You may have noticed that I have been posting Q&A’s with authors appearing in various upcoming Alchemy Press books. An odd starting point for Noggin the Nog you might think, but stay with me. In Q&A’s one of the ‘Q’s have been variations on that old chestnut “What or who were your earliest influences in fantasy fiction.” A common query, yet also one of the hardest to answer truthfully.
So, I asked myself; what influenced me to read and write fantasy fiction?
Leaving aside Blyton and Ransome, whom I admit to reading by the box load, I had that passion for folk tales of the valleys and dales where denizens of the ‘Greenwood’ or ‘Dark Forest’ wielded power over the unwary. There were more literary authors who had a huge influence . Wind in the Willows (the unabridged version) was a favourite. (Though I do admit to being attracted in the first place solely because my maiden name was Graham…) Yet it was always those collections of folklore, myths and legends, rewritten for children, which spoke to me the most, and which I returned to again and again.
The Wildwood theme can probably be explained by my growing up in a somewhat isolated farm in the Sussex Weald. I could imagine such things existing there all too well. Every day we walked an unmade cart track through a dark tunnel of trees to reach our cottage. Red Riding Hood was someone I could identify with every time. I knew full well that wolves were and are pretty scarce in Sussex, but oh, the thrill of walking home and hearing something snap or crack way off through the trees. I ended up running the last quarter mile on many occasions! Huge influence right there!
To say I read a great deal as a child doesn’t come close. I read anything that came into my grubby hands. (I’m sure I was not the only one sneak- reading cereal packets at the breakfast table. I had the ingredients of Kellogs Corn Flakes memorised.) And I once amused my father no end one night with my choice of bedtime reading (aged around six) which was the latest Dobie’s seed catalogue.
But I digress.
Coming back to my original point, and to Noggin, (and about time I hear you cry) the Clangers are being resurrected for a new audience. So what? you may think.
Well… In my usual disjointed way I connected the Alchemy Press Q&A’s with a conversation on Facebook on whether it was right to ‘meddle’ with the classics, and beyond that to memories of other Oliver Postgate masterpieces.
Why? Because it had suddenly struck me during that conversation that though my earliest influences for writing probably were written for the most part, they were also inevitably nudged at by the visual arts.
Noggin the Nog, first broadcast on TV in late fifties, was arguably my favourite programme at pre-school age.
Revisiting it through the wonders of YouTube I find that Noggin the Nog still has the ability to fascinate me, to tug at the emotions and fire the imagination. Its mix of pathos and humour and Postgate’s gentle, lilting, voice, reading bedtime stories to the nation’s children, is as moving now as it ever was. The fifties generation were the first in this country to grow up in a world of TV. Yes we read books, and of course they had an enormous influence, but try as we may the ‘goggle box’ can’t be ignored.
Watching Noggin on a computer screen I was instantly four years old, sitting with my Dad watching that little Bakelite TV.
I think that I can safely say, here and now, that Noggin the Nog was one of my earliest and greatest influences in fantasy fiction.
It explains a great deal…