Time to turn in my Blue Peter badge of shame
“HEY, Dad” – Emma interrupts my daydream of scoring a Grand Slam-winning try for England – “did you hear about that 13-year-old in America? Her song on YouTube has been voted the worst ever, but it’s been viewed, like, 30 million times and now you can get it on iTunes. You’re a terrible singer, but thanks to the web you could be famous and actually achieve something.”
Oi! I have achieved something. For a start, I remind you I have three Blue Peter badges – solid things you can hold, and not some will-o’-the-wisp , “viral”, ethereal thingy. They must count for something.
Actually, I tell colleagues the next day, I’m still feeling a bit guilty about those badges – even 40 years on. Two are legitimate: one for filling in the quiz at the back of the BP annual and being an official runner-up, and the other for writing to John, Peter and Val about something I now can’t remember but which earned me the regular blue-and-white shield. It’s the “silver” one that nags, as something of an ill-gotten gain. It’s like the regular shield but with a sea-blue background and a silver etching of the famous ship logo.
My face still flushes pink when I recall how I “earned” it – sending in details of a toy roundabout I thought the programme could feature as one of its famous “makes”. (Low-tech even for 1969, it was made of cardboard, a pencil, a wooden cotton-reel and a blob of Plasticine.) Trouble was, I also used the 1969 version of cut and paste, and copied – in spidery script – the gen straight out of another book. I didn’t know the word plagiarism then (and even now struggle to spell it) but I knew enough to realise in my heart it wasn’t quite cricket. My third badge, then, is a sham. A con. Goods obtained under false pretences.
Thing is, I later tell Jane, that if I send it back to BBC Television Centre, W12 8QT, to assuage my guilt, all I’ll have left in my special drawer marked “A for Achievement” will be a 200-yard breaststroke certificate from school (and I even took two steps on the bottom of the pool to win that). “Don’t fret,” she soothes. “You could always get Emma to post a video-confession on YouTube, seeking forgiveness from Biddy Baxter (BP’s legendary ex-editor). That’s bizarre and shallow enough to push a poppet from Anaheim Hills, California, off the ‘web-hits’ charts, and will win you 15 minutes of fame. Of course, everyone you know will take the mickey, but at least you’ll feel cleansed.”