THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (AND ROBERT DUNCAN)

A visit to the Hergé Museum, the home of a legend…

The whole idea of going to Belgium to see the sister of my stepson and ward Sam, and to meet her new little chap, was beginning to get tiresome. Driving to Dover to catch the ferry at the height of the terrible weather was worrying – even the big traffic signs on the M40 warned of delays at that white cliffed paradise, and they were more than two hours drive away. The M20 contained every lorry in England (probably containing immigrants trying desperately to get out) and my kindly sat nav had come up with a new route which landed us in the biggest traffic jam I’d ever seen. So started four hours of waiting…we couldn’t get out and only moved forward when presumably some bloke announced to his depressed family that he couldn’t be bothered to wait and did a quick u-turn. Home for tea and wine.

We sat there until they let us on the 4 o’clock ferry (the only one that day) and were finally allowed to have a pee – where I met someone who’d been waiting since 8am.

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But I digress. The high spot of the trip for me was to be our visit to the Hergé Museum – a few miles away from our hotel in Leuven. I tried “I’ve lost that Leuven feeling…” to lighten the mood, but this was greeted with a rather starchy “How long have you been working on that?” So I decided to leave it.

The Hergé Museum is a fascinating and inventive place. A beautiful purpose built building, with walkways, loads of layers, and lots of lovely rounded corners. Everywhere are enormous vinyls of young Tintin, which on close examination have that roughness of line which makes it a true enlargement of the original, as opposed to a clean cut vector line. But what do I know – that’s probably exactly what it is.

My main quest, apart from heading for the shop to buy some needless Tintin goodies, was to examine the beautiful pencil work which Hergé seemed to do constantly, before they were inked in to such an effect that even Andy Warhol was inspired – quoting the greatest Belgian (apart from Jacques Brel) as one of his key influences. Hergé’s reward was a typical Warhol with his mug shot in it four times. Praise indeed…

Anyway, my little boy Jamie, and Sam, seemed engrossed with the mini-movies that were on display – King Kong and that sort of thing. More inspiration for this prolific artist – so I wandered off to my pencil sketches, and was just examining one when my glasses fell off and smashed on the floor. I picked up the bits and threw them in a bin, only to be told by Sam that I could have used one of the lenses as a monocle. Good thinking too late…

Hergé was editor of Le Petit Vingtieme, a children’s supplement to a Belgian newspaper, from 1928 – and when he’d got his feet firmly under the table he introduced his new character Tintin to the mix. From 1929 to his death in 1983 Hergé apparently drew Tintin without stopping. He completed 23 comic books which hopefully we all know and love, and oversaw the production of an enormous range of spin-offs, from T-shirts to TV series, watches to wireless programmes. Pity he didn’t have a chance to see Spielberg’s ground-breaking animated film from 2011. Seen it three times so far…

So they built a lovely museum to honour the lovely man. And I don’t blame them. We had a great time, even though I saw most of it without the benefit of sharp focus, and ended up in the shop, buying fluffy Snowy models for Jamie, nothing for Sam because it wasn’t cool enough, and a gorgeous Tintin figurine for me – which now stands proudly next to Rupert.

Funny place Belgium. I think it was shut. But that morning was something else. “Great snakes Tintin my boy…”

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