I’m fairly certain if I ever made it on to Mastermind, I’d have a pretty strange specialist subject; British political and social history between 1970 and 1990. You see, I’m absolutely obsessed with that period of time. I adore Billy Elliot, grew up on Only Fools & Horses, know every word of This is England, and would still watch an episode of Life on Mars before any modern American series (sorry Aaron Sorkin).
Quite frankly, the 1970s and 80s were the most interesting, dramatic and ultimately tragic time in modern British history. They were a time of great social upheaval and real political unrest, when ideologies were something to fight for, and pursuing the political centre ground was still tantamount to betrayal. Proper subcultures existed, and the only time someone would say iPhone was if you were asking a Geordie if they wanted to use the landline. They were simpler times, they were better times.
So you can imagine how my heart leapt for joy when I saw the advertisements for Peter Kay’s new sitcom Cradle to Grave, based on the memoirs of writer and broadcaster Danny Baker’s life growing up in South London in the 70s. A dose of misty eyed nostalgia to warm the cockles (cockles were really a thing back then).
Split ostensibly between young Danny’s teenage travails of snogging (snogging was still a word too), hanging out with mates and window shopping for turquoise-and-golds (also a thing back then); and Danny’s father Fred aka Spud, the Harry Redknapp-esq patriarch whose wheeler dealer antics made for all sorts of amusing comedic on-goings.
Whilst young Danny get lots of screen time, the show is very much a vehicle for Peter Kay’s talents, with Spud using his job as a docker for a bit of extracurricular ‘import, export and sell it to the neighbours’ commerce. Elsewhere, he can also be found getting electrocuted when trying to rewind the ‘leccy meter, and sampling some questionable Hooch with his docker mates. It’s all enjoyable stuff, and whilst it won’t have you howling, it certainly is a charming watch.
There are some missteps; Peter Kay’s cockney accent for one, veering between Rodney Trotter and something out of Mary Poppins, and the jokes are all rather obvious. It certainly isn’t avant garde comedy, and the storyline so far rather plays second fiddle to the backdrop. But that’s all fine by me. It’s a wash of beautiful, nostalgia soaked Britain when The Docks were still docks and not just billionaire bachelor pads, when communities existed and people cared about each other. When we were kindred.
Perhaps if Arthur Scargill’s Trade Unions hadn’t lost the battle, would things be the same? Or maybe if prime minister James Callaghans government hadn’t made it so easy for Thatcher to ascend, the soul of our nation would be different today? But the miners went back to work, and the Winter of Discontent did happen, so we’ll never know. Instead we’re left with glimpses of a rose-tinted yesteryear to help us forget what’s happening outside our front doors, and thanks to Peter Kay and Co it’s a very welcome relief.
Featured image from Western Morning News.