How many Suffolk parents will be watching Tom Hardy read bedtime stories on CBeebies tonight?
PUBLISHED: 12:00 31 December 2016
New Year’s Eve is usually a massive disappointment for parents of young children, writes working mum-of-three Ellen Widdup.
But for those of us who’ve been forced to swap champagne and dancefloors for sleep deprivation and dirty nappies, the BBC has a treat in store.
Tonight, actor and heartthrob Tom Hardy will be reading bedtime stories for little ones on CBeebies, sending mothers like myself into a meltdown of excitement.
There are few parents who haven’t sat through long hours of children’s telly when their kids are small.
So to have a little titillation in between Iggle Piggle, Peppa Pig and Mr Tumble is bound to be extremely well received.
Of course, some of us find welcome distraction in the faces of the TV presenters that grace the screens the rest of the year, too.
My husband is one of these. I started to wonder why he coped so easily with 6am starts until I discovered he was having very friendly thoughts about a number of the people I found intensely annoying.
These include Beth, one of the five all-singing, all-dancing residents of the Milkshake House; Rebecca Keatley, who co-hosts Let’s Play with Sid Sloane, and Katy Ashworth of I Can Cook.
“I’ve learnt how to make apple crumble, pasta al Pomodoro and Thai green turkey balls,” he told me. He’s never made any of these meals but I have seen him do the dishes while humming the Washing Up Song.
“You fancy her,” I accused him, chuckling.
“You can talk,” he replied. “I’ve seen you moon over Mr Bloom.”
No, we’re not talking Orlando here.
He means the chirpy gardener in the woolly tank-top who dances in his wellies and chats to knitted vegetables in his garden nursery. He makes many mums’ minds meander.
So fevered are his female fans, in fact, that questions had to be strictly censored when Ben Faulks, who plays the horticulturist, agreed to do a live webchat with Mumsnet last year.
The BBC was also forced to delete a number of saucy posts from its CBeebies Facebook site when it was bombarded with lewd messages about the character.
Believe it or not, Mr Bloom is not the only CBeebies performer with a fanclub of housewives.
The omnipresent Justin Fletcher (or Mr Tumble) is perhaps the most unlikely of these, but he too has attracted ardent praise from internet posters.
A recent Twitter survey also threw up endorsements for the terrifying fitness fanatic Sportacus from Lazy Town and the be-quiffed crafter Mr Maker.
But hold on a second. Is it wrong to have impure thoughts about the people who are paid to amuse our children?
Or is it totally understandable when there is little else in a day of monotonous childcare to lift one’s spirits?
I can’t help but wonder if my own mother fancied a dalliance with Philip Schofield in the broom cupboard.
Undoubtedly, my dad had the hots for Michaela Strachan and Sarah Greene.
“It’s very educational, this,” mused my husband while watching Sarah Jane Honeywell on my son’s CBeebies DVD set of Tikkabilla.
He still hasn’t forgiven the Beeb for firing her after her near-naked picture went in the paper as part of a Go Vegan campaign.
It was quite the scandal. But not as much as the hoo-ha that followed an episode of Show Me, Show Me when presenter Chris Jarvis appeared to utter a four-letter word.
In fact, he was singing about a fluttering kite.
Since it launched in 2002, the CBeebies channel has gradually taken over the globe.
Its international version, marketed by BBC Worldwide, is now shown in 78 countries – from Mozambique to South Korea.
Recently, it became the first TV channel to be recognised by the Mexican Paediatric Association for its role in the education and development of children.
The BBC estimates it is watched by 1.9 million kids under the age of six in Britain alone.
But it also has a huge fan-base among mums and dads alike who love the routine which starts every single morning with the unmistakable theme tune of Me Too and concludes the day with the bedtime story.
This brings me neatly back to tonight’s Tom Hardy treat.
You see, when he’s not hunting down Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant or being strapped to the front of a clown-car by deformed sadists in Mad Max Fury Road, our Tom likes nothing better than to curl up on the sofa and read a book – presumably with all the dedication and dynamism he brought to Bronson. And I for one can’t wait. What a great way to welcome in a new year.