games

The facts

“What sort of games will you have?” said William.
“Gameth like Pothtman’th Knock,” replied Violet Elizabeth.
“Gosh! What’s that?” said William.
“It’th a nithe game,” said Violet Elizabeth. “Thomeone goeth out into the hall and then knockth at the door and thayth ‘A letter for thomeone’ and the perthon who’th name they thay hath got to go out into the hall and kith them. And if theythay ‘two letterth’ they’ve got to give them two kitheth, and if they thay ‘three letterth’ they’ve got to give them three kitheth and if they thay ‘ten letterth’…”
“Shut up!” said William. His face had blanched with horror. “Gosh! It you think we’re going to a party withsickenin’ games like that, we’d… we’d…”
“We’d rather die a thousand deaths,” supplied Henry, who had a large range of dramatic expressions.

  • Number: 34.2
  • Published: 1964
  • Book: William and the Witch
  • Synopsis: William is determined to evade Violet Elizabeth’s birthday party.

Verdict

Martin Jarvis masterfully turned this story into a five-part audio book: Violet Elizabeth Takes Control, William the Dear Little Boysie, William’s Brilliant Plan, The Outlaws and Aunt Jo, and Violet Elizabeth’s Party. But it’s still excellent in single-story form.

The Outlaws can’t think of anything worse than attending a special old-fashioned birthday party (featuring games such as kiss-in-the-ring, shudder shudder) being held jointly for Violet Elizabeth and for her mother’s godmother, Aunt Jo. And strangely enough, Aunt Jo can’t think of anything worse either.

Still, Mrs Bott is determined to make a success of it – a reporter from the Hadley Times is going to be observing the whole affair (“a mention in the ‘Hadley Times’ represented the height of her ambition”) and is equally determined that William and his friends will attend.

“Oh, there you are, William, love,” said Mrs Bott. “I’ve just been telling your mother about a nice little treat I’ve got for you.”
“I’d rather die a thous…” began William.
“Say ‘how d’you do’, dear,” said Mrs Brown hastily.

“I wonder what they’ll do when they find we’re not comin’ to it,” said William.
“They’ll ring the p’lice,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said Douglas, with mingled apprehension and pride. “Real p’licemen lookin’ for us!”
“We might pretend we’d lost our memories,” said Henry.
“I’ve tried that,” said William. “It didn’t work.”
“We could pretend we’d met a hypnotiser an’ got hypnotised,” said Ginger after a moment’s silence. “We could act as if we’d been hypnotised. We could keep shuttin’ our eyes an then openin’ them an’ sayin’ ‘Where am I?’”

The Outlaws are outraged and astonished when their mothers all insist that they go. “More like hyenas than yuman parents” is Ginger’s bitter observation. So they decide simply to run away on the afternoon of the party and thereby evade it.

While they’re loose in the woods, they happen to come across Aunt Jo – also a fugitive from the party! Despite her advanced age, she is a woman of great energy and ingenuity, and leads the group to safety from Mrs Bott’s search party (and they just happen to take advantage of the situation and drop some rotten apples on the heads of their pursuers).

Mrs Bott is in paroxysms of horror when she realises that the Hadley Times has been monitoring the entire farce… at least, until she hears what the reporter has actually written.

The facts

Next Saturday the village was to have a lecture on ‘Living Marvels’ by a famous entomologist.
“Is he going to talk about that monster that lived in a lock somewhere?” William asked Robert.
“No,” said Robert. “Don’t be so ridiculous. Of course he isn’t. Anyway, the creature’s mythical.”
“Well, it may be,” said William non-committally. “I don’t know anythin’ about that. But it’s real, ’cause I read about it once in a newspaper an’ it was written by someone that had axshully seen it.”

  • Number: 32.1
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws are banned from playing winter sports in a local field.

Verdict

In the snowswept village, the Outlaws are hugely enjoying their improvised “winter sports”, until Mr Jones, the owner of the field they have borrowed, banishes them. (I think he was annoyed at being buried in an avalanche caused by William’s toboggan.)

Douglas surveyed the darkening landscape, over which the snow was blowing in gusts. “We’re goin’ to get caught in an awful storm,” he said.
“’Course we are,” said William. “We’re not scared of that. Gosh! We’d be jolly funny Antarctic explorers to be scared of a snowstorm. Come on! Let’s harness Jumble to the sledge.”

They quickly get over their disappointment when they capture a real live “’Bominable Snowman”.

But it turns out to be Mr Jones senior, who – in costume for a Christmas party later – was dangerously lost in the snow until rescued by the boys.

Let the winter sports recommence…

 The facts

Aunt Florence seemed at first just like any other aunt. She was thin and short-sighted and absent-minded, and wore the style of hairdressing and coat and skirt that William bad come to associate with aunts. It wasn’t till the evening of the first day of her visit that William realised she was different. For, just as he was going to bed, she took out her purse and handed him two
half-crowns.

  • Number: 20.5
  • Published: 1938 (1937 in magazine form) – originally titled William and the Woodpecker
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: The Hubert Laneites inspire the Outlaws to a sudden interest in ornithology.

Verdict

William altrustically decides to help a grown-up have a good time, and escape, for a few moments, their drab, dull life. The lucky benefactor is his visiting Aunt Florence.

But he finds Aunt Florence very hard to excite, because she gets excited not by Red Indians or the cultivation of rats, but by birds – and, in particular, by her lifelong search for a particularly rare one, the green woodpecker. She demonstrates its call to William (spectacularly rendered by Martin Jarvis inthe radio recording) so that if he ever hears one he can let her know immediately.

“Poor ole thing!” he said to his Outlaws. “She has a
jolly rotten time. Nothin’ but birds an’ things like that. It’s the same with all grown-ups, one way or another,” he went on.
“l bet you anythin’ they like bein’ dull,” said Henry
again.
“They can’t,” said William firmly. “Not as dull as
that. No one could.”

Determined to show her a good time, William comes up with a pretext to lure her into the woods and into the Outlaws’ game of “braves”. But then, disaster strikes, and the Hubert Laneites kidnap her (or, at least, invite her back to lunch with the Lanes – a deadly insult to William).

But William knows a way to lure her back…