This programme’s theme tune is so well known that if I simply sang the words ‘Postman Pat…’ I bet every single one of you could carry on with the rest of the words. Yes, there we go – I knew it. Apologies for the fact that you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day now though.
Aww, is there anybody who isn’t fond of the cheery postal delivery worker and his feline friend? Postman Patrick ‘Pat’ Clifton (no relation to Bernie), and sidekick Jess faithfully deliver the mail around the idyllic English village of Greendale, and at the same time, help out the locals with any problems they may have. And they have quite a few because let’s face it, charismatic as Pat is, if all the programme showed was him trudging up and down garden paths with his post bag, stopping occasionally to write out one of those annoying ‘Ha ha, you were out when I called’ missed package cards, it wouldn’t hold the interest of even the most television-obsessed pre-schooler.
Pat lives at Forge Cottage with his wife Sara (oh yes, Pat has got a lay-dee) and their six year old son Julian. Pat is a good man, keen on helping to create and maintain a community spirit. Sara apparently also used to work in a Post Office (now I’ve got visions of them both drunk, at a Post Office Christmas party – but I’m sure that’s not how they met) although now stays at home to keep the house in the state to which a star postman is accustomed. Jess lives with them, and is an extremely clever cat; he can usually be relied on to help Pat out of tricky situations.
Greendale is a large village surrounded by countryside, with all the amenities you would expect; a high street, a post office and shop, a railway station and a café. It’s full of interesting characters that Pat encounters frequently, including my personal favourite Ted Glen (mostly because I had the Postman Pat record, and the B-side was a jolly little number featuring Glen singing ‘Leave it with Me’). Ted is the village handyman who can fix anything, as well as having a nice little side line in peculiar inventions. Many is the time that he comes up with a solution to one of Pat’s problems (Pat is a trusty postman, but he has been known to get himself into silly scrapes of his own making from time to time) by mending an existing machine, or creating a new one.
PC Arthur Selby patrols Greendale and Pencaster, and although he takes his role as policeman very seriously, he isn’t actually very good at it. He competes with Ted Glen for the title of ‘Greendale’s Best Moustache’ although if they’re honest they know that both of them are beaten comprehensively by farmer Alf Thompson. His moustache is magnificent.
Mrs Goggins is Greendale’s postmistress; a Scottish native, she and her West Highland Terrier Bonnie’s Post Office and Shop is the hub of the local community. Granny Dryden and Pat provide an amusing double act; kind hearted Pat often pops round to help her with jobs around her home but she is hard of hearing which means he has to all but shout at her when they have a conversation.
Pat was originally just the postman for Greendale, but due to his diligence to the job, he was later promoted to Head of the Special Delivery Service (SDS) in the nearby town of Pencaster, meaning his deliveries now take him all over the valley. It also means that Pat now has the responsibility of being available to deliver ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’ – I bet that pleases Sara when his phone rings in the middle of Sunday lunch…Whilst we imagine that Pat now has a larger wage packet every month to go with his new title, he also now has a boss to report to, whereas before he was a man in charge of his own round, only having to answer to Mrs Goggins if a delivery went wrong (she comes across as fairly placid but I bet she’s a fiery one if a package gets mislaid).
An added bonus of his new job is the snazzy new vehicles that Pat now has access to as part of the SDS. As we all know, as a regular post man Pat ‘picked up all the postbags in his van…’ which was cute and red, and for many of the episodes that were broadcast had the Royal Mail crown emblazoned on its side. This was because for many years the Royal Mail sponsored the programme, until they decided in 2000 that Postman Pat didn’t fit any more with their ‘corporate image.’ Do you think that they thought the series was a fly-on-the-wall documentary?
Once the Royal Mail withdrew their patronage (seemed a bit of a dumb move really – Pat always ensures his letters get through and so can only have improved their image I would have thought) the idea of the Special Delivery Service was introduced and Pat upgraded to their fleet of vehicles. He now gets to use not only a much larger eco-van (Pat moves with the times you know) but also a mini-van, although I’m not entirely sure how a much smaller vehicle could really be that handy…On top of these he can also avail himself of a Postcar, a motorbike (complete with a sidecar for Jess), a quad bike (hmm, I can just about see how this could be come in useful to help Pat get to some of those trickier off-road country deliveries), and a helicopter (I know that Greendale is full of windy roads that get blocked from time to time, but is this really necessary?). There’s also an SDS fork lift truck, but Ben uses that most of the time at the Pencaster Sorting Office. Pat’s probably not that bothered about that, as he whizzes about in the helicopter, pretending that he’s actually piloting Airwolf…
The original (non-helicopter) series was created and written by John Cunliffe (who also brought the slightly creepy houseboat puppets Rosie and Jim to life) and first went out on BBC1 in 1981. He based the fictional setting of Greendale on the Cumbrian valley of Longsleddale, and the village post office was inspired by one that resided on the street he lived on when he was writing the programme. Ivor Wood (an animator known for many iconic children’s programmes, including The Magic Roundabout, The Wombles, Paddington and The Herbs) directed the show, and between them made Postman Pat into a children’s television stalwart. He has a huge range of DVDs , books and merchandise, and will be the star of a new 3D film out shortly. Even Jess had his own spin-off show, Guess with Jess. Both have remained remarkably level-headed despite their fame.
The introduction of Pat’s new role within the SDS opened up the show to a whole host of new characters, which allowed for fresh storylines, and brought the whole feel of the show more up-to-date. However, for those of us who were first introduced to the old-fashioned original series it still seems strange to see Pat using his mobile phone; although so far it’s not been mentioned whether he uses it to update his Facebook profile…’Just did a loop-the-loop over Pencaster – wahey!’