William the Explorer

The facts

To William, it seemed funny without Robert and Ethel. It seldom happened that Robert and Ethel were away from home at the same time. When William first heard of these arrangements his spirits had risen. The prospect of home life without an elder brother and sister to snub him and order him about was an exhilarating one. But, oddly, when it came it turned out to be disappointingly flat. He found that he missed the snubs and ordering about; missed, most of all, the state of warfare that generally existed between himself on one side and Robert and Ethel on the other. Life seemed dull and uneventful without it.

  • Number: 32.8
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: William tries to release his parents from their rut.

Verdict

An inspirational speaker, whose main ‘thing’ is that people should liberate themselves from the force of habit, totally transfixes William, and he determines to break his parents free from their shackles.

For instance, his father always mows the lawn on Tuesdays, so to prevent this instance of habit, he hides the lawnmower. Likewise, Mrs Brown always does her sewing on Tuesdays, so William hides her sewing basket.

William beat the knocker again. “Can I have a drink of water, please?” he said, then, remembering the expression that his mother’s daily help had used yesterday, added, “I’ve come over queer.”
The door slammed shut. William knocked again, then tried desperately hard to think of an opening gambit. And suddenly inspiration answered his call. He had read a story last week, and, without stopping to consider whether they were appropriate to the occasion, he used the words with which the hero had used to gain admittance to the castle.
“May I shelter from the storm here, my good man?”
The householder gave a strangled scream of rage and flung himself on William with the fury of despair.

Meanwhile, he gets involved in a broiges between the speaker (who is renting a cottage nearby) and the little girl whose family ordinary lives there, said broiges involving him in a series of repeated unwanted doorknockings at said cottage. When all of these attempts fail to distract the homeowner, William decides “to smoke him out”.

All his plans – the smoke, the lawnmower, the sewing basket – fail. But then again:

“How did you get on?” said Ginger. “Did you get anyone out of their ruts?”
“No,” said William morosely. Then his mind went again over the events of the afternoon and he brightened. “Yes, I did. I got myself out of mine.”

The facts

William joined Mrs Bott and began to walk by her side. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” he said pleasantly.
He had noticed that among grown-ups a discussion of the weather was a necessary preliminary to any conversation.
She made no response.
“Nicer than it was yesterday,” said William.
She plodded on in silence.
“I bet it’s goin’ to be nice tomorrow,” said William. “It was jolly nice all last week, wasn’t it? I forget what it was like the week before, but I bet it was all right then, too.”
Mrs Bott gave a snort that discouraged further pleasantries.
“I bet it’s goin’ to be all right next week, too,” said William, undaunted, then, considering that the weather had been adequately dealt with, turned on her the glassy smile that was wont to accompany his efforts at social intercourse with the adult world and plunged abruptly into the heart of the mystery. “Where are you going?”

  • Number: 32.7
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: The Hall is being filmed by a dubious new piece of TV technology.

Verdict

When Mrs Bott is sounding off to a random man in the street about her domestic woes (chiefly, the featuring of one of her local rivals on a TV programme about “gracious hostesses”, to the exclusion of herself), it turns out that he is “someone on television” and can get her featured in a future episode! The only condition is, she has to have the filming take place that very afternoon – and it will be conducted by one cameraman with no equipment at all, using a valuable and cutting-edge new television invention.

William is so excited to hear about this that he is only bribed to silence by the promise of appearing on a cowboy show at some point in the future; nevertheless, he does insert himself into the centre of the afternoon’s activity.

And it’s just as well he does so, because, of course, while Mrs Bott is being interviewed downstairs, the ‘cameraman’ (liberated from his camera by the eponymous invention) is upstairs collecting all her valuables, jewellery, fur coats etc into suitacases and loading them into his van.

And while, had they been a genuine TV crew, William would undoubtedly have ruined their activities, so too did he ruin these ones.

The facts

“The archaeologist got the idea that there must be a Roman villa somewhere on the estate and he’s been turning the place upside down to find it,” said Robert.
“Gosh! I wouldn’t take all that trouble over any ole Romans,” said William, adding with disgust, “They talked in Latin. They must have been dotty. I’d sooner bury them than dig ’em up any day.
‘Mensa’ an’ ‘dominus’ an’ all that rubbish!”

Verdict

When William fails to persuade his family to give him any money to spend at the fair, despite the use of his famous ‘shame’ technique (“It might be the last fair I ever get the chance of goin’ to: lots of people in hist’ry died young. Well, the little princes in the Tower did”), he morosely gives up and goes to spy on Robert volunteering at a local archaeological dig. Robert’s main motivation is not the discovery of Roman remains, but the discovery of Hermione Monson, the archaeologist’s daughter. Anyway, very few Roman remains seem to be turning up.

“It’s fantastic,” said Hermione. “It’s too fantastic for words. He’s the most frightful-looking boy I’ve ever seen in my life and he springs up from nowhere with his pockets full of the most fantastic Roman finds and he just stands there chewing currants!”

When William tires of spying, he goes for a wander and comes across a friendly old man building a new garden path. In the course of their labour, they come across a few obstacles: old, worn coins; fragments of pot; bits of old mouldy jewellery…

William gets his sixpence.