Many adults had a childhood
hero or heroine - someone whose attitudes,
lifestyle and actions they had, in their early
years, dreamed of emulating. For some, perhaps,
it was Superman, for others it might have been
one of the Famous Five. I encountered my
inspirational hero and his uplifting deeds in the
pages of Playhour comic in the early
Playhour was a
comic for young children that was published
between 1959 and 1975. The role model I found
there went by the name of Bunny Cuddles.
Bunny lived with his best
friend, Tiny Mole, in Bunnyville. Bunnys
whole life was focused to just one end -
obtaining and eating jam. He appeared to get up
at whatever time he wished and never had any
concerns about, or involvement with, education or
I rediscovered Bunny last
month as I was clearing some old boxes from my
attic - a task I had intended to undertake as
soon as I had retired but which had somehow been
postponed for two years. Bunny had, nevertheless,
waited patiently for me, snug in the pages of the
1961 Playhour Annual.
As later I sat in my front
room re-reading Bunnys adventures and those
of his Playhour friends, I noticed a
phone number printed under the publishers
name on the first page of the annual. On impulse,
I dialled that number.
responded a cheery female voice, Sally here.
Sally as in Sonny and
Sally, is it?' I replied in surprise.
Yes, she said.
I have that old Playhour number
redirected to my iPhone, just in case any of our
readers from long ago want to say hello.
How are you and Sonny?
she said. Weve got children of our
own, now, of course, but, as youll remember
from Playhour, we live in a pretty
idyllic environment. Everything always works out
well in the end. In fact, she continued,
had it not been for the antics of our pet
lamb, Pet, little would have happened worth
telling about in the comic strip.
How are all the other
characters? I asked.
Theyre fine too,
Sally answered. We sometimes see Hector
Hedgehog, Wally Weasel, and, of course, Sammy
Stoat as they all live not far from Happy Valley.
Did you want to make contact with any of them?
I was rather hoping
to locate Bunny Cuddles, I replied.
He was something of hero of mine in the
He moved from
Bunnyville when he retired, said Sally.
He and Tiny Mole now live on the South
Coast, near Bournemouth.
near where I live, I said.
I can give you their
address, if you like, said Sally. All
the Playhour gang are always pleased to
catch up with their old fans.
Less than a week later, I
was sitting in the front room of Bunny and
Tinys retirement bungalow on Sandbanks - Playhour
had clearly generated a good income for them over
I sat in a large
comfortable armchair, and Bunny and Tiny sat
holding hands on the sofa. It seemed strange but,
when I had read about Bunny and Tinys
adventures, all those years ago, it had never
occurred to me to wonder about the nature of
We didnt really
talk about those issues in the fifties and
sixties, Tiny explained.
Homosexuality was illegal in England until
1967 and so we avoided any references to it in
the comic, especially in the illustrations.
Even now the inter-species
question raises eyebrows among traditionalists,
added Bunny, dipping his spoon once more into a
large pot of strawberry jam.
So, I said,
summarising what they had told me about their
lives during the past fifty years, ever
since the sixties youve simply carried on
doing whatever you felt like doing - and eaten
lots of jam, I added, nodding towards
Bunnys jam pot.
Its all I ever
wanted to do, Bunny replied. I
eventually grew my own fruit and started a small
jam making business, just to make sure I never
ran out. Running out of jam was always my biggest
You had a very large
store of jam, I recalled from Playhour,
and you also had your reserve jam supply and
your emergency jam.
You can never have
too much jam, Bunny pronounced in a wise
and knowledgeable tone. You said earlier
that you once wanted to be just like me, he
continued, making reference to a previous
conversation, but that things didnt
work out for you.
As soon as my mum
first read me one of your stories, I
replied, I knew that, just like you, all I
wanted in life was to have a carefree existence,
do just what I pleased and eat jar after jar of
Why didnt you
follow your dream? Bunny asked.
Life got in the way,
I guess, I began to reply, pondering
further on his question as I did so. My mum
said the idea was ridiculous. She said that it
was impossible to live like that. She made me go
to school and said that one day Id have to
go to work. One morning, when I refused to go to
school so I could eat more jam, she even screamed
at me that Bunnyville didnt exist.
said Tiny, sympathetically.
Aunt Hilda used to
behave a bit like that, Bunny recalled.
She was totally opposed to idleness and jam
eating. She said I was just wasting my time and
should be working hard. I wonder if your mum knew
Aunt Hilda used to
keep giving you big books of hard sums, I
said, remembering the old stories. Did they
come in handy for the accounts when you started
your jam business?
I could never be
bothered to open any of those sum books,
Bunny confessed. I hired an accountant for
the business and paid him in jam. Its a
shame we didnt meet up years ago, you know,
Bunny reflected. You could have been a
taster in my jam factory.
Tears welled-up in my eyes.
Sorry, I said, apologising for my
sudden outburst of emotion, its just
that when I think of all the study I did, all the
years of working in jobs that rarely inspired me,
and all the other things that Ive spent my
time doing just because society expected it of
all that time, I could have been eating
jam all day, every day
I burst into
uncontrollable floods of tears. Ive
wasted my life, I sobbed.
Bunny came over to my chair
and put his arm around my shoulder. OK,
he said, I cant deny that youve
lived fifty pointless years. Its no good
dwelling on it, though. You cant turn the
clock back. However, he added with a tone
of optimism, youre still not that old.
What do you mean?
now. You could go home this afternoon, contact
everyone with whom you have any commitments and
tell them to bugger off. You could then place a
regular order for jam with one of those
supermarket delivery services...
A sense of optimism arose
within me as I grasped what Bunny was suggesting
- a sense of optimism and hope the like of which
I had not felt in the fifty years since I had
first read of Bunny Cuddles.
You mean that I could
start to follow your example
follow my childhood dream
Why not? Bunny
replied. Its never too late.
That evening, after I had
made a few phone calls and placed that order for
jam, I started erecting shelving in my spare
bedroom for jam storage. I could convert the
garage to house the reserve jam supply at a later
As I worked, I reflected
upon how the practicalities of daily life and
social expectations can divert us all from being
the people we were born to be. Sometimes life can
take us so far away from our path that we cannot
even remember the person we once were.
Bunny Cuddles had shone a
light onto my lifes path when I
was five years old, but life had cruelly driven
me into the wilderness. Now, however, all these
years later, Bunny had justified my faith in him
by lighting a beacon so that I could find my way
enough writing for today. Its time for a
nice jar of blackcurrant, possibly followed by a
couple of jars of raspberry