One of my favourite TV programmes when I was a little boy was Sooty. I grew up during the time that Matthew Corbett appeared with Sooty on TV. It’s hard for me to say quite why I loved Sooty so much, but I always enjoyed watching the show.
I had a Sooty puppet of my own, and when I was very little I would take it everywhere with me – and I would get very upset if I ever lost it. One time I was out with my mum, and I took my Sooty puppet with me. Then I realised he wasn’t with me anymore! We traced our steps back and we found him in a coffee shop that we had been in earlier, and I was relieved.
But then, sometime later, he went missing at home. I searched high and low for him, but he was nowhere to be seen, and I was a very sad Karl. Then, one day, when my parents picked me up from what I think was a summer activity group, I saw that they had a present for me – a brand new Sooty puppet! And I was a very happy Karl again!
My original Sooty puppet was discovered not long afterwards – he had been thrown behind the back of a chair in the living room. But that didn’t matter, I had my new Sooty puppet.
That poor puppet went through a lot. One time I was in the back of the car with him, and I was fighting with my brother, who then ripped one of Sooty’s arms off! My dad then sewed the arm back on again, but he sewed it on back to front!
Over the years he’s lost one of his eyes, and he’s become very dirty. But, I still have him today, and he will always be my Sooty puppet.
Another one of my favourite TV programmes when I was a little boy was Thomas the Tank Engine. I had my own Thomas train, and other merchandise such as books and jigsaws. And I would watch that show endlessly.
My dad had recorded most of the episodes for me on a couple of Betamax tapes (yes, I’m old enough to remember Betamax!). I practically wore those tapes out.
One day, my brother wanted to record Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I had earlier been watching one of my Thomas the Tank Engine tapes. I told my brother this, but he told me not to worry as he had put a blank tape in the machine. After he had finished recording the episode I went to take the tape out of the machine – and it was my beloved Thomas the Tank Engine tape! Needless to say, I was a very, VERY upset and angry little Karl.
(Don’t worry little Karl! Many years later there will be this glorious thing called “YouTube” where you’ll be able to watch all of those Thomas the Tank Engine episodes again...)
My love of Thomas the Tank Engine also spilled over into a love of trains. I was borderline obsessed with them. My favourite steam train was Mallard, because it was the fastest steam train of them all. When I was about 8 I got to see Mallard in a museum up in York.
I also loved model trains. One of my absolute favourite places to go when I was a little boy was Bekonscot Model Village. It’s a scaled down village, with lots of model trains going around it! I would try to follow the trains to see where they went, but could never keep up with them all.
Another thing that I liked when I was a little boy were The Worst Witch books by Jill Murphy. Long before the days of Harry Potter, these books were set in a boarding school for witches, with Mildred Hubble as the titular worst witch of them all. I loved these books, and the world that they created. The first three books had been published when I was a child – The Worst Witch, The Worst Witch Strikes Again, and A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch. We also had audio books for The Worst Witch and A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch, which were read by Miriam Margolyes.
In 1986 a film was made of the first book, which starred Fairuza Balk as Mildred Hubble, and Diana Rigg as Miss Hardbroom. There was a member of staff at school who bore a resemblance to Diana Rigg, although this member of staff wasn’t too impressed when I referred to her as Miss Hardbroom and challenged her to turn me into a frog.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the only adaptation of The Worst Witch books there would be.
Oh, little Karl, if only you hadn’t read those books...
Next Week: A Brief History of my Name