A former Conservative MP has released a children’s book about his two beloved British Bulldogs, having been “inspired” by their “life and adventures”, in an attempt to encourage families to read together.
Anthony Coombs, 70, who was a Conservative MP for Wyre Forest in the West Midlands from 1987 to 1997, instantly fell in love with his son Alexander’s two British Bulldogs, Bobby and Bubba, four years ago.
Living with their “grandad” part-time, the duo that Anthony has lovingly nicknamed “the piggies” gave the ex-politician a wave of inspiration to write books about their adventures on their daily walks.
Anthony published Bobby And Bubba’s Small Adventures in November 2022, a collection of stories inspired by real events that have taken place while out walking near Anthony’s home in Warwickshire.
“I had to do writing in parliament, so that helped a little – but it’s not like Bobby and Bubba as they really hold my pen,” Anthony said.
Having swapped speech writing for children’s novels, Anthony hopes to encourage families to read together and is already planning Bobby and Bubba’s next literary adventure – a tale about his wife Andrea’s efforts to track down the bulldogs’ siblings.
“They are very loveable and very charismatic – there is no doubt about it,” Anthony said of his canines.
“They encouraged me to use my literary skills. Their adventures on our daily walks were the real cause of inspiration.”
When Anthony’s son, Alexander, adopted the two British Bulldogs, now four, in 2018, the ex-politician wasn’t expecting them to become such important members of the family.
“When Alexander said he was getting bulldogs we thought he was bonkers.
“But it’s the best thing we ever did. We’ve had them since they were 10 weeks old or so.
“We have a house in Chelsea and Warwickshire so we split their time between us and Alexander. They live with us at the moment in Warwickshire.”
However, Anthony explained their cheeky personalities can be troublesome.
“Bubba is like George from Of Mice And Men,” he explained.
“He’s lugubrious, a steady Eddie. He loves affection, but he can also get jealous about Bobby getting affection.
“By contrast, Bobby is a sort of cheeky chappie. He’s lovely and has a beautiful face but he’s not addicted to affection like Bubba.
“He loves things with small wheels, he won’t chase a bicycle or anything large, but if it has tiny wheels like a tricycle or a skateboard, he’ll run after it.”
Splitting the pups’ time between Chelsea and Warwickshire the pair have become local celebrities.
“It’s almost embarrassing,” said Anthony.
“They do enjoy socialising and are very very loveable and charismatic. When take them up the Kings Road in Chelsea, everybody wants to stop.”
“Last time we went out we had at least 30 or 40 people stop us to have their photograph taken with them – it looked like some kind of publicity stunt!”
But the paw-fect pair’s favourite activity is wandering the fields surrounding their home in Warwickshire.
“They did miss basic training,” laughed Anthony.
“So they do pull on their harnesses. We’ve got a lot of room in Warwickshire and a few fields so we can walk without using their leads.
“We like to do a set trail where we start at the same place and come back. If you take them the opposite way they get so uneasy – they are creatures of habit.
“We do longer walks sometimes but they are very strong so it can take it out of you.”
And during lockdown in 2020 Anthony was inspired to start recording the pups adventures.
“The dogs arrived before the idea to write a children’s book,” he said.
“Their life and adventures really inspired me to write something about them.
“A lot of the stories are based on fact. There’s always a little bit of embellishment to the story, such as one I write about an angel.
“Obviously the man we met was angelic but he wasn’t a physical angel in the sky like the illustration, so I do add some imagination.”
“But they are all based on our adventures. I’ve tried to add a little bit of old-fashioned common sense and a moral to the story. Bobby and Bubba And The Snake explains that all creatures have value.
“They were very close to getting bitten, but luckily the snake scuttled away.”
Anthony aims to turn his books into a family affair, hoping to inspire families to read together.
“I’m trying to bridge the gap between picture books for very young children and books for 12 or 13-year-olds,” he said.
“There seems to be less reading these days. I think people’s concentration spans have dropped dramatically as a result of mobile phones and iPads, it does sadly encourage a butterfly approach to reading.
“I wanted to encourage parents to read to their children, so I’ve written the book in a semi-adult way so the short stories are perfect for bedtime reading, either by a parent or a slightly older child.”
For his next book, Anthony has decided to track down the pair’s siblings with his wife, Andrea.
“That’s really Andrea’s project,” he said.
“Every dog is fostered or pulled away from their family. Bobby and Bubba came from a litter of seven and we would like to know what happened to their brothers and sisters.
“They’ve been very lucky to fall on their feet, they’re not spoilt but spoiled. They have a fantastic life.
“But some of their siblings may have not been so lucky. We really want to know what happened to them and write about their adventures.”