No! Don't touch Ivor the Engine | Simon Carter

A few years ago, before they metamorphosed into teenagers and iPhones started to replace conversation, I sat my kids down in front of the laptop. ‘Do you want to see the cartoons I used to watch when I was little?’ I eagerly asked them.

Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th January 2020, 4:09 pm
STILL PUFFING: Ivor the Engine
STILL PUFFING: Ivor the Engine

It was a rhetorical question. They were going to watch the 1970s’ classics whether they liked it or not.

First up, Fingerbobs. My hopes were not very high that my own flesh and blood would be metaphorically glued to the screen in wonderment.

‘Dad, it’s a mouse made of paper,’ my daughter glumly informed me after about eight seconds.

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And following the appearance of the seagull, my son piped up: ‘Dad, it’s a bird with a table tennis ball for a head. Did you really used to watch this?’ The last word was spat out with as much disdain as a 10-year-old could muster (which is actually a lot).

The Clangers failed to produce any real enthusiasm either, and Bagpuss – the greatest children’s programme ever – was treated with contempt. ‘Dad, this is even worse than The Clangers.’

‘Just you wait til the Mice and their Mouse Organ appear,’ I told them, but I’d already lost the battle. My childhood favourites condemned as ‘rubbish’.

I remembered this anecdote when I logged on to Twitter the other day to see Ivor the Engine trending. I was expecting to see some snowflake causing an internet storm by accusing Ivor of racism against English tourists to The Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway, but no – apparently Ivor could be given a 21st century makeover and his own film

For the love of God, no. Leave my generation’s childhood favourites alone.

Times have changed, and there’s no point trying to reinvent something for the sake of it. Just look at the Still Open All Hours sitcom. It can’t hold a candle to the original. I was never expecting it to.

As my kids were all to quick to inform me, the programmes popular in the ’70s should remain there. Forever frozen in time, icons of a far more innocent era.

I will never be able to make my kids love Bagpuss, Ivor and Zippy from Rainbow, and for one reason – they weren’t seven, like I was, in 1976.

I have a cunning plan to get me through dreary January

One of the many repeats shown on TV over the festive period was Britain’s Favourite Sitcoms. And watching it only reinforced my view that while some things are much better now than in the ’70s and ’80s, sitcoms are not on that list.

Modern day snowflakes will no doubt call out Basil Fawlty as a sexist, racist pig – and they might be right – but if you don’t laugh out loud at Fawlty Towers then you’ve obviously had a humour bypass operation.

Blackadder and Porridge were also ranked in the top 10, and I was overjoyed to find Santa had left both DVD box sets in my stocking when I woke up on Christmas Day.

Glad to report, Baldrick and Norman Stanley Fletcher are still as funny as ever…

From a decade long, long ago, but I’m still feeling the Force

One thing very much better these days than in the ’70s is the special effects wizardry used in blockbuster films.

If you need any examples, go and watch the ninth – and last – Star Wars film The Rise of Skywalker. And then compare it to the very first, from 42 years ago.

If you haven’t yet seen the new film, this column is a ‘no spoilers’ zone. But if you loved the very first one in 1977, you’ll love this too.

The ending pushed a tear down my cheek. Why, what else can lasso your past and present together? Outside of my own family and a good light sabre battle, there is nothing else I liked in 1977 that I still enjoy now.

Yes, the Force is still with me. May it always be thus...