No, that’s Great Uncle Bulgaria, and he might be a little short-sighted but he can see reasonably well with those big glasses perched on his nose…
It was Saturday morning (9 October) and Uncle Bulgaria had come to see the children on Wimbledon Common, to help launch the new editions of the Wombles story books. Most of the kids were delighted and eager to stroke his fur and shake his hand, but some were a bit reluctant or confused. Many children (and grown-ups) were clutching their own Wombles toys, including several Haydon mascots from the local AFC Wimbledon football club.
At 10 o’clock, we entered the Wimbledon Bookfest ‘Big Tent’ for the official book launch party. The sold-out event began with an introduction from a lady named Kate, including a who’s who guide to the Wombles. Kate pointed downwards and whispered, “The Wombles’ burrow is right underneath this tent! But shh, don’t tell anyone! It’s supposed to be a secret.”
The families then split into two groups, with busy tables at either end of the tent. One group ‘recycled’ old socks to make Womble sock puppets with lots of felt, pipe cleaners and messy glue, while the other group had a range of activity sheets: colouring in, drawing your own Womble, spot the difference, a wordsearch, or even writing your own Wombles story. Each group took about ten minutes before swapping over to the other activity.
Next, Kate returned to the main stage for a reading of the first chapter of The Wombles. If we wanted to find out what happened next, she explained, we could buy the book from the stall in the corner (run by The Golden Treasury children’s bookshop).
No children’s party would be complete without a cake, so everyone was offered a slice of a lovely cake iced with the cover of the first Wombles book.
And finally, there was a very special guest – Great Uncle Bulgaria made another appearance, this time inside the tent. One little girl kindly brought him a slice of Womble cake, leaving his helper to explain that Uncle Bulgaria couldn’t have any cake as he needed to watch his figure. Another girl appeared to be smitten and kept coming back for more cuddles, while a young boy enjoyed tugging on the Womble’s nose. “You’re my dad’s favourite,” one little boy proudly announced.
Uncle Bulgaria’s final task was to pose for pictures at the book stall and with the publishers, before he disappeared through the secret back entrance, presumably returning underground to the Wombles’ burrow deep below.
The first two Wombles books will be in the shops from 1 November 2010. You can order them from Amazon now.
Click on the photos to see larger versions.