The figures of Postman Pat, Ted Glen and friends stand on top of the microwave, there is something reassuring in the Cumbrian postman still being popular.
Postman Pat was a favourite of my son in the early 90s. We would sit and read stories and watch videos of life in Greendale and when driving through Cumbria would tell imagined stories of the community living their lives in the villages and lanes passed by the M6 motorway. The Reverend Timms and Mrs Goggins and Peter Fogg and the rest of the inhabitants of the parish were as real as to us as the politicians who filled our television screens.
Perhaps the appeal of Postman Pat to an Englishman then living in exile was his power to evoke memories of childhood days in rural England. The characters were not so different from those in any English village and the way of life and the daily concerns corresponded with those of countless communities across the country. Perhaps the success of Postman Pat rested on the fact that children of advanced years could identify with the stories.
One story resurfaces in the memory each year in the darkest days of December. The story was read to a boy a month short of his third birthday in France in September 1993 and told of Postman Pat helping with the harvest while the children played in the field.
It seemed odd that children in story books could play in mown wheat fields without their shins being scratched by the stubble. Stubble in Somerset required shins to be washed in hot soapy water with a generous dash of Dettol thrown into it.
Postman Pat’s loses his cap in the story. Helping with the harvest, he inadvertently leaves it down, and it disappears. Months later, when a bale of straw is cut open in deep midwinter, the cap reappears; it had gone through the baler. The finding of Postman Pat’s cap in the story was intended as a funny epilogue to amuse attentive young ears, something at which it was very successful.
When might the bale have been opened and Pat’s cap rediscovered? Certainly, before Christmas, or there would have been mention of its passing. It must have been on one of those days that now approach when the sky stays a deep grey and the wind cuts through those outside.
Pat’s cap seemed always a symbol of hope on shortening days, a reminder the days would turn. Postman Pat in the kitchen smiles benignly at my thoughts.