Saturday, 12 December 2015

Happy Birthday Jackanory

Jackanory is fifty! I know, I can't quite believe it either...

I must confess (sacrilege, I know) I wasn't much of a Jackanory fan. That ten-minute, low-budget story slot was the boring bit while you were waiting to see what feats of derring-do John Noakes had been up to in Blue Peter, or which followed something like Play School that you knew you were too old to watch but couldn't help yourself bathing in its nice, warm nostalgic glow.

Of course, I still watched Jackanory. There was no choice. When I were a lad the BBC was all there was and if you were allowed to watch the telly after school (say, if the Test Match wasn't on and dad wasn't home form work) you watched what they showed and that was that.

And I'm glad I did. So glad. Because - like the poetry I was forced to commit to memory - it remains with me. I have an idea - however imperfect - of performing a story that comes from hours of Jackanory listening (I've had no other training!) and it's an idea that I think must remain with me after all these years, especially after an encounter the other day with a girl at Charlie's school.

I forget what I was doing at the time but a voice from below was shouting 'hello' and a face was smiling and the girl was saying - 'You're that Twit, aren't you?' (Right first time!) 'Oh no,' she went on, 'I mean the man who read The Twits to us. (I should explain that I'd been invited to the school as - barrel bottoms being scraped - an author on World Book Day last year! And one of the things I did was read from Roald Dahls' The Twits.) 

'That's right,' I said and smiled. 'I am.'

'That's my favourite story,' the girl said.

'Mine too,' I replied. 'I hope I got the voices right.'

'Oh yes,' she said. 'They were exactly the same as the ones I hear when I read it to myself.'

I took it as a compliment. And, as such, I know where any modest skill in that department comes from. Yes. I owe it all to Jackanory.

Happy fiftieth birthday!

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