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, 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 personal experience that someone very like him definitely exists).
Pat and his whole wonderful innocent world of green hills, colourful flowers and drystone walls were the brainchild of children’s author John Cunliffe, 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 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 on it yet, and I’m 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 worked) to Beast Banks – an attractive, almost rural, part of town where a cattle market was held in centuries past. Opposite, is Beast Banks – or Postman Pat’s - Post Office. Once you’ve taken precisely 3 seconds to take a photograph – though slightly longer if Pat is visiting, which he does sometimes – 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 local, where you might get a decent pint of Abbot Ale. You'll notice they've missed the apostrophe in the sign, though.
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 apparently 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. Postman Pat (full name Pat Clifton) has his own Facebook page (which has over 83,000 ‘likes’), website, Twitter account and has been shown in 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; I suggest an awful lot smaller than its fictional counterpart.
In May 2014, ‘Postman Pat: The Movie’ was released, in which our reluctant hero receives the full CGI treatment. I am just waiting for the opportunity to see it. Apparently, Pat is replaced by a robot, ‘PatBot 3000’, which seeks world domination whilst Pat takes part in a talent contest staged by someone called Simon Cowbell. In addition to the normal cast, it features the voices of 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 good plug – if not, I will happily remove the picture. Here is the link to the BBC CBeebies website featuring Pat. And here is the link to Postman Pat’s official website.
PS Our postman's called Sid, and he's brilliant!