As most of my good friends (and some of my clients) know I am a BIG fan of the British seventies sitcom ‘George and Mildred’ (1976-1979), starring the excellent pairing of Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy. From being a small child, I would delight in watching this programme; obviously enjoying the slapstick comedy of it, as most of the innuendo would have gone straight over my head. The one thing I do remember is Yootha’s facial expressions – her look of disdain was classic!
After watching this series for most of my life – I have got a real affection for the two actors who play the main characters and in particular Yootha. I have even done a fair amount of research about her and have an autograph or two, as well.This teddy bear illustration, was created in July 2003 for my Bear-a-thought 2004 calendar. I decided to feature this illustration on my blog this month as, unbelievably, it is the 40th anniversary of Yootha Joyce’s death this year. On a happier note, August was also her birth month, so a doubly-good reason to feature my tribute to these characters.
My friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson created the wonderful outfits that ‘George’ and ‘Mildred’ are wearing in this picture. We wanted to cover George in an almost Victorian style bathing suit, which belies his prudishness. On the other hand, Mildred, is looking much more modern and slightly garish compared to her conservative husband. I know Jennifer enjoyed dressing these two bears and we had fun working out what earrings to give Mildred (what to choose…sea anemones, giant daisies?). We also had to throw in a bit of fake leopard print fabric for Mildred, as well as put her in a yellow top, which happened to be Yootha’s favourite colour.
Eagled-eyed readers may have noticed that I have set this picture in Whitby, which is one of my very favourite haunts. I thought Blackpool was more ‘George and Mildred’, but in the end chose the Yorkshire coast. I set up these characters on a quiet part of the beach to do the initial sketches, but as usual got a crowd of interested spectators around me, wanting to have their photograph taken with the bears. Perhaps they thought that the message on the beach towel was an invitation 🙂
Yootha Joyce, b: 20 August 1927 – d: 24 August 1980
Yootha was an animal lover and had many rescue dogs and cats in her home.
I also know that she loved teddy bears too, so I do hope she would have liked this illustration.
I am very patriotic and I’m proud to be an Englishman, so St. George’s Day for me is a day of annual celebration. So much so, that I think it should be an annual English bank holiday.
So, with that in mind, when I was producing my Bear-a-thought calendar for 2007 I thought I would include St. George (in teddy bear format) as the illustration for the month of April. I chose one of my favourite bears, Augustus, to represent the patron saint of England and my friend, Jennifer A. Stephenson, dressed him appropriately with a helmet (with scarlet plume), a chainmail vest (emblazoned with St. George’s Cross) and a rather fiercesome looking wooden sword and shiny protective shield.
Once Augustus was ‘suited and booted’ I had to find a ferocious dragon for him to vanquish. I wanted to make the fierce dragon look as fierce as a baby with a marshmallow (not quite sure where that expression came from, but it was the first thing that came to mind), so found a rather cute and endearing green-and-yellow dragon on the Internet.
I set the picture up in my garden, using rocks from when I had the house renovated and created a dragon’s cave, set against the backdrop of a beech hedge. It was mid-April when I set this scene up, so I incorporated some of the flowers in the garden to create some ambience: daisies (the traditional flower of the month of April) and forget-me-nots which always flower in my garden at this time of year. The Forget-me-not is rather appropriate in this illustration in more ways than one, as there is a mediaeveal legend as to how the flower got its name. It goes that a strong and handsome knight, after returning from some war or crusade, was reunited with his fair maiden. On meeting her again, beside a riverbank, he stooped to pick some of the delicate blue flowers that grew on the riverbank. Unfortunately, the weight of his armour and his semi-recumbent position made him topple into the river and to his death. But before he succumbed to the swirling water, he threw the blue flowers to his distressed maiden, with his last words “forget me not!”.
The St. George and the Dragon illustration was popular in the calendar and also as a greeting card, with the original illustration being purchased by an English customer, living in Spain, who has a small and select collection of my teddy bear illustrations.
I hope this illustration stirs the heart of any Englishman and woman reading this post and I also hope that it sends a message out there to any unwanted and ferocious dragons that England is a country that is both proud and fearless. ;0)