"Bill and Ben... Bill and Ben...
Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, Flowerpot
and Ben, the Flowerpot Men, live in the garden by the old potting
their pal Weed. Bill and Ben aren't "men"
at all, rather each is a humanesque
construction of plant pots, with a man's face. Similarly,
Weed isn't a real weed.
She's actually a big talking sunflower-come-dandelion
with a smiley face.
Oh! - but now we have another anomally, because
Weed, Bill and Ben, don't
"talk" in the way that we might expect.
Instead, the Flowerpot Men gabble to each
other in a language known as "Oddle-poddle"
- a queer language which is centered
around the word "Flobbadob" and various
combinations of similar nonsense talk.
And Weed herself can only conjure forth her own
name, in a kind of high-pitched
shriek. This jolly trio come to life when ever the man
who owns the garden is away,
and together they plant seeds, grow things and generally
play and frolic around
the garden. From time to time, Slowcoach the tortoise
drops by to join in
the fun too...
The Flowerpot Men were created by Hilda Brabben,
who named the duo after
her two young brothers, William and Benjamin. Weed
was based upon her
youngest sister Phyllis. The characters were voiced
by Peter Hawkins, and
for years, rumours have persisted in the press and media
regarding the birth
of Bill and Ben's "flobbadob" language.
Supposedly the term was actually
based on the exclamations conjured forth by Hilda's brothers when
broke wind in the bath. But alas, this simply isn't true.
Here's Peter's son
Silas Hawkins, to correct us all:
word 'flobbadob' is the word 'flowerpot' translated into
'Oddle-poddle' the language my father invented for Bill
Ben, the Flowerpot Men. For each episode of the show
would be given a script in English which he would
translate into Oddle-Poddle.
e.g. in the episode 'Scarecrow' there occurred the line
do you think of that?- gloves as well as a hat!', which
'Woddle oo teep a dop? Gloob a woddle a hop!'
The 'fart in the bath' story was trotted out in 2004,
episode of Stephen Fry's otherwise admirable quiz show
featuring John Sessions and Clive Anderson. It (the story)
appeared some 20 years ago in a newspaper article to
father immediately wrote a rebuttal, and which was obviously
ferreted out by some BBC researcher for 'Q.I.' It may
Interesting' but, in this case, it just ain't true..."
Well, "Oddle-poddle" aside, it certainly
is true that Hilda Brabben wrote three
Bill and Ben stories for the BBC's "Listen
With Mother" radio series, in 1951,
before Freda Llingstrom
and Maria Bird stepped in for the television adaptation.
The show arrived on the 12th December 1952, and it was
shown every Wednesday
as part of the popular "Watch With Mother"
childrens' television strand. Bill and
Ben's infectiously dotty language was soon picked up
and repeated in households
and playgrounds up and down the country. Although
it also provoked complaints
from some quarters, with concerns raised about the
deconstruction of the English
language, and how it might cause children to start speaking
The series was repeatedly broadcast on the BBC
right through to 1970, and the
characters' popularity spawned numerous tie-in
products and books. Such has
been the persistance in the memory of a generation
that, forty years on, Bill and
Ben have returned as the stars of a whole new
stop-motion series from the folks
at Cosgrove Hall. The strings may now have gone,
but the Flobaddobbing brilliance
of the original concept remains...
upon a time there was a little house. And all around
the house was a beautiful garden. And down
at the bottom
of the garden was a place where the man who worked
the garden left his things while he went in to
to have his dinner..."