politics and ideology

The facts

“Is he the man?” whispered Henry to William.
“Yes, he is,” said William.
“He looks pretty strong,” said Douglas. “I don’t think it’d be any good tryin’ to kidnap him.”
“’Course it wouldn’t” said William. “We’ve got to think out somethin’ better than that.”
“Somethin’ subtle,” said Henry, pronouncing the word as spelt.

Verdict

Serious business in this story, in which Henry warns:

Anyone might wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses goin’ up all over the place an’, once they’ve started, it’s too late to stop ’em ’cause of these plans.”
“What plans?” said William.
“They make plans for buildin’ houses” said Henry. “Sort of drawings of them, you know, an’ they take them to a meeting of the mayor an’ corporation an’ they pass them an’, once these plans have been passed, no one can stop ’em building them.”
“Can’t people go to this meetin’ an’ stop the mayor an’ corporation passin’ them?” said William.
“Yes, they could, but ordin’ry people don’t go to meetings ’cause they’ve not got time, so the nex’ thing they know is they wake up one mornin’ an’ find houses all round ’em and all the fields an’ woods gone.”

The visiting lecturer from whom Henry learnt about the evils of developers used the Outlaws’ beloved Old Barn as an example of a picturesque structure vulnerable to the ravages of housebuilding.

But the boys are having none of this. “The first thing to do is to keep a look-out,” William determines.

“You tell him about the hauntin’, Henry, an’ Ginger about the tomb an’ I’ll do the black magic, an’ I bet we get him so scared that he’ll never make any more plans for the rest of his life.”
“I bet he won’t listen,” said Douglas.
“Yes, he will,” said William. “I’ll be specially polite so he’ll have to.”

So imagine their horror when they see a man sketching the building and measuring it up with a tape measure!

They immediately begin a campaign to scare him away, loosely based on the curse of Tutenkhamen’s tomb, and, in parallel, bribe his granddaughter to tell him where he keeps his plans, so that they can destroy them. (The bribe is a donkey which gets them into all sorts of complications.)

Fortunately, the Old Barn is safe.

The facts

“The Society believes that cows and sheep and all other animals should be allowed to lead long happy lives with freedom from want and fear and that they should be allowed to attain the peace and dignity of old age and die of simple natural diseases like human beings.”
“Dogs are all right,” said William, “an’ so are some insects. An’ I’ve met guinea-pigs an’ goldfish that were quite decent. I shouldn’t mind any of them dyin’ of natural diseases if they want to.”

Verdict

Definite echoes of Our Man in Havana in this story, with William’s friend Miss Thompson setting up a fictitious network of animal rights activists to save herself the embarassment of disappointing the nice officer from the national charity who has so much faith in her. “The odd thing is that I still half believe in them, you know – Mr Coleman, Mr Flower, Mr Beauchamp, Miss Poppins, Mrs Belmont and the rest.”

William took a formal farewell of his hostess, fixing her with the glassy smile that accompanied any exhibition of “manners” on his part and enunciating the words “Thank you for having me” in a loud and husky voice.

But that all comes later… first, William takes pity on a shy market researcher sitting by the side of the road and decides to help her out by finding people to complete her survey. (The whole episode has a very modern feel to it.)

Fortunately, William espies a student protest marching from ‘Newlick University’ (with a pig), and manages to solve both strands…

The facts

“What’s a stone’s throw?” said Ginger. “My aunt’s goin’ to live in a new house an’ the estate agent said it was a stone’s throw from the shops.”
William picked up a stone. “I’ll show you what a stone’s throw is,” he said. He meant to throw the stone along the road but Jumble, taking the action as an invitation to a game, leapt up exuberantly and flung him off his balance. The stone soared over the hedge into the garden they were passing.
There came the sinister sound of breaking glass.
“Gosh!” said William with horror. “Let’s get off quick.”

  • Number: 32.4
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: William and Ginger accidentally imprison a man on his roof.

Verdict

Helping dust books for a friendly old lady, William and Ginger become enchanted by the derring-do and kind hearts of the stars of Don Quixote, and promptly rename themselves Don William and Sancho Ginger (Jumble becomes Rosinante).

When they overhear the chairs of both local political parties mentioning that Mr Honiton, a newcomer to the neighbourhood, is “sitting on the fence”, they naturally misunderstand the word ‘fence’ and go to inspect his house. The inspection goes slightly wrong, and a near-naked Mr Honiton gets locked out on his balcony, and is not unreasonably furious with the Outlaws.

William examined the pallid liquid that half filled a saucepan on the gas cooker. “Shouldn’t be surprised if that’s not melted silver.”
“Smells like chicken soup to me,” said Ginger.
“Well, nat’rally he’d disguise the smell,” said William.

However, when he climbs down the drainpipe – at William’s slightly overenthusiastic encouragement – he is most interested to see the copy of Don Quixote which, having been ‘borrowed’ by the boys, fortuitously escaped from an unscrupulous book dealer…