Saturday 10 December 2011
Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Fred Dinenage occasionally wore a Hiawatha headdress while presenting How'
Who knew that Fred Dinenage, the heavily-bespectacled TV presenter best remembered for his part in the long-running children's show, How, has a daughter in the House of Commons? Caroline Dinenage is the Tory MP for Gosport. And who knew, other than the Dinenage family and their friends, that I am spelling Dinenage correctly? You can make good money betting people that there is a silent second 'n' in Fred's surname.
Readers not of an age to know his television oeuvre cannot have any idea how odd Caroline's political career seems. Imagine the fruit of Vernon Kay's loins rising one Wednesday lunchtime to say, "Mr Speaker, would the Prime Minister agree with me that All Star Family Fortunes is the finest expression of traditional values known to Britain today?" – and you're getting close. But not that close.
How, which was launched in 1966, was a show in which a team of not-especially-expert presenters answered questions on pretty much anything young viewers cared to ask. The Queen watched it, as she told Fred when he collected his MBE last year.
It would appear peculiar to today's young. They would be startled to see Fred and his co-presenters in the opening sequence, raising their right hands and booming the word "How" in basso profundo voices, presumably meant to evoke tribal chieftains smoking peace pipes in a wigwam in a Hollywood western.
I am fairly sure that Fred occasionally wore a Hiawatha headdress, but I can find no verifying footage on YouTube. Headdress or not however, Caroline's opposition colleagues might regard the opening credits of How as casually racist, though it seemed innocent enough in the Seventies when Caroline was a nipper and the Sioux and Apache were 'Red Indians'.
Fred's other achievements include writing a biography of the Kray twins, whom he came to know well from visiting days and, of course, producing Caroline. Now 40, she was a Tory councillor in Hampshire before going to Westminster. How did she get there? The ultra-safe Tory seat of Gosport become vacant in 2010, How? Because a certain Peter Viggers claimed £1,645 for a floating duck island. That's how.
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