For some reason I have felt compelled to write a quick blog post. Usually I spend quite a lot of time researching and writing a post that involves a literary or historical connection. Or I indulge in reminiscence or even have a rant.
But today I just wanted to say something that might be a little unfashionable in historical circles in tribute to one of the masters of the ‘art’ of daytime television.
It was announced today that David Barby has died, aged just 63, following a stroke. I was surprised at how genuinely upset I felt at the news – to be honest there are so many tragedies in the world that to mourn the death of a celebrity auctioneer and antiques dealer might seem indulgent.
However, he has been involved in programmes such as Bargain Hunt, Flog It! and Antiques Road Trip for years and at this point it seems only right to make an admission – I really enjoy sitting down with a cuppa in front of the telly and having fun with these shows.
David Barby, Tim Wonnacott, Anita Manning, Charles Hanson et al and the gorgeous Jonathan Pratt have become familiar faces to those people who are at home during the daytime or early evening – either working from home, caring for kids or parents or experiencing ill-health perhaps. Apart from Cash in the Attic which leaves me cold (something to do with Jennie Bond I think) these are programmes which I find cosy and relaxing. OK they are not high art; they are as shallow as history on television gets, but I have learnt a lot about ceramics and silver from the experts and regularly enjoy seeing them get it horribly wrong. Whilst on a recent family reunion the fact that my daughter got the presenter of Bargain Hunt right was somewhat sneered at. Why? I was out and proud of her. There is too much violence and unhappiness in the world to poo-poo forty-five minutes of gentle fun.
David Barby was camp and clever and endlessly full of grumpy fun. I am sad we won’t see his smiling face on our screens anymore. It is easy to sneer at daytime telly and some of it is dire or seemingly aimed at people who like to feel angry all the time (Cowboy Trap, Rogue Traders etc) or those who enjoy watching injured people suffering indignities in air ambulances (Real Rescues, Helicopter Heroes).
But I don’t mind admitting to the guilty pleasure of a packet of Hob Nobs, a cup of tea and the sight of David Barby arguing with Philip Serrell over a three-legged stool.
RIP Mr Barby. You will be much missed.