Looking back it seems that I spent my childhood worrying about things in a time when there was far less to worry about than for hundreds of years previously or since. No wars, no plagues, no workhouse; just times tables, not being good at football, other boys, the vague threat of nuclear holocaust, and home.
I wasn’t alone. There was a lot of worrying in my house. It seems in retrospect that there was a grey miasma hanging over us, maybe that’s what caused the constant arguments. It couldn’t have been the booze because neither of my parents drank. The pressures must have been bad though. I grew up believing that all parents took prescribed Librium and Valium, and it wasn’t until I discovered Lou Reed and learnt what these drugs were for that I realised that there must be some parents that didn’t.
To help me through whatever it was I was trying to get through I didn’t take calming tablets. Instead I took comfort from television. It was always on and back then there was Children’s Hour at five o’clock sharpish which I never, ever missed.
It’s Friday. It’s Five o’clock. So it must be Crackerjack!
My Children’s Hour habit stuck with me for years - way into my twenties. It was almost as though I was reluctant to let go of this peaceful part of my childhood and who knows, perhaps I was. I think that in some ways the boy in me didn’t want to go give up in a Peter Pan kind of way, although God knows what it was I trying to hang on to.
Along with my not-so-inner-child, that undefined worry stuck with me for years as well. Ill-formed, nagging, constantly at the back of my mind, through university into work and on into an unexpected married life. Television remained with me too, and I continued to watch children’s TV, pretending to watch it for the three young girl children that surrounded me, but really watching it for myself and comfort.
My anxiety was at its height in the autumn; for some reason the dark damp evenings making me worry even more. Was I trapped? Did anyone really care? Where was I going? Was I wasting my life? What should I do?
It was only when the evening came with pre-news Magic Roundabout, or Crystal Tipps & Allister, Ivor the Engine, Nogin the Nog, and my favourite The Herbs, that I could lose myself in childish absorption, my worries dumbed-down by the silliness of the adventures of Sir Basil, Lady Rosemary, Constable Knapweed, Bayleaf the Gardener, Mr and Mrs Onion, The Chives (the Onions' children) and that clumsy Tarragon the Dragon.
We’d sit there, the four of us, in the dim light of the flickering television as Hector the Dog, Madame Zsazsa the Cat, and Kiki the Frog acted out tales that had no real story, not having to think about anything but the glove puppets in their beautiful house and garden. It was all very comforting for ten minutes or so and then the six o’clock news would come on and my worry would start up once more.
It’s years ago, but still I have no real idea what I was worrying about, why I worried, where I was trying to run to, or why I wanted to run away but never did.
I’m older now, and most of the worries that seemed so sharp when I was a child and a young man have long since disappeared. Things aren’t so pressing, winning not so important – maybe I have nothing left to prove. But sometimes when the autumn evenings come I feel a twinge of that old underlying worry and wish Dougal, or Noggin, even Roobard and Custard were still around to distract me into safety.
Yes, sometimes I’m still a silly old Hector.