Oliver Postgate died yesterday, aged 83, leaving behind an amazing body of work and a hell of a life. There are plenty of old kids TV programme which we nostalge over but which bore us rigid after 10 minutes on dvd. Thanks to the artistry and story-telling and fun that went into them, Clangers and Bagpuss and Ivor will always be a class apart. We look forward to foisting them on future generations for many years to come, and the marvels which he and Peter Firmin achieved in a converted pig-sty should be compulsory viewing for any filmmaker bemoaning their lack of funding.
Less familiar and equally of note (in a more grown-up, messy way) was Postgate’s own story; his crackpot inventions, his conscientious objection during the war, his tumultuous family life, and an abiding sense of inadequacy which he used as a motor for his work and talked about with candour on Desert Island Discs last year. It’s a bugger to track down, but do read his memoirs Seeing Things if you get a chance. Here’s a brief snippet, from a revelation that visited him during a hospital stay in 1978:
“What hit me then was a realisation that this joy in life that drives through all things is the life that drives all things. I felt the huge engine, the driving, rolling river of life and death, of happiness and sadness, a river of which my dark fumbling life was only a tiny part, a leaf on the rapids, yet, in my realisation of it, I was part of the river itself, both a part of it and it a part of me.”