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March 2019



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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

I’ve just bought this on eBay. I’ve been looking out for a copy and have at last found one that wasn’t too chewed up to be worth having. I loved listening to the stories on Listen with Mother. I don’t know what happened to my old copy of the book but I was interested to see if the pictures would bring back memories. I remembered the song, of course

and this picture (by A E Kennedy) was very familiar.

No fears, cat lovers; they're at a pet show.

I loved Daphne Oxenford reading My Naughty Little Sister: ‘And do you know what my naughty little sister did next?’ Dorothy Edwards' stories are still popular with children today, just like the Marmaduke and Joe books by Elizabeth Chapman.

Daphne Oxenford is probably better known these days for playing Steve in Francis Durbridge’s Paul Temple series, because the dramas are part of Radio 7's repertoire. Her voice sounds extraordinarily dated now, which just adds to the charm.

It's hard to think of anything nowadays that would be such a universally shared experience, even Blue Peter. When I was at secondary school, we were played in and out of assembly and one day the music teacher broke into the Berceuse from Fauré’s Dolly Suite. A ripple went round because to everyone there that music meant LWM. Then there's the incident in Susan Rushes In where Gabrielle, one of the ghastly Gascoignes, has a story accepted for the programme. (The frightful girl has already written for Children's Hour.) Jane Shaw could assume that all her readers would have listened to both programmes.

Later on, I was glued to Children’s Hour. My introduction to Winnie the Pooh was hearing the book read by lovely David Davis. I loved Toytown, Tai-Lu and a strange series called Mossy Bank Theatre, in which a little girl performed in a play with woodland animals. I didn’t know there was a book and was thrilled to find a copy at a boot sale a couple of years ago.

In 1964 BBC research showed that Children’s Hour was mostly listened to by middle aged women and the programme was axed, to a storm of protest. In the very last broadcast, David Davis famously read Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia making me think that Children’s Hour was better than Go4it .


"And when the music stops, Daphne Oxenford will be here to read you a story ..."

I only vaguely remember [i]Listen With Mother[/i], and I don't recall any of the content other than the above and "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin ..."

What I do remember is that Mother didn't listen ... it was more like plonked in front of the (huge valve) radio while Mother got on with the washing.
My memory too! Mother would be in the kitchen, I'd be sitting in an armchair, little legs sticking out in front, right next to the great big wireless which took up most of a shelf. It was an entirely solitary pleasure and totally absorbing. But we had a speaker wired into the kitchen, so Mum did listen at the same time, just not with me.
Speakers? Luxury, I tell thee. We kept that old valve radio for years, until I let Jan Hyla pinch the valves for some electrical project of his. (I think he grew up to be the Polish Frankenstein or something).
Doan't 'ee lecture me on luxury. That same old radio was the only one in the house. My father put wires through the walls so it could be heard in other rooms.
I do remember Listen with Mother, but only the very beginning. It must be a very early memory as I could only have been two or so at the time it was axed. Unless they did repeats?

I agree it's sad there's nothing really equivalent nowadays. I suppose audio cassettes/cds were my daughter's equivalent. My Naughty Little Sister read by Felicity Kendall/ the Just William tapes by Martin Jarvis and Jan Francis who did a smashing job on loads of Blytons, but then she spent far more time listening to tapes etc in the car than I ever did as a small child. I do love books on tape now though. The Paul Temple ones are lots of fun!
Everyone enjoys William! They did have Stephen Fry reading Jennings on Radio4 but it got moved over to R7. I don't know if audiobooks are available.
I love the William stories. Books or audio, they usually have me crying with laughter. (Jarvis doing Violet Elizabeth is hilarious.)
I can't read William now without hearing Martin Jarvis in my head.
I have only vague memories of LWM - when I first went to school I remember lying down for a rest aafter lunch and listening to it.

OTOH I have lots of memories of Watch With Mother.
lying down for a rest after lunch

We did the same thing at infants' school! ISTR little beds like camp beds but it's a very vague memory. We didn't have a television when I was the right age for WWM but I watched the progs when I was older and home from school.
I was trying to remember what we lay down on! It may have been camp beds, but I think it was probably gym mats. And I only remember it in my first year of school.
I loved those Naughty Little Sister books as a child and my own daughters still love to read them even though they are thirteen. I like the fact that you never found out too much about the big sister and although we have all the books with the Shirley Hughes illustrations there are only two illustrations (I think) of big sister. Our favourites are The Get Well Box and any story that features the Rosy-Primrose doll.
It's great that children still enjoy MNLS, Milly-Molly-Mandy and other innocent stories!
I saw a big MMM book in the kids' section of Waterstones over Christmas. I'm half tempted to get it for the younger goddaughter, even though she isn't into books.
It is your godmotherly duty :-)
I was recently "doing something else" in a room where someone else was watching TV, and a voice kept making my hair prickle - I kept thinking of various small people of the past.
Some time later, I said
"There was a voice on TV that made me think of X when she was small."
Reply: "It was Daphne Oxenford!"