As a child, I was a ‘keener’. A ‘swot’. A ‘geek’. Way before geeks were chic or had rows with nerds over which was which. And yet my ambition – to somehow be Queen of Facts, and win many spectacular prizes for this – was not borne out at all in my achievements. I shot for the moon and ended up not among the stars but still in a bland corner of North West Essex in my corduroy dungarees. The list of things I ‘won’ is short and disappointing:
- ‘Sword drill’ – i.e. a ‘game’ at church in which a senior Godly person would shout out the numbers of a chapter and verse in the bible and whoever found it first was generally regarded as superiorly Godly for about five minutes until tuck shop came out.
- A ribbon for being able to sing the books of the Bible off by heart (see above for kudos rating)
- A sachet of hair dye from Jackie magazine, only as far as I know everyone who applied got one too.
Compare that to the list of things I Tried To Win and Did Not:
- Any sporting race ever, but especially the infamous St Mary’s Primary ‘Yoghurt Pot and Umbrella’ race.
- Any leading role in any musical ever but especially Annie in the West End revival of Annie (which my mother would not let me audition for, but I am still counting this).
- Young Ornithologists’ Club ‘Spotter of the Year’.
- A place on the viewers’ pictures wall on Take Hart.
- A Blue Peter badge.
To be fair, the last one I didn’t actually try to win either, because by that point I assumed I knew the limits of my abilities, and they were fairly mediocre. But recently, life is making up for this catalogue of childhood oddity, because I finally, FINALLY won a Blue Peter badge. For doing star jumps in the TV studio with our illustrator Clare Elsom while Sir Chris Hoy drew stick woman versions of us. Which sounds somewhat feeble but when your last real exercise was in the Yoghurt Pot and Umbrella race in about 1980, and you bear in mind I had been up since 5am and not had a shower, then it is an act of undeniable brilliance. And if anyone tries to tell me otherwise I shall stick my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Genesis, Exodus…’ until we reach end of days.
You can watch me in this act of physical excellent here