Forty-Six Years On… Part One

Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?
 

In 1966, Gordon Murray created a stop-start motion series that it is said ostensibly mirrored the triangle of towns in East Sussex that are Wivelsfield Green, Plumpton and Chailey.  It entered the national psyche as something that the nation’s children would grow up alongside.  Those children are now in their forties or (yes) fifties.  The voice of the Trumptonshire Trilogy, Brian Cant, legendary much-loved children’s presenter, is now in his eightieth year.  We all age.

The characters in the series, however, never did. Gordon Murray (a nonagenarian now) destroyed the puppets from Camberwick Green (1966), Trumpton (1967) and Chigley (1969) in the 1980s as they were not built to last and were  in an increasing state of disrepair.  The shows remain but in an appalling lack of wisdom by the BBC, the masters were lost.  They were recovered after prompting by the animator and his son-in-law and remastered in 2012.  Are they important?  Well, if I typed the two words “Pugh, Pugh…” the odds are that the reader will have recited the next four names before they finished this sentence and will be now grinning at what they just did.  They were much loved and they will be again.

So the shows are remastered and have a new lease of life in the twenty-first century.  Would the characters be in the same position?  They hark back to the age of Wilson’s first government, filmed in colour when colour was not yet a broadcast option and television ran to two channels and for a part of the day only.  Would they still have the same stories to tell today?  Let’s see…

Camberwick Green started the ball rolling

  • Mickey Murphy – Mickey was an artisan baker.  The days of the independent baker were sadly numbered by the 1980s with the increased demand for pre-sliced bread in polythene that lasted a week and Mickey’s lot was no different.  He left his specialist skills behind (although he still bakes authentically for pleasure) to man an oven at an out-of-town supermarket, finishing off no end of part-baked loaves delivered by truck.
  • Windy Miller – Windy if anything was more anachronistic that Mickey.  He owns a windmill and the demand for the grains he formerly ground for specialist flour dried up through cheap imports and lack of demand for quality over cost.  He converted the mill to wind power and now faces the opposition of any number of small-minded idiots who now suddenly have decided that his ancient self-powered home is in fact an eyesore.
  • Jonathan Bell – Farmer.  Barely surviving as through intensive increases in milk yield over time, he now has to produce more than twice the milk as forty years ago to just stand still in the face of the handful of large milk companies that took hold of the deregulated market on the demise of the Milk Marketing Board in the 1990s.  Considering turning his land to tourism over farming.
  • PC McGarry – The local bobby on the beat, affectionately know by his number (“number 452”) no longer has a beat in Camberwick Green.  His station is now manned on Tuesday and Thursday only (11am – 3pm) with a telephone access to leave a message outside those hours.  Successive governments have devalued his work and he hopes to retire while he still has a pension for which it would be worth retiring.
  • Mr Carraway – A fishmonger in a country that no longer values fresh fish.  Mr Carraway’s business was in steep decline from the mid ’70s onwards and he sold his shop to sell from a van.  This stayed the execution for quite a while – there was enough business to take the fish to the people and he thrived in relative terms.  Sadly, the decline continued and he sold up completely.  Works part-time on a supermarket fish counter (see Mickey Murphy) that ironically imitates his old shop layout.
  • Peter – A postman, he found his round and working practices under attack time and again.  The GPO has changed name (or “brand”) on several occasions but ultimately he still delivers letters and he is still a postman.  Lives in perennial fear of privatisation and intends to retire within the next twelve months or so before the organisation is sold off from under him.
  • Mr Crockett – Owned the garage.  However, the car maintenance business dropped off as cars became more mechanically sound over time.  Although MOT certification kept him working, alone it was not enough to sustain him.  Sadly, selling petrol tailed off as he was priced out of the trade by high volume, low profit supermarket chains.  Works part-time from home in semi-retirement.  Garage site sold to fast food chain.
  • Doctor Mopp – Left medicine the minute the idiotic hand of government told him to become an administrator rather than tending to and treating sick people.  Sold his practice and retired on the proceeds.  Misses the patients, does not miss the interference of authority.  Not a fan of Andrew Lansley nor of his successor.  Recently seen at several anti-privatisation protests.
  • Thomas Tripp – The milkman, his role has changed somewhat over time.  No longer a sole trader, his round was bought by one of the large milk concerns after deregulation when he would have been forced out through competition. Retains his old round but his round and range of products has expanded while his orders are more likely to be submitted online.  Few nowadays know him by name.
  • Roger Varley – A chimney sweep.  Central heating obviously saw his work tail off over the years.  Retained his motorbike and sidecar which serve him well as a delivery man of various stripes, as well as retaining his chimney sweep paraphernalia for use on demand as the traditional symbol of luck for church weddings in the area.
  • Mr Dagenham – A salesman, the only real change in his business was the advent of mail order, allowing him less time on the road and more in managing orders.  Transnational internet-based behemoths ate into his business to the extent that he was muscled out of the “sales on demand” game and has returned to personal representations.  He is back selling on the road. 
  • Captain Snort and Sergeant Major Grout – The stalwarts at Pippin Fort saw their regiment dissolved as it was merged with another regiment in the area.  It is now a field hospital rather than a training centre for cadets and now is home to any number of military and medical uses.  The historic red uniforms have been discarded for modern-day fatigues.
  • Mrs Honeyman – The chemist’s wife and local gossip, she works part-time and blames immigrants, benefit scroungers and people faking disability for her needing to work despite Camberwick Green having full employment, a 100% White British community make-up and anyone there who actually has a disability is working.  At least some things never change…

The fabric of Middle England appears to have been sacrificed on the altars of big business, standardised mediocrity and the acceptance of convenience over personal touch.  Or am I being cynical.  If only there were more examples I could review…

Next – Trumpton

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