Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Monday, May 16, 2016

Perry's Picture Post part 4

I’d been working in the barn late one Saturday evening and was in the midst of producing the front cover shot for the Candy and Andy and the Magic Slippers book when there was a tentative knock on the barn door. Seconds later, in walked Jennie Lee along with five or six others – all of whom had heads that bobbed quickly this way and that in an effort to scan the entire area before the distinct possibility that they might be asked to leave.

My father-in-law Arthur Edscer had been assisting me and thankfully – particularly as I’m not very good at having my concentration interrupted – had involved himself in the resulting exchange. Two of Jennie Lee’s visitors turned out to be Lord Boothby (Conservative Member of Parliament for West Aberdeenshire), while the other was former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who died only a few weeks later. Perhaps seeing Candy holding an old slipper and sitting beside Mr Bearanda had hasted his departure.

Who were the others? I really have no idea – they could have been members of MI5 for all I knew ... or cared. All I did know was that during those rare occasions when Prime Minister Harold Wilson had a whim to visit his Minister for Arts at her Asheridge farm, I was pre-warned that I should not set foot on the place.

Also in 1967, in order to better ourselves as a family, we’d moved from Chesham (close to where Jennie Lee’s Asheridge barn was) to a small village some 20-odd miles away to the north-east. A month or so later when we had settled in, I’d taken Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas back to Flamstead with me so that not only could their stories be captured as and when needed, but also so they could be centred around a more village-orientated environment.

Up until that point, my four-year-and-ten-month old daughter Rae hadn’t yet seen (or even known about) the Candy and Andy set-up, so when I first brought them back to Flamstead, unfeelingly I had set the characters up in our living-room area with Mr Bearanda relaxing in my black G-Plan rocking chair and sitting nonchalantly with his legs crossed, reading a book (the chair had first come to my notice while watching John Steed and Emma Peel in the tv series The Avengers). Unknown to Jenny and I (both pottering about in the back garden), Rae had walked home from school and, on spotting these strange grotesque strangers who had taken over her house, had all-but filled her panties front and back and rushed the two hundred yards back to the school where life (and the people with whom she had been surrounded for much of the day) seemed a good deal more normal and sane!

Back in London, on the eighth floor of the City Magazines building (three floors up from the comics section), Linda Wheway and I knuckled down to come up with a number of stories. These were destined to be included in (a) the large format Candy and Andy Story Book, (b) an up-and-coming Candy and Andy Annual, and (c) four smaller story books to be published in a landscape format. One of my favourite yarns was about having to change a wheel on “Stripey” without the luxury of having a jack, purely because this had really happened some years prior to the outbreak of World War II.

My favourite close relation had been Auntie Kay, who for much of her adult life had taught art at the Portsmouth High School for Girls. If you have had the chance to read my profile, you will already know that my paternal grandmother was a German national and that she had heralded from Dresden, the capital city of the Free State of Saxony, pretty close to the Polish and Czechoslovakian boarders.

During the long summer holidays, Auntie Kay travelled the length and breadth of the continent in her Morris 8 Tourer, and somewhere high up in the Alps, the car had succumbed to a puncture. The problem was that although she’d had a spare wheel, there appeared to be no method in being able to jack the car up – perhaps she had left it behind in her Portsmouth garage. It had been the idea of some local children that by using a long sturdy pole (and a log of wood for leverage), their combined weight would be enough to replace whatever the missing jack would have lifted.

In the rigmarole of going to work on a daily basis, I’d had to drive my car through nearby Redbourn village so that I might catch a certain train departing from St Albans – for it was one of the few that didn’t terminate at the Kings Cross but continued through to Farringdon Road railway station. Catching my eye as I passed through Redbourn, I’d noticed a quaint blacksmith’s forge and, on arriving at the office, passed my thoughts onto Linda Wheway while she lovingly sowed up my trousers (was it my imagination, or had she been spending a good deal longer on repairing them than was really warranted? Confused? You won’t be if you read on!)

Following his epic single-handed round-the-world voyage, Sir Francis Chichester’s Gypsy Moth IV had been placed on display upon a small triangulation of grass between Charterhouse Street and Holborn Viaduct (and was almost in fear of coming into contact with the commanding statue of Prince Albert at Holborn Circus). Covering all points of the compass, five roads converge at this junction and the plinth upon which Prince Albert – who was sitting astride his steed – was being regarded as a rather small round-about.

As I came up Charterhouse Street, despite it being only late August, I still needed to pull my sheepskin coat tightly around me – for the damp and blustery wind blowing down from Oxford Street and into High Holborn was almost enough to cut me in two. I passed Gypsy Moth IV to my left fully knowing well that the 54-foot (16 m) craft had seen weather far worse than this, especially when she had rounded South America’s Cape Horn. As I proceeded, I became acutely aware of the fact that the slow-but-at-least-normally-moving traffic was now at a complete standstill. It was solid and I soon discovered why.

A lone motorcyclist wearing thick and heavy protective black leathers was lying prone on the decorative-but-well-worn cobble-stones. Despite him being about eight-feet beneath Prince Albert’s left boot, the Consort Prince was arrogantly taking no notice. There was also a mode of transport laying akimbo just a couple of feet away. But the rider was not alone – kneeling beside him was a young (and perhaps slightly inexperienced) police constable who was trying not to look down at the rider’s right leg that was now so deformed that he was virtually kicking his own backside. As is my want, I went over.

“Look,” I said, “I’ve had experience in medical matters. I’ll look after him while you go over to that police ‘phone box over there on the corner and get in some help. After that, try to sort this traffic out and see if you can get it moving again.”

“Er, yeah, right . . . er right. I have to say that I’m feeling a bit funny meself!”

The lad in my care began to shiver violently, and as much as I hadn’t wanted to, I took off my sheepskin and in an effort to avoid the spillage of blood from his right thigh (which didn’t seem to be getting any worse, thank God), I covered him with my coat. Then, as I squatted down to place a package he’d had with him to use as a pillow, there was this great ripping sound as the two halves of my trousers had split from zipper to breakfast-time! The first thought that came into my mind had been: “What colour were the underpants I put on this morning?” As luck would have it, they had been the bright red pair!

Anyway, the ambulance turned up five or ten minutes later and with much screaming from the hapless motorcyclist as ambulance men did their best to straighten his leg enough so that he might fit onto their stretcher, extra police from nearby Snow Hill Station quickly got the traffic moving again. And I? – well, with my sheepskin gleefully covering up my embarrassment – I went to the office where Linda had put her sewing skills to good use while the two of us threw around ideas as to how I could employ this Bill Sibley, the Redbourn blacksmith.

The people of Flamstead quickly got used to seeing me out and about with my newly-adopted family, and, when asked, they gladly consented to stand here or lean on that while I busied around setting up the next shot. The vicar of St Leonard’s Church who lived directly across the road from me had thought the whole thing a tremendous wheeze as had my immediate next-door neighbour – Brian Modlyn, a representative for Yardley soaps and cosmetics, as it gave him something new to talk about during his chatty sales-patter.

Funnily enough, while setting up the shot that eventually appeared on the front cover of Penny for the Guy, two elderly ladies had paused while passing, one saying to the other:

“My goodness, aren’t those children good – they’re standing sooooo perfectly still . . . I can hardly believe it.”

Most of the stories were centred in or around Flamstead village and, in the main, all of the participants who played whatever roles I needed them for were un-paid neighbours, friends and acquaintances who lived locally. Occasionally I needed to travel a little further afield, such as the story in which my life-long chum Ken Mills took on the role of Sailor Jim. We’d gone to one of the quarry-filled lakes that meander along the Coln Valley – bypassing Rickmansworth, Maple Cross and Denham – where members of the local sailing club had passed many an idle afternoon mucking about in boats.

You may recall from part 3 that Doug Luke had found the whole process very frustrating, “what with toppling pandas and awkward dolls to deal with on a daily basis,” and I went on to mention the use of suitable lengths of stick, strategically placed and out of the camera’s line of sight. Well, I must have missed one, for in the shot where the rowing boat is drifting away from the shoreline, the wooden prop helping to keep Candy aloft is clear for all to see. Oooooops!

Although it was posted on Monday, 30th November 2009, it is only recently that I came across this website and I have to admit that I am utterly appalled at the factual errors that have remained unchallenged for so many years. The author, “Steerforth”, begins his post:
In 1966, at the height of his powers, "supermarionation" creator Gerry Anderson came up with a bold concept for a new television series. He had already designed the puppets and with the recent success of Thunderbirds behind him, it looked certain that the new project would be given the green light.
    But there was one problem: Anderson's idea was utterly mad
    The new series was given a unanimous thumbs down by television executives, but undeterred, Anderson turned his idea into a franchise, spawning 154 issues of a comic and several books. The whole sorry episode lasted less than three years but it was long enough to screw-up a generation of under 5s.

Candy and Andy had been a joint creative venture of TV21’s Art Editor Dennis Hooper and Lady Penelope Editor Gillian Allan and most certainly it had not been any idea of Gerry Anderson’s. There was also never a time when Candy and Andy were being considered for a television series – for starters, they were far too heavy to have been manipulated by puppeteers; their joints were far too stiff to be manhandled in the same manner that those other “supermarionated” characters from shows such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, where they had been brought to life by the deft hands of Mary Turner and her co-puppeteering chums. Although Anderson had a long and successful career in the world of puppetry with puppeteer Christine Glanville and special effects technician Derek Meddings, his true love was to move into live-action television which he later did.

Apart from their eyes, neither Candy nor Andy had any solenoid moving parts – something that had been the hallmark of Anderson’s “supermarionation” for a good number of years. The only reason Gerry Anderson became involved with Candy was because his studio had both the facilities and the expertise to create these characters as originally conceived by Dennis Hooper and Gillian Allan.

To have lasted three years, Candy must have had some considerable success when it was launched. There have been plenty of other periodicals that were closed down or amalgamated long before their 154th issue.

Roger Perry
The Philippines

Coming soon: In Part Five, “Stripey” becomes an over-indulgent birthday gift and I divulge what truly happened to Candy, Andy and the two Bearandas

No comments: