THE single joke which made our children laugh the most – and does to this day – was, I fear, a little crude. It was based on the theme song of Parsley the lion in The Herbs, the original of which goes as follows: ‘I’m a very friendly lion called Parsley, I am always very glad to see you wave. But please don’t shout or speak to me too harshly, because I’m not particularly brave.’
Our version was the same apart from the third line, which was ‘If you don’t like it you can stick it up your Arseley.’ Hardly PG Wodehouse, I agree, but it never failed to leave them helpless.
The Herbs, comprising just 13 episodes each of 15 minutes, was written by the Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond and went out in the Watch With Mother slot from February 1968.
It involved a mixture of stop-motion human and animal characters in a walled garden on a country estate. Apart from the aforementioned Parsley, the main cast comprised Dill the hyperactive dog, forever chasing his tail; Sage the bad-tempered owl; Sir Basil the red-nosed aristocrat who was rubbish at huntin’ and fishin’; his wife Lady Rosemary who kept him under her thumb; Bayleaf the hard-working gardener; and Constable Knapweed, a jobsworth who delighted in writing the Herbs’ transgressions in his notebook.
At the opening of each episode, narrator Gordon Rollings spoke the magic word ‘herbidacious’, which caused the garden gate to open. Although Parsley did not speak, his opinions were voiced by Rollings in deadpan fashion. This was reminiscent of Dougal the dog in the Magic Roundabout, whose thoughts were elucidated by narrator Eric Thompson, father of the blessed Emma.
As in the Magic Roundabout, much of the material went over the young viewers’ heads but struck a chord with watching parents, giving it a cult following which still prevails.
Here is a VHS compilation with a pretty silly opening few minutes before we get into four episodes of The Herbs.
In 1970 began The Adventures of Parsley, 32 five-minute episodes which separated the children’s programmes from the early-evening news. By this time Parsley had found his voice, as had Dill.
The entire Parsley oeuvre is available on DVD and if you don’t like it you can . . .