Have you seen the children’s stop-motion animation, The Magic Roundabout? I don’t mean the digital re-boot or even the original French version, I mean the first English language version which ran on the BBC from 1966 to 1977. It was short, surreal, sometimes baffling, and kids and adults alike loved it. I know I did. But, as is the way these days, much nonsense has subsequently been invented about the program being deliberately stuffed with drug references and sexual innuendo, about it being subversive and counter-culture. Smug and smirking pundits on 1970s nostalgia shows are always thinking themselves ‘edgy’ for suggesting it so. I do admit that, if you are of a mind to do so, you can find in the show things that could be, to someone actually looking for them, references to sex and drugs. However, I think that it’s only the same as finding dragons and faces in clouds; you have to want to see them. I also think that, like life, if all you do is look for sex and drugs, you miss something much more interesting and I can’t believe I just wrote that.
The premise of the show was that a girl called Florence would take a ride on the titular Magic Roundabout and be transported to a world, which, while it looked exactly the same as the one she had just left, was inhabited by assorted odd-ball animal chums and occasional, just as odd-ball, human characters. Here she would have adventures until she was told by authoritarian and frankly slightly scary Zebedee (a broken jack-in-the-box) that it was ‘Time for bed’, (i.e. as in Bedtime and not a suggestion of “bed, you know, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know what I mean?”) These adventures were random, silly, didn’t always have a coherent structure and they were charming. They were, it seemed to me, the sort of imaginative adventures that young kids would have while playing in an unstructured, unmonitored way, free from adult influence.
Or at least, that was what I thought until, while at an otherwise rather tedious social event, I met a Child Psychologist. We got talking and, having just seen a clip of The Magic Roundabout on an aforementioned nostalgia show (100 Best Kids TV Shows of ALL TIME!) in my hotel room, I went into rant mode along roughly the lines outlined above. The psychologist nodded and then told me about several different cases he had had to deal with which involved abused young girls. He told me that often, in order to escape their nightmare existences, these poor girls’ traumatised minds would get into such a tumultuous state, spinning and whirling with a mix of terror, guilt and confusion that they would suddenly lose all connection to their awful reality and for a while, the child could find relief in a safe, if imaginary, internal world. Until, that is, they were snapped out of it, usually at the hands of their abusers. “Just like Florence,” he said.
“Oh,” I said.
Heinali and Matt Finney have taken the doctor’s version of The Magic Roundabout, strapped us on tightly and put it in reverse. They spin us dizzy and disorientate us so totally but instead of finding relief in a calm and carefree world of the imagination, we are thrown face-to-face with the human psyche at its most troubling.
Right from the get-go, the music has a circular nature, it spins round and round and damn me if there isn’t a warped carousel tune in there too. The guitar, ominous and irregular, keeps the spinning in motion until we find ourselves hypnotised, befuddled and helpless. The guitar stops pushing. The Roundabout recedes into the background. We are at the centre.
And then……. it happens.
Matt Finney’s words. Echoing. Spinning. We hear them in our heads as surely as the narrators had heard them in their own. We understand.
Except it isn’t. It’s not that quick. It’s not that easy. They spin us again, three more times, each one the same devastation, each one different.
Be careful when you listen to this. There is no cod, comedy evil here. No imaginary drugs or sex. What this is, is it’s a way in. A way in to the otherwise locked rooms of the breaking minds of people who have had, one way or another, enough. People on the tipping point. This is the horror of life.
Enjoy the ride.
Time for bed.
Listen to Wilderness below and order immediately from The Flenser.
If you live in Europe, I would go here as the postage is much cheaper!
European Chums buy here