Ginger, you're barmy,

You ought to join the Army

And get knocked out

By a big Boy Scout

Ginger, you're barmy!

(Old children's street rhyme)

HOW bad does civilian life have to be before the Army can look like a form of escapism? Find out from Soldiers to Be (BBC1, 9.30pm), a new docusoap following five raw infantry recruits through basic training, which these days needs to be so basic as to involve the arts of washing and shaving. Aged 16 to 21, all Her Majesty's bargain buys are looking for a way out of where they are now - which is foster homes, drugs, single motherhood (though it seems a bit drastic to leave a three-year-old daughter 300 miles behind), and sad, sacked hellholes like Sheffield and Sunderland. Good luck, chaps, but always remember what the old soldiers say: If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined.

n Here's a name from the Whatever Happened To . . . file for you: Freddie Davies. No? How about Freddie ''Parrot Face'' Davies, then? I knew you hadn't forgotten: wore a bowler hat and thpluttered a lot, popular with children, turned up on every variety show there was to turn up on between roughly 1968 and 1976. I'm thick, thick, thick up to here! - that was his catchphrase. It's nice to see from Igloo, one of three outre musical shorts in Sound on Film (BBC2, 11.15pm) that Freddie is still a live parrot and has neither ceased to be nor joined the choir invisible, though you could forgive him for pining for the fjords of The Val Doonican Show and The Golden Shot. Tonight's comeback appearance offers small opportunity for comedy, Igloo being about ''the relationship of the central character with the infinite space of a bleak, isolated, and potentially hostile environment'' - something like

the second house Tuesday at the Glasgow Empire. Freddie's role calls for him to play the musical saw.

n Those of you familiar with what his biographer Daniel Farson called The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon may recall that the artist met the love of his life when East End hooligan George Dyer fell through his skylight on burglary intent. Bacon leapt upon this bit of windfall rough like the answer to a maiden's prayer, but the attendant social dislocation and Bacon's emotional cruelty made Dyer a very unhappy man who eventually killed himself with Scotch and pills in the bathroom of a hotel suite in Paris, where he and Bacon were attending a retrospective of Bacon's atrocity-exhibition paintings. Meanwhile tonight in the dismally shagtastic Babes in the Wood (ITV, 10.00pm), Charlie (Madeleine Curtis), one of the three resident belles of hell, goes ting-a-ling-a-ling when she, like Francis before her, discovers a handsome ruffian pillaging her flat. All things considered, I'd say George

Dyer was the luckier man.