Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Baby Patrol...

With the McCanns of Leicestershire sinking deeper and deeper into the mire every time the Portuguese Police have a discussion at the water cooler over the case of the missing Madelaine - {Lang=Portuguese} "Oh yes, I never thought of that {/Portuguese}, we perhaps need to revisit our past to remind ourselves of how we used to deal with the perenial problem of what to do with your children of an evening when on holiday and in need of a blathering down the pub.

You call for The Baby Patrol Man.

Come with me now to 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is the first man in space closely followed by American Alan Shepherd so that was alright then, Kennedy's American troops make a right arse of invading Cuba in The Bay of Pigs incident, and Earnest Hemingway dies of self-inflicted gunshot wounds which is a nice way of saying that he committed suicide.

And the family of little JerryChicken go off on their annual holidays to Cayton Bay, that fine and dandy caravan park that sits atop the clifftops just south of Scarborough - what finer place for a holiday ?

OK, yes, I can think of loads of finer places, but in 1961 Cayton Bay was the finer place of choice.

And of course the parents of the little five year old JerryChicken and his even littler three year old brother Ned could rest assured every night that as they boozed themselves silly in the camp site clubhouse, dressing up a-fine in silly hats, the air thick with party streamers and everyone singing "community songs" as per the tradition of the day whilst getting well and truly blathered - for let us not forget dear reader that 1961 was slap bang in the middle of the era when everyone was convinced that we would all soon die in one big flash and a bang, the British Isles being located exactly in the middle of two governments who really, really, really wished to launch their new nuclear toys at each other, just give us an excuse Boris, just one excuse, Kennedy had warned, and then turned to his citizens and told them that "all prudent American families should have their own bomb shelter".

So sitting on the North East coast with presidential fingers poised over the match and blue touchpaper, our parents did what all Britons do in times of crisis - they put party hats on, got drunk and sang silly songs to each other all night long, its not the worst way to die.

I never finished that paragraph about how our parents could rest assured - anyway they could rest assured that while they were out merry-making, us small children were safely tucked up in bed in our caravans, doors locked to strangers, sleeping tightly and peacefully in a crazy mad adult world.

How did they know ?
Because they had the Baby Patrol Man and his magic walkie-talky.

The rules were that when you left your kids locked up in your caravan of an evening you left one of the curtains open so that the Baby Patrol Man could peer in through the window during his rounds, shine a torch through the glass even, and check that your children were still tucked up in bed snoring away and dreaming of Noddy, Big Ears and other good racist Enid Blyton novels, or Lego in my case and its miriad uses in constructing things that needed to have square edges, and be red - it was my dream when a child to build my first adult size house out of red Lego bricks, a dream as yet unfulfilled, but its still on the back burner, oh yes.

And woe betide any youngster who was awake when the Baby Patrol Man called, for he would take from his haversack the ex-army second world war walkie-talky set that encumbered his every move all night, it being two foot long with a three foot aerial and weighing a hundred pounds or more, and radio back to The Rendevous Club that a baby was crying in caravan E45.

From here a lacky would speed to the large blackboards at each side of the stage and chalk the number "E45" underneath the heading "Baby crying in caravan..." and amid whispers and much gazing and pointing around the room some poor bastard would rise shamefaced from his chair, midway thorugh only his eigth pint of the night, pick up his coat and his wife and storm out of the clubhouse, entertainment ruined for the night by their screaming kids who would scream all the louder when the parents finally found their caravan amid the thousands of similar ones - not an easy job even when only half blathered - and leathered them finally to sleep just in time to return for last orders.

Indeed the parental warning of choice every night as they locked the caravan door on you was on the lines of "Good night, sleep tight, and you'd bloody well better do, woe betide you if I get called out of that club..." and to our everlasting pride in all our childhood years, me and our Ned never caused either of our parents to break off their blathered song filled evenings.

If only they'd put aside the "paedophile" tag that has since been inextricably linked with the Baby Patrol provision then parents all across this country, including a pair now residing in Leicestershire, could booze the night away safe in the knowledge that their kinder were being peered upon at regular intervals by a man with a walkie-talky.

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