parties

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

“We’re goin’ to have a jolly good bonfire,” said Frankie. “My mother’s given us a whole cupboard that’s got worm in an’ all the bits of the old fence that’s got dry rot.”
“We never have any luck with worm or dry rot,” said William wistfully. “I once tried puttin’ a worm into one of our chairs ’cause I thought they’d give it me for the bonfire if it’d got worm in it, but I mus’ have put in the wrong sort of worm ’cause I only got into a row an’ the worm got out of the chair.”

Verdict

William’s friend Frankie Parsons has a little girl staying with him. Serena is horrified at the idea of the Parsons’ Guy [Fawkes] being burnt, because “he’s got such a nice face and I know he wouldn’t try to blow up the House of Commons”. So she hides it in a suitcase in William’s box room.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Ginger. “Jus’ look at your coat, William. It’s covered with green stuff.”
“So’s yours,” said William. “It’s only that green mud that grows on trees. I ‘spect it’ll brush off all right.”
“Well, I’ll go home and have a bash at it,” said Ginger.
“G’bye.”
“G’bye,” said William. “I’ll go an’ have a bash at mine, too.”
He darted to the foot of the stairs, but Mrs Brown laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“What on earth have you got on your coat, William?” she said.
“Tree stuff,” said Wiiliam, giving an ineffectual wriggle. “Stuff off trees. There’s nothing’ wrong with it. It’s part of nature.”

William, with his sense of fair play and sportsmanship, sets out to return it – but a little too late, because Archie has just collected the suitcase, which he was expecting to contain items for sale at a bring-and-buy.

A huge chase across the countryside follows, until the Guy encounters a ventriloquist…

The facts

“I think it’s time Jumble did something with his life,” said William.
“Gosh! You’d think he’d done enough,” said Ginger. “He ate that beef steak pie your mother made lastweek.”
“Well, he thought she meant him to eat it,” said William. “Gosh! He wouldn’t have minded givin’ her a few dog biscuits.”

Verdict

After ruling out the careers of regimental mascot, greyhound (which I feel is more of a species than a job title), St Bernard (ditto) and more, the Outlaws decide to train Jumble as a police dog.

“Ginger an’ me’ll go an’ c’mit a crime,” said William, “an’ you an’ Henry give Jumble my cap to smell an’ he’ll track us down an’ he’ll have got started on his p’lice dog training.”

There’s another problem on the horizon, though, because Robert has been persuaded to be the magician at the birthday party of his beloved’s brother, and is guaranteed to make such a hash of it as to embarass the Outlaws for the rest of their days.

Both strands come together when William commits a sample crime, for Jumble’s training, and its victim turns out to be a Hungarian refugee circus performer…