Watch this space …

I really should do something about the gap in between blogs. In my defence, I have a very demanding job chasing four-legged creatures around muddy fields and also clearly have serious issues with time management.

Anyway I’m prompted to write because of my very favourite new TV show, Gogglebox.

If you haven’t seen it – and you really must – it’s a sort of fly-on-the-wall documentary on Channel 4 in which cameras capture Brits on their sofa watching the telly and passing comment on the programmes they’re watching.

For anyone who knew me in a past working life, you will know I consider this possibly the greatest televisual creation ever.

Once upon a time I was actually paid to watch telly and write about it. It was without a shadow of a doubt the best job I have ever had in my life. And I chucked it to go to uni.

Yeah, sometimes my thought processes baffle me, too.

Freed from the tyranny of having to sit in front of the box with a notepad and pen by my side, I’ve let my telly viewing slide over the last eight or nine years. Where once I’d have been first to sign up for Netflix to chase down the likes of Breaking Bad and The Wire, the hype has passed me by.

I did get into The Killing big time – but only six months after everyone else.

And I still have the series one box set of Borgen unopened and every episode of series two unwatched on Sky+. Wrong on so many levels.

But the last few weeks ensconced on the couch watching Gogglebox have reminded me of the absolute joy of TV – especially when it’s a shared experience.

The  splendid Grace Dent of The Independent actually expresses everything I want to say, only a million times better.

But hell, this is my blog so I’m going to wax lyrical in praise of Sandy and Sandra from Brixton, Leon and Joan from Liverpool (my faves) and posh lushes Steph and Dom whose drawling and scathing loucheness is an absolute joy to behold.

Every single family and group chosen for this series is just perfect, from the catty Brighton gay boys to the Essex mum, dad and their boomerang generation thirtysomething son.

What it reminds me of most, of course, is The Royle Family with Jim, Barb and co mesmerised by the square thing in the corner of the room and all vying to guess the price of the artefacts on Antiques Roadshow. I’m in good company with that thought, though.

The comments are funny and warm and narky and occasionally cruel. And sometimes the Goggleboxers’ reaction to what they’re watching is almost unbearably moving.

Check out virtually everyone’s reaction to a particularly harrowing scene in Stephen Fry’s BBC2 documentary Out There (15 minutes in).

And the best bit of all about those 45 minutes every Wednesday night on Gogglebox? Me and Debbie are sitting on our couch watching them sitting on their couches talking about telly. Believe me when I say this is a kind of magic.

My missus doesn’t do telly. At all. Unless it’s cookery shows or endless episodes of Grand Designs.

But Gogglebox‘s charm is such that even Debbie has been persuaded to broaden her viewing horizons just so she can join in with the banter.

It’s transported me back a decade to my old Daily Record days and endless chat about telly with colleagues I miss to this day.

And it’s made me all nostalgic for my 70s childhood where watching TV was something in which the whole family participated.

With only three channels to choose from (and it was actually only two for us because my parents believed ITV was too trashy – plus ça change and all that), my memories are of maw, paw, weans and nana all scattered around the living-room glued to the box.

In my mind’s eye, we were enthralled by something exceptional like The Naked Civil Servant or Fawlty Towers. The reality is we were probably watching High Chaparral or The Waltons.

Thankfully there were no cameras on hand to capture our every reaction.

Gogglebox has reignited my passion for telly but has also made me pine a little for the daily interaction you get when working in an office and have actual people to talk to. The dogs are fabulous but they’re hardly the greatest of conversationalists.

Maybe I should start a daily telly blog but you lot would have to promise to come talk to me.

In the meantime, tune in to Channel 4 every Wednesday at 10pm for Googlebox – I promise you’re going to love it.

Big fat biscuit letdown

What is it about sweets and biscuits that they can evoke the most potent of childhood memories? And yet one person’s vivid recollection is another person’s “eh nup, can’t recall that at all”!
Last week I was thrilled to discover a packet of biscuits called Romany Creams in a local shop (bizarrely this was a butcher’s shop that caters for the Caribbean community). Gypsy Creams were a staple of the biscuit box when I was a kid because a) they were cheap and b) us kids were enthralled by any chocolate biccy (custard creams and tea biscuits were the usual alternatives). I don’t recall when Gypsy Creams disappeared from the supermarket shelves but I’m certain I haven’t seen one in at least two decades. Seems others have been searching for them, too.
So despite the hefty £2.66 price tag (and what should have been the red flag warning of transfat free), I snapped up the Romany Creams. Reader, they were rank. They smelled like Gypsy Creams – what a tease – but tasted dry and flavour-free. I was gutted. The aroma was so tantalising, transporting me back to the early 70s in an instant, but leaving me flat when the taste failed to ignite my tastebuds.
I started reminiscing on Facebook about another great sweet treat of my childhood, Bunty Sponges, and was met with blank reactions by just about everyone. Anyway, I remember them! They were like Farley’s Rusks, only not for babies, and my mum used to break them up to use as the base for her trifles.
So in the spirit of remembering great food (and other things) that you no longer get, here’s my (current) top 5 things I’d like brought back, if only for a wee while.

1. Texan Bars A great big chewy, chocolate covered treat, Texan Bars were a superb sweet to buy cos they were so chewy, they lasted ages. The advert was cracking too. They also gave rise to one of the greatest comedy moments of my entire life, involving an Austin Allegro, my sweet-toothed dad, my wee sis and a Milky Way.
2. Top of the Pops BBC Four is keeping the Pops alive with its Friday night re-runs but come on, we need this show back and we need it now. Fair enough, I’m now at the age where I’d do that annoying running commentary so beloved of our parents: “That’s just whining, not singing.” “Has she lost her hairbrush?” “Is that a boy or a girl?” But who cares?! Give me TOTP on a Thursday night at half 7 and I’ll be a happy bunny.
3. Pacers A spearmint chew that was a mint version of Opal Fruits (and don’t get me started on renaming stuff!). White with three green stripes, they were a refreshing and cheap treat.
4. Robinson Crusoe during the summer holidays Everyone under the age of 50 will instantly know this theme tune. An absolute staple of telly viewing during school holidays (in the days when telly used to start at 11am with Playschool, then shut down until teatime!), Robinson Crusoe was dialogue free and in black and white – and yet we loved it. While we’re at it, we’ll have the Banana Splits and Daktari too. Oh and Tarzan with Ron Ely. It’s not much to ask, there’s a million channels out there – let’s have one called Nostalgia TV.
5. Trio chocolate biscuits – another biccie with a brilliant advert, a Trio was really chocolately and had to be consumed with a very large cup of tea.

Seriously, I could be here all day but over to you – let me know what stuff from your childhood you remember most fondly and would love to bring back.