Monday, 8 June 2015

Rupert and the Big Disappointment.

I’ve mentioned several times that one of my favourite Christmas presents every year as a child was the latest Rupert Bear Annual. I suppose it was because Rupert lived every boy’s ideal lifestyle (as far as I recall he never went to school.) Wake up in the morning fully refreshed and ready for another sunny, fun-filled day, get dressed and zip downstairs where an apron-bedecked mother was preparing a hearty breakfast, and then go out to meet his pals and begin the day’s adventure.

One day they would be stalking the smugglers landing their kegs of contraband liquor at the foot of the sea cliffs, and planning how to thwart the bad guys and get them run in by the rozzers. Another day they would be helping the friendly elves from the greenwood in their perennial war against the black-and-spiky enemy elves from the conifer plantation. Most favourite, however, was the day when he didn’t meet his chums at all, but instead visited his girlfriend, Tiger Lily, and watched in wrapt delight as her dad did magical things with coloured balls of light. (I used to dream about the coloured balls of light and they still fascinate me.)

This being the case, it isn’t surprising that when one edition featured instructions on how to make a paper aeroplane, I threw myself into learning the technique with keen application. It occurred to me, you see, that if ever I was captured by an enemy and locked up in a garret room, I could simply write a message on a piece of paper and fold it into a Rupert Bear paper plane. I would then throw the plane out of the window to soar far and wide on the wind and drop at the feet of a rescue party. Rupert himself did that and it worked a treat.

But there was a problem: in spite of my diligence in following the instructions to the letter, the plane didn’t fly; it plummeted. If I’d thrown it out of the garret window it would simply have landed at the feet of the duty guard standing at the bottom of the wall, and then I would have been for the high jump instead of the rescue. It was one of my early life’s most potent disappointments. It was, and I’ve never fully got over it.

It troubles me to this day, which is why I’ve made that plane many, many times across the intervening years, and tried many modifications: change the angle of the wings; turn the wing ends up; turn the wing ends down; experiment with the length, breadth and weight of the tail section. They all plummeted, but the effort goes on.

Rupert’s plummeting paper plane is probably responsible for my reluctance to trust anything I read in books, and it’s little consolation that I was never captured by an enemy and locked up in a garret room.

But who knows what the future holds? Maybe my continued enthusiasm stems from a fear of becoming too old to be trusted with independent living, the consequence of which might be to get locked up in a care home. Then I really will need the damn thing not to plummet.

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