Day 220: A Question of Exchange

 The facts

“We’ve had every possible sort of show there is,” said Ginger. “We’ve had a seaside show an’ an animal show, an’ a night club an’… an’ every poss’ble other sort of show.”
“We’ve not had television,” said William triumphantly.
“Well, we couldn’t have that.”
“I bet we could,” persisted William. “I’ve seen it an’ it’s only people’s heads carryin’ on – actin’ an’ suchlike – in a little hole. I bet we could easy make a little bole an’ have our heads in it, actin’.”

  • Number: 20.4
  • Published: 1938 (1937 in magazine form) – originally titled Unfair Exchange
  • Book: William the Dictator
  • Synopsis: Violet Elizabeth causes chaos by making a swap involving her aunt’s scarf.


Arabella Simpkin has always struck me as quite a two-dimensional character, all the more so for how clear are Richmal Crompton’s attempts to make her three-dimensional.

She appears in this story in the audience of the Outlaws’ latest scheme: a television production. This scheme is as disastrous as all their previous schemes, though I do like William’s interpretation of TV as “heads actin’ in a sort of hole” (eat your heart out, Lord Reith).

“We’ve gotter have a bad man an’ a good man. You’ve always gotterhave those two in a play.”
“An’ a girl,” said Ginger.
“We’re not havin’ a real girl in it,” said William firmly. “They mess everythin’ up. One of us’ll be the girl. All you’ve gotter do to be a girl is to put on a sort of silly look an’ one of Ethel’s hats. I’ll be the good man.”
“I’ll be the bad one, then,” claimed Ginger hastily.
“Who’ll I be?” said Douglas.
“You can be the good man’s ole father,” said William. “He thinks his son’s been killed by the bad man an’ he turns out alive, after all. He’d only been

William’s interpretation of TV is, in fact, almost as mistaken as William’s faith in his own abilities as a writer-director:

Therefore, the television show is unsuccessful, not least because Violet Elizabeth – the female member of the cast – is consumed with envy at the cheap fur scarf Arabella is wearing, having ‘borrowed’ from her mother. Arabella, meanwhile, is secretly jealous of the enormously expensive fur scarf Violet Elizabeth has ‘borrowed’ from her visiting aunt. They agree to swap.