WE”VE been listening to the Just William tapes with Charlie this weekend: read by Martin Jarvis as part of the BBC’s Radio Collection series. As a child of the 50s I had the books and remember the blurb – ‘Just William: Richmal Crompton’s lovable rascal.’ The stories are dated, but still hilarious half a century on, even to the ears of a modern-day 12 year old.
And yet . . . here’s the lovable rascal and his gang, the Outlaws, assisted by (“I’ll thcream and thcream and thcream until I’m thick, thick, thick”) Violet Elizabeth, hunting down an escaped ‘lunatic’ in the woods. William heads the search, armed with the nice sharp penknife he was given for his birthday. Earlier he’s seen (or rather heard) breaking and entering the home of his elderly neighbour in the middle of the night to retrieve the bow and arrow she’s confiscated because they repeatedly end up in her garden. When she disturbs him in the ‘raid’ William threatens her with the replica gun he always carries in his pocket. It’s dark, she’s elderly and, not surprisingly, terrified.
Blackmail, threats, violence real or imagined – these days he wouldn’t be a lovable rascal, but the subject of an ASBO. As for Ginger’s second cousin Percy, terrified of cows but ‘extremely fond of little boys.’ Well, as Ginger observes as they head for a walk in the woods: “He’s been abroad, so he must have shot wild animals.” No problems there then . . .