Dan Boyle: The Tragic Roundabout


From top:  the cast of 1970s children’s favourite ‘The Magic Roundabout’; Brexiteers, from left: Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox: Dan Boyle

It makes more sense to me now. It was an allegory written before the events it so perfectly describes. Growing up watching it I thought it surreal, but now realise it was created as prognostication at is finest.

On the learning the history of what was meant to me a children’s television programme, it seems that the story of the making of the programme was as illustrative as its contents were.

The premise was a set of characters who lived on or around a fairground roundabout, a Magic Roundabout, a perfect allegory for people or things that never went anywhere.

The characters themselves also represented allegorical material capable of describing qualities we see now in abundance – the distance from reality; the slowness of response; the denial of the possible; the comfort of considering themselves separate and apart.

The main character was a long haired dog. His friend a jack out of the box, who moved across the screen propelled by a spring. Other characters included a snail, a cow and a rabbit. The only character which seemed to missing was that of a unicorn.

The programme was quite popular in its own right. In its later years it acquired a considerable adult following, even if many of these watched under a chemically induced euphoria.

It might even be suggested that the programme was to the forefront in preparing a society and its politics, for its eventual infantilisation.

It had all begun in a spirit of entente. Developed in France, where it was broadcast as Le Manège enchanté, one of the its principal animators was English. The BBC expressed an interest in the programme but was unwilling to use subtitles or to dub the French script into English.

What they eventually decided to do, in a typical display of British (English) diffidence, was to use the French films which were then narrated with completely different story lines.

Characters names were also changed. The dog character who in French was called Pollux (and he was a bit of a one) became Dougal in English.

The name change almost caused a diplomatic incident as the French thought it a subtle satirical dig at their President, General De Gaulle. The man, who at that time, was continuing and adamantly saying ‘Non’ to the idea of the United Kingdom becoming a member of what was then called the European Community.

The inability to use the same terms, the same script, or even the same language, saw the British refer to the European Community as the Common Market, which according to tone and emphasis could be loaded with meaning.

I shouldn’t have to join the dots here and state how this relates to where we are now. The Magic Roundabout is Brexit before its time. Brexit is just as surreal, just as mind-bendingly awful.

A melange of characters who just don’t get it, who sadly don’t want to get it. A perverse collection of ideologues who want to impose their deranged narratives in interpreting the same basic material.

Perhaps the best logic that can be applied to this whole sorry mess, is to dwell upon the words of the jack out of the box character, Zebedee, who would end every episode of the British series with the immortal phrase, “It’s time for bed,”.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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35 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: The Tragic Roundabout

  1. SOQ

    Back in the day, while in various states of chemical undress, I used to quite fancy Dougal.

    Never knew he was French mind.

    Every days a skool day eh?

  2. Martco

    jasus @bisted, grab yourself a coffee and a marathon bar wouldya?

    thanks Dan, all these years & I did not know that little factoid about magic roundabout

    always had a soft spot for de Gaulle

    1. bisted

      …hear you Martco but I’ve been redacted anyway…can’t resist a poke at Dan Dublin Bay Rockall…

        1. bisted

          …was your geography askew when you voted in several UK elections and the US Presidential election while drawing a pension for ex-senators?

          1. Dan Boyle

            Nope. That was something I was legally entitled to do in each jurisdiction. And would do again tomorrow, if only to get you more wound up….

    2. rotide

      FYI Factoid actually means a piece of false information which is repeated often enough to become true in peoples minds, sort of like Bogart’s non quote of Play it again sam. Rather than meaning a small little tidbit of a fact, it actually means Fake News

        1. Martco

          I see, learning all the time here today

          yeah..I guess factoid in my case comes of reading a lot of computing textbooks which are usually written in American

      1. Eoin

        Next week, he’ll be telling us how Wanderly Wagon was the inspiration for the Green’s climate change policy – “ditch the car, saddle up the wagon”

  3. Fairly Mary

    Dan’s Projecting again, using a children’s TV show to scold his opponents for doing exactly what he does…

    “a perfect allegory for people or things that never went anywhere.”

    “the distance from reality; the slowness of response; the denial of the possible; the comfort of considering themselves separate and apart.”

    “A perverse collection of ideologues who want to impose their deranged narratives in interpreting the same basic material.”

    Dan is worried that when the UK leaves the EU and thrives as an economy and society then he will look like a fool. Again.

    He will have to invent a raft of fake evidence about how badly the UK have stuffed things up.

    But Dan is used to fake evidence. We’ve all seem him promote the lie of catastrophic man-made climate change. And then first castigate others who disagree before sticking his head in the sand to ignore the evidence that proves him wrong.

    1. Mickey Twopints

      “Tell Mary she’s talking merde” said Florence
      “Don’t waste your breath” said Dougal

      “Time for bed!” said Zebedee.

      Goodnight, Dougal!
      Goodnight, Florence!
      Goodnight, Mary!

    2. Papi

      Fairly Mary sat on a wall
      Fairly Mary Had a great fall
      Fairly Mary cant hide the fact it posts under a new name
      With the same ol same ol….

    3. Nigel

      Mary wants conifer plantations and dredged rivers and hedges cut in nesting season and housing developments on flood plains and public dumping on roadsides and quarries and untreated sewage in the waterways and no regulations or protections on industrial or agricultural pollutants, more cars in cities, the last of the bogs dug up and a coal-fired power station in every country. Mary still has the Nuke The Whales car sticker her Republican politician uncle in the US sent her before he got sent up for taking bribes from corporate lobbyists to let them cut corners on their oil pipeline.

      1. scottser

        pfft. everyone knows that the magic roundabout is florence’s anesthetic dream stupor while she is undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

  4. postmanpat

    The magic roundabout comparison was done weeks ago on SKY or somewhere with the funny music on loop. I didn’t read the article because I told myself in the new year that Id actively avoid all news of Brexit because I don’t think it will effect me personally, and even if it does there’s noting I can do about it so keeping up with the news (and hours of boring speculation) will only cause me impotent worry. Also, it’s really really boring and tedious listening to people trying to sound smart by parroting off memes like “backstop” (what?) I’m just not going to get caught up in this faux celtic tiger frivolous spending attitude people are succumbing too all around me , because something catastrophic is always coming, if not Brexit than something else. But really I just came here to say the Magic Roundabout theme on loop is the funniest thing ever. You’d all be better off listening to that for ten minutes instead of listening to some trivia know it all bore yammering on & on & on & on

  5. Truth in the News

    Ever ask yourself why the vast majority of the English electorate voted to leave
    its due to the control Brussells has over their Country without their say, the issue
    about the backstop is a sideshow…..the real crunch is the 40 odd billion being
    demanded…..this will never be paid and the idea that it will be recouped in Tariffs
    may cost the EU more than the British……we will see then who will fall off the
    Magic Roundabout,

    1. ReproBertie

      “the vast majority of the English electorate voted to leave”

      This is incorrect. The English electorate was 39,005,781 at the time of the referendum. Less than half the English electorate (15,188,406) voted to leave.

      Even if you meant the UK Electorate, it’s just 17,410,742 of 42,935,720 which is still less than half.

      1. bisted

        …the democratic outcome of the referendum was to leave the EU…the democratic outcome in the last US presidential election was victory for Trump even though crooked Hillary polled a higher number of votes…if you don’t participate in the democratic procees you can’t complain…

        1. ReproBertie

          While all this is true it’s utterly irrelevant to the error in Truth in the News’ post. The claim was not that the vast majority who voted voted to leave. It was the vast majority of the English electorate voted to leave.

  6. Eoin

    You can pooh-pooh the Brits all you like, but, with 57 days to Brexit, some might say they have the EU exactly where they want it. Is it cynical to suggest the Brits correctly calculate the EU is dominated by bureaucrats who will logically assess the cost of an *actual* no-deal Brexit to Europe and conclude it is vast, while the cost of a *possible* hard border on Ireland is a price that must be paid for the integrity of the EU?

    As for the Brits, they’re like Riggs in Lethal Weapon, they’re crazy and not at all afraid of blowing their heads off, they’d welcome it in fact, it would make their day. Or at least, that’s the impression they’re giving the EU. So the EU must be particularly generous in their negotiation position or they might just push the nutters in the UK over the edge.

    1. Rob_G

      Retailers are warning of food shortages, medical authorities are warning of shortages in essential medicines, yet you reckon that ‘the Brits have ’em just where they want them’ – bizarre analysis of the situation…

  7. Shayna

    Funny there was no mention of Dylan, the stoned rabbit who played guitar under a tree in Dan’s cast of Brexiteers/Magic Roundabout types. It seems most of the cast of children’s programmes on The BBC during the 70s/early 80s were pretty much high. “Play School” – those guys were out of their tree on weed. Perhaps the political cast of Brexiteers should consider smoking a little Mary J – and “chillax” as David Cameron was famously quoted. Port and cigars in winged back chairs in private men-only clubs in London has brought the disaster of Brexit.
    I know yesterday on BS, there was a poll about the re-unification of Ireland. It was interesting, the comments, no-one really wants The North of Ireland. It just seems altogether political, “annexeing” – it beggars belief?
    Power sharing in The North, under The Good Friday Agreement has broken down twice – currently, it’s been broken for a while, well since the last General Election. There’s been a 24% exodus of migrant workers back to Eastern Europe since the Brexit vote from the North. It’s all gone South, clearly, not politically, however?

  8. Spaghetti Hoop

    Oh my – what a very strained analogy.
    (goes back to reading Tony Connelly and other grown-ups…)

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