Sometime around 1998/1999 I wandered into an off the beaten track card shop. I think Victoria and I were visiting somewhere, Stratford rings a bell, but I can’t be sure. The one thing that I do know, is that while I was in there I happen chanced upon some cards by an artist named Sally Hunter. The cards were Humphrey’s Corner.
Humphrey is a soft gentle little elephant. He lives in the house at the top of the hill with Mummy, Daddy, Sister Lottie and Baby Jack. When Humphrey was first born Daddy bought him a rabbit. His name is Mop. Humphrey takes Mop everywhere. He only has one ear now because Humphrey always sucked it when he was a baby.
I fell in love with those illustrations. I bought every Humphrey card in the shop. From that point on I made it my mission to search out new cards. They were far from common, and it was always a moment of joy if I found a new one anywhere. For a while I carried a print out of all the cards I had, so that I could cross reference them. I think they were under the Woodmansterne company at the time. I’ve never really been a collector, before or since.
Victoria thought I was mad. I still have a box piled high with unopened cards.
One day I sent a letter to Sally Hunter. Not sure why, just felt like I need to tell her how much I loved the pictures. Never done that before, never done it since. But for some reason it felt like the right thing to do.
Then, one day, I received a phone call. Sally Hunter actually phoned me to say thanks for the letter! I must admit to being a little starstruck and taken a back, so as I recall, I don’t think that I gave the best conversation! But I remember being amazed that she would take the time to make an actual phone call.
When Rebekah was born, it seemed only natural that we linked her to Humphrey, used his pictures, gave her a Humphrey and a Lottie. My mother even sent Rebekah a Humphrey birthday card for the first five years. With fatherhood now pressing down, I found myself being inspired by the pictures, and started writing poems to go with pictures. I wrote quite a few, and produced a small book with them in.
The cards became more successful and you could even pick the cards up in John Lewis. Then they disappeared for a while. When they reappeared under another company, I think the cards started to get reprinted. Mothercare started selling a lot of branded merchandise, and it seemed Humphrey was everywhere. And, I slowly lost contact with them, as you so often do.
I miss Humphrey, and Lottie, and Baby Jack, and Mop!
Snails and Choo Choo Trains
At the bottom of the garden,
Where only I go to play,
There is a little railway track,
That I visit every day,
It has a little choo choo train,
That travels very fast,
It carries lots and lots of passengers,
To the bottom of the path,
It is used by all the garden snails,
To help them get about,
And when it pass by the station,
The chimney gives a shout,
Chush ta Kur…
Chush ta Kur…
The smoke fluffs up like cotton wool,
Filling up all the air,
Then the conductor asks to see the tickets,
To make sure everyone has paid their fare,
And when the journey is nearly over,
The choo choo slowly stops,
And the snails all go on their way,
And so do me and Mop.