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Seeing Things [Hardcover]

Oliver Postgate
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Nov 2009
For over forty years Oliver Postgate's name was synonymous with the best in children's television - Bagpuss, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine, The Pogles, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings. His work is still loved by viewers of all ages. In this delicious autobiography Oliver Postgate describes how he came to create his stories and characters, developing innovative techniques of animation and puppetry alongside his friend and co-producer Peter Firmin. The story of Oliver Postgate's extraordinary and adventurous life, and the wonderful characters who populated it, both real and imagined, is witty, charming, beautifully remembered and beautifully told.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (5 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847678408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847678409
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Oliver Postgate and Peter Mandelson share an unlikely pedigree: apart from being master puppeteers, albeit in different theatres, they both had a grandfather vital to the history of the Labour Party. While Mandelson had Herbert Morrison to look up to, Postgate's mother was the daughter of George Lansbury, one of the founders of the parliamentary party. Presumably, this distinguished statesman was responsible in part for the slightly wild, loveable idealist who emerges from this agreeably singular biography.

From his rapacious memory spring forth the details of an unconventional life, from early family memories (his father Ray started The Good Food Guide), education at Dartington Hall, a stint in prison as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, through a succession of jobs until he found the perfect blend of acting, writing and invention in the formative years of children's television. With artist Peter Firmin, and working from a disused cow byre in Canterbury utilising anything that came to hand, they created a dozen or so worlds that have never gone away, from Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine to The Clangers (created and screened originally at the time of the Apollo moonshot). If your penchant is Bagpuss, then nearly 300 pages of personal history pass, at times as baggy as the saggy old cloth cat himself, but the background details are fascinating, such as the fact that the humourless Professor Yaffle was based in part on philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Determinedly unquestioning of his art, Postgate's life leaps off the page with a beguiling conviction, particularly when describing an epiphanic "peak experience" after an operation, which caused him to alter his view of the world and himself, and gave rise to the book's title. Dropped unceremoniously by the BBC when they were deemed not to have the "hook" modern children desired, Postgate is now kept, in his anecdotage, by the wave of nostalgia which has engulfed his single-frame films, and which finally offers him a proper return for the pleasurable memories he's inspired in so many. In a world of increasing homogeneity, such creative mavericks deserve to be cherished, and read. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Oliver Postage was, for my money, the greatest children's storyteller of the last 100 years. Together, the team of Postgate and Peter Firmin were apparently incapable of creating anything less than timelessly wonderful whenever they sat down to work.' Charlie Brooker

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly charming 27 Feb 2002
By A Customer
Before reading this, I was quite unaware of the author's very varied career, knowing him only as the creator of some memorable animated children's programmes. I now feel I know him personally, as a modest, good-hearted man, dismissive of his own achievements as a writer and artist and mainly concerned with living life to the full whilst showing consideration for others. It was with heartfelt regret that I turned the last page.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing is believing 20 May 2001
By A Customer
SEEING THINGS is far more than just a humourous account of a colourful life. Humour, colour and beautiful writing abound, but this book is above all a profound and deeply moving record of the life of an ordinary man who sees clearly and whose understanding of the human condition and the very nature of life itself cannot fail to inspire and delight a perceptive reader....Do not fail to buy this book. Life is not complete without it.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing is believing 9 Jan 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
"Still wearing his academic cap and gown, Bagpuss looks down from the high basket where he lives. His eyes are glass and have no truck with age or mortality. Perhaps he has always known that he was to be immortal..."
Festooned with Peter Firmin's wonderful illustrations, and interrupted only by two selections of personal photographs, this is the life and works of the creator of Small Films, in his own, touching words. Alexander the Mouse, Bagpuss, The Clangers, The Dogwatch, Ivor the Engine, The Journey of Master Ho, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings, The Pogles, Pinny's House, and still more worlds from the imaginations of Postgate and Firmin. About a dozen distinct sets of programmes created for children's television by Oliver Postgate and his collaborators (mostly Firmin) spanned the years from 1958 to 1986, and continue to be repeated and revered by generations of present and former little people of all ages.
What led him to such a career? Postgate's maternal grandfather was the prominent 1930s labour leader, George Lansbury. In childhood, his family had him playing party games with the likes of Bertrand Russell, and H.G. Wells (the "short wide frenzied man with a squeaky voice, who bullied people to play games and hated losing"). His own father, Raymond, founded and compiled the original 'Good Food Guide'. And one of his drama school friends, Ivan Owen, called upon by Postgate in his early days of television to spend hours at a time sitting under a table with his arm up Fred Barker in 'The Dogwatch', went on to become 'the man who gives Basil Brush a hand.' The stuff of legend!
How could a man with such a pedigree not be a success? And yet it took Oliver Postgate numerous attempts to find himself a career that would last.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Life 5 July 2001
I rarely read autobiographies -- make that never to date -- but for some reason even when I picked this book up it struck a chord and I'm delighted I did. From Postgate's early life, through the time of creating Ivor the Engine, Pogles Wood, the Clangers, Bagpuss et al, to his later years this is a warm, funny telling of a busy life. It leaves a glow after reading! Thank you Mr. Postgate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and impossible to put down! 11 Jun 2000
By A Customer
An extremely readable book from the creator of those worlds we all inhabited in our imaginations. The most interesting thing about the book is how Oliver Postgate, the man, created those amazing programmes that we all grew up with, more than any other creator of children's programmes, he had the direct line into our imaginations - and the respect that we as children deserved.
His life has been fascinating, with all the experiences that you could ever dream of. I couldn't put the book down until I'd read the last page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Postgate was the wonderful man who made my childhood a place of magic and safety with Bagpuss and this autobiography is just wonderful. Postgate was an extraordinary man, born to socialist parents whom he called by their first names and who worked from first principles without any engineering expertise to solve any mechanical problem, ending up in animation via a wide range of jobs from stage, farm and charity work in post war Germany. He speaks of his worlds as something that came through him rather than from his imagination, as having a life outwith him, and his philosophies had a lot to teach me.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a lesson in life... 9 Dec 2001
By A Customer
In this book the story of Oliver Postgate's early life and of the incongruous events and situations which eventually led him to team up with Peter Firmin and work out how to make the multitude of television films which have delighted generations of viewers, is fully, hilariously and fascinatingly told.
But it would be a mistake to assume that this is only what the autobiography is about. It is in the latter part of the book, in which Oliver Postgate returns from the fictional worlds and looks at our own, that the real value and importance of the work becomes apparent. Then, in a gentle factual account of his life story, the clarity of his seeing illuminates, almost in passing, the awesome follies of modern reality, recalling for us the fact that we, by the sheer reluctance of our imagination, recently took the world to within a whisker of burning itself to death, and are, in truth, lucky still to be alive...
Oliver Postgate is a lucid, honest writer. The world ignores his life-story at its peril.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great looking book!
I'd forgotten what proper hardback books looked and felt like. I haven't had time to read this properly yet (though I know I'll enjoy it) but I'll enjoy it even more seeing as this... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark Twain
5.0 out of 5 stars Oliver Postgate
What a great story and so well told.I am only half way through the story but cannot put the book down.That's a good sign.
Published 3 months ago by A.Bullock
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous
A classic, about Classic children's animations buy it and read it! I have nothing further to add but Amazon insist I write more words, rhubarb.
Published 4 months ago by DALee
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming book
Bought as a gift for my brother. It was an interesting life story, charming photographs and some good local connections for us.
Published 8 months ago by Gill Nightingales
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough biography
I didn't realise how much Oliver Postgate had done! It took me back to my childhood remembering all the programmes I used to watch.
Published 11 months ago by Mrs T M Stears
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb read
Lived up to my expectations. Oliver Postgate's life story makes a first class read and I would thoroughly recommend this book
Published 16 months ago by Fraser R Aitken
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book at a good price
It was a delight to read this book as not only am i interested in all his work but it was a lesson in social history.
Published 16 months ago by mickey blue eyes
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, Informative, and interesting
For me this book just adds to the legendary work of Oliver Postgate. My childhood was enlivened by his work, my adulthood by memories of his work, and my future by passing on my... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Robin
5.0 out of 5 stars A talented and gentle man's Life
Oliver Postgate's Autobiography is a highly readable and enjoyable journey through the last half of the 20th Century and well worth a read by those who, like me, were brought up... Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2012 by skhyam
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Memoir for An Interesting Figure in Childrens' Television
Oliver Postage's legacy in children's' programming brings a warm sense of nostalgia to the many generations of children who grew up watching Small Films' brand of no-nonsense... Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2012 by Andy Norton
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