Do you know, it wasn’t until I began typing up my rejected radio plays that I realised what a lot of food features in my writing. I once wrote a novel featuring Pic’n’Mix. It’s still looking for a publisher, if you know one. Meanwhile, this:
The Village of the Dim.
The silent birds.
Rural music. No birdsong.
Ethereal voice Once again here we are deep in the countryside, nice
morning, clouding over later 50% chance of
precipitation in the afternoon where the – wait a
minute – play the theme music again.
Rural music. No birdsong.
Ethereal voice Did you notice something missing? Again, please.
Quick snatch of rural music.
Ethereal voice As I thought, no birdsong. Well that is strange. I
wonder why the birds have fallen silent here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Ethereal voice Village of the Dim? How very odd. Happily help is
at hand in the shape of the great detective,
Millennium Domes and his tame idiot, Watsup,
back in his native village to rescue the villagers
from a silent spring.
Watsup Listen Domes, my Auntie was right, there isn’t a
single bird singing anywhere in the village.
Domes It is indeed strange, Watsup, for birds were singing
loudly in the fields we passed to get here. As you
observed, the silence seems to be affecting only the
birds in the village itself, which is quite remarkable.
We must talk to some villagers.
Watsup Here comes the road sweeper, Domes. Shall I ask
Domes You may interrogate him if you wish, Watsup.
Watsup Oh I can’t do that, you know, Domes. I haven’t got
a table lamp and even if I had there’s nowhere to
plug it in here in the street.
Domes A bright light is not necessary, old fellow, merely ask
him some questions.
Watsup Really, Domes? Like a quiz, you mean. General
knowledge, that sort of stuff? Should he form a
Domes Questions about the silence, Watsup.
Watsup Very well, I’ll try. Excuse me, honest sweeper
how long has it been silent?
Sweeper(guessing) Er, six inches?
Domes Allow me, Watsup. Road sweeper, have you
noticed the birds have stopped singing?
Sweeper I have trapped my gigantic mackerel in the door and
now the end has come off.
Watsup I think you’ve confused him, Domes. Let me try.
Listen, honest sweeper
Watsup What do you hear?
Sweeper Rol fiddly eye oh. I can hear the sun shine.
Watsup Yes but can you hear the birds singing?
Sweeper No but I can be sick in three different colours.
Watsup Aha! Listen to that, Domes, even the road
sweeper has noticed the silence. Tell me, road
sweeper, how long have you been able to hear
the sun shining?
Sweeper Ever since I was a tadpole. Don’t breathe that
air, you’ve no idea whose lungs it’s been in!
Domes I fear we will get nothing more from the road
Sweeper Have a bit of grit, it’s lovely and crunchy!
Watsup Perhaps you’re right. Domes. Where shall we go
Sweeper Timbuctoo, my darling, on a slice of flying custard.
Domes I think we’ll go and talk to Mrs Cakemix at the
village teashop. It’s just over there and we could
have a coffee and cake, if you wish.
Watsup That would be splendid, Domes, we got up so
early, I missed breakfast.
Sweeper I miss my bed and sleep on the floor, quite often.
Domes Thank you for your time, road sweeper, goodbye.
Sweeper I can hide a lemon in a very surprising place.
Domes(fading out) Thank you so much, please don’t demonstrate.
(Fade up) Domes Ah, here is the teashop.
Watsup Hello Mrs Cakemix.
Mrs Cakemix Hello young Watsup. Hello Mr Domes. Go
away, we’re closed. What brings you here?
Watsup We’ve come to solve a mystery, Mrs Cakemix.
Do you really want us to leave?
Mrs Cakemix No, of course not, dearie. It’s just that I have to
warn people that I can’t do a full menu because
of the shortages.
Domes Shortages, Mrs Cakemix?
Mrs Cakemix Yes, isn’t it awful? I can offer you beverages
as usual but the rest of the menu is limited to
prunes, an omelette or a lollipop for after. It’s
an absolute disaster for a cake shop.
Domes Ah, I see. What can you no longer offer,
Mrs Cakemix There’s a very extensive menu that I cannot do
at all. There’s no cake, of course, no breads
no scones or fancies. Nothing that goes
with toast, so no rarebit or baked beans. And
it’s worse than that, it’s dried up my light
lunches because there’s no gravy or custard. I
can’t even do soup without rolls. If the infants
don’t finish their scrapbooks soon, we’ll all
Watsup Domes this is terrible. First all the birds stop
singing and now Mrs Cakemix can’t even give
us anything to eat.
Mrs Cakemix Oh you’ve noticed the dickie birds, have you?
My goodness, young Watsup, you always were
quick as a slug. He was the first to notice when
the church fell down the mineshaft, Mr Domes.
Pity about the verger. Still, never mind. And
now it’s all gone quiet, here he is, putting his
finger on the problem, bright as ink.
Domes How long have the birds been silent, Mrs
Mrs Cakemix Well, let me see. They stopped singing round
Domes And how long have the infants been doing
Mrs Cakemix Oh all week. They started first thing
Monday morning. That’s the problem
of course, it’s been all week.
Watsup Domes, I’m confused. What have the
infants’ scrapbooks got to do with
Mrs Cakemixes menu?
Domes All in good time, dear fellow. First tell
me, Watsup, were you a member of the
infants school here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Domes Village of the Dim?
Watsup Oh yes, rather. Loved it. I was in the
infants until I was ten, or was it twelve?
That’s five years or seven add twelve or
ten is, oh dear. Well, a long time. I
could tell you exactly if I could take my
shoes and socks off. Give or take a
Domes Never mind, dear fellow. Tell me, is
it a large infants school?
Watsup Absolutely enormous, Domes. Huge.
It has to be because there are so many
infants in the village. You see everybody
stays in the infants school until they can
write letters with the correct end of the
pencil and add up to, ooh, big numbers.
Many never graduate to the junior school
and the villagers traditionally have very
large families because most never find
out what’s causing them. The village
would be full to overflowing if it weren’t
for the other tradition of leaving at
sixteen and not coming back. Some
children get quite far. In fact, Domes,
there are Dim people scattered all over
Domes You do surprise me.
Watsup No, it’s true, you know. But I still don’t
see what this has to do with the shortages.
Domes Simply, Watsup, that the schoolmistress
decided the whole school should do
scrapbooks this week and accordingly
went out and bought all the flour in the
village to make flour and water paste.
Isn’t that right, Mrs Cakemix?
Mrs Cakemix Exactly, Mr Domes and very cross I
was to find there wasn’t a scrap of
flour left anywhere. I can’t do my
baking at all and there won’t be another
delivery until Saturday. If you think I’m
upset, you should see the baker.
Domes Mrs Cakemix, I think we shall do just
Mrs Cakemix Turn the sign to closed on your way
out, please. There’s no point in
being open. Nice to see you, young
Watsup Bye Mrs Cakemix.
Tinkly shop bell.
Watsup So now we know why Mrs Cakemix
has nothing on the menu, Domes but we
still haven’t discovered why the birds are
silent. I wonder if we shall ever know?
Domes I think we are about to find out, Watsup.
Ah, here is the bakery. Do you know
the baker by any chance?
Watsup Yes, of course, Domes, I went to
school with her. She’s called Flora Bun.
She never married though she has
thirteen little Buns in the infants school.
Domes A baker’s dozen, eh?
Tinkly shop bell
Domes Ah, good day, Miss Bun.
Flora Good day to you sir, what a fine figure
of a man you are.
Watsup Hello Flora.
Flora Watsup! Sweetie pie! How are you?
Give us a kiss. I heard you had come
back. Give us a cuddle.
Watsup Not at the moment. This is my friend
Millennium Domes, the great detective.
Flora Is he great? I bet he is. Come here and
let me find out.
Domes Thank you madam but I must decline.
Flora Must you? Can I watch?
Watsup Now, now Flora, control yourself.
Flora I’ll try but it ain’t natural.
Domes We’re here to ask about the flour shortage
Flora Ain’t it dreadful? Look at the shop, it’s
empty. Normally I could offer you so
much. At this time of the morning I
usually have plenty of big white family
loaves, trays full of lovely squashy
doughnuts, baskets full of biscuits and
more rolls than you could handle. And big
enormous floury baps. I always have
enormous floury baps. But not today.
I’m like a shrivelled old lady, I’ve got
nothing on offer but little flat doilies. My
regulars are very upset, I can tell you. Do
you want a quick cuddle out the back? Go
on, it’ll cheer us all up.
Domes No thank you Madam but perhaps you
could tell us who your regulars are?
Flora All and sundry, dear, I ain’t particular.
What a nice pipe. I like a man with a nice
big pipe, yours has a shiny bowl and a
curly end. I like your curly end.
Domes Quite. Who is your best customer, might
Flora You might enquire as much as you like. I
don’t mind; I enjoy it. It’s Mrs Looney.
Domes Does she have a regular order, Miss Bun?
Flora Yes, my lover, she does. You can have a
regular order if you wants one.
Domes What is it?
Flora Whatever you like. Wait a minute, I’ll get
a pencil. There, now I’m ready to take
down whatever you say.
Watsup I think, Flora, that Mr Domes wants to
know what Mrs Looney’s order is.
Flora Oh, I see. She has five large white loaves
and two dozen baps every day regular as
clockwork except Saturday when she has it
twice. You could order twice on Saturday
if you wanted.
Watsup No thank you, Flora, we’re only passing
through. That is a very big order, Domes,
considering Mrs Looney lives all alone. It’s
Domes On the contrary, Watsup, I think it may
prove very enlightening. Thank you Miss
Bun, good day to you.
Flora Good day to you, you two lusty young
gentlemen. I hope you’ll come back and
see my enormous baps another day. Give
us a goodbye kiss.
Domes Thank you Madam, no. Out Watsup, hurry
she’s coming round the counter.
Tinkly shop bell, door slams.
Domes My goodness, Watsup, we barely escaped
Watsup She’s always been a very affectionate girl
Flora; spreads herself round the village
no end. Where to now, Domes?
Domes I think we should seek out Mrs Looney,
Watsup. In fact if I’m not mistaken
that is her over there by the duck pond.
Watsup So it is, Domes, well spotted. Mind you,
she’d be difficult to miss, nobody else is as
tall, skinny or fast.
Domes Indeed Watsup, she is like jet-propelled string.
Watsup So she is, Domes but that wheelbarrow
she’s pushing seems to be slowing her
down. Whatever is she doing? She
seems to be taking something from
the barrow and throwing it at the ducks.
Hello Mrs Looney!
Mrs Looney Well if it isn’t young Watsup and his friend.
Watsup It is, you know.
Mrs Looney I know, I recognised you straight away by
your faces. We might be stupid here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Mrs Looney Village of the Dim but we’re not stupid, you
know. Have you come to help?
Watsup What is that you’re throwing at the ducks,
Mrs Looney Not at dear; to. At would be nasty. You
must be kind to all the feathery things.
Watsup Birds Mrs Looney.
Mrs Looney Them too dear. Birds are my friends.
I like birds.
Domes Do you feed them everyday Mrs Looney?
Mrs Looney Yes Mr Domes, I get my little barrow and
I go all round the village.
Watsup The bread, Domes, that explains why Mrs
Looney buys so much bread!
Mrs Looney That’s right, Master Watsup. What a quick
little boy you are! He’s very intelligent you
know Mr Domes. He was the first one to
notice where the church had gone when it
fell down the mineshaft. Its a pity about
the verger, still, never mind.
Domes So you feed bread to all the birds in the
village every day, Mrs Looney?
Mrs Looney That’s right, Mr Domes. They’re always
waiting for me. Some of them follow me
from place to place and have seconds. Isn’t
that lovely? Someone has to do it, you know
otherwise they get very desperate and start
eating all sorts of nasty things. Worms and
beetles and all sorts of muck. So I look
after them and give them lovely fresh bread.
Come to Mrs Looney my lovelies, come and
get your breakfast.
Watsup But there isn’t any bread this week Mrs
Looney because of the flour shortages.
Mrs Looney That’s right, Master Watsup. Bright as
a puddle, you are.
Watsup So what have you been feeding them?
Domes I think if you look in the wheel barrow,
Watsup, you will see that it is full of treacle
Watsup By Jove, so it is, Domes. Have you fed
them with treacle toffee all week, Mrs
Mrs Looney Except for tomorrow, young Watsup. This is
the last barrow load the sweetie shop had. So
tomorrow it will be minty bullets. Would you
like minty bullets, my lovelies? Its strange
you know, they’ve all stopped talking to me.
It’s difficult to know what they want. Would
you prefer liquorice allsorts, my little friends?
Oh I do wish they would speak to me.
Domes Mrs Looney, I think if you were to take a jug
of warm water round with you and perhaps
a saucer to pour it into that would remedy
the situation. The birds are silent, I think you
will find because their beaks are stuck
together with treacle toffee. Warm water for
them to wash in and drink and the passage
of time should have them talking to you
Mrs Looney Oh I never thought of that. Do you think
they would prefer tea? How many sugars?
Domes No, my good woman. I should just stick to
Mrs Looney No, I don’t think you will because it isn’t
Domes And neither will the birds, Mrs Looney.
Mrs Looney Right ho, water it is. We might be a bit
daft here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Mrs Looney Village of the Dim but we are all capable of
learning. Here you are my birdies, no more
treacle toffee Mr Domes says, so tomorrow
I shall bring you a treat. Humbugs tomorrow
and bubble gum on Friday.
Watsup My goodness, Domes, I think the whole
village will be glad to get fresh flour supplies
Domes Especially the birds, Watsup. Oh, here comes
Mrs On Won Hanger, proprietress of the
Chinese Laundry here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Domes Village of the Dim. She at least looks happy.
Hello Mrs On Won Hanger, might we enquire
why you look so happy?
Mrs Hanger I rook happy because I rove riving here in the
FX Da Da Da!
Mrs Hanger Virrage of the Dim. You terr me, where erse
does it lain tleacurr toffee? Rook! It is arr over
the load. Arr you have to do is pick it up. I
have corrected thlee bags furr this morning
arone. I’m setting up a siderine as a sweet shop.
I understand the virrage sweet shop has lun out
of treacurr toffee so I’m expecting a rot of
business. My goodness I am panting with arr
of this bending over and picking up. Rook!
There is more over there!
Watsup Wait until Friday, Mrs Hanger, you’ll be panting
but over the moon!
Mrs Hanger Reeve the pantaroons on the doorstep. I wirr
wash them tomollow!
Rural music and birds coughing.
JaneLaverick.com – putting effort into being silly.