It’s that time again, another hamster has gone to the eternal wheel in the sky, and has been replaced by a new rodent – an as-yet-unnamed miniature rat with a preposterously huge arse.
And so the naming hell begins. My children wanted to call the new arrival Buttboy, but I vetoed it on the grounds that they have Bebo and MySpace pages and I didn’t want them getting the kind of ‘granny vagina’ search engine perverts that I attract visiting their sites. They’re MY readers: I need the hits, they don’t.
The naming fiasco reminds me of the Blue Peter (for those who are nonplussed, it’s a kind of gentle , hypnotically boring children’s magazine programme on the BBC that has been running for several thousand years) ‘Cookie-gate’ scandal which saw the naming of a cat cause national outrage in what became the ultimate example of purrlitical correctness gone mad.
In January 2007, children were introduced to the new Blue Peter kitten and asked to suggest names that would suit him. They sent suggestions in their thousands, and then voted for their favourite name on the show’s website.
The first choice was Cookie, the second choice was Socks. My suggestions – Hitler, Princess Diana, The Boston Strangler and Crippen – were pipped at the post, although a subsequent email from the programme’s producers promised they would be kept on file just in case the 700-year-old tortoise pops his clogs and has to be replaced and renamed in a hurry.
Despite having offered children the carrot of democracy, it was swiftly grated into the salad of deception by a streetwise production crew who pointed out that ‘cookie’ is a slang term for a lady’s hoohah (hoohah being a technical term which refers to a woman’s thingy) and that to avoid mass revulsion, the BP cat would have to be called Socks, instead.
Now I pride myself on being able to out-swear the most foul-mouthed of troopers, but I’ve never heard the word ‘cookie’ used as anything other than a term for a cake-like biscuit. When my son asked for cookies and milk, I had no idea that he was subversively denigrating the female reproductive system by using offensive slang – obviously now that I do, I’ve locked him in the cellar with a pile of bras to burn until he learns the error of his ways.
Anyway, the Blue Peter cat was given his new name and free speech was crushed under the jack boot of adult oppression which then marched onwards to dupe young viewers again in a fake phone-in scandal which cost the BBC (in other words the licence payers) a £50,000 fine.
The show lost its editor over Cookie-gate and the BBC announced that it would be introducing another weekly episode of Blue Peter (itself a porn star’s name if ever I heard one) in order to allow the presenters to apologise for all the show’s other past untruths, including the time Valerie Singleton once suggested a group of plump majorettes from Huddersfield would be entertaining.
My own children remained distinctly unmoved by the Cookie scandal, mainly because they ignore Blue Peter on the grounds that it’s boring. If they knew it was packed full of lies, they might be considerably more interested in tuning in.
Blue Peter has always been boring, the kind of parent-approved tripe that was always the consolation prize when Grange Hill wasn’t on, packed as it was with tedious historical re-enactments, devilishly difficult craft projects and a creepy obsession with abseiling.
If you managed to watch an entire episode of Blue Peter without at least one presenter pointlessly abseiling from a great height, you were doing well. If you managed to watch an episode where no-one abseiled, made an Iceni village out of lolly sticks, introduced an item about a boring group of Brownies from Bangor or mentioned the sodding Advent Crown, you were doing really well.
It’s not for nothing that the only nostalgic clip from Blue Peter that anyone remembers is that elephant emptying its bowels on the studio floor – when your cultural significance is measured by a steaming pile of crap you have to start asking yourself a few searching questions.
By the time I started watching Blue Peter, which I did because there was literally nothing else on television and because watching people abseil off multi-storey car parks was marginally more interesting than attempting my maths homework, there weren’t even any elephants with irritable bowel syndrome to lighten the proceedings.
The most exciting it got was when Simon Groom said: “what a lovely pair of knockers!” when admiring some door furniture on Durham Cathedral, and frankly, children cannot survive on boob jokes alone. As it was, I practically topped myself when Blue Peter added an extra weekly episode.
No-one at my school liked Blue Peter. When someone won a BP badge for sending in a suggestion about shredded newspaper being a suitable alternative for straw in Freda the tortoise’s hibernation box, they were shunned by their peers for weeks.
Admitting you watched Blue Peter was like confessing that you had a penchant for Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow and that in your spare time you liked composing poems for the baby Jesus and accompanying your Nan to her appointments at the podiatrist’s to have her corns lanced.
Frankly, I’m not sure how many more lies from Blue Peter I can take before I actually have to start watching it again in order to learn how to lie to my own children more effectively. After all, if the naming of a cat made the national news, heaven knows what’s going to happen when the kids find out about Father Christmas.
*** Special ‘Two for One’ offer today, and indeed every Monday unless I can’t be bothered – the WIB’s newspaper column, this week with added bitterness and bile! Wrote less than normal this week, so you get more eye/nostril action for your money – oh yeah, I treat you real nice. The Woman in Black at work
PS I do not write the straplines for my page. That fucking exclamation mark isn’t my doing – it’s the cat’s arse of punctuation and should be used sparingly, like chillies or bleach.
PPS Any hamster names gratefully received. They’ve already turned down ‘Fritzl’. No sense of humour, my kids.