Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Furious Fred, the Butcher’s Ted

Have you ever noticed how, whenever a drama features a small child’s drawing that has to play some part in carrying the story forward, you can tell that a child didn’t do it?

(This one’s real. Jack the Ripper, drawn by my daughter, when she was aged about six. She’s twenty-one now. We used to worry until we caught on that we were actually raising Wednesday Addams.)

It’s almost always the case. Like those terrible overdubbing jobs where grown women provide children’s voices and we’re not supposed to notice.

A child’s spontenaeity is hard to fake as it is to spell. I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when I was sorting through some of my old file boxes. I came across some notes that I’d jotted down waaaaay back in 1982. Back then I was a newbie with two years of freelancing under my belt, and occasionally I’d do a writer visit to some local school – read a story, talk to the children, answer their questions. Doesn’t happen so much now, mainly because the children of my friends have all grown up and that’s where most of the requests came from.

About a week after a visit I’d get an envelope filled with stories the children had written. It’s a nice feeling, I can tell you. And children write like they paint. I’ve no memory of doing this, but on that occasion in ’82 I copied out some of the passages before returning the stories. Probably to remind myself what genuinely fresh writing looked like.

Spelling and punctuation are shown exactly as-was. I think these are vivid and funny, in the best possible way.

My name is Anna I where glasses I have freccles and long black hair. I go to boarding school. Last night I wrote a letter to my boyfriend to say shove off.

Some stories touched on the supernatural:

One day the witch was making a spell and saying I will go and get the bottle. Now the witch had put lots of ingredients into the pot there were tadpoles slugs snails and wee wee.

And some were science fiction:

John Richards carefully placed the tray of chemicals on the commanders desk. “Thanks Richards” said Commander Dilson. “these chemicals may be futile if dropped.”

Some of the spelling was downright creative:

The space cat has many advantagis Like his protectiv scine and his jetts witch he can go very fast with them and his big earess he can hear 2 miles away from him. Now you know his advatagis well get on with the adventure.

From The Adventures of the Man in Space:

David had a badly burnt face and a broken leg and broken ribs. The good news is that he is better but the bad news is that he will have to have his leg cut off.

And this, from the epic The Space Being:

Once upon a time in 1981 there lived a marshan strat from Marse. When he left Marse he was ten. So when he got to earth he would be oldenof to bring some girls home, if he falled he would be killed. All the marshans what has tride to do the tasked was killed because they falled. The marshan was called Peter. Peter liked to play little Wisel.

In ten years he reached earth. He crased in the at the beach. He came out and he looked around and said “Bagige blar blar blar blere plaseif” which ment good morning, aney more girls.

No, I’ve no idea what ‘little Wisel’ is.

And finally, can somebody please tell me what was going on in this kid’s head?

Then one day another Space Dust monster came from the planet XTS. And changed places with the heir to the throne, King Two-bo-locks.


8 responses to “Furious Fred, the Butcher’s Ted”

  1. Reminds me of my niece and her friend when they were about 8 writing a story about two young girls being murdered on a caravan park in West Wales.

    We weren’t sure whether to applaud their imagination or be worried…

    (Of course, she’s almost 14 now and it’s a case of MSN this and Bebo that.)

  2. That post is about the most adorable thing I’ve ever read in my life.

    There must be a website dedicated to this kind of stuff. If there isn’t, there should be.

    If you have any more, please post them up. I’ve linked to this on a forum, so you may get a couple of hits out of it.

  3. I’m pretty sure I must have recorded a few more of these somewhere… maybe they’ll turn up as I continue to go through stuff.

    Some of them are vivid enough to stick in the memory without a note. I’ve a particular affection for the ultimate horror story title, THE SKELETON’S TERRIFYING MONSTER.

    And Stephen Laws, who’s also done a bit of the ‘visiting writer’ thing in his day, once told me of the close competitor: CRISPS FROM HELL.

  4. Wednesday is my middle name. It really is.

    Unrelated: I have a link! I love you. In a purely platonic, scriptual way of course. Ahem.

  5. Those comments from the kids are just wonderful. I’ve come across some others similar to this in a book – er, Steve, I hope you don’t mind me plugging someone else’s book here; especially as that someone is Ramsey Campbell?

    In his collection of essays, articles, etc, “Probably”, he recounts the results of a school visit. The kids wrote about their encounter with him, and in some cases drew pictures of him. Some examples of the pictures as described by Ramsey:

    “.. a picture of the author crouched behind a book at his desk. He’s a cheery chap with glasss and a grin – both, like the rest of his face, bright yellow ..”

    “… draws (the author) as a winged blue object which appears to be the product of a Kafkaesque transformation and to be very pleased about it too”

    “Beneath a window through which the sun beams, the author bares his teeth and brandishes a pencil large enough to double as a murder weapon”.

    ” .. shows the elongated purple author either sitting on a chair besides a round green table with a case on it, or performing some feat on a set of parallel bars”

    And those are just a few samplers. Honestly, I had tears of laughter streaming down my face when I read it!

  6. CRISPS FROM HELL? Ah – I remember it well. Actually, I remember my time doing the ‘writer bit’ in a series of Newcastle schools with real fondness. I’d been pretty much left to develop my own creative writing programme for six local schools, and found that one particular element of that programme went down very well with the kids i.e. I’d read extracts from spooky short stories or novels, then show video extracts from the television shows and movies that had been based on them (age appropriate, of course). By that, I mean the exact sequence – as written by the author – and then the exact sequence, as realised by the film or TV maker. I’d then begin a discussion on which was the most effective – and I’m pleased to say that without fail the kids preferred the written word (working on their own imaginations to create the scene) rather than the visual image that the film or TV series had provided. GOOSEBUMPS (then pretty popular) was a good example for 8-9 year olds. On a different ‘theme’, I’d use meatier stuff for the older kids – such as Robert Wise’s 1963 film THE HAUNTING, to demonstrate that sometimes ‘less is more’in horror (specifically, the terrifying thing behind the door – the thing that you never see, of course). Just to set the scene, I asked the kids if they knew what a ‘medium’ is (Julie Harris and Claire Bloom being the two terrified ‘mediums’ in that sequence), to which a boy replied: “Is it a Size 8 to 10?’

    By the way, Steve and I and our wives spent a great weekend in the actual location of THE HAUNTING – Ettington Park; now a very posh hotel but still looking as it did back then.

    Stephen Laws