Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I have this memory that seems to me completely idyllic, a picture of my childhood, that has reappeared in my mind this winter: Lying on my stomach in front of the fire on a Sunday afternoon. I’m full of something like roast chicken, gravy, roast potatoes and kumara (but no pumpkin, yeuch), I’m satisfied, and I’m reading Rupert annuals.
Rupert Bear was a character on a Daily Express children’s page in the sixties in Britain. The pictures were accompanied with a simple poem, but there was also a prose description of what was happening, in greater detail. I don’t know where else he got to, but the hardcover Rupert Bear annuals definitely made their way to New Zealand, and my family were avid purchasers. And yes, I am a child of the eighties/nineties, and by rights should never have picked up a Rupert book, but I have a strange, stretched-out family and while my friends were playing with My Little Pony I was reading popular children’s literature of the sixties and seventies.
I saw a limited edition reproduction of the 1965 annual in a bookshop the other day, on sale with 25% off. It was still more than I should spend but I bought it, and have been rediscovering the world of Rupert since then. It’s a charming world, a world of adventures, a world in which it’s possible to help out Jack Frost and his naughty sister; to get blown away by a storm and visit the kingdom in the clouds; to chat with a scarecrow; to live nearby a Chinese magician and his magical daughter Tigerlily; to attempt to dissuade the local birds from bullying the cuckoos. Its characters are very black and white, either villainous and faceless, or upstanding decent Brits who might smoke a pipe or constantly wear an apron or be Girl Guides. But despite this it’s very imaginative and it’s not as jingoistic as one might expect.
I’m noticing things I never picked up on as a child. A child reading Rupert in the nineties is completely oblivious to the Cold War tensions which made their way into the Rupert books. Now I notice with interest, however, the times when Rupert is worried that someone acting suspiciously might be a spy, or the time when he actually helps to catch someone who is spying on a “hush hush” military place.
I don’t currently have the book with me so I can’t quote Rupert to you, but I will edit this later so blog readers can enjoy Rupert too!
Isn't it weird that I had completely forgotten about Rupert? He was so much a part of my childhood, and now I love him again.