Thursday, October 8, 2020

Wendy the Wise, by Catriona

Tell us about the first story you ever wrote.

It bore a heavy influence from Enid Blyton. (I mean anvil-heavy.) And she was often a crime-writer, right? The Famous Five, the Secret Seven, The Put-em-rights . . . Even her school stories tended to be pulsing with thievery and vandalism. There was always some grey-eyed head girl (head girls tended to have grey-eyes, long humorous faces, and be Scottish, for some reason (?)) finding distinctive purple ink on the sole of an upturned slipper, thereby proving that its wearer stamped on some other girl's special fountain pen. Torrid stuff.

So my first story was a heist caper, in the Enid Blyton tradition. It was set in Fairyland, obvs, and featured a sting carried out on Wendy the Wicked (bad fairy) by Wanda the Wise (good fairy). I searched for it last night - I've got a copy somewhere - but couldn't lay my hand on it, so the plot is a bit hazy. I do know Wanda painted her own wand black and smuggled it into Wendy's cottage at one point. Wendy fell for this ruse, hook line and sinker.

The most notable thing about my debut effort is that my sister is called Wendy. And although she could have given her name to the good fairy, I went the other way like a right wee horror. I mean seriously, who does that? Me.

The other point to bear in mind is that my dad made the story into a book. This was a lot of work in them days: he took my scribbles to the office, persuaded a secretary there to type them up, mocked up a booklet, and ran off copies on a Banda (US Rexograph, I think), leaving space for me to add illustrations. 

My parents unearthed a copy in the attic about twenty years ago, during a clear-out. I was mortified. As a fix, I re-wrote the thing with Wanda the Wicked and Wendy the Wise, adding my sister's children.  Amy was the chief of staff at the fairy palace; Lewis was the head elf . . .

So there's my future mapped out right there: crime story; working off grievances by putting real people in; reliant on the kindness of others to get the work into the hands of readers; still editing years afterwards.

While I was searching for the story yesterday, I happened to turn up another bit of my mum and dad's attic clearage. This one's even earlier and barely a story at all, but it's got some topical relevance.

Transcript: "the miners are on strike and we cant get aney coall or aney electricity and we often have powr-cats one night when the powr was of all my famuly played Molopoly and I won my mummy lost and it got so bark daddy had to lite a lamp"

NB: my dad didn't wear yellow flares then or ever; none of us has curly hair; someone is missing (???); all my sisters had legs irl.

But the real point is that the winter of 1972 was horrible for the adults (especially if they were miners). They were inconvenienced and stressed, feeding in this case four wee girls with food cooked on a camping stove and worrying about work. But for us, it was a magical time when lamps were lit, shadow puppets abounded, and mummy and daddy never watched the news, but instead played "Molopoly" and let us win (I realise, with hindsight).

So, absolutely not to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic for one second, but as we worry about the children missing school and trips and pals, it's possible that some of them - the lucky ones - are making the sweetest memories of childhood.

Still. Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep six feet/two metres apart, party not, and - round this way, at least - vote like your life depends on it. It does.



James W. Ziskin said...

Brilliant! Love the illustrations and commentary. Your dad knew even then that you were destined to be an author.


Ann Mason said...

Lovely story. And childhood genius is evident

A xox

Susan C Shea said...

The light the Molopoly story sheds on the way children can view calamity is so reassuring. Loved it!

Frank Zafiro said...

That's a great keepsake, and a wonderful story to go along with it.

Triss said...

Love your dad! And love your story. I remember fondly the time the gas main into our town broke, in a very northern winter - no heat or stove - and we picnicked in front of the fireplace and wore our snowpants in the house. Don't think my parents remembered it so fondly. :-)