The Christmas Radio Times is out and I’m thinking of braving a walk into town, in Artic conditions, to buy one.
For those of you that don’t know, The Radio Times is a TV listing magazine (other titles are available- more on that later). Somewhat redundant in the era of on-demand streaming and the listings there on the screen, the Radio Times is still a tradition I like to keep.
Back in the olden days, before we’d ever imagined 24-hour telly, you only really saw movies at Christmas. Disney movies were rare unless you went to the cinema. There was a Disney compilation show that was essential viewing, even if it was half filled with stuff you’d never heard of, but sometimes you missed it. And that was the thing. You didn’t want to miss anything good on the telly, so the Radio Times was essential.
As a kid I’d sit with a felt tip pen, carefully poring over the glossy pages, circling all the things I’d want to watch. Some were universally popular; Larry Grayson’s The Generation Game, The Good Life, and Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em. The Two Ronnies and of course Morecambe and Wise, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Top of the Pops, and Doctor Who. Blankety Blank, All creatures great and Small. Later it was To the Manor Born, Hi-Di-Hi and Birds of a Feather, Eastenders and on the shiny new Channel 4, Brookside.
Others, such as my obsession with Doris Day, Judy Garland, and Katherine Hepburn movies, were less well received. Though Westerns seemed to get more than their fair share of showings.
There’d the Great Escape, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady.
Christmas was all about the telly in our house. Even if we didn’t always get much in the way of presents we could all settle down in front of the telly and laugh along to Michael Crawford on roller skates.
The Radio Times meant my whole day was planned out. I’d even plan my snacks and dinner if I could get away with it. Swap shop, Captain Caveman, Finger-bobs, Bagpus, Basil Brush, What-a-mess, Chorlton and the Wheelies, and Blue Peter. Ivor the Engine and The Flumps. Touché Turtle, and Jackanory. Oh, I loved them all. There was also The Rolf Harris show, Jim’ll fix it, and It’s a Knockout before we knew any different.
Tea was eaten in front of the telly, the Nationwide theme tune still brings memories of Spam and chips, beans and mashed potato. Hiding behind the sofa for Doctor Who, shyly dancing along to Top of the Pops. Black Beauty, Willow the wisp, Chocky, Grange Hill, – I can measure my childhood with TV.
It’s the ghosts of Christmas past that see me still buying a Radio Times. Back then you needed a TV Times as well to see what was on the other side.
There was a snobbery about ITV in our house. I think that came from my nan. Proper TV was the BBC and there were programs suddenly switched off with a mutter about,
‘Not watching that rubbish,’ if adverts were noticed.
While reading was not always appreciated, watching TV was considered a proper activity for a chatterbox girl in the 70s and 80s. And watching TV in the day seemed the height of luxury back when there were only three channels, and am I imagining it or did BBC 2 not start until later?
My own kids thought it was a bit mad, to sit with a cuppa and peruse all the films that might be on the telly, especially in the era of DVDs. The luxury of watching what you wanted when you wanted was still novel then. Eight-year-old me would have exploded with giddiness at the thought of streaming TV on demand.
You can read The Radio Times for free now, borrowing it online from the library. But it’s not the same, is it, as having it there, in your hands?
I might make that walk into town after all, even though it’s bloody freezing. The fresh air will do me good. And I can settle down with a cuppa, me felt tip pen and a nice movie when I get back. Might even treat myself to a sausage roll and a mince pie.
See, despite the rumours, I’m easily pleased.