Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Think Of A Number

Johnny BallQuite why Johnny Ball is leaping about my subconscious this morning I don’t know – but he is and he’s waving his arms about manically and spouting lots of amazing stuff about numbers, equations and surface areas and doing his damnedest to make it all sound jolly and fun.

And it works.

I hated Maths at school. Absolutely loathed it. And I hated Physics even more. Our Physics teacher, Mr Prior, resembled a leather jumpsuit wearing troglodyte with a beard bushy enough to lose Ray Mears in and who demonstrably had a pathological hatred of all secondary school pupils. Especially wimpy secondary school pupils who had utterly no grasp of the manly science of Physics. What can I say? Mr Prior rode a huge eff-off motorbike to school everyday and regularly flirted with the svelte, cool-eyed French teacher (whose name escapes me but who looked like a female version of the keyboard player from Duran Duran) while I was a weedy bespectacled nerd who found numbers and pulleys and electrons all rather boring.

And yet I was totally addicted to Johnny Ball’s Maths/Physics based educational programmes.

The man was mesmeric. A little bit insane yes but he managed to make Maths exciting and even appealing. His enthusiasm was infectious. Even a numberphobe like me found himself swept along by Johnny’s unbounded zeal for number patterns and intricate gear systems. I think Johnny’s trick was not his intelligence in his chosen subject – formidable though it was – but his ability to communicate and transfer his own passion for the subject into the hearts and minds of his viewers.

If Johnny Ball had been my teacher at school I’d be an award winning physicist by now or even better I’d have had my cherry taken by the unnamed French teacher above. Instead I’m a disgruntled civil servant who writes novels and poetry in his spare time and whose cherry wasn’t offloaded until he was nearly 30.

I kid you not.

Hmm. But maybe that’s sharing a little bit too much information?

I’m sure Johnny Ball would be able to plot an entertaining graph mapping out my divergence from manly science stuff and my headlong dive into the world of literature and not pulling anything but a cracker for three whole decades... but as he isn’t here you’ll have to make do with this 'ere blog.

In the meantime my unanswered question is this: whatever happened to Johnny Ball?

16 comments:

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I often get all nostalgic for 70's kids telly, particularly Tony Hart, Kenneth Williams reading Jackanory, John Craven's Newsround and Blue Peter with Peter Purves John Noakes & Lesley Judd. And you are right about Johnny Ball. A very affable chap who very nearly succeeded in making me interested in maths! As for Johnny Morris I was taken to see his live show about Talking to the Animals and frogmarched round the back afterwards by my parents for his autograph!The only person who can hold a candle to any of them nowadays is Adam Hart-Davies who presents strange hybrid programmes, not quite for children and not quite for adults, but with the same infectious & genuine enthusiasm for his material as his predecessors had!

What I don't care for is kids TV presenters pretending to be children themselves nowadays. Not only do they come across as false/ridiculous but how's a child supposed to respect or look up to that? You want grown ups to be grown ups when you're a kid, although of course they're allowed to be warm, engaging and interesting as well!

Talking of numbers I do find Mitchell & Webb's 'Numberwang' sketch hilarious though and it kind of reminds me of Johnny Ball, but mostly desperate quiz show formats that bite the dust very quickly!

What was that about kid's TV shows and the age one loses one's cherry?

Anyway quality rather than quantity eh, Steve? And if you've got your very own 'Nigella', what more could a Nigella fan ask for? In fact if Mrs Bloggertropolis comes without the infuriating smugness, I'd say you've got the GTi version!

Steve said...

Thank you Laura, for putting a genuinely huge smile on my face this morning. Mrs Bloggertropolis isn't at all smug and is chuffed at the GTi moniker. In fact that may have to be her pet name from now on. And you're quite right about quality rather than quantity. In fact I'm going to be smug and dare to suggest that I'm the GTi version in that field too...

You're quite right about Adam Hart-Davis too. Karen and I are big fans of his shows - especially what the Victorian's Did For Us, though I must say the vision of a nude Adam HD riding a bicycle powered shower was rather scary. As you say: not really for kids.

Tony Hart was always a favourite in our house too - a genteel, cravate wearing uncle who drew funny cat faces. What more could a kid want?

Numberwang was hilarious though my personal favourites were the Sir Digby Chicken Caesar sketches...

And as for most kids TV presenters these days... aaargh! I want to slap them. Pretending to be kids is deeply patronizing to kids and I'm sure they can spot it a mile off. Actually one of the best kids TV shows ever was Press Gang because it worked on the premise that kids aren't always childish. I'm proud to have it in my DVD collection and I don't care who knows it.

The Sagittarian said...

Kids TV? OK, I'm a fan of Fraggle Rock. And the Muppets. I recall Johnny Morris and that guy who used to do that thing of sidling up to a long mirror and making it look like he was standing without legs...was that Johnny?? Anyway, down here in the Antipodes we had UK kids TV as kids but it was all sooo black and white back then (hehe, did you see how I did that?), my thing was the radio show "listen with Mother" - imagine my recent horror to find out my mother wasn't listening!!
I totally agree with the adults pretending to be kids thing, patronising at best. Most kids do spot it a mile away and have fun at the adults expense. "Ronald McDonald" attended our youngest girls school recently (in relation to road safety) and at question time, my wee poppet asked "What's it like being a corporate lacky?"
You gotta be so careful about what they get to take in.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I'll bet Mrs Bloggertropolis (GTi) hosts better dinner parties too!

What is it with Nigella's phoney dinner parties? Are we supposed to say - oh I wish I had pretentious friends just like yours, or oh, I wish I was invited to your party?

Is the subliminal message of these programmes to say to the massess Here's the classy piece of totty, the gourmet food and the designer lifestyle that you'll never know/have, peasants! But you can press your snotty little nose to the window and drool.

Well this peasant is revolting! I'm going to storm the set and grate Nigella's dress to shreds with her parmesan grater, scoff her sauted £1000-each truffles out the saucepan in front of her horrified eyes and let Sir Digby Chicken Caesar & his mates overthrow the dinner party and steal all the guests' wallets!

Just as well for her I'm too supremely well-bred myself to enact this fantasy! :-)

And hey, for all her connections, I bet she doesn't count Johnny Ball among her friends.

But if anyone ever *did* enact the above, I'm sure Mrs B (GTi) can be waiting in the wings on standby, reading to regale us with a vastly superior series. Better shut up now though before I wreck your cookery article commission opportunities. Plus probably unwise to reveal too many details of any Nigella-overthrow plots!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

By the way, Tony Hart has a fan site here!

www.tonyhart.co.uk

Pixiepie said...

you made me want to learn who this guy is...lol. :)

and I thought Mister Rogers was cool.

Steve said...

Amanda - that really made me laugh; your daughter is going to go far. I'd love to know what Mr McDonald's response was. I recall The Muppets with fondness (personally I really rated Gonzo and Dr Bunsen and Beaker) and Johnny Morris doing rambling voice overs for animal clips. And yes - the guy with the mirror/window - it was Johnny somebody I'm sure. Didn't he wear a floppy black hat and a mack of some description and have pursed lips? Hmm. That sounds like a description I ought to pass onto the police...!

Steve said...

Hi again Laura,

I hate to say it, but if you shred Nigella's address you will only encourage yet more salacious male viewing of her cookery shows. I must admit that, for all I rate Nigella, I was discomforted by the amount of inane grinning to camera that she performed during Monday's show. A little bit OTT. If she's not careful she's going to become a caricature of herself which would be a great shame.

I know what you mean about the phoney dinner parties too - all a little bit Notting Hill for my liking. Unless there is pampas grass sprouting somewhere out of camera shot... but hey that's not a fantasy to be gone into here.

And as for my cookery article commission opportunities... I think they've sunk to the bottom of the washing up bowl on their own. Still not a dickie bird from Mr London Standard. Curse him for a fickle fool!

And thanks for the Tony Hart link - God bless him. You can book him for events and everything. Does he bring his own Gallery music, I wonder...?

Steve said...

Hi Pixie Pie - many thanks for stopping by! I've tried to check out your blogs but can't seem to access them! :-)

Steve said...

Shred Nigella's "address" - only after an awful first date, surely! I, of course, meant shred her dress... perish the thought!

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, you can access Pixie via my blog. W
Just a word of warning tho', we went to school together!!

Steve said...

Thanks Amanda (and for the warning)! ;-)

The Sagittarian said...

I'm thinking, I'll see your Nigella and raise you a John Hannah!
Plus I also loved Rin Tin Tin and Rusty, F Troop, My Three Sons (or am I diverting into the 60s here??)

Steve said...

Actually, I'd love to see Nigella too... now those are stakes worth playing for! Celebrity poker... hmm, it could catch on, you know...

I recall Tin Tin too. And The Man From Uncle. Now that was a class show...

MOTHER OF MANY said...

I think the slightly insane teachers were the best, you learnt most in their class because they were so crazy you were afraid to misbehave in case they went totally mad.My RE teacher was a psychopath, even now I could enter Mastermind with The Bible as my specialist subject.Whereas my maths teacher looked like the open university guy from Life on Mars and you just couldn't take him seriously.Needless to say I am not good at maths!

Steve said...

You might be right there, Ally, all my English teachers were eccentric to say the least and I tended to excel in their clases... but my Maths teacher was so dull and unengaging I just greyed out for much of the lesson and my German teacher was so wet nobody listened to a word he ever said! Not good when he's supposed to be teaching one of the harder languages!