Back in the goodness knows when, we acquired a TV. A large wooden box with a small square of thick greyly opalescent glass set, centrally near the top with two black Bakelite nobs either side of a speaker. It was an exercise in faith because you needed a large dollop of unreasoning belief to consider the image that appeared in the foggy soup of 405 lines to be a recognisable picture. And you needed to toss logic out of the window if you wanted to think the sound had any link, tangential or otherwise to the grainy scribblings that you were peering at with some sort of myopic group delusion.
I was maybe five or six.
The first programme we saw on that pulpit of optical obfuscation was, I was told, gardening but in black and white with a healthy dose of sleet it could just as well have been orthopaedic surgery.
Disappointment doesn’t really describe the let down. But I was a resilient child – the Archaeologist was my older brother; that situation would breed resilience in soggy toilet paper – so I persevered with this new fangled, to me, technology. I began to interpret the shapes and linked sounds. And I found children’s TV.
Now let’s face it; I wasn’t a discerning viewer. The sophistication of the likes of Andy Pandy and the Woodentops weren’t obvious to many.
But, while a lot of my generation remember these characters from their nascent TV viewings, no one seemed to remember the Pingwings and especially the shoe polish tree. Now I’m an aged crumbly old soak these days, I admit but I was bloody certain such things as Pingwings existed and I would occasionally look for them.
However, while I knew there was such a thing, I got the name slightly wrong, remembering them as Pengwengs and my searches drew a blank. I was mad; making up these nonsensical details, apparently.
Then, just yesterday there was a piece on some radio programme about the creator of the Clangers
another famous piece of educational tomfoolery: Oliver Postgate, who also came up with the notion of Noggin the Nog and that most sumptuous of cartoonish villains, Nogbad the Bad
And something told me it was he, the genius, who’d been behind the Pingwings. And lo! The great knowledge bank of wikipedia did the honours. Now I had the right spelling, I had youtube and… yes! The episode of the Pingwings and the Ice Cream Tree presented me with the proof I needed.
There was a shoe polish tree. My work here is done….