"This country is in a terrible state," pronounced Little Nan, emphatically.
"We're never going to pull ourselves out of it,
that's the trouble," declared Hilary, with feeling.
"When, oh when," sighed Anne, more in sorrow than in anger, "will we be Great Britain again?"
I think I should explain to anyone who now has the idea that my daughters display a most praise-worthy awareness of current affairs, and a concern for the country unusual in those
of such tender years, that they were not, as it happens, discussing the rate of inflation, rising unemployment, the economic crisis or the need for private enterprise. Actually they were watching It's a Knockout" on TV and the British team, having taken only
one point in each of the last two games,was lying in an ignominious sixth place.
My children take this programme as seriously as others regard the Olympic Games
or the World Cup. They have managed to postpone their bedtime on Wednesday night without ever asking for an extension that I can remember and whether they go to bed dismal or delighted depends entirely on the fortunes of one or other British town - many of
which they have never heard of before - which becomes to them all-important as our national flag-carriers.
Anyone who has ever watched the programme will know
that fervent supporters like my daughters have little cause for celebration.
"Wouldn't it be marvellous?" they appeal to me, as they settle themselves in an expectant
huddle in front of the television set, "if just for once the Great Britain team could win?" "Wouldn't it be lovely if we were the ones who paraded around with the trophy at the end while the theme tune was playing?"
"And wouldn't it be lovely," I can't help myself remarking, "if just for once you could all get undressed and ready for bed before the programme comes on and then go straight up to bed when it finished?" They look at each other - an exchange of sympathetic
glances which says more clearly than any words that mothers can be such a bore sometimes.
They make the very slightest effort to meeting my request by loosening ties and kicking off shoes - though
it is possible they would have done so anyway purely for reasons of comfort.
"Here comes the British team!" they cry, "Here they come! They look good tonight.
They look like fast runners, don't you think, mummy? They look strong men." There is no point in disagreeing.
The games begin, the presenters direct plastic smiles at the cameras. My daughters, not
to be outdone by a mere television commentator, add their giggles to Stuart Hall's loud and unrestrained cackle of hilarity. Great Britain cones second in the first game.
The next game is disastrous.
All are sunk in gloom. Things get worse. The Great Britain team tries for double points by playing its joker and loses the gamble. "Whose silly idea was it to play a joker on that game?" my daughters ask, crossly.
My daughters are intensely patriotic. They can all play the National Anthem, with varying degrees of tunefulness, on their recorders, and they have sellotaped a charming picture of the Queen patting a horse onto their bedroom
wall, stuck between the Bay City Rollers and Hilary's Primary Ballet certificate.
But how long will their patriotism stand the strain of Knock Out? Perhaps the Government should take action - if we
watched ourselves winning on TV it might even boost our feelings of national pride.
Otherwise, as our milkman complained just the other day: "We've lost the Ashes,
bet you anything you like we'll never win the World Cup again. Is there anything left - apart from the Eurovision Song Contest?"
Slough Evening Mail - 1977