The Persistence of Memory


Back in 2018, I blogged about the resurgence of a long-forgotten memory, of my childhood in the Sixties, retrieved by that inexplicable random process that brings things back out of the deep gloom. That was a comic serial adaptation of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court, recalled by association with an Ursula Le Guin essay in which her reasons for disliking the book were identical to mine.

The memory was faint, as well it might be. I blogged the phenomenon and was rewarded by David Simpson immediately producing details of the serial’s creator, it’s provenance in Hurricane and it’s availability on DVD. That has been the spark for a lot of alternate Friday afternoon posts since.

But there are other such memory sparks, some that return every now and then, for no apparent reason. One fluttered back this morning, and I decided to pursue it.

‘All day they dance to tunes by Handel/Along the coast of Coromandel’. That couplet returns at odd, extended intervals, attached to an image of someone reading a long poem of which those lines formed a recurring motif, a man in Regency clothing and long wig, stood with his back to the camera, ostentatiously reading, and three ladies in long gowns, dncing graciously around. Remembering the name of the programme took an effort to cudgel out of my brain, but it came back to me: Tickertape, a kind of magazine programme for kids, full of odd, off-angled things like this.

I remember bits of other things. Another item with dancers, a cartoon set to the old song ‘Oh How We Danced’ which was a dark, intense experience, a presenter singing a song that introduced the programme, tick-tickertape, tick-tickertape.

Along the coast of Coromandel: what was that poem anyway? How did the rest of it go? Ok, let’s find out, open a Google search.

It took some time to identify, because over fifty years my memory was incorrect. The line, the title, is ‘On the Coast of Coromandel’, the poem is by Osbert Sitwell and you can read the whole thing here. Thus a memory is made concrete, albeit in partial respect.

What of the rest of the scene? What of Tickertape itself? The facts are that it was a Southern Television (ITV) production, running one, disrupted series in 1968, co-presented by Jake Thackeray and Bernard Bresslaw. I remember it popping up, here and there, which I now understand to be because of an ITV cameraman strike, preventing it getting a clean run. That won’t have helped it be renewed, but from what I remember of it, I think it was an ambitious attempt to do an anti-Blue Peter, the same magazine format but with a more artistic bent. I remember it as a curate’s egg of a programme, but one that, when it clicked, had an underlying dark edge. I think it appeared on Sunday afternoons.

Having found the poem, I went looking for more about the show. Nothing remains, the tapes were wiped, just like Freddie Garrity’s Little Big Time and the extraordinarily inventive ‘Oliver in the Overworld’ serial.

The closest I came to finding anything of substance about Tickertape was a brief thread, five years go, on the Jake Thackeray Website. They know nothing either, though there is a reference to Thackeray being embarrassed about the series (and a suggestion that he tended to be embarrassed about most things he did, implying we should take that opinion with a pinch of salt).

Since I had actual, if hazy, memories of the show, I tried to created an account to log in and share them with his fans, but something went wrong, I couldn’t get in. indeed, I managed to get blocked before I could post a word, so I decided to blog it myself.

There was a lot of imagination going round in the Sixties, and that extended to children’s TV. Too much of that was wiped. Southern were responsible for Freewheelers, one of the most exciting thrillers and an absolute phenomenon and only fragments of that remain. I think Tickertape probably ended up a failed experiment, but it remains in my head fifty years later, so its mission to stimulate the imagination worked in one case. And I’ve traced the poem that has stuck, erroneously, in my memory for all that time.

All day they dance to tunes by Handel/long the Coast of Coromandel.’

It’s not ‘Tickertape’, but this is Jake Thackeray:

 

 

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