Postgate's Introduction to 'The Burglarproof Bath Plug' and an extract from The
Coming to the
end of my life, I find I have retained a heap of pictures, which have
stayed in my mind, not because of their relevance to story or subject, but
like moving snapshots, seem to have a memorable character of their own.
There is a
reason for this . . . when I was young, in the 1930s, I used to read
children’s books, and I was often puzzled by the sparse line-drawn
illustrations which, it seemed to me, were nothing like what was happening
in the story I was reading. I found the scenes that my imagination
produced were often far more real than the illustration in the book, and I
passed them by.
children’s books often present themselves as a visual sequence supported
by text – the colourful picture is in your face and the imagination has
no part to play.
collection has no illustrations or photographs. It is strictly for reading
– by grown-ups as well as children – and it has no plot, except where
necessary to establish the pictures. It is essentially a sort of verbal
snapshot album. Incidentally, it contains several incidents already in my
autobiography. I do not apologise for including these and only ask you to
read them and enjoy them as if you were there, as an onlooker or maybe a
participant. Either way I hope you will enjoy the pictures which I hope
they will evoke.
the truth, that I sat down and wrote anything at all is the fault of the
It was in
the early ‘fifties’. I was standing with my father, Raymond Postgate,
looking out of the window of his study, watching the milkman. I
thought this might be a propitious moment to discuss my own career and
decided to become a ‘creative writer’.” I announced.
thing.” he unhesitatingly replied.
elaborate, he added that writing is not something you are, it is something
itself is not creative, writing is essentially descriptive. It is a craft
used to convey information. How good or how bad a piece of writing turns
out to be depends on how effective is it at conveying the information it
is attempting to deliver.”
what about style?” I asked, “Literary distinction?” I asked
style!” he replied. “Write what is in your mind, or describe what you
can see as clearly as you can, and that will one day be your “style”,
but to pursue nuances of “style” simply to gain for yourself a
literary reputation is a dead end.”
pointed out through the study window to the milkman opposite.
about him?” I asked crossly. “Do I just have to describe his boring
says its boring?” laughed my father. “Nobody says you have to tell the
he went away, chuckling, leaving me thoroughly confused.
rather surlily at first, later with a sense of liberation, never sure what
was going to happen next, I wrote the story of:
1. THE MILKMAN'S DAY
as a Sunday does every year in October, when the sun was up early and was
busy drying off the bits of leaves that were clinging to wet things, so
that the wind could blow them into corners.
roadsweeper was wondering how anybody could expect him to do anything, and
the wind, impatient to get going, was shying handfuls of rain drops in his
the milkman gripped the wet metal handle of his wire basket and, head
down, he waded into the wind.
this is going to be a day." he muttered to himself, and he banged wet
bottles on the doorstep of 19A Claremont Road, Mrs Wilie, widow, one blue
top and a small cream Saturday.
She had left
him a note, written in pale ink on blotting paper, and the rain had got to
Gluff till Uffley and Oblig, thank you - Wilie" it said, and having
served its purpose, it fell to pieces in his hand and blew away.
Wilie", he laughed out loud and the trees bobbed and the dead leaves
blew past him.
with me down the wind" said the man standing by him "touch my
hand". "Who me?" asked Fishburden, "Who else?"
said the man. So Fishburden touched his hand, and up they soared.
"Wow! it's a day for flying!" shouted the man. "Turn under
the wind like I do!" and he rolled and swooped like a curlew.
turned with him down the wind, and the roofs and the wet roads and the
dead leaves and the patches of sunlight swept past far below him, and the
wind dived in the collar of his shirt and out of his trouser legs.
we go up now?" called the man over his shoulder.
laughed and waved his wire basket.
care!" he shouted, "Have a pint of Jersey!"
And they went
swiftly up, through thick dark rainclouds, and out above them to where
there were mountains and caves and pinnacles of cloud which looked as
solid as cotton wool in the morning sun, and higher still, to where the
sky was dark and starry and the air was endless all around them.
you?" shouted Fishburden. "I shall be late".....(c)
Oliver Postgate 2008 All Rights Reserved