Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Beeb's silly ruling has no rhyme nor reason

Maybe I was a particularly insensitive child. But I don't ever remember losing much sleep over the injuries sustained by one Mr H Dumpty following that infamous fall off the wall.

Even a graphic illustration of the accident in the full colour Bumper Book of Nursery Rhymes where it was immediately clear from the distress on the faces of all the king's horses and all the king's men that Humpty was beyond salvage, didn't bother me.

Frankly I didn't give a stuff. It was an egg, for gawd's sake. A cartoon egg. Make an omelette, people. Get over it ...

Today's children, it seems, are made of less stern stuff. The BBC stands accused this week of reworking the ending of the nursery rhyme in an upbeat way in order to spare the feelings of gentle kiddie winkles.

Instead of 'all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again' it's 'all the king's horses and all the king's men made him better again'.

A line that is not only factually incorrect - but, unforgivably, doesn't actually scan.

The Beeb is also accused of resolving Miss Muffet's well-documented issues with arachnophobia by amending her famous rhyme to include a scene where she makes friends with the spider who previously had encroached upon her tuffet.

The full insanity of all this is that it comes at a time when it could be argued that children are tougher nuts than any of their counterparts in history. In some cases they have to be.

The old image of the little child clinging to a balloon as his parents lovingly reads him fairy stories in his attic room has been supplanted by a 2009 reality where the child is hiding out in the attic, the balloon is being followed across three states on prime time TV and the parents are telling the fairy stories to the assembled media.

Sadly for many, the nursery rhyme most likely to strike a chord these days is the one about the old lady with so many children she didn't know what to do - except whip them all soundly and send them to bed.

After, of course, they'd had their nightly fix of TV soap with a litany of murder, violence, bullying and screeching that makes three blind mice having their tails slashed by the farmer's wife look tame.

The children the Beeb would spare from the reality of Humpty's demise actually have access to play station games that would make Little Bo Peep's hair curl and films and books that major on blood sucking vampires. It's all a long way from mice running up and down clocks.

Attempts to neuter nursery rhymes may be well-intentioned. But hardly relevant in the world today .

For a start old Humpty wouldn't be sitting on a wall for long if today's feral youth was in the picture. He wouldn't fall. He'd be pushed.

And forget the king's horses and king's men rushing to his aid.

They wouldn't get near the place for health and safety assessors seeking to prosecute Humpty for climbing on the wall without adequate protective gear.

There would also be counsellors in attendance to talk the juvenile perpetrators through their anger management issues.

And lawyers out to reassure that where there's blame, there's a claim.

There would also be the team of diversity co-ordinators keen to encourage the aggressors of the need to embrace their local egg community. They'd come with funding for the inevitable mural on the wall.

Humpty meanwhile would still be lying there oozing yolk waiting for the paramedics to finish their break before they could attend to him. And for the local health trust to find him an acute bed.

Happy ending?

At least in the old version, all the king's horses and all the king's men made an effort.

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