Day 221: Aunt Florence and the Green Woodpecker

 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

  • 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.


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
“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…