It is generally considered that a child watching television or reading a comic is partaking in a harmless pastime. This may be true to an extent, but my own experience is that what I was reading or watching often instilled in me a sense of envy so deep it almost ached. I was envious of Deep-Sea-Danny, the kid whose inventor father built him a submarine called The Iron Fish, and I hoped that maybe one day I would discover a distant relative whose old football boots would turn me into a young Geoff Hurst.
I yearned to have the powers or possessions these fictional characters held and here are three of the most desirous, complete with scenarios of how I might use those powers today.
The Magic Boomerang
The premise of this show, you may not be surprised to learn, was that a young lad by the name of Tom found an old boomerang that held magical properties. When Tom threw the boomerang, time stood still for everyone but him until it came back down. It was as though he had a flying pause button. Of course, children’s television being what it was back then, Tom used the boomerang’s powers for the good of the local community, thwarting bank raids and rescuing people from precarious situations.
On a typical show a bank robber may be puzzled as to how he now has a banana in his hand where only moments earlier he held a gun. Another scenario might see townsfolk desperately trying to catch up with a runaway pram containing a baby that is speeding towards the cliff edge. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when suddenly the pram appears behind them and they easily stop it in its tracks as it rolls towards them.
Like many of my fellow street urchins I longed to possess a magic boomerang, although my own fantasies on how to use it were not so wholesome as young Tom’s. I visualised self-service trips into toy and sweet shops, where I would march out with all manner of goodies while the staff stood like statues. Now as an adult there are times when I wish even more that I had the ability to pause time, but of course this a feat that is confined to the fantasy world of television.
How I would use it today
It’s a close call at St James’ Park as Newcastle have a slender one goal lead over their fierce rivals Sunderland in this FA Cup tie. The game is well into injury time and Sunderland’s Richardson unleashes an unstoppable thunderbolt from the edge of the penalty area. This is a certain goal so I intervene by throwing the boomerang into the air. While everyone is still I drag the taker of the shot and position him so that when I catch the boomerang and time restarts, his own shot hits him on the back of the head and the ball sails safely over the bar.
This Beano character had an uncle who created an army of small model soldiers and weapons that Jumbo controlled with a gadget on his wrist. The troops may have been small but their bayonets were sharp and, as many a fleeing robber discovered, their sheer number could overwhelm a much larger prey. Add to this support from artillery and aircraft and we are talking about a force to be reckoned with. I used to sit in the armchair at home and dream that I had my own such army. I would send the troops out into the back yard where they would each pick up a lump of coal from the bunker and carry it in. When they had thrown enough coal onto the grate, they would retreat and the flamethrower brigade would roar in to get things started, while helicopter gunships kept the mice from my cheese on toast.
How I would use it today
It is my turn to host on Come Dine With Me. So far the ‘entertainment’ has consisted of a stripper, some fireworks and a bagpipe player. My army will outshine all of those. The diners sit down to a bare table wondering what is going on.
Then the helicopters appear (to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries, of course). Cruets are lowered onto the tablecloth and cutlery-carrying troops are parachuted in. A group of soldiers raises a pair of candlesticks in a scene reminiscent of that iconic image from Iwo Jima and flamethrower-carriers light the candles. It all passes off with military precision but I lose points after one of the contestants almost chokes on a miniature bayonet that had fallen into her soup.
I was out with a friend walking between pubs one summer’s night and we passed a poster advertising a recently released film. The blonde, busty and beautiful star of the film adorned the poster in an ultra-sexy pose and it brought from my friend the comment that he wished he was Peter Piper. I know what he meant.
When I was a child this Sparky character tormented me on a weekly basis by bringing inanimate objects to life with his magic pipes. A typical example of his powers sees him standing in a cinema queue when a fleeing robber runs past. Quick thinking Peter gives a blast on his pipes and the horse-riding cowboy on the cinema poster comes to life and gives chase. The robber is pretty soon lassoed and brought back, muttering something about meddling kids.
Again my own fantasies were more self-centred than Mr Piper’s. I saw myself bringing all manner of toys to life from my mother’s Littlewood’s winter catalogue. I may have caused some consternation as well though – that polar bear on the Fox’s Glacier Mints poster looked so cute.
How I would use it today
There are so many ways these pipes could be used to have fun – not least in the way suggested by my friend above. However life is not all about fun and we are all feeling the pinch right now, so I would blow my pipes at a supermarket poster that depicts a housewife pushing a laden trolley. I would relieve her of its contents, leaving behind the corned beef, Steradent and Tena Lady.
There were two things I learned from watching television and reading comics as a child that I later discovered to be untrue. These were: 1) that robberies are an everyday occurrence in most towns, and 2) that actors making films about robberies and being mistaken for the real thing are an even more common occurrence in most towns.
That’s just not the case here in Cactusville.