Friday, 28 May 2010

In which I receive a diverting postal communication

I rarely receive any post. Postmen used to be made of sterner stuff in my youth I feel. Our local postie seems increasingly reluctant to come to Pity's End and has taken to hurling any postal communications I do receive over the garden wall and then running away, whimpering like a poet.

Just such a package thudded against the door this morning and Franz scuttled off excitedly to retrieve it. Opening it with the rusty dirk I keep for such purposes, I discovered it to be from Mr Priestley's publisher, Bloomsbury.

It contained a suggested cover for Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror the proposed reissue of the three Tales of Terror book in the spring of 2011. Mr Robert's illustrations have been dropped in favour of a more sombre treatment. Though I am fond of Mr Robert's Gorey-esque illuminations, I feel that this cover perhaps more accurately represents the dark heart of the tales. It will be interesting to see what readers make of the stories without the relief supplied by his finely crafted decorations.

At any rate I was pleased that Bloomsbury had taken the trouble to send it to me. I note that they did not ask my opinion of it, but I will let that pass. Franz became very agitated on my behalf, but I have tried to explain to him that Mr Priestley is credited with the authorship of these books and we must let him take the lead.

For now.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A pathological need for fame

I met Mr Priestley for a frappuccino in the centre of Cambridge today. He wanted to show me the cover for his new book, The Dead of Winter. It is not coming out until October but he seemed childishly excited about it and I felt it best to humour him. He also wanted to show me his latest piercing but I have a surprisingly weak stomach when it comes to that sort of thing and declined his invitation quite forcefully.

As I have mentioned previously, The Dead of Winter details the extraordinary life of Michael Vyner and in particular his fateful visit to Sir Stephen Clarendon's house - Hawton Mere. Michael left his own record of these events and Mr Priestley was asked to shape them into the form of a novel. Knowing that I had myself visited Hawton Mere and had heard Michael's tale from his own lips, Mr Priestley asked if we might collaborate one more time.

My contribution to the book seems to have been overlooked by the publishers, but I am happy to remain anonymous. Mr Priestley seems to have what I can only describe as a pathological need for fame and financial gain and I have few requirements that are not met by my modest accommodation at Pity's End and the contents of a warm tea pot.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Betwixt lion and man

This is the door knocker here at Pity's End. It is rather a handsome one, I trust you will agree. I have always felt it to be the face of an old friend and it is always a welcome sight when I return to Pity's End.

But for some strange reason Edgar has got it into his head that there is something ominous or even frightening in it. But there is absolutely nothing sinister about it all, as you can see.

Edgar passed these concerns on to Mr Priestley when he was interviewing my nephew prior to writing Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. The conceit of the book is that Edgar is reminiscing about his visits to my house to hear stories, but Edgar has little talent as a writer. Mr Priestley has fictionalised Edgar's visits and then combined them with the children's stories to make a coherent whole. That is a talent of some sort, I suppose.

When Edgar arrives at my door in the book, he describes how the knocker's face 'seemed to hover unnervingly betwixt lion and man'. Which I suppose it does.

But not in a bad way.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Mr Priestley has been insufferable

Mr Priestley has been insufferable ever since The Guardian newspaper article. He finds every feeble excuse to telephone and within moments he is once again reminding me that 'we' were on the list of 'best children's books ever'.

How the man has the audacity to say 'we' when he alone takes the credit for those stories I do not understand. He is, like all authors, utterly without any sense of shame.

In desperation, I asked Franz to scream down the line whenever Mr Priestley called, and the telephone has not rung for days.


Monday, 17 May 2010

In which I fondly recall how much old folk enjoyed being ridden like a donkey

This is sadly a sight that fewer and fewer people can remember seeing. Old people used to be used as a form of transport in East Anglia right up until the Second World War when large women were used instead (old people being needed as ballast by the Royal Navy).

After the war, the incoming Labour Government shamefully banned the practice, ending a tradition that many experts believe had continued unbroken since the days of yore. Since then there have been many attempts to revive the practice but with varied degrees of success.

Of course gainsayers will tell you that it is cruel, but frankly that is poppycock. Old people want to be ridden. It is in their nature. They enjoy it.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Among the best

I must apologise for my long absence from this this 'blog'. Often I am simply not in the mood to share my thoughts with you - or indeed with anyone. Believe me - I am doing you all a favour. Often my thoughts are of such a dark hue, that I myself can hardly bear to squint into their shadowy recesses.

But I was encouraged to return to the public eye by a rather extraordinary occurrence. I was reading The Guardian newspaper yesterday and noticed that its superfluous second section (which I normally reserve for Franz's litter tray) had a cover trumpeting a list purporting to be the 'best children's books ever'. I hardly know why I bothered to look inside, but when I did, I was amazed to find Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror therein.

It felt rather strange to have my name listed in among the 'best children's books ever'. I had never thought these tales to be suitable for the ears of mortal children. It was also hard to feel any sense of pride. These are not works of fiction after all.

Though they are but entertainments for the readers of Mr Priestley's books, they are each of them a ragged scar upon my soul.