Camberwick Green -Post Modern Kids TV
When I was young Camberwick Green was my favourite 'Watch With Mother' programme. I loved the stories from the little village in Trumptonshire. In fact I was a little bit obsessed with it. Mr Crockett, the garage mechanic, was my hero and I longed to be a mechanic just like him. Those of you that know me will see the irony in this seeing that I have no mechanical ability whatsoever.
During our long telephone conversations, before we met, Lily and I happened to chat about our favourite childrens tv programmes and I discovered she was a
fan too. She has since lent me her daughter Sybil's copy of Camberwick Green on dvd and I have been spending a happy time rewatching this classic childrens programme.
What I have discovered is that far form being twee and not what I remembered, Camberwick Green was a programme far ahead of its time. It had an underlying social message that some of you might be surprised to hear about. It also had un-nerving subversive tendancies too.
First up is Windy Miller, Camberwick Green's version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He is a champion of the green way of life and has many a run in with Jonathon Bell, the local farmer, about whether the old ways are the best. It's Windy's free range eggs that are bought by the villagers and not Bell's factory farmed variety and when Thomas Tripp ( the local Milkman) has an incident that smashes all the milk on his milkfloat, it is Windy and his handmilked cow that saves the day. Farmer Bells new milking equipment has broken down and he can't provide the milk needed.
But it isn't just modern farming ways and the effect upon the environment that are tackled. In one episode, a subject is tackled that still plagues us to this day. Let me set the scene.
Jonathon Bell drops by at Windy's place to pick up some sacks of flour (even the evil factory farmer can see the benefits of Windy's ways). It is a hot day and Windy offers Farmer Bell some refreshment in the form of his home made 'strong cider'. Farmer Bell refuses saying 'No thank you Windy, I'm driving'. Nothing too odd you might think, but Camberwick Green was made in 1966 and the drink driving laws in this country didn't come in until 1967!! Was writer Gordon Murray at the forefront of Government policy thinking surrounding this issue? Was it him that planted the idea of stopping people getting totally rat-faced and driving home in the Home Secretary's mind. Very possibly. The power of television cannot be underestimated.
It is the episiode involving Mrs Honeyman and her Baby though that is the most shocking. Even the biggest long-haired, pot-smoking, vegan lay-about cannot condone the events in this story. For it displayed such a disregard for the laws of this country that I'm not surprised that it was actually the very last episode in the Camberwick Green series.
Mrs Honeyman is a bit of a busy-body, for those of you who don't know the programme. In this episode, some workman arrive in the village and Mrs H obviously goes over to chat them. She misunderstands what they are doing and thinking that they are going to build an electricity substation on the village green, she goes off to tell all the other villagers. What follows is nothing short of anarchy, some might even call treason!!!
The villagers are upset about their little bit of England being dug up and as many have done since decide to take direct action. Nothing wrong in that, I applaud their actions. However, it's when they call the army out from Pippin Fort when things go too far. Even PC McGarry (number 452) is involved. This is a dreadful turn of events. And what's more when it is discovered that it's all been a mistake there is no come back. Captain Snort is not courtmarshalled for treason (some countries would have had him shot), there is no trial for the soldier boys, as obviously 'I was only following orders' is a legimate excuse in Trumptonshire. PC McGarry isn't drummed out of the force and not one of the Camberwick Green residents is beaten by truncheon weilding riot police or is dragged screaming from the tree they having chained themselves to.
I haven't seen all of the episodes yet but on what I've seen so far I will not be surprised if Mr Dagenham, the travelling salesman, has a suitcase stuffed full of crack cocaine and Mr Crockett heads up a vehicle ringing gang with ties to the Russian mafia.
Or maybe I'm taking things a little too seriously ;-)