Read The Wombles Online

Authors: Elizabeth Beresford

The Wombles

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Preface

 

I am delighted that Bloomsbury is reissuing the Wombles books. The Wombles have always been environmentally aware, recycling the rubbish that they find and putting it to good use, so it gives me particular pleasure that their adventures are also being recycled!

We cannot rely on the Wombles to do all our recycling for us but I hope they will encourage everyone who reads their adventures to follow their example and have fun into the bargain.

The Wombles have always made people laugh and I hope they continue to do so.

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Elisabeth Beresford, MBE

Alderney

March 2010

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Paws for Thought

An additional note from Great Uncle Bulgaria

 

When I first saw Elisabeth Beresford, I knew that I had met the right Human Being to whom the Womble adventures could be told. It was Boxing Day and she was with her children, Marcus and Kate, walking on Wimbledon Common. They were letting off steam, having had to be on best behaviour over Christmas as their house had been full of elderly relations. I heard Elisabeth’s daughter say, ‘Oh Ma, it’s wonderful on Wombledon Common’ and that was it! Elisabeth became aware of our existence, the burrow, and the way we Wombles recycle all the rubbish you Human Beings leave behind.

She told me that she had written lots of children’s books, including magic stories, so I told her all about us but I made her promise never to give away the location of the burrow. Since then, we’ve appeared in books, made records and appeared on television. The young Wombles think it’s great fun but I prefer a quiet life.
Tsk, tsk.

I am very happy to give my pawprint to this reprint (Bungo insisted I use that joke) and hope you enjoy our adventures as much as we did.

Now I must go because Orinoco has just found today’s edition of
The Times
. Of course, he has gone straight to the kitchen to claim his reward from Madame Cholet. I think I heard him muttering something about daisy and dandelion fizz . . .

Carry on Wombling.

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Great Uncle Bulgaria

The Womble Burrow

Wimbledon Common

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Chapter 1

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Bungo

 

Once upon a time the Wombles went to live on – or rather under – Wimbledon Common in South-west London. There may be other Womble families in different parts of the world – in fact, there are – but the Wombles like to keep themselves to themselves, so once they’ve made a move and built themselves a comfortable waterproof burrow they tend to stay where they are.

The head of the Wimbledon Wombles is Great Uncle Bulgaria. He is very old indeed and his fur has turned snow-white and he feels the cold rather badly. So during the winter months he mostly sits in his own room in a large rocking chair, wearing a tartan shawl and two pairs of spectacles. He uses one pair for reading
The Times
newspaper and the other for looking at young Wombles who have misbehaved, and as this pair makes his eyes look
ENORMOUS
it has a very alarming effect. Many a young Womble has come out of Great Uncle Bulgaria’s room with his (or her) fur standing up on end and his (or her) teeth chattering.

As well as the rocking chair there is a footstool and an electric fire. Years and years ago when Great Uncle Bulgaria’s fur was just turning from grey to white, he had a coal fire which gave a lot of trouble. If the wind was blowing a certain way his room used to get full of smoke which made him cough and, even worse, when the wind was not blowing at all the smoke went straight up the chimney and up through the bracken and the Common Keepers would go and stamp all over the ground thinking it was a fire in the bushes. And when they did that pieces of mud fell down the chimney into Great Uncle Bulgaria’s room and made a dreadful mess and an even more dreadful smell. So Tobermory, who is very clever with his paws, made an electric fire out of bits of this and pieces of that and it makes the room nice and warm and gives no trouble at all.

And last, but very important indeed, there is Great Uncle Bulgaria’s atlas. It is very large and very old and the pages have gone brown round the edges and some of them have come loose as well, although Tobermory has done his best to keep them in place with strips of sticky paper. It’s a job which he dislikes because the sticky paper gets stuck to his fur, and the more he tries to get it off the more it sticks, so many of the maps have pieces of fur down the sides. The atlas is important because all the Wombles choose their own names out of it. Some of them spend a long, long time looking at all the different parts of the world to find just what will suit them, and some of them merely shut their eyes tight and point and hope for the best.

Which is how Bungo got
his
name.

‘Serves you right,’ said Great Uncle Bulgaria.

‘I don’t care, I like it,’ said Bungo.

‘Ho-hum,’ said Great Uncle Bulgaria. ‘Bungo it is then. Silly sort of name, but it quite suits
you
. Now then, young Womble, you’re old enough to start work, which means you’ll be going out on to the Common on your own. And
that
means you’ll come across People, and People are very strange creatures.’

‘I know,’ said Bungo.

‘No you don’t. There’s a lot you don’t know. In fact, there’s precious little you
do
know. Stand up straight and don’t slouch. People are strange because they are untidy. Because they sometimes don’t tell the truth and because most of them are so interested in their own affairs they just don’t notice us. If possible you should avoid them, but if for one reason or another you have to speak to a Human Being always be polite and helpful. The chances are that they’ll never even notice you’re a Womble at all. But it’s better to be safe than sorry so don’t go looking for trouble. Now off you go and start work.
Bungo
indeed!’

And Great Uncle Bulgaria picked up
The Times
and shook out the pages and began to read, so Bungo went off feeling a little foolish, which was most unusual for him as he was quite certain that he was the bravest, the most adventurous and perhaps even the handsomest of all the Wombles.

He trotted down the long underground passage past all the small side turnings till he came to a door with
WORKSHOP
painted on it.

‘Come in, come in,’ said Tobermory’s gruff voice when Bungo knocked.

Bungo had never been in the Workshop before and he went in rather timidly and his small eyes grew large as he looked about him. It was a big room with rows and rows of shelves all round the walls and each shelf was stacked high with all kinds of things. Gloves, shoes, gumboots, scarves, cameras, balls, racquets, skates, fishing rods, sticks, handbags, wallets, sweaters, socks, jars, bottles, Thermos flasks, papers, books, watches, brooches, necklaces, hats, suitcases, raincoats, baskets, buckets, all kinds of money and a lot more besides. All of them in neat piles and each pile neatly labelled, for the Wombles are the tidiest creatures in the world.

And as if that wasn’t enough to be going on with there were other rooms beyond with racks of larger objects. Bicycles and tricycles and scooters. Prams and deckchairs, wheels and tables and even parts of cars and caravans.

‘Well!’ said Bungo, slowly turning round and round.

‘Ah ha!’ said Tobermory, who was taking a radio to pieces on his workbench. His fur was turning grey and he wore a large blue apron and had a screwdriver tucked behind one ear and a pencil behind the other.

‘Well, well,
WELL
,’ said Bungo.

‘What do you think of it, eh?’ said Tobermory, his sharp eyes looking at Bungo although his busy paws never stopped working.

‘It’s very big, isn’t it?’ said Bungo. ‘And there are such a lot of things. Do they all come from –?’ and he jerked his head towards the ceiling.

‘That they do. All left by People out on the Common. Pass me that tin marked “screws”, young Womble.’

‘I’ve got a name now. I’m –’ Bungo cleared his throat and looked rather shyly at Tobermory as he handed over the tin ‘– I’m Bungo. I
chose
it.’

‘Sort of name you
would
choose. Silly sort of name. Yes, all my stores come from the Common. Human Beings are an untidy lot. They’d lose their legs and arms if they weren’t joined on right. So you’re old enough to start work, eh? Go and find yourself a basket. Over there, young Womble, on that shelf marked “Baskets”. Can’t you read?’

‘’Course I can,’ said Bungo, rather hurt; but Tobermory was holding the radio up to his ear and shaking it and he didn’t seem to hear, so Bungo sighed and went over to the shelf, where he picked out a large straw basket.

‘Nice bit of work that,’ said Tobermory, putting down the radio and looking at the basket. ‘Hardly had to mend it at all when it was brought down to me. Just a stitch or two. Now remember, young Womble, it’s our duty to keep the Common tidy. Just do your work properly and mind out for dogs. Dogs don’t like Wombles and Wombles don’t take kindly to dogs. Remember that. Now off you go! I’m busy.’


I’m
not afraid of dogs,’ said Bungo.

‘More fool you then,’ said Tobermory. ‘Shut the door behind you.’

Bungo had been looking forward to his first working day, for it’s the point in a Womble’s life when he feels nearly grown up. He has his own name at last and he is considered old enough and clever enough to venture into the outside world. In fact, Bungo had spent the last few nights imagining just how important he would feel and what a chance it would be to prove how brave and adventurous he was, but neither Great Uncle Bulgaria nor Tobermory had made any fuss of him, indeed they had called his splendid new name ‘silly’.

‘I’ll show ’em,’ muttered Bungo, doubling up his paws as he hurried down the passage. ‘And if I meet any dogs I’ll show
them
too.’ And he gave a hop, skip and a jump because he suddenly felt excited again.

He pretended not to see all the other young Wombles whom he passed and his nose was very much in the air until he reached the main door which opened on to the Common. Sitting beside the door and reading a comic very slowly was the Nightwatch Womble, Tomsk. He blinked sleepily at Bungo, asked his name and wrote it down carefully in a large book. Then he unlocked the door and opened it and at once Bungo could smell the cool dawn air and hear the birds and a dog barking in the distance and all at once he didn’t feel quite so brave after all.

However he couldn’t let Tomsk know that, so Bungo whistled softly to himself and then hummed as the door was shut behind him and then very, very slowly he walked up the last winding passage until there was nothing between him and the outside world but bushes and ferns.

Bungo’s nose appeared first and then his bright little eyes and then his round, furry body. As he was not very tall he couldn’t see much except the tops of the bushes, which were laced with spiders’ webs and dew that glittered and danced in the early morning sunlight.

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Bungo parted the bushes and edged his way between the leaves and grunted to himself as he made for the patch of Common which he was to look after. It was not a very large piece, but it had got a wooden bench on it and Bungo knew, from listening to the conversation of other Wombles, that where there was a seat for Human Beings there was also bound to be something to tidy up. He soon noticed some pieces of paper and within a few seconds Bungo’s paws had picked up two chocolate bar wrappers, a handkerchief with ‘D. Smith’ on it, and an evening paper.


Tsk
,
tsk
,
tsk
,’ said Bungo, feeling quite a Womble of the world, ‘they’re an untidy lot these Humans.
Tsk
,
tsk
,
tsk
.’

Once he started looking it was really astonishing how much there was to find. A pencil, one half of a return railway ticket to Victoria Station, quite a long piece of string and a library ticket were soon added to Bungo’s collection, and he became so pleased with himself that he completely failed to notice two things: first, that the barking dog was getting closer all the time and second, that there was somebody sitting on the bench; until, just as he was about to seize a rather battered straw boater hat with both eager paws, a voice said almost in Bungo’s horrified ear, ‘And what do you think you’re doing, may I ask?’


Eeeeep
,’ said Bungo, diving under the seat and covering his ears with his paws.

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