Saturday, 24 February 2018

"Parsley is a herb..."

"Parsley is a herb..."

Although Michael Bond is rightly best-known for his creation of Paddington Bear, the 1968 series 'The Herbs' is probably where I first came across his name.

If 'Paddington' tells the story of an urban bear, then 'The Herbs' is more concerned with Rural Vegetables (no gags about us village people please!). When coming up with the basis of a new animated series for children, not many of us would reach for a 17th century book on the medicinal use of various plants, but that's the genius of Michael Bond for you.

Our guide through this secret green world is the amiable lion Parsley, who is so scared when he first notices the viewers at home that he goes and hides in a bush. Our cat Martha can be spooked by sudden Unexpected Slippers, so we have a lot of sympathy with this.

Everyone (with the exception of that most terrifying witch Belladonna) in the Herb Garden is friendly and respectful of each other. Though Sage the owl is justifiably grumpy when things happen to his beloved nest from time to time.

I can think of few series in which an Italian opera singer and a dragon with a slight speech impediment rub shoulders, but every character here is very well-written, so everyone will have their own particular favourite.

I'm rather fond of Bayleaf the gardener, especially when he feigns a bad back in order to get out of doing a stroke of work. And he scoffs most of the strawberries when he's supposed to be picking them, so fair play to him!

Gordon Rollings (later known for the 'John Smith's Yorkshire Bitter' adverts) does a fantastic job providing the narration and all the voices.

There are only 13 episodes (as with other fondly-remembered show such as 'Bagpuss'), but they are all beautiful pieces of work that have easily earned their place in our DVD collection.

The door to the Herb Garden lets us into a magical world every bit as imaginative as Narnia. The lion may be green, but I'm the one envious of Michael Bond's ability to create such a lovely place to visit. Sheer natural magic!

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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