Day 324: William and the Force of Habit

The facts

To William, it seemed funny without Robert and Ethel. It seldom happened that Robert and Ethel were away from home at the same time. When William first heard of these arrangements his spirits had risen. The prospect of home life without an elder brother and sister to snub him and order him about was an exhilarating one. But, oddly, when it came it turned out to be disappointingly flat. He found that he missed the snubs and ordering about; missed, most of all, the state of warfare that generally existed between himself on one side and Robert and Ethel on the other. Life seemed dull and uneventful without it.

  • Number: 32.8
  • Published: 1960
  • Book: William the Explorer
  • Synopsis: William tries to release his parents from their rut.


An inspirational speaker, whose main ‘thing’ is that people should liberate themselves from the force of habit, totally transfixes William, and he determines to break his parents free from their shackles.

For instance, his father always mows the lawn on Tuesdays, so to prevent this instance of habit, he hides the lawnmower. Likewise, Mrs Brown always does her sewing on Tuesdays, so William hides her sewing basket.

William beat the knocker again. “Can I have a drink of water, please?” he said, then, remembering the expression that his mother’s daily help had used yesterday, added, “I’ve come over queer.”
The door slammed shut. William knocked again, then tried desperately hard to think of an opening gambit. And suddenly inspiration answered his call. He had read a story last week, and, without stopping to consider whether they were appropriate to the occasion, he used the words with which the hero had used to gain admittance to the castle.
“May I shelter from the storm here, my good man?”
The householder gave a strangled scream of rage and flung himself on William with the fury of despair.

Meanwhile, he gets involved in a broiges between the speaker (who is renting a cottage nearby) and the little girl whose family ordinary lives there, said broiges involving him in a series of repeated unwanted doorknockings at said cottage. When all of these attempts fail to distract the homeowner, William decides “to smoke him out”.

All his plans – the smoke, the lawnmower, the sewing basket – fail. But then again:

“How did you get on?” said Ginger. “Did you get anyone out of their ruts?”
“No,” said William morosely. Then his mind went again over the events of the afternoon and he brightened. “Yes, I did. I got myself out of mine.”