Monday, 4 March 2013


Gosh, it's gotten a bit quiet around here, hasn't it?  Don't worry, I'm still alive.

Not everyone else is, though.  I was saddened to learn of the deaths of two men, one who influenced my childhood, the other my first steps into playing board games more complicated than those one is liable to break out at Christmas.

There can't be many more instantly recognisable piece of music to my increasingly battered brain than the Roobarb and Custard theme; just this ridiculously joyous mix of filthy synth and manic harmonica.  I watched the show every week as a kid and I can't tell you a thing about it, but I can whistle the theme note for note, and remember the sight of Roobarb's delighted expression as he ran towards the camera.  Bob Godrey - who animated the show and who passed away a little under two weeks ago - insisted that animation should always fundamentally be about fun, and few things make the point more economically and directly than Roobarb's grin. The mechanisms of fun are truly known only to children and to dogs.

My main memory of Godfrey's work, though, isn't a green mutt trying to make peace with a pink cat, but the mellow yellow feline who knows everything about nothing. Again, the fact that the theme song is so catchy certainly helps, but it's Godfrey's own drawled narration and theshifty kohl-lined eyes of Rum Baa Baa, most evil sheep in all the world, that stick in the memory.  Was there no end to his ovine outrages? It takes a particular kind of wonderfully strange mind to reimagine silent film villains- complete with top hat and pencil moustache - as depraved farmyard animals.  Godfrey, we salute you.

Spare a thought too for Allan Calhamer, inventor of Diplomacy, the genesis of which he describes in detail here, but basically seems to have been born from the desire to remodel chess so you could invade Tirol.  I have fond memories of this game from my misspent youth, particularly the occasion when we used drinking straws to fashion the tools used to push models around maps seen in basically every WWII film ever.  That was almost as much fun as ganging up on one poor guy, reducing him to a single army, and forcing him to write "Paris stands" as his only order whilst the rest of us vied for European supremacy.  Calhamer passed away one week ago, with his reputation amongst gamers secure.

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