Daily Express

Wombles cannot pick up where they left off

- VIRGINIA BLACKBURN Email me at virginia.blackburn@reachplc.com

THE WOMBLES are staging a return: to celebrate the 50 year anniversar­y of the stories originally appearing on the BBC, some of the books are to be adapted for radio, with Richard E. Grant serving as the narrator. However, changes have been made. For a start, Madame Cholet will not have a French accent, because the characters “are all from Wimbledon.” Hmm. If we are to make changes reflecting the difference between now and the 1970s, doesn’t Madame Cholet fit right in with today’s standards?

She clearly identifies with being French, so why shouldn’t she try to sound French? Schoolchil­dren today are allowed to identify as being cats: if Madame Cholet wanted to identify as being a cat, would she be allowed to purr?

Not that Madame Cholet would identify as being a cat, because the Wombles don’t think much of other species of animals, although they are never unkind and practise a philosophy of live and let live, which is certainly out of kilter with the keyboard warriors of today.

In fact, we’re getting into very deep waters here. The Wombles all take their names by leafing through Great Uncle Bulgaria’s large atlas: isn’t this cultural appropriat­ion? Great Uncle Bulgaria’s surname is Coburg: what gives him the right to take the names of a sovereign state and a German town?

What if Bulgarians and Germans take offence at their names being claimed by someone who, for all we know, has never been to Bulgaria and Germany? I feel a pile-on on X, formerly known as Twitter, coming on. Do the producers of this new version of The Wombles have any idea of the depth of the murky waters they are stirring up? Orinoco is lazy and slothful: how racist.

He is clearly implying that the inhabitant­s of the South American river after which he is named are the same.

And Bungo (a region in Japan) is overenthus­iastic and bossy, but worse still, sounds suspicious­ly close to Bingo, a character in P.G. Wodehouse’s books, and we all know that Plum had an unhealthy regard for the upper classes (despite taking the mickey out of them mercilessl­y) and no doubt supported the Empire. Outrageous.

Back in the dear, departed 1970s, whoever would have thought the Wombles could become the mire of such controvers­y? Back then it was all regarded as child’s play...

“There is no problem so big it cannot be run away from” Charles M. Schulz

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