Did You Remember To Say Herbidacious When You Opened The Book?
Bayleaf's bonfire is smoking, apparently, which is high praise in certain quarters, so I'm told...
The grand total of 9s and 6d would have secured you a brand new copy of this annual based around 'The Herbs' in 1968. For something that's been on this planet for 50 years, our copy is in pretty decent condition. The crossword has been neatly filled-in, but no-one's done any wild scribbling on the colouring-in page. We don't even have a clue as to who this originally belonged to. You are invited to write your name in it if you like, but the space has been left blank. Our 1970 annual apparently belonged to Sarah, who also knew people (or animals - it's not clear) called Susie and Boris.
'Herbs' annuals are bright and colourful affairs, with distinctive artwork from Esor, which is Rose backwards, I've just noticed. Not strictly a herb, I agree, but not too wide of the mark.
We kick off with an illustration of the magic door to the Herb Garden and the remider that you can only enter this magical word by intoning the special word HERBIDACIOUS...
Sir Basil has got his ancient photographic equipment out and Bayleaf, Lady Rosemary, Parsley and Dill are posing either in or near some bushes. Sage is observing from his nest high up in a tree and Constable Knapweed is clearly a bit suspicious as to the nature of these activities. I suspect if you doesn't get a satisfactory explanation soon, he'll be reaching for his notebook and licking the end of his pencil...
We then get a look at the photos once they've been developed and we waste no time in diving headlong into the first of the stories, which is 'Parsley And The Treacle Mine'. There's an accompanying puzzle where you have you trace the roue Parsley took during the adventure, which brings back memories of 'Death To The Daleks' for those of us of a certain age.
Bayleaf gets his own page (actually it's two pages, but let's not quibble) about Gardening with some notes on how to care for herbs. Say what you like about these annuals, at least most of the features have at least a vague connection with the series it's based on.
There's a load of letters stuck in a tree that can be arranged to form words such as ONION and MINT, then the aforementioned colouring page, which is allegedly and black-and-white photo of Sage, taken by Sir Basil, though I'm not completely convinced.
'Old Granny Cringe's Pull-Up For Lions And Hot Dogs' is the memorable title of the next bit of fiction, with a guest appearance by Belladonna, that most terrifying of witches, who coats Dill's feet in mustard and places him between two halves of a long-bread roll. You see, the clue was in the title!
Sage gets a bobble hat to wear in this tale, although he's abandoned it by the time we reach Sage's Crossword Page. Perhaps he did not like a hat like that, after all...
Mrs Onion does some cookery, telling us how to make Caraway Seed Biscuits, then we reach the Obligatory Dice Game, which does by the name of Herbadice. Next year's game is called Herbatug, which is less thrilling than it sounds, frankly.
Believe it or not, we are toying with the idea of doing a video featuring us playing Herbadice, if we can fit in into our busy schedule. It might not be the most exciting thing we'll ever attempt, but at least it would be different...
Constable Knapweed considers codes, Mr Onion sets some Problems and Aunt Mint has got her wool in a muddle. All fairly standard stuff in the Herb Garden.
Pashana Bedhi tells a story involving camels with the message that it is dangerous to be greedy, so you can't knock the moral viewpoint of the old fakir.
Lady Rosemary enthuses about her Lavendar Pillows and then we consider Herbs Through The Ages, with the traditional mention of Culpeper amd a shout-out to Hippocrates for good measure.
There are some 'Footprints In The Snow' with Dill claiming at one point that "We've baptured a curglar!" in his excitement.
We're nearing the end now and Sir Basil has rigged up a remote control for his camera that relies heavily on his fishing-rod and a heavy rock.
There's just time to provide the Answers to the various puzzles posed during the course of the book before Parsley bids us a rhyming farewell and waves at us from behind the Magic Door.
See you all again in the next annual! (Price 12s 6d)
(By Andrew Trowbridge)