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Eastnor Castle, from ‘A series of picturesque views of seats of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland’ (1840)

This is part two of a discussion about John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, based on my contributions to the Twitter readalong #DelightfulXmas. The first part was posted yesterday. All the following items were based on creative prompts set by the readalong conveners.

First up is a prompt to imagine a further animal transformation Kay might have turned to. Can you guess what creature he becomes here after being a stag, a duck, and a fish?

He’d been high up in the boundless air, in the refreshing depths of the water, scampering over the leaf-littered ground. And now he was under the earth, scooping away tunnels, snagging earthworms his pink nose had sniffed out. And then, above him, came an acrid smell: “Haha, what!”

Now, what if one of today’s tabloids (Mail, Sun or Express, perhaps) reported on a jewel theft which took place at the Bishop of Tatchester’s palace during a charitable Christmas party for local children?


While Tatchester’s benefit scroungers’ kids were given free handouts from the leftie Bishop’s food bank, jewels were taken from champagne socialists attending the knees-up.

The police suspect an inside job, or possibly illegal immigrants.

We were invited to write a poem — sonnet, limerick or whatever — so, using key phrases from the text, I offered this villanelle:

The Wolves are Running

A travelling Showman collects as he goes
and lest you should be in any real doubt
know what he collects the travelling man shows

The Wolves are Running, as Someone well knows,
but though it’s the snow that brings the Wolves out,
the travelling man still collects as he goes.

Someone, if seen, isn’t safe from his foes;
when asked where he is it is best you say nowt,
for what he collects the travelling man shows.

With Barney dog, pack, and his travelling clothes
will the Showman escape? Will he still go about?
The travelling Showman collects as he goes.

The Wolves are still Running; it thaws and it snows;
and people they’ll scrobble, and laws they will flout,
yet what he collects the travelling man shows.

But hope still remains, despite all those woes,
that humans and wolves he will put all to rout:
a travelling man collects as he goes,
and what he collects the travelling man shows.

Later, we were to imagine how James Bond would have dealt with the villainous magician Abner Brown scrobbling and imprisoning innocents in caves under the Chester Hills.

AB [stroking the Child’s Head]: So, Mr Bond, we meet at last. You’ll never escape from the sound of Tatchester choristers beat-boxing in the choir, I mean their cells.

JB [feigning insouciance, raps]:
Though Abner Brown wears such a frown
He don’t scare me none,
This flibbertigibbit should beware his midget,
He done spoil his fun…

AB [interrupting angrily]: Enough! I’ll settle your hash and that mildew of a boy with my little aeroplanes, and then I’ll retire to my pleasure dome…

JB [sings]: “Where Alph the foetid stream goes down
there naughty men will drop and drown…”

[Kay, small and unseen, has just tied Abner’s shoelaces together.]

AB: Farewell, Mr Bond! We’ll never meet again, and … *Aaargh*!

[Bond, bloodied but unbowed, shoves tiny Kay into his shoulder holster and jumps into a passing flying sleigh…]

You would obviously have to read the novel to appreciate the allusions! Meanwhile, what evil fate would the pirates plan for Kay apart from the ones suggested in the novel, and what nautical shanty would they sing it to? Perhaps The Keel Row would fit the bill:

As we come down to Chesters,
From Condicote to Chesters,
As we come down to Chesters,
We’ll make the laddie sing!
O, weel may we keel haul ‘im,
Keel haul ‘im, keel haul,
And then we’ll feed the sharks
With the bits oor laddie’s in!

Finally, Abner is hoping to acquire the Elixir of Life as the crowning glory to his nefarious plans. How would his henchman market the product to the public?

From: Marketing Director
To: Mr A Brown
Here’s the revised copy for the marketing campaign, just awaiting your final approval.
Wishing you a Delightful Xmas and a Wealthy New Year,

PS Have I spelt Mrs Brown’s name right, Boss? I ain’t no good at names, as you know.


The medicine that makes tissue unkillable and bone unbreakable!

All-new improved recipe of Ramon Lully’s celebrated Elixir of Life!

Now with added vitamins, only 1/6 for a two-gill bottle!

“Beats all pill-merchants and salts-fellows!” — Joe, from Tatchester
“Abner Brown is my idol for creating this nostrum!” — Miss Daisy Silvia Pouncer

Sylvia Daisy Pouncer wasn’t pleased to have her name scrambled.

Has all this whetted your appetite for this classic or its predecessor? If not yet, there’s a review plus some afterwords to come, which may change your mind!

Condicote and environs in The Midnight Folk

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