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on 27 February 2002
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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on 20 May 2001
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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on 9 January 2004
"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. With a Quaker background, he survived being a conscientious objector in the second world war, a relief worker in Germany shortly thereafter, a farm labourer and forester, and a self-employed button electroplater, among other things. The strands that ran through all of this (and more) were that he was devilishly independent, and a natural inventor.
And so it was that he discovered television. During long spells 'resting' as an actor, Postgate was taking sporadic work at Associated Rediffusion as a stage manager (director's odd-job man). As 1957 stumbled blindly into 1958, he twigged two important facts. First, recently-married with four instant kids, he needed steadier work. Second, children's programmes were crap. Their content was barely adequate to fill the gap between the preceding broadcast and the succeeding one. So Postgate sat down and wrote something better.
'Alexander the Mouse' was made using a new magnet-based 'live' animation system. This was crap too, but it wasn't Postgate's idea. His ideas, his words, and Peter Firmin's beautifully-drawn backgrounds were just the ticket, in fact, and it wasn't long before he was able to escape and set himself up as a single-frame animator. And the rest is television history. I won't tell you the whole story, because that would be a biography and this is just an abridged book review.
"Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, old fat furry cat-puss,
Wake up and look at this thing that I bring,
Wake up, be bright, be golden and light,
Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing..."
Doesn't that make you feel better? Now try singing it aloud. Especially if you are reading this at work, or on public transport. Go on, you know you want to. I did it just now. Jacquie ignored me, but she's used to that sort of thing from me by now.
Postgate's writing is, fittingly, as vivid as a colour slide-show, with the man himself present to change the slides, tell the stories and check from time-to-time to be sure that we're all sitting comfortably and enjoying the performance. And, aside from the televisual stuff, it is stuffed full with little gems. Like his father's discovery of a Ministry of Food Handbook on Home Wine-Making, on the last page of which was the line "A good wine can also be made from grapes." Or the starving, barefoot children of Braunschweig (Brunswick) singing him a traditional English Christmas Carol: "I'm dreamink of a vite Crischmas..."
Some more snippets. His bonfire effigy of General De Gaulle was good enough to be saluted by the House of Commons policeman. The first Pingwing was found on a washing-line. Postgate's film studio was a disused cow-shed near Canterbury. He chose the name 'Clangers' because it's the noise that their bin-lid-styled doors ought to make as they are dropped into place. Bagpuss's 'Emily' was Peter Firmin's youngest daughter. But why am I telling you all this? Buy it in paperback and read it yourself. Add it to your wish-list at Amazon, now.
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on 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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on 5 July 2015
How could you *not* love this? The honeyed tones of the late (and much missed) Oliver Postgate draw you into his world, as the creator of Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, the adorable Clangers and the unforgettable Noggin the Nog tells his own story. I'm going to have to digitise this audio cassette so that I can preserve the original and protect it from the use it's undoubtedly going to get over the next few months.
I also bought the companion book, which obviously has much more material (and photos), but the cassette stands well on its own.
The easy way to relive your (misspent?) childhood (although I was an undergraduate when the Clangers first appeared on our screens, and I used to bolt my Sunday tea just so that I could grab a front-row seat in the TV room - complete with a then-rare colour TV.
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I came to this book, Seeing Things by Oliver Postgate, with a mild sense of curiosity, expecting it to be a quick skim-through rather than an in-depth read. How wrong I was. Within a few pages I was hooked on this witty, beguiling life-story, a tribute to a man who reminds us how much we can use the gifts and opportunities presented to us to live a truly full life.

Most people will remember Oliver Postgate as the creator of Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog,The Clangers and Bagpuss- wonderful children's television series which he created with his business partner Peter Firmin. His eminence as a maker of childrens' programmes was however a hard-won thing, and Oliver lived a precarious existence through the early years of television, turning his hand to a huge range of occupations while supporting his family.

Oliver was born in 1925 to North London parents of a socialist inclination. Brought up in Hendon, Oliver was exposed to a wide range of people who had a degree of influence in forming the early Labour movement, not least his maternal grandfather, George Lansbury, one-time leader of the Labour Party.

The family were adventurous, and in 1938, Oliver's parents, Ray and Daisy decided to take their family on a cycling tour of France, conscious that war-clouds were looming and such a tour may not be possible in years to come. Oliver's description of this tour is evocative of pre-war France, the family meandering across rivers and through the gates of mediaeval towns, with picnic lunches being eaten on the green banks of shady streams.

When war came, Oliver decided to become a conscientious objector. He was advised to turn up at the barracks and then refuse to put on the uniform, so he nervously took the train to Windsor, wondering what awaited him when he arrived at the Household Cavalry's Combermere Barracks. He found himself in the hands of an army completely unprepared for his arrival, uncomprehending of his status, but quite benign.

After the war Oliver first went to war-torn Germany as a driver for a relief team, then returned to England to do agricultural work but eventually ending up back in London to develop his creative talents. After a stint as a stage manager at the BBC he decided he could do better at producing childrens' films than the material he saw at the time, and invented an animation table. Alexander The Mouse was born and Oliver was able to sell 20 episodes to the BBC, and as they say, the rest is history.

Oliver's biography, the facts of his life, and his stories of early television production are fascinating, but it is the sheer warmth of his personality which appeals. The story is fascinating, but it is the person behind the stories that shines out, the way he handled the human-stuff of life, finding his way step by step through marriage, family, work while constantly also being fed by a hugely creative brain which inspired him in so many directions.

Towards the end of his life, after a serious operation, Oliver had a vast and overwhelming experience, which some would call "spiritual" but which he was never really able to explain. Let us say that love overtook him, and turned his life upside down.

Oliver died last year, and the tributes flowed into to someone who not only delighted countless children with his films and stories, but also touched everyone he met with the inspiration of his personality.

This is a very well-written, heart-warming (but never sentimental) book, which would be an excellent gift for almost any category of reader. It is hard to think of anyone who would not be pleased to receive this on Christmas Day.
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on 19 June 2016
This is an autobiography of someone who defined my a great part of my childhood with some of the greatest children's programmes ever made, such as Pogles Wood, Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and The Clangers were crafted in a small converted cowshed in Kent on tiny budgets. In Stephen Fry's forward, he says 'I always supposed that if God had a voice it would be that of Oliver Postgate, the same matchless blend of authority, kindliness and humour'. Well, that's how this reads, as though the author was reading the entire book in that voice just for you. Just wonderful.
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on 14 January 2016
A hardback book for a paperback price, and a great read. I bought it as I was intrigued by the film making processes this chap used. Only part of the book deals with this, but it it a great reagents throughout.
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on 11 June 2000
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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on 9 December 2001
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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