Saturday, 20 December 2008

But Emily (and everybody else) loved him

One of my most treasured possessions comes from my time working in a now-closed bookshop. I asked if I could take it home and no-one else wanted it so I did just that.

It is a self-published pamphlet, containing an A4 piece of paper from the company Teleordering, who deal - or dealt, it was a long time ago and things may have changed since then - with individual book orders to publishers from bookshops.

When a lady came in and asked to order a copy of a pamphlet from Pogle Press we were not hopeful that we would ever see it, but it arrived quickly - indeed, the publisher, in this case also the author, had written a little note on the form.

In green ink, a jaunty exclamation mark was placed by the printed 'Order Processing Department', and in the space below was written, in the same green ink:

'ere y'are then.
2 copies, one a present for (the name of our customer), the other for yourselves.
No charge.

The title of the pamphlet is "The Emperor's New Clothes: hopes for a future for the world", and the author, Oliver Postgate.

One of the very first programmes I remember watching as a small child was The Pogles, and having recently seen it again on video it is just as good as I remembered it being. It was made by Smallfilms - Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin - and chronologically fell, as far as I can remember, between Noggin the Nog and The Clangers.

Our little girl still won't watch it, as the witch in it gave her nightmares as a small child, which may have something to do with why the BBC never saw fit to revive it in the way that they regularly do with the Clangers and Bagpuss.

All through my childhood - and had the films not stopped being made it would have been through adulthood as well - I can remember the excitement of hearing Oliver Postgate's wonderful voice coming out of the telly while all sorts of strange things were happening visually. Just three weeks ago I showed our smallest a video of The Clangers, and it is the first time I have seen him fully engrossed in any programme, although I've been told that In The Night Garden works also, sitting quietly in front of it mostly, occasionally acting little bits out in the way which only two-year-olds can.

For many years he seemed to disappear completely, and then a few years ago published his wonderful autobiography, "Seeing Things".

When he died a couple of weeks ago I felt extremely sad, and when I mentioned him in the office everyone else admitted to the same emotion.

I found a very poor recording which I had made a couple of years back when he appeared on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. The sound is not good, to the point of being pretty terrible. It overloaded a lot, and is distorted, but I thought I would share it should anyone else have missed it and would like to hear it.

Hopefully Radio 4 will repeat it, but since the BBC now appear to consider notable deaths something almost entirely lacking in newsworthiness it doesn't seem very likely.

There is a lovely article about him on the BBC website, written by Peter Firmin's daughter Emily - here.

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