Yesterday I had to clear out part of our attic to make space for an inspection of the timbers in our roof, which appear to be moving... While raking through its dusty corners I came across a long-forgotten collection of vinyl albums - which I have spent the last couple of evenings looking through and playing. I wasn't surprised to find some of the things I had bought as a teenager (this CD thing will never catch on, I'll buy another LP), but I hadn't remembered that some things from my childhood were in there too!
For me Ringo Starr was never the real voice of Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends, in fact Thomas wasn't even the band's front-man when I was a kid, they were just "The Railway Stories" - and they were read by Johnny Morris. Johnny Morris is probably best remembered for his BBC kids TV series, Animal Magic in which he voiced spoken parts for the animals, with his gentle unique voice, and whimsical wit.
His readings of the Railway Stories were lovely and he brought the characters alive - pompous officials, Imperious Express Engines, wicked trucks - all part of these wonderful stories. When Morris was the story-teller the pictures were better than the subsequent TV series. One of my friends told me recently that he had met Johnny Morris - and that he was as charming and friendly off-camera as he appeared on it. The Railway Stories are things which will always remind me of my two Grandfathers though. Both called "Grandpa", we distinguished between them as "Grandpa-shed" and "Grandpa-piano". Both were very creative; one, making useful things in his shed, the other at his piano, with his Mozart and Scarlatti. Amongst my earliest memories are Grandpa-piano reading Railway Stories to me at his house in Sunbury; and I can remember listening to this Johnny Morris album with Grandpa-shed - who liked copying the character voices too.
Next out of the archive were two albums of songs from Play-School, which was the BBC's flagship Under-5s programme during the 1970s. Brian Cant, Johnny Ball, Toni Archer, Derek Griffiths, Lionel Morton, Chloe Ashcroft, Don Spencer and all the others sang songs which were in turn educational and hilarious, told nursery rhymes, and produced this album which when I was about five I could sing along with word-perfectly. Pulling these albums out of their sleeves yesterday was a bizarre experience!
Of course, I was delighted that I could still remember a few of the songs, with the words! Better still my five-year old daughter was in the room - and it was fun watching her responding to the songs with the pure enjoyment that I had got from them back in the middle-ages. I had wondered if they would 'work' today, or whether in the world of ipods and Nintendo's, they would seem hopelessly quaint. Happily she danced and laughed and was thoroughly absorbed by my little nostalgia-fest. Now of course, I can't get the songs out of head... This isn't too bad when the song in question is a uniformly wonderful as Derek Griffiths' Spider Song. However if you catch me singing, "wouldn't it be funny if the moon were made of cheese - and everybody had to wear balloons around their knees?", be kind!