Friday, 4 April 2008

The Vulture Sculpture

This is a short story I wrote for 'Notes From Underground' magazine.

The frogs at the bottom of Mr and Mrs Watson’s garden were deeply religious.

They loved praying, and singing hymns, and gathering to listen to wise words and tell stories. They had a strong sense that they had been put at the bottom of the garden for a reason. That reason was God.

This God, they felt, must love them very much to have given them such a wonderful garden to live in. They felt he must be watching them at all times, and helping them when they were in trouble, and comforting them when they were sad.

When the lush, green lawn, and the dark, cool pond were as beautiful as they were – well, how could they not believe that some wonderful God was looking after them?

There was only one problem.

They couldn’t find him.

They looked everywhere: he was not at the bottom of the pond – there were only weeds there; he was not in the wheelbarrow; he was not inside the stomach of the dead crow they found; he was not standing quietly behind them, running into a bush every time they turned round – they had tested this theory thoroughly; he was not in the shed; he was not hiding silently in the daffodils.

The frogs gathered one Sunday morning to sing their hymns.

This is how one of their hymns went –

We love you! We love you! We love you – you’re great!
We don’t know where you live, or what you look like, or how you smell,
We don’t know why you put us here or where you went,
But we’re sure you must be brilliant!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah – ooh, brilliant!
Do you have a pair of magic shoes?
Do you have an invisible nose?
Do you have a telescope that lets you see inside our minds?
We don’t know!
But we’re sure you must be brilliant!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah – ooh, brilliant!

The little frogs sang their froggy hearts out, and jumped around in a circle. They wore crowns made of buttercups, and gave each other a special pat on the back at the end of every hymn, to let each other know what good friends they were.

The frogs loved their hymns.

But today was different. Because today, half way through one of their hymns, one of the younger frogs, whose name was Winstanley, suddenly spoke up.

“This is rubbish! Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish – what are we doing?”

The other frogs didn’t know what to say.

“What do you mean ‘what are we doing’? We’re singing our hymns – like we do every Sunday,” replied one kindly, older frog called Turbot.

This only seemed to make Winstanley more angry.

“But why? Why? WHY? We’ve never even met this God! We don’t know who he is, or where he went, or what he does for a living! I mean, it’s ridiculous worshipping someone you’ve never met! How do we know he’s brilliant? He might be a complete goofball for all we know! … or … or maybe …”

The frogs, very shaken by what Winstanley was saying, hung on his every word.

“… maybe he doesn’t even exist!”

Winstanley had got himself so worked up that he jumped up in the air and did a summersault – which was not something any of the frogs had ever done before.

Turbot had a son, whose name was Kibble. Hearing Winstanley’s words, Kibble began to cry. Turbot comforted him, saying, “There, there – ignore silly Winstanley. I’m sure God exists, and I’m sure he’s looking after us.”

But Kibble said just what Winstanley had said.

“It’s ridiculous worshipping someone you’ve never met!”

All the young frogs were upset.

The next Sunday, hardly anyone came to the Sunday meeting. They stayed down by the pond, looking embarrassed, and hoping no-one would ask them why they were not at prayer. Some of the young frogs had just stayed in bed, and refused to go.

Winstanley himself sat under the big oak tree, sulking.

Turbot was baffled.

“But we’ve always had prayers on Sundays!”

He looked around in desperation.

“Dad!” piped up Kibble, “Dad, I was wondering – I’m … I’m not sure I want to go to prayers any more …”

Turbot gasped.

“But why ever not?”

“Well – I’m not sure I … um … believe in God.”

Turbot gulped.

“Oh my! Well – son, you are an awfully good boy, and you did ask me – so I suppose I can’t make you come if you don’t want to. Go and play with your friends by the pond, and I’ll see you later.”

Turbot, along with just three other frogs, sang some very sad hymns indeed that day.

Meanwhile, back in the house, Mrs Watson had reached a decision.

“Darling – that’s it! I can’t stand it any longer. Our garden is lacking! It is incomplete, unfinished, half-baked! All our neighbours gardens are much better. That lawn is missing something, and I am going to go to the garden centre to find out what!”

She stormed off into town, and returned two hours later.

“Darling! I’ve found the very thing – why, it will make our garden the best garden on the whole street, and hopefully all our neighbours will be completely miserable!”
She jogged with glee to the bottom of the garden, carrying a very heavy thing. It was so heavy that she had to hunch down whilst carrying it, and ended up looking like a over-dressed gorilla.

With a mighty groan, she plonked it down next to the pond.



It was a massive vulture, carved out of white marble.

It looked very fearsome, and if this didn’t make all her neighbours hate themselves for having inadequate gardens, then nothing would.

So there it sat, at the bottom of the garden, from that Sunday on.

This is what the frogs had to say about it.

“AAAAAAAAAAAARGHH! Oh no! AAAAARGH! What is it! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God, help us! Please help us, God! Save us from this terrible thing! AAAAAARGHH!”
They were all cowering in the bushes, hiding their children under their tummies.

Only Winstanley felt differently.

He was crawling towards it, with an expression of great seriousness on his little froggy face. Turbot thought he was mad.

“Winstanley! What are you doing!”

He had reached the vulture sculpture now.

He was shaking.

“Oh, great one – have you finally come to us? Have you finally returned to our garden?”

He spoke in a whisper, and reached out his webbed foot, shaking, to touch the marble.

“God? Is it you?”

As his wet toes touched the cool marble, a shiver went up his spine, and he knew
that he was in the presence of God.

“It’s … it’s … it’s him! You idiots! You fools! Cowering in the bushes, eh? Running scared when God has finally shown himself to us!” he yelled at the other frogs, “Well – I’m not frightened. I am your servant, God – do with me as you will!”

He was jumping and doing summersaults now, as only he could.

The wind blew fiercely all of a sudden, and the trees in the garden danced madly in
the gale. The sound was deafening, and Winstanley had to scream to say –

“Do with me as you will!”

The very next moment, a little white thing, carried by the wind from the garden next door, sailed through the air, over the trees, and landed on Winstanley’s head.

All the frogs were amazed.

It was a skull – the tiny, white skull of a shrew.

It sat on Wintsanley’s head. He began to laugh.

“Oh, almighty God! You have spoken! I told you to do with me as you wanted, and you made me your priest – your prophet! I will not disappoint you!!! Ha ha ha!”

Well, the other frogs didn’t know what to think.

Winstanley paraded around all week in his shrew-skull-crown, fussing over the vulture sculpture. He brought it weeds from the pond as a gift, and cleared a circle around it, and polished its beak.

The next week, they all gathered around for Sunday hymns – even the younger ones.

After all. God clearly must exist – he was sitting right in front of them.

None of them knew what to say to him. What could they say? Should they ask how he was? Should they talk about the weather? Should they tell him a joke?

Winstanley thought he knew what they should do.

He had written a new hymn.

This how it went.

Death! Death! Blood and death!
You are the God with firey breath!
You will crush our enemies and swallow the moon!
You will scream and bite like a big baboon!
Please don’t eat it! Please don’t eat us!
We’ll do anything you say, if you promise not to beat us!
Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Blood and death!

As you can imagine the atmosphere was a bit different that Sunday.

Winstanley made them all dance a very different dance, where they thrashed around like the trees in the wind, and waved their feet, begging the vulture sculpture not to eat them.

“Almighty God of Storms! Devourer of worlds! Please, answer our call! Speak to us! What is your name?!”

But the vulture sculpture did not reply.

Wintsanley looked around nervously, then made everyone sing and dance again.

When they were finished, he asked once more –

“Devourer of worlds, what is your name!”

But the vulture sculpture did not speak.

That was when Winstanley made a decision.

Winstanley was very good at imbirdsonations. He was famous for them. He could imbirdsonate almost any bird – from sparrows to owls, from robins to kestrels. It couldn’t be too hard to do an imbirdsonation of a vulture, could it?

He decided that, as the vulture sculpture’s priest and prophet, it was his job to make sure everyone kept worshipping him, and kept on being frightened of him.
With his back turned to the other frogs, he started to speak in his vulture imbirsonation.


The poor little froggies were terrified. They lay flat on the ground, and trembled.


At this, one of the smallest, shyest frogs, whose name was Dunstable, and who was hopelessly frightened, put his hand in the air.

“… um … please … your … um … terrible God of Deathliness …”

Squall did not seem pleased.


“… well … well, it’s just that I’ve got to visit my sick grandmother next Sunday … um
… I promised I would … she lives in the shed, and is too weak to come to prayers, and …”

Then, all of a sudden, something terrible happened.

A football flew over the hedge from next door, and smashed Dunstable on the head.

Everyone gasped.

Dunstable looked about, dazed, and began to cry.

Winstanley felt certain that this had been a sign from God. He pushed his shrew-skull-crown back on his head, turned away from the other frogs, and continued his imbirdsonation.


With that, the prayers came to an end, and the frogs limped off to their homes, confused and anxious.

As they were leaving, Squall said.


Over the coming months, things only got worse.

Winstanley kept on deciding that Squall would want new rules, and if people disobeyed those rules, Winstanley felt certain Squall would want them to be punished.

First he decided that everyone was going to have to wear blood on their faces. He made a little pin-prick on his toe with a thorn, and smeared the blood on his cheeks – and then made everyone do the same. Poor Dunstable was very squeamish, and wept pathetically when he was told to prick his toe, so, as punishment, Winstanley made him wear a waistcoat of thorns for a whole day. His skin was covered in scars, and he was miserable.

Then Winstanley found a dead mole by the wheelbarrow, and made everyone carry around one of the mole’s ribs as a ceremonial staff. At the prayer meetings, they would bang the ribs together like drumsticks. This, as you can imagine, was really gross. Turbot said he thought maybe they could use twigs instead, Winstanley got annoyed, and as punishment he imbirdsonated Squall into saying that Turbot had to spend all night inside the dead mole, and think about what he’d done.

But the final straw came when he told the frogs they had to take it in turns to stand in the middle of a circle, and have everyone tell them what was wrong with them. Poor old Dunstable went first, and everyone shouted at him that he was a coward, and a sissy – and of course they all felt terrible afterwards.

The following Sunday was the first really cold Sunday in November, and the frogs were all shivering. Winstanley was in a foul mood.

He chose kibble to go in the middle of the circle and be insulted.

Kibble cried.

Turbot said that Winstanley had gone too far, and that he wasn’t going to let his son
be abused in this way.

Then Winstanley started doing summersaults and screaming, and getting ready to think up the worst punishment yet.

A mile away, the Dangerous Birds Sanctuary had just had a bit of an accident. Their prize Egyptian Vulture, which was a big female called Marjorie, had just escaped.

Whilst the Dangerous Birds Sanctuary employees scampered around, fetching nets, and getting into vans, and calling the airforce, Marjorie had flown all the way to Mr and Mrs Watsons’ garden.

When she caught sight of all the tasty looking frogs by the pond, she flapped down eagerly to investigate.

This is how the frogs reacted.


Marjorie didn’t know what to make of their ribbiting, and paused to investigate the funny looking marble sculpture beside her.

Winstanley was screaming.

“See! See! See how angry Squall is! I knew it! I knew it! He is here to punish you! You
idiots! This will serve you right for not believing in him!”, he summersaulted wildly as he shrieked, “Turbot – the only way for you to save us all from being eaten is to sacrifice your son! It is sinful to love your son more than God, so now you have to give him as a sacrifice! Yes, a sacrifice, a …”

As Turbot wept – desperate to save everyone from Squall, but unable to give up his son – all the other frogs ran about in a panic.

But then Winstanley stopped talking.

He stopped talking because, just as he was in the middle of a summersault, Marjorie had snatched him out of the air and gobbled him up. There was a sickening crunch as she snapped his bones.

Poor old Winstanley. He had not been God’s favourite son after all. He had only been her dinner.

With that, Marjorie decided she did not much like the taste of frogs, and flew away.
As winter came on, and the frogs prepared for the harsh, frosty months, they took a little break from their Sunday meetings. They had become rather awkward, after all. Who were they supposed to pray to now? Winstanley must have been wrong about Squall, because Squall ate him. Furthermore, Squall clearly didn’t care one jot about the frogs, because he had flown away and not come back.

So who was really their God?

Where was he?

They were back to square one on the board game of praying.

Then, just before Christmas, as a warm yellow glow was pouring like honey from the windows of the house, they found themselves – on a Sunday, as it happened – all absent-mindedly singing a hymn they used to know.

It was a nice, friendly hymn from the good old days – and as they sang it, they knew everything would be alright.

We love you! We love you! We love you – you’re great!
We don’t know where you live, or what you look like, or how you smell,
We don’t know why you put us here or where you went,
But we’re sure you must be brilliant!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah – ooh, brilliant!
Do you have a pair of magic shoes?
Do you have an invisible nose?
Do you have a telescope that lets you see inside our minds?
We don’t know!
But we’re sure you must be brilliant!
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah – ooh, brilliant!

A Story about a Trade Union Dispute (For Kids)

I wrote this for 'Notes from Underground' magazine.

The National Union of English, Irish, and Guernsey Horses ( N. U. E. I. G. H.) had declared a strike. There was to be no more horseracing until their demands were met.

They had issued a proclamation, which they had written with their hooves on an
unusually large carrot.

All the leading newspapers, seeing that a crisis was imminent, published it forthwith.

This is what it said –

We, the horses of England, Ireland, and Guernsey, have had enough.

Bad humans!

No more, humans!

Unless you meet our demands, we will go on strike, and there will be no horseracing for any of you.

These are our demands -

1. LIGHTER JOCKEYS – The average weight of the British jockey is going up and up. Tell them to stop drinking beer and eating pies.

2. JUMPING TO BE VOLUNTARY. Have you SEEN how tall those things you make us jump over are? You should try it some time! Go on – just try!

3. SOFTER WHIPS. I can’t imagine you’d like it if every time you were trying to concentrate someone hit you with a whip!

4. POLOS INSTEAD OF HAY. Just because.

5. BETTER PENSIONS. After a life racing as fast as we possibly can, you just shove us in a field and forget about us. Well, we want better – a nice retirement home somewhere hot. Majorca maybe.

If you do not comply, we will strike, and we will not feel sorry for you.

The End.

N. U. E. I. G. H.

N. U. E. I. G. H. was an organisation elected by horses throughout England, Ireland, and Guernsey, in a yearly postal vote. The horses of Wales, Scotland, and the Island of Jersey were represented by a different union – The Welsh, Highlands, and Island of Jersey National Nags Institute Elect (W. H. I. J. N. N. I. E.). They took very different attitudes to the situation of horses in the United Kingdom. While W. H. I. J. N. N. I. E saw their human masters as basically fair, N. U. E. I. G. H. saw them as oppressive, corrupt, incompetent, badly dressed, and cruel. While W. H. I. J. N. N. I. E just existed to make sure things didn’t get any worse, N. U. E. I. G. H wanted to do whatever it took to make things better.

This was their big plan.

The following day, all the jockeys turned up at the racetracks all over England, Ireland, and Guernsey, to find the horses lying on their backs, drinking tea, eating biscuits, and looking hostile.

Try as they might, the jockeys could not make them race. They pleaded. They shouted. They threatened them with spades. But it was no use – the horses simply shook their heads, and said,

“I’m on strike, mate. You race.”

It was hopeless.

That evening, the jockeys went to their pubs up and down the country, and tried to make themselves feel better by drinking beer and eating pies. Then they went to bed, certain that the following morning the horses would have calmed down.

But the horses were even more uncooperative. They’d put up banners, and found board-games to play while they sat around.

The jockeys didn’t know what to do – people were turning up at the track, expecting to see some racing, and they were kicking up a terrible fuss. They stood outside the gates screaming and jeering.

“What’s the problem? Why can’t you make the silly animals race? They’re only horses, aren’t they – it’s not like they’ve got guns!”

The jockeys felt very embarrassed – but what could they do? A horse is at least fourteen times bigger than a jockey.

They decided to hold their own meeting, to work out what to do.

“I say we buy some flamethrowers!” said a very bad-tempered jockey called Nigel, who was wearing a black silk top with green stripes. “You can’t argue with a flamethrower.”

Mostly everyone else thought this was going to far.

“Why don’t we just do what they want – they seem very determined”, said a soft-spoken, gentle jockey called Fergus, in a pink top with blue sleeves.

Nigel laughed heartily, whilst brushing dust vainly off his lovely green stripes.

“My dear Fergus, that is balderdash – how on earth can we afford to feed them Polos all year round? Not to mention how angry the crowds will be when the horses don’t go over the jumps anymore! No – what this situation requires is a firm hand!”

Fergus sighed.

“Yes – perhaps you’re right.”

Fergus had been made very sad by the whole business. He loved his horse dearly, and a day when they didn’t go out racing together was a day wasted. She was called Koala Portobello Gumdrop, and she was a dappled grey horse with a sweet disposition. All he wanted was for this whole mess to be over.

Nigel was still shouting.

“So – flamethrowers it is, then!”

Suddenly another, very energetic jockey spoke up. He had a large ginger quiff, a curly ginger moustache, and a white top with purple spots.

“Lads, lads, lads – there’s no need for violence. Why, this isn’t even a problem at all – it’s an opportunity!”

Everyone found this very confusing.

“An opportunity, you say?” said Nigel.

“That’s right! Who wants to race on boring old horses anyway? This could be the future – we can race on anything we want!”

Everyone stopped, and thought for a second. Anything they wanted?

“All we have to do is find animals whose situation is worse than that of our horses – endangered animals for example, or animals that get hunted for their fur, or animals that live in horrible swamps. They’d do anything to come and live in a stable and eat hay. All we have to do is advertise!”

So that became their big plan.

The following day, in newspapers all over the world, in hundreds of different languages, an advert appeared. It said –


Animals for racing.

Have you ever thought of living in the United Kingdom? It is very nice here. We are offering jobs as race-animals. We will give you a stable to live in, and hay to eat. Auditions will be held in London next week.

The following week, in a large covered market near London Bridge, the jockeys gathered to look over the applicants.

They had come from all over the world, and they were all desperate for a job.
The ginger haired jockey, whose name, as it turned out, was Ricky Flunch, stood on a podium, and organised the animals into groups. Each group had a race, to give the jockeys an idea of which animals would be best.

It wasn’t easy to decide.

All the different animals presented different problems.

The jockeys wrote a list of all the animals, and reasons why it might not be a good idea to race them.

This is what it said –

PORCUPINES – uncomfortable.
WARTHOGS – weird smell.
GOFERS – too small.
LEMURS – easily distracted?
PANDAS – lack motivation.
MEERKATS – don’t like the way they look at us. Rude.
TORTOISES – potentially smarter than we are?
MOOSE – hard to say why we didn’t hit it off. Something sort of boring about them. Feels like it would be awkward spending time with them – language barrier/different sense of humour etc.
BEARS – might eat us?

Just when they thought it was no good – when they were about to give up and go home – a very special animal turned up at the market.

It leaned against a notice board, and smiled charmingly.

“Perhaps I can be of some assistance?”

It had incredible, fast-looking, black skin on top, and smart, stylish, white skin underneath. It was just the right size for riding. It had a giant, crazy mouth and no discernable face. It had wings.

It was a giant manta ray.

All the jockeys cheered. They knew, just by looking at it, that their prayers had been answered.

Fergus sighed a heavy sigh – which was something he’d been doing a lot of recently. It just wasn’t the same. He missed Koala Portobello Gumdrop, and even if this giant manta ray was the best racer ever, and the crowds adored it, and the jockeys all made millions of pounds, he would still rather be racing with his friend.

The following week, the whole nation was desperate to know what was going to happen at the big race. The manta ray had brought a hundred of his friends over from the sea, and they had moved into a nice lot of stables near Epsom. The racetrack had been dug up, burnt, and replaced with seventeen Olympic swimming pools stuck together. Millions of spectators had turned up, with handfuls of money to spend in any way they could.

Ricky Flunch was swaggering around, taking all the credit.

Nigel was furiously tightening his giant manta ray’s saddle, determined to be the first person to win a manta ray race.

Only Fergus was unhappy.

The horses didn’t know what to do. They had gathered outside the racetrack, waving signs, singing angry songs, and showing people videos of how uncomfortable it was to fall over a really big jump.

But the crowds of excited spectators didn’t seem to care.

“Well – there’s only one thing for it – we’ll have to take more extreme measures!” said a very aggressive brown horse called Unexpected Smack In The Face. “Does anyone know where we can get some flamethrowers?”

“No, no, no!” piped up a peaceable, yoga-loving horse called Brian Ferry’s Silver Hipflask. “We’ve got to turn the other cheek – however badly they behave, we must sit here, non-violently, and show them that there is a better way to live!”

“Nonsense! That’ll get us nowhere – actions speak louder than words!” retorted Unexpected Smack In The Face contemptuously.

Koala Portobello Gumdrop said nothing during all of this.

She agreed with the strike – and wanted fair treatment for all horses. But she also missed her jockey, Fergus, terribly. She looked sadly to the race-swimming-pool, and wondered what he was up to.

At the start of the giant manta ray race, the Queen stood up and read a short speech.

“I, as your monarch, would just like to say how very proud I am of my nation’s jockeys for this innovative idea of theirs. I am sure it will be much better than those stupid old horse races, which I never really liked anyway. I do not pretend to know what a manta ray is – but I am sure they cannot possibly stamp, and complain, and poo all over the place like horses do. Let the games commence!”

She nodded to the man with the starter gun, he nodded back to her, and then he fired into the air.

Fergus, Nigel, Ricky Flunch, and ten other jockeys shot out of the starting pens on their massive, aquatic beasts.

It was chaos.

Thirteen giant manta rays is far too many giant manta rays to race at once.

The saddles were badly designed, and quickly tangled the jockeys to their rays so firmly they could not move.

The rays bashed into the concrete sides of the swimming pools, and suddenly found themselves very panicked.

They started screaming, and flapping, and swimming in all different directions.

Then they forgot that the jockeys could not breath.

They vanished to the bottom of the swimming pool.

The whole crowd started shrieking.

“Oh no! What on earth is to happen to my jockeys!” yelled the Queen.

Now, when someone is on strike, they are not supposed to stop being on strike, because if one person stops, then everyone might stop, the bosses won’t have to give in to any of the demands, and the whole thing will have been pointless.

If you break the strike, the other strikers might call you a ‘scab’ – which isn’t a nice
thing to be called at all.

Koala Portobello Gumdrop decided to break the strike.

Unexpected Smack In The Face did indeed yell ‘scab!’, as did many others – but Brian Ferry’s Silver Hipflask couldn’t help but feel that it was the right thing to do, all considered.

Koala Portobello Gumdrop ran as fast as she could (which was very fast) to the swimming pool and jumped in with a great splash.

There is nothing quite so fearsome as an angry horse.

She bristled, and snorted, and stamped the bottom of the swimming pool, and said, “Now look here, you manta rays – I know you’re scared and confused – but if you don’t swim up to the surface right now, the jockeys will drown, and if that happens, then I WILL KICK ALL OF YOU VERY HARD!”

Well, that told them.

The manta rays hurried to surface.

The jockeys gasped for air.

The crowd went wild.

The Queen cheered.

Fergus threw his arms around Koala Portobello Gumdrop and wept.

“Oh, KPG, I’m so sorry! What fools we’ve been – you horses are our best friends, and we gave you up over a silly argument! Well enough is enough – you can have all your demands! I’ll even try to drink less beer and eat fewer pies!”

“Oh, Fergus, how I’ve missed you!” sobbed Koala Portobello Gumdrop.

The strike was over. The horses had got what they wanted.

The Queen instantly decided to give Koala Portobello Gumdrop a medal – but first she turned her attention to the giant manta rays, who were looking very frightened.
“Manta rays, I am very disappointed in you! You almost killed my jockeys! What do you have to say for yourselves!?”

The leader of the manta rays swam forward, shaking with fear.

“Please – have pity on us, your majesty! We are so far away from home. Our waters are being polluted, and we desperately needed to find a new home – but we are not used to racing, or strikes, or swimming pools! We love this nation of yours – and we would love to stay, if you will let us.”

The Queen was not impressed.

“Well, that’s all very well, but what am I supposed to do with you all?”

The manta ray coughed nervously.

“Well – back in my own country, I’m actually … um … a qualified neurosurgeon – so if you need any of those …”

The Queen gasped with delight.

“But this is wonderful news! The National Health Service is understaffed!
Neurosurgeons is the very thing we need!”

So it all ended happily: the horses got a better deal – with lighter jockeys, and no jumps, and buckets of Polos; the jockeys started their horse races, and the crowds all came to watch; the NHS got a welcome injection of giant manta rays; and, most importantly, Fergus and Koala Portobello Gumdrop were friends again.

Thursday, 3 April 2008


This is the second thing I have to say.

I have published a book!

I mean I wrote a book!

Someone else published it (!

When reading the book in Oxford, one little girl asked her father 'Who is that man?'. Her dad replied, 'He wrote those books', pointing at a pile of copies. She looked skeptical, and replied, 'No he didn't - he just wrote one and then photocopied it.'

I am sad to say that that girl was completely right. I am a charlatan. I only wrote the book once.

It came out about a month ago, and got these nice reviews -

If this sounds like the kind of thing you might like, you can buy it here -

I am very pleased with it as it looks great, and I was lucky enough to have it illustrated by this genius -

Hugs and kisses,

Leander Deeny.

This is the first thing I have to say.

Between the ages of four and five I forced my parents - against their will - to dress me as a jockey. I refused to leave the house unless wearing white jodhpurs, a blue and green silk jumper, a riding helmet, and - most importantly - a pair of tiny leather boots with brown turn-ups.

My mother, when buying said boots, thought it prudent to buy two pairs of different sizes, as I was a growing boy, and refused to wear anything else. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the whole 'growing' lark never really went my way and I only made it to 5'3''.

I had soon worn both pairs of boots to shreds.

Eventually, I demanded to be taken to a race track. My parents agreed. Once there, I insisted on meeting the noted jockey, Lester Piggott. Lester, upon being confronted with a small child dressed as himself, felt that he was being in some way mocked. After much cooing, hushing, and appeasing from my father, he agreed to sign something for me.

I do not remember what he signed.

I do remember that I could not read it, as his hand-writing was illegible.

Then I wept inconsolably for forty minutes.

Lester didn't know what to think.

Thankfully I gave up dressing like a jockey and instead adopted the costume of a musketeer - which I think was better for everyone involved.

Yours Sincerely,

Leander Deeny.