Tuesday 15 October 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'We were lucky ducks to only have 'Dáithí''

 

Paw Patrol is popular with tots
Paw Patrol is popular with tots
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

If you are old enough to remember 'Dáithí Lacha' you might well be straining to read this through very thick lenses while waiting for nurse to come around with your afternoon Complan.

Dáithí, a cartoon duck, was Teilifís Éireann's first nibble at animation and it formed the centrepiece of its children's programming in the early 1960s. I remember it well, if not particularly fondly. To someone already exposed to Disney by the age of seven, Dáithí lacked street cred. He didn't move with any great fluidity and his adventures as Gaeilge were, to put it gently, fairly quack.

But, along with 'Mr Ed', the talking horse, that's what passed for choice back then for those of us outside the Pale who couldn't harvest British television signals.

By the time my own children came along there was plenty of variety across a range of channels, supplemented by an eclectic family library of favourite videos and later DVDs.

I used to be envious of the sheer range of options in stark comparison to my own childhood with its 19-inch monochrome Pye television, Dáithí and a nag that could talk but rarely made sense.

But things have moved on yet again. And how. I have been taking care of my grandson Arthur on and off for the past few weeks. It has been exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.

Actually, to be honest, not so equal really. I'm corpsed. I won't lie. When all else failed, my spirit broken and my flesh weak, I called on that reliable old babysitter in the corner. Not only could we choose from a vast range of children's programmes across a universe of channels available via the remote, but we had Netflix to magic up too. If that wasn't enough, and apparently it wasn't, there was another solar system of children's programmes to be mined on YouTube.

So if we had binged-out on 'Paw Patrol', 'Masha' or 'Tayo' (three current obsessions), we cruised the internet, seeking out 'Thomas The Tank Engine' classics and rip-offs. Or settling on whatever might catch a two-year-old's eye on a marathon browse.

Progress? Well, not really.

Instead, little Arthur, a man with very fixed views on what he does and doesn't want out of life (this particular apple fell right next to the tree trunk), found the whole process daunting and stressful. So much choice for so little a man.

Adept at using the remote, and more comfortable scrolling a smart device than I am, he could easily have strayed down a labyrinth of the strange and the bizarre if left to his own devices.

Nothing is what it seems anymore and children's programming, beamed from everywhere by anybody and everybody, can vary from the often excellently curated to the truly trashy and cynical. We have come a long way since 'Dáithí Lacha'. Maybe we didn't know how lucky we were.

If you want my vote, you will have to ring my bell

She was a young canvasser and slightly taken aback when I opened the door. There was football on the telly, she said, and most people were twitching their curtains while ignoring the doorbell.

After studiously giving me her spiel, she handed over the bumf and thanked me for my time.

I thanked her in turn.

It's important that those seeking election wear out the shoe leather, but I'm surprised at how few I've seen.

Despite voter indifference, a word with a candidate is probably as actively engaged as the electorate becomes with the democratic process.

European constituencies are too unwieldy perhaps, but there is no excuse for council candidates not rattling gates and annoying Yorkies.

If you want my vote, call around.

Irish Independent

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