Today, in the first part of a new series called "Where Are They Now?", a hideous and offensive intrusion into the lives of those who confidently believed they had forever disappeared from the public radar, I caught up with and interviewed one time child prodigy and oversized glove model, Florence from the much-loved children's television programme 'The Magic Roundabout'.
Florence, now 61, lives in relative comfort in a two-bedroom flat overlooking a toilet roll manufacturers in Doncaster. But life has not always been so kind to Florence since the cult series TMR left the airwaves. With her cat, poignantly called 'Mr Rusty', curled up at her unfeasibly large feet, Florence recalls the ups and downs of the past few decades.
"I remember the day they told us that TMR was being axed. We were all devastated. Dylan took in particularly badly. He ran out of the studio screaming, went and bought a wrap of dodgy crack from a Yardie in Streatham, and got wasted behind a dumpster. Ermintrude, bless her bovine heart, had a massive coronary, swallowed her daisy, and spent several weeks hooked up to tubes in ICU. The stupid cow was never the same again."
For Florence, too, the hard times were only just beginning. A string of West End flops, including 'The Mousemat', 'No Sex Please, We're Yiddish' and 'How Green Are My Pants?' led to her being evicted from her home under the TMR carousel, and forced to live on the streets. She then discovered that her agent, 'Slick' Willy Pecker, 'moonlighted' as an oily pimp, and was only too happy to re-direct her career into working the red light district behind King's Cross railway station. "It was difficult," Florence recalls, "but the size of my hands meant that jacking punters off was fairly easy money."
Several years, and STD's, later, when the barrel looked as though it had been well and truly scraped, living in a squalid bedsit in Camden Town and surviving on Pot Noodle, a telephone call out of the blue from old TMR narrator Eric Thompson came to her rescue. "Eric had groomed me well in the early days," recalled Florence, "and asked whether I wanted a job helping his daughter Emma learn her lines for a part she'd been offered in 'Howard's End'. Well, I'd seen enough ends to give me belief that I could do it. And, of course," she smiles "Emma walked off with the Oscar for 'Best Actress'. Shame she was too s**t faced on Chablis to remember to mention me in her acceptance speech," recalls Florence with a wry smile, "but, hey! That's showbusiness!"
Emma may have picked up an Oscar, but Florence picked up the name of someone who was able to cure her VD. "Emma knows a lot of people," said Florence.
Emma also encouraged Florence to turn her bad experiences into positive ones, and suggested that Florence turn to writing. Since then she has penned, amongst other things, a number of episodes of Eastenders, The Bill, and a few lines in Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds', primarily the title. "Spelling was never my strong suit," she said laughing. "And of course it's not easy to word process with fingers the size of Cumberland sausages."
However, the laughter turned to sadness when I asked Florence about other friends and colleagues from her TMR days. "Zebedee," she said, the merest hint of a tear forming in her eye, "couldn't get work, and was forced to sign a contract with Slumberland. He was forced into a mattress with a group of other out of work springs. One day, in a fit of overexuberance, he burst the mattress and severely lacerated the arse of a train driver from Slough. He ended up being slung into a skip on a municipal tip."
"Dougall and Brian couldn't find work either," she recalls. "So TMR creator and former garlic sculptor Serge Danot decided to keep them as pets. Times eventually got hard for Serge, too. Brian ended up slipping down Serge's gullet fairly easily, with a nice glass of Bordeaux when Serge found it difficult to afford the weekly shop at Le Tesco. Dougall died suddenly of saccharine poisoning, having OD'd on sub-standard sugar lumps. Serge was heartbroken, and decided to use him as a novelty draught excluder against the living room door, until he begin to whiff like buggery and his fur fell out. Then Serge ate him too."
Florence, however, quickly cheers up, and smiles. She pours me a cup of tea, pulls a strand or two of now slightly greying hair from her face, and begins to stroke her pussy, while 'Mr Rusty' heads for the catflap. I decided, however, not to go with the Flo this time, and politely declined her very kind offer of a hand job, however tempting, and made my excuses. I'd only just managed to clear up the last yeasty infection I'd contracted.