Thursday, 19 February 2015
95 Look And Read
First watched : 19 or 22 September 1972
I was now in Junior One at school and our claim on the TV was for Look And Read but I can't recall whether it was for the Tuesday or Friday showing. Look And Read 's format was ingenious; it sandwiched a literacy section between two halves of an exciting serial which itself posed questions that could be solved by applying reading skills.
I was very fortunate that one of the two serials broadcast in the 1972-73 academic year was the highly-regarded The Boy From Space. The serial was written by Catweazle's Richard Carpenter and was genuinely scary which of course we loved. The blond-haired silver-skinned boy Peep Peep and his father were on the run from the terrifying Thin Man. The two parka-clad children who discovered them were able to assist if they could interpret the aliens' language which was actually English written backwards so it could be deciphered with a mirror or reflective surface. As with Sesame Street , the educational section was pitched below my reading level so wasn't that interesting but I loved the story which probably began my interest in science fiction. One of the children was played by Sylvestra Le Touzel , still a highly regarded and very busy actress.
The Boy From Space had first been shown in the autumn term of 1971-72 but the serial for the spring term in 1973, Joe and the Sheep Rustlers was entirely new. Though I wouldn't have realised it at the time it was all filmed just a few miles away, around Todmorden and Hebden Bridge; one ruin featured was Higher Pemmin Farm, less than an hour's walk from the school. Watching it through on You Tube it's a wonderful snapshot of familiar places just a few years before I started discovering them for myself. The farming consultant on the programme was Littleborough sheep farmer Harry Lord who had a few lines himself in a shearing scene although I don't think his place, Heights Farm, is one of those used in the programme , perhaps because of its close proximity to overhead power lines. I don't recall anyone mentioning such a local connection at the time though you'd think from a class of 30+ local kids some of whom lived very close to Heights Farm, somebody would have recognised him..
It's also full of recognisable faces. The heroic young shepherd Joe is played by Struan Rodger who's been even busier than Sylvestra Le Touzel in the years since and is currently in Game of Thrones. Having survived her adventure here his buxom sidekick Jill ( Martine Howard ) had to contend with David Van Day in mid-seventies pop group Guys 'n' Dolls. The inept half of the rustling duo was played by Citizen Smith's Mike Grady and the wonderful character Ken Jones who died this time last year played the youth hostel warden whose quasi-judicial role in the story surely wasn't in his job description.*
The plot is full of holes and some of the embedded literacy devices are very contrived but its still enjoyable. BBC supplied schools with worksheets connected to the series and I had sight of the teachers' version which was full of spoilers. I eagerly looked forward to the last episode in which someone got shot because I had a bit of a death fixation at the time , regularly taking out the Shakespeare for kids book from the school library because the tragedies of course had multiple deaths at the end. In the end the guy was only wounded in the shoulder and the real glory of the last episode was a marvellously silly mass chase through the back streets of Hebden Bridge with the main villain ending up in the Rochdale Canal.
* The hostel in the story was Mankinholes Youth Hostel near Todmorden which is still open.
The real-life warden during the period in which I visited there (1977-81) , a battleaxe called Mrs Halliwell, would certainly have made a good sheriff.