Amazingly, despite the lurgy once more taking hold of me, we’ve reached day six of this year’s A-Z blog challenge without a break. (This is because there will definitely be a couple of days towards the end of the month when I have to take a break due to family stuff – including a wedding, so I need to crack on.)
So where are we today? Well, we’ve reached the letter F, and the letter F can only take us to one TV programme from my youth. Yes, today we’re down at…
“Dance your cares away. (clap, clap!)
Worry’s for another day,
Let the music play (clap, clap!)
Down at Fraggle Rock!”
Fraggle Rock (together with The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe) is heavily responsible for , and laid the seeds over thirty years ago, for some of the ideas I had in 2011 when I began to write my children’s novel. More of which I’ll come to later.
For those of you who lived in a cave during the mid 1980s (or were either too young or too old to have seen it, or a Fraggle yourself), Fraggle Rock was a Jim Henson creation (he of Muppet fame) and followed the lives of three different types of muppet creatures: the Fraggles, the Doozers and the Gorgs, who all lived hidden beneath the rocks. Hence the name Fraggle Rock.
Now in Britain the rocks were under a lighthouse owned by “The Captain” played by Scottish actor Fulton MacKay (better known in Britain for his role in the 1970s comedy Porridge as the prison officer Mr Mackay), and his puppet dog Sprocket. In The U.S The captain was an inventor and the character changed depending on which country the series was sold to.
The thing which stayed the same, however, were the story-lines involving the Fraggles (the main muppet characters), the giant Gorgs and the ever so cute teeny-tiny, hard working Doozers.
The Fraggles like to have fun and sing and dance. They eat radishes and often have to steal these from the Gorg’s garden. Wembley was always my favourite Fraggle. He used to do some crazy stuff with his eyes and was always the funniest.
Of the Gorgs, I loved Junior Gorg best. He had a lisp and was so cute with huge eyes and a bulbous nose. He would capture ‘Fwaggles’ for fun, in an attempt to collect them, but they always escaped as he was a bit stupid! What I could never figure out about the Gorgs was where on Fraggle Rock they were in relation to the Lighthouse. The Fraggles and Doozers lived under the rock, that was clear, but the Gorgs lived in a complete fantasy medieval land complete with castle and the ‘Trash Heap” made from old compost and leaves, which spoke and was always very wise. Yes, it was as mad as it sounds but I loved it!
The Doozers never featured that much, but were definitely my favourite creatures because they were just too cute! Just look at them in the picture below! Even the name Doozer is cute. It wasn’t until recently I discovered what it was Doozers did from reading a book on my 7 year old’s kindle called What do Doozers Do? Just keep saying that out loud! What does a Doozer do? Doozer do?! It’s hilarious! I always wondered what the little transparent constructions they build all around Fraggle Rock were for, and it turns out they are special crystallised sticks made from radish dust! The Fraggles actually then eat the construction sticks! Who knew? (Well apparently it is shown in some episodes, but my memory isn’t that good.)
What I think attracted me to Fraggle Rock overall though, other than the great characters and the fact I loved muppets anyway, was probably the fact that it was extremely colourful (kids love colour), there was lots of music, it was happy and upbeat, but also there was the ever so important element of wit in it, largely through the character of Gobo’s Uncle Travelling Matt who would send postcards back to Fraggle Rock about his adventures in ‘Outer Space’ (basically London!) with the ‘silly creatures’ – humans.
This brings me very much to my own ideas for my novel, some of which were very conscious and others which were not, but on thinking back to Fraggle Rock, it was clear something had stuck in my psyche.
The Fraggles can access the human world via a great gaping hole in the lighthouse’s wall, and often Sprocket the dog knows there’s something not quite right and barks away at the hole. Not that The Captain ever pays him any attention, and he never sees the Fraggles. Now when we were growing up, there was a hole in the skirting board and door frame where our lounge met the pantry next door. It wasn’t a huge hole, but it was big enough that a draft would blow up from the dark, cold pantry into the lounge. (For those of you unaware of what a pantry was – the house I lived in growing up was a traditional Edwardian terraced house and back in the day, before refrigerators, food was stored in the pantry -a small storage room, which in our case was located in the hallway between the lounge and the kitchen under the stairs. There was a door on our pantry, though I remember my Grandad’s didn’t have one even though his house was built on the same layout.)
Anyway, our pantry didn’t store food as it was the ’80s and we had a fridge. Instead for many years it housed my dad’s amateur radio gear on a desk and he’d hide away in there after dinner communicating across the world with various people he’d never met. Kind of like an early version of Twitter if one thinks about it. He even had room for a chair in there. I then had this crazy idea that my parents could convert the pantry into a bedroom for me! It had a little window after all, so it could be a room surely? Having to share a bedroom with up to three siblings clearly got to me at some point and I fixated in my imagination on this idea, drawing up plans of where the bed could go and maybe a shelf or two! Honestly, Harry Potter is punished by being put to sleep under the stairs – and there was me wanting to! Of course it never happened, and when my third brother came along my mum and dad got an extension and myself and my sister got to have the newly converted bedroom (once the bathroom) to ourselves.
So how on earth does this link to Fraggle Rock and my idea for my novel? Well, I used to imagine that Fraggles lived under the pantry floor and that they could access our house via the hole in the door frame/skirting just as they did at the lighthouse in Fraggle Rock. I loved the idea of that and really did allow my imagination to run away with this idea.
It eventually led me to come up with the idea of a group of creatures living under our feet in a parallel world (Trelflande instead of Fraggle Rock), but with humans ( Oomans as I call them – the ‘Silly creatures’) living in The Overworld (‘Outer Space’) having no clue about what’s going on right under their very nose. (The Captain never had a clue of course). All this I guess is where my subconscious called back to Fraggle Rock. Children in my book would be a little like the dog Sprocket and they would find the creatures and would be able to see them, as children, unlike adults, will allow their imagination to. Sort of like us kids believing Fraggles lived under our pantry in the ’80s, or that our teddy bears and dolls were alive and had feelings and needed dressing in warmer clothes when winter came. (Yes we did that, and put on shows for them!), when my parents would know this was nonsense.
Another very vivid memory associated with Fraggle Rock were the songs. Aside from yet another great theme tune, there was one other one in particular which stood out. Either my sister or brother number one (can’t remember who) owned the Fraggle Rock theme tune on 7″vinyl. I had a record player that my grandad had given me and this was housed in our tip of a bedroom. (Remember there were four of us sharing it alongside the population of China in soft toys – so the room was always a complete mess.) Now of course our mum would make us tidy in up on occasion (or all the time it seemed to us ), often telling us not to show our faces until it was done. And how did we wile away the time to get this laborious job done? Well if we really wanted motivating, we’d stick on the B-side to the Fraggle Rock single, which was called Workin’ and we’d sing along and chuck everything under the beds in record speed time!
It went something like this:
Wake up in the morning
Get yourself to work
Fraggles never fool around
Fraggles never shirk
Duty’s (pronounced dooty) always waiting,
Duty must be do-uh-uh-ne
There’s ping pong games that must be played,
And songs that must be sung.
Workin’, workin’ workin’ workin’
Motivational stuff, hey?!
Yes, Fraggle Rock is definitely in my top 10 children’s programmes. I’d never have guessed back in 1984 at the age of 8 or 9 I’d bring it all back and revive some of the key concepts in a book of my own thirty years later.
And the idea of the Doozer construction scenes are currently playing out in the part I’m writing right now. Unfortunately not in such a cute or friendly way! Far more sinister and dark.
Thanks as ever for reading, and hopefully I’ll find you back here tomorrow, for day 7 and the letter G, where we’ll be swinging our pants. (Some of you will get that clue, some of you won’t have a clue!)