Saturday Slant: Attic again and in a spot of bother

Why no honour, yet again, for comedian Ken Dodd, asks Craig Fleming, whose grandson Jake meanwhile received an unwanted present from Santa - chicken pox
Why no honour, yet again, for comedian Ken Dodd, asks Craig Fleming, whose grandson Jake meanwhile received an unwanted present from Santa - chicken pox
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It started with a fruitless search in the loft for a faded sketch of a steaming Christmas pudding on a plate with a smiley face that defied you to eat it.

The expedition ended more than 90 minutes later when my wife’s head appeared through the hatch to find me sat on my knees studying the detailed instructions of how to build your very own Dalek for around £15.

How time flies, along with the years, when you are pulling, pushing, sorting through, stacking and generally manoeuvring cardboard boxes back into place, Tetris-style, on the boarded half of the loft.

The sketch, which I know is up there under the rafters somewhere among the decades of Fleming memorabilia, was my dad’s way of trying to make me feel better as a poorly three-year-old.

I am not so sure that it worked entirely at the time, but I do know that I had a chuckle or two the last time I saw it because it reminded me that these little drawings were my dad’s way of trying to diffuse bad situations.

The reason I was searching at all for this sketch was because my two-year-old grandson Jake has received the same unwelcome Christmas present that Santa once left for me.

He has chicken pox. And, as my picture shows, this is a particular heavy dose judging by the spots that cover him not only head to toe, but even under his toes.

I don’t envy his mummy and daddy who are trying every which way to comfort him as the virus takes its inevitable course.

When I had the dreaded spots my dad drew me as a face in a Christmas pudding to try and cheer me up and, although Jake is still too young to take it all in, I thought his parents might appreciate a light-hearted moment when they saw it. But the time spent in the loft was not wasted.

I came across a small tub of Potty Putty, amazingly still as potent as ever in the plastic container it came in when I bought it for 1s 6d (7.5p) while at school camp in Criccieth in 1965.

I then had a few rolls of the wheels of my Matchbox and slightly-larger Dinky cars and the cash-in versions that Woolworths sold for a few pennies less than those famous makes.

None of them are in their original boxes, all of them sport the scratches of the hard knocks they got from constant use. For as a youngster these toys were there to be played with, not to languish Toy Story 2-style in their packaging to tempt collectors who had probably yet to be born.

I loved my cars and I remember now the particular ones bought for me if I had been “brave” on visits to Mr Glickman, our family dentist in Haslingden.

And then, carefully wrapped in plastic, among copies of my school magazine Ex-Montibus and the rag mag I “edited” (plagiarism is not stealing, it is research, especially when you are recycling corny old jokes!) while studying journalism at Harris College, Preston, were several single number early issues of counter culture magazine Oz – although not, I hasten to add, the infamous Schoolkids issue which led to a high-profile court case in June 1971.

The plastic bag seemed much bigger on the inside than the outside, which turned out to be most appropriate when I came to a pristine copy of a Dr Who magazine.

Forget the 50th anniversary hoo-ha last November. This is a 30p Radio Times special publication to mark the 10th year of the time traveller.

While we all wait to see how well Peter Capaldi fits into the role, back in 1973 there had only been three Doctors and in a candid interview, the first of them, William Hartnell, admits: “I was laughed at and mocked a good deal for my initial faith in the series. But I believed in it. I remember telling producer Verity Lambert right at the start ‘This is going to run for five years’. And now it’s 10 years old.”

And the rest!

Flicking through the magazine I came across six pages devoted to “the first ever blueprint for constructing a Dalek”, which, taking in one 500m roll of bandage, 2 lbs of gelcoat resin, four square yards of hessian scrim, a sink plunger, 28 lbs of fast-setting potter’s plaster, umpteen sheets of various grades of plywood, ribbed rubber flooring foam strip and three plastic rotating castors, among many other “basic materials”, would bring your Dalek to some sort of life for approximately £15.

“You do not need to be a professional to build a Dalek, but you will need some basic skills, precision, common sense and, above all, enthusiasm,” claims the magazine.

If I start tonight I might just get it finished by the time Jake’s last spot disappears.

But if I want to follow my dad’s tried-and-tested lead then I suppose it will have to be the first Dalek with a smiley face alongside those tell-tale spots...


Should we be surprised by some of the names, or lack of them, in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours?

There have been grumbles in some quarters that the likes of David Beckham did not get a knighthood.

Then again, even if he had, wife Victoria would probably have thought the “hood” itself might be fashioned into in one of her zany catwalk lines.

A lot of readers are probably wondering why Ken Dodd, yet again and despite high profile campaigns, has not had any kind of acknowledgment for his lengthy services to entertainment.

At least two of our good old fashioned terrestrial TV stations must have been expecting some kind of gong to be joining Ken’s tickling stick for 2014 as both Channel 5 and BBC had programmes scheduled in, one following on from the other, on the Liverpool comic.

OK, so they were repeats, but then so is the bulk of Doddy’s repertoire, his appeal being through the delivery.

The fact he is still filling theatres whenever and wherever he appears, shows there is a terrific public warmth towards the 86-year-old performer. So many people pick up the twice-yearly awards for basically doing the job they are paid for.

On those grounds alone Ken must surely be in line for something come the Birthday Honours in June.