Blue Peter. I was a big fan, as a kid, of this classic show. From the infamous 1960s clip of the elephant pooping all over the studio to today, when most children watch it via iPhone, it’s a British Telly institution.
So it was with excitement and not a little nervous trepidation that I agreed to do a shoot for the show on the subject of the forthcoming conference I’m organising: Food and the First World War.
The filming was to take place in Beamish, County Durham, ‘the living museum of the north of England’, as it calls itself, and familiar scene of many TV adaptations, such as those old Catherine Cookson yarns.
After a long train ride, I was greeted at Durham by local taxi driver Kevin, who conveyed me to set. The first thing that strikes you about this part of the world is the friendliness of the locals and Kevin and my return driver, Ian, were smashing Durham fellas who taught me a lot in a very short space of time about the county’s uniqueness and the historical power of the prince bishops who once ruled this cathedral city.
I arrived at Beamish late and was shown to set by a stout farm girl wearing dungarees. I do love the genuineness of these period locations.
It wasn’t long before I myself was donning a British Tommy’s uniform and cooking potato treacle pudding and machonochie stew with Barnie (pictured), who is one of the Blue Peter presenters these days. It was some fun. The soldiers uniform was itchy and the treacle pudding all but inedible, but the craic, as they say, was mighty.
‘Just pitch it towards a ten year old girl’ Barnie instructed me. And so I did. And I think I even managed to get across some of the key issues about trench diets while doing so. I even managed to do a bit of cooking in the process.
Filming was interrupted by a member of the crew accidentally kicking over a coal bucket, by my oven gloves almost catching fire, and by an over friendly pussy cat who just wanted a cuddle.
But by the end of the day, I had earned my Blue Peter badge. And, as producer Vicki ceremoniously handed it to me, I felt an infantile thrill of excitement surge through me.
That is until the soundman sidled up to me and informed me that Blue Peter badges sell for a fortune on eBay.
But you can bet I’m keeping my one. Childhood dream fulfilled.
The episode airs in July by which point, mercifully, I may well be out of the country.