Such is the numbing effect of watching our nation’s steady, headlong and, moreover, DELIBERATE march towards elective apocalypse that one inevitably lunges toward the tellybox in search of consolation. Alas, I discover that the big show of the moment is The Last of Us, HBO’s adaptation of a successful video game, set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed after a contagious mind-fungus destroyed the free will of the population. All a bit too close to home in post-Brexit Britain, I trust you will agree.
Finding no refuge in contemporary TV culture, I turn, as I so often do these days, to nostalgia in search of comfort, and as I scroll through the social media columns, I find the reassurance I’m looking for…
Last weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the first appearance on our screens of The Wombles. I myself had just turned three years old at the time, and as such have no memory of a Wombleless world.
What warmer source of happiness could one hope to find, than in fond memories of Bernard Cribbins-voiced tales of the proto-eco warrior efforts of a tribe of quasi-rodentine creatures living in a network of tunnels below Wimbledon Common?
I was as huge a fan as one can be of anything at the age of three; the first album I ever owned was Mike Batt’s Wombling Songs, given to me on my fourth birthday just under a year later, and you can imagine my glee upon discovering that Wimbledon Common is a REAL PLACE (and I remain to be convinced that Wombles are entirely imaginary).
There have been a couple of attempts at rebooting the series over the years… well, much of both terrestrial and streaming is now taken up by “reimagined” versions of old favourites. And it’s often pointed out that there’s a dearth of good satirical programming on British telly just now.
So perhaps we could kill, or at least injure, two birds with one stone and introduce today’s viewers to a new breed of cuddly creature…
(With apologies to Elisabeth Beresford)
The story of a family of varyingly lovable creatures who occasionally emerge from their warren-like home in London and try to make the country a better place (well that’s supposed to be the idea anyway)…
JACOB REES-MOGG is GREAT UNCLE BULGARIA
Fussy, grumpy, determinedly old fashioned and occasionally be-monocled, Great Uncle Bulgaria is the self-appointed patriarch of the Westmimbles, dispensing epigrams and poorly chosen Latin tags in an effort to hide the fact that, educated though he may be, he’s actually one of the dimmer inhabitants of the Westminster burrow.
LIZ TRUSS is MADAME CHOLET
Following a brief and catastrophic spell as the leader of the burrow, Madame Cholet has returned after a surprisingly brief absence. Her noted eccentricity has, if anything, increased while she’s been away, possibly due to the sheer stress of apparently being the only female Westmimble in the entire burrow.
RORY STEWART is TOBERMORY
Sensible, level-headed and practical, Tobermory’s job is to make sense of the constant stream of garbage the other Westmimbles bring back to the burrow every day and, if at all possible, put it to some good use. Unfortunately, that garbage currently lies in undisturbed heaps throughout the corridors of Westminster as Tobermory hasn’t been seen in the burrow for years. Sadly, all the Westmimbles with any actual talents (or grip on reality) were driven out of the burrow by…
BORIS JOHNSON is ORINOCO
Unkempt, lazy and pathologically selfish, Orinoco’s presence is still tolerated around the burrow despite the dire failure of his recent tenure as leader of the Westmimbles. Although his coup was endorsed by Great Uncle Bulgaria himself, it resulted in the Westmimbles withdrawing from the Community of Children’s TV Creatures.
Subsequent attempts at trade deals with the Night Garden and Tubbyland fell through, leaving the burrow in desperate straits, and Orinoco was forced to step down from his leadership duties, although it is hard to tell the difference.
RISHI SUNAK is WELLINGTON
Quiet, studious and VERY keen on maths, Wellington is trying to steer the burrow to better times following Orinoco and Madame Cholet’s disastrous attempts at leadership; his efforts have been somewhat shaky so far but given that he recently married the daughter of the wealthiest of the Mumbles (the Mumbai branch of the family) he’ll probably be OK.
DOMINIC RAAB is TOMSK
Big, muscular and startlingly stupid.
JEREMY HUNT is BUNGO
Very much “the other one”; Bungo is content to watch the Westmimbles bicker, fight and tear chunks out of each other while quietly plotting his own rise to power.
POEM OF THE WEEK
Up, up in the sky
There’s a Chinese spy balloon
A-beeping and a-snooping
It’ll drift away quite soon.
The Americans were not prepared
To wait for it to stop
So they fired a couple of missiles
And the spy balloon went pop.