Spring is poised on tiptoes to leap into action and the sun is shining, but not in my jaded heart where Arctic darkness has descended following weekend spent travelling, freezing in mum’s North Yorkshire bungalow where boiler has packed up and at dentist’s.
And there is nothing more likely to make me want to put my head on the electric rail than the cheery South West Trains conductor on my train today who advises us over the tannoy, as we approach Surbiton station, that Surbiton was where the BBC’s 70’s sitcom ‘The Good Life’ was filmed, just in case we have been on intergalactic travel since 1979, and then refers to Wimbledon as ‘Wombledon’ as we pull into that particular station. This quip, for those of you spared acquaintance with the 1970’s BBC children’s show ‘The Wombles’, is a cultural reference to the Wombles, Wimbledon Common dwelling, fictional, mole-like, rubbish-recycling burrow dwellers. The Wombles author, Elizabeth Beresford, was inspired to create these dingbats after taking her children for a walk one Boxing Day on Wimbledon Common, where one referred to it as ‘Wombledon Common’.
The 70s were indeed a dark decade for the British. Miners’ strikes, the 3 day week, flares the size of spinnakers. But nothing, nothing, was more depressing than the sight and sound of the Wombles prancing about on Top of the Pops miming to their execrable No 1, Remember You’re A Womble.
I believe this conductor has been riding the rails with me since I was a schoolgirl commuting to Sir William Perkins’s Grammar in Chertsey back in the Womble-infested 70’s. It certainly feels like it.