Friday, 27 January 2012


Biffo the Bear - he's a good egg

One wintry, snow-clouded night in the late '70s (I think), myself and a
friend were making our way home after visiting a mutual acquaintance. As
we were passing a block of flats, a motion at one of the windows on the first
floor caught our attention and we stopped to observe what was happening.
A parent, in the act of putting his child to bed for the night, was writing on
the condensation on the inside of the glass pane as the infant bounced
excitedly up and down in the background. (We could just see the top of
the head, popping into view every few seconds.)

We stood transfixed, trying to decipher the reversed writing
(accompanied by an oval-shaped figure) as, word by word, it took form
before us - "!". We fell
about laughing at the silliness of the proposition, and, judging by the
sounds of childish merriment which emanated from within, the youngster
was equally amused. Then the snow and the wind caught us on the nape
of our necks and propelled us, much cheered by our diversion, in the
direction of home and the promise of our own warm beds awaiting us at
journey's end. (I was well-aware at the time just how much the scene
echoed a similar one in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS.)

If memory serves, at the time of the above-related incident my friend
was home on leave from the Navy, having joined not long before. (Or,
if memory fails to serve, he joined not long after.) We kept in touch by
the occasional letter and it soon became almost a custom for each of us to
finish our episodic epistles with the slogan: "Biffo the Bear is an Easter egg
with legs!". I could neither read nor write the catchphrase without images
of the night in question springing to mind, and having a hearty chuckle to
myself at the memory. Naturally, I assumed that my friend viewed the
occurrence through the same nostalgia-tinted spectacles as myself. It was
one of those shared moments that neither of us were likely to forget.

Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when, one day, on a short
visit home with his wife a year or two later, my friend enquired of me
whence the slogan that we so freely bandied about between ourselves had
originated. "Don't you remember?", I asked, somewhat puzzled by his lack
of recollection. He didn't, so I gave him a recap of the events of that snow-
swept night a Winter or two before. He still couldn't remember, and
explained that he only used the phrase because I had, and because
he found it funny.

Strange, isn't it? Sometimes, moments (or things) that we regard
as having, in some indefinable way, bonded us together - whether it
be with friends, brothers, sisters, or lovers - and which we imagine to be
fondly-remembered shared points in our mutual histories and experiences,
turn out to be an entirely one-sided affair, having far more significance
to one of us than the other.

It brings to mind occasions when I would hear my father recount to
my mother an obviously cherished moment from their past, followed by
the expectant words: "Don't you remember, dear?" - only to be met by a
blank stare, a bewildered shake of the head, and a disheartening "No!".
I suddenly understand, with an insight and clarity that only time can
bring, the disappointment etched on his face and no doubt in his heart.
(Of course, such moments sometimes also happened vice versa.) 
I wonder how many friendships, relationships, or acquaintanceships
survive only on the ghost of a memory of some past event that one of
the parties involved has long-since forgotten - if, indeed, they ever
remembered in the first place. Sad to consider, don't you think?


(Note to US & foreign readers: BIFFO THE BEAR was - and occasionally
still is - a character in the famous British comic, THE BEANO - published
weekly by D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd since 1938 and still going strong.)


Mr Straightman said...

My version of the Biffo the Bear story...

One night I was walking home from a mate's house when I glanced up at a second-storey window. In someone's flat, in prime position, expertly tacked to the wall, was a poster of Ann and Nancy Wilson of the rock group Heart as they were in the 1980s. I was instantly overcome with envy and stood there staring at it, in the freezing cold, for what seemed like ages.

Then a woman wearing apparently nothing but a well-packed purple bra appeared at the window, opened it, shouted "f*** off, pervert", flicked me a V-sign, closed the window with a resounding SLAM and drew the curtains.

It's a dangerous world out there.

Kid said...

Funnily enough, that's what was happening at the block of flats just further along the street at the same time. So that was you?

paul rose said...

Hi Kid!
Your photo's of you as a nipper and as you are now make you look like a miserable ol' sod...please do something about that as you could put nipper's off loving UK comics like we do.