Moving On

I have just moved house.  Well it was three weeks ago tomorrow but I’m still living out of cardboard boxes and mislaying everything (not just due to age, for once).

Moving house


I am reminded of other significant moves in my life: aged four in 1968 – leaving our bungalow in Leatherheard one morning, the magic of being taken to a house in Burpham near Guildford that same afternoon and finding all our furniture and my toys there: our new home where I lived happily for the next seven and a half years.  

Chapters of memory

We tend to categorise our life according to where we live.  Doing so provides convenient chapters of memory and emphasises the underlying importance of home and place.  But carving time into chunks can also over define these chapters so that the story ceases to flow one from the other.

Gosden Hill Road from frontThis is what happened when I moved aged eleven in 1975.  I didn’t want us to move and remember scowling with hate-filled venom as my parents showed prospective buyers around.  I thought my fixed, silent, demonic stare might somehow ward them off.  It didn’t work, at least, not with Mr & Mrs Hunter and their curly-haired twin boys.  They even had the audacity to arrive just as Terror of the Zygons reached its climax.

As moving day drew near, I relented slightly and left a message under a loose parquet floorboard, wishing happiness to the Hunters and whoever followed them.  I sometimes wonder if that strange little note was ever found.

Old, cold, sludge green

So on a cold Thursday 13th November 1975, I left school to find our optimistic, open plan 1960s’ home was no more. InMoving on its place was an austere 1950s, metal windowed house with an asbestos garage and mean little prefab outhouse. It wasn’t so far away from our old house but might as well have been a million miles.

The floorboards were already up for re-wiring which didn’t bode well.  Paintwork was utility ‘sludge’ green (as I called it) and the walls were the mock-Regency stripe of a boarding house. Ceilings were too high, windows too low. The rooms felt old, cold and the house comfortless, utilitarian almost institutional.

It was the end of one chapter for sure but I didn’t want the next chapter to begin:  secondary school, adolescence, exams, being bullied, feeling isolated, different…  in fact it had already begun two months ago: I’d left my cosy C of E village primary of one hundred children and started at a 2,000 strong comprehensive that September.  Our move only emphasised the split from that past.  I asked my father to paint my bedroom lime green and purple in protest; much to my surprise, he did – almost drowning out the Regency stripes.

Teenage threads

Since then I’ve struggled to recover the story of life which flowed over that 1975 crevice, to try to spot the elements which had already appeared before the change.  In fact, the seeds of adolescentMoving on 2 disaffection had not just been sewn but were already growing up around me in my final two terms at primary school.  A childhood culture of vim and vigour was giving way to a disaffection amongst the more precocious children.  I can see how hopeless I was at football, how removed from the rough and tumble of most boys’ activities as I stayed on the sidelines with a few close friends.  I can see how setup I was to fall.

I’ve realised that ‘bad’ things would have happened anyway regardless of where we lived.  It’s just that our change of home allowed me to idealise the abode of childhood and castigate the haunt of adolescence.  Looking back, as I have felt more benevolently towards my teenage self, I’ve almost learned to love the ‘teenage’ house too.

To look for these common elements is important, I think.  To remove some barriers, restore a little natural justice, try to see the true lay of the land from a more distant vantage point.

Old times

And this move?  Well, I suppose it’s the move from mid, middle age towards the early embrace of old age, given that I’m hoping to live here a long time.

And I feel OK with that.  A new life is emerging from the cardboard boxes that might be every bit as magical as the belongings which materialised in a sparkling new home back in 1968.

Time to unwrap some more toys…

Old Singles

Moving House 
Growing up with Lego
Cuisenaire rods

The Boy from Space on DVD

DVD: 2-disc set, BFI, August 2014
Original TV series: 
10 Episodes, tx. 21.09.71 – 30.11.71 [10×20 mins] BBC-1 

Out there in space
Do we have friends?
Is there a place where the universe ends?
When shall we find it?
Never, never,
Space goes on forever.



What is it about a low budget drama last shown as part of schools’ television over three decades ago that left such an impact on many of those who viewed it?  This welcome DVD release gives us the chance to find out.

The Boy from Space was originally shown in 1971 as part of Look and Read (1967-2004), the BBC Schools series for 7-9 year old ’backward readers.’

Look and Read featured a dramatised story told over a number of weeks, alongside educational material on reading which would relate in some way to the drama.  The Boy from Space was perhaps the most memorable of these stories for at least two generations of school children.

This BFI DVD release includes almost all that you could ever want from the series in its various permutations – all that still exists anyway (ie. unfortunately not the 1971 series as broadcast).  So we have the complete 1980 series in episodic format plus a feature-length ‘omnibus’ version lasting about seventy minutes (an ideal way of seeing the filmed drama without the interruptions and repetitions), the BBC Records audio version from 1972 (though sadly not including John Baker‘s original incidental music) and a BBC Records film version which combines the 1972 record audio with the 1980 visuals to create a new presentation.  Finally, there is 1980’s Wordy’s Think-ups, the spirited songs and delightful animations which are like a kind of very English take on Sesame Street.  Sheila Steafel in particular does sterling work on the songs.

The accompanying 20 page booklet includes context setting essays from Ben Clarke on The Boy from Space and television historian Chris Perry on Look and Read.  The only ‘essential information’ missing is the film locations.  There are recollections on the soundtrack from Paddy Kingsland, several b/w stills and a cover featuring artwork from the accompanying pupils’ pamphlet.  There is even a reproduction of 1972 teachers’ notes.  Finishing touches would have been contributions from producer Claire Chovil, film director Maddalena Fagandini and some of the cast members but I’m not quibbling about that.

It is great to have this series back in the public domain.  As a mere ‘schools programme’ I didn’t dare hope that it would ever be afforded a decent DVD release, let alone one as comprehensive and carefully produced as this.

Thanks BFI.

The Boy from Space and the Boy from Guildford