01: Favourite children's programme - requested by leesa_perrie
I didn't actually watch very much TV when I was little. I was endlessly fascinated by playdough, and my plastic animals and dinosaurs and creepy-crawlies, and once my mother built me a space rocket out of cardboard boxes, and before I could read I had a complete set of the Beatrix Potter books and I had them all memorised, including when to turn the pages. And I went to playgroups and I guess there might have been TV there, but also possibly not — my memories of playgroup are of running around and climbing trees and making crafts and cooking. Basically, my parents didn't really approve of television, and I was way more enamoured of books and whatever weird things were going on inside my head.
We'd all sit down, though, on Sundays after dinner, and watch The Natural World. I still have the opening credits ingrained in my memory, and David Attenborough's narration, which I'm pretty sure is one of the fundamental constants of the world.. (Everyone in the UK grew up with David Attenborough's voice, surely?) I loved nature documentaries. Snakes and tigers and bats and sharks and scorpions… We had VCR boxsets of National Geographic productions. Jane Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees. I had that one and the one about sharks pretty much down by heart. My parents let my sister and I watch them as often as we wanted.
I remember being eight and going to one of my first big sleepovers, with the other girls in my class (there were only about ten of us, it was a tiny school). The girl whose house it was at had instructed us all to bring along our favourite films on tape, so that we could have a choice of what to watch. I brought along a documentary about chameleons in Madagascar, and was quietly very sad that no one else wanted to see it.
I watched other things too, by that time. Blue Peter, of course, which is like David Attenborough and almost inescapable for children growing up in the UK. Horizon. Anything about space. The Royal Institute Lectures were one of my favourite parts of Christmas. Stuff about people and ancient history. Walking with Dinosaurs was a pure delight — I'd always been mildly obsessed. (We went to the Natural History Museum when I was four or five, and someone bought me a 50cm long orange plastic stegosaurus. I named her Emily, and I still love her.)
I actually don't remember any non-fiction I watched on TV as a child. There was a programme that had a bus in it? Oh, and the Look And Read BBC programmes that we watched at school. My mother bought me the books for some of them — the one with WWII evacuees and German spies, and the one with other-dimension Romans and telekinesis, and the one where some children go to a fantasy land and there's a dragon and three people who are bright colours and called Boris (orange), Morris (green) and Doris (purple). They were specifically designed to be educational, though, so they maybe weren't all that far away from the documentaries. (They had a break in the middle, with animations and songs about things like spelling rules and I could still sing you some of them, I'm not kidding.) I got nearly all my fiction from books, though. I read obsessively.
Eventually, Horizon became my gateway into CSI, which followed immediately after, and I think probably initially caught me by being superficially also about science! (I'm pretty sure that's why my parents let me keep watching it — dead bodies and forensics were at least vaguely educational.) I was about twelve then.
I fin it quite interesting, looking back, that I never learned any habits like channel-skimming to see what was on, or having TV as background noise. Oddly enough, my sister did — but I've always been very clear on going to the TV, watching exactly the programme I was putting it on for, and then turning it off again. I guess that's why it was such an automatic transition to watching all my TV on the computer instead once that became a thing. Discrete chunks, exactly when you want to see them, and nothing else.
(I don't watch enough nature documentaries now. I should fix that.)
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