Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Books, teddies and nostalgia

I heard announced on BBC Radio 4 yesterday that the new series of Desert Island Discs was beginning later this week.

If you're reading this outside the UK and not familiar with it, it's a radio programme conceived in 1941, where a guest is invited to choose 8 records that they'd take with them to a desert island. In between listening to the tracks, the guest and the programme's presenter (currently Kirsty Young) discuss key people and events that have influenced and inspired them in their life.

I'm sure plenty of people have applied the same criteria to books and as I began mentally compiling my own list, I thought back to my earliest forays into the world of children's literature.

Having been a primary school teacher, I feared many of my memories might have been usurped by favourite picture-book classics but as I chewed the end of my metaphorical pencil, I glanced across the room and spotted an old friend who immediately reminded me of a particular set of books I held dear - my Rupert Bear Annuals. Inspired by Snowdonia, The Weald in Sussex and East Devon, they told stories set in magical countryside or wonderful seaside locations featuring Rupert Bear and his friends Pong-Ping the Pekinese, Podgy Pig, Bill Badger, Ming the Dragon and the little Chinese girl, Tiger Lily .

The very first Rupert annual came out in 1936, apparently, followed by 77 others right up until 2012. I think I may have just the one. Somewhere...

My 'old friend', if you're wondering, is none other than my very own Rupert Bear, (pictured right) made lovingly in the 1950s by my great-aunt to her personal design, based on the drawings from the Daily Mail's comic strip. I've had him since I was a toddler and although my great-aunt made him a change of clothes in the late 1960s (he used to wear a fetching green pullover with green plaid trousers and matching tie), he's worn pretty well since, despite all the years of cuddles.

My great-aunt made all her great-nieces and nephews Rupert Bears. Each one was quirkily different and we played with our charges in a variety of ways. My sister and I would gaze on with horror as two of our cousins (both boys) would fling their Ruperts around the room in derr-ing do "adventures".

All this reminiscing was no doubt intensified by an article I read this week in October's issue of Family Tree magazine, by Derek Tait. Entitled Life Through a Lens, he stresses the importance of nostalgia and old family photographs, and shares some of his own. He's written several books about childhood memories of the 1950s, the 1960s and 1970s, which I shall definitely look out for.

And while we're on the subject of 1950s childhood, I can thoroughly recommend the charming memoir, Cabbage and Semolina, by Cathy Murray. As well as a delightful and entertaining read, it might be the inspiration you need to record your own childhood memories.

So, it just leaves me to finish with an old family photograph of my own. A picture of me, appropriately carrying my grand-dad's Box Brownie camera case. Ahhhh, bless...

Come on, you must have heaps of lovely childhood memories to share. Let's hear them!