Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Alan Club

So we are in the playground a few days after the school visit. Everybody is excited because the Trundle is going to do an assembly on 'being old' and she has asked for old things - Dexter is taking in a photo of his parents, Miranda is bringing in a fossilised bug and Grandpa Jack is being a bit annoying because he will not come in to do the assembly, he says he is not old, even when he is. More later.

You could ask, who will join The Aliens Club? Well, after the fantastic triumph of The Science Museum - just about EVERYBODY. Dexter and me have never been so popular!
So we are all clotted together in a bunch and Dexter is giving out big badges which say, 'The Alen Club'. And Miranda comes over. She' s alright but she is a bit off since I won the trophy for her - don't know why.
'They' re rubbish,' says Miranda, picking at the plastic covering. 'AND alien is spellt wrong.'
I do think she has a point but I keep quiet.
'Dad would only pay for 11 letters, so I told him to miss one letter out,' says Dexter.
'The Alen Club,' she says and sniggers. 'The Alan Club. A club full of Alans!'
She starts snorting with laughter and Dexter is going to start a big argument. I decide in my new role as class trophy winner to be the peacemaker; so I give Miranda a friendly shove and tell her to, 'shut up'.
The Bug Club is in uproar.
'I'm telling!'
'I'm getting you done! ALAN!'
Mr Bagnall has come out with his whistle. Some of the baby-children run over and cling to his knees. He walks around pretending he can't see them. They are shrieking. I sigh, life was so easy then, I think.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fascinating Invention No. 7 - The Bra

If you look closely you can see one of the statue women is using a half-bra arrangement. There were lots of ways of supporting bosoms before Mary Phelps Jacobs came along but in 1913 she nabbed the patent for the brassiere.
If you say bra properly it can get a bit muddly. The long name is brassiere which is french for 'upper arm' - hmm. Anyway, because this is French some people end up saying brasserie or brazier or even brassica. The idea of Mum wearing a lovely little bar/restaurant or a flaming outdoor fire or even a piece of broccoli is quite funny to me. In fact I am not even sure she wears an actual bra - and I am not going to ask because believe me, she would tell me. And that is because she is convinced that children who ask questions should be given Proper Answers and while a simple 'yes' or 'no' would do for me, it would not do for Mum and I can see her calling in Dad for a man-to-man chat about women's bits.

Anyway the real bra is probably more complicated than any of these things. Before Mary Phelps Jacobs, people (women) used all sorts of stuff like whalebones (big womenI think) and steel rods (strong women) to hold their bosoms up. Mary Phelps Jacobs used silk hankys, ribbon and a maid. I do not think you need to use a maid nowadays but I cannot be sure. I am glad I am not a girl.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Bit with the Astronaut who is not Buzz Aldrin

Ok, so I am going to stay with Dexter for a week. I still have to go to school but I will be too busy with Dexter and all his toys to post anything until 25th September. So I will just tell you the last bit of the school trip story...the bit with the astronaut who is not Buzz Aldrin.

It is quiet, like everyone is holding their breath and they have stopped looking at the rocket and are now staring at Mrs Trundle. You could cook raw meat on Mrs Trundle's face. I mean she is RED and her mouth is a straight line and her good eye is bulging. She is nearly running across the hall, closely followed by Mr Chuckle and the cleaner. The cleaner is odd and she is now dressed in some sort of white boiler suit but I have no time to think abput this before Mrs Trundle is on me. Oh flip.
'YOU!!' she says.
I nod. 'Wilf,' I prompt.
Oops. Mr Chuckle is pointing upwards and the cleaner is grinning. I am glad she is happy.
'Perhaps it would be better if we moved...Mrs er, Trundle?'
She continues to explode. 'WHEN WE GET HOME YOU ARE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE...'
'Mrs Trundle...'
It is at that moment, the rocket comes back to earth, or rather to Mrs Trundle's head. The bottle bounces briefly on her hairdo and water trickles down her face.
The silence in the hall is horrible. I hear Mr Chuckle gulp. This is it, I think. I am going to die. Dexter knows it too. For once he sticks by me but the rest move away, waiting for the killer blow.
'Brilliant!!' says the cleaner, clapping her hands and laughing. She hands Mrs Trundle a hanky.
'You think so?' asks Mrs Trundle weakly as she daubs at her face.
'A clear winner!' she says.
I take a good look at the cleaner. She is someone I have seen before, on the TV, in the papers...and I realise - she is not wearing a boiler suit, it is a spacesuit!
'Well Helen, ' says Mr Chuckle, 'I think you're right. Would you like to do the honours?'
'Gather round, Wilf and his crew, come on!'
So Miranda, the Bug Club and Dexter and me shuffle together in front of Helen Sharman, the actual British astronaut and I can hardly take it in because I thought she was the cleaner. I blush.
'This prize goes to Wilf and his team, for great inventiveness under difficult conditions!'
She hands me a replica of the Apollo 10 command module. And then all of us grab an edge and hold it up for everyone to see.
'See you in space, Wilf,' says Helen and she winks at me.
And the hall erupts with noise.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Water Rocket Man

This bloke is a bonkers about water rockets and I thought afew folk might like to see just how far you can go with one. Follow the link if you want to take off.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'Wilf is Building a Rocket!'

This rocket is what the baby-children in the rest of the class were doing. They were screaming and jumping and throwing cardboard tubes in the air and generally not making a proper rocket. NO-ONE can see that propulsion is the key, like the cleaner said. If you get enough pressure you can WHOOSH yourself over the surface of the moon! What a dream!

Mr Chuckle has NOT come back and it is nearly the time to meet the astronaut. I AM NOT MISSING HIM. I decide no-one will notice me if I sneak back and don't touch any buttons or savage any insects and I make my way back to the basement. And there they all are, shouting and screaming in little groups dotted round a big white hall. Dexter is nearest to me and has been forced to make his rocket with Miranda and her Bug Club buddies. They are in a huddle on the floor, prodding at rocket bits; all except for Dexter who is pretending to read a book.
'Ten minutes to go!' yells Mrs Trundle from the far end. Good, she is busy with the Stupid Group. I remain undetected.
'Hello,' I say and bob down.
Dexter takes an interest again and picks up the plastic rocket bottle.
'You need to use this bicycle pump,' I say, picking it up.
'I knew that,' says Miranda and The Bug Club nods.
'Then you can put on this tube...'
'Yeah, that's right,' says Miranda.
'...And stick it to your bottle...'
Miranda opens his mouth. 'Shut up, Miranda,' says Dexter, 'Wilf is building the rocket!'
The Bug Club gapes. I wait for her to use her BIG voice but then she does not.
Instead she says. 'So, you escaped,' and she grins.
The Bug Club grin as well. I decide I have nothing to lose and I give grinning a go too. Soon we are all grinning like lunatics. I decide grinning is all very well but it will not win the rocket competition. I start pumping and the pressure inside the bottle is building up.
'Two minutes!' cries The Trundle.
'Stand clear!' I shout and the rocket flies, zooms, powers upwards.
And the rest of the class goes quiet and the only sound you can hear is the whoosh of the air and the pop of the plastic bottle hitting the ceiling.
'I could have done that,' says Miranda.
Yeah right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

'Streuth! What's Out There?!'

I know what my new club will be, 'The Aliens'.
It will be for believers only and I will be the leader.

'If the cleaner comes in here,' says Mr Chuckle. 'please ask her to go to the basement area, we'll need to clear away the rest of your insects.' I nod because that way my toungue stays in my mouth. 'I'll collect you later,' he says and closes the door, leaving me alone. Foolish mortal.
Mr Chuckle's office walls have lots of NASA photos of the moon and astronauts and I wonder which astronaut will be presenting the flight-competition prize to my class while I am stuck in here. I felt big coming in, like a hero but now I am just cheesed off. I look around for something interesting to do; there is all the usual officy stuff - shelves stuffed with boring-looking files, a computer and actually some nifty little fiddle toys for the desk. I pick up the nearest one, it is a spongy alien spaceship, with the words 'Streuth! What's out there?' printed on it; three tiny alien heads are pressed up against a window and they look a bit sick at what they are seeing, especially when you squeeze them. Then I fiddle with the pumpy-type rocket next which is a bad move as I pump it so hard it jumps off its stand and into the opening door. The rocket falls to earth with a nasty crack. A woman with spiky hair and large glasses comes in. She is carrying an odd looking vacuum cleaner - it is a box with tubes wibbling out of it.
'Have you seen Mr Chuckle... oh, is that your rocket?' she asks, 'I'm so sorry.' She bends down and hands it to me, grinning. 'Here, you'll have to work on its propulsion, I'm afraid. '
'I like your vacuum cleaner,' I say, taking the rocket remains. She says nothing just laughs as though I have made a big joke. I hate myself for noticing she has really white teeth. 'You have really white teeth,' I say. Bother, I said it out loud. 'And, it's not my rocket, I broke it.'
'Ah,' she says and looks at her watch. 'Well, I'm meant to be somewhere else...'
'Oh yes Mr Chuckle wants you to suck up some insects,' I am pleased I remember that.
She purses her lips. 'Does he? How bizarre...well, maybe I could help you, just for a minute or two.' She puts down her box. 'Why are you here anyway?'
So I tell her about Miranda and the insects and the rocket competition I am missing. And because her teeth are so white I somehow let her know how much I want to meet Buzz Aldrin. and before I know it we have mended the fiddle toy in a clever way. And she winks and says.
See you later, maybe.'
I hope so. Even the cleaners are brilliant at The Science Museum.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Bug Killer

Who can honestly love a fly?
Mum gets very upset if I kill bugs. She does not like to hurt any living thing, even flies. I am not mad, I do not sit and take wings and legs off like Sad Joshua Johnston but I will squash them if they bother me. Dad once bought a can of fly spray and Mum turned purple because not only was he destroying lives but he was also destroying the ozone layer.

'KILLER!!' yells someone and I have a fair idea of who is doing the yelling because she is scraping at my head with the plastic lid from the bug-prison box. 'You've let them all go, they won't survive here - you stupid, stupid bug KILLER!'
'Get off me!' I am not sure who I am shouting at, the bugs or Miranda. I do know it is very uncomfortable in the t-shirt area.
'Stop scratching, you'll squash them!' And she starts lifting my t-shirt. Everyone says, 'ooh!'.
Enough is enough.
I push her away and she falls back onto the ground. I notice Dexter has retreated to a safe distance and is busy doing nothing with his clipboard. The crowd steps back. Mrs Trundle steps forward. I swear the veins in her good eye are bulging.
'I do NOT believe this! You again! Can't I trust you for ONE SINGLE MOMENT?' and she definitely says that last bit in capitals. 'Did you bring these insects?'
I scratch at my arm. I look at Miranda. I am going to dob her in now and it feels sweet.
'I've squashed my centipede,' says Miranda and she is actually crying as she scrapes the insect remains off her skirt. 'He was my favourite.'
Or maybe it does not feel so sweet. I think about what Buzz would do in this situation. The crowd is holding its breath and I say.
'I brought them in, Mrs Trundle. I did not want them to be lonely without me.'
I am not even sure why I said this but there is a gasp from everyone and I suddenly feel very tall.
'Well now it is you who will be lonely, Wilfred. You are to go to Mr Chuckle's office and wait there until we go home.'
I stand. Miranda's mouth droops open. Dexter salutes me and I feel the eyes of the class on me as I march off with an unsmiling Mr Chuckle.