19 July 2011

The Nicholas book has arrived by courier, translated into British English, so I have decided to excerpt chapter one for the pleasure of all artists, wonderers, and potential childrens' story authors:


A Photograph to Treasure

When we got to school this morning we were all feeling pleased because we were going to have a class photograph taken and it would be a memento for us to treasure all our lives, like our teacher said, and she told us to be sure we were neat and clean and we'd brushed our hair.

My hair was all plastered down with pomade when I arrived in the playground. All my friends were there and our teacher was yelling at Geoffrey for coming in his Martian suit. Geoffrey's dad is very rich and buys him all the toys he wants. Geoffrey was telling our teacher he'd be photographed in his Martian suit or not at all, so there.

The photographer and his camera had arrived too, and our teacher told him to be quick about it or else we'd miss math, and Cuthbert, who is top of the class and teacher's pet, said it would be too bad to miss math because he did like math so much and he'd got all his problems done, and Eddie, who is a very strong boy, wanted to punch Cuthbert's nose, only Cuthbert wears glasses so we can;t pound him as much as we'd like to. Our teacher started shouting and saying we were quite impossible and if this kind of thing went on there wouldn't be any photograph at all and we'd go straight in and start lessons. So then the photographer said, "Now, now, now, just keep calm. Don;t you worry, I know exactly how to handle children1"

The photographer decided we ought to be in three rows: one row sitting on the ground, the second row standing up with our teacher sitting on a chair in the middle, and the third row standing on wooden boxes behind them. That photographer really had some fabulous ideas.

We went down to the school basement to get the boxes. We had a great time because it was dark down there and Rufus put an old sack over his head and shouted, "Whooo! I'm a ghost!" Then we saw out teacher coming. She didn't look too pleased, so we went off with the boxes, fast, and the only boy left was Rufus. He couldn't see what was going on because of the sack, so he went on shouting, "Whooo! I'm a ghost!" and then our teacher took the sack off his head and Rufus got a big surprise.

Back in the playground our teacher let go of Rufus's ear and she clasped her head in her hands. "Oh no!" she said. "You're all messy!" I suppose we had got a little bit dirty fooling around down int he basement. Our teacher was mad, but the photographer said it didn;t matter, and we'd have time to go and wash while he got the boxes and the chair into position for the photo. Apart from Cuthbert the only one whose face was still clean was Geoffrey, on account of his head being inside the Martian helmet which is like a goldfish bowl.

"There you see?" Geoffrey told our teacher. "If they'd all come in Martian suits you wouldn't have had any trouble." I could see our teacher wanted to pull Geoffrey's ears too, but the goldfish bowl was all smooth so she couldn't. That Martian outfit is really fantastic!

After we'd washed our faces and combed our hair we came back. We were just a bit wet, but the photographer said that didn't matter, it wouldn't show up in the picture.

"Right!" said the photographer. "Now, do you want to please your teacher?" We said yes, we did, because we like out teacher; she's really nice if you don't make her mad." "Very well," said the photographer, "get into your places like good children. Big boys on the boxes, the middle-sized ones on the ground and the little ones sitting." So we started getting into our places, and the photographer was telling our teacher how you can get children to do anything if you exercise a little patience, but our teacher couldn't stop to hear the end of it. She had to come and separate us, because we all wanted to be on the boxes.

"I'm the only big boy anyway!" Eddie was shouting, and he was pushing everyone else off the boxes as they tried to get up. Geoffrey wasn't giving in, so Eddie hit him on the goldfish bowl and hurt his hand a lot. Geoffrey's goldfish bowl was jammed and it took several of us to get it off.

Our teacher warned us that she was giving us one last chance, and if we didn;t behave it would be math, so we decided we'd better keep quiet and we started getting into position. Geoffrey went over to the photographer.

"What's that camera of yours?" he asked.

"The photographer smiled and said, "It's a magic box sonny, and in a minute you'll see a little birdie come out!"

"Gosh, yours is ancient!" said Geoffrey.

"I've got one my dad gave me with a lens hood and a close-up lens and a telephoto lens and masses of different filters..."

The photographer seemed to be surprised, he stopped smiling and he told Geoffrey to go back to his place.

"I suppose you do at lest have a photoelectric cell?" asked Geoffrey.

"For the last time, will you get back into position?" shouted the photographer. He seemed very worked up all of a sudden.

We got into position. I was sitting on the ground beside Alec. Alec is my friend who is very fat and who is always eating. Just now he was taking a bite out of a piece of bread and jelly and the photographer told him to stop eating, but Alec said he had to keep his strength up.

Our teacher was sitting right behind Alec, and she snapped, "Put that bread and Jelly away!" which made him jump with surprise and he dropped the bread and jelly on his shirt-front.

"There!" said Alec, trying to scrape the jelly off his shirt with the piece of bread. The teacher said the only solution was to put Alec in the back row where the jelly stain wouldn't show. "Eddie, change places with your friend," she said.

"He isn;t my friend," said Eddie, "and he;s not having my place and all he has to do is turn his back to the camera; that way no one will see the jelly or his great fat tummy either." Our teacher was mad and she punished Eddie by making him do lines by copying - I must not refuse to change places with a friend who has dropped a piece of bread and jelly on his shirt - one hundred times.

Eddie didn't say anything, he got down off his box and started out for the front row while Alec started out for the back row. there was a bit of a mix-up, specially when Eddie punched Alec on the nose in passing, and Alec tried to kick Eddie, but Eddie, who can move very fast, dodged it, and it was Cuthbert who got kicked, only luckily not where he wears his glasses. Not that that stopped him bursting into tears and wailing that he couldn;t see any more and no one loved him and he wished he were dead. Our teacher comforted him and wiped his nose and combed his hair again and told Alec to write out a hundred times I must not hit a friend who wears glasses and who is not even trying to hurt me.

"Good!" said Cuthbert, so our teacher gave him some lines too. Cuthbert was so surprised he didn't even cry. Then our teacher really started handing our punishments, we all got lots of lines, and finally she said, "Now suppose you all make up your minds to stand still. If you're very, very good I'll let you off your lines. Right! Stand up straight, smile nicely, and the gentleman will take a lovely photo of us!" Well, we didn't want to upset our teacher, so we did as she said: we all stood up straight and smiled.

Only we never did get that photo to be a memento to treasure all our lives. It didn't come off, because we suddenly found the photographer wasn't there anymore. He had just gone away without a word to anyone!

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