I note the passing of John Noakes with a mixture of sadness and warm nostalgia. Millions more will feel the same. He was very much a part of my growing-up, as he was for a whole generation of boys and girls. For us then youngsters, his infectious sense of fun and enthusiasm generated a sense of curiosity and 'can do,' spirit with an overlay of mischievous contempt for scolding adults, wary of too much adventure and time away from books. He was in fact, for our generation, a cross between Bear Grylls and James May.
Noakes did some genuinely inspirational things, all of which are etched on the memory. His parachute jump with the RAF, (he held the record for the longest free fall by a civilian for a few years), his epic climb without harness of Nelsons Column and his HMS Ganges mast climb spring to mind, not forgetting of course his bumpy ride down the Cresta Run. Those will be much quoted over the next 48 hours as tributes are paid to him and people reminisce. Perhaps though, the short Blue Peter piece about the making of an episode of the epic comedy 'Porridge,' in the clip above demonstrates a little bit better what he brought to us each week. You see, as kids, we actually learnt stuff from Noakes in between the madness. I also like to think in some small self-indulgent way that I brought a little bit of the Noakes eccentricity into my own kids upbringing. He genuinely was, a barking mad uncle for an entire generation.
Like millions of others, I tried, oh how I tried, to get a Blue Peter Badge. I reached adulthood though disappointed and empty handed. However unkind it may seem, I have often felt a pang of jealously for those who may have one. I like to think that I am a better, more mature person now. So, if you have a badge in your bottom drawer, go and get it, wear it and wear it with pride in proud memory of a thoroughly decent bloke who helped make growing up fun and lifted horizons for many.