Ever been for a ride on Bulgy the bus? If not, let me tell you this - you haven’t lived.
Bulgy, as I’m sure many of you know, was once a bad-tempered double decker who hated the railways and believed roads were far better. A four-wheeled Dr Beeching with attitude, so to speak.
Anyway, when my kids were much younger, we drove to the delightful Dorset seaside town of Swanage for a Thomas the Tank Engine Day. Included in the price was a ride on a bus that had a Bulgy mask strapped on its front.
It was great.
I miss those times, when Ben and Ellen could be fobbed off with a steam train trip, some colouring books and a selection of ‘oooh, look it’s Bulgy’ comments. And I get a little pang of jealousy when I see parents and their little ones enjoying such simple delights, such innocent pleasures, before smartphones, pouting selfies and killing zombies on computer screens took over.
Oh, and hormones.
So it was the other day at work when a colleague revealed he was taking his 22-month-old son to see the In The Night Garden Show at the Kings in Southsea.
He was subject to a fair smattering of good-natured abuse (well, some of it was good-natured). Not from me, though. For I remember taking my kids to similar shows featuring children’s tv favourites Dora the Explorer - ‘Swiper, no swiping!’ - and Wallace and Gromit spin-off Shaun the Sheep.
We used to love watching Ringo Starr narrate the Thomas animation series on tv. These were the days before political correctness was introduced, however, featuring engines with back faces and rainbow stripes.
Of course, we never had this in the programmes I used to watch in the 70s.
They were remarkably different times, weren’t they? Imagine Zippy indoctrinated by political correctness? Or rainbow Clangers and Fingerbobs? Or a transgender Professor Yaffle.
(I once showed my kids an episode of Fingerbobs. They were disgusted. ‘You used to watch THAT,’ Ben sneered at me. ‘That’s nothing, wait til you see this,’ I replied, while typing ‘Pipkins’ into the YouTube search engine.
It’s a great game to play, trust me. Show your millennials all the stuff you used to watch - Bod, Mr Benn, Hector’s House…
… and Ivor the Engine, with his mates Jones the Steam, Evans the Song and Dai Station (Welsh stereotypes alive and very much kicking in the 70s!). I showed my kids an episode on YouTube. ‘Did you know Ivor worked for the The Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited@
‘Mum, I think dad’s been at the cider again …’
Thirty years on, a day I can’t forget …
Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of a day I will never forget.
As a lifelong football fan, the events at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989, are seared onto my psyche.
At the time – I was 20 – it was shocking that so many innocent supporters could die in such a way.
Of the 96 who died, only 14 were over 30. Only three were over 50. Fourteen were 16 or under. Thirty seven were teenagers. The youngest was just 10.
Regarding this tragedy, though, time is no healer. Three decades later, and now as a parent myself, I am even more appalled at what the families of the victims went through. Not just on the day or the immediate aftermath, but right through to the present day.
The demonisation of the fans who died, those that were injured, those that tried to save lives, and those caught up in the disaster started within hours of people dying and continued for months, years, decades.
Don’t believe me? In an unprecedented move, the dead had blood-alcohol samples taken and blood-alcohol levels recorded in the makeshift Hillsborough mortuary. Their bodies were still warm and the mindset was drink = hooliganism.
You cannot imagine waving your child off to attend a football match and never seeing them alive again.
Add the scale of the police cover-up, the national press scandalously contributing to the lies peddled by those in authority in a bid to blame the fans for the deaths, and powerful figures pouring fuel onto the flames at regular points since ...
No, I can’t imagine the pain, the grief, the anger that has consumed the families. And neither can you. All we can do is salute them, and hope we would show the same dignity if we lost a loved one in a (preventable) tragedy.