Sleep deprivation is, in my experience, the most joy-sucking part of parenting, and three years of it have given me a neurotic obsession with routine and a shameless disinterest in makeup and hair straighteners. But what brings a touch of mirth to those moments when I’m waking up in pre-dawn darkness, brain whirling through the anxieties of the day ahead and face accosted by a thousand toddler limbs and a bulging nappy, is the music that plays in my head. The inevitable result of daily exposure, it consists entirely of theme tunes from kids TV programmes, delivered in an entertaining hotchpotch of Australian and British accents:
‘Bananas in pyjamas are coming down the stairs…’
‘Yakki Yoggi Yoggi Doo doo dee Ba ba ba bee bee boo see…’
‘Sarah and Duck, quack. Sarah. And Duck. QUACK.’
‘There’s a bear in there, and a chair as well…’
Such a range of inspiring lyrics and soaring melodies is perhaps a curse but more likely a blessing, and all credit must be given to ABC Kids, the Aussie equivalent of CBBC, who have clearly bought the licence to BBC shows by the bulk. Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more diversity – the screen is still awash with white faces and gender stereotypes. But ABC Kids does make an attempt in its local programming, showing Peppa Pig in Mandarin and featuring an indigenous Australian presenter, a sign language presenter and others from minority backgrounds on its daily educational show Play School. And a special mention must go to UK’s Thomas & Friends, whose tiny island of Sodor hosts an Olympics-scale event, presumably beating much bigger nations in the bidding process, that sees its humble tracks graced by engines of every hue from Mexico to Russia.
Adult TV in Australia also benefits from generous lashings of British shows, which is just as well because on the rare occasions DD and I flick through the channels we’re guilty of the typical arrogance of a foreigner who dismisses all local programmes with horrified exclaims of ‘What the hell is this?’ and ‘I can barely understand what this guy is saying!’ We soon remember that TV back home and indeed everywhere else in the world is just as relentlessly trashy, and that, if we’re honest, trash is precisely what the heart wants. So when we’re on holiday in a beachside apartment on the east coast, clutching glasses of wine after the toddler has gone to bed, we like to first throw some gentle abuse at Australian Ninja Warrior and F*!#ing Adelaide, then settle down to a nice episode of Escape to the Country for a distinctly British evening of admiring fireplaces and berating house prices.