Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


Is it wrong that I fancy Lord Tumble?

Robyn Wilder blames CBeebies for all sorts of crazy mum-lust

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By Robyn Wilder on

Readers, I have something to tell you and I don’t know quite how to say it.

This is unusual, because I’ve shared so much of myself in these columns, from details of my mental-health crises to my toilet habits and that time I called some butter a cunt. So, you think I’d be used to spilling my guts to you.

But there is one dark secret I hold so deeply and tightly to myself that I cannot speak its name without burning with abject shame. However, I cannot keep silent any longer, because I suspect I may not be alone. Oh, I’ll just say it. Deep breaths, Robyn.

Readers, I fancy Lord Tumble. Please stop laughing at the back.

For those of you who don’t know who that is, I shall explain. But just know that, as I do so, my face is turning from its natural beige to quite puce.

Lord Tumble is one of Justin Fletcher’s characters from the CBeebies show Something Special. There’s a whole family of Tumbles – the main one is Mr Tumble, who is a tubby, honking, pratfalling clown with a red nose and comedy trousers. Among others, there’s Grandad Tumble, who is a tubby, honking, pratfalling clown in glasses and a flat cap. And Fisherman Tumble, who is a tubby, honking, pratfalling clown in galoshes.

The thing is, I do not fancy Mr Tumble, Fisherman Tumble, Grandad Tumble or, God love him, Justin (sorry, Justin). It’s just Lord Tumble, who – for the record – is a tubby, honking, pratfalling clown who wears a top hat and monocle. For some reason, when I’ve been up since 5am and I’m rushing around to get the kids ready for their day, when Lord Tumble ambles on to the screen, thonks a ball into a hole with a croquet mallet and says, “Hellaire,” in a deep voice, my brain goes, “OH, LOOK, ROBYN – IT’S YOUR BOYFRIEND.”

Entire rankings of the sexiness of kids’ TV stars exist on parenting forums. CBeebies’ Mr Bloom, with his Madchester haircut and devil-may-care welly-clad swagger, scores highly

Now, I have a long history of perfectly unremarkable media crushes. I was a teenager in the 1990s, so my TV-boyfriend past is a basic-bitch list that includes Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life, Paul Rudd’s character in Clueless and Keanu Reeves in basically everything.

And, I mean, I don’t fancy-fancy Lord Tumble. I don’t, for instance, doodle “Lady Robyn Tumble” in curlicued script in my notebook, or stand in front of my bedroom mirror, practising being breezy but charming in case we ever run into each other.

Nevertheless, here we are.

My only consolation is that I’m not the only one in this situation. I don’t mean the Lord Tumble specificity (my husband’s theory is that because I went to boarding school, Lord Tumble is “my people” – this theory holds no water; if it were true, Boris Johnson would GET IT and, thankfully, he doesn’t) – but the general cult of kids’ presenters attracting mum-lust the way drops of blood in the water attract sharks.

Because entire rankings of the sexiness of kids’ TV stars exist on parenting forums. CBeebies’ Mr Bloom, with his Madchester haircut and devil-may-care welly-clad swagger, scores highly, as does (weirdly) Daddy Pig off of Peppa. Without mum-lust, the BBC would never have snared A-listers like Tom Hardy, Rosamund Pike and James McAvoy for CBeebies Bedtime Stories. And eyebrow heartthrob – and star of Get Well Soon – Dr Ranj Singh wouldn’t have got a look-in on the Strictly Come Dancing line-up.

It’s a sort of Stockholm syndrome that causes this, I find. The bleary-eyed parents of young children are a captive audience; we all turn to the TV at some point and our brains start to whir. When I’m watching TV with my kids, underneath all the normal chatter – and without any real conscious involvement from me – I’m idly creating marry-shag-kill lists of the denizens of Paw Patrol (Cap’n Turbot, no; his French cousin, oui), Go Jetters and even Netflix’s StoryBots (so far I just have dibs on Super Mega Awesome Ultra Guy).

Just the way I started fancying unlikely people on Home & Away when I was sofa-bound with some adolescent virus, now I’m exposed to mum-content my lizard-brain is still ticking away, trying to figure out my ideal mate should I need one. And it would seem that, in some post-nuclear future, my brain has decided that Lord Tumble holds my best chance of repopulating the Earth. Thanks for that, grey matter.

So, we’ve cleared that one up. Fancying kids’ TV stars is a little bit discombobulating, but perfectly normal, and just a case of your brain spinning its wheels in parent-land. Nothing to see here. That said, my husband’s inappropriate crush is the mum from all the Mog books by Judith Kerr.

Which, I think we can all agree, is just plain sick.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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