Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 49

Saturday 18th February 1984

HALF TERM

Woke up at 7.30 and got up at 7.50. Got the 8.20 bus to Middlesbrough, and first I bought a book called ‘The Weirdstone of  Brisingamen’ from Smiths. At 11.00 I went to Grandma’s and read my comics then started to read my book.

At 12.00 I had a bacon sandwich then I read some more of my book and wrote some of the jewel. At 2.30 We came home and I went outside and played with Poggy Doggy then at 5.00 I had tea. After tea I started a new flowchart for the jewel then at 6.30 I watched Child’s play.

At 7.00 I watched 321 then at 8.15 I watched Les Dawson. After that I did some more of my flowchart, and had it all wrong so I had to change it all. At 9.30 I went to bed and read my book until 10.30.

Thankyou, Mr Millward. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.

I hope someone, somewhere shows him this, because it was Mr Millward – brilliant, gentle Mr Millward with his droopy moustache and specs and sandals – who taught me so much about the joys of reading. Because beneath Mr Millward’s calm, dryly-witty exterior beat the heart of a born storyteller. And, twice weekly throughout Autumn 1983, he would sit down in the library with a small gaggle of grubby disciples and read us Alan Garner’s ‘The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen’.

Except he didn’t JUST read it. He acted it, breathed it, poured his heart and soul into it. Made the scary bits super-scary and the funny bits super-funny, moreso than anybody had ever done on dreary old Jackanory. He did the voices and the sound effects, and chucked in a few witticisms of his own… so now, whenever I think of The Weirdstone’s evil, goblin-like Svart creatures, I picture Mr Millward hiding a wry smile and chuckling ‘think of Christopher Herbert… if you can bear to, of course…’

This was Mr Millward’s version of the book…

weirdstone11

He had a bit of previous form. A year earlier he’d read us the brilliant tale of the inner-city kids who become reluctant thieves in order to trap their Granny’s sinister handbag-grabbing lodger. It took me 20 years after leaving Levendale Primary School to work out that the book was Nina Bawden’s children’s classic ‘A Handful Of Thieves’, because all I could remember was Mr Millward’s breathless, lisping interpretation of the annoyingly cloying Cleo. She didn’t have a lisp in the book… he just put that in for our amusement and delight. Dick Emery, eat your heart out.  (But I like you)

But The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen was his finest moment. It’s an amazing book anyway… written in the early 1960s, it’s the fabulously rich and layered tale of Colin and Susan, two city kids despatched to rural Cheshire to stay with Gowther and Bess Mossock: old-fashioned farming folk and friends of the childrens’ mother. While exploring the dark, twisted forests around Alderley Edge, they become drawn into a surreal, ancient world of magic – helmed by the wizard Cadellin, whose labyrinthine cavern Fundindelve lies beyond secret gates hidden in a secluded nook of the tangled Cheshire countryside.

This is my copy of the book, pictured on the occasion of our 25th anniversary of being together. Happy anniversary, book!

weirdstone22

I was starting to be drawn to a bit of fantasy anyway – hence my Warlock Of Firetop Mountain obsession – but The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen was like nothing I’d ever read before. Far more complex and intelligent than any other childrens’ book I’d seen, it captured my imagination by bringing the magic to my own doorstep… this wasn’t set in some mystical realm, but in an all-too-real environment of cars and shops and woodland filled with ramblers. And the mythology fascinated me, too… it weaves rich, timeless English and Celtic folklore into a ripping story of good versus evil.

I still read my battered, 25-year-old paperback at least once a year, and I still think it’s one of the finest and most inspirational books ever written. And I presume Mr Millward thought likewise, and I hope we weren’t the only generation of kids that benefitted from his unique brand of genius. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have bought that paperback on this very morning, and if it hadn’t been for that then I don’t think I’d be trying to write for a living right now.

Eternal power to your moustache, Mr Millward. Everybody needs a teacher like you.

Advertisements

7 Comments»

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Ah, what a splendid entry if you’ll forgive the expression. A magical book in every sense.
The 1978 adaptation for BBC Children’s Television was nothing short of a masterpiece. Filmed in the most authentic locations, it starred Ralph Richardson as Cadellin, Alan Browning and Freda Dowie as Gowther and Bess and Ronnie Corbett as Fenodyree.
Unfortunately it only ever existed in a portion of the Parcel brain but it certainly should have happened.
Maybe next year?

  Alan Garner wrote @

“Fortunate the child that meets one good teacher; and more fortunate the child that knows it at the time.” Edward Blishen.

So thank you, indeed, Mr. Millward.

(For masochists only, see http://members.ozemail.com.au/~xenophon/

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh, blimey. It’s not is it? It couldn’t be…!

Mr Garner, if that’s you in person then I’m utterly honoured that you popped by, and I’ve now turned so red that I need to sit in the cupboard under the stairs for a while to calm down.

Thankyou for everything. Really.

(And a tantalising trail for future diary entries… I bought ‘The Moon Of Gomrath’ on Saturday 3rd March 1984 and ‘Elidor’ on Saturday 10th March!)

  bobfischer wrote @

Oh, and if we’re having Ronnie Corbett as Fenodyree then I want Charlie Drake as Durathror.

  Geoff Millward wrote @

Simply to know that there is now one adult child in the world upon whom I had such a far reaching impact is incredibly humbling. So, thanks are due to you Bob for being there age 10 to provide me with the opportunity to indulge myself so fully.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yikes! They’re all coming out to get me now. I’m going to hide in the cupboard under the stairs for a while…

(Hello Mr M…!)

  Hazel McDowell wrote @

I love your diary entry – I remember those happy days when the most important noteworthy events were the current book I was reading and what I had to eat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: