I was living in Scotland when the Wombles hit. I had no idea where Wimbledon Common was, let alone Bungo, Tomsk or Bulgaria, but my lack of basic geography had no bearing upon my love for the furry creatures.
I cannot recall which came first, the books or ‘The Wombling Song’, but I know that my poor, put-upon parents ended up buying both. These were swiftly followed by two more Wombles singles, a Wombles album and two cuddly Wombles (one for Karen, one for me). In fact, if anyone from Elizabeth Beresford’s estate is reading this, you owe my mother and father a debt of thanks!
Among my peer group, the most important consideration was who your favourite Womble was. Most plumped – literally – for tubby Orinoco. Others went for Bungo, the hero of the first story in the first book. In a contrary fashion which was to stick with me for life, I was immediately attracted to Tomsk, the tallest and sportiest Womble. I wonder why that could be?
Of course, the novelty swiftly wore off – the toy Womble was donated to Dick Brown‘s son long before we left Scotland – but I’ve had some fun with them over the intervening years. Helen’s mother, Audrey, was known to her children as ‘Womble’ because her gait reminded them of one. The first piece of writing that I ever had distributed widely was a humorous report on a training weekend that I wrote under the pseudonym ‘Tomsk Womble’ and which was sent to all 200-odd people in that branch office. And the discovery that my friend Jackie had lost her virginity on Wimbledon Common led to many months of very explicit Womble-related jokes which I certainly cannot repeat here.
To make things even better, I learned last week that all six Womble books are being re-issued, so now I can introduce my son to them, too. Though I hope he doesn’t introduce himself to them the way that Jackie did*.