The talent show bug hit me early, when I won first prize in Bournemouth singing the song Edelweiss from the Sound of Music.
I think I was about seven. It was an end-of-the-pier show with Harry Corbett and Sooty and Sweep. Young people out there won’t remember who they were. Sooty was a sort of dim bear who endlessly fended off the attentions of a rather forward young lady panda called Soo, who, unlike Sooty, had a squeak to communicate. Clearly some sort of sublimal message was being laid down for the younger generation. She speaks, he doesn’t.
There was also Sweep, of course, a lively young dog, as I recall, and a bit of a Jack the lad. Anyway, on that long-ago holiday in Bournemouth, I saw the sign for the talent show and told my mum I wanted to enter. She let me wear my good sundress – the one with the stripes – and brushed my hair into a pony tail with my fringe all neat at the front. I was ready for my close-up.
Then that pest, my wee brother, well, he just kicked off. He wanted a go, too. He was about five then, I think. He said if I let him go on the stage with him he wouldn’t tell mum I tried to drown him in the paddling pool the day before. I hissed back that I didn’t try to drown him, I was conducting an experiment.
We’d been watching one of those films with Ester Williams and she spent ages dancing underwater and she managed to smile at the same time.
He was rubbish. I’d only counted to 35 before he spluttered his way to the surface.
And so, off we went to the end of the pier. I sang. So did the Pest. We both won. I came in first, natch.
He sang the only song he knew, an old music hall number called My Father’s a Lavatory Cleaner. This was in Bournemouth, remember, which back in the 1960s was possibly the most English place in England. Probably still is, come to think of it. No-one referred to lavatories. All I could see from the stage was my mother crumpling with what we in Scotland would describe as pure dead embarrassment, by the way, while my father hooted with a sort of get-it-up-ye working class nationalist glee.
I have long thought that this early exposure to the stage had a detrimental effect on both the Pest and myself. While I would hesitate to describe us as “child stars” – more like one-hit wonders – it left the pair of us fairly determined to hog the limelight whenever the chance came up.
Let this be a warning to any of you parents out there who might be thinking of consenting to your child’s wish to enter Edinburgh’s Got Talent. By all means, let the youngsters hit the stage, but be prepared for the stage monsters when they do well, as I have no doubt they will.
DEAR Krispy Kreme customers. It’s my understanding that the shop intends to be a permanent fixture in Edinburgh. There is no need to panic. The shop appears well stocked. The doughnuts will be available for a long, long time. As will the cellulite on your hips and thighs if you keep scoffing them at that rate.
Flushed with our success
THE second verse of My Father’s a Lavatory Cleaner goes thus: “My father’s a lavatory cleaner, he cleans all the lavvies at night. And when he comes home in the evening, his boots are all covered in … Shine up your buttons with Brasso”. The lyrics are available online.
You’ll see it covers most of the bases if you want to offend a middle-class audience, with references to lavatorial stench, unexpected death and shoplifting from Woolworths.
At least I was there to defend the family honour, and carry off a glove puppet of Soo, which I chose because she could squeak. My mother was convinced we’d be asked to leave the boarding house. My father bought us the biggest knickerbocker glories he could find.
Hidden agenda to subvert traditional family
SOOTY, Sweep and Soo seemed to live in the same house. There was a lot of co-habitation on the telly then. Andy Pandy shared his habitat with Looby Loo, and a random teddy called, er, Teddy.
Then we had Bill and Ben, who not only lived together but seemed to indulge in some exotic tobacco when the cameras weren’t around, judging from the baffling conversations they had with their friend called Weed, who also lived with them.
There were a lot of threesomes on children’s TV when I was Watching with Mother, which could explain our relaxed attitudes to non-nuclear families now.