Earlier today, in between plugging a feature on David Bowie’s hard rock band Tin Machine and a guest appearance on a podcast talking about The Prisoner, I idly mentioned on Twitter that I’d been banned from eating Parma Violets as a youngster. This, it turned out, struck a chord with a lot of people. A lot of a lot of people.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve had something take off like this on Twitter – and I’ll admit it’s not always been for entirely the right reasons – but what’s interesting is that it’s never the Tweets that you think will that do. The sharp satirical zingers about Dominic Cummings and radical observations about eighties blockbuster movies will get little traction at all, but mention in passing that as a bored child in church you had mistakenly assumed that the Magnificat was a flying cat that helped Jesus (and may or may not have had lasers), and suddenly it’s being shared across the globe in a manner that it’s safe to say that Marshall McLuhan and the producers of Our World had not quite budgeted for. This, however, was on a slightly different level. Hundreds of thousands of views, likes and retweets, to the extent that I was prompted with a message asking me if I would like to protect my account to cope with the volume of notifications; fat chance, Ian Twitter. You can’t reply to or acknowledge every single one, but when something like this happens, it’s the responses themselves that are the real thrill of it. Pose a question that you’re not expecting answers to – and you could dispute whether I was really even posing a question to begin with frankly – and the answers will surprise, amuse and astonish you. Well, most of them.
So, what exactly have I found out from this overwhelming response? Well – conveniently sidestepping the hilarious responses offering ‘cocaines lol’ and ‘nuclear missiles lol’ – it’s become all too gobsmackingly obvious that an alarming number of you weren’t allowed to watch ITV – this is pretty much an alien concept to me – or to have a Mr. Frosty; I’m going to be honest here and say that I didn’t know anyone who had one at the time, and nor have I met anyone who had one at the time since, although my own personal toy I would linger on in the catalogue with seething imagined envy was sound and light-festooned spaceship MB Games Star Bird. It’s also amusing to discover how many of you were banned from watching Dirty Dancing on account of the widespread parental misapprehension that it was some form of hardcore porn effort that somehow happened to have a jaunty chart-topping theme song, so to all of you I’d like to recommend this excellent episode of The Zeitgeist Tapes featuring Emma Burnell and Steve Fielding talking about Patrick Swayze not singing that’s me in the corner or whatever it is. Similarly, for those of you who were prohibited from watching that foul-mouth den of depravity The Simpsons, I can strongly endorse the tremendous Retrospecticus – The Simpsons And Modern History Together At Last, in which presenters Tom Williamson and Garreth Hirons talk about an episode of The Simpsons and a major historical happening from the week that it first aired. They do swear a bit sometimes though so don’t tell your parents.
I really ought to promote myself a bit though – cue sarcastic sniggering from people who know me in real life and are surprised that it’s taken me even this long to get round to this – so here we go. Who did that boy who wasn’t allowed Parma Violets go on to become? I’m a writer and broadcaster, though to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of me as I tend to turn up on Channel 5 at a million o’clock in the morning, on Radio 4 when people are busy drawing up detailed strategic plans for taking the bins out, and in the sort of magazines that people stare intently at the cover of for twenty minutes before buying. No not those sort of magazines for crying out loud. If you want a flavour of the sort of things that I do, here’s a couple of posts on here that you might like, covering the books that had the greatest influence on me as a writer, my reaction to Jo Cox’s murder, the first time that I ever heard Modern Life Is Rubbish by Blur, and Stewart Lee and Richard Herring’s early radio comedy show Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World. A few of you also mentioned having to have cheap supermarket own-brand cola instead of Coke or Pepsi, in which case you will probably also enjoy this. I’ve also written a number of books including one about comedy on BBC Radio 1, one about the BBC Records And Tapes label, and a series of collections of columns and features, of which the best one is probably Can’t Help Thinking About Me.
I also present a podcast, Looks Unfamiliar, which takes a deliberately niche look at nostalgia and covers the things that you remember that nobody else ever seems to, many of which were actually mentioned in the replies to the Parma Violets tweet. There are too many editions of it to mention them all here, so let’s just say if you’re a newcomer you might want to start with the ones featuring broadcaster Samira Ahmed, novelist Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, musician Andy Lewis, comedy polymath Mitch Benn, theatre critic Shanine Salmon, journalist Emma Burnell and ‘Elton John Sings Only Fools And Horses‘ musical parody genius Darrell Maclaine. I have also more recently started a side podcast, It’s Good, Except It Sucks, taking a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe in release order. If you’re interested in that, you’re probably best starting with the ones on Captain America – The First Avenger and Thor. Meanwhile if you’d prefer to hear me talking to other people on their own shows, you can also have a listen to my thoughts on The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album, Morons From Outer Space, Space Sentinels and the little-seen Clangers Election Special. You can also watch my idea of an ideal evening’s entertainment on Perfect Night In here.
Anyway, on to what you’ve all really come here for – the mysterious reason why I was forbidden from having Parma Violets. Possibly having read one column in the ‘science’ section of a broadsheet newspaper too many, my parents were unusually concerned about the chemically unknown side-effects of food colourings, and had somehow come to the conclusion that Parma Violets contained an unacceptably high level of potential for narcotic side-effects. Quite what form these psychoactive properties were supposed to take was sadly never specified; nevertheless, suffice it to say that I developed a deep and abiding obsession with sixties psychedelic pop music without any hallucinogenic assistance from Swizzels Matlow’s finest flower-flavoured biconcave confectionery. Literally, the ones that mother didn’t give me didn’t to anything at all. Though imagine how amusingly different The Wire would have been if that had turned out to be true.
If only they’d stopped me from watching Skiboy…
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.