I’ve spent too long watching TV this Christmas holiday. If I made resolutions, I’d tell myself to behave. Do something productive. But, in truth, once in a while a bit of blobbing out in front of the box doesn’t do any harm.
There have been excuses: the last ever Downton – it was time to let go; a one off Sherlock special – utterly, er, average; Doctor Who and a Christmas special – another roast fowl; a test match (that’s cricket people). But there has been dross, too.
However I have become quite partial to Gogglebox whose premise is, for those of you not aware of this soon to be British Institution, that various families are filmed watching TV programmes and their comments are played back. Reality TV that is often hilarious.
One element involves the off topic discussions that are caught on camera. Like last week and the Vicar (a woman) explaining her embarrassment that she had seen a good looking woman leaving a tatty shop (I think) and had intended to say ‘You look like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis’; but instead said ‘You look like a butterfly emerging from a clitoris’.
Misspoken phrases, misheard words. It brought back the time, in the 1960s when Dad took us on long walks as kids (entertainments were sophisticated and no expense was spared back then). Often he’d pull out a long stalk of grass, suck out the milky juice and then throw it at us, spear-like with a cry of ‘Banzai – Stabu the Elephant Boy!’
What was all that about? I looked it up just now and it turned out he was talking about Sabu, the Elephant Boy, a star of 1930s Indian cinema. This young man had quite a history and it set had me thinking about whether I had just misheard Dad with his ‘Stabu’ or that’s what he actually said.
By that tortuous route I alighted on a link to a wartime radio show called ‘ITMA’ (It’s That Man Again – which it informed me, was a reference to a moustachioed German causing a stir across the Channel). It seems ‘Stabu the elephant boy’ might have been a creation of that show.
And in reading about ITMA, I found it was the source of a number of catchphrases of the time: ‘Can I do you now, sir’ ‘TTFN’ (tata for now, which I use a lot to my children’s slight annoyance) and ‘After you Cyril; no after you Claude’. All of which peppered my childhood a couple of decades after the end of the war, proving the longevity, back then, of such silly expressions; they certainly wiggle their way into the subconscious like one of those cheap music ear-worms.
Catchphrases have an odd way of framing different periods of my life. Mid 60’s TV and there was ‘Oh you are awful, but I like you’ (Dick Emery) and Blue Peter ‘Here’s one I made earlier’. Later, in the 70s and teen age years it was ‘They don’t like it up ’em, sir’ (Clive Dunn), I’m Free (John Inman) and even ‘Bernie the Bolt’ (Bob Monkhouse). Partly I suppose it was because we only had two, three or four channels back then and no video recorder so we all watched TV together, all the generations, so these things infected every walk of life, they became our conversation pieces.
Do catchphrases still have the same resonance today? I had a think hard and came up with Catherine Tate’s ‘Am I bovvered’ and Buzz Lightyear’s ‘To Infinity and Beyond’. These entered the household lexicon at some time in the last ten years or so, but I can’t honestly say many others have. Which I think is a shame. It rather emphasises we don’t have those shared experiences any more, across the generations. They seemed to be neat shorthand for shared experiences, albeit rather superficial and I suppose I miss them.
And then, pondering their loss, I realised there’s one I still share with the Textiliste. It comes from a TV spoof of the Olympics, 2012. ‘Well, that’s all good then’. It’s beyond explaining and few people will know it, I expect.
These days it’s what’s trending of course, #s and all that. So, in the spirit of the new year I hope we all find ourselves sharing a #trend that isn’t #JeSuisParis but rather something trite and ephemeral.
I wonder what others think? Do you have favourites?
As a post script there is one misstatement that is a family favourite: the Vet, aged about 7, came home to tell us, sadly, of her school friend who had a food problem and had been found to be Black Toast Intolerant. She feared if I cooked breakfast at the next sleepover I might kill the poor soul.