So tomorrow is a big birthday. I like the way that it’s on a Saturday this year. That feels good and right to me. Also, the thing I like most about my birthday is that it’s on Guy Fawkes. I’ve always had a weirdy obsession with fire, even before I was old enough to understand about the guy with the explosives.
I must have been about three or four when I nearly burned my sister alive. I can remember it with absolute clarity. It was hot, really hot (it always is in Zambia) and I couldn’t sleep. I’d been bugging the bejeepers out of my parents, not wanting to go to bed, and they’d shut the livingroom door and obviously decided to ignore me wailing in the corridor outside.
It was a good tactic. I got bored of the wailing and stopped. Did I go back to bed? I did not. I took my snivelling self into their bedroom, found a box of matches and THEN went back to bed.
My sister was fast asleep in her cot. (She’s always been a good girl.) The moon was streaming in the window, and the noise from the telly in the livingroom was faint and reassuring. I shook the box of matches, opened them and took a deep sniff. Mmm. Always loved that smell. The curtains in our bedroom were a weird texture. I looked at the box of matches and took one out. I looked at the curtains. I looked back at the match. Wondering, I held the match to the curtain and whisked it across.
How did that happen? I have no idea! To this day, I cannot understand how a match can ignite on curtains, but that’s what happened. Massive blaze. I leapt to my feet (always had a keen sense of danger) and ran to the livingroom door, wailing at max volume.
Did the parents budge? Nuh uh. Ignoring the Irritating Child Bringing Them To Their Knees was clearly their tactic, and they were sticking to it.
I don’t know what it was that made them come to the door, but I’m glad they did. I can still see the shiny buckets slick with slopped water as Mom and Dad rushed to put out the fire. It had already consumed much of my bed and begun on my sister’s, but she got out eeeelive, as my mother would say.
Now I have a hearty respect for fire, and even lighting the hob to boil an egg gets my heart beating faster than it should. So fireworks? Oh YES. Bring ’em on. All the fire – none of the fear. I canna wait!
I’ve asked my sister to stay home safely, with doors and windows shut and the extinguisher at the ready, but I think she’s over the trauma she never knew she had.
The Bath Children’s Literature Festival launched a Big Blog Story – an exquisite corpse story – on 8 September, to which a bunch of fabulous authors add a chapter every couple of days. Follow progress from start to now:
8 September Bath Festival of Children’s Literature http://bathkidslitfest.wordpress.com/
10 September Robin Etherington http://theetheringtonbrothers.blogspot.com/
12 September Annabel Pitcher http://www.annabelpitcher.com/blog-news/
14 September Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell http://www.stewartandriddell.co.uk/immortals_tour.php
16 September Hannah Shaw http://hannahshawillustrator.co.uk/?news.html
18 September Writing From the Tub http://carlybennett.blogspot.com/
20 September Lauren Kate http://laurenkatebooks.net/category/blog
22 September Marcus Sedgewick http://marcussedgwick.blogspot.com/
24 September Alan Gibbons http://alangibbons.net/
26 September John Boyne http://www.johnboyne.com/category/blog/
28 September Catherine Bruton http://catherinebruton.com/blog/
30 September Achokablog http://www.achuka.co.uk/achockablog/
Here’s my chapter:
‘W-what happened?’ muttered Mr Catch, frantically swiveling the periscope this way and that. ‘Where has that blasted moon gone? . . . Scribble? SCRIBBLE?’
There was no response from his companion – Scribble was silent once more, moving slowly towards a tiny porthole at the front of the submarine. Seconds ago the window onto the ocean depths had been flooded with moonlight, but now it was as dark and murky as the worst kind of dark and murky nightmare.
‘SCRIBBLE!’ hollered Catch, tearing his eyes from the periscope. ‘What can you see out there? Are we too late?’
The little blue boy turned to Catch, his furry forehead creased in consternation. He shrugged pitifully, his shoulders rising and sagging with a soft whisper of more falling fur.
‘You choose now to go all quiet again?’ Mr Catch made a growling noise in his throat, and reached for the periscope handle again, but as he did so there was a terrible
and the submarine suddenly stopped its forward motion.
‘Eurghsplfff,’ went Mr Catch as his forehead whacked the periscope handle with a dull thwocking sound. He went down hard, his arms wheeling, catching hold of the few items that he and Scribble had thought to pack on the shelves starboard of the periscope. Everything went flying. A hard lump of bright orange coral bounced off the fisherman’s face, a tangly coil of rope tied up his ankles and a closely written sheet of paper floated down in front of Scribble’s nose.
The little blue boy staggered, somehow staying miraculously upright, and snatched up the precious paper just as the dim green lights of the submarine interior flickered and died.
Mr Catch did not get up. He lay on the floor of his brilliant submarine in total darkness, every bone in his body aching and sore, feeling defeated. ‘The moon,’ he said to Scribble, ‘the moon has TURNED HERSELF OFF. It is all over.’
In the dark, without being able to read or write anything properly, it was impossible to know what Scribble was thinking. It was, however, just about possible to see him. The small furry silhouette of Scribble was standing still, holding something up to his face.
‘Scribble?’ whispered Mr Catch, screwing up his eyes, then opening them wide. ‘What are you doing? Where is that light coming from? Is the moon . . .?’
No . . .
Definitely not . . .
The moon was still Out of Order.
But there was most certainly light coming from somewhere . . .
Catch struggled to his feet, pulling the rope away from his ankles, the coral still clutched in his hand, staring at Scribble, who was pointing at him, waving that piece of paper, shuffling his fast and furry feet in an excitable dance of something . . . well, something excitable.
‘What is it?’ asked Catch. ‘And what is–’
He stopped abruptly, staring down at the coral in his hand. Now that it was dark it was obvious that it shone with a luminous orange glow, casting the faint light that threw Scribble into a crazy shamble of shadows.
‘Hey!’ he said, holding it out towards Scribble. ‘Look!’
HEY! thought Scribble wildly, holding out the paper. LOOK!
The mysterious squiggles and dark markings of the page had faded into nothing more than pretty decorative twiddlings, but lit up by the coral light in strange luminous writing was the answer for which Scribble and Mr Catch had been searching!
‘Oh boy,’ breathed the crusty old fisherman. ‘Oh boy oh boy oh boy . . .’
Click here to read the next chapter:
And click here to check out Egmont’s fabulous site for Tallulah Bird, the heroine in whom I I usually immerse myself, although I’ve loved my time with the crusty Catch and rapidly hairlessing Scribble . . .
No, before you ask, my feet are not depressed. Rather, they were compressed, unwittingly, by some fancy socks that I wore for the Great North Run last Sunday. The fancy socks have two layers so there’s scant chance of blisters. Only problem is I reckon they’d had a boil wash between last wear and the half-marathon and there was no room to manoeuvre. Only I didn’t notice. I was too busy worrying about stomach cramps and toilets and how insane it was for me to be lugging my saggy cellulitic butt round 13.whatever miles to worry about insignificant feet.
I ran with Skinny Anna because she declared she needed to walk every twenty minutes to rest her dodgy hip, so I reckoned I’d manage that kind of run. You know: chilled out. Laid back. Chatting, jogging, getting through it. A time of maybe 2hrs20 if we pushed ourselves a little.
Let’s begin by saying this is the biggest half marathon in the world. There is music blasting, toilet queuing, celebrity spotting, warming up and much, much camera action. But that’s not what get’s the blood pumping. I can’t explain it. Maybe the sheer number of people pushing towards the start line? The smell of Deep Heat in the air? The rustle of race numbers upon fifty thousand running shirts? I dunno. Whatever it was, it made me want to run fast. Which is impossible, because of, firstly, lack of fitness and, secondly, those fifty thousand. We were way back in the field due to toilet queuing, and we pretty much spent the entire race dodging around people to find a space just that little bit ahead where we could find our stride.
Before we knew it we realised we were heading for a sub-2hr time, and when that possibility entered our heads we put the squeeze on. Strategically, you understand. Just enough to squeak in by a second or two.
Next time I do it I’m going to shamelessly ask for sponsorship, which I’ve always been too bashful to do before. And next time I’m going to be wearing bigger socks.
Seriously. That’s what happened. There I was trying not to cry while reading Cathy Cassidy’s Cherry Crush (entirely gorgeous – I really loved it) and this big guy came and squished into the seat next to me on the train.
I’d caught the 6.04 a.m. from my village and THERE WAS PLENTY OF SPACE, DUDE. But nooo . . . he squishes in . . . and then he gives his head a good scratch.
Dandruff everywhere – everywhere! – but mostly on my shoulders.
Possibly even in my hair.
NOOOOOO! Total outrage! Ordinarily I’d have made him feel the wrath that is Angry Me, but I was all choked up and in Cathy’s chocolate-box world. Lucky for him, otherwise I would have said, ‘Whoa,’ in a menacing voice, brushed my shoulders free of his diseased scalpy bits and stared at him with crazed and bulgy eyes until he moved off. Or, Plan B, gone, ‘No. Way.’ And gone to sit somewhere else while giving him the look of slow and agonising death that is my particular speciality.
Maybe I’ll see him again tomorrow . . .
Well, I’m going to have to seriously consider adopting a whippet. Or a greyhound. Those who know me will think this is all to do with the fact that I’m going to enduring The Great North Run this Sunday (twenty-one loooong kilometres of running, or thirteen point something even longer miles, if you’re all imperial) and being whippetlike or greyhoundish would certainly be helpful.
That’s not it. That’s not it AT ALL.
It’s purely for aesthetic reasons that I’d require a skinny dog.
How long do you think before I start looking like my pet? [she says with a strange and desperate gleam in her eye]
(Did someone say they’re gonna send me a bulldog, special delivery? Really? You’d do that to me?)
Sigh. I guess the bottom line is that, really, I should have been training properly for Sunday’s race. If I’d knuckled down and got on with it, I’d be a perfectly healthy individual instead of someone with bigger basoomas than ever before, and a butt that would make airlines worry for their economy seating. And I deserve it. Oh, I do. I eat a lot, plus a lot of chocolate. Has it been worth it? My two-year binge? Erm. Sometimes.
The penance of lugging my lardy self round such an excruciating distance in four days (FOURDAYS!FOURDAYS!ohgodohgodohgod) is going to be stomach cramps at the finish line. I know this because I’ve done a few loooong runs with the boozy bookclubbers who got me into this race in the first place (it was messy; someone’s laptop went round for online registration; a credit card went round for online paying; it all happened so fast) . . .
What was I saying?
So on the rare occasions when I’ve staggered about for longer than an hour and a halfish, I’ve had to hurtle home for a prett-y horr-endous loo session.
Sorry. Too much information. But my concern is this: how far are the Portaloos from the finish line?
Will I make it in time?
It doesn’t bear thinking about. So let’s not. But if the worst happens I know who to blame – starting with the loudest: EmmaAnnaKimShanaClaireJanJo. And it doesn’t stop there. HoohhNO. Recent email banter insists that we have to go Geordie out there in Geordieland (is it okay to say Geordie? It’s not offensive or anything is it?) for a post-race shindig and wear heels.
Now there’s something you need to know about my intellectual bookclubby lovelies. When they say HEELS they mean STIIIIILETOOOOES. (Even sensible StellaAngeliLaura who just Said No to this silly race.) So stilettoes? After 21km with blisters and blue toenails?!
Oh, all right then. I’m in.
So tomorrow is a big birthday. I like the way that it’s on a Saturday this year. That feels good and right to me. Also, the thing I like most about my birthday is that it’s on Guy Fawkes. I’ve always had a weirdy obsession with fire, even before I was old enough to understand about …
The Bath Children’s Literature Festival launched a Big Blog Story – an exquisite corpse story – on 8 September, to which a bunch of fabulous authors add a chapter every couple of days. Follow progress from start to now: 8 September Bath Festival of Children’s Literature http://bathkidslitfest.wordpress.com/ 10 September Robin Etherington http://theetheringtonbrothers.blogspot.com/ 12 September Annabel Pitcher http://www.annabelpitcher.com/blog-news/ 14 September Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell …