This is in response to a request on Twitter for reviews of programmes we end up having to watch with our children. Not the joyous ones we share willingly, the ones that are like having teeth pulled. If Betty thinks it’s suitable for her blog it’ll be here;
In the meantime, it’s here…
Topsy and Tim (VHS)
I can’t remember which title this was as the video itself was ‘disappeared’ before our youngest was old enough to be interested, but moving house and going to school for the first time ring bells, as does Tim being ill in bed, but that last bit may just have been wishful thinking on my part.
This video was ‘acquired’ via the kind offices of a relative who thought it might prove useful in keeping our boys (aged 4 & 2 at the time) otherwise occupied while we moved house and the eldest started school – you can see where they were headed with that thought process, can’t you, and it was a well-thought through plan, right up until they implemented it using Topsy and Tim rather than, say, a tape of Beetlejuice reset in Dotheboys Hall.
The animation was of the ‘let’s get a kids colouring-in book, cut the legs off the figures so we can move them up and down to mimic walking and pretend that it’s a cartoon’ variety. We remember a sandwich being ‘eaten’ by Tim that had just one bite out of it, no matter how many times it was moved to and from his mouth. If you remember ‘Bod’ you’ll know the kind of thing, but where Bod was an occasional, short, cute, cartoon (with the emphasis on short) Topsy and Tim lasted an entire day. Well, a usual video length, so say an hour, but it seemed much longer.
You know those wonderful programmes for children that are funny, inventive, so multi-layered they almost demand repeat viewing to get every nuance out of them, and with broad-spectrum appeal so adults can enjoy them as well? Topsy and Tim are having none of that: the stories themselves were simplistic, anodyne and immensely boring. If the boys demanded it we’d do our best to set the video off and run for cover, having done our best to try and persuade them that it had been eaten by wolves since the last viewing and no, we couldn’t possibly find a replacement. The times I cursed the fact that our eldest was too smart to believe that wolves lived behind the TV…
Anyhow, roll on to Christmas a few months after moving house and we get flu. Proper, can’t actually lift your head and you don’t so much wish to die as feel utterly convinced that you are really and truly dying flu. The boys were free of it, but us parents were in the full grip of it. The first couple of days weren’t so bad, it was just me that was ill, so my husband had everything under control and things ticked on. It was when he got ill too that things got really sticky. I wasn’t really up to getting out of bed yet, but he wasn’t either. We’d take turns sitting with the kids on the sofa, the boys unaccountably, sadistically, insisting on watching Topsy and Tim on an almost continuous loop breaking only to demand food and drink.
By this time our eldest had got the hang of TV controls, so he was in charge of rewinding and setting it off to play. Whichever parent was currently in possession of the short straw would sit, head lolling on the back of the sofa, trying to stop their brain from turning into cream cheese from the sheer awfulness of what was churning out of the television set. The music was a constant, unwanted, backdrop to whatever was happening on screen: I’ve had music boxes that performed with more panache and variety. It sucked at my soul and threatened to drag me into the special hell reserved for those who compose lift music. When it got so bad we thought our little grey cells were in imminent danger of dribbling out of our ears we’d crawl on hands and knees up the stairs and declare, ‘tag, you’re it’ to the other parent.
I’m not sure what happened to the VHS tape after that Christmas. It’s entirely possible it fell into one of the circles of hell and is being used by Lucifer to torment the damned.