Cat on a string…

21 02 2013

Hello hello hello!

I’m back! Back from a holiday in Paris, and so back to my blog. Did you miss me?!

Here’s a little thing prompted by something I saw in Paris…

Cat on a string

It would have been easy to miss her. Easy to dismiss the tangle of rags as being just that – a tangle of rags. But something caught your eye, and made you look again.

There – just there, a few feet away from the bundle, sitting on a ledge and looking disdainfully into space. It’s a large, rather fat, cat – its colour and markings making it almost indistinguishable from the stained grey concrete around it. But there’s a flash of colour, and that’s what had caught your eye.

The cat is wearing a red leather harness.

And attached to the harness is a red leather lead.

And if you follow the lead along the ledge, then down a bit, it’s attached to the bundle of rags.

Which aren’t a bundle of rags anymore, but a tiny old street-lady, muffled up in layers of random rags, her head hidden by scarves, and just the smallest bit of nose visible, peering out from between her layers.

The cat gives you a dismissive glance, then returns to his staring.


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…

What happened next…

25 01 2013

Good evening!

Remember the Crackleberries post? With the first bit of the Granny Battle story? About a boy called Ellis?

Well, here’s the next bit… once again, raw and rough, splurged out and barely edited… Hope you enjoy it!


Chapter 2

Ellis opened his eyes, eased himself up on his elbows, and nearly screamed. A massive eyeball filled his vision, then receded slightly until it was two massive eyeballs surrounded by the loudest and ugliest pair of glasses he’d ever seen. He shuffled backwards on his bottom, stopping exactly on a large thistle. He opened his mouth to scream again, and below the loud and ugly glasses a hole appeared and a scratchy voice said,

‘Oh, for goodness sake – stop being such a big girl and get up.’

He was so surprised he got up, rubbing his bottom where the thistle had got him.

Standing in front of him was a short, dumpy old lady. She could have been your common or garden dumpy old lady, were it not for the fact that she was a) as previously mentioned, sporting the loudest and ugliest pair of glasses he’d ever seen, b) wearing what looked like chain-mail gloves that reached over her elbows, and c) was gripping in her left hand a small, orange dragon by the scruff of its neck. It dangled slackly, wearing a distinct expression of embarrassment.
She looked him up and down, and shook her head, tutting loudly.

‘Come on then, follow me,’ she said peevishly, ‘We can’t send you home looking like that can we?’

Like what?‘ Ellis thought to himself, still being a bit too stunned to vocalise.

‘Like that,’ the old lady said, waving her free hand vaguely in the direction of his left shoulder.

He suddenly became aware of the burny smell that had been tickling his nostrils, and twisted his head to look at his shoulder. There was a rather large, singed hole in his t-shirt, and reaching up to the side of his head, he found that where his hair had been been there was now a crunchy patch of stubble.

Then he realised what had just happened.

‘Oh, it’s not hard,’ the old lady said, ‘and no, you didn’t,’ as Ellis thought ‘How the… how did she… Did I say that out loud after all?’

By the time Ellis had recovered himself enough to remember to blink, the old lady had scrambled up onto the old platform and was stomping towards a gate in the battered old white fence, the orange dragon swinging from one hand, the other hand impatiently indicating him to follow.

Ellis blinked again, then for want of anything else to do, and still rubbing his thistled bottom, he heaved himself up onto the platform and followed.


Oh, this is fun!

Righty-ho readers, until tomorrow…

Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 3 – Tweaked odour eaters…

More berries and boobs…

24 01 2013


*dashes into hotel, checks in, whizzes up to room in lift, changes out of smelly orange gear, whizzes back downstairs in lift, buys pint, sits down, blogs.*

More berries today!

A bit of surfing proved last night that I hadn’t invented crackleberries. *sad face*

It turns out that crackleberry is in fact another name for a huckleberry.
There’s even an old phrase, “A huckleberry over my persimmon” (nice one!) was means “a bit beyond my abilities“. I rather like that. So I’m not sad that crackleberries existed before I thought of them. But mine will be better, because they do special things…!

There are a couple of other berries that will be appearing in the Granny Battle saga, one of which I’ve giggled about secretly for ages.

The Crow Berry.

Not funny? Well in Iceland it’s called Krækiber. And that’s definitely funny, because it’s pronounced ‘crikeyberry‘. I’m not sure yet of the special properties of the crikeyberry, but it will be something that makes you think ‘Crikey!’.

Another berry that will feature is the Stone Bramberry. Again, not very funny until you know its Icelandic name is Hútaber – sounds like Hootaberry. So this particular berry would lend itself to either boobs or noses. Probably, considering this is a story for children, noses. More specifically, smells. Granny Battle may well use hootaberries in the gunge she mixes up to detect smelly feet, which you can read about here.

Pauses to giggle at ‘boob-berries’…

Well, I’m all berried out… catch you tomorrow!


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…