Saturday, 16 April 2011

Archibald Ormsby-Gore

It is coming up to Easter, which is as good a time as any to remind ourselves about the plight of those in our community who belong to minority faiths. That is why I decided last night to drag out one of my favourite picture books:
 The book tells the story of a bear called Archibald Ormsby-Gore and the struggles he must go through in rural Southern England in order to follow his faith. You could argue, in these multicultural times,  that it is a sobering parable. Here it is:


  1. What adorable illustrations

  2. That is unbelievably gorgeous.

  3. "It was heavy flying and his brown paper wings crackled". Let no-one ever criticise John Betjeman's poetry again.

  4. For those who may wish to see more of Archie, Betjeman wrote a poem titled "Archibald," which bears the epigraph: "For Philip Larkin." The closing stanza (of eight) is:

    And if an analyst one day
    Of school of Adler, Jung or Freud
    Should take this aged bear away,
    Then, Oh my God, the dreadful void!
    Its draughty darkness could but be
    Eternity, Eternity.

    Sorry to go on so long! Thank you for the Betjeman book.

  5. Stephen, thank you very much indeed - and you certainly don't need to worry about going on too long. I am going to search out that poem now.

  6. Speaking as a Primitive Methodist myself, I have to say that these people are rubbish - the surmons not nearly long enough and the pews not nearly hard enough. Now, Archie and the Society of Christian Old Believers of the Pomortsy Unmarried Confession, that's a tale worth telling.

  7. 'Sometimes, when there was no pastor supplied, Gadjo would preach himself. He went on for eight or nine hours, until the chapel was empty and only the Aneucapnics were left to listen to him.'

  8. Substitute 'dyrniki' for 'Aneucapnics' and you've got it.

  9. I hope he was right about the molehills. The idea of little baby round-cheeked druid skeletons snuggled underground in their cowls waiting to be excavated like subterranean oysters is too good not to be true.

    I've got Betjeman's autobiographical Summoned by Bells away in storage, and I know Archie shows up there as well, or at least I remember a line drawing of a teddybear on one of the pages.

    (After I wrote that sentence I searched for 'betjeman summoned by bells' and came up with this:

    Walking from school is a consummate art:
    Which route to follow to avoid the gangs,
    Which paths to find that lead, circuitous,
    To leafy squirrel haunts and plopping ponds,
    For dreams of Archibald and Tiger Tim;
    Which hiding place is safe, and when it is;
    What time to leave to dodge the enemy.
    I only once was trapped. )

  10. Gadjo - I was planning to pop down on the train from Budapest one Sunday, but I might rethink my plans
    Umbagollah - I'm concerned by the slightly culinary tone to your druid comments. I hope you'd at least remove their cowls before eating them (and how can you stand having your books in store for long?)

  11. Was it something I said?? The invitation to visit us here in Cluj is still open, but I have to warn you that we shun the revisionist and teddy bear-orientated works of Betjeman in favour of something more enlightened.

  12. Definitely remove. Picking threads of cowl-cloth out of the teeth would take ages. As for the books, I stand and stand and keep standing, but that doesn't help when I know there's a reference in there that I want (eg, Archie), and I can't get to it.

  13. An e-reader is sitting innocently in the corner: 'Think how much I could carry around for you,' it whispers.

  14. Gadjo - is there anything more enlightening?

  15. "You wouldn't have to do this if you had an e-reader!" it told me a few months ago while I was packing books in boxes. "All you'd do is pick me up and walk out the door." But most of Christina Stead's oeuvre seems to be only available in hard copy, and the same goes for Proust's Jean Santeuil, and so many other things. It would mean I'd have all of Dickens on hand though, and that would be something.