Travels inspired by the Wombles

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Alderney return

Despite the best efforts of some persistent fog - which delayed us for 24 hours - my wife Helen and I got back from Alderney last night after an interesting weekend. Helen hadn't been to the island before, but I had, in 2009. We also took our own Alderney Womble with us!
So what's changed since 2009 in Alderney? One or two retail units - notably a cafe and a pub/wine bar - have disappeared, no doubt due to the recession. Elisabeth Beresford, whom I interviewed on my previous visit, has sadly died since then.  However, there is something on Alderney now which wasn't there in 2009...

Wombles Exhibition (photo: Helen Matthews)

Namely a special exhibition in Victoria Street (the main street of St Anne), devoted to Elisabeth Beresford and principally, but not exclusively, about the Wombles.  Some of the exhibits were lent by Elisabeth's family - such as the old typewriter shown in the picture above.  Others came courtesy of friends and Womble fans.  There are some unusual items, such as this cartoon from 1974/5 which gives the ousting of Ted Heath as Conservative leader a Womble twist:

'We had to do something! We couldn't allow the Labour Party
to win the Prize for Absurdity for 1974!' (photo: Helen Matthews)

The characters putting Heath in the bin are 'Madame Cholet' Margaret Thatcher; 'Wellington' Edward du Cann; 'Orinoco' William Whitelaw; and 'Great Uncle Bulgaria' Sir Alec Douglas Home.  Elisabeth Beresford told me that she had interviewed Margaret Thatcher once; I somehow doubt that she saw the future PM as a Madame Cholet type...

There's plenty of other stuff of interest, including copies of some of the 150+ books that 'Liza' wrote.  While we were there, a number of families with small children came in to take a look; the exhibition seems to be very popular.  There's a review of it, and the official opening, on the Tidybag site.

Alderney Museum (photo: Helen Matthews)

I had a chance to revisit the island's Museum, too. There has clearly been some investment here, with the installation of a plasma screen with a slideshow of images, and an audio project in which schoolchildren interviewed islanders who could remember the evacuation of 1940 and the return to the island in 1945.  The rather idiosyncratic captions about the Alderney Cow have gone, which is a shame in a way, but there's no doubt the Museum is that bit more professional now.

My main activity while on Alderney was due to be giving a reading from my book.  I'd like to thank Frances Jeens, Donald Hughes and Holly and the team at the Georgian House Hotel for organising the venue and the publicity. Sadly, nobody turned up!  Alderney has just had its annual festival week and Saturday was the day after the night before... either that or nobody was particularly interested. C'est la vie.  At least our own Alderney saw the island from which she got her name...

Alderney on Alderney!
(photo: Helen Matthews)

The flight back was, er, interesting as well. There are 16 seats in the Trislander aircraft which Aurigny uses to fly between Southampton and Alderney.  For our (delayed) flight, this meant the pilot, 14 human passengers and a large black Labrador in the back... which behaved itself admirably.  Funny how the passenger who got to sit in the front seat next to the pilot was young, female, short-skirted and attractive...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Return to Alderney

They've finished tidying up after that big event on their doorstep in London, so now the most famous inhabitants of Wimbledon feel like having a little break.  So, this weekend, they've told me to take them to Alderney - the Channel Island where Elisabeth Beresford lived (and which provided the name for one of the younger Wombles).  This weekend, courtesy of the Alderney Museum, they'll be helping me to read extracts from Journeys from Wimbledon Common.
The reading is taking place at the Orangery of the Georgian House Hotel in Victoria Street, St Anne, at 3.30pm on Saturday.  The people of Alderney really took Elisabeth Beresford and the Wombles to their hearts, so I'm hoping plenty of them will come to listen - and to meet the Wombles as well, of course.

My wife Helen wasn't able to join me for the original journey, but she's coming along this time for a well-deserved short break.  We couldn't visit the island without seeing the new special Wombles exhibition, of course, so we're looking forward to that.  I hope we'll have some time to see at least a few of the other sights, too.  If you're on Alderney this Saturday afternoon, pop into the Georgian and re-acquaint yourself with some famous fictional furry creatures.  See you there!