A monkey holding a watermelon

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I've had a blog for a very long time. Over 15 years. Recently I've been thinking how it'd be nice to bring back some of the better old posts, once a week. I'm starting with a series that I did back in 2009, before Blood on the Motorway was but a twinkle in my eye. I'd asked for seven one blog topics from people on Twitter and got some of my best blog material as a result. Here's the fourth, a suggestion from, well, I'm not sure who suggested it. Lost to the sands of time. Originally posted on August 28th, 2009, a time when my now-ten-year-old daughter was only two years old.

A monkey holding a watermelon

From the vaults: 7 Days, Day Four.

One of the bewildering things about becoming a parent is the lack of basic instructions.  If you go to Argos and buy a piece of furniture you will find assembly instructions enclosed within, and yet when it comes to being given a newborn child, which will require much more effort and constant management than a three-tier wardrobe will ever do, you get nothing. At the very least they should provide you with the child equivalent of an Allen key, a multi-purpose tool that can stop it from crying or deal with the never-ending flow of poop.

One of the things they should prepare you for is how much children’s television has changed since you last bothered to tune in. The main example of this is the advent of all-day children’s channels, such as the wonderful and yet bewildering Cbeebies. No longer are children’s programmes a way to settle a child for a few hours in the afternoon, now they provide it from the moment your child wakes you up until the time they go to bed, like a constant opium release for your child.

Of course, this leads to the temptation, especially on those weekend days when you are feeling a little worse for wear, to just pop it on and leave it running all day, like a constantly running distraction machine. But (and this is where the warning comes in) you do this at your peril because soon you will get sucked into the bewildering world within. When I was a child I doubt that my parents could name any of the characters of the programmes I watched. They lacked any awareness of the organisational structure of the Autobots, for instance. And yet I can name virtually every character that comes on Cbeebies over the course of a day. I know the words to all the songs they sing on Me Too, have seen every episode of In the Night Garden and have even found myself leaving the channel on when Rosie isn’t even in the house, dancing around to Boogie Beebies.

But none of this prepared me for the latest marvel to grace Cbeebies.  The terror that is Waybuloo.  I first stumbled across this one afternoon after Rosie and I had been to the park. After two hours of running after a toddler as she attempted every single area of the park that she was not old enough to go on, we returned home with me far more exhausted than her.  I popped on Cbeebies and curled up on the sofa to die.

About half an hour later I woke, with a strangely serene feeling washing over me, as the gentle music of pan pipes and clinking crystals greeted me. I opened my eyes and could see Rosie transfixed to the screen.  I glanced at the television, trying to make out what was going on.

It was no good. On the screen were what appeared to be three small monkey-like creatures, all laying on the floor doing yoga.  Then they suddenly exclaimed something in a weird language and started to float off the ground, manic smiles plastered on their faces, eyes huge with dilated pupils.  The screen cut to another of the little monkey creatures, this time holding what appeared to be a watermelon.  Another was jumping calmly up and down on a box, neither of them showing any expression other than what appeared to be a manic bliss.  The monkey holding a watermelon handed it to another monkey and then flew away without a word. ‘Noktok,’ said the other monkey creature, and walked away to do some more yoga. Everything was so surreal that I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised if what they’d actually said was ‘Nobody puts Noktok in a corner.’

I watched the rest of the episode without a clue what was going on, but unable to look away. Even the most surreal episode of In The Night Garden will still furnish the viewer with some plot, generally about someone losing something and then finding it again, but try as hard as I could, there was no plot to be found here.

Afterwards, I turned the television off, despite the protestations of Rosie, who began immediately to shout ‘Beebies.’  I looked at her, and said ‘We’re going to go back outside Rosie, I think we need to make sure that the world is still real after that.’  She nodded and headed for the door.  Thankfully all was as it had been only an hour before. But for a while there I was beginning to suspect some kind of cosmic shift, the world spun out of orbit by the sheer oddness of the show we had seen.

Needless to say, it’s now Rosie’s favourite show. 

Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores.