Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Over on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

Katherine Langrish is talking about "making" and, in the course of it, she mentioned "Blue Peter", a long running and excellent television programme for children, see http://steelthistles.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-making.html
It reminded me of our Australian radio programme when I was a child. It was called "The Argonauts" and it was broadcast at 5pm on 5CL in our remote part of the world. Radio reception was patchy. We had a battery operated radio and my brother and I spent our very limited pocket money partly on batteries for the radio so that we could listen to the programme. It was used for just that and the news service, nothing else. (There was no point in getting a newspaper because they would arrive once a week on the weekly train that went through to points west.)
You could belong to the Argonauts 'club'. My mother was not keen on the idea of us belonging to anything but my father saw the advantages of children being encouraged to write anything so my brother and I became 'rowers in the good ship Persephone'. There were, I think, 50 or 60 rowers in each ship.
Once you were a member you could participate, mostly by writing letters, and aim to reach the giddy heights of "Golden Fleece and Bar". I remember one member on the ship Agememnon who was a prolific writer and often mentioned. I often wonder who he or she was and what they went on to be or do.
The programme itself had a core team, with people like 'Mac' and 'Jimmy'. There was also "The Muddle Headed Wombat" who would frequently complain "everything happens to me" and serialised versions of novels by writers like Nan Chauncy and Joan Phipson. There were regular weekly contributions by people "Linnaeus" (a nature/science segment) and an extraordinary book writing project led by John Gunn where various Argonauts contributed chapters and pictures. Looking back I suspect that there had to be a fair adult contribution in order to produce a readable story!
My brother and I were not permitted to contribute very often. My mother said it was a 'waste of stamps'. Perhaps it was. I know that on each occasion I contributed my letter was read on air - although I did not always hear it read. It never sounded as if it was written by me anyway. I was someone else when I wrote it.
There is, as far as I know, nothing like the Argonauts now. It was the "Blue Hills" for children I suppose. ("Blue Hills" was the Australian version of "The Archers".) I do not know how long it lasted after television became widespread. I suppose I grew out of it. I stopped being an official Argonaut. My brother stopped being an official one too.
But we did not really stop. We went on being Argonauts.

11 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

My husband and his family was a big fan of the Argonauts and I am pretty sure he was one. I spent the first seven years of my life in England so Blue Peter holds the same place in my affections - one of my proudest possessions is the Blue Peter badge I won in a competition - and it was a delight for my own daughter to watch it when she was little and we were living in England.

catdownunder said...

I actually saw Blue Peter several times when visiting the family of a lecturer from university. I can remember a sequence with a sailing boat - marvellous stuff that must have made all children want to try it!

Janet said...

Blue Peter was a favourite with my children - and I was a great fan of all those children's programmes. Watch With Mother was a particular favourite.
Janet, now in Seattle

Rachel Fenton said...

I could never write down the address fast enough to enter any comps or send anything to Blue Peter - I'd have just found a biro that worked and a bit of paper and it would have gone! Would have loved a Blue Peter badge!

catdownunder said...

Janet, was there also something called "Listen with mother" which started with the words "Are you sitting comfortably?" I think I remember hearing about this too!

catdownunder said...

Story of our lives Rachel?

Katherine Langrish said...

Cat, this is wonderful! I'm going to ask my Aussie sister-in-law if she remembers the Argonauts too. How much loved these programmes were and are, and what a big deal they meant to the children who listened!

catdownunder said...

Thankyou Katherine. I don't think there was ever anything quite like Blue Peter though and I still remember that boating segment!

Rachel Fenton said...

MAgpie was a lot like Blue Peter but that was in BP's early days.

Without risking the ire of OZ/NZ telly fans/etc - kids' telly over here cannot hold a candle to UK telly :) Hence, no telly in this household!

Strong opinion of the day for you there, Cat!

Miriam Drori said...

To this day, every time my husband and I mention that it's quarter to two, we have to sing the theme tune of "Listen with mother". "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...." I loved it!

catdownunder said...

I think I am just a little bit jealous Miriam!