Postman Pat and the slow death of the postal service

A quick post in response to a conversation on Twitter today:

You know, Pat has moved on a lot since I was a kid. Obviously there’s the whole thing where he is married with a kid now (not enough to stop those rumours about him and Ted), but the show has also moved with the times politically.

OK, I’ve not seen Pat on the picket line but the newest Postman Pat series, Special Delivery Service sees Pat face the reality of life in the dying days of the postal service. He now commutes from Greendale to the nearest big town. From here the mail service is run on an industrial scale, and Pat’s job is no longer to be an affable fixture of village life, a constant in a world that is changing too fast, a character and a public servant, but to provide premium delivery services.

Mrs Goggins is moved to the periphery of the mail story (they haven’t yet, as far as I know, closed her post office but surely it must be constantly under threat). This is Postman Pat as delivered by Consignia, it is very much a sign of our times and actually I find it all quite poignant. Pat is now something of a superhero, but like all the best superheroes you feel that behind the mask there is darkness, sadness, tragedy.

I can tell that Pat is afraid for his village, for the community, for Mrs Goggin’s post office, afraid of the very death of the English countryside as its vitality is sucked towards the bright lights of the big towns. But he’s trapped – trapped by a duty to get the mail delivered on time (whatever that may mean now) and trapped by the need to put food on the table for the family he possibly never really wanted.

Perhaps Pat should have gone on that picket line after all when he still had the chance, but it’s too late now and he must muddle through trying to make the best of his new reality.


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Media policy explained for the under-6s

CBeebies, the BBC’s preschool channel, has now completed its switch from BBC Television Centre, London to Media City, Salford. There’s probably more interest in the moves of things such as BBC Breakfast (also to Salford) and Question Time (to Glasgow) but I think there’s something quite fascinating about the Cbeebies move, because my two year old son has just witnessed a big shift in public service broadcasting policy, played out between Bob the Builder and Everything’s Rosie.

 

You see, one of the things that makes CBeebies great is that it doesn’t treat kids as fools – it just treats them as kids. That means that when the entire station moves, and the presenters with it, that is played out for the children at home and they are given a story to explain what is happening.

 

Alex, Andy, Carrie and Sid have moved house

 

It’s as simple as that really. The CBeebies continuity links have always been played out on a set called “the CBeebies house” (it even has a garden – I’ve always assumed a corner of the Blue Peter Garden). Through the CBeebies links yesterday we saw the continuity team enact moving into their new “house” and unpacking their things. The change in life for the presenters (moving North) hasn’t been hidden, rather it’s been explained plainly to the pre-school audience. Look a bit further, and there’s something else interesting going on.

 

The differences between the old and new CBeebies houses tell a story of change. What we could see of the London CBeebies house suggested it was very much a post-war semi in a London suburb, complete with a neat if fusty garden. It was every inch the South East. It was very much the 20th Century BBC. The new CBeebies house appears to be a loft apartment in some sort of mill conversion. The feature window at the back of the set alternates images according to time of day but one that I have seen features a post-industrial skyline. This is the house that the 21st century creative economy built – it’s rising on the back of Victorian industry to provide a new adventure playground for metrosexual media types Alex, Andy, Carrie and Sid, like a cartoon advert for urban dwelling on the Salford Quays, a pre-school version of Friends. This is media policy for the under-6s: we’ve moved, it’s exciting, we’re on an adventure and things are changing, come with us as we take things forward.

 

So while CBeebies isn’t of itself political, it wears the politics that have shaped it in plain sight. And it’s bloody marvellous.