A long way from the broom cupboard

When I was five, Phillip Schofield wished me a happy birthday.

Well, not exactly. He read out a card that my parents had sent in to him in the CBBC Broom Cupboard. (If you don’t know what that is, you missed out big time. Also – here’s the archive. Don’t let anyone tell you that Gordon the Gopher wasn’t the best puppet.) My mum recently gave me the video, and I realised that the entire episode, which, in my mind, was a big deal, lasted about three seconds. And he got my sister’s name wrong. But I didn’t care, mostly because I was five and he was on the TV. And Gordon the Gopher was there – see him, on the right, behind the monkey?

Phillip Schofield in the CBBC Broom Cupboard

That was quite a long time ago now, obviously, but I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for Schofe ever since, even after I realised it wasn’t cool to say so out loud. I went to see him in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (twice), when everyone else was more interested in seeing Jason Donovan. And I still get far more excited than I should when Gordon the Gopher makes a rare appearance on TV. But then again, the other day I sat and laughed like an idiot for about half an hour at a minion toy. So I think we just need to accept I’m a 32-year-old child.

Anyway, at some point I did finally realise it wasn’t socially acceptable to tell people about my crush on the soon-to-be Silver Fox, and I switched my affections to PJ & Duncan. You know, the kids from Byker Grove who had a ‘band’ and then turned into Ant & Dec. I feel like I need to explain this because a couple of years ago, I realised that one of my younger colleagues had no idea they were one and the same. And then I felt about a hundred years old.

Unfortunately, liking PJ & Duncan wasn’t particularly cool back then either. (I’ve never really done cool.) And then I completed the hat trick by selecting East 17 as my boyband of choice – mostly just to be different, since everyone at school fancied Take That or Boyzone. East 17 were definitely not cool, a fact that became particularly evident a few years later when one of them ran himself over with his own car.

But maybe I wasn’t as crazy as everyone thought. Ant & Dec are now ridiculously successful, with a string of BAFTAs and a number 1 hit under their belts (which is more than they ever managed when they were pop stars). And although I still feel a slight residual embarrassment when I tell people I’m a fan, at least now I have plenty of company.

Ditto Phillip Schofield, who just this morning confirmed his position as National Treasure by completing a 24-hour TV marathon in aid of Text Santa. Some people are apparently even calling for him to get a knighthood. Who saw that coming when he was prancing around the London stage in a loincloth?

There’s only one conclusion I can draw from all this, and here it is…

Hang in there, East 17 – your time will come.

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