In Radio Reflections I wrote about how, when I was growing up, the media landscape was very different than it is today. A landscape of fewer channels means that, like counting the rings on a tree, you can age somebody who grew-up in 1970s Britain by the main television characters they reference. For some it might be Zammo or ‘Gripper’ Stebson in Grange Hill. Maybe a little later it would be Scott and Charlene in Neighbours. But, I think, for most of my generation the real telltale dating come from your Doctor (mine was Tom Baker) and your Blue Peter presenters. For me, Lesley Judd, Peter Purves and John Noakes were Monday and Thursday television.
In 1977, the television presenter John Noakes, who has died aged 83, climbed Nelson’s Column without safety harness or insurance, for an episode of the BBC’s enduring children’s show Blue Peter. After shinning up one ladder, Noakes swung himself dauntlessly on to another, tilted 45 degrees from the vertical. “At this level,” said Noakes in a voiceover, “the plinth on which Nelson stands overhangs the column. I found myself literally hanging on from the ladder with nothing at all beneath me.”
Throughout the time I watched, John was always accompanied by Shep, described as ‘an enthusiastic border collie’. Shep & John went everywhere together: they really were a double act. Noakes was known for his catchphrase, “Get Down Shep” but I wonder if it really was uttered that often?
I think you pass from famous to national treasure in Britain once we’re able to take have a little fun with you. For John Noakes, he may already have been a National Treasure before The Barron Knights released Get Down Step, but this cemented that status.
(I posted a slightly shorter version of this earlier on Facebook)