In praise of... Bagpuss

Last night I inexplicably dreamed about Bagpuss. Inexplicably because he wasn't even a part of my childhood: I was eleven when the programmes first aired, and though I saw them, I never really watched with the same rapt attention I'd devoted to Play School, Jackanory and Mr Benn. But even so, enough must have seeped into my being to enable me to remember the opening incantation, and the mice singing their high-pitched song as they cleaned or mended something, as that's what I remember from my dream.

Intrigued, I looked Bagpuss up this morning, and in addition to Wikipedia, I even found a couple of old episodes on YouTube. It's safe to say that Bagpuss, like so much of my childhood viewing, belonged to a slower, calmer, more muted age: cartoons and puppets and stop-frame animation rather than CGI and flashy special effects; Oliver Postgate's gentle, reassuring narration and quirky sounds and voices rather than loud noise, constant action and jingles. 

Maybe my dream wasn't so inexplicable... maybe in the midst of a frighteningly resurgent global pandemic and ineffectual, erratic government response, my sleeping, subconscious self was in need of soothing and reassurance...

The programme was about a shop which functioned as a lost property office, and a little girl called Emily, who would find things and bring them to Bagpuss. He and his friends would see the potential and real worth of these items, and, if broken, would mend and tend them. Nothing was too broken that it couldn't be repaired; nothing so dirty that it couldn't be restored to its former pristine self. And nothing was beyond the little team's creativity and imaginations, and their repertoire of songs and stories. 

And now, viewing through the lens of adulthood and commitment to a God of tender, healing love, I'm sure there's a lesson for us all in these byegone fables full of gentle whimsy, containing core messages of community and kindness, restoration, and beauty in brokenness. And there's certainly a lesson in the words with which each episode would end... The fact that Bagpuss was just an old, saggy cloth cat; baggy and a bit loose at the seams - but Emily loved him.

If you don't believe me (or just want a touch of nostalgia) why not watch this video of the first-ever episode? 

And if you only have a minute or two, you can see Bagpuss being reunited with his creators, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. 

I wonder who or what we'll all dream about tonight...? 

Comments