Archie and Wilmont
There are a curious amount of bells that ring throughout the poetry of Sir John Betjeman, whose photograph is seen above. It is remarkable how many times they are mentioned. He even named his autobiography, Summoned by Bells, a fact that has often led me to think that a sweet carillon must have played a continual soundtrack in that most English of Englishman’s head. A rather romantic idea, but one that seems to fit a gentleman so enamoured of the past, his writings so redolent of a simpler time. There seemed to be a charming air of whimsy in Betjeman, but maybe I feel that way because of Archibald Ormsby-Gore, the teddy bear that was Sir John’s loyal companion. Archie famously accompanied him to Oxford and was Evelyn Waugh’s inspiration in the creation of Aloysius, the bear of Brideshead Revisited fame. Betjeman even wrote a book about his bear, entitled Archie and the Strict Baptists, a title that never fails to put a grin on my face. His abiding friend, Archie was in Betjeman’s arms when he died.
The Songwriter and I have a similar, though not as constant, companion in our stuffed monkey, Wilmont. Wilmont has had the good fortune to travel with us on many occasions, and the photographic evidence of these adventures even produced a calendar for friends one recent Christmas. Far from considering him merely an example of the strange or eccentric, everyone we meet seems to enjoy Wilmont no end. Hotel housekeepers tuck him into bed whilst we are away at dinner, sometimes placing a book in his paws. Once we returned to find Wilmont hopefully grasping the television remote, although most frustratingly for him, the lack of opposing thumbs prevented him from successfully operating the thing.
Wilmont spends most days on the back cushion of my bedroom chaise, a comfortable postition that affords him a lovely view of the back garden.
Edward occasionally throws a curious eye his way, but never approaches him.
He seems to realize without being told that Wilmont, like Archibald Ormsby-Gore before him, is special.
"If a man insisted always on being serious,
and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation,
he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it."