Monday, December 18, 2006

They Always Think They're Right

So here is my first Christmas card to you. And actually it is the first ever Christmas card. It was made in 1843 by John Callcott Horsley
He only did 100 so he must have been a bit sad and lonely because The Parents send out about 3000. If you want to make your own Christmas card you can click on the Christmas trees for some festive fun - honest.

So, I am squished in between two people who both have puffy jackets on. They look like two blown up lifeboats with tiny people peeping out from inside. They are mostly silent and keep their beady eyes on the tent doorway.
'I can tell you about crop circles, if you like...' I say.
'I think we should go and set up the camera,' says Pinhead 1 to Pinhead 2. 'We don't want to miss anything.'
'...Or balls of light?' I say.
'Let's just finish the drinks first- it's cold out there,' says Pinhead 2 to Pinhead 1.
So, I am not wanted. I am just a talking duvet. Grandpa Jack comes into the tent on his knees, beard first. He wafts whisky fumes over the crew. Now I know why his stinky pipe is so useful.
'I've read the alien signs - they'll be back later,' he puffs and flops over, shoving me against the side of the tent. 'I've met Buzz Aldrin, you know!' he says.
Yeah, I have heard that one before, I think.
The director raises his head above his neckline. 'How very interesting,' he says and he really is. 'And do you think Buzz believes in alien life?'
'Oh, I should think so,' says Grandpa Jack, settling into remaining free space. 'When you've been in space, there is no end to what you can believe. '
What does Grandpa Jack know how Buzz Aldrin feels? I shuffle out of my duvet. I am heating up with annoyance.
The Pinheads are nodding inside their coats, their eyes all fascinated. 'Have you actually been in space Dr Marshall?'
Doctor? Doctor Marshall? In space? I look at Grandpa Jack and he grasps my shoulder very hard.
'Agh!' I say.
'Space is nothing to me,' says Grandpa. 'Any spare hot chocolate?
'I'm going home,' I say to anyone who is listening but nobody is. I worm my way to the flaps and come face to face with Dexter. His mouth is a bit droopy.
'Oh it's you,' I say. 'You can't come in - there's no room.'
'I don't want to come in,' says Dexter, 'but my dad does and there's some other bloke as well...'
He is shoved aside by his Dad. 'Hi! I'm Dave Dooney, alien-kidnap-boy's father and I am prepared to give you exclusive televisual rights to an interview with me...'
Pinhead 1 tries to get to his feet and then remembers where he is and sort of scrunches to his knees. 'I think we should talk Mr Dooney - would you like some hot chocolate?'
'I'd like some hot chocolate,' says Dexter.
Dave Dooney waves him away. 'Go home, son - we don't need you.'
Dexter looks at me and shrugs. I understand exactly how he feels. I shrug back and give him a friendly arm punch. We wriggle out of the tent and into the dark of the flattened field. Miranda's Dad, Chas is lying face down on the ground. Miranda holds a torch for him. She waves. Chas jumps up and runs to the tent.
'Out of my way, boys,' he cries, 'I need WORDS.'
He bobs down and leaves his bottom sticking out of the tent doorway while he shouts inside. 'I think you should know that this field is about to be declared a site of special scientific interest. I have discovered an interesting little nest of wasp spider and it is being DESTROYED by these so called alien landings...'
'What d'you mean so-called...' Dexter smirks as he hears his Dad shouting back.
'Let me in!' bellows Chas. 'It's this sort of hysterical moronic behaviour that endangers the entire planet! I think...'
We don't get to hear what he thinks because his bottom and legs disappear in a rush through the doorway. The tent starts rocking and bulging out all over the place. There are shouts and oofs.
'That is pathetic,' says Miranda. 'They always think they're right.'
'Adults,' I sigh.
'They take over,' says Dexter and we all nod in agreement.
'Do you want to come and see the stick insects?' asks Miranda. 'There are millions of them now.'
I look at Dexter.
'Could do,' says Dexter. We glance at the tent. It seems almost alive, most of its pegs are flying about and it is listing dangerously.
'I think they're going to be busy for a while,' I say.

We set off out onto the little lane. A bright orange light appears above our heads. It flashes and pulses. Gradually it takes the shape of a long tube. We stop and wait. My mouth is open and I cannot stop the dribble coming out. A little door slide opens on the underside. A large yellow head with a funny green beak pops out.
'Bit lost,' says the alien creature. 'Can you tell us the way to London? Got some leaders to eat, I mean meet. Baa-aak!'
I raise a trembling hand and point somewhere or other. Just my luck, we get to meet the aliens and they turn out to be giant chickens.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Some of my Best Friends are Aliens

North Wenshire County Times
11th December 2006
'Some of my Best Friends are Aliens' claims, Jack Marshall.

The Sun
12th December 2006
'Purple Aliens Ate My Mobile' says Dave Dooney

The Times
13th December 2006
Close Encounters with Alien Rivals - Is this War?

It is not exactly comfortable in Grandpa Jack's tent but it is quite exciting. The Parents have actually let me stay with him for a whole night so that I can experience the great outdoors. I have my favourite stars and planets duvet and Grandpa has a old hairy blanket from his army days. The tent flaps are open to let out the stinky pipe smell and I have my special 360 degree beam torch with us.
'When I worked for the special ops, Wilfred,' says Grandpa Jack, 'I was privy to a great deal of secret information about aliens.' I shuffle as close as I dare to the pipe. Outside it is black as black and a breeze is making the tent flip and flap. 'You must understand that young Dexter does not know what he is dealing with...' he snorts. 'Purple blobs! Kidnap! My aliens are just like you or me or your father or...' he seems stuck.
'...or Mr Bagnall, or Mrs Trundle?'
'Yes, yes, until they turn green and push out those extra arms and start that unfortunate brain sucking thing...'
Definitely, Mrs Trundle, I think.
'Young Dexter is INVITING trouble but I think I can talk to them...persuade them that he means no harm...' He puffs furiously and scratches his stringy hair. 'Should give 'em a's Christmas after all...'
I blink and realise that Grandpa Jack actually means what he is saying. I wonder how to ask him. 'Are you a bit mad, Grandpa Jack? Or do you really know some aliens?'
He looks at me all poppy eyed. 'Who do you think made this crop circle, Wilfred?'
'Not the farmer, then?'
'I knew they'd come back one day,' he says and now I don't know who he is talking to.
He shuffles forwards and sticks his head out into the night. The wind blows his hat off but he just shakes his fist at it.
'That's right! Take my hat! Call it a token of trust, my friends!'
'Um, Grandpa? There is no-one there.' He takes no notice, just keeps shouting.
'Yes, that's right - put my pipe out! Why don't you come and talk to me?'
'Um Grandpa?'
A blinkingly white light appears outside the tent. Grandpa Jack shields his eyes with his hand. 'That's it!' he cries, 'take me, not the boy!' I watch him struggle out of the tent, stand up, arms held high. The light burns his outline onto the tent wall. I shrink into my duvet. Unlike Dexter I do not fancy being captured and tortured by aliens. A grey furry hand extends into the tent. I squeak. I wait for the brain sucking to begin.This is it.
'Hello, BBC Look Northwards, you must be Wilfred?'
A human hand appears from behind the furry microphone, followed by a tall man in a puffy jacket. I nod. 'Do you mind if we just wait for the aliens with you?' He pulls a face. 'Bit cold out there!' He rummages inside a rucksack. 'Your Grandpa is speaking to the aliens right now, I believe - fancy some hot chocolate?'

Sunday, December 03, 2006

This Means Alien War!

Greater Wenbury Gazette 2nd December 2007
Following on from numerous reports of balls of light, this reporter can exclusively reveal that local boy, Dexter Dooney, aged 9, has made contact with alien life forms. He made this sensational claim at his local school, Greater Wenbury Primary. Fellow pupils looked on in amazement as young Dexter documented the trauma and heroism of his kidnap by, 'weird looking purple blobs'.
Dexter telephoned this reporter to relate the incredible EXCLUSIVE story.

'I was walking home from school and it was dark. I had to walk because the school bus had left without me which is a bit typical. Anyway, I bought a load of sweets from Mr Patel and then walked down the High St. I got to the library and that's when I saw the spaceship. It was like a whirling plate, hovering over the road and then this ramp thing came out of a really big bright light and a purple blob waved at me. I waved back, trying to be friendly but it stuck out an arm and grabbed me. 'Course I punched it like mad but suddenly there were ten of them all blobbing round me. So I said, alright then and I went into the spaceship. They wanted to invade the earth so they tortured me for a bit but I didn't tell them anything so they said, 'you must be really really strong, we will not invade the earth.' They gave me a cup of tea and let me go. I will be talking to them again when I am ready.'

Newly qualified teacher Mr Bagnall, who was teaching the class at the time, refused to comment at first but then said, 'We did go on a trip to the Science Museum recently and I know the boys and girls have been having fun with forming their own alien perhaps this is just a story, a bit of fun...and why not?!' he added.
Dexter's father, local builder, Dave Dooney(35) slammed the school for its unsympathetic attitude. 'If my son says he has been kidnapped by aliens then he has and I for one am fully behind him.' Donna Dooney (34), has kept her son away from school in protest,' it's just plain bullying,' she shouted from the front door of the family home. 'My child needs support, not negative comments! AND I shall want to know about the bus as well!'
Meanwhile the hero of the hour, the saviour of the earth, is keeping a low profile and only giving autographs after tea. His sister, Trixie (14) said, 'he's lying,' before being pulled back into the house.
No further witnesses to this fantastic event could be found. Mrs Batley from Greater Wenbury Library would only reveal that Dexter had four library books outstanding. 'They'll be a hefty fine,' she said, 'even if he did save the world.'
Dexter's friend, Tyler Watson, said he thought the aliens were probably not purple but refused to speculate on the correct colour.

I fling down the copy of the newspaper and trample into the muddy ground. I am OUTRAGED. Dexter told me nothing about this, my so-called best friend. Grandpa Jack pokes his head out from between the tent flaps.
'This means alien war!' I declare.
'Righto,' says Grandpa and he puffs at his stinky pipe. 'Righto.'

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fascinating Inventor No.1 - Sir Goldsworthy Gurney 1793-1875

Sir Goldsworthy Gurney had a truely brilliant name, and he was actually a brilliant but not very well known Victoran inventor. He was born in Cornwall in 1793 and first of all became a surgeon (obviously a bit after being a baby) before he became an inventor full time. His family had a lot of money which was quite useful in Victorian times because it meant he did not have to go down a mine when he was 8 or up a chimney when he was 6, just to earn enough to actually eat some mouldy bread. So, he was able to muck about with things, in the days when health and safety had not been thought of which is a good job for us.
One of his first inventions was the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. I don't know what he used this for apart from burning things over long distances which is fair enough but it did lead to him finding out about lime and how it could be used as a light. This may sound crazy to you because fruit is not generally known as a source of light but I am not talking citrus. Lime is a mineral that can be burnt and gives off a really powerful light called limelight and this was used in theatres and even lighthouses.
A quite big invention was the steam carriage. He built lots of them around the same time that Stephenson built The Rocket. In 1829, one of them ran from London to Bath at 15 miles per hour (phew). As you can see the steam carriage used to blow up alot and did not really catch on.
If you go to a heating and ventilation engineer party ever, you will find that Sir GG is a big name. He invented giant machines for heating large spaces like cathedrals. These machines did in fact look like early space rockets should have looked like. There are still some of them left, probably because they are far to heavy to actually get out of the building. Anyway, Sir GG did very nearly invent the first space rocket completely by accident. Here is the story. In Victorian times the poor people were a bit stinky. The rich people knew this and tried to keep away from them by living in the country or in huge houses or both. But in London, in the summer of 1858, the sewers were so smelly and the Thames so stinky that THE BIG STINK happened. The Members of Parliament gave Sir GG money to deal with the problem. He thought he could burn off the stinky gases. So he connected the main Victorian sewer to the chimney in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament.
Christopher Jones in his book, 'The Great Palace of Westminster' takes up the story.

"Unfortunately the gases would not light. Next, Gurney put a coal fire at the base of the Clock Tower and tried again; this time the gases burned. One day though when Mr Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer at the Metropolitan Board of Works, was examining the pipe that led from the main sewer to the Clock Tower, he discovered that there was a leak from a fractured coal-gas pipe into the sewer, and only a trap-door in the sewer was stopping the coal-gas from reaching the furnace at the bottom of the Clock Tower. There had already been one small explosion, although no one was hurt and no damage done. If the full blast of coal-gas and sewer gas had reached the furnace, then the chances are that the Clock Tower would have taken off for the moon, and the rest of the Palace would have been destroyed with it. Gurney, who so nearly blew up the Palace of Westminster, died knighted and respected in his bed. Guy Fawkes, a bumbling plotter of ludicrous incompetence, died in excruciating agony on the scaffold not far away, in Old Palace Yard."


Monday, November 13, 2006

Grandpa Jack's Crop Circle Needs Probing

A word about crop circles. Granpa Jack believes that crop circles are created by aliens and he is not alone in thinking this. You see what happens, according to Granpa Jack, is that the aliens come down in their spaceships and make interesting patterns in the nearest farmer's field. Nobody knows what the patterns mean. Maybe:

- 'Greetings, we come in peace' or
- 'Don't bother with this planet - they can't understand the interesting patterns we make in their fields' or
- 'zxxxihg435000q!!!

There are some really big patterns with loads of detail and actually the crop circles have become less like plain circles and more like some weird painting by Escher. It is like the aliens are trying to outdo one another in their crop circleness.
It strikes me that it would be easier if aliens used another way to talk to human beings, especially as making a crop circle can only be done when there is an actual crop; so communicating with the human race has to be done for about three weeks a year. It sounds a bit limiting. It is also probably a bit annoying to the farmer that half of his crop has gone into make a pretty pattern and he cannot actually sue the aliens can he?

So, Granpa Jack's crop circle needs probing. The next day I walk with him to the farmer's field.
'I am convinced of the existence of ailens, Wilfred,' says Grandpa Jack and he puffs at his pipe very fast. 'Crop circles, BOLS...'
'BOLS?' I ask.
'Balls Of Light, my boy, been seen since before time began.'
'Was there a time before time?' I ponder. 'Was that the dinosaurs or the stone age?'
'Never mind that! Your friend, Dexter has seen these phenomena - he's in the local newspaper!'
I am stunned. He never told me. 'What?! Dexter is in the newspaper? With BOLS?!'
'BOLS,' nods Grandpa Jack. He prods me with his walking stick. 'This is our big chance, young Wilfred. Soon we'll be able to call the local rag with the latest evidence of aliens amongst us.' I am not listening much because I am still trying not to think about Dexter and his phenomena. We finally stop in the middle of a grass field.
'Behold!' cries Grandpa Jack and he sweeps his stick around him.
I look. We are standing inside a flat grass circle. 'Are you sure this wasn't just the farmer turning his tractor round or something?' I ask. I actually think this is a rubbish crop circle.
'We must make camp!' says Grandpa Jack. 'Keep watch for the visitors and welcome them to our world!' He drags a bin liner out of his pocket and sits down on it. 'Got any whisky, Wilfred?'

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This is Starting to get a Bit Odd

A brief word about dunking biscuits. You may or may not have strong views about which biscuit is the best biscuit for dunking purposes. I like digestives, Dexter likes ginger nuts and that says quite a lot, I think.

When I get home from school Mum is sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea. She pours me a mug and I take two digestives for double dunking. Mum always asks the same questions.
'How was school?'
And I always give the same answers.
'Fine,' I say, dipping my digestives into the tea, unless you count being called, 'Alan' every two minutes. I suck the biscuit.
'Anything interesting happen?' she asks.
'No,' I mumble, unless you count your ex-best friend claiming to be kidnapped by aliens.
'Good,' she says and gets up. 'It's vegetable medley tonight - got to use up the veg box.' She rummages through the dark spotty remains of the organic carrots and cabbage. Yuk. I take three more biscuits very quickly.Then she pulls out a manky piece of celery and that reminds me.
'Mum, do you like stick insects for example?'
'No,' she says, then adds, 'but Grandpa Jack is outside with his stinky pipe.'
I pocket the illegal biscuits and run out of the back door and into the mysterious world of the garden. One time, we lost our neighbour in here. She went in searching for cats but Dad found her again and put her back in her own garden before she starved to death.
'Grandpa!' I call into the dark trees and bushes.
'I'm here!' comes a voice.
I peer into the gloom and see a faint curl of blue smoke rise up near where Dad's shed is. Luckily I know the path and I plunge into the head-high undergrowth and push my way through to the shack . One of Grandpa's hands is outside the window, holding his smoking pipe. The rest of Grandpa is inside perched on the rusty lawnmower. I lean against a stack of old flowerpots.
'Your mother won't let me smoke in doors,' he says. He pulls at his beard and looks around the tiny space. 'You weren't followed, my boy?' he asks.
I shake my head.
'Because what I have to say is top secret.'
'OK,' I say.
'We are not alone,' he says and nods his head. In his excitement he begins to smoke his pipe inside the shed.
'There's no-one else around, Grandpa, I say - I told you, I wasn't followed.'
'You don't understand, young fella,' he coughs and I can hardly see him now because of the dark and the smoke. 'I've seen it!'
'On my way back from the pub, my boy, I took a short cut through Fiddler's Field,' he waves his pipe in the air, 'and I saw it with my own two eyes... a crop circle!'
He said it like I should understand what he was on about. I try and look keenly intelligent.
'Don't look so dim, Wilfred! What are they teaching you in school these days! A crop circle, a perfect pattern created in the long grass!'
I nod wisely.
He tuts. 'Created by inhuman hands!'
'Evidence of an alien invasion!!'
Now that I understand. This is starting to get a bit odd. First Dexter, now Grandpa Jack; it is time to go indoors and face the vegetable medley.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You Two are the Odd Ones Out

So, camouflage yourself (bet you cannot see the stick insects on that tree) or run away - aagh! It is a giant ladybird! Well the stick insect can do both which is quite handy for the stick insect not to mention AMAZING but it turns out the parents are NOT impressed with these amazing abilities and are NOT happy about me having Stinky's babies. Miranda says I can keep them at her house for now. So, I will use my incredible powers of persuasion on the Parents and soon they will crumble and beg me to bring in the stick insects. Perhaps I will tell them what the experts say, "This is an easy species to keep and very hardy. They are nice and compact," and I will not tell them, "although they have the ability to run away very fast when you are not looking." - either that or I will just sneak the babies in and they will have to blend in with the furniture.

At school everyone is really interested in my stick insects and I am so excited about my babies I forget I am not talking to Dexter and in the playground I give him a friendly shove.
'You know stick insects?' I say in a casual sort of way as he gets up.
'Yeah, I've got loads but they died,' he says and kicks at me - looks like we are friends again.
'Well, I am getting FIVE!' I kick him back.
'I had about a hundred,' he says getting his football out, 'I couldn't be bothered to count them all.'
'Miranda has about a hundred,' I say, backing away ready to get the ball. 'I am keeping mine at her house.'
He stops and puts the ball away. 'At her house? Huh. They are stupid anyway - just swim around like floating fleas.'
'That's sea monkeys you idiot! Not stick insects! Now give me the ball!'
'I'm playing with Tyson anyway...' he shouts and he runs off.

In the classroom things get interesting and that is not something I say alot. Mrs Trundle is meant to be doing science but she ate too much dinner or something and so Mr Bagnall is here talking about forces and even he sounds bored. We are all falling asleep when suddenly Dexter sticks his hand up. This is weird because, first, Mr Bagnall has not even asked a question and second, Dexter NEVER answers a question even when it is asked.
'What is it, Derek?' asks Mr Bagnall. There is alot of sniggering. Dexter looks behind him.
'I'm called, Dexter,' he says 'and I have something big and important to tell you.'
'Is that so, young man? Then enlighten us, I am all ears.' and he cups both ears with his hands.
We stare at Dexter.
'I have been kidnapped by aliens,' he says.
Everybody gasps.
'Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Well done,' says Mr Bagnall.
'It is true,' says Dexter. 'They took me onto their spaceship.'
'Right,' says Mr Bagnall and he is looking at the door now. 'You don't mean you've been kidnapped by ALANS? Do you Dextrose? Do you? Well done, good joke,' he says and points at his badge.
'No, aliens and that is a fact.' Dexter looks at me. If I did not know better I would say he is being a bit jealous of me and my popular stick insects. But then I did see some strange lights in the sky last night. I am not going to tell him that.
'I saw strange lights in the sky last night,' pipes up Oliver-James.
'Me too,' says Itisham. 'Can I go to the toilet?'
'How many of you saw odd lights?' asks Mr Bagnall.
Mostly everyone puts their hand up. Except me and Miranda. I look at Dexter and fold my arms. I will have to probe him about so-called alien kidnapping...
'Looks like you two are the odd ones out,' says Mr Bagnall. 'Well done.'

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stick Insects are Fantastic

Dad says that people with dogs grow to look like their pets. Well I think you can nearly say the same thing about houses. Our house for example; it is semi-detached and Victorian, just like The Parents. Dexter's house was built by his Dad. It is very grand on the outside with lots of columns and sticking out bits (see left) and inside you cannot move for gadgets to save you doing stuff like flicking a light switch or pulling the curtains or flushing the loo. So, too big and full of itself, just like Dexter. My ideal house is in the shape of a spaceship and I think you will agree, it is a bit special.

Anyway I'm going to Miranda's and her house is tall and thin and rambling just like her dad.
'Come in, come in, come in, Wilfredo,' he rambles and I step into the tiny thin porch full of wellies and big raincoats. We are standing very close together in the porch, not going anywhere. 'Just call me Chas,' he says and he peers up at the ceiling. 'Chas, Chas...'
Miranda decides to join us in the tiny porch, so I move behind one of the big coats to wait for a decision about actually going further into the house.
'HELLO,' she bellows at her father, 'WHAT ARE YOU DOING? '
'If I'm right,' says Chas pointing, 'that is a charming little wasp spider...'
'NO! You'll frighten it! I'll take a photograph!'
And I think they start fighting, I can't really see.
'Just what are you doing in the porch, Charles? Where is your guest, Miranda?' This must be the voice of the fever-struck, one armed mother.
I brave it and stick a hand out through the coats and wave. 'Hello.'
She laughs. It is a nice laugh. Maybe she is normal. She looks normal, even her arm. 'Fantastic camouflage, Wilf. Worthy of a stick insect, I think!' Hmmm.

Turns out Miranda's Mum is quite cool. She keeps a selection of false arms in the kitchen on a sort of rack. At the kitchen table, Miranda and me eat baked beans and fishfingers and fizzy orange. Then we have chocolate cake with ice-cream for pudding - not a weevil or an ant in sight and I am dizzy with fullupness.
'Do you want to have a battle?' asks Miranda in a furtive sort of voice when her Mum has gone out of the room.
I shrug. I am not used to battling with girls. She raises one eyebrow and picks an arm off the rack. 'Go on - if you dare!'
I grab an arm and we sit at the table and lock hands for arm wrestling. Miranda is very good.
'You must practise,' I say, puffing as my false arm flies off the table for the third time.
'Yeah but Mum is the best,'
'Your Mum arm-wrestles?!' I cry. 'With her actual arms?'
Miranda nods. 'All the time, she's a national false-arm-wrestling champion.'
I AM IMPRESSED though I don't tell her that.
'Do you want to see the stick insects?' asks Miranda.
'Could do,' I say.
So we do and that is when I fall in love for the first time. Her name is Stinky and she is a thorny stick insect who has just become a mother and I am going to have her babies. Stick insects are fantastic. Just look at them! I am sure The Parents will love them.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Come and Join us for Tea

It is always a bit odd going to play at someone's house for the first time. You know that person from school and they seem OK when you are with them in the playground. But it can go funny when people are in their own rooms. They can turn in to the world's biggest selfish person and show you their toys but not let you touch them or just sit on the gameboy all day while you go off and play with a football on your own or their Mum takes over and makes you Play Properly (see left). On the other hand I once had Tyson over to play and he didn't show up - turns out he saw someone more interesting down the road and his mum took him to play with them. He didn't even know them. He said he'd forgotten my address. Hmmm.

Anyway when I got home there is a man standing in the sitting room as though he owns it. He has one beefy hand on the mantlepiece and the other sausagey fingers are waggling about in the air as he spouts on about beetles. He has dark floppy hair and a face which juts out at you. On the end of his chin is a beard so small and pointy you wonder why he bothers. And I know him from somwhere, I just cannot remember where. The Parents are both sitting down, nodding their heads as though he is actually interesting to them. Mum is also grinning in a soppy way and Dad is stroking his bushy crumbcrusty beard.
He finally sees me and says, 'Wilfred, this is Dr Morten. He has come over to ask you something...'
Pointy beard chortles and says, 'Oh, call me Chas, please!' Mum giggles.
That's it! Chas Morten, the Bug Man off the TV! Mum LOVES him. I think he is rubbish. The man who tracks dangerous predators is much better. Chas puts a hand through his hair.
'Good to meet you, Wilfred. Miranda has told me all about you!'
'HELLO WILF,' Miranda calls from somewhere in the house, could be down the road with her voice. Right now it feels like an invasion.
'Miranda makes friends so easily,' says Chas as she strolls into the room and stands beside him, 'comes from having such a cosmopolitan upbringing I suppose. We've travelled all over the world with my job.'
'And your wife?' asks Mum, smiling, 'are we going to meet her?'
He tuts. 'Malaria - again.' It's her own fault, forgot to take the tablets. Still she manages.'
Mum stops smiling and gulps. 'Has she seen the doctor?'
'Oh, we saw a doctor a couple of years ago when she caught yellow fever down the Zambezi.'
'No, Daddy,' pipes up Miranda, 'that was lassa fever and it was a year ago; she lost an arm after a pirahna attack two years ago!'
And they both laugh at their silly mistake. Dad pulls at his beard and some hair comes out.
'Then there's the food poisoning on top of the malaria, daddy.' Miranda makes a serious face. 'The doctor said you're not allowed to keep those fungus eating woodlice in the kitchen...'
'Can't eat them anymore either, I suppose,' says Chas and he sighs.
They both sigh. The Parents look at one another.
'When are you off bug hunting again?' asks Dad. 'Soon?'
'No!' says Chas, 'I'm on weevil watch!' As though that explains anything.
'Right,' says Dad.
'Weevils!' laughs Chas, 'Don't you just love them?'
'Especially on toast,' nods Miranda.
'I'll say! Anyway,' says Chas, 'maybe young Wilfred like to come and join us for tea? Can't eat the weevils though - sorry.'
I have never seen my Mum's eyes wider. 'Aren't you playing football with, Dexter?'
'I think Dexter is coming over here, Wilf,' Dad is nodding fiercely at me.
That does it. 'If he's coming, I'm going,' I say.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Don't Care

If you talk to Grandpa Jack about football victory moves, he tuts and says that you should be in the game for the playing . He believes that football should be played in long trousers, that pipesmoking is OK while you are on the pitch and that the best move you can do is a 'plucky move'. See left - titchy boy tackles boy twice his size.

Not once or twice in our rough island story
The path of duty was the way to glory
He that walks it, only thirsting

For the right, and learns to deaden
Love of self, before his journey closes...'

From Young England for 1912, p237

So, I am not talking to Dexter. He walks to the bus queue with Tyson, not me and I can see them practising their football scoring victory things; Dexter does a jump with two fists in the air (he copied that off me) and Tyson does a knee slide and gets a telling off from The Trundle. Meanwhile Oliver-James follows me like a giant annoying puppy,

'Why aren't you wearing your Alan badge, Wilf? When's the first meeting, Wilf? Can I bring my Uncle Alan, Wilf?'
Dexter is at the head of the bus queue and is laughing his head off with the others.
I don't care.
'IT'S ALIEN!' I bellow up at Oliver-James (he is too tall) , 'A-L-I-E-N - ALIEN!'
'It says Alan,' Oliver-James shrugs. 'I don't want to be an alien - that's just weird.'
He chucks the badge on the concrete.
'Aliens aren't weird!' I call after him, 'they are really interesting and they are really here! There might even be some in the school! You could be one!'
'I'd rather be an Alan,' Oliver-James calls back. 'I bet Alans have more fun.'

Miranda gets on the bus as well. She walks all the way to the back of the bus and squeezes next to me and Itisham. This is where Dexter normally sits but today Dexter is sitting with Tyson in front of me.
I don't care.
Itisham has his mini-gameboy from McDonalds and is trying to make it work by stamping on it.
I have a go and use my conker and it actually goes 'beep' before it dies.
'That's rubbish,' says Dexter twisting round. 'I've got a proper gameboy at home - it's really good.'
I know about this because I have played for a long time on Dexter's really good gameboy.
I just say, 'humph.' Dexter gives me a look.
'SO WHAT?' butts in Miranda with her very loud voice. 'SOME PEOPLE ARE POOR AND DON'T HAVE PROPER GAMETOYS!'
'We're not poor!' says Itisham.
'It's Gameboys!' I laugh. She knows nothing.
'Shut up,' says Dexter, looking at me. 'You didn't mind playing with my gameboy!'
'SOME PEOPLE DON'T KNOW HOW TO COOK AND ONLY EAT IN MACDONALDS!' Miranda just carries on shouting about what she thinks.
'We know how to cook!' Itisham stands up and barges past her.
'Dexter only eats in MacDonalds,' I sigh. He is so lucky.
'I like MacDonalds!' snarls Dexter. 'But I don't like you.' He moves down the bus with Tyson.
'What?' I turn to Miranda. 'What is his problem?'
And for once I agree with her. I shrug.
I don't care.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One Conker to Rule them All

The thing is that about now everyone goes bonkers about conkers. So a pause for a bit of conker stuff. Conkers is an ancient game played by kings and peasants and arch- bishops for all I know. It is actually fantastically violent and was nearly banned in our school a few years ago when an unknown hero actually managed to break the headteacher's wrist. You must understand, the idea is to break your opponent's conker and not their wrist but this can be a nice bonus. Other hazards when playing conkers are conker splinters flying into your face, loss of one or both eyes, bits of conker innard in your mouth and severe bruising on any exposed part of your upper body bits. Apart from that it's perfectly harmless and even Mrs Trundle, our teacher has a go (the rumour is that's how she lost her eye - cool).
Roald Dahl was a big conker fan and he tells us in his book, 'Roald Dahl, My Year' that,
'...a great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore formidable.'
It's true. Dexter tried soaking his in vinegar for a week and Tyson baked his in the oven at a very low temperature for six hours. Useless - they went for looks and not inner toughness. Typical.

Top tips
- choose a conker with a sharp edge (not the big round ones)
- the shinier it is the less likely it is too win (thin and soft inside)
- keep it for one year or more before use (tough dull shell)
- keep your eye on the conker when aiming
- keep your head still when firing
- practise

For the full low down on how to play, follow the link. It's not just bashing (unless you are Dexter) it is like science, seriously.

The world conker championships have just begun at Ashton in Cambridgeshire. This has been going since the olden days or 1965. The grown-ups have taken over, it's The Alan Club all over again.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Know a Dog Called Alan

If I ever get a dog it will not be so titchy you can plop it in a waterbowl or so big you need an entire beach just so's it can turn its head. And it will not be called ALAN. It will be called Dave.

So now I am having to go round the school being called Alan and although I have an Uncle Alan and I know a dog called Alan, I do not want to be called, Alan. It is somehow even less exciting than Wilfred.
Outside the classroom, Dexter says, 'Why d'you make me get all these stupid badges? You can keep them, I'm off to the loo.'
And he dumps the bulging Spar bag full of useless Alan badges on me and runs off before I can punch him. I have to get into class pretty sharpish because we are having a big spelling test and I haven't written all of the words on my arm yet but then Mr Bagnall, the new teacher, saunters past me in the corridor; this time without baby-children attached to his legs.
'Oh, badges! Let me see!' He picks one out of the bulging Spar bag, '"The Alen Club,"' he reads. 'I see.' He doesn't of course but he does not want to ask what it means because that would be insulting to me. I tell him
'It's meant to be The Alien Club,' I say, 'but there's a letter missing and nobody will join only Oliver-James and he joins everything.'
Mr Bagnall nods wisely and pushes his multi-coloured glasses up his beaky nose. 'I'll join,' he says and pins a badge on the middle of his tie with all the smiley faces on it. 'In fact I'll pass them round the staff room and who knows by lunchtime you could have a whole gang of us in your club!'
I am open-mouthed with horror. Me, Oliver-James and a big bunch of teachers - what kind of a club is that?!
He puts up a hand and shakes his long hair. 'No, don't thank me, I'm here to help you, William.'
He takes the bag from my nerveless fingers and leaves. I go into the classroom and get 3 out 12 in my spelling test - not bad considering.

The horror of The Alan Club teachers

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Alan Club

So we are in the playground a few days after the school visit. Everybody is excited because the Trundle is going to do an assembly on 'being old' and she has asked for old things - Dexter is taking in a photo of his parents, Miranda is bringing in a fossilised bug and Grandpa Jack is being a bit annoying because he will not come in to do the assembly, he says he is not old, even when he is. More later.

You could ask, who will join The Aliens Club? Well, after the fantastic triumph of The Science Museum - just about EVERYBODY. Dexter and me have never been so popular!
So we are all clotted together in a bunch and Dexter is giving out big badges which say, 'The Alen Club'. And Miranda comes over. She' s alright but she is a bit off since I won the trophy for her - don't know why.
'They' re rubbish,' says Miranda, picking at the plastic covering. 'AND alien is spellt wrong.'
I do think she has a point but I keep quiet.
'Dad would only pay for 11 letters, so I told him to miss one letter out,' says Dexter.
'The Alen Club,' she says and sniggers. 'The Alan Club. A club full of Alans!'
She starts snorting with laughter and Dexter is going to start a big argument. I decide in my new role as class trophy winner to be the peacemaker; so I give Miranda a friendly shove and tell her to, 'shut up'.
The Bug Club is in uproar.
'I'm telling!'
'I'm getting you done! ALAN!'
Mr Bagnall has come out with his whistle. Some of the baby-children run over and cling to his knees. He walks around pretending he can't see them. They are shrieking. I sigh, life was so easy then, I think.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fascinating Invention No. 7 - The Bra

If you look closely you can see one of the statue women is using a half-bra arrangement. There were lots of ways of supporting bosoms before Mary Phelps Jacobs came along but in 1913 she nabbed the patent for the brassiere.
If you say bra properly it can get a bit muddly. The long name is brassiere which is french for 'upper arm' - hmm. Anyway, because this is French some people end up saying brasserie or brazier or even brassica. The idea of Mum wearing a lovely little bar/restaurant or a flaming outdoor fire or even a piece of broccoli is quite funny to me. In fact I am not even sure she wears an actual bra - and I am not going to ask because believe me, she would tell me. And that is because she is convinced that children who ask questions should be given Proper Answers and while a simple 'yes' or 'no' would do for me, it would not do for Mum and I can see her calling in Dad for a man-to-man chat about women's bits.

Anyway the real bra is probably more complicated than any of these things. Before Mary Phelps Jacobs, people (women) used all sorts of stuff like whalebones (big womenI think) and steel rods (strong women) to hold their bosoms up. Mary Phelps Jacobs used silk hankys, ribbon and a maid. I do not think you need to use a maid nowadays but I cannot be sure. I am glad I am not a girl.