In my last post on this I talked about the actual plot of the book, things that haven’t been written yet and the change of name, now it’s time to get back to the here and now and return to seven year old Charlie and his experiences and how the actual book is developing. When last we left the action young Charlie had just had his first lesson in sex education…
After learning about sex the next step is for Charlie to have his first actual encounter with a girl… A girl…. And we all know what seven year old boys think of them. Find your nearest one and I’ll guarantee the result will likely be along the lines of how disgusting and vile and girly and un-boy like they are. If an adult said the things seven year old boys come out with they’d find themselves stamped with a sexual harassment lawsuit before they could even blink. Most boys grow out of that phase anyway.
Charlie and his friends are still very much inside that ‘girls are dirty’ phase, however, and Charlie is about to come face to face with one for the first time. It’s a moment that’s going to stick in his brain for the rest of his life. In modern times this first meeting would never happen. Boys and girls are mixed together from an early age (and yet this weird phase where one sex is disgusted by the other still exists. I wonder if there is some sort psychological explanation for this… Freud did once mention that between six and thirteen years, roughly, children tend to mostly associate with their own gender. Fascinating!)
Charlie is going to find himself almost cornered by a girl and he’s going to have to speak to her. He’ll be able to run away whenever he wants but he won’t because that will just be trivial. He’s got to interact with this girl, even though he’s at that stage where girls are something dirty. As with Jeremy etc. this is going to be the start of a long friendship that will have a big impact on his life. Well… That’s how it’s going to start. As the years go by they’re going to become increasingly attracted to each other and at some point they’ll fall in love and eventually get married.
And that means it’s time to introduce you to another character from the first drafts. Violet, AKA Mrs Charlie Fuller. She was a relatively late addition to Charlie’s story, first appearing in the half prequel/sequel second book of the original drafts. Here she had no character and was essentially a bit of a bimbo. She and Charlie initially met on a train to Vienna in the weeks leading up to Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria. The next day they got married, slept together and then effectively parted for a bit whilst Charlie ran off down the sewers and had a brief altercation with Hitler (don’t ask,) then they reunited for a bit before Charlie went off and got himself imprisoned. In fact they hardly knew each other at all, and still Violet managed to get herself pregnant in that time. (This seems to be a feature of my early work. one shag= a baby. It happened at least five times to five different women.) Violet will, still, one day have Charlie’s baby but it won’t be after only one shag. Sebastian Fuller is very important…
Anyway… Charlie and Violet are now going to know each other a lot longer than a few days. This is my opportunity to transform them both into childhood sweethearts and turn their relationship into a proper old school romance. But the problem lies in the fact that Violet has no character apart from ‘talentless bimbo who gets shagged.’ I’ve got to start again from scratch with Violet, recraft her into somebody else. The idea I had was that she was a bit of a smarmy know-it-all type, the sort of girl that you find quite a bit of in Edwardian literature. I’m thinking of the likes of Mary from the Secret Garden or Violet-Elizabeth from the William Brown books. (Another Violet!) There are probably a few more floating around the ether but you know the sort I mean Stuck up, self opinionated and usually the daughter of a wealthy landowner. In terms of personality, think of a very young Hermione Granger, particularly in the first Harry Potter book/film where she’s stuck up. Violet is certainly going to be a bit full of herself and she’ll have some of those characteristics but she won’t be the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Instead she’ll be the daughter of a gardener for a big estate. Another thing is that she’s going to be quite playful and she’s even going to be a bit amused by Charlie. As she grows she’ll develop but she’ll retain a slight sense of haughtiness and playfulness. What she’ll be like when she grows up I’m not quite sure yet, but she’s shaping up to be quite interesting.
Another thing that’s got to change is her surname. Originally she was called Violet Benson but that sounds like the name of a Northumbrian fish wife rather than the name of a decent character. So her surname will change to something more befitting, a bit more Edwardian if you get my drift.
All of this puts me in mind of another boy and girl who fell in love almost eighty years later, again as children. Although they share very different characteristics from Charlie and Violet, the situation is very different yet awfully similar. Like Charlie the boy has bad parents and the girl I imagined to be very stuck up as a child, and I began to think of writing two similar yet oh so different scenes set eighty years apart. The results are below. The first extract is from Charlie Fuller and it details the start of Charlie and Violet’s first meeting, the important part. It’s a bit rough around the edges still but don’t let that bother you too much. This isn’t the best extract to show off the writing style but I think it still gives a sense of it. The scene happens just as Charlie runs away from his neglectful mother onto a large country estate (complete with nasty man eating dogs) and comes across a ‘mysterious’ church…
I crossed a well maintained gravel roadway and reached the trees where I soon became aware that they were not a thicket as I had initially presumed but were rather a leafy veil that shrouded a hitherto unknown and mysterious church. It was very much like the Church of St Lawrence I knew from Towcester, only this particular church was a yellowy colour and not a rusty orange. It was smaller too. I advanced towards it carefully, wondering about where it had come from and what secrets it might contain. A million ideas about what it could be came into my mind, none of them being as simple as just a church. I saw no reason for it to even exist as a church. There was already a church not so very far away and so I wondered why one earth there would need to be another so close. Eventually I settled upon the idea that it was some sort of secret fortress for an evil despot, designed to appear to the casual observer as though it were a church. I soon saw through this disguise with ease and crept towards the building with all care lest the despot or one of his guards should spot me and kill me stone dead. I concealed myself behind a few ornamental gravestones as I edged nearer to the fortress. My concerns over Mother and the man eating dogs had all but vanished now and my sole interest had become concentrated upon infiltrating the despot’s fortress. The closer I came the more I began to think what a brilliant disguise it was. It looked every inch a church, so much so that I was almost fooled in thinking it really was such a building for just a moment. Keeping my head low so I wouldn’t be seen, I soon reached the wall beneath a window and then waited patiently, listening for any signs of movement from outside or in. After I heard no sound, I plucked up enough courage so that I would risk a peer through the window and gaze into the despot’s lair…
“Boy…” A sharp, female voice behind me broke the air and I turned around to see a girl of my own age standing beside a gravestone with her arms folded and a snobbish snarl on her face. She had straight brown hair, brown eyes and the overall look of a know-it-all. Her clothes consisted of a very simple yellow dress and white stockings with a pair of very tidy buckled shoes on her feet. “What are you doing here boy? Don’t you know this is private property?” I didn’t answer but instead took a step away from her. She was a girl after all and I might have caught something had I gotten too close to her. I watched as she looked me up and down, examining me, before she spoke again.
“Have you been crying?” she questioned in an impertinent manner.
“NO,” I lied, wiping my eyes in an attempt to remove any traces of the evidence. The girl looked at me again.
“You have been crying!” she accused. I snorted at her.
“So what? It’s my prerogative to cry if I want to. Nobody can stop me.” The girl gave a ‘know-it-all’s smirk’ and set my words straight for me.
“My daddy says that boys aren’t supposed to cry. He says that boys who cry aren’t fit for anything much. Only girls are supposed to cry,” the girl informed me impetuously. I didn’t want to be thought of as being anything like a girl and so, once more, I wiped my eyes to remove the evidence of my tears. “What were you crying for anyway?”
“I wasn’t crying…” I lied again.
“Yes you were… Why were you crying?” I have to give her credit for her persistence, even though I hated it at the time. I thought she was being rather priggish to tell you the truth but in the end I found that I simply had to give out and tell her about how Mother had no love and had wished me ill for all my days. The girl was quite visibly taken aback by this and put a hand to her mouth.
“Oh my. You poor dear… I’ll be your mother for you if you like,” she offered. I pulled a face of revulsion and instantly shook my head as hard as I could.
“But you’re a girl…” I told her bluntly. The girl laughed at me.
“And? You’re a boy. What does that matter?”
“You’ve got a… got a… a jilly!” I announced in embarrassment. The girl scrunched her face up in bewilderment.
“A jilly? What’s one of those?” She was clearly as unaware of the difference between boys and girls as I had been the day before so I attempted to explain the situation to her as best I could.
“A jilly is a thing that girls have between their legs but boys don’t. I am told that it is very much like a hole of sorts…” The girl scratched her head at my explanation.
“Oh… Is that thing called a jilly? I always called it Stephanie. But I wouldn’t say that it was a hole…”
“My friend told me that it was. He saw one and said that it was a lot like a hole,” I informed, honestly and eagerly. I saw the girl shake her head and then look down at her dress with a puzzled expression
“If boys don’t have a jilly what do they have instead?”
“It’s called a willy!”
“Can I see it?” I was more than a little shocked by her question so I shook my head vehemently and took another step backwards. “I’ll let you see my jilly if you like,” she proposed. Curiosity got the better of me, I am afraid to say. With little reluctance I hastily agreed to show this strange girl exactly what she wanted to see in return for a glimpse of her jilly. It was a still a strange and wonderous thing to me and the temptation of such a visage was too much for my young self to resist.
We both agreed to show each other at the same time and, although the view we received of each other was brief, the image burned itself onto my mind for all time. I will not go into details if you do not mind but I will say that, firstly, Francis had been entirely wrong when he described it as a hole and that, secondly, it made me feel more at ease being near the strange girl. She wasn’t something dirty or something to be avoided anymore. She was still a girl, but now, all of a sudden, she became one I could actually approach without feeling like I had to wash my hands afterwards. As a matter of fact, I held my hand out towards her once I had restored my shorts to their rightful place about my waist.
“I’m Charlie. Pleased to meet you miss,” I said politely as I tried to shake her hand. The girl gave me a little curtsy instead before she laughed.
“There’s no need to be so formal Charlie. I’m not a princess…”
“You could be!” I told her as earnestly as I could. “You look like a princess…” The girl blushed crimson and gave me a flutter of her eyelids. “I bet you’ve got a princesses name…” I continued.
“It’s not a princess name but you’ll never guess it,” the girl pompped. I scratched my chin and thought about what it might be. It wasn’t a princess name so that ruled out anything such as Esmeralda, Flowella, Christina or Issabella. I looked about her once more and attempted to deliberate what it might be. I recall thinking at this point that she looked very pretty and that she had to have an equally pretty name to go with her. I screwed my face up and tried to think of the prettiest name I could. Eventually I came up with the suggestion of ‘Jasmine.’ The girl laughed and shook her head, indicating to me that I should try once more. I thought again and this time produced the rather ugly name of Hermione from the back of my mind. That was not correct either.
“I’m actually called Violet Brushwood,” she revealed snobbishly. I had been right. Hers was indeed a very pretty name. It had a good ring to it and I felt that her parents had been wise to give her that name.
Alas, I still found myself a little shy and became at a loss as to what to say to her. I shuffled my feet nervously and I looked at Violet with such an awkward gaze that she laughed loudly and had to grab at her side to stop it from aching.
“You’re very funny Charlie,” she giggled. “I like you…”
“I like you too,” I replied earnestly. “Where are you from? I’ve never seen you in Towcester!” Violet gave a wry smile and wiggled her hips for a reason which I still do not understand to this day.
“That’s because I’m not from Towcester. I live in Hulcote. That’s because Daddy works as a gardener on the estate.”
“My dad’s dead…” I told her rather suddenly and in a matter of fact way. Violet looked at me in utter astonishment, as though I were an urchin or a rag-boy or the sort of vile thing that one found in the crowded city slums in those days. “It’s ok, I didn’t like him much anyway and he never did anything for me like a real father should do,” I reassured her. Her brown eyes wavered in sorrow for just an instance but then they relaxed into a wide beam and they looked at me in admiration.
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re quite a pippin Charlie?” I went bright red and thanked her for her compliment. I had never considered myself to be a pippin before, but looking at my reflection later on that day, I decided Violet had been quite right. I was indeed a pippin.
If you want to know what the next bit is it’s Charlie and Violet exploring the church together before parting and agreeing to meet up the next day.
The second extract, meanwhile, is from Dark Legend: Volume 2 and I decided that I would write it as one of those ‘What I did during the summer holidays’ essays, from the perspective of a nine year old. You might think that this would be easy… Just write in a few mistakes and grammatical errors and make it a bit simpler than usual. It wasn’t easy. I kept putting the grammar in the right place and trying to make it sound too sophisticated. I kept it short as well as nine year olds usually can’t write thousands of words in an hour. I’ll let you judge for yourself how it worked out:
THE MOST INTERESTING THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME DURING THE SUMMER
BY GREG FINCH
I discovered this ’essay’ whilst flicking through Greg’s old school books, which I ended up with after he died. I include it here as I feel it may be of interest to you. I’ve also tried to keep things very much as they were originally written and I hope you do not mind the many errors in the writing- Joe.
The most interesting thing that happened to me during the summer was that I got myself a girlfriend. I didn’t actually mean to get one but it kind of happened anyway. It was towards the end of the summer holidays and I was on my home from my weekly music lessons with Mrs Chanson who lives in the old factory building opposite that Jazz club. I had my guitar strapped across my back and I think it was about to start raining so I was hurrying. Mrs Chanson had given me a can of cola as she always does after a music lesson. She says that it helps to loosen the vocal chords after a long time singing. I was walking down Walterham street when I finished it. As I am sure you know that there are no bins down there so I simply scrumpled the can and threw it into the gutter.
“PICK THAT UP” a girl shouted at me from a shop doorway. I just looked at her. “PICK THAT UP. PICK THAT UP NOW OR I’LL REPORT YOU”. I continued to walk but the girl ran across the road and picked up the can and chased after me.
“I’ll be nice this once but next time you should pick your litter up yourself” she informed me. If I am being honest here I would definitely say she was pompous and full of herself and stuck up. I tried to ignore her and continued walking but she continued following me.
“My names Elizabeth. What is your name”? the girl asked me. I didn’t answer her. She did not appear to be the sort of girl I wanted to be associated with. She seemed to be a lot like Sally Mumpson who sits in the corner of the room and I don’t want to be associated with her either.
“Can you talk? I met another boy like you who couldn’t talk once”.
“I can talk” I told her. I stopped and looked at her. She didn’t look like Sally Mumpson at all. She looked very nice. So I told her my name. “My names Greg” I said.
“Is that short for Gregory”?
“No. It’s short for Greg” I said. I don’t like being called Gregory. Gregory is an old mans name. I am called Greg.
“Are you a musician Greg”? she asked excitedly and pointing to the guitar that was strapped across my back.
“Yes” I answered. “When I grow up I want to be a singer like John Lenon”.
“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Daddy owns a book shop and I like reading so I may do that. I’m reading a book called Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets right now. Have you read it”? When I told Elizabeth that I hadn’t read it she grabbed my arm and dragged me over to a bookshop. There was a copy of the book she was reading in the window and it looked very rubbish. It had two very ugly looking boys driving a flying car with an owl in the back seat on it. The one driving had ginger hair and my guess is that he was Harry Potter. It looked like a very girly book and I didn’t want to read it. Elizabeth told me what it was about anyway and even after she had finished I still didn’t want to read it. The two of us continued to talk to each other untill the rain started. After this we went inside one of the book shops were we continued to talk. I was finding that I liked Elizabeth a lot and my first assumption that she was like Sally Mumpson had been wrong. Whilst we were talking the man who was running the shop brought us two cups of tea and some chocolat bickies. They were very nice. At one point Elizabeth asked to hear me play the guitar so I obliged her with the same rendition of ‘Why Should I Worry’ that I did at last years summer concert. I didn’t have the cool shades with me this time but Elizabeth still liked it as it was from her favourite film. Then we left the book shop and went to her house, which was a farm, were we watched it. I stayed for tea afterwads and we had steak and chips. When it was time for me to go home I didn’t want to but Elizabeths mum said that I had to. I walked part of the way home with Elizabeth and we left each other by the park entrence in Byederbeck.
“Will you be my girlfriend”? I asked her. Elizabeth nodded and said she would be. After that we kissed each other and I went home very happy.
I checked what national curriculum level it was and it turns out that’s a mid level 2. But you can see now that even though they are very similar, they are very different. And the results of each relationship have markedly different effects. I’ll come to Charlie and Violet another time… And we already know how Greg and Elizabeth ended up…