Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Who are they?

Wygnets are creatures who live under Offa’s Dyke in Shropshire -although they themselves call it Woffa’s Dyke. Unknown to people who live on top of the ground, the Wygnets have made the Dyke their home since it was first made, hundreds of years ago. Cedric, who was Governor of the First Order of Wygnets, decided to take over the bank as he realised it was long enough for a maze of tunnels. He and other Wygnets worked under the Dyke on his inventions that included Puffball and a computer called H.E.C.T.O.R. constructed at least 900 years before the first one invented by Man.

Eventually Cedric decided to leave Woffa’s Dyke with a small group of Wygnets. They had been infected with the Black Death and unfortunately many of them had died. Cedric went to another galaxy on the Flying-Woffa, leaving H.E.C.T.O.R. so he could communicate with the Wygnets left behind. Harebell Cedric’s daughter was one of the Wygnets who left with him.

As this story starts Cedric plans to return to Woffa’s Dyke with Harebell, in the Flying-Woffa, but he needs the Wygnets to help him accomplish a Special Mission. You’ll find out about this as you read the book.

There’s only a small family of Wygnets left in the Dyke – Eric, Erica, Pendle and Pendleberry, Professor Grafton, Auntie Prune and Mackintosh. They do useful work, including clearing tracks and paths along the Dyke. You’ll meet them in a minute, but first of all, come and meet Alex Raynor …

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How it Started!

About 33 years ago in 1982 (or 3) during the days when computers were just beginning to be invented, I was on holiday in Shropshire with my son Sam, who was 7 and a half years old. Luke had just got his first computer, an Acorn and he loved playing games on it and finding out about Robots.

One morning we were walking on the top of Offa’s Dyke which divides England and Wales and is very, very old. I found myself telling Luke the strange and wonderful adventure of Alex and the creatures that used to live under the Dyke – and probably still do. When we got home I wrote the story into a book and he began to draw and colour the pictures of the Wygnet’s story.

Then, one day I put the book away. Then, another day Luke grew up. He made a robot himself and eventually got an MSc in Artificial Intelligence.

Not long ago I opened a drawer and found Alex in Woffaland staring up at me and the Wygnet creatures inside the book said Get us out of here! It’s time you took us stuck in this book out into the world!

So I did and here it is. Let’s start by telling you about the Wygnets ... Here is a picture of them drawn by Sam

You'll meet them in a minute but first of all come and meet Alex Rayner ...

Chapter One Page 6

"That’s baked bees, my most favorite food". Pendleberry cried. She was behind him, giggling. "Try some". She reached out and pulled down a plate. Before she could hand it him, Alex knocked it out of her hand.

"No thank-you. Yuck!"

"What’s “yu..”?"

"Now, now".

A new voice interrupted. 
"Pendle and Pendleberry sit down, take off your puff-balls and make our guest at home. I’m Auntie Prune, Alex. Come and meet the others. This is Professor Grafton"

Auntie Prune pointed to what seemed to be a rocking chair in the corner. It creaked and was placed under a funny funnel shaped opening in the ceiling. The Wygnet seated in it had huge square-shaped glasses, with an orange rim and he had a ginger beard. As he rocked he held what looked like a periscope up to the strange opening.

"He’s very brainy", Auntie Prune continued. He looks over the top of the Dyke with his twistascope. He takes after his ancestor Cedric you know, in his love of inventions. You should see all the things he’s made down in the Wygnet dungeon".

"Yes, we’ll take you on a tour down there, after tea, after you’ve seen Hector" Pendle said. He was gorging himself on baked-bees and sitting on a stool at the table, swinging his paws underneath. 

"You’ll see, amongst other things, his torture gadgets. He got the idea from the box-programme on the torture chambers called 'Madame Tussauds'. You’ll see poto-types of the puff-ball and of the original Wygnet robot. He's called William". 

"It only takes down our puff-balls from the twigs and fits zem on us, then works out our antennae poperly"
Pendleberry interrupted.

Services” them, Pendle said knowingly, you didn’t get yours 'tuned' did you Pendleberry? Not this morning. Uncle W’Eric, Pendle didn’t …

"Yeh … I did … I nearly did. I was just going to and I heard …"

"Oh don’t kick me Pendle. Stop it. I’ll throw these fried ants at you."

"No you won’t."

"Yeh. I will."

"No you won’t, silly pants!"

They weren’t really angry, just full of Wygnet fun.

"Fried ants!
Silly pants, sizzlin’ in a pan
Along came Mackintosh
sizzling in a van."

Someone else had come in. Alex looked towards the entrance where a strange Wygnet creature stood waving his paws about quite madly. This Wygnet’s puff-ball was far too big, like the giant over-sized sweater that Alex’s Gran had knitted him last year. It had sleeves as long as his body.

"'Allo Mackintosh", Auntie Prune sounded stern and scolding, come and eat your whirligig ear-wig soup. It’s getting burnt in the pan."

"Ock-Kay, Ock-Kay!"
Mackintosh wobbled over to the table and sat down on a rickety looking stool. Alex noticed one of the antennae on his puff-ball shoot out and flick under the stool, then suddenly the stool and Mackintosh shot up high above the table. The spoonful of soup in his paw spilt black bits, like midges, over the tablecloth.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

chapter one page 5

Fortunately Pendle had enough commonsense to reach out inside Pendleberry’s puff-ball and press the magic-wand button, to stop the magic. Alex kind of clicked-clicked, then he stopped shrinking, but he was now as small as Pendle.

You are as small as me now, said Pendle. You can come down and see Hector!

I can come down and see Hector! Alex and Pendle both had the same thought and spoke together.

Pendleberry leaped up and down trying to clap her paws together.

Mini-mini-man is coming down our hole
She scampered on down the burrow to tell everyone else.

I am Alex! Alex yelled after her, but his voice was squeaky, like a doll’s, soft and high, so she probably didn’t hear him.

Eric and Pendle were disappearing down the tunnel too. Alex quickly followed them. Being so small he was afraid of being left alone. The countryside he was leaving now seemed like a jungle. The grass towered over him, each blade like a thick tree trunk and each harebell flower like a huge trumpet.

He had to run really fast because new entrances appeared every few steps down the tunnel. This is a hundred times worse than Longleat maze he kept thinking. Eventually the two Wygnets in front of him stopped in a circular space, in the middle of which was a round table covered with a cloth which was spotted all over in a rainbow of colours.

Allo Alex, said a new voice. Pendleberry told us you were coming to see Hector, so I quickly laid our special cloth for a feast!

Feast! Um! Ugh! He nearly choked. On the table were tiny plates filled with squirming ants and stripey brown and yellow things.

What’s “yuck”? Pendle was really puzzled.

What’s THAT? Alex said, pointing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

chapter one page 4

We don’t know. We call him Hector. U’cle W’Eric found him. In the new tunnel. He’s a bix-box. He has all sort of ‘witches, and lights and ‘sings. Pendleberry was very eager to explain, so he got some of his letters and speech muddled up.

I know said Pendle, you could come down and see Alex.

But I’m too big, Alex retorted. He was going to add that he didn’t want to anyway and that it was nearly time to go back down the Dyke to the Hotel as his Mum and Dad would be wondering where he was.

But Pendle was saying to Eric

And Uncle Eric, when I pressed two buttons on him, shift and break, Hector showed on his face a mini-man running up and down ladders. W’really funny. You should see, Pendleberry.

Funny, thought Alex, sounds a bit like the Chuckie Egg game on my Acorn. All of a sudden he very very much wanted to go down the Wygnet tunnel. 

But he was too big.

Pendleberry had got up and being a rather mischievous little Wygnet and full of fun was jigging up and down, her ribbons flying out like streamers.
I’m dancing’ she said and did a little pirouette. I wonder if I can go on tiptoe like they do on the box. She couldn’t, as her feet were too big and clumsy. Instead, as she tried to, one of her antennae flew over and touched Alex’s arm. He felt a slight twinge of pain and then, slowly, he felt something odd happening to his body. 

His feet, legs, hands and arms seemed to be shrinking. 

Oh! Aah! was all he could find to say. Oh! Aah! The three Wygnets looked around. Uncle Eric knew immediately what had happened.

Oh Pendleberry, he said shaking his head. You really are not old enough to have a puff-ball. Look what it has done!

It’s your magic-wand antennae Pendleberry. You should be more careful. Pendle was scornful. He looked proudly down at his antennae, which were all neatly curled into his puff-ball. As they all spoke Alex was becoming smaller and smaller.

Oh! Aah! Stop this immediately. His voice was getting higher and higher and higher and was quite squeaky.

Mini-mini-man, Pendleberry began to chant. Mini-mini-man. She didn’t seem to realise what was going to happen to Alex if he became any smaller.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pendleberry's puffball

Thursday, September 17, 2009

chapter one page 3

W'Eric, Wher’a are you? Pendleberry was scurrying up from the nap-room. She was still a bit sleepy. Her puff-ball antennae were all coiled up around her, as though they’d been curled by hair-rollers. She kept running up the passage trying to uncurl them, but as much as she tried they kept knotting together, just like a tangled ball of coloured wool. Probably it felt to Pendleberry like it would to a 3 year old child trying to do up or undo his or her shoelaces. The thing was, Pendleberry, being only a very young Wygnet, was not yet used to her puff-ball. She hadn’t yet learned all the ins and outs of using the different sorts of antennae.

Botha! Botha! Botha! She kept saying, Botha Me! Uncle W’Eric, please help me. At which point, just behind the burrow entrance, she topped over and did a roly-poly out to land smack in front of Alex’s nose. Her antennae flew out in the breeze and laced round his body. He looked like a maypole with its ribbons all twisted in the wind.

Alex was mad. She was probably also a little mad, but being a Wygnet child she could only see the funny side.

Hee-hee! Look Uncle W’Eric, this ‘fings got a funny nose! She grabbed Alex’s nose and tweaked it.

Get off! He snatched himself away and tripped over the mass of ribbons, then rolled over the edge of the dyke and down the other side into the ditch, followed by the puff-ball and Pendleberry squeaking and squealing. She’d never been so far away from Wygnet-World. If she’d been a girl it would have been as though she’d gone from England to Africa.

Eventually, with Eric’s help, they sorted themselves out and all three sat outside the burrow. Alex was still scowling a bit, but he was beginning to wonder who these odd creatures really were. Just as he was about to ask, Pendle’s head appeared from the tunnel.

You woke me up Pendleberry. Why were you ‘squealing? U’cle Eric, Hector’s flashing ‘swange pictures in ‘wed and g’ween.

Who’s Hector? asked Alex, who didn’t miss much.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

chapter one page 2

 Chapter one / page 2  
Eric, the Governor of the Twelfth Order of Wygnets, was just putting on his brown hat. He was about to go down to the new tunnel, to find if it was safe.In a few minutes Pendle and Pendleberry would wake from their nap and want to scamper down it as a short cut to get to their camp. He had reached up to grab his hat from the twig-hook. His action-antennae were performing well today.

Then there was a thump. It shook Eric through his too-sensitive-puff-ball fur. Not just once, but thump. Thump. Thump. Three of them. He knew it wasn’t thunder. The sound was too dull. Like a kick he thought. He huffed a bit – after all he was getting oldish (nearly 6, which is old age creeps on time for a Wygnet) – then he tramped to the back door, opened it a crack and nearly jumped out of his puff-ball!

Jiminy! Jiminy Wicket! He exclaimed. Then, Shiva ma timba! Eric always got carried away once he started, Wot ‘ave we ‘ere? To be quite honest he wasn’t that scared and he liked to do impersonations. He got them from the Wygnet-box.

Ow d’you do? He shot out a search stick antenna. The box had shown him hand shakes and shown him man-creatures. What he could never understand was that men-creatures only had two antennae. Now, he Eric, could eat his ants, pick his snout, pull up his pants, comfort Pendleberry when she cried – which was very often – and clean the set and do many other things. All at once.

He stared at the mini-man for a whole second. Time runs slowly for Wygnets. Then he chortled
Allo Mini-man. Wot a nose! Eric let out a spoosh which is a Wygnet laugh. 

What about my nose? Alex, who was bending over the Wygnet burrow, was really indignant. His Grannie had told him his nose was “aristocwatic”, or something. He touched the tip of his nose and frowned, then in a little fit of temper, being prone to these, he kicked the entrance to the Wygnet burrow again. A shower of earth spattered Eric’s longer-than-the-usual nose.

Wot the blazes! He was not used to temper-tantrums, Wygnets never had such things, as they are peaceful beings. This time it was Alex’s turn to crease-up.

Hey, you’ve got measles! Anyway, he paused, what the heck are you? A Mister man? Are you Mister Gump, or Mr Doodle-Bug? Or … Alex’s keen imagination was getting going.