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The Jennings Collection

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Jeff Zycinski | 16:46 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

Jennings-collection.jpg

The BBC's Director General has made a huge blunder and I'm only sorry it has taken me so long to speak out. I should have let my voice be heard at the time, but the Corporation's slick PR people would have swung into action, spinning against me and dismissing my protests as little more than infantile gurgling.

And they would have been right.

You see, I'm not picking a fight with the current D.G. Heaven forbid! No, I'm talking about a decision made in 1964 when I was but a tot. That was when the BBC axed Children's Hour from its radio services and that meant I never got to hear Jennings at School.

I became a fan of the Jennings books in the early seventies. The hilarious adventures of this English schoolboy were a world away from my own reality in Easterhouse and maybe that's why I loved them so much. I still do, in fact, and I'm not alone. The likes of Stephen Fry and Alan Ayckbourn have said how the stories influenced their own careers and about the literary flair of the Jennings creator Anthony Buckeridge.

What I didn't realise until I grew up was that Buckeridge originally created Jennings for radio. The first plays aired in 1948 and the first book - Jennings Goes to School - was published in 1950. The last book - That's Jennings - came out in 1994 and between times Buckeridge had authored twenty-four different Jennings titles.
In my attic I found about eighteen of them in various states of preservation or disrepair. I was actually toying with the idea of flogging the lot on e-Bay when my twelve year old son asked if he could borrow one for a look-see. I handed him my dog-eared copy of Jennings as usual and wondered what he would make of it.

To be honest, the style was already dated when I was a boy. Postal orders and tuck box rooms now seem a far cry from PIN numbers and healthy eating schemes. Buckeridge himself tried to update the characters and their settings in the later books, but the results were not great. Somehow Jennings and his friends only seem credible within the closed world of a Sussex preparatory school. Imagine him in an Easterhouse comprehensive and you can see where things might go wrong.


Jennings: Fossilised fishhooks! Wow! I say, have you chaps got per to be smoking behind the bicycle sheds? If Old Wilkie spots you there'll be the most frantic hoo-hah.

Ned: Right guys. You haud him doon and I'll dae the kicking

But, much to my surprise and delight, my son devoured the book in one sitting and asked for another...and then another. Now he's urged me to go online and complete my collection.

And that's where we found this site and one tiny audio memory of Jennings on the radio.

Corwumph.

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  • 1. At 8:26pm on 21 Feb 2010, Scotch Git wrote:


    Jeff,

    The line that sticks in my memory is where our hero warns his amigos to keep the noise down, because a certain teacher has "supersonic earsight."

    Funny the things one's memory retains!

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  • 2. At 8:37pm on 21 Feb 2010, Jeff Zycinski wrote:

    I always remember Darbishire with "his spectacles athwart his nose like a percentage sign."

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  • 3. At 11:54pm on 17 Mar 2010, Dour_Scot wrote:

    Jeff;

    Thanks for the heads-up on Jennings...good stuff!

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  • 4. At 11:38pm on 15 May 2010, Bromo wrote:

    Anybody know where one can still purchase Jennings books, other than lucking into them at rummage sales? I grew up with 6 of the series, which I read dozens of times each, and would love to find more (even though I'm now weeell past prep school age!)

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