Now, when I was a kid, we used to go on long journeys in the car. We’d come to the Westcountry on holiday. We’d visit my Gran in Enfield. Sometimes we went to Yorkshire to see friends who would tell us six inches of snow was, in fact, just a frost.
We had a cassette of music from kids’ shows, which was usually playing for an hour or so. After the tape had played through once, no one wanted to turn it over again. The theme tunes included those from Doctor Who, Magic Roundabout, Thunderbirds and possibly Inspector Gadget. I can’t be totally sure as I’m digging around in the back of my head and we’re going back thirty-odd years.
Anywho, once the tape was exhausted, if we hadn’t got to wherever we were going, we’d play I Spy. We didn’t play I Spy for long because my Dad was watching the road, and my mother was looking at the scenery but getting swept up in it. And I Spy loses some of its magic when you’re playing solo.
Sometimes, there would be a family sing-song. My mother wasn’t much for singing. If we take it as a given that the tune didn’t really matter, she was pretty good. Songs in the car tended to be of the “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d’ve Baked a Cake” type, but with the words changed and the tune slightly mangled.
“If I knew you were coming, I’d’ve…
Left the house.
Burnt it down.
Changed my name.
Grown a beard.” That sort of thing.
The finest moment in family journey history came when a new cassette suddenly appeared in the car.
I don’t know whether we actually knew where it had come from, but I imagine it was a surprise for my mother from my Dad. The Goon Show.
Driving along, crying with laughter, the journeys seemed to go much faster and we were at our destination in no time at all. I seem to remember sitting in the car in some elderly aunt’s driveway, waiting for the line, “He’s fallen in the water,” before we ventured near the doorbell and the side window, with its net pulled back and a very proper lady in tweed, tutting.
Like everybody else, I loved Peter Sellers. At one point, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan lived opposite each other. At around three in the morning, and knowing that Spike was suffering from insomnia, Peter Sellers crossed the street and knocked on Spike’s door. When he answered, yawn-eyed and shattered, Spike saw his friend, standing completely naked, except for socks, shoes, a bowler hat and a furled umbrella. Before he could say anything, Peter Sellers said, “Do you know a tailor?”
My mother adored Harry Secombe, especially when he fell to fits of hooting giggles. But there is no one finer than Spike.
I’ve read all his autobiographies, grown up on his poetry, and he made hour upon hour sitting on the M25 seem glorious.
There you have it. Day 72 of #365HappyDays, Spike Milligan.
And because you must hear it, here’s the Ying Tong Song…