The Magic Roundabout

When I was very young, children’s television was Watch with Mother, though my mother generally got on with more productive things while I watched. Monday was Patricia Driscoll with something called Picturebook. Tuesday was Andy Pandy, a dubious character in a stripey romper suit, who slept in a basket with a doll called Looby Loo and a bear. I expect he’s a retired banker these days, calling himself Andrew Pandrew. Wednesdays was the Flowerpot Men, Bill and Ben (with Weed), the first television programme I ever saw. Thursdays was Rag, Tag, and Bobtail, and the viewing week finished on Fridays with the Woodentops, a completely unmemorable set of characters with names like ‘Mummy Woodentop’ and ‘Daddy Woodentop’.

The Magic Roundabout came along later, when I was at boarding school, and we watched it between tea and evening prep. Compared with Watch with Mother (or even Popeye), the Magic Roundabout was magic (as it were). It had originally been made in French, but the English version, narrated by Emma Thompson’s dad, made little or no attempt to adhere to the original story lines, lending the whole series a slightly surreal tone. As schoolboys we loved it. It was like hallucinogenic drugs without getting expelled. For all I know, Camberwick Green and Hector’s House were the same for my younger brother, but I never watched them.

Whether it was Ernest Thompson or someone else who gave the characters their character (as it were), the end result was a success. The kindly Mr Rusty, Dylan the dozy rabbit who sounded as if he’d been trying rather more traditional hallucinogens (like Weed), Brian the Snail, and Dougal, the philosophical dog. Zebedee was a moustachioed Jack in the Box, who announced at the end of the episode that it was ‘time for bed’, or in our case, evening prep. My favourite, however, was Florence. Admittedly, at the time, I fancied girls, but Florence was a puppet, and if you fancied puppets, Lady Penelope probably had the edge. Most of my schoolmates favoured Dylan or Dougal, but I just liked Florence.

Thank you, Natasha.

Thank you, Natasha.

When my daughter was a baby, a friend gave me her old toys, including a Florence puppet. It’s one of my more treasured possessions. Some years later, New Look did a range of T shirts featuring Magic Roundabout characters, but only in young girls’ sizes. For a few moments, I tried to convince myself that I could wear an ‘age 10’ girl’s T shirt, but I didn’t even have to try one on to see that it wouldn’t fit (besides, I doubt they’d have let me into the fitting rooms to find out). It’s one of the great disappointments of my life. I so wanted a Florence T shirt bearing the slogan, ‘Go with the Flo’.

9 thoughts on “The Magic Roundabout

  1. I feel sorry you couldn’t fit into ten year old’s (size) T shirt with Florence on it! I am certain though, if you can get a picture of Florence (as above) or another of your choice and take it to a ?market/similar. Pictures can be (I forget the name of the process) – emblazoned onto a plain T shirt. I’ve done similar with children’s mugs in the past, although they came in a pack.
    So never fear, Francie dear, it can be done and your wish will be complete.

    • Thanks, Elena. The puppet is mine (now), and so is the photo, but I suspect that pictures of Florence from the Magic Roundabout will be subject to copyright. If I could find a Florence doll, with the big shoes and all, I could photograph that, and then I could get the T shirt 🙂 Xx.

  2. I seem to remember Tales of the Riverbank about the same time though a little later I remember my favourite puppet driven programme was Four Feather Falls. I think I must have been about 11 or 12 before The Magic Roundabout hit the screens as I was at grammar school when people were talking about it.
    Hugs Francis.

    • I have memories of Tales of the Riverbank (Hammy the Hamster and Co, possibly narrated by Johnny Morris), but I think they’re from later than Watch with Mother. It isn’t always easy to order memories. The Magic Roundabout was probably around before I went to boarding school, but that was where I first saw it.

  3. Thanks for the children’s t.v. memories Francis. I thought I was the only person who remembered Rag, Tag & Bobtail – they were my favourites. Being slightly older than you, I also remember Muffin the Mule. I was given the puppet as a Xmas present but frustratingly could never get the strings to make the legs work in the same way as they did on the tele.

    • I never saw Muffin the Mule on TV, but I do remember Twizzle. I watched the Flowerpot Men at my friend Jeremy’s house. There were about twenty children piled around the room, all concentrating on the tiny black and whit TV in the corner. I’m sorry your Muffin puppet didn’t work properly. My lovely Florence puppet isn’t as lovely as the stop-go puppet on TV. Life is full of disappointments 🙂 Xx.

  4. ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.’ Lovely nostalgic post, Francis. Bill and Ben was the first telly programme I ever saw too. Mindblowing! The beauty of Magic Roundabout was that it came on just before the evening news so it was OK for adults just in from work to watch it and it became a kind of cult. Dylan the spaced-out rabbit was my favourite character. Florence didn’t really do it for me as I was about 18 by then and more interested in Raquel Welch. When my own kids were little I got heavily into Bagpuss and Postman Pat, but I’ll always remember The Magic Roundabout with fondness. Time for bed!

    • Nothing wrong with Raquel Welch 🙂 Fenny bought me a vintage film magazine for Christmas once, because it had Raquel Welch on the cover. I subsequently gave it back to her, as incidental material for her retro look hairdressing salon. Go with the Flo.

  5. Her crowning moment was fighting dinosaurs in that fur bikini (Raquel Welch, not Florence). I think the film was called 10,000 Years BC. Not sure it was entirely accurate, archaeologically-speaking, but hey!

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