Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Gus Honeybun's Birthdays

What a weird title for this entry, don't you think? All will become clear in the fullness of time.

Speaking of fullness, this has been the most full on holiday we have ever had. I often feel we don't do enough as a family back home as real life just gets in the way but this holiday has been literally packed from dawn to dusk with activities. So much so I have precious little time to write, but write I must, because every day that passes, I forget a little of what I have done.

I wish I had started writing like this decades ago and kept a complete record of my life. I think back to say, a holiday down here in a caravan we had in 1988 and I can remember scant details at best. Had I written it all down at the time it would be preserved forever now for future generations to enjoy. And regardless of the quality of my writign, enjoy they surely would. I feel I know so little about my parents and grandparents lives. Truly I would cherish being able to read back to the 1940s, some sort of diary like this written by my grandparents who I miss terribly, but their memories have died with them.

I mention the 1940s because today we visited Flambards theme park which has a permanent exhibition of wartime memorobilia including a number of letters written home by evacuees who were sent down here to Cornwall during the war, some as young as Ollie. I've always said I am more interested in the history of ordinary people as opposed to royalty and politicians and this is no exception. One thing I was struck by was the beautiful handwriting of these young children in old fashioned italic ink. I guess this is a dying art.

I love Flambards. It is not full on like Alton Towers, but they do have a roller coaster and a log flume, it is just all on a smaller scale which suits me. I would estimate the drop on the log flume is less than a quarter of the height of the one at Alton Towers but for a 3 and 5 year old it is perfect. Having said that, Ollie has become fearless and wants to go on everything. This is from a boy who up until about a year ago was terrified to go on even little rides like the ladybirds and bumble bees. Now he wants to go on things which are at the upper limit of what I am willing to go on which isn't that high. Hence why I don't go to places like Alton Towers, Flambards and Legoland are more my level. While we were in the queue for the roller coaster I remarked that it looked a bit scary and asked if he was sure if he wanted to go on. He said "Don't worry Daddy, I will hold your hand so you won't be scared". And just for good measure, Jamie was keen too, so he came on after with Claire.

So does anyone know who Gus Honeybun was? Well I will explain. Now writers and comics who like to do routines about what life was like in the 70s and 80s tend to stick to the same old cliches, talking about toys, sweets, e.g. whatever happened to Spangles and TV, marvelling at how there used to be only 3 TV channels. Yawn, yawn, same old, same old, and these people get paid fortunes when there is undiscovered talent like me giving you original missives like this to chew over. Well let me tell you, there were not only 3 TV channels in the 1970s, there were at least 12. I know because as soon as I could read my favourite page in our daily newspaper was the TV page. There was BBC1,  BBC2 and ITV. But ITV was not like it is now. They were all individual regional stations with fascinating names like Harlech and Westward, Tyne Tees and Grampian. I had no idea what any of this meant, since my grandfather was known as Grampy, I naturally assumed that Grampian was a TV station for old people. It was actually Scottish ITV. Our local station was ATV. Back then, other than a few flagship shows like Coronation Street, all of these ITV stations showed their own programmes, especially when it came to children's programmes.  I guess the only modern bit of this we have left is the regional news.

So during the 1970s, I noticed that every day the children's coverage on HTV (At least I think it was HTV, but I am not completely sure on my regions, and there is no way to check since I have no internet access where I am writing this) began with a show called Gus Honeybun's birthdays and was fascinated to know what it was. Finally I found out in 1980, when on holiday in Devon, we had a flat with a TV. Gus was a rabbit puppet who read out birthday cards sent in for local children every day.

Sadly Gus was a victim of changing times. If you live in my region you will remember that ATV was replaced by Central on 1st January 1982. This was when the TV licences came up for renewal and several stations bit the dust, and many shows with them. I believe Gus survived in some shape of form until the next licence cull in 1993 though when the South West franchise was taken over by another company. 

This sort of thing happened all over the country in when the licences changed hands. Many of the new stations axed a lot of the predecessor's shows, another notable casualty being Worzel Gummidge which had been made by Southern Television. Jon Pertwee never gave up on that show though, and eventually took it to New Zealand.

However, Gus did not die, and had his own exhibition here at Flambards. Sadly this has been scaled down somewhat and is now just a rabbit burrow with some fluffy rabbits in it and the little exhibition with the history of Gus has gone since my last visit, however, just by writing this, I have kept it alive a little longer. Sorry if any of my facts are a little hazy, I will just have to check them up on Wikipedia when I get home. And add a picture of Gus!

There is so much I wish I had time to write about but I guess I am going to have to summarise. Yesterday's activities included an adventure nature trail and some golf. They have a 9 hole pitch and putt course here, all par 3s. I took Ollie around with me and taught him all about the game. If he takes it up, I hope he is better than I am. I failed to make par on any hole, but neither was I embarrassing. In fact, I scored 4 or 5 on every one.

We really are having an amazing time, I wish we could stay here all summer. I have toyed with the idea of buying one of these caravans on the park, they start at 10k, and spending as much time down here as possible, but I guess the hassle of the maintenance and so on makes it not as idyllic as it might sound. I so love it here though.

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  1. Errrmmm actually Gus Honeybun wasn't on HTV, well not that I know of. I'm a Westcountry lad, originally from Torquay, Devon, and back in the 1980's, I used to see Gus Honeybun everyday on TSW (Television South West) reading out the birthday cards. Many fond memories of watching Gus!!

    Gus Honeybun was frequently accompanied by Ruth Langford (now married to Eamon Holmes of TV fame), and other regularvTSW presenters such as Ian Stirling.

    TSW ran the South West ITV region from 1982 to the early 90's, which is when Gus died

    My wife had her 4th birthday card read out by Gus Honeybun, but that was 1979, so would have been on Westward television, the precursor to TSW.

    HTV as far as I'm aware, was a Scottish ITV region for the Highlands?

    There's lots of YouTube Gus Honeybun goodness for everyone to enjoy ��

    1. Thanks, yes, I got my regions mixed up there - I'm normally quite good on my facts but I had no internet access when I wrote the above so had to rely on my hazy memory. HTV was Highland, there was also Grampian and Border up in Scotland but I never ventured that far in my youth so never saw them.

      I loved all those old ITV stations with their idents - ATV with it's Venn Diagram circles, and Thames TV with its reflective picture of London and the music that went with it. Happy days.