
Clanger Two – “Yes!…….. I have to say things haven’t been the same since JFK was assassinated in 1963, if you ask me.”
Clanger One – “You’re telling me. That Lee Harvey Oswald has a lot to answer for.”
Clanger Two – “Are you winding me up?! .. There is no way he was the lone shooter, he was a patsy! … The Warren Commission conclusions are a heap of crap!”
Clanger One – “Do you suspect the assassination was a conspiracy by the CIA, FBI, Mafia, Cubans and a Mexican called Chico?”
Clanger Two – “How the f*** do I know! …… You flaming idiot! ….. Now pass me that Cinzano Bianco, I’m gonna s**t-faced tonight.”
He’d have been sacked immediately of course, but a few watching adults may have chuckled, before they rushed for the off button.
A patsy (below left) ……….. Not to be confused with a pasty (below right).
Talking of John Craven …… At least I think we were! One thing that strikes me listening to him now on The One Show is how different he sounds these days. Not just the octave or so drop in his voice (which you’d expect as a man approaches his dotage), but Cravers (as no one has ever called him) has developed a slight whistle when he talks these days.
I suspect the problem is just an ill fitting pair of false teeth. I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m glad he didn’t have them when he was a newsreader all those years ago. I’ve got to say, a wind surfing gerbil story can lose some credibility and authority if delivered by a man (or indeed woman) who sounds like a boiling kettle!
The actor Dennis Waterman who played a tough guy cop in ‘The Sweeney’ in the 1970’s is similarly affected with this tooting phonetic tic. His seemingly ill fitting dentures also cause him whistling issues when delivering his dialogue.…. I’d venture, if similarly stricken in his 1970’s ‘Flying Squad’ days, he’d have been rendered less intimidating delivering hardened criminals their rights while sounding as though steam was escaping from his gob.
John Craven’s Newsround always concluded with a quirky news piece that began with JC informing his young audience “And finally………” This snippet was generally a light hearted tale designed at sending the kiddies away happy. A comfort blanket prior to being exposed to the incomprehensible, darkly lit lunar world of the Clangers.
Unfortunately, I’m unable to replicate Cravers (Oh I forgot no-one calls him that!) show ending. My plan to conclude this piece with a whimsical animal related tale laying in tatters after next doors cat, Marmite, stopped playing basketball in my back garden upon spotting the video camera.
If JC still read news bulletins, I’d imagine they’d play out something like this:-