Particularly pungent…

27 02 2013

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello!

After getting sidetracked yesterday in The Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, here’s the next nude-and-uncut chapter of the continuing saga of Granny Battle and Ellis, hurrah!

If you’d like to catch up on the whole story so far (or just the previous chapter, to get you in the mood, like), here are some links:

Chapter 1 – Crackleberries…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…
Chapter 3 – Tweaked odour eaters…
Chapter 4 – Startled dragon wee…
Chapter 5 – Cats: The truth…
Chapter 6 – Battle Stations
Chapter 7 – An exploding dragon?

Right, let’s get on with it!


Chapter 8

A pair of large, slightly smoking, orange nostrils filled his vision.

‘His name’s Eronimous Sinjun Fluffy-Paws Battleford III, by the way,’ said Granny, lowering the dragon slightly, ‘but I just call him Ian for short. It’s about time you were properly introduced.’ Ellis refocused on the dragon, raising an eyebrow and opening his mouth to say ‘Fluffy-Paws?!’, but catching Granny’s defiant eye he changed his mind. He also decided not to pick up on her mis-spelling of St John.

‘Hello Ian,’ he said rather weakly, ‘I didn’t recognise you there for a minute.’ Ian looked up at him steadily and blinked slowly, then stretched out a scaley, be-clawed front leg.

‘Aw, good boy, he wants to shake hands,’ said Granny, ‘Quickly, before he changes his mind.’ Ellis carefully took hold of the proffered foot and shook it gingerly. The scales felt surprisingly soft. Ian wriggled in Granny’s arms and she put him down in Ellis’ lap, where he curled up with his nose tucked under his tail and promptly went to sleep.

Granny was rustling around in her bag, so Ellis took a moment to look carefully around, glancing back to Ian every few seconds to make sure he could still see him. The memory of seeing, feeling and hearing two places at once was still making him feel a little queasy, and he didn’t want to risk it happening again. ‘As long as I can see Ian properly,’ he told himself, ‘I’ll be alright.’

The train carriage he was in was nothing at all like the ones he’d been in occasionally with his mum. This one looked more like one of the ones he’d seen in the big museum she’d taken him to once – all varnished wood, mirrors, and lights with delicate little frilly lampshades mounted on the walls. They were in a compartment with a door at each side, and two long benches faced each other with shiny steel luggage racks mounted above them.

Opposite him sat a young family – mum, dad and five children, the smallest of which was sitting on his dad’s lap with his short furry legs sticking straight out, as he stared intently at Ellis and picked his long stripey nose.

‘Um, Granny…’ whispered Ellis out the corner of his mouth.

‘Of course they’re badgers,’ said Granny, still rummaging in her bag. Then she triumphantly brandished a rather squashed foil wrapped package. ‘Aha! Sandwich?’

Ellis looked back at the little badger boy, who was now inspecting the findings on the end of his paw with interest.

‘The thing is,’ said Granny, digging him in the ribs with a pointy elbow and passing him a surprisingly dainty-looking sandwich, ‘you’ll find things a little bit odd at first, but once you get used to it you won’t think twice about it.’ She devoured her sandwich in one bite and recovered another from the foil.

‘It makef fense when you fink about ift,’ she said chewily, then she stopped mid-mastication, pulled a face and thought for a second or two. She swallowed. ‘Probably best tho if you don’t try and think about it too much at the moment though, it’s a bit too early.’

Ellis wished she hadn’t said that – it was like the sneeze all over again. He looked down and stared hard at Ian for a few seconds to make sure he was still there.

Then he took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. ‘Granny?’ He asked carefully, trying to make sure that what he was going to say next was as clear in mind as possible. Granny opened her mouth, peered at him, then shut it again. Giving a little nod, she said, ‘Yes Ellis?’ Ellis relaxed slightly and continued, ‘Would you mind very much not answering before I’ve asked stuff? It’s just that it makes me feel dizzy.’ He looked at Granny and felt a bit silly, knowing that she’d already known what he’d being going to ask.

Granny smiled, her eyes crinkling behind her massive glasses. ‘Of course, Ellis,’ she said, ‘I do sometimes forget it must be a bit confusing. I’ll just save it for special occasions and emergencies, shall I?’ Ellis nodded gratefully and took a bite of his sandwich. It was cheese and onion, his favourite, and tasted extremely comforting. He chewed slowly, trying to decide how to phrase his next question, as Granny started to hum impatiently next to him. He swallowed.

‘So, um, what’s going on? Where are we? Where are we going? How are we going? Can we get back?’ he paused and took a breath, ‘and what’s that smell?!’ he finished, wrinkling up his nose at a particularly pungent aroma that had just appeared out of nowhere.

Granny leaned towards him and sniffed.

‘It’s just Ian,’ she said, ‘he does that sometimes in his sleep.’ She wafted the air around the snoozing dragon with both hands to try and disperse the smell and shrugged apologetically at the badger family opposite as they began to cover their noses with their paws.

‘Best way to answer the rest of your questions,’ she said turning back to Ellis, ‘would be for you to have a look at your phone.’

Ellis looked blank for a second, then remembered the app Granny had installed for him back in the kitchen, which now felt like weeks ago. He shrugged off his rucksack, being careful not to disturb Ian, dug his phone out and switched it on. Then he tapped on the Battle Stations icon, scrolled through the menu options and tapped on Map.

At first glance it looked just like his normal map app, except that there were three blobs – one blue, one green, and a small orange one – drifting up the screen. He realised they must be himself, Granny and Ian.

‘Good boy,’ said Granny approvingly, ‘Keep looking.’

According to the map, they were travelling through a dense forest. Except there weren’t any dense forests for miles and miles from where he lived – there was just the disappointingly small wood. He looked at the screen more closely, and noticed the little flap at the bottom right corner – on his phone when he tapped that, he could change map views. He tapped on it, and was given the option of Standard, Hybrid, Satellite and something called “Trigonal“. He tapped Trigonal, and the map quickly redrew. He stared at it. It was still showing them as moving through a forest, but at the same time, like a tracing-paper overlay, he could see houses and roads.

The three dots glided through a new housing estate, then joined up with a motorway. Ellis zoomed in, and found he could even make out tiny cars zooming alongside them, or in some cases straight through them in the opposite direction, which was a bit disconcerting. The motorway suddenly veered off to the left and they were travelling through open fields, and at the same time a dense forest.

He dragged his gaze away from the screen and looked up at Granny, his eyes wide.

‘That,’ he said, with a big grin spreading across his face, ‘is the coolest app ever!’


Wahey! Catch you later!

Oh – and if you’d like to know where the wee orange dragon got his name, read yesterday’s blog post… 🙂


Cats: The Truth… And a question…

28 01 2013


I was mulling over something this morning (besides ‘Why didn’t my taxi turn up? I could have set my alarm for 6.30am instead of 4.30am aaaaargh!’) – hang on, lost my thread… Lets start again…

I was mulling over something this morning: should I be baring my all by publishing raw, rough and unready writing on my blog? By ‘my all’ I mean my lack of attention to punctuation, grammer, rhythm, pace, sense etc, and by ‘raw, rough and unready writing’ I mean first drafts. You know, those very first versions you write, where the ideas splurge out your head and you have to get them nailed down on paper (or on iPad) quickly before they flit away. Those first versions that you’ll end up editing down to half their size and turning what’s left upside down and inside out, then buffing it all up to give it a sparkling finish. After you’ve carefully wiped off all the blood, sweat and tears…

Then I thought, ‘Yes, because it’s giving me the push to write, even if it’s something small, even if I’m so tired I can barely see.’

And I thought ‘Yes, because it’s nice and encouraging when you get positive feedback, despite all the bloopers.’

And I thought ‘Yes, because it’s a lovely feeling to know that something you’ve scribbled has made someone chuckle (even if it was just the tiniest chuckle in the world).’

I had a lot of ‘No‘ thoughts too, but decided to blow a big raspberry at them and continue putting my splurgy-rough-stuff on here for you to dip in and out of should you feel the urge.

I’d be interested to hear what other writerly types out there think on this matter… Leave me a comment, or tweet me @rose_appleby

So then! On to today’s splurgy-rough-next-bit-of-Granny-Battle-and-Ellis. I really need to find a title for this…

Update: Here are links to all previous chapters…

Chapter 1 – Crackleberries…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…
Chapter 3 – Tweaked odour eaters…
Chapter 4 – Startled dragon wee…


Chapter 5

Ellis cupped his hands around the steaming mug on the table in front of him. He’d been a bit wary about accepting a drink from someone who fried odour eaters, but he had to admit to himself it tasted good. Sort of like the best, sweetest cup of tea in the world but with essence of bubblegum and a toffee aftertaste. He took another sip, and looked carefully down at his lap where the small orange dragon was nestled; its eyes were closed, and it was quietly snoring squeakily. Every now and then a pale grey puff of smoke drifted out the corner of its mouth. Ellis had discovered that if he looked at it suddenly without thinking, it looked distinctly furry. But if he concentrated and looked at it a bit more slowly, it was 100% dragon.

‘He likes you,’ said Granny Battle approvingly, taking a noisy slurp from her mug. Whatever she was drinking was producing delicate purple steam.

Ellis felt rather pleased with himself, and gave the dragon a tentative tickle behind its ear. It creaked contentedly. He had a million and one questions he needed answering, and was pretty sure Granny Battle had already heard him thinking them. He picked one at random to vocalise.

‘So why cats?’ he asked.

‘Well, I would have thought that was obvious,’ she replied, blowing on her mug and sending little purple steam-rings across the table.

‘Er, no,’ he replied. Granny gave a little hmph.

‘Oh. Well, it’s the heat.’

‘Heat?’ Ellis looked confused. ‘I don’t get it,’ he said.

‘Well. You sees… it’s…’ Granny scrunched up her nose searching for the right way to explain things. ‘You sees, humans were the best at making themselves warm nests. Or houses or whatever you want to call them. Dragons need as much heat as possible – they hate the cold. They seed the nice warm nests we was making in Way Back When, so tried to muscle in on them.’ She took another noisy slurp from her mug, and smothered a burp. ‘It didn’t work too well at first, ‘cos a spikey, spiney dragon don’t exactly tempt you to welcome it into your home does it? They used to have rather a hard time – I means, think of St. George! So the dragons, see, they worked out how to project this… this… fluffiness,’ she screwed up her mouth as if the word had tasted bad. ‘Anyway, that made them a lot more appealing. People saw them and went, ‘Aw, how cute!’ and started taking them into their nice warm homes. Of course, it was the Egyptian dragons that sussed it first, they were real experts. Took it a bit too far though, if you want my opinion.’

Ellis was silent. He kept getting little bursts of swimmy unrealism. He was sitting at the kitchen table in the bonkers old lady’s – he corrected himself – Granny Battle’s house. They were discussing dragons. Cats were dragons. He’d had his t-shirt singed and half his hair burnt to a frazzle. Now his shirt and hair were back to normal after she’d done something. She cooked odour eaters in a frying pan. He’d trodden in one. She said she was a slooth, and she said that she knew where his dad was.

He clenched his first under the table until he felt his fingernails dig painfully into his palm, just to remind himself that this was real.

Granny Battle continued.

‘Course, they got it made, really. And they make a fortune out of us.’

‘What?’ asked Ellis, ‘Money fortune? How do they do that?!’

‘Weeeeeeeell, just think of all the stuff we buy them!’ Granny said, ‘The food, the silly fluffy toys, daft little baskets, furry things to hang over radiators, collars with sparkles on! You don’t think those things are actually dreamed up and made by us do you?!’ She sniffed, and muttered, ‘Can’t abide fluffiness in any shape or form. Or sparkles. Especially not sparkles.’

Ellis was getting a bit overloaded. He just stared blankly at her. She sighed.

‘Look, dragons need a hoard, right? Forget about all this ‘sleeping on the hoard’ business, that’s rubbish. They have banks, just like us. Always have had. They make – or get made – all that stuff, and we buy it in cartloads.’

‘But – how – I don’t understand!’ Ellis said, feeling as if his brain was about to implode, ‘We don’t buy that stuff from cats! Or dragons! We buy it in shops… and it must have come from a… a… human to get in the shops, surely?! There can’t be a factory somewhere full of cats – dragons – whatever – making stuff for cats, can there?’

‘Not exactly,’ said Granny Battle leaning back in her chair and folding her arms. ‘But sort of.’


There we go! I’m not entirely sure about the cat-dragon-money-making thing – it might prove relevant later, but then again, it might not. I which case it’ll become the victim of The Big Red Pen. Okay, the delete key. But it’ll stay written somewhere, just in case the vague idea becomes relevant in some other story…


Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 6 – Battle Stations

Startled dragon wee…

27 01 2013

Evening all!

It’s time for another instalment of Granny Battle and Ellis – once again uncut, un-edited, splurged out and fresh as a newly laid cow-pat…

Update: Here are links to all previous chapters…
Chapter 1 – Crackleberries…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…
Chapter 3 – Tweaked odour eaters…

Chapter 4

‘It’s all to do with seeing, y’see,’ said Granny Battle over her shoulder, stirring the contents of the frying pan vigourously. She’d scooped the gloopy brown goo from the floor back into the pan, then scraped a few evil-looking greenish-brown berries from the back of Ellis’ pants and the bottom of shoes, and added them to the mixture. ‘Crackleberries,’ she’d said, ‘can’t waste ‘em. You stomped right through my crop.’

Ellis was sitting at the kitchen table feeling odd. He couldn’t stop sneaking glances at his t-shirt which was now minus one singed hole, and rubbing the hair on the side of his head that a few minutes ago had been stubble, and was now the normal tangle. He wasn’t quite sure how she’d done it. Actually, he wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to know how she’d done it. The side of his head felt… twinkly, for want of a better word – and he was very aware that twinkly wasn’t a good word for a boy. But that’s definitely how it felt.

Granny Battle gave the frying pan a vigorous shake, then turned the heat down and sat down at the table opposite him.

‘Seeing is what I does, and that’s what makes me a slooth.’ She folded her arms and leaned back in her chair. ‘I’ve been watching you, Ellis, since you were a toddler. You’ve got a bit of the see about you. You take after your dad.’

Ellis suddenly and felt himself going red, and a little surge of anger made his head feel cloudy.

‘What do you know about my dad?!’ he said hotly.

Granny leaned forward and rested her crossed arms on the table. ‘I knows lots. I knows he’s lost. And I knows where he is.’ She stuck her finger in her ear and wiggled it, then removed it and examined the tip. ‘I just don’t knows yet how to find him.’

Ellis was so shocked he forgot to be shocked when Granny wiped the tip of her finger on her cardigan.

‘But… lost is… lost means… I mean…. He’s…’ he struggled to get the word out. He could feel it, at the back of his mind, but he just couldn’t say it.

Granny leaned back in her chair, eyeing him smugly.

‘Y’see,’ she said, ‘You can’t say it, ‘cos you knows it’s not true. That’s the seeing in you, that is.’

Ellis stared at her, not knowing whether to laugh, cry, shout, scream or run away. Granny sighed.

‘Look, any of those would be expected, but I think the best thing would be if you stayed sat sitting there for a bit longer, and let me show you something about seeing. All right?’ She heaved herself up from the chair, bent down, picked up the orange cat, which was now looking like a perfectly normal – if slightly ravaged and battle-weary – orange cat, and plonked it down in the middle of the kitchen table.

‘Right then,’ she said to Ellis, who had momentarily forgotten his confusion and was leaning back in his chair warily and eying the cat with distrust.

See.’ said Granny Battle.

‘What?!’ he said, looking at her as if she was bonkers. Which, he reminded himself, everyone said she was and he was inclined to agree.

See,’ she repeated, ‘Have a good old stare – really hard. See what’s really there.’

Ellis looked back at the cat, then at Granny Battle, then back at the cat. Then he gave a little shrug and stared angrily at the cat. It glanced at him briefly, then looked away and began to wash its paws.

‘Not like that,’ said Granny, ‘Don’t glare, that won’t work. Just… look at it!’

Ellis made that little sound that means ‘What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? You’re bonkers! Why don’t I just go home?’ then, seeing Granny’s grin, felt rather uncomfortable so tried to relax in his chair and just look at the cat.

After a few seconds it stopped washing its paws and looked back at him.

He looked back harder.

It stared back at him flatly, flicked one ear, and began to look rather uncomfortable.

‘Don’t blink,’ said Granny Battle, who’d stood up and was watching them both carefully.

Ellis felt his eyes starting to water and fought the urge to blink, which was even stronger now after what Granny had just said. He felt the beginnings of a sneeze starting high up in his nose.

‘I think I’m going to sneeze,’ he said in a strained voice.

‘Don’t do that, you’ll make him jump!’ said Granny quickly. Ellis was aware of her backing away slightly, which was a bit worrying. He concentrated on not blinking and tried to force the sneezey feeling, which had crept nearer the end of his nose, back up. He could barely see the cat now for the tears in his eyes.

He sneezed.

In the split second his eyes closed, he heard the strangest, most un-catlike noise from the table in front of him, a crash from the other side of the kitchen which sounded rather like Granny falling over a chair, and something began to smell burney.

He opened his eyes and saw Granny picking herself up off the floor and trying to untangle herself from a chair. One of her trouser legs was smouldering, and she patted it out with a hasty oven-glove.

‘Well,’ she said brightly, ‘Well. I was right about the sneeze wasn’t I?’ She patted out another smoulder on her trouser leg, which had re-ignited, and waved the oven glove at the table.

Ellis looked.

The dragon was hunched rather self-consciously in the middle of the table in a small puddle of dragon-wee. It looked up at Ellis apologetically and blinked.

He blinked back, and was only mildly surprised to find it was still there when his eyes opened again.

A slow, slightly mad, grin began to spread across his face, and the dragon gave a genteel, smokey, hiccup then wrinkled its snout in what Ellis decided could only be a faintly embarrassed smile.


There we go! See you tomorrow!

Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 5 – Cats: The truth…

Tweaked odour eaters…

26 01 2013

Hello again!

Right, back to Granny Battle and Ellis. Some of you might have read this bit before, but I’ve tweaked it a bit so that it follows on better from yesterday’s new bit… We left Ellis following Granny Battle into her house…

Update: Here are links to all previous chapters…
Chapter 1 – Crackleberries…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…


Chapter 3

The old station building looked more like a small cottage than a station, except for the carved wooden decorations around the roof, and a sign on the wall that was so faded and peeling he couldn’t read it. Against the wall were a couple of benches and an old porter’s trolley, crammed with plantpots which seemed to contain nothing but dead twigs and weeds. The door stood open, and as Ellis stepped cautiously inside, a few things happened rather quickly.

First he noticed a smell, like a mixture of old, damp socks, smelly feet and soggy cabbage.

Next he heard the old lady shouting something that sounded like ‘Aaaaargyalittlebugger!’

Then a large frying pan flew over his head and clanged comically on the doorstep behind him.

Finally, the small orange dragon, which appeared to have somehow attached itself to the old lady’s head, suddenly shot off and landed skittishly on the floor in front of him, wheezing hard.

Ellis backed away and stepped in something that just felt… wrong.

‘Now then,’ said the old lady, patting her hair back into a slightly more respectable mess, ‘don’t move. You’ve just trodden in the Odour Eater I was making. Just hold still – once it works out that your feet don’t smell, it’ll loosen its grip. Er – your feet don’t smell, do they?’

Ellis shut his eyes tight and said ‘No!’ very quietly. Whatever he’d stepped in was slithering around his ankles, exploring inside his trainers and investigating between his toes. Suddenly it stopped slithering and started to quiver.

‘Oh dear,’ the old lady said, ‘I thought you said you didn’t have smelly feet?’

‘I don’t!’ squeaked Ellis. The quivering got faster and faster, then suddenly it stopped, and whatever it was slithered off his feet. Ellis opened his eyes and looked down. He was standing in the middle of a splat of gloopy brown goo. He looked up at the old lady in horror.

‘Come on, come on,’ she said, ‘You’re all right now, obviously just a borderline case. I’d do something about that though, before it gets any worse. Step off it, quick now!’

Ellis stepped out the splat as quickly as he could and ventured further into the kitchen, edging around the small orange dragon, which was now looking distinctly furry again and was licking its shoulder catishly.

The old lady put the frying pan down on the table, crossed her arms, and stared hard at him. ‘You’re the boy from number 23,’ she stated, ‘Ellis. You live with your mum, and you lost your dad when you were four-and-quarter. Close your mouth and nod.’

Ellis closed his mouth and nodded. ‘What was going on?!‘, he thought?

‘I’ll get to that,’ said the old lady dismissively. ‘I’m Granny Battle.’ She stuck her hand out suddenly and Ellis jumped. Then, as she seemed to expect him to shake it, he did, carefully.

‘I’m a slooth,’ said Granny Battle.

‘Don’t you mean a sleuth?’ asked Ellis, hearing the spelling mistake.

‘No,’ said Granny Battle, ‘Not a sleuth, a slooth. There’s a very big difference.’


To finish with, I’ve dug out a couple of links to previous Granny Battle-ish posts – one contains a picture of Granny Battle’s house (sort of!), and the other has a few old sketches from my tube-commuting days to Colindale back in the early/mid 1990s – as you can see, the idea for Granny Battle has been kicking around for quite some time!

That’s all for now – will there be more Granny Battle tomorrow? Hmmmm, we’ll just have to see where my head’s at…

Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 4 – Startled dragon wee…


23 01 2013


I’m coming at ya this evening courtesy of Cross Country Trains wifi, en route to Yeooooo-vil.

I had one of those word-pingy moments a couple of hours ago (if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed it), and it got me thinking about my Granny Battle story again. There’s a bit of Granny Battle here – that bit happens later though. But not much later…

Anyway, back to the word.


It’s the sort of word that I thought might lend itself to a sort of beginningy-bit of the story, so I thought I’d give it a go.

So I did.

And so here, just for you, you lovely lovely reader you (doesn’t your hair look smashing tonight! I mean, just, wow, you’re lookin’ good!) is a raw, uncut, unedited, barely-tweaked, shot at the Very Beginning of The Granny Battle Story*:


Chapter 1

When Ellis was four years old, he lost his dad. That was how his mum – and the majority of other grown-ups – put it nowadays anyway. And recently, just within the last few weeks or so, he’d noticed that he was putting it like that too. He thought maybe it was because he was growing up (he was ten now, after all), but wasn’t sure. Sometimes when he thought about it, he felt a bit weird. And sometimes, just after he’d thought about it, he’d jump a little – like he’d seen something flicker, right on the edges of his vision. Maybe that was another part of this growing up business too.

But he wasn’t sure.

* * *

Ellis and his mum lived on the outskirts of a small village that clustered around a small river that squeezed its way through a small valley that was surrounded by a rather disappointingly small wood. But it did have the benefit of a disused railway line running through it. And that meant a disused tunnel (strictly out of bounds of course), a disused, arched brick bridge over the road just up from his house (which was also strictly out of bounds), and a disused station which had been turned into a house (and was also strictly out of bounds). He spent a lot of time in and around the tunnel, and on and around the bridge (which was naturally the thing to do, seeing as they were both strictly out of bounds) but unfortunately he’d never been able to explore the old station due to the presence of a bonkers old woman who lived in the station-that-was-now-a-house. Personally he’d never seen her, but everyone said she was bonkers so he assumed it must be true.

In fact, he was walking along the old railway track now, in between the bridge and the station, flicking at weeds with a stick and taking care not to catch his feet in the brambles that snaked between the old sleepers and would wrap themselves round your ankles sending you flat on your face if you didn’t look where you were going.

His lost dad suddenly popped into his head, and a particularly cunning bramble looped itself around his ankle. He fell flat on his face.

…and thought ‘Crackleberries!’

He sat up and looked quickly around – partly to make sure no-one had seen him trip over, and partly because that weird flickery thing had happened again. There was no-one, and nothing around.

Standing up and dusting himself off, he looked at where he’d fallen. It had sounded like he’d landed on something crackly – which was probably why that stupid word had popped into his head – but all he could see was the usual tangle of brambles, weeds and grass. Something flickered at the edge of his vision again and turning quickly he found himself staring at a pair of unblinking orange eyes, surrounded by tufty looking orange fur that had definitely seen better days. Ellis used up one his best swear words and nearly fell over again as he took a step backwards in fright.

The cat didn’t move.

It didn’t even blink.

It just stared back at him.

It was sitting on a sort of stone ledge, more or less at eye level, and as he looked at it more closely he realised it was the edge of the old platform. Which meant he’d come further than he thought. Which meant…

He looked up a bit more and saw a battered old white fence, and behind that he saw the station-that-was-now-a-house. Where the bonkers old woman lived.

‘Oh-oh…’ he said to himself, and his eyes were drawn back to the cat, which didn’t appear to have moved a muscle and was still staring at him flatly.

He began to feel a bit uncomfortable, so he stared hard back at it and said that thing that everyone says to sudden, strange, starey cats. He said,


In fact he said it so loudly and explosively that he saw the cat’s whiskers bend slightly in the unexpected breeze of the word.

The cat blinked.

And a split second later it was a spikey, be-fanged, flat-eared, slit-eyed face of hiss, and Ellis did fall over backwards this time, especially when the jet of searing blue flame narrowly missed taking his left ear off.


There we go. Well that’s certainly something to work with…

And now I’m going to eat a rather large raspberry muffin.

*Yes, I know it’s a crap title. It’s not really the title. It’s just a thing to use before it has a proper title.

Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…

Do you know how to play guitar?

19 01 2013

Well hello there!

I’m still trying to rhyme a story.

It struck me that it might be useful to write it out non-rhymily, instead of just having the pictures in my head – it might help me find some new words, or give me a bit more background to play with.

It’s written from the point of view of a little boy who is given a guitar, but doesn’t know how to play it. So he goes around trying to find someone who can play it.

Hmmm, it’s always little boys in my stuff – must be the latent tomboy in me…

So, here we go… it’s probably going to be full of notes, asides, questions and random ideas, so may not make sense…!


I’ve got a guitar! It was a present from… an aunt or uncle? With a silly name? It might be blue. But the only thing is, I don’t know how to play it. So I’m off to find someone who can play, and hopefully they’ll be able to show me how to play too.

Here’s our pet dog out in the garden – he’s a big, black, shaggy old dog. I wonder if he knows how to play guitar? I’ll ask him.

The dog looks at the guitar, and has a good old sniff at it. Its strings might go “twoing“. He shakes his big old shaggy head and says “No, I can’t play guitar – my paws are way too big.”

So off I go in search of someone else. Our pet cat jumps onto the garden table from the top of the fence. She’s a little stripey thing, not much more than a kitten really. I’ll ask her.

The cat twists and twines her way around the guitar, her tail looping the loop around its neck. She butts the strings gently with her nose. The strings might go “twing“. She sits down and washes a paw, and says “No, I can’t play guitar – my claws would get caught on the strings.”

I think this might be helping – ‘twing’ and ‘string’…

I decide to go back in the house and look there. High up in the corner of the bathroom, our big, fat, friendly, leggy, house spider is busy repairing a tiny tear in his web. I’ll ask him.

The spider abseils down a thread and lands on the guitar. He disappears inside it, then comes back out and walks up and down the strings. There’s not a sound. Rising silently on his thread back towards the ceiling, he whispers “No, I can’t play guitar – my legs just aren’t strong enough.” Something about sticky web? Not strong enough to pluck? Careful with the rhymes there… this is intended for children…!

Wandering into the kitchen, the resident fly is lazily tapping out a rhythm on the window with head… Or timing himself doing circuits round the light fitting? I’ll ask the fly.

The fly zooms gently round my head as I ask, then lands briefly on the body of the guitar and has a little walk round. He flies into the sound hole and buzzes echo-ley (?!) round the inside. Then he flies out suddenly and disappears out the open back door. I guess he can’t play guitar either.

I sigh, and sit down on the back door step with my guitar on my knee. I’m never going to find anyone who can play guitar.

Just then, there’s a knock at the front door, and footsteps in the hall. Someone ruffles my hair and says “Hello!”. I look up, and there’s my Uncle Jon. He asks me what’s wrong, and I tell him sadly that I have this lovely new guitar, but I don’t know how to play it, and can’t find anyone that can. I’m rather upset.

But guess what? Uncle Jon picks up the guitar, leans back against the kitchen wall and starts to play!

At last! I’ve found someone that can play guitar!


Well, I think that’s helped a bit! I’m probably going to keep coming back to this story version, adding bits, changing bits, and giving it a nudge here and there. But I think putting it down non-rhymily is going to be a big help with the rhymey version, hurrah!

I do have a few pre-rhymed bits so far, so I’ll jot some of them down here so you can get the rhythm and sort of see what I’m aiming for…

‘Oh no,’ she purred, ‘No, not those things,
my claws get caught up in the strings.’


The mouse tee tumpty tum instead,
and shook his teeny tiny head.
‘I’m sorry, I can’t play at all,
my tiny paws are way too small.’

It was my favourite Uncle Jon,
Who asked me what on earth was wrong.
‘I’ve searched all day both near and far
to find someone to play guitar.’

‘I’ve asked the dog, the cat, the mouse,
The spider that lives in the house.
I’ve even asked a little fly,
And now I think I’m going to cry.’

Right, back to rhyming!

Pratchett’s Sixth Rule of Cat Aquisition…

12 01 2013

Pull up a chair and call the cat a bastard!*

A few years ago, I wrote this short blog post about porch paranoia.

This morning, it finally sort-of happened.

We have this cat. Well, we don’t have this cat, it’s more like this cat has us – but only when he feels like it. He starting appearing a few months ago, cheekily walking through the open back door, or hopping in through the kitchen window. He’d hang around for a bit, get purry, then disappear. A few days later he’d be back. This became so regular that in the end we dug out one of Oscar’s old bowls, bought some cat-biscuits, and treated him to a few whenever he showed his furry face. That was probably a bit naughty of us, but we decided that the situation came under Pratchett’s Sixth Rule of Cat Aquisition, that being Joint Ownership:

‘Do you know where your cat spends its time when it’s not at home? It’s worth checking with more distant neighbours that they don’t have a cat with the same size and colouring. It can happen. We once knew two households who for years both thought they owned the same cat, which spent its time commuting between food bowls. A sort of menagerie à trois.’ (The Unadulterated Cat, by Sir Terry Pratchett)

Where was I? Ah yes. The cat. He’s now become a daily visitor, has mastered the cat-flap, and even has the occasional sleep-over. And we still have absolutely no idea where he really lives. Sorry – I mean where his other house is.

Anyway. I got up this morning and auto-piloted the kettle on for coffee, then thought I heard a tiny squeak. I put the kettle off and listened.

A few seconds later there was definitely a tiny, faint, high-pitched meow.

And I knew.

Dashing to the front door as quickly as I could on my morning-legs, I opened it, and there on the doormat in our tiny-about-one-and-a-half-metre-square porch sat The Cat.

He must have snuck in unseen when we locked up last night.

But don’t panic – he was absolutely fine. He got up, stretched, ambled into the lounge and did his flop-onto-one-side-then-wave-his-legs-about-whilst-purring-noisily thing which means ‘Tickle my tummy!’

So I did.

I suppose I should really go and check to see if he’s pooed in any shoes…

*quote attributed to Nanny Ogg