This will be hugely familiar to anyone who was a British kid in the seventies, eighties and nineties – ITV’s legendary “Rainbow”. It ran from 1972 to 1992, and it’s one of my fondest childhood memories. It was set in a house that was home to Zippy (sociopathic anthropomorphised rugby ball), George (dreamy pink hippo) and Bungle (bloke in a bear suit). These three characters would frequently cause chaos, and would be dealt with by long-suffering Geoffrey, who for some inexplicable reason cared for these odd creatures. The show was funny, entertaining, colourful, innocent and a little bit magical, and it’s always something I’ve been really nostalgic about. I watched it way beyond my pre-school years – I set the video to record the 1000th show when I was twelve!
It was in the news today that Geoffrey Hayes, Rainbow’s resident human, has passed away at the age of 76. I was genuinely a bit tearful to hear the news – it follows on from the death of Roy Skelton, Zippy and George’s voice actor, in 2011. While Zippy was undoubtedly the star of the show, Geoffrey came across as avuncular, warm, kind and wise, and was a comforting and reassuring presence on our screens, and he was loved by millions of kids. After the show finished, he made occasional appearances, but these became fewer as time went on – Zippy and George were retired after Skelton’s death. Geoffrey was on a celebrity edition of Pointless in 2015, and he looked pretty frail, so I’m assuming he’s been in poor health for the last few years.
Rainbow was made at the Teddington Lock studios of Thames Television, only a few miles away from where I lived when I was growing up. Most of it was filmed in the studio, but when they made film clips of the “outside world”, they were all filmed locally and showed the world just as I experienced and saw it. It was all hugely familiar and friendly as a result. The Journeywoman, who grew up in Scotland, was also a fan, although she still harbours anger against her playgroup who insisted it was nap time just as Rainbow came on the TV!
I’ve watched a few clips this evening, and it was lovely to be four years old again, remembering what it was like to sit in front of the telly in our seventies house. We had a brown sofa with plenty of orange cushions and lovely garish wallpaper, and occasionally I’d watch it at a childminders’ house – she had a wonderful Tretchikoff painting on the wall above her telly! It was all even better if I happened to be eating a bowl of fish fingers and spaghetti hoops at the time (fish fingers cut up into pieces, each adorned with a blob of Daddies’ Brown Sauce).*
In the midst of the horrible stuff going on the world, and the ghastly direction this country is taking, it’s been a pleasure to remember these things that made me such a happy kid. Laughing at Zippy’s daft antics is genuinely one of life’s finer pleasures, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
Well, Geoffrey, you’re up above the streets and houses now, looking down on all the people you entertained so masterfully. Rest in peace, and love and best wishes to your family. Thanks for all the magic.
- which, of course, my dad insisted only he was allowed to eat, and his mock-outrage at finding I’d been eating it was a constant source of entertainment. 🙂