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Kendal, nestling conveniently on the edge of the English Lake District, is a famous town. This, after all, is the place where mint cake was discovered, Katherine Parr had a castle and Alfred Wainwright was Borough Treasurer; but these nuggets of distinction pale into insignificance when you realise that Postman Pat was born there. Indeed, by all accounts (and, fortunately, there are few of those) he was conceived there as well.
The erudite reader does not need to ask, “Postman who?” As anyone who is anyone knows – though I fear his fame may not have reached the wilder parts of the world – Postman Pat is the resourceful postman in the fictional village of Greendale where, with his ubiquitous companion Jess, the black and white cat, he – well – he delivers the post. Of course, life is never that simple. Greendale is a rural community and there are challenges. So, in between coping with oversized packages and Mr Doughbag at the Royal Mail, Pat has to resolve a whole host of unexpected problems – with things like sheep, snow, runaway trains and even stolen strawberries. I made up Mr Doughbag, but know from bitter personal experience that someone very like him definitely exists; in fact, he has relations in many large corporations. Back to Pat, and to quote from his very own website:
“Whether he’s at the wheel of the trusty red post van or his new SDS helicopter, Pat always makes his delivery. He is a pillar of his community—a good neighbour who’s always ready with a joke, a kind word, or a helping hand. He loves a chat with everyone, especially over a cup of tea.”
This probably sounds exactly like your own postman, doesn’t it? – apart from the helicopter, maybe. Pat and his whole wonderful innocent world of green hills, drystone walls and goodness were the brainchild of children’s author John Cunliffe (1933-2018), who used to live in Kendal, on Greenside, just a few doors up from the post office that inspired him. The postmistress in the stories is called Mrs Goggins, by the way. In real life, sadly, the post office closed in 2003 and is now a private residence. I’ve often wondered whether houses with famous connections cost more to buy, or whether the price is discounted to take account of loss of privacy and gawping grockles. I’m assuming that places associated with terrible deeds can be obtained at a knock-down figure, because no one wants to live in them, whereas estate agents will be forced, against their will, to add a premium to the tag of a ‘clean’ celebrity home. However, you could probably make a good ghoulish living from opening the bungalow where Vlad the Impaler used to take his holidays, so I guess the old adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity is probably true. Isn’t it a gas, though, that places associated with works of fiction – like this post office – can become attractions? I’m a little surprised that someone hasn’t cashed in this one yet, and rather glad they haven’t.
In any event, keen Postpatians (my own word for Postman Pat fans, in the same vein as Whovians) heave themselves up Allhallows Lane opposite Kendal’s Town Hall (where Alfred W used to work) to Beast Banks – an attractive part of town with an almost rural feel, where a cattle market was held in centuries past, close to the site of Kendal’s first castle. Opposite, is Beast Banks’ – or Postman Pat’s – Post Office. Once you’ve taken precisely 3 seconds to snap a photograph – slightly longer if Pat is visiting, which he is rumoured to do occasionally – you can recover from all the excitement at an adjacent hostelry, the Rifleman’s Arms, which the hawk-eyed amongst you will have noticed that you passed on the way uphill. This used to be – and hopefully still is – a good traditional no-frills genuine local, where you might get a decent pint of Abbot Ale.
I digress. Postman Pat was born in 1978, aimed at a pre-school audience, and the stories were first screened on BBC TV in 1981. They take the form of what is known as stop motion animation – where objects, such as dolls, are photographed in stages of movement and then the photographs are all joined together – somehow. Wallace and Gromit is another example of this technique. Postman Pat (full name Pat Clifton) has his own Facebook page (which has over 86,000 ‘likes’), website, Twitter account (though, when I looked, Pat hadn’t tweeted since 2015; possibly, he’s realised it’s helped kill his postbag) and his stories have been shown in at least 85 countries worldwide. Greendale is reputedly based on the village of Longsleddale, a few miles to the north of Kendal. Longsleddale is beautiful, remote – and tiny. Greendale’s nearby town of Pencaster allegedly bears some resemblance to the city of Lancaster – where you can experience stop motion in person.
In May 2014, Postman Pat: The Movie was released, in which our hero receives the full CGI treatment. I am just waiting for the right opportunity to see it, but, somehow, one hasn’t arisen. Apparently, Pat is replaced by a robot, PatBot 3000, which seeks world domination whilst Pat takes part in a talent contest staged by a character called Simon Cowbell. In addition to the normal cast, it features the voices of unknowns like David Tennant, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint and Ronan Keating.
Below is a picture of Pat and Jess, which I borrowed from the BBC. I hope they consider this fair use and feel I have given Pat a jolly good plug – if not, I will happily remove the image and say a few rude things about the BBC. Meanwhile, here is the link to the BBC CBeebies website featuring episodes of Pat that you can watch in the comfort of your straitjacket. And here is the link to Postman Pat’s official website where, among all the other attractions, you will be able to download Pat’s App; imagine that!