Friday, 14 March 2008

The Play School conspiracy

I blame the rot on Play School. The BBC broadcast this cheap and cheerful children's show from April 1964 to March 1988. Recently it was revived as Tikkabilla, which means - unfortunately - that the sad, heinous conspiracy continues.

As it happens, I was born in July 1964, just weeks after Play School was launched on a generation of unsuspecting toddlers. I can pinpoint Play School as the exact root of my lifelong feeling of 'Vague Disappointment' with the world. Beware Tikkabilla - it is planting seeds of disillusionment in your children that may only come to fruition in 10, 20, 30 years' time. Don't say I didn't warn you.

It's the windows, see. The round window. The square window. The arched window. The ritual of Play School included the regular occurrence of a camera zooming - seemingly at random - through one of these windows to reveal a short, jolly three-minute film about everyday life.

One day it was a look at the daily routine of milkmen. Another, it would be a fleeting glimpse of factory life - lots of smiling women happily doing their stuff at conveyor belts. Other films would focus on postmen, lorry drivers, doctors, teachers, slaughterers in abattoirs. (Actually, I lied about this last one.)

The common themes in all these films can be summed up as:
  1. Everyone knows their place and what they were born to do;
  2. Everyone is happy with their lot - family, career, the whole kaboodle;
  3. As a consequence, the world is a swimmingly wonderful place that ticks along just nicely.
Can you see the problem? A big fat 'No way, José' to all three. The world's not like that. Never has been. And anyone who tells you otherwise is starting you on that slippery slope to 'Vague Disappointment' ... either that, or encouraging you to develop increasingly complex skills of self-deception in order to keep your fragile worldview together, because the alternative is just far too unbearable.

Now that I am 43, the windows have changed but they are still there. My current windows are stained-glass ones, and, like the Play School windows, they come with a set of promises and expectations that just don't mesh with the world I see around me.

And again, in order to survive amongst the groups of people behind these stained-glass windows, you have to perform logistical feats of self-deception to keep it all together ... until the energy runs out completely, you can't do it any more, and you hold up your weary hands and admit, 'Okay, I give in. I'm a "Vaguely Disappointed Christian". So sue me.'

I don't like this. I don't take pleasure in feeling this way. I want the world to be like I was told it was - by Brian Cant, by Derek Griffiths, by that female presenter who was good at miming elephants, by a succession of authority figures speaking in the name of God and the BBC.

Many of the original Play School toys - Humpty Dumpty and the others - now reside in a glass display case in the National Media Museum in Bradford. I propose that a group of us frequent the place one Saturday, dutifully line up in front of these iconic mouthpieces of the establishment - Hamble, Jemima, the whole pathetic lot of 'em - then all as one scream and hurl abuse at them from deep within our primal beings.

It won't achieve anything, but it might be therapeutic. And as we are forcefully escorted out of the museum by the security guards for scaring the punters, we will emerge renewed and refreshed into the streets of a world that is real and alive and bursting with contradictions - not the made-up world we were lied to about.

Anyone care to join me? I'm happy to provide sandwiches.


Laul said...

count me in old boy. nothing like a good primal scream

Unknown said...

If you're gonna make sarnies for people let me know so I can nip to Sainsbury's cos we are clean out of bread and the ham in the fridge is a week past its sell by date, mind you that's better than the yoghurts they went off in January.

Unknown said...

I think you are on to something here and look forward to reading each up-date.

I am 41 and have struggled with a growing sense of disappointment or as I have more often felt was more accurate; disillusionment with life for several years. My faith, prehaps mostly thanks to the writings of Frederick Beuchner has mostly not been effected though. But I guess my expectations of my faith were not of great insight, answered prayer and the such...

Mike Kazybrid and Andrew Wooding said...

Thanks for the kind comments, even the offer of sandwiches. 'Vaguely Disappointed Christian' could mean two things: Vaguely Disappointed with being a Christian; or a person who is Vaguely Disappointed with life in general and happens to be a Christian.

Not entirely sure which of these two most apply, but thank you for letting me explore this in public.

Unknown said...

Come to think about it ..... I always wanted it to be through the round window