Last croak of a golden youth

20th August 2004 at 01:00
What's green and turns red at the flick of a switch? A frog in a liquidiser.

What's green, turns red at the flick of a switch and whistles? A frog in a liquidiser pretending it doesn't care.

These are old jokes that I laughed at when I first heard them. What I found completely unfunny was an interactive animation of the gag, e-mailed to me by a pal. The thing took about five minutes to download on my creaky, non-broadband system, and about 30 seconds to be opened, tried and junked.

It was all there: cartoon amphibian, variable-speed blender, whistling.

Also present were cartoon froggy blood and cartoon froggy entrails. I could try to examine the psychology surrounding why I find the jokes funny but am repelled by a graphical representation of the same scenario - but I won't.

Suffice to say that I didn't like it, just as I didn't like the gerbil in the microwave or the game where you splattered cats with horseshoes. So don't send them.

Also cluttering up my inbox and probably yours too sooner or later, if you are of a certain vintage, is the nostalgia e-mail. This comes in various forms. Some ramble on harmlessly about Spangles, Aztec Bars and Clackers.

Others take the "how did we survive?" line. Remember when we played outside from dawn to dusk without our parents knowing where we were? Ate brambles from bushes without washing them? Swam in rivers and jumped in puddles? When a Gameboy was a plucky lad and there were only two television channels . . .

Aware that my Summer Diary piece (TESS, July 30) wandered perilously close to "jumpers for goalposts" territory, I am not going to be too critical of these evocations of an alleged golden age of childhood.

But remember when technical education was only for boys? When a charm-free clown in a gown could "warm your fingers" for not putting i before e except after c? When the only way to deal with a bully was to "stand up to him" because "all bullies are cowards"? When a pupil could get a row in the last week of term for talking during Wimbledon. When there were no proper courses for people who couldn't do O grades?

Maybe 30 years from now people will be nostalgic for a childhood of DVDs, Gameboys, rollerblades and parental-advisory rap lyrics. And maybe someone will satirise that nostalgia by remembering the time back at the beginning of the millennium when football fans screamed sectarian abuse at one another and the kid with the English accent still got a hard time.

Perhaps the frog in the blender wasn't so bad after all.

Gregor Steele was that pupil admonished for talking during Wimbledon.

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