B.G. Hilton – Writer

Bernard Cribbins

Celebrity deaths are an odd thing.

I mean, I guess they’re not that odd. Everyone dies, even the famous. But what I mean is, how they hit you can be unpredictable. These are people you generally don’t know, after all, or don’t know well. You know them through their work and how that work affected you, rather than than through knowing what it’s like to sit down to a coffee and a sandwich with them. You miss what they did, rather than who they were.

But you miss them.

Which brings us to Bernard Cribbins. He’s been in so many things I’ve watched and enjoyed over the years – the Wombles, Faulty Towers, the Carry On movies – but he was just there, you know? One of dozens of faces you see in old movies. Honestly, I never really connected his roles until he turned up on Doctor Who during David Tennant’s tenure. He was awesome – someone who could share a screen with big personalities Tennant or Catherine Tate and (with a much lower key performance) act circles around them.

I heard he was in one of the Peter Cushing Dr Who movies, and that was when I started to think about him in terms of a career, rather than individual roles. I joined the dots, and realised how many memorable performances had been the same role. He wasn’t just a face, he was an actor I liked.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for an audio book for my daughter. On the library website, I found Winnie the Pooh, read by none other than Bernard Cribbins. My daughter loves it – she can recite huge chunks of text about Owl’s front door or Pooh’s thoughts on bees. That’s part AA Milne’s prose, of course, but I suspect it’s largely Cribbins’ inspired reading. He made the characters all distinct and alive, moving between voices seamlessly. His Eeyore is phenomenal – not just glum, but bitter and resentful and a little angry.

And then he died. My daughter was actually listening to his Pooh stories when I read the news, and I had to pretend that I said ‘Oh!’ very loudly for a different reason.

So there you go. Bernard Cribbins. I didn’t think much of him until he was in his eighties, I never met him. But I’ll miss him.

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