Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Gospel according to Iggle Piggle

Over the last few weeks, Jeremy and Abigail have both become entranced by In the Night Garden on Cbeebies Bedtime Hour.  In fact, it seems to have sidled in to become part of our bedtime routine.  At first I thought it was utter rubbish and that I would go mad if I ever saw another episode, but the more I watch it, the more I see its hidden depths.  You know, if you put your tongue in your cheek and watch it very carefully indeed, In The Night Garden contains a wealth of mythology, theology and symbolism.  I'm sure I have yet to uncover many more layers of meaning, but here's a selection of just a few that I've noticed.

The Night Garden itself, of course, stands for heaven.  Although it has been somewhat clumsily aligned with folk religion in its representation as a place 'up there' in the stars, its various features becoming the constellations of the night sky, plenty of other clues give it a more Biblical grounding.  The mere fact that it is a garden, of course, recalls Eden; the white blossom that parts as we enter it stands for purity, and its inhabitants each take on their own symbolic role:

Iggle Piggle:  The only character who ever seems to enter and leave the garden, Iggle Piggle acts as the visionary or prophet, St John the Divine perhaps, allowing the viewer a peek of eternity.  In his boat, he recalls the ferryman Charon of Greek mythology, accompanying the soul across the dark waters of death to its eternal dwelling.  The red blanket he clutches, which covers him and from which he draws comfort, is an obvious allusion to the blood of Christ, covering sinful humanity to allow passage into the presence of God.

Upsy Daisy: She is the soul.  Traditionally female, she has attained salvation and now dances and sings for joy.  The bed which follows her around symbolises her perpetual state of blissful rest.

The Tombliboos: Although it is tempting to say that Tombliboos Un, Oo and Ee represent the Trinity, this would of course be heresy, as they are three distinct creatures.  I thought that their constant kissing might be a clue, leading me to Psalm 85 verse 10, but if they were Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace there would be four of them; so I think they must be Faith, Hope and Charity, a triad of virtues.  Why they keep losing their trousers is anybody's guess.

The Tittifers: The unique songs of these groups of birds join together in harmony at the end of each episode, calling the garden-dwellers to hear the Story once again.  They symbolise the many tribes and nations perfectly joining together as redeemed souls in harmony with the will of God.

The Pontypines and the Wottingers: Two diminutive families represent unsaved human beings.  Their daily efforts are made to look twittering, pointless and repetitive, recalling Ecclesiastes 1 which bemoans the fate of humanity: "Meaningless, meaningless...there is nothing new under the sun".  The sins of Mr and Mrs Pontypine are visited upon their eight identical children.

The Haa Hoos: May be angels, or may represent the presence of the Holy Spirit, as they are air-filled and gently benevolent.

The Pinky-Ponk and the Ninky-Nonk: two very different ways of getting into and around the garden, these transportations stand for different but equally valid  experiences of conversion, whether chasing and searching for the truth (Ninky-Nonk) or being gently lifted up and led by the spirit (Pinky-Ponk).

Finally, Makka Pakka stands for Christ.  The rocks that are his constant companions symbolise the stones with which he builds his church, as well as the ones which he refused to turn to bread in the wilderness, preferring to embrace his humanity and his task.  Makka Pakka's task is to wash the other garden-dwellers, symbolising forgiveness and baptism, with his special sponge and red soap, a reminder of the sponge of vinegar offered to Jesus on the cross.  This task also reminds us of the washing of the disciples' feet, when Jesus warned Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me" (John 13:8)  He is the servant of all, smaller than all the rest, as it says in Philippians 2 verses 6 and 7: "He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..."  His servitude, though, calls others to humility, as all must bend down to have their faces washed.

So, brothers and sisters, next time that irritatingly catchy music goes '" and poor Derek Jacobi begins his narration, let us venture rejoicing, with open minds and hearts, into the Garden in the Night.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Current State of Play

It's been a while since I blogged here.  What with writing a book, keeping another blog, writing a guest blog and running about after two children, it can sometimes be a struggle to get back here!  However, here's a brief update on the current state of play:

Jeremy is walking, and he is at that stage of walking when he behaves like a wind-up toy whose legs move in a walking motion no matter what position he is in.  Pick him up, and his feet paddle in the air until they come back into contact with the ground.  Lie him down for a nappy change, and you get kicked in the face.  He throws himself into new challenges - literally - last week he had two black eyes from accidents involving a high chair and a toy box respectively.  Today he climbed down the stairs backwards (I was creeping down two stairs below with my arms out, terrified, but he made an elegant and swift descent without any need for catching).

Jeremy is also working on his communication by perfecting the classic point-and-squeak beloved of babies.  Except that Jeremy has made this ancient art his own by adding a stage.  It's now the point, squeak and leap.  He points, he squeaks and if you don't fetch whatever it is in under three seconds he leaps out of your arms in an attempt to get it himself by flying.  He can say a few 'words': 'Brrrrrm' for a car, 'duck' 'dada' and 'Aaaah-kuh!' which means Stowmarket (don't ask!)

Abi has suddenly become a preschooler.  She is tall and has a pair of shiny black shoes.  Her idiosyncrasies of language are just as delightful and nearly as incomprehensible as ever, but they are far more frequent and much more detailed.  When I do her hair: "Can I look in the mirror, so I can see how my pretty?"  When I ask her to do something: "No, I don't like to, I'm too busy."  When she sees something broken, shifted or altered in any way: "Oh! What's that happened?"  When she wants to show me something: "What my got?"  Her favourite thing at the moment is to give me presents.  She will wrap up anything in anything, hand it over saying "Look!  A present to you!" and then do a little dance while I open it.  The dance is an Abi trademark, and also happens whenever she is particularly happy, or knows she is about to get 'clocklick'.

Abi's memory for the spoken word or songs is phenomenal.  When she pipes up in the back of the car, you never know whether you're going to get an entire episode of Mr Tumble or all seventeen verses of The Wheels On The Bus (the daddies on the bus say 'Hello, I'm Daddy', apparently.)  Together we enjoy fitting new words into old structures to make endless verses of all her songs.  Her current favourite is The Animal Boogie.  Last week she composed her own song about a train and I had it stuck in my head for ages.

The best thing about the current state of play is that they finally play with each other.  Yes, it might be for only two minutes at a time, but real interaction is happening!  They are able to make each other giggle, and enjoy each others' company!  I live for those moments.  I hope this phase lasts for a while.