Tidy Bag

The Wombles feature in Fortnum & Mason documentary

Marcus and Kate Robertson, children of Elisabeth Beresford

A new documentary about Orinoco’s favourite luxury food emporium includes an interview about the Wombles with author Elisabeth Beresford’s children.

Inside Fortnum & Mason: The Queen’s Grocer was broadcast on Channel 5 on 8 May, and repeated on 11 May.

Fortnum & Mason is an upmarket 300-year-old department store on London’s Piccadilly, known for its range of fine food and hampers.

In the first Wombles book, we’re introduced to ‘Fortune & Bason’ when greedy Orinoco “settles himself down for a really long rest” with their Splendid Christmas Catalogue, his favourite book from the burrow library.

Later, when Orinoco runs away (“I have gone to seek my fortune,” he writes in a note to Great Uncle Bulgaria), Tobermory remembers the book he kept getting out of the library. “Cream Chocolate Raspberry Truffles, our speciality. Whipped Coconut Icing Dollops. Rare Rich Pomegranates in thick Hungarian honey. Turkish Coffee Fudge. Sugar-coated Chocolate Mice… Just the sort of thing to take Orinoco’s fancy.” Bungo is then sent to London to find his friend Orinoco and bring him home.

Orinoco reading the Fortune and Bason catalogue

In the documentary, Kate and Marcus Robertson - who Bungo and Orinoco were based on - read brief extracts from Chapter 10, and talk about their mother’s inspiration for the story.

“Every Christmas, her eldest brother would send us a hamper from Fortnum & Mason and so there would be something for everybody. There would be Granny’s Lapsang Souchong Tea, and there would be cheese and wine for my father, and fruit and pâté and, well, all sorts. It’s full of wonderful things. Except for us. For us, it was preserved fruit, and when you’re small children, you don’t really go for that.”

“I suppose everybody would have known Fortnum & Mason,” Kate continues. “It was a name that rang, resonated with every family, really, who would be reading the Womble books. And so it made sense for her to use that as Fortune & Bason.”

You can watch Inside Fortnum & Mason on My5 for the next seven days, or longer if you register for a My5 account.

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