Creativity

SO WHAT was the inspiration for Fungus the Bogeyman, Raymond Briggs's comic saga of snot, slime and existentialist angst?

Sue Johnson reckons Bogeydom shows Briggs served time in a squalid student squat. The damp bedroom of a down-at-heel B&B in the Old Court Road, circa 1954, says John O'Byrne. Mike Gifford believes Fungus is a reincarnation of Augustus Sneezer (as played by Brian Bless-You!? - Ed) or the Australian cultural attache (Sir Les Patterson) says Kim Noble. And Clair Hubble, Bubble, Boil & Trouble insists the Three Weird Sisters' cauldron inspired the disgusting bits.

Staff Nurse Jill Tinsley reckons Briggs must have been in hospital as a child and that that is where all those green (blue) creatures doing horrible things to you in the middle of the night comes from - and those clanking sounds are the nocturnal migration of oxygen cylinders. Tommy Doyle thinks the scratching on your window comes from the old Lancashire gaslighters climbing their ladders just before dawn and the noises off from clogs clattering on cobbled streets as they went about their work.

Daisy Knight thinks those horrifipilications Fungus engenders in innocents in their beds at night derive from Great Uncle Raymondo the Brigand, Pirate of the Spanish Main, who forced his victims to walk the plank or be cut into a thousand little pieces to feed the fishes. Nonsense! says Rosie Wood, it was Great-Uncle Raiment the Braggart, forever swaggering about, showing off his silken hose and lace, that caused Briggs to create a character whose trousers squelched with slime and grunge disgustingly.

Poppy Robinson will have none of it. It is not a family memory trace, she says, but a species one. Long ago in prehistory, itinerant Neanderthals preyed on Homo sapiens encampments, and came at night and stole and ate their babies. That is why we mistrust gypsies, tell Grimm tales of giants and ogres, and warn children of the Sandman or Bogeyman who will come to snatch them away when they misbehave. Bruce Birchall thinks the book is about lava and volcanoes.

Anthea Moscrop thinks it was inspired by a visit to the Ideal Home Exhibition. Sue Payne thinks it is a parable about leprosy and social exclusion. Neville Dick thinks Fungus is the Devil, Nick Old thinks he is your conscience pricking you.

Daisy Knight, Poppy Robinson and Rosie Wood win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations. Touring theatre groups make lightning costume changes with it. Computer junkies strap their laptops in with it. Fracture clinics make their patients' boots from it. Velcro! (Don't you just love that ripping sound?) We now seek creative uses for Velcro fastenings.

Suggestions to Loki.Valhalla@btinternet.com or Creativity, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL, by 29 December. Results and three more Chambers prizes on 4 January. Next week: that Millennium Bug - are our days numbered?

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