Thursday, August 17, 2006
My first hero was a bear called Rupert. He wore a red sweater with yellow striped trousers and a matching scarf. He lived in an idyllic rural nowhere called Nutwood, had loving parents, several close friends (Algy Pug, Bill Badger and Edward Elephant for starters) and a capacity for amazing adventures, which often took him into other universes. But he always managed to resolve the problem or thwart the villain and still be home in time for tea.
Rupert Bear started out as a newspaper cartoon strip in the 1920s, drawn by a fey lady called Mary Tourtel (She was later replaced by the true Rupert artist genius, Alfred Bestall). Soon, annuals started appearing, annuals which are now collectors’ items. I had my first Rupert Annual as a Christmas present in December 1945 (amazingly, the annuals continued to be published throughout the war, albeit on inferior paper). Years later, when I began to collect Rupert Annuals, I bought, sight unseen, a 1945 annual only to discover it wasn’t the one I had received as a Christmas present. I eventually found and bought the one which was: the Annual for 1943. My Christmas present was a handmedown from my older sister (along with socks, shoes and other gender-neutral items). By this time, mother father and sister had all gone to join the Choir Invisible, so I couldn’t ask for an explanation.
Recently, reproductions of original Rupert Annuals have been published. I bought the 1943 one, eager to see if they had remained faithful to the original (No point being an anorak, if you aren’t finicky). It had been bowdlerised by the Thought Police. Talking of anoraks, I joined a society called “The Followers of Rupert” and realised that I am not an anorak after all: I don’t have the memory or the enthusiasm to check and chase all the minutiae which are the lifeblood of my fellow Rupertians. I am basically a lazy sod.