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  • Five lies and one truth Topsy and Tim taught me about life

    Oh, Topsy and Tim. It’s basically Hollyoaks for kids, isn’t it? There’s more pre-school soap opera issues than you can shake a twin stick at. Separation anxiety, friendship angst or dealing with head lice? There’s a Topsy and Tim for that.

    Topsy and Tim books

    We’ve been reading and watching a lot of Topsy and Tim lately due to this and this. It was a firm childhood favourite of mine, it’s now one of my children, which I love as there’s something so wholesome and educational about it. Not least because the TV series is on the no-advert CBeebies and probably because it’s not Paw Patrol.

    There’s something for everyone – young people, old people and mums (in the form of Kerry’s hunky fireman dad Carson). The dual character set-up is cleverly used as a stage to explore everyday events and complex emotions and unusually it’s feisty fierce Topsy that’s the twin foil to the more tearful, reluctant Tim.

    My mum saved my original set of books and there’s now the modern re-writes as well as the TV series. But the more we read and watch, the more I’m beginning to suspect they don’t paint the most accurate picture about life as a parent…

    …So here’s five lies (and one truth) Topsy and Tim taught me about life:

    Reading Topsy and Tim books

    Lie 1: Before starting primary school, the teacher comes round for a home visit
    Primary school is a big focus of most four-year-old’s lives (and their mums!) A few weeks before school starts TV Topsy and Tim’s teacher comes round to pay them a pre-school visit and settle and school fears. This one is the cause of much friction in our house because guess what? In real life the teacher *doesn’t* come round. This hasn’t stopped my pre-schooler asking every day when it will happen. Thanks, T&T.

    On another note, if there is something in my eye when completely fictional characters start school, there’s no hope for me when it comes to the real thing, is there?

    Lie 2: Lovely things happen when there’s a knock on the door
    Again in the TV series, there’s an episode where there’s a knock at the door. lo and behold,  it’s a group of friendly old people whose mini bus has broken down. They make music together and forge some beautiful friendships.

    Does that happen in real life? Nope, not around here (it’s usually people wanting to replace our windows, other people’s deliveries or fish salesmen, randomly enough).

    Lie 3: Children need to be taught (and learn) strict lessons
    The very early original books have more than a touch of the Victorian / draconian about them. There’s none of this modern child-lead parenting malarky, nurturing, considering feelings or anything fancy like that.

    Topsy and Tim books

    In the Monday Book, Tim doesn’t want to wear his heavy and uncomfortable wellies on a rainy day so his dad flies into a rage and decides to teach him a lesson. Predictably Tim gets soaked and unhappy. but his mum doesn’t suddenly provide spare socks and a hundred packs of baby wipes. Oh no, it’s just Tim and his wet feet. He wears his wellies home. I dread to think what happens in the Tuesday book.

    And in Topsy and Tim Go Safely, everyone’s favourite lovable scamp Tony Welch gets run over by a car and hospitalised after he doesn’t pay attention to the road safety lecture. How’s that for hard justice? Yikes.

    Topsy and Tim Go Safely

    Lie 4: Mums are calm, level headed and patient all the time
    I’ve seen much speculation about T&T’s TV mum who is calm at all times, even in the face of so many noisy children doing things like breaking her vases left right and centre. Is it valium? Is she a robot? What is she doing on all her trips ‘away’? Needless to say, mums* aren’t calm and patient all the time (* me).

    Topsy and Tim’s mum also can’t be based on any kind of real mum as she doesn’t have a) a Selfish Mother sweatshirt under her dungarees b) ten hundred striped tops c) one eye on the clock and a hand inching impatiently towards the wine fridge at all times.

    Lie 5: London is a great place to take kids
    London with kids *is* great, don’t get me wrong. It’s full of amazing things to do (like this and this) but it’s still London, so you get people giving you evils for having a child on public transport, pushing in front of your pram on the tube and tutting at you for daring to look in their direction. But in the Topsy and Tim go to London book, ‘London’ is a clean and shiny place with no queues, train delays, rain or manky pigeons hopping round on one foot. Where is this place? I want to live there.

    Truth 1: Always expect the unexpected

    Topsy and Tim's Monday book pile

    My post-Topsy and Tim childhood consisted of watching 999, a 90’s programme so fraught with potential death traps everywhere that means I now see the danger in everything on TV and spend lots of time expecting something awful to happen at all times.

    The later series of Topsy and Tim doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Topsy’s stomach pain on the camping trip leads into appendicitis, an emergency dash and long hospital stay, Tim’s fun eye test leads to glasses, but then there’s something else…

    ‘The dog’s not going to die is it?’ I said to Alex during the first-watch of the ‘very special’ episode with the poorly dog in the latest series (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean).

    ‘Nah’ he said.

    And then the dog died.

    ‘Is Mossy the dog DEAD?’ Said Eliza, wide-eyed

    RIP Mossy; thanks for keeping us on our toes.

    Favourite episode, anyone?

    More posts: How London changes when you’re a parent, the hidden perils of picking the bedtime book and conversations with mum guilt

    10 Comments

    1. Charlotte
      May 25, 2016 / 6:21 pm

      I have worked at a local primary school that visits each child at home. Just doesnt happen at every school. Char

      • gillian
        Author
        May 26, 2016 / 10:01 am

        I won’t tell my daughter that! I wonder if it’s an area thing? We live in London and I’ve never heard of anyone who had one x

    2. May 25, 2016 / 6:25 pm

      Isn’t it standard for reception teachers to do a home visit? All my reception teacher chums and colleagues have done them and our son had onever befire he started. It’s just good practice and you should hear the teachers all gossip about the houses afterwards.

      • gillian
        Author
        May 26, 2016 / 9:51 am

        Nope! Not round here (I’m in south London) And I’ve never heard of anyone who has had one x

    3. May 25, 2016 / 7:37 pm

      Sorry to say it but round here teachers do do home visits for children who haven’t been in a nursery setting before they start school. If they’re already in nursery or pre-school they go and visit them there instead. Not necessarily the case everywhere, but not a complete lie either.

      • gillian
        Author
        May 26, 2016 / 10:00 am

        It is for us 🙂 No home visits around here (they go into school instead). I won’t tell my daughter that’s not that case everywhere! x

    4. May 27, 2016 / 1:37 pm

      We didn’t get a home visit, so despite all the comments telling you that you’re wrong 😉 you’re not. I think it used to happen a lot more, and lots of schools don’t do it now. G’s teacher visited her at pre-school which was nice!
      PS The Mossy episode!!!!!!!! 🙁 x a million

    5. June 1, 2016 / 10:36 pm

      My pre-schooler is also partial to a bit of T&T, I actually don’t mind watching it too much (like you say, way better than Paw Patrol!)

      Confession time – I cried at the episode where T&T start school. I don’t have much hope of me holding it together come September! Xx

      P.S no home visit for us either!

    6. August 7, 2016 / 10:23 am

      I am here after a Google search to discover if teachers do home visits like in topsy and Tim. Curious about this, having just watched that episode, and now I’ve read the comments I’m not sure!
      We’ll just have to wait and see I guess!

      • gillian
        Author
        August 9, 2016 / 9:19 pm

        I was convinced it was a total lie but it appears to depend on schools – we don’t get one but apparently lots of people do! We’ve had a play session and go into school to meet the teacher instead x

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