As I’ve got older, more cynical and altogether more misanthropic I find myself increasingly surprised by how much of a soft spot I have for regional news programming. It’s as if my understanding for what’s terrible is somehow unaffected by smiley small-town blandness and aimless reports about vandalised road signs and vegetables that look like people.
I swear that, during my teenage years, I used to roll my eyes at such vapidity. I’d laugh at the stories that my local news, BBC Points West, would break. In fact, one story in particular has stuck with me over the years. It was about a pupil at a local school; he had been expelled, veteran newsreader Chris Vacher explained at the time, for “drugs”.
‘Whatever could it be?’ I remember thinking. ‘Coke, heroin…surely not crack?’
And then, as I sat there, listening curiously, I found myself shocked and appalled by what was reported. Things at Backwell comprehensive, it soon transpired, were evidentially far worse than I had initially thought.
Poppers, Points West insisted, had been used on premise. A Backwell pupil had been experimenting with poppers, the stupidest and most unsatisfying drug of them all. I was stunned. I had previously thought that only rock and roll stars took poppers, a drug that you can legally buy in shops.
“Poppers,” I believe Lou Reed once sang. “It’s my life and it’s my wife.”
And I’m pretty sure it was the Stones that sang: “Poppers, just like a young girl should…a-huh.”
I didn’t know it then, but this was to be the single greatest news story of my lifetime. Even to this day I haven’t been quite so tickled by the news. It was even greater than Points West’s report on Concord’s last flight, which climaxed gloriously with a nerdy Bristolian boy weeping the words, “I just loves planes!”
Back when I was teen, though, I was less fond of BBC Points West. Now it makes me all weepy-eyed and nostalgic, reminding me of simpler and happier times. I even run the risk of over-romanticising the programme, as a recent trip back to Bristol proved. BBC Points West, I discovered with great sadness, wasn’t all poppers and weeping Bristolian children. They did in fact have some pretty serious news, too. When I tuned in, a couple of wheelie bins had been knocked over and Points West were doing a bang up job of reporting what they were now calling “Binageddon”.
But it’s the lighter stories that will always stick with me, like this one on Captain Clevedon, a comic book series chronicling the exciting adventures of North Somerset’s first and, I suspect, last superhero.