Over the past few weeks I’ve become a Mr Men expert. Ethan has gotten seriously hooked on them recently and so I’ve spent a good chunk of my paternity leave reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading them. We also bought him a Mr Men DVD (cheap deal in Fopp; although only series 2 frustratingly) so in-between reading the books we take time out to watch them on telly instead. Oh yeah, and when we’re not doing that we play with his blackboard and chalks, drawing the Mr Men.
Ethan’s current favourites are Mr Strong, Mr Muddle, and Mr Impossible. He pretends to do all Mr Impossible’s impossible things, and can now even narrate the last half of the Mr Happy story from the pictures alone. Listening to him tell us a story gives Debs and I a nice warm glow. His little sister also responds to the sound of his voice, which is cool too.
All of this has resulted in my now having a great deal of Mr Men trivia at my finger tips. Not so much the Little Misses, mind you, as we don’t have many of those. And anyway, they’re for girls!
Seeing as MasterMind is back on the telly, perhaps I’ll apply. I’ll be absolutely rubbish at the general knowledge, but that black chair will be so 0wn3d by my Mr Man skillz.
Think you can do better? Then tremble at the following demonstration of Mr Men knowledge…
Do you know the answer to the impossible sum that Mr Impossible solves? Or which two Mr Men have ears? Or what “impossible” thing that Mr Impossible can do, but which Mr Topsy Turvy can also do (you can see I’ve studied this deeply). Or which one is mentioned in the most stories? (yes, there’s a social network amongst the Mr Men, and I’ll be publishing it as FOAF shortly).
There’s also the philosophical angle. For example after Mr Topsy Turvy visits a town, everyone picks up his charming topsy turvy ways. Is he a metaphor for the spread of memes through a population? And does the fact that Mr Dizzy actually seems a little cruel to the Pig and the Elephant after becoming clever, illustrate that intelligence doesn’t equal wisdom?
The discontinuities between the cartoons and the books make prime material for after dinner chat should one be short of conversation. One can understand the reasoning behind not showing Mr Strong walking away un-harmed from a head-on collision with a bus. But in the Mr Dizzy cartoon, which indicates (like the book), that the majority of animals are clever by the cunningly giving them spectacles, why is the clever bird instead toking on a big fat cigar? Surely that’s the wrong message?!
There’s also the scientific angle: in SleepyLand, where Mr Lazy lives, because everyone is so lazy everything takes a long time to do, so there’s only time enough for four hours in a day. Is this some kind of relativistic effect?
That’s probably enough trivia. Certainly enough to demonstrate to anyone that knows me that I’ve been deprived of enough sleep over the last few weeks, that I’m suffering from the same psychosis that last had me expounding various theories about why Brian Conley didn’t choose to continue to be the narrator for Busy Buses when it reached it’s second series. Was he ashamed of being the voice of Sammy? If so why leave his voice on the signature tune? Could it have been other work commitments? Did he feel he’d moved on, grown as an voice-over artiste?
These are the thoughts that go through your head at 6am in the morning, and it’s the stuff they don’t tell you about at the parenting classes.
The one benefit to all this is that you can apply this new found knowledge to pull off all sorts of cunning parental trickery. Child refusing to finish their dinner? Simply encourage them to pretend to be Mr Greedy. Or Mr Strong if it’s breakfast time, or Mr Muddle when eating a chicken dinner; he gets it all mixed up and tries to slice the gravy, so there’s even actions, oh Mr Muddle! Need a few extra minutes in bed? Simply play the Mr Lazy game and have them pretend to go back to sleep, while you enjoy a cosy few extra minutes lying next to them. Tears? Mr Happy; Noisy? Mr Quiet; Untidy? Mr Fussy; the list goes on.
Seriously though, I loved the Mr Men when I was a kid and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed introducing Ethan to them as well. Considering that they’re over 30 year old they’ve stood the test of time very well. And if you are going to flip the telly on for the kids whilst nursing that first cup of coffee at 6am in the morning, then you can’t get much better. The soothing tones of Arthur Lowe will draw you gently into the day. Better than that sodding purple dinosaur anyway.