I stumbled across something quietly wonderful this afternoon.
Chewing over a new Monster Master Über To Do list after a hefty-ish week of mopping up various ends of jobs to go to print, I was scrolling around for some pleasant background entertainment when I found a little delight. Which induced a most unexpected little reverie.
In the smokey, dyed-diesel-plume wake of the news that the last British bastion of daring-do, splay-bursting, delta-nining chapdom has admitted a filly into its ranks, the BBC had placed some intriguing links on its homepage.
One was an interview with Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore, the first female pilot to join the Red Arrows Ruddy Marvelous Aerobatic Display Team – a typically British forces kind of thoroughly nice lass who seemed at a loss to explain why none of the splendid female piloting talent of the RAF has donned the Reds’ flight suit and caught the keys to one of their little Hawks before.
The other was… a complete episode of Go with Noakes from 1976. The one where he flew with the Arrows for himself.
Clicking the Play icon, I didn’t quite know what to expect, after 35 years. But as the ledge John himself strolled into shot with trusty hairy TV partner Shep, in glorious 70s Filmgrainovision – doing that double act they always did of one of them spouting even, Yorkshire train-of-thought rambling while the other looked disinterested – I felt a lump rise in my throat.
That was my childhood. My safe, hopeful, much-loved childhood. And how I got away with enjoying it as such for the whole time, I’ve never worked out.
But John Noakes’ safe, clear tones – friendly but tinged with just enough adult authority, mixed perfectly with the constant possibility of a dry, silly quip – were a huge comfort to a generation of us exploring the world around us from the safety of gently irradiating new colour televisions.
I learnt more about the Red Arrows from this gloriously be-side-burned, be-sensible-haircutted 30 minutes than I remember from any other time. Why, I didn’t realise it was so easy. They’re making it up on a stick and a wink way more than you’d think up there. John even did it. Which means I now really want to do it.
“Here” said his pilot, “take the stick. Forget the rudders, they’re just there to rest your feet on. Now, put it hard over… Whoop! Heh-heh. There. You just did a roll. Easy eh?”
Hell, yeah. Letme-letme!
As he then watched the jolly fine chaps open their season with a display over Whitby bay, I thought of all those childhood memories of standing on similar cliffs at Bournemouth, waiting for the nine red darts flash overhead from behind us in a suddent screech at precisely On Time O’clock.
And as I saw a little 70s chap sitting in his Dad’s arm, in little shorts and a little home-knitted jumper, I couldn’t help picturing a very similar little chap of a very similar age, in a very similar little outfit sitting expectantly in the crook of his own daddy’s arm, some 300 miles south, that same afternoon probably. And I felt an echo of the same comforting thrill of formative times.
It was wonderful.
This was the same daddy, incidentally, who would, upon hearing the Black Dyke Mills Band strike up with the gloriously whimsical theme tune, always say: “Ah there are the Black Mills Dyke Band again.” Every time.
Then I remembered when Go with Noakes secretly filmed at my school, just a year or two later. And I kind of wished the BBC would post up that episode, to see if I recognised any of the big-haired, be-flared youngsters from the year above me at St Katherine’s CE Primary, who got to go do the adventure exercise circuit up on Hengistbury Head with television’s nicest, pre-Ant & Dec double act.
I may e-mail them and ask for the whole bally series to go up.
Mean time, check this out for yourself. It’ll get you high on the funny reality of your childhood. Because it wasn’t just a pre-digital age daydream. You were there.