October 24th 1996

GOOD MORNING. Earlier this week Wallace and Gromit, the Oscar-winning plasticine film stars, were lost in New York by their creator Nick Park. Having acted out adventures for others, they now found themselves in the middle of their own.

Imagine the scene. Pitch dark in the boot of the taxi. Gromit blinks. Wallace shakes his head. “It’s no use prevaricating about the bush, Gromit. We’re lost.” Gromit blinks again.

So Wallace activates his techno-automatic-escape-system, and they woosh – wsshhh – out through the exhaust pipe – pwt! – and into the open air. Manhattan towers above them. They are alone. No Nick. Anywhere.

For the first time, ever, in their lives, they don’t have to do as he tells them. “This is a fine how d’ye do, isn’t it Gromit? We’re free.” They spend a whole weekend doing all the things Nick never allows.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Nick Park, their creator, had faxed every police station in town, and spoken to more officials than he cared to count. He had repeatedly braced himself to bear yet another cop say, “You’re missing what?’”

When questioned, he said he did have other puppets, but that wasn’t the point. He admitted that he could Indeed make more, but nothing would ever replace Wallace and Gromit. He was quoted as saying he was close to tears. He almost felt as if he’d lost part of himself.

At last, an hour before dawn, Wallace and Gromit were found. Mr. Park, clearly delighted, said he would never let them travel in the boot of a taxi again. Wallace and Gromit themselves were presumed to be relieved at the end of their adventure, but Mr. Park was absolutely ecstatic. Any creator would feel the same.

Suppose, Jesus said, you had a hundred sheep, and lost one of then, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine and go and look for that one lost sheep until you found it? In the same way, there’s more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety nine righteous people who don’t need to.

Anne Atkins is a novelist and broadcaster. Her most recent novel ‘On Our Own’ is published by Sceptre at £16.99.