Your first born is approaching a year old. They are showing an interest in the tv for more than 3 seconds (finally! You have waiting a bloody age for this!) and then one evening, as they wind down before bed, you find yourself tuning into CBeebies and watching a squat little furry ghost drying stones with bellows. Yes, that's right. You have discovered In The Night Garden.
You wonder what on Earth has happened to your life that this is now a part of your routine. But your child LOVES it. Which means you will begin to watch entire episodes daily. Maybe multiple episodes daily. Maybe multiple episodes all day long until you want to scoop your own eyeballs out with a Tommee Tippee weaning spoon.
So before you embark on this acid-trip of marathon viewing, let me acquaint you with the low down on ITNG (yes, there's even an acronym that parents just know):
So Iggle Piggle is pretty much the protagonist of the whole thing. He drifts off in a sail boat during the opening credits, drifting to the Night Garden, though where he's actually come from is anyone's guess because he's bright blue with four red stumps of hair. He doesn't talk but communicates solely by making the squeaking noise you get if you squeeze a dog toy. Derek Jacobi (narrator - yes, really) sings a little jingle whenever he first appears in an episode, where we are treated to the linguistic genius of such rhymes as iggle, piggle, wiggle, niggle and diggle. Those five words form a good 95% of the song*
*this is a completely random figure I've plucked from my head and is in no way mathematically accurate.
Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk
Yep. The Ninky Nonk is essentially a train which trundles around the Night Garden, sometimes small enough to be at the characters' feet and sometimes big enough that they can hop on for a ride. The Pinky Ponk is the Night Garden's answer to an air ship which moves slower than a toddler trying to put their own socks on, so that Jacobi is even forced to say "hurry up Pinky Ponk" for fear that we wont make it into the Night Garden before the 25 minutes viewing time is up and the Tittifers (more on them later) will be ready to call it a day. Seasoned pros will begin to know which mode of transport is coming to take us (figuratively) into the Night Garden by the music which starts to play in the background. Your child WILL have a favourite (both mine preferred the Ninky Nonk - and to be honest I concur - the Pinky Ponk is a bit shit).
As someone who likes to build women up not put them down, it pains me to say that Upsy Daisy was always my least favourite character. She only uses the words 'upsy, daisy, do' to communicate and has a skirt which inflates sporadically. Her hair spikes a little when her skirt inflates as if she's has an electric shock, and she kisses things in the garden a lot. She's just a bit annoying. Even her bed runs away from her.
Like a little white Moomin with Princess Leia inspired hair, Makka Pakka is marginally OCD and enjoys stacking stones and washing them. He likes everything to be clean actually and often accosts other dwellers of the Night Garden whilst they're walking, dancing, kissing the flowers, to wash their faces. In fact I think that's pretty much the storyline of the entire first episode (aired TEN YEARS AGO - I kid you not). Not only does he wash them all but he then dries them with his 'uff-uff'. I know. He has his own song too. The opening line is "Makka Pakka akka wakka mikka makka moo". Nuff said.
The Tombliboos are called Un, Oo and Ee, because why use consonants to teach my young child to count to three when we can confuse the frig out of him? These creatures mostly spend their days putting their trousers on, playing ball or brushing their teeth with enormous toothbrushes. They have a song as well which, compared to Makka Pakka's rhapsody of shite, is practically worthy of a Grammy.
The Pontipines and the Wottingers
The Pontipines are like a little peg doll Von Trapp family. They come out of the house, do an individual twirl each, do a little dance on the front lawn and then either go back inside or trot off for a walk. The Wottingers are their blue, agoraphobic twin neighbours. When Derek Jacobi zooms in on their semi detached houses and asks "Who's here?", you can probably bet your mortgage/rent/partner on the fact that it's the Pontipines. And if it isn't? I promise you that you will take to social media and may possibly ring your partner to tell them "It was the Wottingers today!". You may even crack open the wine (any excuse).
These are terrifyingly huge inflatable shapes which bounce up and down and laugh as the characters frolic in the garden. They serve no real purpose, except for the fact that their name just makes me think it's a euphemism for lady parts:
"Did you hear about Sandra? She got her haahoo pierced."
That kinda thing.
So all these characters dick about in the garden for fifteen, twenty minutes (actually sometimes it's not all the characters, sometimes it's just the Tombliboos running around their house which is essentially just the inside of a conifer bush, for fifteen minutes, sporadically brushing teeth or pegging out washing. Don't make the mistake of Sky +ing this particular episode as it will make you question all life choices which have lead you to this point. I speak from experience).
So after all the 'fun', they sometimes get together for a communal dance on the bandstand whilst the Haahoos lurk monstrously in the background. After this there's an animated version of the episode's events which manages to condense 20 minutes viewing into approximately 38 seconds.
Then it's the Tittifers (yep) which is basically the ITNG word for 'birds'. They are essentially the stage hands who transition you from scene to scene throughout the episode. Towards the end of the episode, they all congregate on one tree and chirp a bit until Derek Jacobi announces that "the Tittifers have sung their song" and you know that the nightmare is nearly over.
The characters then, in turn, go to bed. Except Iggle Piggle who tries it on a bit and can be found pratting about on the path at the end, trying to avoid bedtime. A word from Jacobi though and Iggle Piggle is ready to wave goodbye and return to his boat, setting sail for wherever the heck he's come from.
And then it will finish. It will maybe signal bedtime for your children (Hallelujah!) and as you listen to the music (which is actually really sweet) you will be dazed and confused by what you've just watched.
And even more confused as to why you found it so endearing.