The Clicking Thing

200 years ago Mary Shelley wrote a wonderful novel called Frankenstein.  There was a competition to celebrate the anniversary.  The challenge was to write 1000 words or so on “The relationship between creator and creation.”  Here’s what I did.  (I set up this post on what would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday.  I know he’d have gotten a kick out of it.)

A remarkable inventor was Professor Thaddeus Plumpton-Green,

The man who was responsible for a most unique machine.

It turned out to be one of the best the world had ever seen.


He wasn’t very popular with other scientific brains.

They thought him odd, old-fashioned, and not up with modern gains

And in return he thought them trapped in unimaginative chains.


How things should work was what the Prof and his colleagues most would clash on.

Electronic new technology and computers may be fashion

But he didn’t care – gears and springs and clockwork were his passion.


He worked with cogs and wheels and springs and widgets made of tin.

Rack and pinion joints, and spools, and wire he’d coil around a pin

And the hammering of metal sheets that created quite a din.


The sound of his constructions could be as loud as you’d predict

So he lived and worked outside of town where the noise rules weren’t so strict,

And in that lab he called his home, he built the Thing that clicked.


Although he lived all by himself he seldom felt alone.

So much went on inside his head – a heavy traffic zone

But the Thing that clicked was company, in a way he’d never known.


Of course it could do more than click, if given half a chance.

It could nod and bow, and smile and wave. It could walk and run and prance.

When it was moved a special way the Thing would even dance.


That delighted old Prof P, who’d dance when on his own

To foxtrot records, classic jazz, on his wind-up gramophone.

If he tripped, or didn’t keep in time, the Thing would never moan.


Its clicking fitted with the jazz, in rhythm with the beat.

A dance partner who did not complain was, for clumsy Prof, a treat

For the Thing, it didn’t feel a thing if he trampled on its feet!


Once he told his Thing a joke and it gave him back a wink. It

Startled Plumpton-Green. He loved his animated trinket

But to call it ‘life’ was just too much – best not overthink it!

He hadn’t made a monster, of that he was quite certain.

The Thing was all of clockwork with no feelings to be hurting,

But Plumpton-Green still fretted as he peeped out round his curtain.


He went into town as he sometimes did to buy food, supplies and tools

When he saw some children as they walked to playgrounds or to schools.

“If they like my Thing I’m safe,” he thought, “For the young are no-one’s fools!”


Back in his lab he made more Things – just a few at first to share.

No monsters these, but playmates, each made with skill and care.

“If these kids like them I’ll make more for children everywhere!”


He took the new Things into town and gave them out for free

They clicked as they ran and danced and played and filled young hearts with glee

And parents seemed quite satisfied with his safety guarantee.


As children played with their clicking Things two men in suits walked by.

The fun the children clearly had caught one shrewd man’s cold eye.

He nudged his pal, said: “The next big thing! Let’s get rich, you and I!”


The men in suits were already rich from selling other stuff

But the funny thing with money is for some, there’s never enough.

When Professor P. said, “Not for sale!” they left him in a huff.


They found a boy who swapped his Thing for a computer game and sweets.

The lazy lad would rather play inside than on the streets

And the company of friends was less important than his treats.


So the men in suits had got their Thing and hardly spent a penny.

They had plenty cash, and grand ideas, but morals? Hardly any.

“If a few of these are such big hits, what dough we’ll make with many!”


“We can make more faster, cheaper, better too when we understand the trick!”

So their smart guys took the Thing apart to see what made it tick.

They even found the little bit that had given it its click.


They built a grand new factory with machines all big and fine,

Even automated polishers to give a brilliant shine

To New Improved Things by the thousand, off a huge production line.


Professor Plumpton read a press release of what the men in suits would do.

They’d flood the market with new Things, click-free, and cheaper, too.

He sighed and patted Thing the First and said, “At least I’ve still got you.”


But the New Improved Things didn’t sell – no-one wanted them as toys.

“What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?” the men asked girls and boys.

The answer came, “They’re not the same. We liked the clicking noise!”


The men in suits were horrified at what the children spoke.

The factory, sales plan, marketing had all gone up in smoke.

Their production line of monsters left the men in suits quite broke.


The men in suits sold all their Things to the sheikh of a far-off land

Who used them as cheap labour to construct his buildings grand.

But alas, they didn’t last for long as their gears were clogged with sand.


Tastes change quickly nowadays and novelty wears thin.

Even those few Things that clicked were soon no longer ‘in’.

But the Prof back in his lab still wore his quiet contented grin.


For he still had his Thing the First to proudly call his own.

They’d stay up late and dance to jazz on the trusty gramophone,

As years went by old Plumpton-Green never had to be alone.


When the old Professor passed away, the Thing it couldn’t cry.

It didn’t have the means for tears, however it may try.

It hadn’t been designed to weep or mourn or even sigh.


It held his body to its breast and danced a gentle sway.

The music stopped, the Thing still moved in a tender, loving way

Until the gears at last wound down, and the last click died away.



The Bulldozer People

In a distant and interesting corner of the world there’s a high plateau.

Scattered along the top of the plateau are a number of little towns. They’re very old, and the people who live in them have been there a long, long time.

Not many people climb up the plateau, and those who do usually wind up deciding that they really like one or other of the little towns they find up there. So they stay, and the plateau towns remain largely unknown to the outside world.

But this is one of their stories.

At one end of the plateau was a town named Block. The people who lived in Block were big, heavy people with loud voices. They had big square heads and big square bodies and they shouted a lot. They were like walking bulldozers.

The bulldozer people of Block always seemed to be busy. They were impatient, and would push each other around and shove each other out of the way in their hurry to get to places and do things.

They would shout over the top of each other because each one of them knew that whatever they had to say was absolutely the most important thing that could be said right at that moment.

All of the pushing and shoving and crowding meant that Block itself got very dirty and rundown. Walls started to crack, the footpaths started to sag, things broke down and didn’t get repaired because everyone was too busy demanding that someone else should do something about it.

Eventually there came a time when Block started to become too worn out, crowded and noisy even for the people who’d lived there a long time.

“Block isn’t good enough for us now! We should visit somewhere else and see what’s there!” cried some of the big square people.

A few of them travelled along the plateau to the next town – a quiet place named Sekund. There was more space there, and the people weren’t very good at standing up to the big square bodies of the bulldozer people when they started behave the way they did at home.

The news got back to Block quickly, and more and more of the big square people moved along the plateau away from their old homes and into Sekund.

They pushed their way in. They pushed the Sekunders out of their way, or pushed them around and shouted at them.

“We are visitors you know! You’re supposed to treat us well – bring us food and something to drink!” they would shout.

Some of the Sekunders thought that this was a way to behave that really got results, so they started to do the same things. They pushed people around and shouted and demanded that things be done for them.

They never even noticed that the more they behaved like this, the more their bodies and heads started to change shape. They were starting to look just like the people from Block as well as act like them.

The poor little town of Sekund hadn’t been built for rough treatment. The streets were narrower than those in Block. Shouting voices echoed and sounded even louder, and the walls and footpaths quickly started to crack and crumble.

Soon many of the big square bodied people had started to move along the plateau again, pushing their way into another town, and another after that.

Everywhere they went, they pushed and shoved and bullied.

“We are visitors! We demand to be served properly!” they would shout at the local people.

Some people did their best to keep out of the way, some started to behave the same way, and others just got trampled on.

All too soon, the big loud bulldozer people from Block, and others who behaved just like them, had moved all the way along the plateau.

Some of the folks in those towns tried to stand up to the Block people. They got run over, shouted at and pushed aside.

The big loud square bodied people really were just like bulldozers, shoving and squashing anyone and anything in their way.

The Mayor of the town of Quailville tried to talk to the people from Block when they first arrived.

“You can have some of our town all to yourselves, and we will live peacefully in the other part,” he offered.

The Block people agreed that was a good idea. But it didn’t take long before their part of Quailville got noisy and crowded and unpleasant.

“The other part of Quailville looks much nicer,” they said.

So they pushed their way into the rest of the town. The poor Mayor was just another person to be pushed aside.

`“This is no way to treat visitors! Why didn’t you let us have this bit of the town? It’s much nicer!” shouted one of the bulldozer people.

“It used to be,” said the Mayor in a sad, quiet voice as he looked around at the noisy, shoving crowd. But the people from Block didn’t hear him.

So they kept moving along the plateau, finding nice unspoiled places and spoiling them. Not deliberately, of course, but it never occurred to the Block people that their noise, and their pushing, and their rudeness, was really the cause of the problems they kept trying to leave behind.

Eventually they got to the very last town on the plateau. It was a very old town called Terminus.

The very polite people of Terminus welcomed them.

“You’re welcome to come in, but please be gentle. All of our town is very old and fragile,” they said.

“Yes, yes, sure. Now get out of the way!” replied the people from Block.

With a sigh the polite people of Terminus stood back and let the bulldozer people pass before they could be pushed aside or crushed.

Block people all across the plateau soon heard how easy it was to get into Terminus. They rushed there, pushing themselves along, pushing each other out of the way, and shouting as if being louder would help get them there sooner.

They pushed down the gates and pushed over the old fragile walls to get in.

Again the polite people tried to give a warning. “Please be careful – all of Terminus is old and fragile,” they said.

Most of the bulldozer people didn’t even bother to say, “Yes, sure.”

They either ignored the polite people, or pushed them out of the way, or shouted at them to get something because they were visitors and expected to be treated well.

Without the people from Block even noticing, the polite people quietly got right out of their way – right out of Terminus, in fact.

The people who used to be the Terminites stood some way away from where their gates had been, shaking their heads sadly. Inside the town, the Block people were rumbling around, pushing and shoving each other and shouting for somebody to come and serve them.

Then suddenly above the terrible noise of the pushing and shoving and shouting came an even louder, more terrible noise.

The people of Terminus had warned that all of their town was old and fragile. That included even the ground on which it had been built.

The end of the plateau collapsed under the strain. Terminus and the big square bulldozer people of Block fell hundreds of feet to their ruin.

The polite people made their way back along the plateau to all the places where those from Block had been. Places like Quailtown and Sekund – even the remains of Block itself.

Gradually the damage in all those towns was repaired. The people who were left treated each other with respect – they’d all learned a lesson from Block.

The plateau was shared by everyone, and became just the best and friendliest place in the world to live.

But they kept that quiet. They knew that there were other bulldozer people in the world.


I don’t have kids, but I recall fondly stories I read and was told as a child.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s fables resonated for me.  So here I am, attempting to conjure up a little of that magic myself.  If you’re a parent, please let me know – is this something you’d read to your kids?  

For fiction for an older market, check out the Market Place page for a link to buy “The Wizard of Waramanga” from

Gavin and Glenys lived in a nice little house in a nice little small town.

It really was quite a small house, and it was a bit old, but it was well looked after and had everything they needed. It felt very safe and comfortable. They both really rather loved their little old house, though neither of them really said so much.

They both had good jobs in the nearby city, and they both worked hard.

One evening after a long day at work they looked at each other and said, “We need a holiday!”

So they booked a flight to Marrakesh, because it sounded far away and exciting and a bit magical.

And so it was – very exciting and just a bit magical.

They visited beautiful gardens right on the edge of the desert. They saw grand old buildings with walls and floors decorated with gorgeous tiles in every colour you can imagine. And they went to the great big marketplace called the souk.

Gavin and Glenys were very excited by the souk. There was so much to see, and to buy! There were clothes, and shoes, and jewellery, and lamps, and carpets and furniture and mirrors and… and… well, lots of things!

The men who owned the market stalls would ask a high price for their goods, and Glenys would laugh and say, “Oh, you funny man!” before offering a much lower price.

And the men who ran the stalls would laugh and suggest a better price, and they would suggest prices to each other until either they agreed or Gavin and Glenys would shrug, smile and walk away.

Continue reading The MAGIC SATCHEL

Lucius Longpockets


There’s something about the ‘morality tales’ (or fables) we were told as kids which resonated with me then, and has stayed with me over the subsequent years.  So I’ve crafted a couple of my own.

Here’s one –   I don’t have kids of my own to ‘test’ such stories on, so I’d welcome your feedback.




Lucius Lawrence was his name, but people called him Lucius Longpockets because he seemed to have so much trouble reaching for his wallet.


The same people called his poor little wife Nodding Nora, because whatever Lucius said, however outrageous or silly or rude, she would just nod. Smile her sweet little smile and nod.


Lucius did not believe in paying for anything he could get for free.


“Why should I buy a bottle of water from you?” he snapped at the man in the store. “You have a tap – I’ll get my water from that! Cos that’s free!”


“Why should I pay to buy a car, or the terrible expense of running one? Why should I pay to ride a bus or a train, full of people I wouldn’t like anyway?” he said. “I’ll ride my pushbike – cos that’s free!”


Lucius still had the bicycle his parents had given him many years earlier. He did his own maintenance work on it. He patched the tyres for as long as he could before he’d finally have to buy a new tyre because there wasn’t enough left of the old tyre to patch.


He greased the chain and all the joints with the grease from Nora’s kitchen – the grease that was so thick and black and horrible that even he wouldn’t eat food cooked in it. Nora would nod and smile sweetly at him, knowing that this week she would get to buy some new cooking oil.


Lucius only had three sets of clothes. He had his ‘everyday’ clothes, which he would wear every day from Monday to Saturday. He had his stripey pyjamas, that he would wear to bed every night. And he had his Sunday clothes, which he would wear once per week while Nora washed the other clothes.


She would wash his stripey pyjamas first, so that they would be dry in time for Lucius to wear them on Sunday night. Then she would wash his ‘everyday’ clothes so that they could dry during the day and overnight, ready for him to wear them first thing on Monday.


Nora had a few more changes of clothes than Lucius, but she made sure that they looked like each other so he wouldn’t notice and complain about her spending money.


They still lived in the little house that Lucius’ parents had owned. There wasn’t a lot of room, but there was only the two of them. The house was old, though, and some of it was rather worn-out.


Lucius didn’t like having to pay tradesmen to fix things. He was quite clever, and still quite fit so he did most things around the house himself. He fixed the plumbing when it was needed, and planed the doors when the damp weather warped them and they wouldn’t quite shut properly. He wouldn’t buy new windows – he would put putty around the panes if they started to rattle in the wind, and put tape over any cracks in the glass.


He would ride his bicycle to the local rubbish tip, and fill up his carry basket with things other people had thrown away that he could use to fix the house. Once he did four trips in a day to bring back a small stack of roof tiles. They were old and a bit damaged and might not quite fit his roof, but they were in slightly better condition than some of the very old ones that were already on the little house.


“And best of all, they’re free,” he explained to Nora as he set up his ladder to repair the roof.


Nora smiled sweetly at him and nodded.


One very cold winter their fridge broke down. Nora worried that their food would spoil. She called a serviceman and explained what had happened. When she had told him all the details, including how very old the fridge was, the man made sad little “Tsk tsk tsk” noises down the phone.


“I don’t think it can be repaired,” he said sadly. “It’s very hard to find parts for a machine that old, and they’re usually expensive. I’m afraid it would be cheaper for you to buy a new fridge.”


Later, after dinner, Nora told Lucius what the serviceman had said. He wasn’t pleased, but he had an idea.


“Why should I pay to get another one now? That can wait until summer when the sales are on. There’s lots of snow on the ground outside – we can store our food in that to keep it cold, cos that’s free.”


Nora paused for a moment. She didn’t nod, and her smile slipped a bit.


“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Lucius? It might be a little – inconvenient,” she said.


Lucius waved his hand, dismissing her concern.


“There’s a nice deep drift of snow under the old tree. That should make it easy for you to find stuff when you need it. I’ll put everything in those plastic bags we get for free from the supermarket and move it all now. You take yourself off to bed,” he said, feeling quite generous in offering to do the job himself.


Nora wasn’t too keen on having to dig food and drink out of the snow whenever she wanted something, but she nodded and said, “Very well, dear.”


As she went to go to her room Lucius called out from the doorway, “Don’t lie there reading too late, please. You know the electricity bill is expensive enough this time of year.”


Nora nodded. She only read two pages of her favourite book before she turned out the light. She didn’t mind – she knew the story well, having read it several times. One day she hoped they might buy some more books, even if it was from a second-hand shop.


She rolled over and went to sleep listening to the sound of Lucius’ footsteps as he went back and forth into the snow-covered garden.


“Whew! Only two more bags to go!” Lucius said to himself as he pushed snow over a bag of sausages.


He went to lean against the old tree and catch his breath, but he slipped slightly on the snow and his hand hit the trunk of the tree quite hard.


The old tree shook with the impact, and snow fell from the old branches. Some of it fell on Lucius, and a lot fell on the roof of the house.


Several of the tiles that didn’t fit very well came loose, and as they slid free a great big pile of snow also slipped – right off the roof and onto Lucius Longpockets.


“Gosh! That’s freez…” was all he managed to say.


One of the roof tiles bopped him on the head and knocked him out, but there was so much snow all over and around him he didn’t fall over. He just stood there, beside the stash of grocery bags, wet and coated in snow.


More flakes started to fall gently from the sky overnight, covering Lucius like a snowman. He froze to death without even knowing it.


Nora was very sad to lose him of course. She would think of Lucius and sigh over a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea made with milk from her nice new fridge, as she read one of her new books.


But she’d smile her sweet little smile and nod sadly when friends would say, “At least now, you’re free.”