Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and inspirational, a perfect gift for yourself or others, 20 Nov 2009
This review is from: Seeing Things (Hardcover)
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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