One of the many serendipitous delights of parenthood is discovering children's television. Not rediscovering - I mean discovering for the first time. There may be North Country funnymen who make a career out of recalling how kids TV "were better in them days", but in my case they are wrong.
In Welsh Wales, children's television consisted of "Miri Mawr" ("Big Fun"), a programme hosted by a yeti farmer, Japanese war criminal and the thing you see at the end of "The Fly II", all cooped up in Osama bin Laden's utility cave. You don't believe me? Then watch:
Apart from a programme about poaching hosted by a cardboard cormorant, that was it.
Nonetheless, there's a lack of role models for children in current cathode fare as well, unless they aspire to be Rastafarians, "mangas" or relentlessly perky Mexican moppets. That's why I've come up with my own proposal for pre-primary entertainment:
"The Three Keiths" are a trio of superheroes, each equipped with special powers to deal out kinetic justice rather than the usual self-righteousness to adults, wrongdoers and those boys in Year 6. And they are all real.
Keith 1 - Keith Richards, alias "Keef". Fashioned entirely from inside-out crocodiles and "Accessorize" tat, Keef is the leader of the pack. His special powers are immortality, demon-summoning riffs and the keys to "The Magic Pharmacy", where he distills potions to ward off squares and help the other Keiths relax - "just take the edge off things with this, man".
He speaks proper English too, not the semi-Canadian nonsense children hear elsewhere.
Keith 2 - Keith Floyd, alias "Floyd". Made out of three old uncles bound together with bow-ties and raffia, Floyd provides the trio with all they need to keep going in the fight against tedium - top tuck, refreshing elixirs from his "secret cellar" ("The steps are a bit steep for you children, and even for Old Floydie of an evening!") and an array of grown-up ladies whom girl viewers can totally identify with.
Floyd's special powers are immunity to weights & measures and indifference to human laws.
Keith 3 - The Right Hon Sir Keith Joseph Bt, CH, PC alias "Sir Keith Joseph". The ganglion that connects the twin synapses of the team, Sir Keith Joseph is often called upon to get Floyd and Keef out of a terrible fix - in all senses of the word. His swivelling gaze can hypnotise reptiles, and he conjures up bad ideas decades ahead of their time to tie up gangs of villains long enough for our heroes to get away in the Bentley.
Sir Keith Joseph also carries a mysterious object loaned to him by the fearsome "Magg Witch". Called simply "The Handbag", it has voodoo economic qualities that keep afloat Floyd's various front organisations for the Three through fire, submersion in lakes and the wretched inflexibility of magistrates.
I chose these three Keiths from a highly competitive field - Chegwin came close - because they alone address the main banes of pre-teen life: bad music, dull food, and inadequate transparency in the management of public finances.
Having got that far during an episode of "Fifi and the Flower Tots" - a sort of nursery take on "The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" - I decided to celebrate with an amphora of Makarios's Revenge, and so have managed to outline only the following pilot:
At their secret Berkshire base - a picturesque inn-cum-recording-studio-cum-monetarist-think-tank - the Keiths prepare themselves for battle through a training regimen of bushido rigour, designed by Keef and featuring feedback, flashbacks and blackjack.
The lady of the manor, Penelope Keith ("The Fourth Keith"), alerts them to various dangers gleaned from sherry-laced parsonage gossip. Keef immediately cranks up the Bentley, which Floyd has left parked either side of an oak tree, then has a bit of a lie down in the barn while Floyd packs a hamper. Sir Keith Joseph bores a hole through the estate gates with his unblinking emerald eyes, and they're off!
This week, jobsworth music teachers Bono & Sting (frequent villains) persuade the village fête to play their listless ditties over the public address system while a mantis-like Mrs Sting from the cooperative Café Ortega doles out quinoa-burgers with "Amazonian chewy grub salad", thereby compounding the misery of parents who've driven children with computer-withdrawal symptoms 20 miles to meet a pregnant goat.
The Three Keiths lope to it. Keef drops some "magic pirate potion, man" in the eco-punch before plugging the PA into his amp and launching a 12-bar open-G rasp through "Rocks Off" that paints the village green a bluesy shade of black.
Meanwhile, Floyd has set out a trestle of truffled turkey and trifles to tempt teen and termagant alike, as the punch works its wonders on the mums and dads. Everyone's having a good time by now, but - oh no! - Bono and the Stings are complaining to Ms Polly Tecnick the Headmistress and Mr Spendthrift the Mayor. This is a job for Sir Keith Joseph!
Quick as a slide-rule, Sir Keith delves into "The Handbag" and whips out a brace of Magg Witch talismans - one in Mrs Sting's name for employing non-unionised Paraguayan waitresses in her cafe, and another in recognition of Mr Spendthrift's discreet acceleration of a council house sale shortly before the local ban.
"And how is your holiday companion Fräulein Proll settling in there?" Sir Keith asked of Ms Tecnick, before handing over a Krugerrand pendant for her elegant redrawing of the school catchment boundary just short of the Reg Varney Estate and that Irish tinkers' site. He then let the Invisible Hand of Recrimination go to work on the gruesome quintet.
The Three Keiths slip away from what is now a seriously happening free festival, their work done for another week as rainbows, brandy butter and sink estates light up the Chilterns - but not before offering the Paraguayan ladies a gallant lift home or somewhere.
I believe "The Three Keiths" will inspire, educate and alarm in the correct proportion, thereby forewarning tots of all the gluten-free golems out there who want to keep them in locked-rhythm serfdom.