Michael Cook mourns the passing of a more innocent media age
At the age of seven, the transistor radio I received for Christmas was a treasured gift. As well as a chance to wean myself off my Mum's addiction to The Archers, it was a gateway into the adult world: football commentaries from the glamour games of the day (Bristol City versus QPR perhaps, if we were lucky); night-time pop music from far-away European city states fading in and out as the moon waxed and waned; and the daily comedy musings of the cutting-edge king of breakfast radio, Noel Edmonds, on Radio 1.
A more wholesome entertainer you couldn't wish to meet. There he was, five mornings a week, plus Saturday morning television (and it does my credibility no favours to admit that I preferred Swap Shop to Tiswas). Yet even through turbulent years of punk rock, labour strife and the rise and rise of Peters and Lee, nothing controversial passed Noel's lips.
But today, if any of Poppy's friends were to break away from their bedroom plasma-screen multimedia entertainment platforms to switch on the wireless and listen to a one-to-many audio feed (radio station to you and me) they would find the atmosphere less than cuddly. Last month, Radio 1 was reprimanded by the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, for airing a trail for a documentary on punk that included words similar but not identical to "twit", "wonk", "bollards", "bustard" and "flick". And just after teatime.
Which brings me to this morning in Class Six. We are making worry monsters: frightening-looking creatures to contain all of our worldly worries. Not literally, of course. You would be hard-pressed to fit "the leaking oil tank on a Citro n Xsara Picasso" or "the aching knees of an unfit man in early middle-age" into a six-inch square of fabric, tied together with a rubber band. Let alone "the fact that my early life has been strongly influenced by Noel Edmonds".
Once we have talked a bit about the worries we might have, and the correct way to tie a rubber band, we move on to naming our creatures. "Slobber Monster", says one boy, and I praise him for his creativity. "Toilet Monster" says another, and I suggest that we think of something more elevated. "Poo Eater" says a third, and suddenly I can see there is only one place this conversation is going. Straight down the sewer.
It's not that I didn't know rude words as a youngster. And it's not that any of these children have yet come out with anything more inflammatory than "poo". But, in my day, I was pretty sure that, if it was OK for Noel, then it was OK for me to say to teacher. But now, the potty mouths on the radio give you no clue. I'm bracing myself to hear about the "twit", "wonk"
or "bollards" monster. I wonder how Noel would respond to that.
Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent-helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend