film and tv

The facts

“Prehistoric people lived on wild animals,” said William, “an’ we’re goin’ ‘back to bein’ prehistoric… We’ll need wild animals’ skins to dress in, too.”
“There won’t be any wild animals,” said Ginger. “They’ll all have got wiped out by this atom bomb.”
“There might be a few left in the Zoo or somewhere,” said William. “Stands to reason. If a few yumans get left a few animals might, too.”
“They’d be tame ones if they came out of the Zoo,” said Henry.
“Well, we could start with ’em tame an’ train ’em up to be wild,” said William.

Verdict

Henry has read a book about a small group of atom-bomb survivors who are forced to found a new civilisation. “Gosh! I’d like to do that,” says William. “I could make a jolly sight better one than the one we’ve got now. I’ve seen pictures of prehistoric times an’ they look smashin’.”

“So it’s a Play Centre and you’re the organiser?”
“Yes,” said William. “It’s a Play Centre an’ I’m the organiser.”
His voice was deeply magisterial, his expression earnest and authoritative. He was no longer a survivor of an atomic war. He was an organiser of a Children’s Holiday Play Centre.
The man’s eyes roved over the crowd of screaming scuffling children.
“They all seem to be doing different things,” he said.
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on doin’ diff’rent things,” said William.
“Two of them seem to be having a wrestling match.”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on havin’ a wrestling match,” said William.
“Rather noisy, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I’ve set ’em on bein’ noisy,” said William. “It’s good for ’em.”
“Free expression, I suppose!” said the man.
“Oh yes, it’s all free,” said William.

Henry’s rather touching contribution is to bring a telephone directory (“I thought we ought to have a bit of education”) and a painting of William Gladstone (“It’s art”).

The problem comes when all the children of the village hear of the impending disaster and implicitly believe in it – some expecting an atom bomb, some a flood – and so converge on the Outlaws looking for salvation.

But just then a TV crew arrive looking for a children’s holiday play centre to film for a documentary… along with all the local parents, who are determined to track down the Pied Piper who has stolen away their offspring…

The facts

“It’s not jus’ an ordin’ry Western,” said William. “It’s bloodcurdlin’ an’ nerve-shatterin’. It says so outside the cinema.”
“William, it sounds horrible,” said Mrs Brown with a shudder.
“But that’s what it’s meant to be,” said William in exasperation. “Victor Jameson’s seen it in London an’ he says it’s fab. It curdled his blood an’ shattered his nerves.”

Verdict

This is a really excellent story: William is desperate to see the latest, highly popular, Western at the local cinema, but a visit from his Aunt Felicia is in the way.

“It’s a prior engagement, William,” said Mrs Brown.
“I don’t care what it is,” said William. “I think it’s jus’ tyrrany.”

William turned to another of his favourite day-dreams. Suddenly (by what means he never could determine) he leapt to the loftiest pinnacle of fame, acclaimed and honoured by the highest in the land. His parents stood humbly in awe of him, but he was gracious and affable. He forgave them for their harsh treatment. “It’s all right,” he said when they apologised abjectly for not allowing him to see ‘The Masked Ranger’. “Don’t give it another thought. It was a little hard on me but don’t worry about it. any more.” He threw out his arms in an expansive gesture. “I’ll take you both to a party at Buckingham Palace tomorrow an’ I’ll take you for a voyage round the world nex’ summer holidays.”

So bitter is he that, on hearing from Henry about the Piltdown Man hoax, the Outlaws decide, out of sheer malice, to prank a local historian. Miss Radbury specialises in documentary research, so William resolves to create some fake historical letters to fool her.

“How could you forge old letters?” said Ginger.
“Write letters with bits of hist’ry in ’em an’ put old dates at the top, like January the third 1500 or somethin’ like that.”

They are just pondering the question of how to make the paper look old, when their friend Miss Thompson is about to throw away a load of old letters from her family’s recent past. They intercept them – but, of course, need to make some adjustments…

“Tell you what!” The light of an Idea gleamed in William’s face “If there isn’t any hist’ry in ’em let’s put a bit of hist’ry in ’em.”
He opened an envelope, took out the letter and scrawled across the bottom of the last sheet: “P.S. Someone told me ithere’s a battle going on at Trafalgar. I wonder whose going to win. Nelson’s got a wound in bis eye and can’t see signals.”
They set to work with energy.
An account of a Church Bazaar ended with the words: “P.S. Christopher Colombus has jus’ set off to discover America. I hope he gets there all right.”
An account of a local fair ended with the words: “P.S. I saw in the paper this morning that Charles the First has been executed. We’ll have to wait till 1660 for the Restoration.”
Henry, whose energies were chiefly taken up in supervising the spelling of the other three, tried to confine his historical references within certain roughly defined limits. “The Black Hole of Calcutta took place yesterday and tomorrow the six hundred are going to ride into the Valley of Death.”
William’s references spanned the whole field of history with wild abandon. “Henry VIII got married to the third of his six wives this morning.” … “I went to Lendon in a horse-coach last week. It took hours and hours. I shall be jolly glad when someone  invents railways.” … “I was helping to put out the· fire of London all yesterday. I feel rotten this morning. I think I must have caught the plague.”
Douglas confined himself to the only historical film he had seen: “Someone told me this morning that Richard the Third was thinking of getting the princes murdered in the Tower if he could find a good murderer. He’s swopped his kingdom for a horse and got into a muddle.”
Ginger who had recently read a book called ‘Scenes from English History’, gave a brief account of his experiences in the Crusades (which included the Battle of Agincourt).

As it turns out though, Miss Radbury is delighted with the letters… because one of them has a Penny Black on it!

Oh – and William rather takes to Aunt Felicia after all.

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.