Picture yourself in a boat by a river

It makes me feel ancient to say this, but TV was still relatively new in Australia when I was a child in the 1970s. TV existed before this, of course, but it was not until the 1970s that it became common for most households in Australia to have one.

Although they dutifully purchased a Black-and-White Television Set, my parents were never really converted. My father watched the news, and my mother would sneak into the lounge to watch Get Smart or Dr Who – other than that, they didn’t really watch TV at all.

My generation – Generation X – was the first for whom a TV was a standard item in the house from the time we were very young. There was a new realisation of the educational role that TV could play, and new programming targeted at our generation from the time we were pre-schoolers reflected this: the long-running American program Sesame Street aired its first episode in the year I was born, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) had developed the educational children’s program, Playschool, just a few years earlier.

I don’t remember much of the TV from the pre-school years of my life, other than those two educational shows mentioned above. My other vague memories are all shows with a fantasy element, featuring magical creatures or magical events, so I assume that magic was a popular theme in the shows of the era.

I guess there was a lot of magic, or something like it, in the air in the late 1960s. (episodes being aired in Australia in the early to mid 70s were often made in the UK or America in the late 60s). For example, I can recall a well-known magical roundabout, a magical flute, and a magic pencil.

Of all the above items, it was the magical pencil that struck me most. What a fantastic tool. All the hero had to do was draw something he needed and voila! – it became real. What I needed was one of those pencils.

(Despite spending at least 10 full minutes searching online, I can’t locate or identify the show I have a vague recollection of, featuring a magic pencil. I found a boy with magic chalk and a gnome with a magic pencil but neither of those looked right. Either the internet, or my memory, have failed us.)

Somehow, in my 5 year old brain, drawing an object and having it become real seemed even more exciting than your every day, garden variety magic, where you were (for example) granted a wish by a benevolent fairy godmother and could just verbalise your desire for something to appear. (When I was 5 this was undoubtedly still on the cards as a realistic possibility.)

Perhaps the in-built limitation of having to draw your desired item was the key  to making it seem more realistic – there was a clear restriction on what you could create (you had to be able to draw it) so therefore it seemed more like real life. As a kid who loved to draw, I found the idea tantalising.

That was 40-odd years ago now, but I would still enjoy a magic pencil. Just imagine it. Oh boy. Where would I start?

First: a cure for this damned head cold please. Aha, but madam, you must be able to draw the desired item, you can’t just ask for “a cure” in a general way. Oh alright then, here, I’m drawing a glass of Cointreau on ice, thank you. It’s got a slice of orange in it, right?

A pencil drawing of cointreau on ice, with a slice of orange

© blathering 2017

Next? Ok, well, if you read my last post (or maybe it was the one before that) you’ll guess that the next picture I’d scribble would be a car, before my current car totally conks out. Then….I’d draw another room, to add on to our tiny house, so that visitors had somewhere to stay. You’d like to come and stay in the new magical room, wouldn’t you?

(This leads me to wonder though, how do the logistics of this whole magical pencil thing work? Do I need to draw a floor plan as well, in order to arrange where the new room will be placed? Or will it just appear from the sky and plonk itself in the middle of the back yard? If so, can I please have a moment to make sure the cat is not sitting in that spot first?)

What would I draw after that?…well, I’m sitting upstairs writing this and the kitchen is downstairs, and I’m too worn out from all this drawing to walk downstairs, but I’d love a nice warm cup of tea….


A pencil drawing of a wonky cup of tea

© blathering 2017

Of course, a pencil like this could never exist, because if it did, we’d grab the nearest piece of tracing paper and the nearest $100 note, and trace 100 of them with the magic pencil, wouldn’t we? (tracing a $500 note would be more expedient, but after writing that half a sentence, I did some fact checking, and there is no $500 note in Australian currency! I checked because I couldn’t recall ever seeing one, but that didn’t prove that they don’t exist. It might just have meant that ATMs don’t dispense $500 notes. But I’ve checked and it’s a fact; they don’t exist. I must have been thinking of Monopoly money.)

Given the difficulties that we, as adults, encounter playing Pictionary™, I wonder how successful we’d actually be with a magic pencil in real life. We know from agonising over that board game, that there are many things we can’t draw, that we might often privately wish for – more confidence, courage, assertiveness, generosity, patience, selflessness, for example. The pencil will be no use at all in trying to improve oneself, I’m afraid.

Forget trying to depict abstract ideas; even our ability to command into being the physical objects we are hoping for is dicey at best. It comes down to the rules of the magic. How much accuracy and detail does your drawing need to have for the magic to work? Does it need to be a detailed hyper-realistic rendering giving an illusion of 3-dimensional perspective, or can it be stick figures, squiggles for clouds, and square houses with triangle rooftops?

If the rules of the magic dictate that you get exactly what you draw, there will be a lot of people hobbling around in lopsided shoes that look like dinner plates, and walking around with a life-size, wooden cut-out cartoon car strapped to their front like a sandwich board, instead of driving the cars they hoped for.

Unless of course you can cheat, and draw a large box tied up with ribbon, and say “I’d like a large box tied up with ribbon and inside that, a pair of Prada sandals just like the ones I saw on the cover of Vogue!”

A coloured pencil drawing of a box with Prada shoes inside it.

© blathering 2017

Leave a comment


  1. Takes me back! My parents had a (rented) B&W TV too. I checked Wikipedia and Sesame Street’s first ever episode premiered exactly one month after I was born 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE your drawings, and really hope you get the shoes. In fact, I think I might try to draw some things, too. Just in case 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m happy to say that I grew up free of TV. My first encounter with it was when a neighbour (who had never spoken to us before and never spoke to us again, as far as I know) acquired what was possibly the first TV set in the street and invited the local kids round to watch the children’s programme. Why she did this, just the once, I have no idea.

    No TV entered our house until I went off to university and my mother thought she would like one to keep her company. She became a devotee and you learned not to phone her when one of her soaps was being screened.

    Nor did we have a radio, or ‘wireless’, as it was then called, during my early years. Any news found its way into the house via the Daily Express and the Sunday People. A radio was eventually installed during my last years at primary school and woe betide anyone interrupting my mother listening to a broadcast of singer Donald Peers! My own ‘unmissable’ was Dick Barton – Special Agent, in 15-minute episodes on weekday evenings.

    Even while I was at secondary school, radio still held sway (every episode of the Goon Show was lovingly dissected, discussed and mimicked for several days afterwards) and it was only when I went to university that TV, still in monochrome, began its ascendancy. I remember a depressed fellow student remarking that Saturday afternoon was a good time to die as there was nothing on TV but sport…

    The magic pencil rings no bells with me. I sometimes watched Sesame Street with my son but my own childhood culture was centred on radio. I even called my tortoise André after the French hero in a Children’s Hour serial.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Radio is a great medium. As a result, perhaps, of not watching much TV as a kid, I don’t really take much interest in TV now. I watch it mostly to be sociable, I.e., to watch something with my partner &/or daughter. My partner has been away since last Sunday & I don’t think the TV has been switched on in that time. We have great community radio in Melbourne & I listen to that a lot while I’m doing things around the house. If I’m eating dinner home alone, I’ll be more likely to eat in the kitchen listening to the radio, rather than in the lounge at the TV.

      My parents & uncles loved The Goon Show & mimicked & chuckled at it whenever they got together.


  4. We had TV from quite early on. Disneyland was our must watch show. We had to be back from our Sunday drives (remember them?) or visiting the relations in time to gather on the couch to watch it.
    A magic pencil would be great. One of the side benefits would be the increased value of art, drawing in particular. Art classes in schools would be popular and imagine the increase in life drawing sessions!



Blather away!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: