The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"

-  Auksford, 2005  -

©  Copyright Robin Gordon 2001/2005

 

Chapter 1:
Three hear news and a fourth arrives

The Rector of Kirrin

 The rector was sitting in his study with a half-written sermon on his desk. He felt in his pocket, found a piece of chocolate, unwrapped it, put it in his mouth and sighed. Out of his window he could still see part of Kirrin Bay and a corner of the Island, but the new holiday complex was rising fast. A hotel, or something of the sort, was half built, shrouded in scaffolding, and he could see the busy figures of bricklayers and hod-carriers moving up and down ladders. He rose to his feet, moved over to the window and swopped his reading glasses for his distance specs.

At that moment the door burst open and a large dog hurtled into his study, followed by an even larger woman in tweeds.

"Hello, Ju, old thing," she bellowed. "Still ogling the builders in their t-shirts and shorts? Life will be so dull for you when this beastly complex is finished. At least I shall still be able to see the bay and MY island from Kirrin cottage. Seen Dick and Anne lately?"

"George, your levity is painful sometimes", the Reverend Julian Kirrin, murmured sadly. "I was just taking another look at the bay before it disappears forever." Note1

"Don't tell me you hadn't noticed that beautiful little apprentice with the long legs and the tiny, tiny shorts," George guffawed. "Dick would be out there offering to rub sun-cream on his legs."

"I'm a minister of the Church, George," said Julian.

"Keeping yourself pure for the choirboys!" she laughed. "How is Dick anyway?"

"His new film's not going well, and he's split with his boyfriend and taken up with an actress," said Julian. "There've been big rows all round. His producer says he's neither mainstream nor art-house and how the hell are they going to make any money. His leading man's got the sulks, the backers are threatening to withdraw, one of his stuntmen fell off a tower and broke his back, the insurers blame Dick as director, he claims it was the scriptwriters' fault, ructions and bitchiness on all sides, so he's taken refuge with Anne and Christopher."

"Good old Anne, still washing up for the family! How many is it now?"

"Four, of course, replied Julian. "Two boys and two girls. Five with Timmy."

Timmy VI looked up and thumped his tail when he heard the name Timmy, but George's face creased in fury.

"How DARE they call their beastly dog Timmy?!" she bellowed and stamped her foot. "Timmy's MY dog. My dogs are always called Timmy! Doesn't Anne have ANY imagination?"

Timmy VI began to bark and growl. HE wasn't going to have his name stolen by any other dog! He'd soon show them!

"Woof! Woof!! WOOF!!"

"You see?" said George triumphantly. "Timmy knows, don't you Timmy, darling. He won't let any other dog steal his name. He's MY Timmy, my very own Timmy-wimmy, aren't 'oo , snookums?"

There was a tap at the door, and Stubbs looked in. "Would you care for some tea, Miss George?"

"You're damn right I would, Stubbs," bellowed George, "and when you put in a drop of the usual make it a good-sized dollop!"

"Very good, Miss."

"You are lucky still having your old batman, Ju," said George.

"Good old Stubbs," said Julian fondly. "Been with me through thick and thin: Egypt, Malaya, Singapore, Kenya ... and Aldershot. And to think he only took on the job of being the padre's batman to get off jankers. Thought it would be a soft touch, handing out hymn books on Sunday and relaxing the rest of the week. Remember those splendid Flashman novels: how old Flashy would volunteer for a cushy billet and then find he's join some madman's outfit and signed up for the most dangerous expedition yet. Bit like that for poor old Stubbs."

"Well I hope you and Stubbs didn't have as many women as Flashman," roared George. "Don't you Timmy. Don't you hope old Ju didn't get up to what you love to do every time we walk along Cuckoo Lane?"

Timmy pricked up his ears at the word walk, and when he heard Cuckoo Lane he gave a deep growl of pleasure. There were three or four nice little bitches along there, and one of them was almost sure to be on heat.

"Rrrr-Wooof"!" he said.

"Not just yet, Tim," said George. "When I've had my tea we'll take a nice little trot along Cuckoo Lane and see what we can find, like old Julian and Stubbs in Cairo."

"I'm a minister of religion, George," Julian objected

Stubbs tapped at the door again and entered with a tea tray.

"Good-oh!" said George.

"Wuff," said Timmy.

"Letters for you, Sir," said Stubbs. "And one for Miss George. The postman saw you come in here, Miss, and thought he might as well leave your letter here to save himself the walk up to Kirrin Cottage."

"Lazy old sod," George observed. "Walk would have done him good. He's getting fat. Not enough exercise delivering mail in a little place like Kirrin. Hand it over than, Stubbsy."

Stubbs grinned. He liked Miss George. She was fun. They were all fun, these Kirrins. He'd never really regretted that sudden impulse to volunteer to be the padre's batman, even though things hadn't turned out at all as he'd expected. He had thought that the Reverend Julian Kirrin, with his blond hair and his nice manners would be a bit of a soft touch, someone a streetwise kid like him could twist round his little finger. How wrong he'd been. He had never worked so hard in his life as in that first week, getting the padre's quarters ship-shape. And after that the boss had volunteered for a tour of duty in Kenya, just when the Mau-Mau were cutting up rough, and of course Stubbs had gone too.

"Listen to this, George," said Julian. "It's from Dick. Hi, Ju, you old sod. I'm coming down to stay with you for a while. The nephews blotted their copy books and Anne thinks it's all my fault, well, as I was saying to Jean-Luc only the other week, plus ça change ... Work on my Three Colours: Maroon, Puce and Eau-de-nil has come to a complete stop. I would go and stay with Roman but he's having to clear out again. The Americans keep bringing up that affair with the thirteen-year-old - luscious bit of stuff judging by her photo, and old Roman has to keep moving on.

Greetings to old George and Timmy. See you soon. Dick."

"Gosh!" cried George. "And listen to this from Anne. Dear George, I hope you don't mind if I bring the children to stay at Kirrin cottage for a while. Christopher's gone off to Berlin on business and I'm at my wits' end. The boys have made awful fools of themselves, and I think they'd like to be out of town for a while. Actually it's all Dick's fault. You know what my children are like with their pretending games, and Dick has to go and tell them all about those silly adventures we had when we were young. Honestly I don't know how we survived the scrapes we got into. The next thing is, they're all off in pursuit of a suspected smuggler, and then lots of things happened, as Mrs Blyton Note 2 used to say, but he wasn't and it all turned out very embarrassing, and if I could just get my hands on Dick he wouldn't sit down for a week. Lots of love. Anne."

Well," said Julian, beaming. "The Famous Five will be together again, and with Anne's brood too. THEY call themselves the Lively Five."

"I wish they hadn't called their awful dog Timmy," said George with a worried frown. "I mean it's probably a sweet little creature, but it will cause terrible confusion. Neither of the dogs will know which one we mean. Anne really should have thought of that."

"Actually, Old Thing," laughed the reverend Julian, "I was just kidding you along there. They actually called the dog Mycock."

"MYCOCK!"

"Yes."

"Oh, corks! Isn't that just like boys. And I suppose poor little Anne doesn't see it," George guffawed. "MYcock! Ha! You can just imagine them can't you: Would you like to see Mycock? Just wait till you see Mycock! Mycock's really big! Ha-ha-ha!"

Stubbs had to move away from the door and hope his own snort of laughter would be concealed by George's outburst. Really, Miss George was incorrigible.

"Actually said Julian, he is a pretty big dog, a bit like all your Timmies. They had a cat called Sherlock, so when they got a dog they called him Mycock after Sherlock Holmes' brother."

"...whose name was MYCROFT!" bellowed George. It's all a colossal dirty joke! Come and have a look at Mycock, girls!"

"Actually he's Harriet's dog."

"Good old Harry! She's a better man than any of them. If I'd ever whelped I'd have hoped for one like her."

Stubbs clapped his hand to his mouth and fled to the kitchen where he gasped and snorted, missing George's next shot.

"She's just like me and Mrs Thatcher. Better balls than any man!"

"I know you like to try and shock me, George" said Julian mildly, "but there's nothing you can possibly think of that I haven't heard already after twenty years as an army chaplain. It just saddens me to hear a lady talk like that."

"Better balls than you, anyway, lady or not," George guffawed. "Flaming buggery, look! Another busload of tourist. I'm off to stop them before they park on my green -- and if those day-trippers think they're going to picnic on MY island, well ... I'll ... I'll ... Well they'd better not that's all. Come on Timmy!"

The door banged and she was gone.

George hadn't been gone long before a taxi drew up outside, followed closely by a second. Stubbs hurried out to help the drivers unload the portmanteaux and boxes, suitcases, gladstone bags, rucksacks and other paraphernalia.

Julian strolled out to greet his brother.

"Travelling light, I see," he observed.

"Julian, sweetheart!" yelled Dick. "Travelling light is right. I left in a hurry, so I've just abandoned a lot of my stuff at Anne's, but I need a certain modicum of clothing and one or two souvenirs. Stubby! You still here? Not abandoned the old bugger yet. Well if you change your mind just let me know."

Somehow, despite Stubbs' obstructive use of suitcases Dick managed to stroke his cheek, and pat his bottom. "I couldn't leave the padre, Sir," he murmured and staggered indoors well laden.

"You're in your usual room, Dick." said Julian. Laurence and the boys are away until Tuesday."

"Nice surprise for them when they get back," said Dick, embracing his brother. "How are you Ju? Parish treating you well. You are lucky still living in Kirrin. I've hardly been in England since I finished The Eccentricities of William IV. I was just saying to Wim the other day -- Wow! What's that?"

"New leisure complex," said Julian distastefully.

"Look at those legs!" said Dick. "Poor boy, he'll get terribly burned. I must take him some sun cream as soon as I've unpacked. And who's that delicious dolly?"

"She works at the newsagent's," said Julian. "Respectable family. Hands off!"

Dick's luggage was at last stowed away, and, not for the first time, Julian reflected that there were advantages to old rectories built on a generous scale.

He phoned George.

"Dick's here. Dinner?"

"You bet. I'll be right round."

Timmy VI greeted Dick effusively. They were old friends. Timmy liked this funny man who smelled of George and Julian but wasn't either of them, and who descended from time to time on Kirrin and threw everything into confusion. Timmy like confusion -- as long as he was still sure of his dinner ... and even if Dick took him for walks away from good old Cuckoo Lane, there were bitches everywhere, and, unlike Julian, Dick never held him back.

Timmy saw that his bowls were laid next to George's chair, and he knew that Stubbs would produce the goods when the time came. Timmy was delirious with joy: George, Julian, Dick, food ... and tomorrow a good walk and perhaps .... Rrrrrrr! Wuff-Wuff!!!

When Timmy had calmed down Stubbs brought in the dinner and all four settled down to eat. Timmy soon wolfed his meal and lay down with his head on his paws watching George.

"Right, Dick," said George. "What have you been up to with Anne's litter, and why are you in disgrace?"

"It's a long story," said Dick, "but I'll tell you all. One thing I am rather famed for is being able to tell a good story. That's what Dirk told me when I called in on him and his boyfriend at their Provençal retreat. Dick, he said, if there's one director I'd come out of retirement for, it's you. I thought of him for Plague in Verona, but Luchino had him in a rather similar sort of story ..."

"Stop name dropping and get on with it, roared George.


LINKS

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NOTES

NOTE 1

Discerning and observant readers will recall that in Five on Kirrin Island again Aunt Fanny announces that she is going to see the vicar's wife and asks Julian not to go down onto the beach with the others but to stay behind in Kirrin Cottage until 10:30 to watch for Uncle Quentin's signal from his tower on Kirrin Island as she will not be able to see it from the vicarage.

Kirrin has always had a Rector, and, indeed in the old days, the Rector of Kirrin was often a younger son or a nephew of the Kirrins of Kirrin House (as it used to be known before the family fell on hard times). In becoming Rector of Kirrin Julian revived an old tradition.

Enid Blyton preferred to employ the more commonly used word vicar rather than rector so that her chronicles would be more easily understood by children.

In 1947 Aunt Fanny would not have been able to see Kirrin Island from the Rectory. The large garden contains numerous mature trees, especially around its boundaries. These, as well as ensuring complete privacy within the Rectory grounds, totally concealed the view of the bay. In the late 1970s Julian was obliged to have a pair of magnificent but hopelessly diseased elms felled. This opened up a splendid vista across the bay to Kirrin Island, especially from the windows of his study. Contemplation of the scene of so much childhood happiness and adventure was, he found, of inestimable assistance in the composition of sermons. At the time this story opens there lay on his desk a number of volumes about trees, as he had realised that he would have to plant something tall, quick growing and preferably evergreen to blot out the eyesore being built between the Rectory and the shore.

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NOTE 2

Blyton was Enid Blyton's maiden name. The Kirrin children knew her as a married lady with children and as well as a professional writer and tended to call her Mrs Blyton rather than Miss Blyton, Mrs Pollock or Mrs Waters. For children to have called her simply Enid would have been unacceptably disrespectful and neither they nor she wished to enter upon the pretended relationship of "Aunt Enid". It seems that, apart from anything else, Mrs B. found the appellation made her feel old before her time.

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