The Settee of Doom I used to make my own fun when I was little. Yes, I did normal things like watching telly and playing with toys and I definitely played with other kids as well, but by and large, I was always most comfortable on my own, with nothing but my imagination for company. I never had any trouble communicating with myself and never gave myself any grief over the choice of games I might play. Sure, I got bored every now and again, but only if I was being forced to do something I didn’t want to do, like sitting in the back of a car for an hour or walking round some boring old pottery on a Sunday afternoon. Being an only child helped - there was never any older or younger sibling stealing attention away from me or telling me to shut up. When I was very young, I would usually wake at around six in the morning, or whenever the sun rose. I didn’t go straight to Mum and Dad to wake them up - I’d spend as much time as I could in my own company, drawing, playing with toys, writing stories, but more often than not, I’d talk to myself in different voices, imagining someone else there with me. This might sound like an early sign of schizophrenia but it wasn’t anything of the kind. I wouldn’t say I had an “imaginary friend” as such - I didn’t seriously believe anyone was actually there. I was just playing - acting if you like - and if I played by myself, no one could tell me my ideas were stupid. This would of course change drastically as I grew up and developed other, more cynical, voices in my head, who would regularly tell me all my ideas were rubbish and prevent me doing most things I tried to set my mind to, but that’s another story. I remember one weekend at my Gran’s house, climbing all over her sofa. No, hang on, it wasn’t a “sofa” - only people on the telly said “sofa.” This was a settee. So yes, I remember one weekend at my Gran’s house, climbing all over her settee. It was an orangey-brown mock leather thing with flakes of plastic hanging off it, which made comforting deep squeaks as I dragged myself across it. I’d probably seen one of those Doug McClure films the night before - you know, the ones that used to be on telly a lot, like At the Earth’s Core, where a gang of people would get lost in a subterranean cave and there would inevitably be a sequence in which they had to traverse some kind of chasm with no obvious walkway or bridge, at the bottom of which would be a bubbling, spitting pool of molten lava, necessitating a perilous attempt to climb across juts and ridges in the cavern walls, holding on for dear life. One of the group - usually some bumbling, greedy idiot played by a stalwart character actor - would panic halfway across, lose his grip and fall to his fiery doom. Well, that was what I was playing on the settee. The settee - a three piece, consisting of a three-seater, a two-seater and a one (except it can’t have been, because there’s no way you could fit that many chairs into her tiny front room, but let’s not worry about that now) - was the wall of the cavern, and the carpet - a dark green thing with great big orange flowers on it - was a spitting, bubbling pool of lava. Starting at one end of the room, I barked orders at my imaginary friend to “Hold on to the walls!” and “Watch out for the lava!” as we jumped, grunting and groaning like proper action heroes, from one seat to the next. Inevitably, at some point, my imaginary friend slipped and I had to grab hold of his imaginary hand to prevent him from tumbling into the volcanic depths. But my grip was too weak, and he fell. Then, as I tried to make the desperate leap from one chair to the next (which I had designated as the exit), I inevitably fell too, screaming “Nooooo!” as I drowned in the imaginary magma. Then I had my Sunday dinner and went home. I expect that’s what was in my mind when I wrote The Forgotten World, the first original piece of fiction in my Fairburn books. In fact, apart from a Doctor Who story I wrote at infants school, it’s the oldest surviving piece of fiction I ever wrote. It’s also a template for virtually every adventure story I’ve written since. The Everyone of Death The Forgotten World is essentially a tale of hubris, in which an overconfident idiot falls to his doom while boldly attempting to shimmy across a vertical surface. It’s also a cautionary tale to those who are less confident - never follow an overbearing fool into a cave full of lava, especially if you’ve got doubts. The characters don’t really have character as such, except that one is a boastful explorer and the other is his cautious friend. But that’s still impressive characterisation for a seven year old, and far more impressive than most of the lazy rubbish I would trot out afterwards. Mick is a daft name for an action hero, but then he’s not really supposed to be one - he’s an action hero’s friend, so I’ll let me off. For the first but not the last time in a Waen Shepherd adventure story, everyone dies. I think it’s just an attempt to inject as much jeopardy into the tale as possible, rather than anything more morbid. But it’s true to say that the body count in these books is extraordinarily high, and this is where it all starts. No one in my immediate family had died during my lifetime apart from my Great Gran and a cat, so I had no pressing reason to be obsessed with death, but I was. The very first poem I wrote, age 5, was about death, and virtually every piece of fiction I wrote at Fairburn features death, in increasingly bloodthirsty and sadistic ways. I’ll put it down to watching too much sci-fi, but whatever the reason, I figured that if it’s an action story then everyone has to die. Unless I was the hero, but even then, most of the stories about me feature my death too. I’m not convinced I knew what lava really was. I should have done - I knew it came out of volcanoes and it was really hot - but in this instance, I seem to have confused it with acid or some kind of corrosive chemical, which instantly rots the flesh away but leaves the bones intact. Perhaps lava really does this, I don’t know, but the point is, I don’t think my young brain really cared. As far as I was concerned, lava was an excuse for an instant, graphic death scene. In this case, it’s a rotting skeleton. Future deaths would be much worse. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself when it comes to the behaviour of lava - this guy suggests real death by lava would be far, far more graphic than Hollywood has ever imagined, so I can hardly expect a seven-year-old from Yorkshire to beat them to it. Mick’s death is actually worse than John’s. At first glance, it looks like a supreme cop-out. The cave went dark? Something happened? A sudden shock brought him to death? It seems I couldn’t be bothered to think anything else up. Maybe it was home time and I had to stop writing immediately? But no - I took the time to draw a picture afterwards, so this must have been deliberate. And the more I think about it, this demise starts to feel much more disturbing than the previous one. It taps into something really deep, a raw fear I’ve always had of sudden death, of murder and violent accidents, of the possibility that I might die and never know what it was that killed me. Most rational people have an understandable fear of cancer or other lingering, painful deaths. I’ve always felt I’d like the time to be able to make my peace and say my goodbyes. The thing that really scares the shit out of me is the thought of just suddenly dying for no discernible reason. If I was truly a rational being, I’d probably realise this is preferable. But deep down, I’m an irrational little boy, and the unknown terrifies me. On yet another level, this inconsequential story says a lot about my state of mind. The two protagonists are struggling with going forward - if Mick represents me (he must do because he’s the frightened amateur and the other guy’s a dominant bully) then it reveals how trapped I felt. There’s no going forward and there’s no going back. Caution is the best course of action. Perhaps we should never have come here? The next couple of pieces will reveal more of the same. But in real life.
The Forgotten World
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
Clarke Hall Old Houses Fairburn v Burton Salmon The Forgotten World String Orchestra Sheet Lightning Grezelda the Witch Bonfire Night Metropolitan Police Christmas 1979 Great Space Battles Luddenden The Hat’s Adventure Sleeping Beauty What I Do On Monday Waen Shepherd 2 Waen Shepherd in: Green Squids Ward’s 7: Move of the Galaxy Ward’s 7: Alpha Centauri Ward’s 7: Escape to Mother Ship Ward’s 7: Death Planet Blake’s 7 Ward’s 7: The Hunt Ward’s 7: Rescue The Flame in the Desert The Fugitive British Skiing Events Fiends of the Eastern Front Apeth (from Outer Space!) Tedosaurus (from Prehistoric Time!) A Walk in Our Village The Mountain Called Tyrannosaurus Rex Florence Nightingale War of the Worlds The Micronauts in: Supersilver
The Old Stone Age Ancient humans try to co-exist with cave lions and giant deer
Darth Vader An autograph from a genuine stand-in
Clarke Hall The place and time where it all began… September 1679?
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Sheet Lightning Waen and his Gran shelter from the sheet- shaped storm
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra
BLONDIE! Pictures of Little Waen’s lovely blonde hair
The Settee of Doom I used to make my own fun when I was little. Yes, I did normal things like watching telly and playing with toys and I definitely played with other kids as well, but by and large, I was always most comfortable on my own, with nothing but my imagination for company. I never had any trouble communicating with myself and never gave myself any grief over the choice of games I might play. Sure, I got bored every now and again, but only if I was being forced to do something I didn’t want to do, like sitting in the back of a car for an hour or walking round some boring old pottery on a Sunday afternoon. Being an only child helped - there was never any older or younger sibling stealing attention away from me or telling me to shut up. When I was very young, I would usually wake at around six in the morning, or whenever the sun rose. I didn’t go straight to Mum and Dad to wake them up - I’d spend as much time as I could in my own company, drawing, playing with toys, writing stories, but more often than not, I’d talk to myself in different voices, imagining someone else there with me. This might sound like an early sign of schizophrenia but it wasn’t anything of the kind. I wouldn’t say I had an “imaginary friend” as such - I didn’t seriously believe anyone was actually there. I was just playing - acting if you like - and if I played by myself, no one could tell me my ideas were stupid. This would of course change drastically as I grew up and developed other, more cynical, voices in my head, who would regularly tell me all my ideas were rubbish and prevent me doing most things I tried to set my mind to, but that’s another story. I remember one weekend at my Gran’s house, climbing all over her sofa. No, hang on, it wasn’t a “sofa” - only people on the telly said “sofa.” This was a settee. So yes, I remember one weekend at my Gran’s house, climbing all over her settee. It was an orangey-brown mock leather thing with flakes of plastic hanging off it, which made comforting deep squeaks as I dragged myself across it. I’d probably seen one of those Doug McClure films the night before - you know, the ones that used to be on telly a lot, like At the Earth’s Core, where a gang of people would get lost in a subterranean cave and there would inevitably be a sequence in which they had to traverse some kind of chasm with no obvious walkway or bridge, at the bottom of which would be a bubbling, spitting pool of molten lava, necessitating a perilous attempt to climb across juts and ridges in the cavern walls, holding on for dear life. One of the group - usually some bumbling, greedy idiot played by a stalwart character actor - would panic halfway across, lose his grip and fall to his fiery doom. Well, that was what I was playing on the settee. The settee - a three piece, consisting of a three-seater, a two-seater and a one (except it can’t have been, because there’s no way you could fit that many chairs into her tiny front room, but let’s not worry about that now) - was the wall of the cavern, and the carpet - a dark green thing with great big orange flowers on it - was a spitting, bubbling pool of lava. Starting at one end of the room, I barked orders at my imaginary friend to “Hold on to the walls!” and “Watch out for the lava!” as we jumped, grunting and groaning like proper action heroes, from one seat to the next. Inevitably, at some point, my imaginary friend slipped and I had to grab hold of his imaginary hand to prevent him from tumbling into the volcanic depths. But my grip was too weak, and he fell. Then, as I tried to make the desperate leap from one chair to the next (which I had designated as the exit), I inevitably fell too, screaming “Nooooo!” as I drowned in the imaginary magma. Then I had my Sunday dinner and went home. I expect that’s what was in my mind when I wrote The Forgotten World, the first original piece of fiction in my Fairburn books. In fact, apart from a Doctor Who story I wrote at infants school, it’s the oldest surviving piece of fiction I ever wrote. It’s also a template for virtually every adventure story I’ve written since. The Everyone of Death The Forgotten World is essentially a tale of hubris, in which an overconfident idiot falls to his doom while boldly attempting to shimmy across a vertical surface. It’s also a cautionary tale to those who are less confident - never follow an overbearing fool into a cave full of lava, especially if you’ve got doubts. The characters don’t really have character as such, except that one is a boastful explorer and the other is his cautious friend. But that’s still impressive characterisation for a seven year old, and far more impressive than most of the lazy rubbish I would trot out afterwards. Mick is a daft name for an action hero, but then he’s not really supposed to be one - he’s an action hero’s friend, so I’ll let me off. For the first but not the last time in a Waen Shepherd adventure story, everyone dies. I think it’s just an attempt to inject as much jeopardy into the tale as possible, rather than anything more morbid. But it’s true to say that the body count in these books is extraordinarily high, and this is where it all starts. No one in my immediate family had died during my lifetime apart from my Great Gran and a cat, so I had no pressing reason to be obsessed with death, but I was. The very first poem I wrote, age 5, was about death, and virtually every piece of fiction I wrote at Fairburn features death, in increasingly bloodthirsty and sadistic ways. I’ll put it down to watching too much sci-fi, but whatever the reason, I figured that if it’s an action story then everyone has to die. Unless I was the hero, but even then, most of the stories about me feature my death too. I’m not convinced I knew what lava really was. I should have done - I knew it came out of volcanoes and it was really hot - but in this instance, I seem to have confused it with acid or some kind of corrosive chemical, which instantly rots the flesh away but leaves the bones intact. Perhaps lava really does this, I don’t know, but the point is, I don’t think my young brain really cared. As far as I was concerned, lava was an excuse for an instant, graphic death scene. In this case, it’s a rotting skeleton. Future deaths would be much worse. I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself when it comes to the behaviour of lava - this guy suggests real death by lava would be far, far more graphic than Hollywood has ever imagined, so I can hardly expect a seven-year-old from Yorkshire to beat them to it. Mick’s death is actually worse than John’s. At first glance, it looks like a supreme cop-out. The cave went dark? Something happened? A sudden shock brought him to death? It seems I couldn’t be bothered to think anything else up. Maybe it was home time and I had to stop writing immediately? But no - I took the time to draw a picture afterwards, so this must have been deliberate. And the more I think about it, this demise starts to feel much more disturbing than the previous one. It taps into something really deep, a raw fear I’ve always had of sudden death, of murder and violent accidents, of the possibility that I might die and never know what it was that killed me. Most rational people have an understandable fear of cancer or other lingering, painful deaths. I’ve always felt I’d like the time to be able to make my peace and say my goodbyes. The thing that really scares the shit out of me is the thought of just suddenly dying for no discernible reason. If I was truly a rational being, I’d probably realise this is preferable. But deep down, I’m an irrational little boy, and the unknown terrifies me. On yet another level, this inconsequential story says a lot about my state of mind. The two protagonists are struggling with going forward - if Mick represents me (he must do because he’s the frightened amateur and the other guy’s a dominant bully) then it reveals how trapped I felt. There’s no going forward and there’s no going back. Caution is the best course of action. Perhaps we should never have come here? The next couple of pieces will reveal more of the same. But in real life.
The Forgotten World
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
Clarke Hall The place and time where it all began… September 1679?
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Sheet Lightning Waen and his Gran shelter from the sheet- shaped storm
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra