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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
WHEN BATMAN WORE WELLINGTON BOOTS...
What a difference
four or five years can
make. I'd just turned 8
when JOHN FIDLER,
who lived a couple of
doors along from me,
got one of the top toys
of 1966 for Christmas
- a 1st edition, diecast, CORGI TOYS TV BATMOBILE,the
lucky little blighter.
I coveted it greatly, but for some curious reason (probably related to
cash-flow), never got around to actually buying one until my 12th or 13th
birthday in 1970 or '71. (Although, now that I remember, I had the chance
of getting one while on holiday in Largs in 1968, but passed in favour of
a bendy CAPTAIN SCARLET figure.)
Nowadays, 12 or 13 would doubtless be considered far too old
to be buying diecast toy cars, but back then, boys of that age were a
totally different bag of spiders to what they are now. More innocent, not
quite so eager to grow up, etc. Well, at least, that's the way it seems to me
through the mist-enshrouded maze of memory whenever I revisit my past.
And yes, Summers were longer and it snowed every Christmas. (You
can dispute it as much as you like - I prefer my version.)
John Fidler was a couple of years
younger than me and, consequently,
smaller. When we played at BATMAN & ROBIN, I naturally took the lead
while John was relegated to the role
of 'teenage' sidekick (even 'though
he was only about 5 or 6).
In my homemade Batman costume
(a pair of purple swimming trunks
over corduroy trousers, brown gloves,
black raincoat with sleeves pulled out-
side in, a Batman badge on my jumper,
a Batman mask bought from a shop - oh,
and a pair of wellies) I cut an impressive
figure. (In my mind anyway.) For my
utility belt, I tied some dangly, strappy
portion of my father's war-time morse-code apparatus around my waist
I was nothing if not resourceful. (Trust me - it looked the part.)
John sported a black domino
mask with his mother's lemony silk
headscarf tied 'round his shoulders.
He cut a less impressive dash in my
opinion, but he was only the side-
kick, remember. Sidekicks aren't
permitted to upstage the main hero,
and that was me - by dint of being
older and bigger and more oblivious
to making a t*t of myself running
around in a homemade Batsuit.
My "official" mask was like a
black plastic bag with half of one
side cut away to reveal the lower
face, and eyeholes to allow anyone
daft enough to wear it to see all those
who were laughing at them. The idea was that, when you pulled it over your
head, the corners would stick up like the bat-ears on ADAM WEST's cowl,
enabling you to strike fear and dread into the hearts of criminals, who, as
we all know, are "a superstitious, cowardly lot".
Unfortunately, the corners
stuck out rather thanup,
somewhat negating the desired
effect and managing merely to
strike mirth and merriment into
the hearts of amused observers
as they fell about in hysterics.
Undeterred, however, me and
John both soldiered on, and we
must've milked being the caped-
crusaders of our neighbourhood
for almost as long as the show
was on telly to inspire us in our
dashing deeds of derring-do.
Then, alas, as is the way of
things, we eventually grew up.
I moved to another area in 1972 and saw John only in passing and from
afar over the next few years. Imagine my surprise (and annoyance) when
I ran into John in adulthood, only to find that he'd grown at least half-a-head
taller than me. I realized, sadly, that if we ever decided to reprise our Batman
& Robin roles (unlikely as it was), he'd be the "main man" and I'd have to
wear his mother's poofy silk lemon headscarf. Life can be so cruel.
Anyway, John and I
reminisced and laughed
about our childhood
exploits for a while and
then went our separate
ways. It must be close
to 30 years since I last
saw him, although, in
truth, it seems like only
yesterday, cliched as that
may sound. Where does
the time go? In fact,
where didJohn go, for
me not to have seen
him since? I hope he's
well, wherever he is.
Sometime back in 1991, in a fit of nostalgia, I re-acquired (at immense
expense) a boxed, pristine condition, 1966 Corgi Toys Batmobile from
a shop in Edinburgh. Whenever I look at it, I'm once again running around
my old neighbourhood with my boyhood chum by my side, with no thought
for the morrow and unmindful of what the passing years may bring.