On A Very Small Planet, Not Too Far Away (April 2013)

13 Apr

On the day of the quasi-State Funeral staged for Margaret Thatcher, and in a spirit of opposition to what it represents, here is a eulogy not to her, but to the voice, personality and values of her genuinely loved antithesis, the late Oliver Postgate, instead. Postgate is, of course, a wonderful and unique English animator whose life’s work embodies everything her policies sought (and still seek) to eradicate from our lives; a man whose values she, like her disciples in the present Coalition, couldn’t even speak the names of without visibly spitting: ¬†gentleness, smallness, decency, beauty, tolerance, the value of useless and imperfect things.

oliver postgate

On A Very Small Planet, Not Too Far Away

(i.m. Oliver Postgate, 1925 – 2008)

On a very small planet, not too different or remote from this,
small pleasures are shared, small problems solved
in garden sheds, over small brass cups of green tea
and in a spirit that perfectly comprehends
how small the very small planet is, how close its neighbours
in their iron nests and flimsy machines
of tinfoil and springs might be; how plants that sound with dew
or the white clouds from which glass beads fall
are all to be included and understood. When a boot kicks a door in
or a house is reduced to rubble, someone will help,
the whole story will hang on this, as a boy goes in search
of missing food, a train-driver travels miles out of his way
to drop a letter through a letter-box, neither profit
nor any return in mind; when a whole shop with a dozen staff
simply mends and returns those things thought lost:
this is a gift. This is a world we might promise ourselves
and begin to build, sipping our small brass cups
of green tea in allotment sheds, on balconies overlooking
new estates; a world where small pleasures
are always shared, small problems jointly solved
in a spirit that perfectly comprehends how small we are,
how close our neighbours, how necessary that spirit
glimpsed inside these small worlds, stop-motion manifestos
for a whole new kind of exchange, not utopian,
not concerned with power, but in acceptance of this once shared truth:
that when we wake, observe the cracks in this unknown thing,
we’ll examine it, discuss it among ourselves,
work out how these fragments can be rebuilt, like new,
then, citizens of a state peopled by wood-peckers, mice, some folk musicians,
by soup-miners, chickens and marimba-leaved music trees,
by trains on uneconomic lines, by biscuit mills
pin-cushions and broken plates, by stairs of books
and vast fields of stars, by every kind of beauty and uselessness
this very small planet, not too remote from us, might yield,
we shall be awake, and yawn, and return to ourselves,
spring back from this washed-out sepia to our colour screens,
be human, fallible, content to lack any but the grandeur of small things
on a small blue planet, not so very far away from here.

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