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Ken Fyne: Why the Fat Controller should be left as he is

Ken is not a fan of the revamped version of Thomas the Tank Engine.
Ken is not a fan of the revamped version of Thomas the Tank Engine.

It is outrageous, verging on the unspeakable.

It could fatally erode sincerely-held views about values, standards and behaviour.

But more later about Michael Gove’s terpsichorean twists and turns in Aberdeen.

For now, I’m shaking with disbelief and horror at what I saw in my P&J. It sent shivers down my spine, sweat across my brow and engulfed me in feelings of dread.

Mrs F, spotting my discomfort at breakfast, assumed I’d seen a ghost, seen myself naked in the mirror, seen the inside of my wallet for the first time this millennium or seen the video of Gove dancing at a city nightclub.

Michael Gove made headlines after visiting an Aberdeen nightclub last weekend.

Any of these events would likely leave me needing a defibrillator to overcome the heart-stopping shock, but that wasn’t what stopped me in my tracks. It was the announcement that the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine children’s stories are to receive a major revamp.

I’d be less alarmed if the Archbishop of Canterbury was discovered wearing Ann Summers lingerie under his vestments and snorted cocaine while moonlighting as a lap-dancer at a drinking den in his cathedral’s crypt.

Some things are sacred, and Thomas the Tank Engine is one of them.

Beside me on my desk are two delightful Thomas story books, both now 60 years old. They’re the tales of James (the red engine) and the Top-Hat, and Percy (the little green engine) and the Signal. They’re enchanting, imaginative, delightful and, like me, a bit battered around the edges as they’ve been through some rough handling in their time.

Even better, but unlike me, they’re peaceful, charming and blissfully quiet.

My limited experience with toys and TV aimed at today’s youngsters suggests they’re infested with constant electronic beeps and voices, endless noises and demonic din, akin to Mrs F in a tirrivee when she’s upturning every drawer in Fyne Place looking for something she’s mislaid.

Steam Team, All Engines Go is the new name for Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.

I’ve seen the trailers for the new Thomas series, just its fourth update in 75 years, cringingly called Steam Team, All Engines Go. The engines are now voiced by children with piercing voices, the music is noisy and the engines, in addition to being mixed gender, now scream around like demented wasps.

In our politically correct world, the days of the Fat Controller might well be numbered.

It’s beyond me why people always have to tinker with things that were of their time, simply to bring them up to date. Why should we endure warnings for the serially indignant played before every comedy programme older than the 1970s?

Why push for a female James Bond or one from an ethnic minority? Instead, today’s authors should create equally iconic female, black or LGBTQ movie heroes.

If programme updating continues unabated then maybe I’ll campaign to create a Doric-speaking “Robbie the Chackit Ingine”, voiced by Robbie Shepherd.

P&J columnist Robbie Shepherd would do a fantastic voiceover for a Doric version of the cartoon.

Some traditional comebacks are welcome, though, such as custard returning to Aberdeenshire school-dinner menus after a tasty campaign by Rhynie pupils. It’s a welcome dose of reality for those constantly interfering in our daily lives.

A custard pie in the face to them all.

These Rhynie school pupils led a victorious campaign to get custard back 0n school menus.

And as it’s September it means Strictly will soon be making a comeback to our Saturday night TV screens. That’s great news as it keeps Mrs F fully occupied while I can sit elsewhere in peace savouring my Thomas the Tank Engine books, or similar.

Not such an appealing comeback, though, was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s return to his home city to cavort carelessly in a nightclub in the early hours. He’s human, apparently, and is entirely entitled to do so, but please not in a tie-less suit.

Like most 54-year-olds “dad-dancing” after a few refreshments at 1am, he looked a right wally.

Politicians have plenty of form in that respect. Remember William Hague in his backwards baseball cap, Tony Blair with his guitar, Boris Johnston on that zip-wire or Nick Clegg who was simply permanently embarrassing.

Doesn’t Groovy Gove know that M&S is cutting back on its sales of suits with only about half its shops now stocking them? The move is inexorably towards the trendy casual, we’re told. That seems to apply to cabinet ministers and treasured railway stories alike.

Save the endangered Fat Controller, I say.

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