Brian, as those of you old enough will remember, was the stalwart of many children’s TV shows during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I guess we could call him the Grandfather of modern children’s programmes. On shows like Play School, Bric a Brac and Play Away, he was a joy; always happy, always singing and always camp and funny. He was also the invisible voice of the animated shows Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley and it was his soft, Sussex tones that we heard when we were introduced to the Trumpton Fire Brigade:
‘Pugh, Pugh, Barney Magrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.’
(Barney Magrew (for reasons we’re not privy to) was singled out for full name status. Perhaps there were two Magrews and one was off duty? Then again, there were two Pughs. I’ll shut up, shall I?).
The TV programme I watched was about Brian returning to Ipswich to revisit the places he grew up. But what struck me was how old he was! Don’t get me wrong, he’s wearing well. He’s trim and fit and he has all of his marbles. But his hair has gone and his voice is warbly and he looks like a man in his 70s. Because he is. Brian Cant is 74. What? It seems like only yesterday he was in his 40s and arsing around with Floella Benjamin or Fred Harris or Toni Arthur or Jeremy Irons (Yes, that Jeremy Irons). But if he’s not 40 anymore that means that I must be at least 30 years older than I feel …
And I’ve just read that Floella Benjamin is 59 this year.
Photo (c) Clive Conway Celebrity Productions