HOLD on to your seat because I am just about to deliver the most sobering thought of the week. Are you ready?
John Noakes is 80. That’s right – the young daredevil from Blue Peter who went to the top of Nelson’s Column, crashed out of a bobsleigh and introduced us to his trusty dog Shep reached the landmark last week. How old does that make you feel?
Here’s another crushing blow for you: it’s no less than 36 years since he last presented Blue Peter. And we might as well get this one out of the way too: Shep, who was one of nine official Blue Peter pet dogs (not including guide dogs), has been dead for 27 years.
I think I was shocked to discover John is an octogenarian for two reasons.
Firstly, while it’s normal to think, when you’re a child, that anybody over 25 is ancient, this never seemed to apply to Blue Peter presenters. They somehow always seemed to be just a little older than me, like older brothers and sisters.
Secondly, the thought of John Noakes reaching 80 is a shocker because our image of him is mostly frozen in time.
He has popped up on telly a couple of times in this century, including to help dig up the 2000 time capsule that I still remember being buried as if it was yesterday.
But otherwise he disappeared from our screens, almost overnight, and went to live in Spain. It was almost as if he was put in a time capsule himself.
And in it with him were co-presenters Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, along with Shep, Petra, Jason the cat and Freda, the tortoise.
I could go on regaling you with reminders of Blue Peter that would make you feel even older than you are feeling already, but let me answer the question that all this is probably formulating in your mind. When I typed “Is Blue Peter” into Google, it already guessed what I was going to ask, which was: “Is Blue Peter still going?”
Indeed it is, but cruelly relegated from BBC1 to CBBC and, rather than being broadcast on Mondays and Thursdays, as it should be by rights, it only goes out once a week.
A few years ago, apparently, the numbers of viewers aged six to 12 dropped to just 100,000, which is tragic for a programme that stands head and shoulders above all others from my childhood.
Sure it was a bit nerdy – even before we ever heard of the word ‘nerdy’ – but nothing else I can recall did more for putting in my young mind the idea that the world could be so interesting, and I haven’t met anybody from Britain yet who wouldn’t be proud to tell you if they had earned a Blue Peter Badge.
We must sadly accept that the Blue Peter format no longer appeals to kids, but I have an idea that could see it restored to former glories.Why not revive it as a programme for adults? Not one that seems to be aimed at people with short attention spans, like The One Show (which has been described as “Blue Peter for adults”), but a proper, intelligent magazine programme with tips on how to make cool things out of rubbish.
Programme planners could do a lot worse than look in their archives to discover some lost magic. In other words: it’s time to reach under the counter and say: "Take a look at one we made earlier.”