I’m currently working on a brand new middle-grade series. I’m one and a half books in and planning to wait until I have the first three written before I publish them in one go.
[Addition 27/11/2019: turns out book two was impossible to write (series writing is tough work!) So this will stay a stand-alone book in early 2020]
Chapter One – Nothing Ever Happens
There once was a quaint little town on the south east coast of England called Sandwich.
need to re-read the last sentence. You read it correctly.
This story is not about a normal town like Cambridge or Durham or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (a lovely Welsh village which roughly translates as ‘The Church in the valley of fluffy unicorns next to a muddy puddle owned by St Bob the Third, King of all the ginger biscuits‘).
There is a
real place called Sandwichand,
if you read on, I’d be delighted to tell you more about it.
Here is a
map of Sandwich.
[Drawing of a Map
street names are sandwich fillings, like Coronation Chicken Avenue and Egg Mayo
Road and Hoisin Duck with Cucumber and Spring Onions Street. There is a meandering river, a dentist, a
lovely-but-crumbly church, an orphanage and a sandwich shop called The
Sandwich Sandwich Shop.
If you could imagine a sandwich filling, Mrs Wrinklebottom would make it for you. For example, you could ask her for a tuna sandwich and she would reply, “the fish or a snack while I sing Ba Ba Black Sheep?” Mrs Wrinklebottom looked and smelt like she had sampled all the fillings in her shop, including the out-of-date ones.
suffered from cross-eyed syndrome. Everything he saw had a nose in the way, his
nose to be precise. The poor man also had a shaky hand, believed ghosts lived
in his cupboard and had an irrational fear of being licked by small children.
So naturally he became the village dentist, partly because it paid well, but
mostly because nobody else wanted to do it.
Every Sunday morning Reverend Nightingale began her sermons with the words, “lettuce play”. This is because a) her favourite sandwiches are lettuce sandwiches and it amused her as it sounded like ‘let us’, and b) she struggled to pronounce her r’s. Her congregation did not mind as they were all asleep anyway, tucked up in their homes having a lovely lie-in.
orphanage sat one lonely child. She was the only orphan in the whole of
Sandwich. And to make it even worse the orphanage was a massive old stately
home with hundreds of old, dusty rooms. It was the perfect place to play hide
and seek, but only if you had someone to play with.
ever happens in Sandwich. Believe me, more interesting stuff happens in your maths
teacher’s pencil case. It is the most boring place in the whole world. So much
so that a plaque was put up in the town square which read ‘On 29th
March 1918 in this spot nothing happened.’
And so, the
people of Sandwich carried on with their boring lives, eating strange
sandwiches and not doing anything of any significance. As always nothing
happened for the next one thousand years and that was that.
(Oh wait . . . there was this one thing and that’s what this story is all about. Silly me!)
started to go wrong after Mr Fitz left town.
Chapter Two – Mr Fitz and his Suitcase of
up, roll up!”
villager heard the command and rolled up their sleeves.
salesman chuckled, “that’s not what I meant, me duck.” Mr Fitz put
down his suitcase and shouted a bit louder. “Come on you lazy slobs, don’t
be shy. Roll up! I ain’t gonna say it again.”
folk are a simple but curious bunch. Nothing interesting or noteworthy ever
happens in their neighbourhood. So naturally, they were the nosiest people in
the whole world. A crowd began to form around the out-of-towner and his
is my suitcase of marvellous medicines. I’ve got potions, lotions and ointments
for every ailment under the sun. For example, this miraculous cream,” said
the salesman as he picked up a small brown tin from his suitcase, “will
cure any kind of ache.”
it cure my headache?” asked a scruffy-looking villager.
about my back ache?” asked another villager.
indeed, and your front ache too.”
“Surely it couldn’t cure my tooth, ear and belly ache,” scoffed someone at the back.
yes it could,” he replied with a smile. “And it would cure all three
quicker than a rocket-fuelled rat wearing rollerblades.”
mumbled with interest. Mr Fitz felt their excitement bubbling, and so he kicked
it up a notch. “Or is it the undesirable smells from behind that ail you?
Then fear not, as only here in my marvellous suitcase will you find the
antidote.” The skinny man, dressed in a purple velvet suit, picked up a
green bottle and held it high for all to see. “Uncle Pete’s Anti-Gas
reacts with your stomach acids preventing the process during which food turns
into unpleasant gas. In just one week you’ll be trumping daisies,
grew bigger and bigger. Everyone wanted to see what else was inside the
suitcase. Toes were stepped on and beards were pulled, and backbones were used
as makeshift stepladders. No one cared as long as they could see that next
shiny-looking object being lifted upwards.
ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have saved the best till
Mumblings and mutterings spread across the crowd like jam on a warm crumpet. What could possibly be better? Everyone in the whole village was now standing in the village square hanging on the salesman’s every word.
you suffer from tiredness, paleness, coughs, a runny nose, aches and pains,
hair loss, fevers and chills? According to the quacks with fancy university
degrees, all such ailments are symptoms of the common cold. They also claim it
to be uncurbable. Well, after years of painstaking research I have perfected a
medicine.” He then reached down and opened his suitcase revealing hundreds
of little, clear glass bottles (and if you had the time to count them, you
would notice that there was one bottle for every villager).
“I call it Mr Fitz’s Fabulous Formula. Not only does it cure you from the common cold for the rest of your natural life, it also reinvigorates your vitality, increases your intelligence and even restores your hair.” He turned to look at a man in the crowd who blushed whilst rubbing his smooth head. “I myself used to be a bald cripple with a cough that could deafen the neighbour’s cat but look at me now! As I like to say, whatever you’ve got, it’ll cure the lot. Now come and get it while stocks last.”
rushed forwards with shiny silver and golden coins at the ready. Everyone
wanted to get their mitts on the formula, except for one inquisitive little
me,” the girl asked politely,” “but aren’t you supposed to say, ‘any questions’
at the end?”
no, young lady,” said Mr Fitz as he exchanged bottles for coins.
“You’re confusing me for a teacher or a plumber. I’m a salesman, and
everyone knows you can trust a salesman. We’re honest folk.” The sides of
his mouth awkwardly curled upwards like a caterpillar doing a sit-up.
I’ve got a question.”
I’m a little busy at the moment, kid.”
just that there is a lot of tiny writing on the label of your formula. Why does
it have to be so small, I can hardly read it.”
froze and began to sweat all over. “Read it? I thought none of you country
folk could read.”
The people in
earshot laughed. “You can ignore little Penny here,” explained a happy
customer. “She loves reading and writing and all that educational stuff, but
she’s the only one. The rest of us can’t even read our own names.” The
villager then took a hearty swig of the formula, “amazing, I can feel it
heavens,” sighed the sweaty salesman. “That, my dear, is what we call in
the business ‘the small print’. All the bona fide medicines have them. That’s
how you can tell they’re the real deal. As I always say, the smaller the
print the better the product.”
Penny. “I suppose that makes sense. And what about these funny little
symbols? This one that shows an upside-down rat with its feet in the air and an
‘x’ where its eye should be is a bit worrying, wouldn’t you agree?”
floated away with no reply. The salesman had just sold his last bottle and
vanished into thin air. The crowds began to disperse, each one pleased with
their new purchase, as they happily glugged down the formula. Every last drop.
everyone but Penny.
Chapter Three – Earl
skipped home after her unusual morning.
first time in her life, something had happened in her hometown and she was
clutching a bottle containing it.
girl was a proud Sandwichdeerian (which is what you call someone who lives in
Sandwich or someone who eats far too many sandwiches). Her parents lived in
Sandwich. Her grandparents lived in Sandwich. In her opinion it was the best
place in the whole world and the Queen should put Buckingham Palace up for sale
and move in next door.
noticed that everyone she passed was glugging Mr Fitz’s Fabulous Formula like a
can of fizzy pop. They pulled all sorts of funny faces as they gulped. Some
looked as though a hippopotamus had sat on their big toe. Others looked as
though a hedgehog had settled down for a nap in their underwear.
She skipped past The Sandwich Sandwich Shop. It was full of customers looking for the perfect lunch. What could she smell this morning? Was it baked beans? Was it brussels sprouts? Or was it blue cheese (a wonderful ingredient which is highly stinky only slightly toxic). The most likely answer was that it was all three happily mingling together inside a freshly baked brown bap. Mrs Wrinklebottom stood behind her shop counter and was slurping her bottle through a straw.
She skipped past Sandwich Church. It was an impressive building with a big stone spire and a large stone graveyard and a long stone wall surrounding it. Reverend Nightingale was playing badminton with her favourite member of her congregation. It was a very one-sided match as Mrs Pratt was now dead and under a tombstone, and therefore struggled to hold her racket. The minister was taking a short break and enjoying a refreshing swig of Mr Fitz’s Fabulous Formula.
She skipped past
the dentist. To most it would look like a very normal-looking house. However,
Penny knew it was the dentist because of the sounds of low-pitched boredom,
medium-pitched drilling and very high-pitched screaming. That and the big sign,
which was a giveaway. Outside stood a glass recycling bin full of empty
the corner and instantly recognised where she was – Cornish Pasty Lane.
towards a well-used cardboard box. A pair of hairy legs that belonged to Earl,
stuck out the box. He didn’t have a house. He didn’t have a job. He didn’t even
have any socks or shoes or sandwiches for that matter. The people of Sandwich
had become very good at pretending he didn’t exist. But he didn’t care because
he still had his words.
me nose and calls me a swordfish! It’s my good friend Penny.”
Earl. You’ll never guess what happened in the town square this morning.”
smiled Penny. “In fact, quite the opposite. Something
into the air and landed in the handstand position. “Lick me kneecaps and
call me a lollypop!”
explained exactly what happened. About the salesman and the suitcase of
marvellous medicines and the bottles of formula that everyone bought. And the
more she explained the redder his face became (because he was still doing a
scratch me armpit and call me a chimpanzee!”
laughed. She knew this was the way Earl liked to talk so she did not scratch
his armpits or call him a chimpanzee. If she did then she would probably lose
her fingers to gangrene.
“I was wondering what all these bottles were for.” Earl waved his leg towards the pile of bottles he had collected. “And now that I know they had the formula inside I shall crack one open and lick it until it’s as clean as a whistle.”
on his hands over to the pile of bottles and grabbed the closest one. Just as
he was about to dribble a drop of formula onto his upside-down tongue Penny
kicked the bottle out of his hand. The bottle flew through the air and smashed
into a million (and twenty-four) pieces.
What did you do that for?”
don’t think it’s very safe. See, look at this little symbol on the bottle,”
explained Penny as she held up her bottle to Earl.
inspected the symbol and said, “ahhhhh, look at the little rat is having peaceful
I think the rat is having a not-so-lovely death. And just look at the all the
small print on the back. I don’t think a formula should have words like
‘dangerous’ and ‘caution’ and ‘only in extreme circumstances’.”
that’s what all those squiggles are.”
worry, Earl. I’m going to test the formula and I know just the person to be my
you flatter me,” blushed Earl. “Nobody’s ever called me a nicer name
than hamster in all my life.”
no. Not you, Earl.” Penny patted Earl on his stubbly chin and
mischievously wiggled her bottle of formula. “I meant Headmistress
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think by adding a comment.
(P.S. I’m struggling for a title so your suggestions are more than welcome.)