Authors: John Lawrence
Copyright © 2010 John Lawrence
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
ISBN 978 1848 764 590
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Typeset in 10.5pt Times New Roman by Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd
For my brother, Colin,
who’ll now never get to read this book
but who shared the zany world
that was our childhood
This book contains mild violence to animals when deemed appropriate; one or two instances of innocuous swearing; eighty-eight uses of the word ‘suddenly’; three-hundred and eighty-nine, yes three-hundred and eighty-nine, uses of the quite irritating qualifier ‘quite’; one reference to drug abuse by a character who should have known better, and three tasteful references to explicit nudity in order to stoke up the narrative when all else had failed.
Apathy is the way to happiness. Mental and transcendental tranquillity is only achieved through the joyful celebration of utter mediocrity. Utter mediocrity, if worked at, is the ultimate accomplishment. And then there are all the theories about Did Dog Create Man, and the creation of the universe, going right back to The Big Woof, which always brings me back to the same huge question – why on earth do I have these never-ending bouts of flatulence?
The Thoughts of Whatshisname, 2010
It started as a short story, written for fun, satirising children’s books of a certain age. But the characters soon insisted that it became something more hefty.
In the course of writing the book, the intention of parodying elements of the style of Blyton and her contemporaries – the traditionally simple sentence structure, the abundance of the dreaded adverbs such as ‘suddenly’ and ‘carefully’, an array of qualifiers such as ‘quite’ and ‘rather’, not to mention plot holes the size of Saturn – soon meandered into other styles. (Mr H Pinter, Mr J Joyce, I’m so sorry!) It seemed to become a surreal parody of itself as the satire inflated beyond my original intentions. To sustain this mischievous way of writing, I had to control my mindset as I cast aside rudimentary writing rules while trying to maintain the narrative’s Blytonesque anchoring points. And the supposedly one-dimensional ‘child’ characters began to show signs of a second or even a third dimension, damn them. You can hardly blame them, as they are subject to curmudgeonly authorial commentary and a textual self-awareness – one of them even decides half-way through the book that his character, against my wishes, should wear spectacles. Hmmm.
And, let’s face it, these aren’t children, I only call them that to upset them – they’re young adults, so we can get away with humour that’s occasionally a little cheeky, but never intentionally
offensive. My parameter was: would it be acceptable for Radio 4? If it was, my internal editor okayed it.
And as for the dog, Whatshisname – he, in particular, deserves a trilogy of his own; he, above all, never lost his sense of purpose; he was the one to lead the narrative in and out of philosophical territory. And he, unlike the four ‘children’, didn’t hide away from the author to complain about their treatment as characters. My only regret is the kangaroo.
If you’ve never read children’s books such as Blyton’s, I have two messages: one, your childhood missed a treat; two, I suspect that when you have finished this work, you may well be searching out a Blyton book in an effort to capture the delight of her original style.
Meanwhile, prepare yourself for a mischievous read! Enjoy.
In which we meet The Secret Five; are forced to listen to Ricky’s stream of consciousness oh not again I wish he’d stop; wonder if we’ve bought the wrong book; blame our parents for encouraging such a style of writing; hear about, but probably don’t care about, Uncle Quagmire’s strange disappearance.
Whatshisname wasn’t thin and wasn’t fat. No, that’s a lie, he
fat. A fat ugly spaniel. As he lay curled up in the front porch of the English country cottage he pondered on the universal question:
do animals think?
He just didn’t know. There wasn’t enough spare time to think about it, to come up with a convincing conclusion. He sighed and opened one eye. No sign of a super adventure yet, then, thank goodness. Why on earth did they always have to have adventures? And why did they include him in their silly Secret Five club? Maybe if he feigned senility or distemper they’d leave him alone. He sighed again, opened the other eye, and lifted his head to glance at a Persian cat on the lawn. It was lying on its front, casually leafing through a Persian-English phrase book just in case a speaking cat might be needed later in the story.
Whatshisname sniffed the air. Nice! Sweet peas, roses and various other brightly coloured flowers with long and unpronounceable Latin names, most of them ending in -eaeaisa or -dondendadooronron, crowded the garden of the cottage, their scent mingling with his own flatulence which, it seems, had passed through the gates of hell and back before being gently liberated from his generous backside.
He closed his eyes again and sighed, happy to be part of a typical country cottage scene, exactly like you sometimes see on
the lid of a very posh tin of biscuits, except for the average contents label, of course. Apart from that, it was typical. It even had a typical village postman, wheeling his squeaky bicycle up the leafy lane.
the bicycle went,
. Marvelling at the quality of the ad lib sound effects, the postman rested it against the wall, next to the Best Before Date and the May Contains Nuts label, but it still continued to squeak so he kicked it and it stopped.
The typical village postman carefully looked in his postman’s sack and even more carefully took out a letter. He held the envelope up.
To The Secret Five, Guantanamo Cottage
it said. What a surprise! Who’d have thought an envelope could speak! Well, bless his soul and everyone else’s too. He smiled, knowing that it might be a very important letter which could start yet another interminable adventure for these four insufferable children and their fat ugly dog. He smiled again, and then another one for luck. He looked at the long long path leading to the cottage door and the dozing dog, shrugged one shoulder, then the other, and tossed the letter over the gate and onto the top of an ecologically-sustainable compost heap.
Satisfied, yet strangely dissatisfied, he adjusted his padded cycling scarf and jumped onto his bicycle. Suddenly he jumped off again, cursing the prankster who had stolen his saddle. Wiping a tear from his eye and re-adjusting his Love Kylie underwear
, he pushed the now unsqueaky bicycle back up the lane, bemoaning the insignificant part he was contracted to play in the story. As he walked gingerly away he loudly quoted lines from Shakespeare (‘Within their alabaster innocent arms, their lips were four red roses on a stalk . . .’) and, just in case, from Eastenders (‘cor, Mo, that geezer’s just fallen down the apples . . .’) in the vain hope that he might be called upon to appear later in the story, should the plot
became desperate enough or the supply of supporting actors suddenly dries up.
Whatshisname watched as the postman disappeared from view. He sighed again. Surely there was a better way of earning bones. Better make a move, they’d wonder where he was, maybe.
Inside the cottage, Betty was slowly waking up after very quickly falling asleep. She ran down to the kitchen in her pink Barbie dressing gown, scratching her bosom, which had appeared almost overnight when she was sound asleep in her bed some years ago. The following morning Betty had asked her embarrassingly flat-chested mother what they were and where they had come from, as they seemed to be a matching pair, almost, but all she got was a mumbled story about The Bosom Fairy and An Unfair Share.