Wednesday, March 29, 2006

John Harrison-inventor of the sea clock

A plaque to John Harrison was opened by Prince Philip at Westminster today. Prince Philip is like the Queen's back-up and so it shows that he was quite interesting.

John Harrison was born in 1693 which is alot before the Victorians and alot after the Romans-we've done the Romans at school and the Victorians just invented one thing after another so they are quite interesting too. John Harrison was brilliant and invented the sea clock. This was a way of tracking time and speed at sea, so sailors knew where they were. Before that, they had no way of knowing exactly where they were-they were actually 'all at sea', at sea.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Being disappointed

This is the Christmas my unspeakable parents are celebrating-the one with well behaved children having lots of jolly fun all dressed up in scratchy clothes and definitely not being arrested by the police. Mum and Dad do not like 'being disappointed' especially when police are involved. Dad points to the painting of this old bloke we used to keep in the downstairs loo until Mum took it to the antiques roadshow and found it was worth lots of money. He looks like he has spent one hundred and fifty seven years waiting for a decent Christmas and has always been disappointed. 'He's not happy,' says Dad ' and neither are we.'

The next morning it's Christmas Eve day. It's ten o'clock and Grandpa Jack has telephoned three times already but I do not want to speak to him. I do not know why he said he was miserable in the 'Pit of Despair', when he was definitely not. I think the police should have arrested him for being a liar but they didn't and then they didn't even handcuff me which was a bit of a disappointment. Mum and Dad have got over me being brought home by a vanload of police and after a load of telling off and talk of being 'disappointed', they have returned to being beamy and cheerful about Father Christmas.
I am sick of it.
I can't tell you how disappointed I am with Grandpa Jack. And it's still, still not snowing. Mum is right about one thing-this is a very difficult time of year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Want to Confess

Dexter has a pair of handcuffs with a real key. He wanted to be the policeman first because they were his handcuffs and he put the cuffs on me and locked me in the rabbit hutch. Then he ran off. Alan the rabbit was not very happy especially when I tried his food-how do they eat that stuff?
I watch the police car swirl around on the gravel in front of the house, its blue lights flashing and the siren wailing. I've been rumbled. I'm not the only one I think, as I look around the luxurious room again-Granpa Jack has a bit of explaining to do. Thunderous footsteps are even now pounding along the corridor. I wonder if I can safely jump from the second story window. Maybe not. Then I think about hiding in Grandpa Jack's vast wardrobe but it's stuffed full of tweed jackets. I can't even crawl under his bed because it has a beneath that goes right down to the thick carpet. Just as I decide, 'it's a fair cop', Grandpa Jack bursts into the room. His face is very red and he has a party hat falling off his head.
'Wilfred!' he cries. 'What...what!'
'I came to rescue you from, 'The Pit of Despair',' I say 'but I think you don't need to be rescued.'
Five police people push passed him.
'Where is he then?' shouts the first one. 'Whoah!' he trips over me.
The one behind trips over him. Now I'll be done for a salt and smashing the place down.
'Wilfred?' Grandpa Jack is swaying a little.
I turn back to the police people. They are shouting a bit and trying to look as though they meant to fall on the ground.
'I want to confess,' I say and stick my hands out ready for the cuffs.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Not a Cockroach in Sight

Grandpa Jack has made several studies of the cockroach. he told me that he had at least two different species infesting his bedroom alone and BELIEVE ME you don't want to live with either of them. The only good cockroach, according to Grandpa Jack, is a dead cockroach.

I take my chance and slip into the hall closing the door quickly behind me. Not a guard in sight. I turn the key in the lock-that should give me some more time. I turn round and gasp. The hall has a a ceiling twice the height of the giant twinkling, Christmas tree. Mounds of bright presents spill over the foot of a marble staircase. This is worse than I thought-the evil workers must buy themselves very nice presents as well. The sooner I rescue Grandpa Jack the better. There is a lot of noise and music coming from a room down the hallway but I run up the wide sweeping stairs. It is gone teatime and Grandpa Jack says that all the inhabitants are forced into their cockroach infested rooms by six o'clock. Upstairs, I creep silently along the thickly carpetted hall way. There are doors all along the hall. Each door has a little brass plaque with a name on it. I come to Jack Bagshot-that's Grandpa Jack's name. I knock. Nothing. I try the handle and psuh at the door. It opens onto a huge room with a cream carpet and a double bed and table lamps and piles of books and magazines and a wide-screen TV. He's even got a fridge.
And not a cockroach in sight.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fascinating Invention No.3-The Earmuff

You may not think they are fascinating but Dexter likes them. He likes wearing stuff on his head and he's quite keen on his dog, Dave wearing them as well.
The earmuff was invented by a child-an actual child called Chester Greenwood. He came from a place called, Farmington Maine in America and when he was 15 he wanted to stop his ears getting cold. He made two ear shaped loops from wire and asked his granny to sew fur on them. Farmington Maine is now the Earmuff Capital of the World which is pretty amazing but even more amazing is the fact that there is a parade every year when police cars dress up as giant earmuffs.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I Shall Set Them Free

Grandpa Jack calls his fellow prisoners, the great unwashed. This is because they cannot have running water in the 'Pit of Despair' except for the walls where the damp runs in little green rivers down the peeling plaster.

So, I drop down into a dark, damp space. It can only be a cellar. It's probably filled with tiny cells and their miserable inhabitants-I shall set them free. When my eyes have adjusted to the gloom, I realise that the cells are actually racks and racks of bottles. So this is where all the money goes, I think, into expensive drink for all the evil workers. I spot the stairs in the corner and charge towards them. Unfortunately, my coat catches on the end of a sticky-out-rack and before I know it, a tall shelf of wine is tottering towards me. I save my own life by leaping up the stairs just as the bottles crash to the floor. I put my hands over my ears and my back against the wall. The cellar door flies open and three people fly in.
'Who's there?'
'What's going on?'
'The wine!'
The evil workers have arrived.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Black Hole

I doubt that even Buzz would want to fly his spacecraft near a real black hole. These are like lurking monsters in space waiting to gobble up anything that comes near them- spaceships, really big trees, even planets. And once you're sucked in, there's no turning back. Not even Dexter could run away from this. Nobody knows what's on the other side or even if there is another side. It's a big mystery. Like the inside of the, 'Pit of Despair'.

'Round here!' Dexter is skulking in the shadows of the tall bushes at tthe side of the house. 'I've found something!'
As I crouch down next to Dexter, I hear the front door open.
'Who's there?' calls a voice.
I hesitate. Should I go back? I am on the verge when the voice says. 'Anymore nonsense and I'll call the police! You hear me?!'
The door slams shut.
Bother. It's really cold now. My nose feels as though it has left my body and my fingers are stinging. It's all Dexter's fault. He points at a small window at ground level. It is a black hole.
'It's open,' he whispers. 'I pushed it.'
I nod wisely. I look at the uninviting black hole. I think about Grandpa Jack and his sufferings.
'I'm going in,' I say.
'Good luck,' says Dexter. 'It's my teatime.'
'It's my Grandpa,' I say.
'Exactly,' he says, 'see you.'
And Dexter the ratfink runs off-again.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fascinating Invention-No. 2 Lobbing machines-The Trebuchet and The Catapult

The trebuchet was an Italian invention of the fifteenth century (see right). It was made of wood and iron and stood fifteen metres high. What's really brilliant is that this fantastic weapon could chuck rocks and animals and probably dead bodies quite a long way. Imagine a cow landing on top of you! That would hurt. Of course, the best use for it I can think of is lobbing snowballs, just like the catapult. I'd love to see Dexter's face if I wheeled either of these out. Need some snow first.

Dexter Runs Off-Again

OK, so the Pit of Despair is not quite so despairish close up. In fact it's not at all like the dark prison, Granpa Jack described and more like a really grand house with electricity and running water and probably food. Hmmm...

We stand in the yellow pool of the porch light. I can hear the sounds quite clearly now. Music, happy voices. I was expecting rattling chains and low groans. We give them a blast of, 'Once in Royal David's City'. Our voices rise into the winter air in puffy white clouds. We finish. Nobody comes. Dexter starts making the antlers flash in time with the music and I am becoming peeved.
'You're shouting,' I say. 'That's why they won't come to the door!'
'I'm not shouting, I'm singing-Gran says I have a lovely voice.'
'Your Gran is deaf!'
I can barely knock on the door because the gaint gold door knocker in the shape of a fox is so heavy.
'Just 'cos you can't sing!' says Dexter and he begins shouting, 'Silent Night'.
He only stops when I punch him. 'You're going to make them angry!'
'What are they going to do then? Come and kidnap us?' shouts Dexter.
'Shut up! Maybe they will. Maybe they'll cut the rations for the old people! This is the, 'Pit of Despair' you know!'
I begin hammering on the door. 'Help me, Dexter!'
I look round. Dexter has run off-again.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Listen Out for the Hounds!

Do not be alarmed-this is NOT an actual picture of the hound patrolling the 'Pit of Despair'. However it does look a bit mean and unlikely to be happy with a bowl of Doggy Crunchies. Probably drools as well.

I've never been to 'The Pit of Despair' before. It's near to our house but Granpa Jack won't let anyone come-in case they catch some nasty disease.
'Must be gone tea-time now,' says Dexter, 'I'm starving.'
'You're always starving,' I say. 'I think you've got worms. Anyway, we're here now.'
We stare up at the big posh house. It is lighting up the cold night with lamps from the olden days and twinkling fairy lights. It looks like a royal Christmas grotto.
'Are you sure about this?' asks Dexter. 'I mean it looks alright, really.'
I look again at the address on the piece of paper.
'Yes, this is it-maybe it's scabby inside,' I say. 'You know, so it fools all those people who think they're sending their relatives to somewhere really nice, so they pay their money and then it's too late!'
'Maybe,' says Dexter and he's fiddling with his reindeer antlers.
'Let's listen out for the hounds-they'll try and kill you,' I remind him.
We listen hard. We hear something but it's not the hounds, more like hyenas.
'Hmm,' says Dexter, 'and maybe that noise we can hear is actually the evil cackling of the workers as they lock the old people in for the night.'
I nod but the music and laughter doesn't sound evil at all to my mind.
'Come on!' I say 'we'd better put our plan into action!'