Nostalgia is not always a good thing. Wistfully looking back on supposedly happy childhood things can have a way of coming back and biting you in the arse. All I can say is I am so glad that my sister's and mine letter to Jim'll Fix It were never answered.
3 things this week gave me food for thought. Firstly, that great institution, Ceefax, disappeared from our TV screens after 34 years. I am sure I don't need to explain what Ceefax is to anyone, but I can tell you a little about my relationship with it. It started in 1974 but I didn't become aware of it for a while after this, until the daytime TV schedules, mostly BBC2 started showing "pages from Ceefax". Now it's hard to explain how exciting this seemed to a young lad back in the late 1970s, but innovations such as digital watches and calculators were springing up all around and it truly seemed like we were living in a futuristic world.
Due to the fact that my parents were fairly late adopters of new technology (my mum didn't even have a video until 1988, and my Dad not until some time in the 90s), frustratingly both parents houses remained Ceefax free - at least so far in as having a television set equipped to deal with it. In fact it was not until I left home and moved to Bicester in 1991 that I finally found myself in possession of a set.
This was most frustrating. In the pre-internet era, trying to find out information at short notice could be quite a challenge. For me the most frustrating thing was finding out the racing results. As someone who would like to have an occasional investment, I would often pop into Ladbrokes in Headington at lunchtime in my early days at Nielsen's and have a bet on the afternoon's events. Now back in those days, betting shops were not open late every night like they are now - they were heavily regulated. So they could not open any later than 6:30pm and often shut much earlier - in the winter basically when racing finished, which was when it got dark (no floodlit tracks then) - so by the time I left work they would long since have shut up and be in darkness. So unbelievably although my horse may have run at 2:30 that afternoon, I would not be able to find out how it got on until the morning paper popped through the letterbox around 7:30am the next day!
The only way to find out a result then was to either ring a premium (0898) number - frowned upon by parents when they get the bill and also with stigma attached (i.e. they think you are ringing sex lines) or to check the results on teletext. Now my mate Geoff round the corner had a teletext TV but after a while his wife got irritated with me coming round in the evenings while they were having their tea to find out how my horses got on so that got stopped. With parents stubbornly refusing to upgrade their aging television sets it was a frustrating time for all - but finally I got my own set, with Nicam stereo and fastext and my frustrations were over. A few years later the internet came along and Ceefax disappeared from my life, but for a while it was my main source of information not just for racing but football results and weather too.
|I couldn't find any horse racing results so here are some Dog ones.|
So bye bye Ceefax - and amusingly, here is its suicide note
|Bye bye Ceefax|
On the subject of racing still and ageism, you are probably not aware but the BBC is ceasing racing coverage at the end of this year to add to the many sports that it had ditched in recent years. This means that Channel 4 is taking over exclusive racing coverage from January 1st - and as a consequence is taking a lot of the BBC's racing people with it e.g. Claire Balding.
They have announced a new team and basically axed most of the old staff from Channel 4. In fact only one of the new team is over 50. One of the victims is 72 year old John McCririck, instantly recognisable to the public everywhere as he's practically a national institiution.
Now say what you like about old John - I know he's not everyone's cup of tea and has hardly endeared himself to the public with some of his antics on the likes of Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother. The blatant sexism for a start. And as for the petty sulks over the Diet Coke and the nose-picking incident - well perhaps the less said the better. However despite all of this he has probably done more than anyone to raise the profile of racing over the years, and his highly entertaining rants at members of the public making faces behind him in the betting ring and trying to knock his hat off are pure comedy "Buzz off you horrible little pest" etc.
He's been ever present on TV racing since 1981 and it just will not be the same without him. Racing, and life in general needs colourful characters, and a load of faceless drones in suits just don't cut it for me.
Finally, I am not really one for wallowing in regret and nostalgia for past phases of my life, but this week I started watching the 3rd series of Skins. For those of you not familiar with this show, it follows the lives of a group of students (and sometimes their parents and teachers too) at a Bristol 6th form college. The show renews its cast every two years to reflect the new generation of students coming in. It is by degrees hilarious, and also very dark and dramatic at times - but above all it's real. You can really believe in the characters and they are exactly reminiscent of the people I was at 6th form college (Oxpens) with nearly a quarter of a century ago now.
|If you haven't tried this yet, why not?|
The episode we watched the other night dealt with their first day at the college and so brought back to mind my first day which I can remember in vivid detail, back one sunny September day in 1987. If there was one time in my life, or day I could go back and relive, wow, would I like to go back in time to that time - crazy, carefree, it all ahead of us, having fun and regardless of the consequences. This opening episode of the 3rd series had it all - from the hilarious induction scene in the gym, to Harry Enfield (one of the parents) ranting in the street, it was the funniest episode of anything I have seen for ages. It doesn't matter than I am a generation older than those characters, fact is I was once exactly like them, and at heart, I still am.
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