Saturday, December 17, 2011

Try to remember you're a Womble



I hanker for Britain when I read stories like the one about the Womble removing his head before the cameras stopped rolling and wrecking a lot of kids' dreams. Good old Britain - so progressive and yet so caught in a time warp.

London may have unnerved me last time I was there because everyone was so young and so trendy and so obvioulsy un-British. And yet the Wombles - those loveable rubbish (sorry not garbage guys) collectors from Wimbledon Common are still in vogue.

In fact they are so current that a new generation of children believe they are real. So when Mike Batt removed his head before the cameras had stopped rolling on a recent TV show there was an outcry from children and their parents. It was as if someone had stood up and declared: "Santa Claus is really your dad," and your presents don't arrive in a sledge but a Fort Fiesta.

This story stops me dead in my tracks because I grew up with the Wombles. The song "Underground, overground, Wombling free," was the theme of my childhood in suburbia. And yet the Wombles are not only still living and breathing but kids believe they are real an dthey are in with a shout of being Number One at Christmas - another great tradition that's lost on Americans. But if you are British Mistletoe and Whine is ... well a sort of gawky part of your heritage.

The Wimbledon Guardian reather alarmingly refered to the Womble incident as the "Womble 'severed head' debacle."

The other remarkable thing about this story is the fact that it mentions DJ Simon Mayo; someone who was a fixture of my adolescence if not my childhood. It's extremely reassuring that the likes of Uncle Bulgaria and Orinoco are still ambling around Britain which makes me wonder if Dougal and the Magic Roundabout and Bagbuss are doing the rounds still, although surely not the Clangers, who I tried to introduce to my daughter recently only be be told they were "boring and lame."

And what of Captain Pugwash? - and was it really an urban myth that this show was pulled off air because it contained characters called Master Bates and Seaman Stains.

Of course if you talk to Americans about furry Wombles and Dougal they tend to look at you in a funny way and you can see that look pass over their face as they desperately seek the phne number for social services to dial up a restraining order.

Which is the way I like it, really.

7 comments:

  1. Sorry I am as American as I can possibly be (living miles away) when it comes to animated characters, blame it on our broadcasters who decided decades ago the Brits were serious actors and the Yankees were the clowns...so our kicks are still along those lines...returning to the topic at hand, that was a great travesty of childhood beliefs and the said Womble must be beheaded with immediate effect. Enjoy your holidays when you can. :D

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  2. I used to own a whole cassette of womble songs... but my parents gave it away... sacrilege!...

    PS What do you mean they're not real?

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  3. Well, this is the first I've heard of the Wombles, but there have certainly been other costumed characters in my life. I don't remember too many from my own childhood, but there were several in my sons' childhoods--Barney the dinosaur being one. I suppose it might be traumatic for the very young to see the head pulled off of a beloved TV character. Welcome to the real world, kids! Ooops! haha! :-D

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  4. I don't know about the Wombles, but perhaps they occupy the same place in your heart that I have in mine for the original Muppet show.

    Funny, the childish and magical things that mean so much...

    Pearl

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  5. hi david,

    i have never heard of the wombles before either.
    so thank you for this post.

    wishing you and yours a very merry xmas!

    betty

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  6. I've never heard of the Wombles before. They seem an eclectic bunch.

    My early childhood was laced with Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Mr. Rogers.

    I did have a Womble moment myself when I was five and I accidentally read in my mom's Redbook that there is no Santa.

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  7. I grew up with the Wombles of Wimbeldon common are we....making good use of the things that we find...

    My favourite was Orinoco.

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