Edwin the Zombie

31 10 2013

BOO!!!

Did I scare you? No? Oh.

Well maybe this will – brace yourselves, it’s the truly terrifying tale of Edwin the Zombie…

Edwin the Zombie

Edwin was a zombie,
He had been all his life.
He lived deep in the forest
With his zombie dog named Strife.

He wasn’t very scarey,
Although sometime’s when he’d cough
His head would wobble weirdly
And occassionally fall off.

One gloomy night in winter
A knock came on his door.
“That’s very odd,” he muttered
As he shuffled ‘cross the floor.

He opened his front door a crack
And peered into the dark,
He couldn’t see a single thing –
Then Strife began to bark.

“What is it?” Edwin asked of Strife
“Does doggie smell a bone?”
Then from the dingy darkness
Came a horrid muffled moan.

He opened the door wider
And it gave an eerie creak,
Then suddenly he saw something
That made his knees go weak.

A ghostly figure loomed out
From betwixt the murky trees!
Poor Edwin was so frightened
That he very nearly sneezed.

Strife and Edwin howled in fright
And out the door they fled,
Pausing only briefly
To pick up poor Edwin’s head.

And from the dingy forest
Came the sound of frightened feet;
‘Twas the children from the village
Who’d been playing Trick or Treat.

Happy Hallowe’en one and all!

Update 12/05/14: Here’s a little doodle of Edwin and Strife out for an evening lurch…

20140512-202415.jpg

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Hallowe’en and rhymelessness…

26 10 2013

Wotcha!

I spent a rather pleasant afternoon this weekend rootling through a box of my old school books we heaved down from the loft.

After chortling my way through numerous weird, wonderful and often just plain odd stories and poems, sighing nostalgically over little glimpses back into my childhood when we were asked to write about what we’d done at the weekend, or on holiday, and going extremely gooey over a letter to Father Christmas asking very politely for a blue Grecian Flyer bicycle* which ended with the words “My daddy would like a model train set”, I realised something rather sad.

All through primary and junior school, the books are full of stories, poems and rhymes. Learning to write and handwriting practice involved copying out little four-line rhymes; for each year there’s an excercise book called “Stories” or “News and Story“, and many of the entries are poems on a given subject; even History excerise books have stories in them, where we were tasked with writing a historical event from the point of view of the famous person concerned.

Then I start secondary school.

And in all my English books, there’s not a jot of rhyme.

Not a single poem.

There are occassional stories, but nothing rhymily creative from my own imagination.

I was rather shocked when I realised this. Writing – and in particular, writing poems and rhymes – was obviously something I’d loved at primary school, and something my teachers encouraged – but then when I got to Big School, the rhyming stopped.

Very, very sad.

So to cheer things up after that distressing bombshell, here’s a poem I wrote aged 9 for Hallowe’en, seeing as that time is upon us! In fact it was written on this very day, 29th October – exactly xx** years ago today!

Hallowe’en

This is the night of Hallowe’en,
When demons and witches can seen,
I’m in my room
I’m all alone
When from downstairs I hear a groan!

A tapping on the window pane,
And the moan, it comes again,
I close my eyes,
I fall asleep,
And the boys got tired doing trick or treat.

*I got the Grecian Flyer. And it was blue. It was the only brand new bike I ever had, and it was ace.

**I’m not telling you! 🙂





Anti-smells…

14 10 2013

Good evening!

So. About them there crackleberries then…

As usual, if you want to catch up with Granny Battle from the beginning, or just jump in somewhere in the middle, Chapters 1 to 15 can be found here.

Chapter 15

There was a loud rattle, and the door was flung open, making Ellis jump. The tiny owl struggled in with a large tray containing a teapot in a jolly knitted cosy with a train pattern on it, three mugs, milk jug, sugar bowl, spoons, and a biscuit barrel. They all watched, holding their breath, as he carefully hopped up a little stepladder by the desk and put down the tray carefully. Then he hopped back down the ladder, bowed politely and scurried out, closing the door quietly behind him. Ellis wondered how he’d managed to open the door with his wings full, but didn’t like to ask.

Mr Fishplate poured, milked, sugared, and handed round the mugs. Then he cleared his throat, turned his head to one side and stared hard at Ellis, who fidgeted uncomfortably under his gaze and felt himself go red.

‘Granny tells me you are rather upset;’ said Mr Fishplate, flicking an imaginary speck of dust from the desk in front of him with the tip of one wing. ‘You feel she has behaved unfairly by hiding the fact from you and your mother these past years that your father is merely lost, not dead.’

Ellis went even redder and mumbled a reply into his mug, the hot steam making his eyes water. He liked Mr Fishplate, but couldn’t squash the feeling that he was sitting in the headmaster’s office about to get a Proper Good Telling Off.

‘It may seem a little harsh,’ Mr Fishplate continued, ‘but believe me: it was Absolutely Necessary. The Undesirables you met earlier couldn’t be allowed to know the truth, and if she’d told you – or your mother – while you were over on the other side, they would have picked up on it immediately.’ He paused and took a slurp of his tea.

Ellis was so locked into feeling like a Very Naughty Boy that he forgot to watch how he managed this with a beak.

Mr Fishplate placed his mug back down on the exact centre of the coaster on his desk, and continued.

‘If that had happened, then everything we’ve been working towards for all these years – and that ‘we‘ includes your father – would have been rendered worthless.’ He leant forwards. ‘Do you understand?’

Ellis didn’t think he had any redness left in him, but he obviously had as felt himself go even redder. He did understand – in fact it seemed rather obvious now Mr Fishplate had spelled it out, and he was starting to feel very silly for loosing his temper. He nodded and mumbled ‘Yessir,’ into his mug.

Mr Fishplate leaned back in his chair, which squeaked. Ian’s ears pricked up briefly in his sleep, and he creaked to himself.

‘You are probably feeling a bit silly for loosing your temper,’ continued Mr Fishplate, and Ellis nodded vigorously, ‘but we understand. You’d had a shock, and you were as yet unaware of many, many things. Now you are aware of a bit more than you were, and you feel silly. It is to be expected. It shows how much you love your father and your mother, because your anger was also on their behalf. That is an admirable quality in one so young, and we are proud of you for that.’

Mr Fishplate reached for his mug, his steady eye still fixed on Ellis, who was looking at him in surprise. He looked over at Granny, who was grinning widely. She raised her mug to him in a salute and took a noisy slurp. Ellis relaxed and gave a little grin of relief.

‘Thank you,’ he said to Mr Fishplate, suddenly feeling rather more grown-up than he’d ever remembered feeling before in his life. And turning to Granny, he said ‘I’m sorry I shouted at you, Granny.’

Granny looked pleased, and a touch embarrassed. ‘Oh, piffle!’ she said, and Ellis could just make out a twinkle in her eye behind the massive glasses, which were steamed up due to the hot tea. ‘Now then,’ she said, taking her glasses off and wiping them squeakily on her cardigan, ‘That’s that all sorted out. Now down to business.’ She returned her glasses to her face and leaning forwards, looked intently at Mr Fishplate. ‘What’s the news Mr Fishplate? Is he still safe?’ she asked.

Ellis held his breath – ‘he‘ could only mean his dad, surely? Mr Fishplate steepled his wing tips together on the desk and looked thoughtful.

‘I think we must assume he is. After all, if they’d found him, I’m sure we would have heard,’ He took his cap off and scratched his head, then smoothed his feathers back into place again. ‘I must admit though, I am becoming increasingly concerned over the condition of his protection. It must surely be wearing a bit thin after all this time.’ He out his cap back on and adjusted it carefully.

Granny nodded thoughtfully. ‘I bought a spare one with me in case of that,’ she said, patting her bag, and Mr Fishplate gave a low screech of satisfaction.

‘A wise move,’ he said, ‘Chuntie Knowe may be giving him additional protection; but on leaving his old one may not be strong enough.’

Ellis couldn’t stand it anymore.

‘His old what? What protection!’ he asked urgently.

Granny reached into her bag and pulled out a bundle of dark cloth. She shook it out and held it up. It was a hooded robe – or a floor length hoodie – similar to the ones The Undesirables had been wearing, except this one was clean and new-looking. It was also a lot smaller than Granny in all directions.

‘Here you go,’ she said, tossing it to Ellis, who caught it in his feet. ‘It’s been soaked in Odour Eater – you know, the stuff I was making from the crackleberries? The stuff you trod in in the kitchen?’

Ellis had reached down to pull the garment off his feet, but recoiled as he remembered the strange, creeping gunk that had explored inside his shoes and around his toes.

‘Oh, don’t be such a big silly,’ said Granny, ‘It won’t hurt you. It’s your protection – those Undesirables have a very keen sense of smell, they can pick us up from miles off. But this’ll mask your smell, and it’ll also let you know if any of them are nearby. That’s what the crackleberries are for.’

‘How can a robe let me know something?’ asked Ellis, gingerly holding up the robe and giving it a tentative sniff. It didn’t smell of anything. In fact, he thought as he sniffed again, it really didn’t smell of anything. It had an anti-smell – a total absence of smell. So total, it made him feel a bit dizzy.

Granny shrugged. ‘It creeps,’ she said, ‘Only a little bit, but enough to let you know.’

Before Ellis could enquire further, a loud bell rang on a large, clock-like contraption on the wall.

—————————-





Mr Fishplate

13 10 2013

Oi-oi!

It’s time for a bit more Granny Battle! Before we get stuck in to Chapter 14, there’s a small amendment to the end of Chapter 13. I’ve updated this on the Granny Battle page, so if you’re catching up or reading from the beginning, you won’t miss out.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin – with the tweaked end of Chapter 13…

————————————

Before Granny could answer, a screech erupted from the shadows. It was such a screechy screech that Ellis felt all the hairs on his entire body stand up, and his ears tried to close in protest. The screech was followed by a looming presence which oozed authority to such a degree that Ellis knew the screech’s owner possessed a total unwillingness to even slightly bend even the most loosest of rules. At all. Ever.

‘MISTER MOUSOLE! ACCORDING TO ITEM SEVEN CLAUSE THREE BEE OF OUR STATION BYLAWS, NO PERSON OR OTHERWISE SHALL SPIT ON THE RAILWAY. YOU JUST DID. SO GET OFF MY STATION AND TAKE YOUR MISERABLE LITTLE FRIENDS WITH YOU. NOW!’

The last word was screeched so loudly that Ellis’s ears rang, and Ian stopped fizzing and thrust his head into Ellis’s armpit, whimpering.

————————————

Chapter 14

The be-hoodied figures had frozen. For a tiny moment there was total silence; then, as one, they all turned tail and fled silently – except for the smaller tubby one, who ran into a lamp post in panic, re-bounded onto his back, scrabbled himself back to his feet, hitched up his robe, then (throwing a terrified glance over his shoulder at something behind Ellis) scurried after the others whimpering.

Granny turned to the owner of the screech and nodded. The owner of the screech inclined its head to Granny. Then it turned to Ellis and eyeballed him with interest.

‘Ellis,’ said Granny, ‘This is Mr Fishplate, the Station Manager.’

Ellis got to his feet hurriedly, forgetting Ian for a second who slid off his lap, tried to hang on to his trousers with a hasty claw, failed, and landed on the platform with a soft thud and subdued squeak. Ellis nervously shook the wing that was extended towards him. The wing belonged to a large – Ellis corrected himself – a very large seagull, that at first glance appeared to be all beak. Big, yellow, sharp, hooky beak. Then he saw a pair of dark unblinking eyes in a gleaming white head that felt like they were looking right through his skin, into his soul, and out the other side.

Mr Fishplate cocked his head to one side, and Ellis was quite impressed that his smart peaked cap, deep blue with gold frogging, didn’t fall off.

‘You look very much like your father, young man,’ said Mr Fishplate, and before Ellis could answer, the gull turned back to Granny.

‘I must say, Madam, I’m surprised to see you here without your protection. You of all people must know that to come here without it is certain to draw out The Undesirables – unless, of course, that was your intention?’

Granny grinned.

‘Busted!’ she said cheerfully, ‘I need to know exactly where they are, see – Mousole in particular. And the only way to do that is…’ she paused, and looked at Ellis expectantly.

Ellis, who’d picked up Ian and was trying to stop him from climbing on to his shoulder, realised he was being looked at and replayed Granny’s last words in his head.

‘Oh!’ he said, ‘…is to get him – well, a bit of him – into your map app.’

Granny nodded approvingly.

‘Off you go then,’ she said.

Ellis looked down at the glistening gobbet on the ground and wrinkled his nose.

‘I’m not touching that!’ he said hotly.

Granny sighed. ‘I don’t expect you to pick it up with your bare hands,’ she said, ‘find a twig or something and dip it in.’

Ellis lifted Ian – who’d stopped whimpering – carefully off his lap, slipped down off the bench and went off moodily in search of a twig. When he returned, Granny was deep in conversation with Mr Fishplate about train times and connections. He tentatively dipped the end of the twig he’d found in the gooey glump and walked over to Granny.

‘Good lad,’ said Granny, whipping out her phone. ‘Hold it up a bit higher.’ Ellis did so, making sure the goo didn’t ooze down the twig onto his hand. Apart from looking disgusting, it also stank. Then heard the sharp whistling buzz and this time closed his eyes against the painful blue flash.

Mr Fishplate returned the large pocket watch he’d been consulting to the pocket of his impressive blue jacket and gave a low-pitched screech. There was a rattling of claws, and a small, rotund owl wearing a miniature version of Mr Fishplate’s uniform but with less gold frogging appeared from the gloom, struggling with a large bucket and mop. It proceeded to mop up the rest of the gloopy gobbet.

‘My youngest,’ Mr Fishplate explained proudly, ‘he wants to be train driver when he fledges.’ Ellis couldn’t help himself and looked from the tiny owl to the huge gull in disbelief.

‘Adopted,’ said Granny, patting the young owl on the head as he scurried off, bucket and mop clattering, stopping to politely take the twig from Ellis on his way.

Granny picked up her bag, and tucked Ian under her arm. ‘Mr Fishplate has kindly offered us a brew whilst we wait for our connection,’ she said to Ellis, ‘and I still have a bit of explaining to do, which he can help with – he’s probably a bit more up-to-date than me, what with being here on-the-spot, like.’

Mr Fishplate nodded gravely and led the way down the platform to the station building, which looked very much like Granny’s cottage except it was immaculately clean and tidy, so really didn’t look anything like it at all except in shape. He ushered them through a door and into a small office. There was only one chair, apart from the one behind the large, highly polished desk which the gull settled into, and Granny plomped herself down in it, whilst Ellis looked round and settled on a large wooden trunk. Ian wriggled out from under Granny’s arm, trotted across the floor and hopped up onto Ellis’s lap where he promptly fell asleep.

————————————

Ooooh, whatever next?!





Happy Children’s Book Week!

11 10 2013

Hello hello hello!

It was Children’s Book Week this week, and I’ve been posting recommendations of some of my favourites on Facebook. So I’d intended to do a blog post about the books I’d chosen to plug, but then I got distracted by a tweet from @QuercusKids asking what children’s book you’d take to a desert island…

Which got me thinking.

And I decided, “Peter Pan”.

Specifically, an old, battered edition of “Peter Pan & Wendy”, retold for little people by May Byron, with illustrations by Mabel Lucie Attwell.

And then the start of a rhyme popped into my head.

And here’s the finished thing…

Reading is such awful fun…

Once upon a tiny time
Books became good friends of mine;
I think the friendship first began
When daddy read me Peter Pan.

Every night he’d read some more,
Then place the book upon the floor;
And when he’d gone I’d take a peek
And try to make the letters speak.

Then (with a little help from mum,
Which was the most tremendous fun)
I learnt to read all by myself
And soon I’d read the whole bookshelf.

Encouraged by my mum and dad
(Who saw this was no passing fad)
I read whenever I was able
(But not when eating at the table).

I read and read, and read some more,
Read on the sofa, on the floor,
Reading curled up, snug in bed,
Reading standing on my head.

Books from libraries, old and new,
Books for Christmas, birthdays too
Bought with tokens from the shop,
I read them all, I couldn’t stop!

And now I’m all grown up (I’m told)
But not yet really, really old,
It’s still my very favourite thing
To grab a book and dive right in.

So calling readers, big and small –
Buy more books, and read them all!
Or join your local library
Then you can read more books for free!

Join a book club – start your own!
Or just read by yourself at home.
Read in bed, read on the train
Read in sunshine, read in rain!

In the bath, or by the sea,
Read on a bus, or up a tree!
And if your bag is full, don’t moan –
Download an eBook to your phone!

So really what I’m trying to say
(I tend to get carried away)
Is reading is such awful fun,
It should be done by everyone!





Rhyme and reading…

6 10 2013

What better way to start National Poetry Day than with a watery-themed Crazy Rhymey Challenge on the train to London!

Later, after dumping my bag at my friend’s house, us girls headed back into town to see Pam Ayres at Cadogan Hall with the free tickets I’d won for being shortlisted in the top ten in her recent competition.

We had a slightly tense moment when we got to Sloane Square and tried to find a pub that sold real ale rather than fizzy lager and overpriced cocktails. The clock was ticking, but thankfully we eventually stumbled upon a good old Rose and Crown tucked away in a backstreet. Then we headed for Cadogan Hall.

It’s a lovely old place, quite small and intimate. And our seats were perfect – slap bang in the middle five rows from the front.

I have lovely fond memories of watching Pam Ayres on telly with mum as a youngster and both of us laughing our socks off, so I’m not quite sure how I managed to forget about her for all these years – I found her again fairly recently on Twitter, and must admit that as I rediscovered her work I couldn’t help but wonder if those rhymes of hers I heard when I was wee have had some bearing on the rhymes I’ve penned since I got bigger…

Bang on time the lights dimmed, and out skipped Pam and proceeded to make our bellies and faces ache for a good hour with rhymes old and new, and tales from her memoirs.

Pam’s delightfully energetic on stage, and her delivery – be it a rhyme or a story – is spot on. Perfectly timed pauses, often with that cheeky, dimpley grin slowly spreading across her face, and hilarious actions. On the subject of those pauses, they were often punctuated by chortles of anticipation from the audience, and the faint murmer of folk filling in the next line under their breath.

After a short interval (during which I discovered the lady sitting next to me was the competition winner, and my friend nearly had a heart attack when a wall-mounted telly outside the loos suddenly came on very loudly as she walked past it – in her words, it was a good job she was on her way out the loos, and not in!), out skipped Pam again and made us ache some more. The occassional rhyme brought that other sort of tear to the eye – she’s a cheeky one is Pam, and sometimes drops a delightfully sad one on you.

Seeing her on live on stage is like shuffling into your living room in your favourite pyjamas and slippers, with the lights dimmed and a toasty fire burning merrily in the grate, settling cosily on the sofa, putting your feet up, then laughing so uproarously that you spill your cocoa and nearly choke on your After Eights.

Afterwards, we joined a little queue, picked up a copy of her new book each, and soon were standing in front of her doing the signing thing.

You’ve read here before my previous experiences at signing events, so I won’t go into detail. Now I don’t know if it was the real ale beforehand, or the after effects of all that laughing, but I managed to blurt out, “You were ace!” to which she gave such a lovely reply that my Fear subsided and we had a nice little chat about the competition and my rhyme (which she remembered!).

After my friend had got her books signed and had a natter with Pam about growing up in similar necks of the wood, off we skipped to catch our train home, feeling much lighter than when we’d arrived (despite carrying the extra weight of books) as I think we’d each laughed off a good few pounds during the course of the evening.

But that wasn’t quite the end of National Poetry Day. I had a few lines buzzing around my head as I went to sleep, and they turned into this:

I went to see Pam Ayres last night,
She really was quite ace;
Her rhymes and ramblings made me laugh
‘Til tears rolled down me face

Did I say I saw Pam Ayres?
She really was fantastic;
She spoke of snoring, cows and teeth
And white knicker elastic.

I went to see Pam Ayres last night,
She really was quite ace;
And afterwards I met her
And I told her to her face.

The following day I discovered that The British Library had opened an exhibition of children’s illustrated classics that very morning, so I headed off early and spent a lovely couple of hours soaking it up. Do go if you get the chance, it’s well worth a visit!

Then I had an accident in the gift shop and bought Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the milk… to read on the train home. Unfortunately, the large sandwich I bought at the station nearly resulted in a choking incident on the train as I gaffawed my way through Mr Gaiman’s most excellent story.

All in all I had a most excellent couple of days, full of rhyme and reading. I’m hugely grateful to Pam Ayres and the competition organisers for giving me the opportunity to go and see her perform – I’d highly recommend to anyone to go see her live, you’ll be smiling for days afterwards!





Water, water everywhere…

3 10 2013

Wotcha!

In honour of National Poetry Day 2013, I decided to do another Crazy Rhymey Challenge. Twitter provided a record-breaking 20 (mainly) watery words, which I’ve built into a rather dubious rhyme…! You can find out more about National Poetry Day here – take a look, maybe there’s something in your area you could go along to! The theme this year is “water, water everywhere” in homage to… well, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you!

Here are the words the lovely folk of Twitter sent me to include:

@LimeyLimericks: cheese
@LewBearMusic: jirble
@moggyminor: ripple
@mooseandmouse: hydrant, gush (or gushing), cistern
@KeninSpoons: droplet, rain, drain fountain
@shaggydogyarns: piscean, water wings, submariner, lavatorial, Thomas Crapper
@Giddyasfuck: trickle
@ofTheTimesShop: aqueduct
@ThisIsBinghamUK: splish splash splosh

Oh, a final thing before launching into today’s rhyme – this Crazy Rhymey Challenge often throws up some interesting words, or sends me off on a quest and I end up learning a new one. Today I discovered the word “chagul“. Look it up if you don’t know it!

Right, now hang on to your hats, here we go!

Graham’s watery wanderings…

Graham sighed aloud
And gave his chagul one more squeeze
He hadn’t anything to drink –
He only had some cheese.

He’d wandered day and night
Of his location not a clue
And just to make things worse
He had a big hole in one shoe.

The sun beat down upon his head
As he longed for a tipple
Then squinting hard he gave a yell –
He thought he’d seen a ripple!

He stared again, and yes!
There in the distance was a hydrant
Surrounded by a pool and trees
In colours bright and vibrant.

As Graham ran towards it
He could hear the water gushing
He very nearly tripped
What with the speed of all his rushing.

But just as he approached it –
As he reached out with his hand,
The pool and hydrant disappeared
And all there was was sand.

Graham started howling
Why were deserts all so fickle?
Then suddenly he paused –
And thought “I’m sure I heard a trickle!”

He turned his head and listened hard
And then said “Oh my gosh!
That ain’t no aural mirage
That’s a real-life proper splosh!”

And turning round again
He saw a humble wooden hut
Looking lavatorial
And with door firmly shut.

Then with a noisy rattle
Said shut door was flung a-wide
And out came a submariner,
A seagull by his side.

“Hello!” said he, and doffed his cap
(He really looked quite dapper)
“Are you another tourist
Here to see the Thomas Crapper?”

“Or are you with that other group?
If so you’ve sadly missed ’em –
But step inside, I’ll demonstrate
Our famous antique cistern.”

“Water!” Graham croaked
“Oh please sir, say you have a drink!
I’ve gone so long without it now
That I can hardly think!”

The sailor took his flask and cup
And jirbled out a dram
Then passing it to Graham he asked
“Have you walked, or swam?”

“Walked,” said Graham, all refreshed,
“There is no other way!”
The seagull flapped its water-wings
And squawked out “Oh, I say!”

“You mean you didn’t notice
Our stupendous aqueduct?
It’s right behind you, look –
It took us ages to construct.”

Graham turned around
And then he turned around again,
And noticed to his great surprise
The elevated drain.

The submariner proudly glowed
And flourished a large goblet
Then taking out his flask again
He shook out the last droplet.

“Ain’t it fine?” he said,
“And in the words of Brendan Behan,
‘It wouldn’t have been possible
If I were not Piscean’!”

“He never said that!” Graham cried
“That quote is utter trash!”
Before the sailor could reply
They heard a mighty splash.

And from the graceful aqueduct
There rose a mighty mountain
And from its back there spurted
A humongous water fountain.

“It’s Moby Dick!” The seagull said
“Wow, that’s one massive fish!”
Moby frowned and twitched his tail
Which made an angry splish.

“I say, that’s rather harsh,” he said
And eyed them with disdain,
The suddenly to their surprise
Down came the pouring rain.

Graham looked up dismally
Then heard a voice decree,
“Get out that sand-pit, come inside!
It’s nearly time for tea!”

Thank you to everyone who joined in with this Crazy Rhymey Challenge. And now I’m off to go and get ready to head to Cadogan Hall to see Pam Ayres, hurrah!