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:
- Everyone knows their place and what they were born to do;
- Everyone is happy with their lot - family, career, the whole kaboodle;
- As a consequence, the world is a swimmingly wonderful place that ticks along just nicely.
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.