We decided to take a break from our tour and have a slap up tea at Malley's Tea Room. The decorations are in first-class taste. The Tea-room is one vast room painted red and decorated with many charming statues of myself. One shows me opening the dwarf's drinking fountains, another on my traction engine and a third presenting a golden lamp to the King of the Badgers. One might say they are uplifting. Mister Malley is clearly a cognoscenti of the arts. The best thing of all about Malleys, though, is that his teas are free - paid for by an endowment fund.
There had been a problem, at one point, when he had employed a gorilla called Septimus who had forced customers to hand over large tips. It had turned out, however, that this was only because Beaver Hateman had been masquerading as my rentman and conning him out of large sums of money. I put a stop to this and decided to fund the staff wages so that the meals supplied could be more substantial.
As we entered, a singing group of four wolves were crooning - accompanying themselves on tins and plates.
"Sometimes I'm very short of grub; My stomach will not rally; My pocket book is empty - quite; Then I remember Malley.
"I walk into his tea-room vast, Sit down and order lunch; They tell me, 'You just wait a bit And freely you shall munch!'
"Meat-pies and cakes come tumbling down; There is no bill or tally. They never say: 'You've got to pay!' They say, 'It's all on Malley!'"
At this point a raucous voice joined in...
"But don't expect to fill your belly. Watch all the buns go down that trunk, Cos I can spy that fat nelly! If it ain't that tyrant Unc!"
There was a gasp of shock from the patrons but I was not surprised to see Beaver, with his feet up, stuffing himself and swigging from a jar of Black Tom.
Malley, who is a little man, absurdly fat, with large hands and feet, and a very small face garnished with a blackberry-bush of a moustache, came storming out of the kitchen.
"Who dares to vilify our benefactor !" he demanded. "I do - what you gonna do...make me pay the bill and leave...ha..ha...ha...well there ain't no bill and I ain't going anywhere..so what you gonna do about it?" laughed Beaver.
A look of recognition dawned over Malley's face. "Why it is you... the scoundrel who robbed me on the pretence of collecting rent!...Septimus!" he shouted.
At this point the huge gorilla armed with a heavy wooden club came out of the kitchen and towered over Beaver...who suddenly looked rather shaken. He pointed at me. "Wait a minute...wait a minute...you mean you are happy to let fatso eat everything in the place and you want to throw me out?" he demanded.
"No I not throw you out," grunted Septimus "I got job for you!". Then he dragged Beaver off towards the kitchen and stood over him whilst he was forced to wash up a huge mound of dirty dishes.
After the trouble he has given us so far, on this trip, I cannot say that I had any sympathy for the ruffian.
I had promised my guard dog, Brass, that during our trip we would visit his previous owners at the Blowpipe Laundry.
There are no windows and only one very small door in Laundry Tower. On the door is a notice.
If you wish to go up to Laundry open door. If you are a party, don't close door till you are all in. The blower only works when door is shut and latched. If you have done everything properly you will get blown to the top of the tower in a moment.
It is rather a squash in the dark roofless space beyond the door but by breathing in I managed to get the door shut and latched. Then we felt a breeze coming through small holes in the floor. It grew stronger and stronger, and Goodman, being light, was blown past me and disappeared. The One-Armed Badger and the Old Monkey hung on to my legs as a mighty wind blew through the holes - it roared and then changed into a scream. All at once we were all lifted and travelled swiftly up a dark shaft.
Soon we felt a grating slide out beneath us and we were in daylight in a roofless compartment. It is an unusual and somewhat disconcerting method of travel but great fun once you get used to it.
Mrs Moonray, the owner of the Blowpipe Laundry, and her daughter Lucy were very pleased to see us and they had a fond reunion with Brass.
Mrs Moonray had mostly been dependent on the dwarfs' washing for her business until I had given her a contract to do the washing for myself and the staff of Homeward. She was most pleased as dwarf's washing is awful. You can tear a dwarf's shirt in a moment if you are not careful, and dwarfs' children's socks are apt to slip through your fingers. It is a nice change for her to have something big to wash. She insists on washing everything by hand as she thinks washing machines shake the clothes to bits. She does, though, use the blowpipe for drying on wet days.
I asked her how the work was going. "Oh I used to love washing your nice clothes, Sir," she said " it was a pleasure to have such nice materials running through my hands." she added. "But this new stuff you have been sending isn't half rough on the hands...what is it?...some sort self imposed punishment or penance is it?...you really are too hard on yourself...I'm sure nobody really begrudges you your millions...no need to feel guilty about it..." she wittered on.
I interrupted her and informed her that I did not know what she was talking about. She pointed to the washing line which was covered in items made from sackcloth. "Why these cloths, Sir, they arrive every week to be washed on your account. Horrible they are !" she exclaimed.
At that point Beaver arrived, through the blowpipe, with a gaggle of tourists on his tour party.
"Yes this is the poor exploited lady who the tyrant pays a pittance to wash his dirty laundry," he shouted. "Can you imagine how long it takes the put-upon old woman to iron his enormous outsize garments? who but the most hard-hearted elephant could not feel pity for her?" he continued.
Then he saw the sack clothes on the washing line. "Oh great - clean pants! I've been wearing these for a month so its about time I changed 'em I suppose." he declared. As the Badfort Crowd made a grab for their washing he winked at me and said "Cheers Unc! thanks for the laundry service."
Before we could grab them they made a run for it down the blowpipe, pausing only to ram a pair of underpants over the Old Monkey's head.
On the first day of our trip, as we were passing Pink-Smoke Tower and Grey Tower, crowds of badgers, pigs, goats and dwarfs ran out to greet us.
"Three cheers for the opener of the Dwarf's Drinking Fountains!" shouted a small stout badger - and they all joined in. How refreshing to find that there are so many that appreciate one's efforts I thought.
Our first visit was to Treacle Tower where once vast quantities of Treacle had flooded into a tunnel. I had had to rescue many people and arrange free distribution of the treacle to the inhabitants of my domain.
The Tower had been put to good use and now provided living accommodation for many of my tenants.
Suddenly we heard the screeching of brakes - I could not believe my eyes!
There before us was a ramshackle old bus containing the Badfort Crowd!
Emblazoned on the side was a sign saying 'Groanward Tour'.
"Hi Unc! we heard about your tour idea so we thought we would join you!" shouted Beaver.
"Even managed to persuade some punters to be paying passengers - blimey this place is so horrible it turns you grey just looking at it!" he continued and then, in an aside to his punters, he said "This is where the tyrant tried to drown innocent people in a sticky, stifling flood of treacle! What could be more cruel! but what do you expect from the Top Tyrant, the Emperor of Coconut Cadgers himself !"
I could not believe this slander!...I was about to defend myself when Beaver revved up the throttle and a cloud of noxious fumes enveloped us.
"Let's continue our tour of Homeward - I call it Groanward" Beaver shouted at his passengers over the din of the backfiring engine. He then turned back to us and cried "See you at the next stop, Unc!" as his bus disappeared in a plume of smoke.
I can see that this trip may not be as trouble-free as I had hoped.
Goodman and Will Shudder have been working on our tour itinerary.Will once worked for Professor Gandleweaver as a teacher at the Fish-Frying Academy for hardly any money, but I wanted someone to catalogue and arrange the books in my library so I gave him the job. I couldn't have chosen a better man. He works hard and is very systematic. This is very important because I order at least a thousand books every year.
My library is a most interesting place.The building consists of a stupendous hall which goes all round the bases of four big square towers that are set about a lake. It's really four rooms in one, and the rooms are so big that if you want to go from one of them to the one opposite it's easier to row across than to walk around.
Although the lake comes right up to just below the windows, the hall is perfectly dry. It has books going up so high that you can't possibly see where the top rows are, but luckily there's a patent step-ladder with a chair at the back. One simply presses a button and the chair soars right up to the ceiling, so that you can easily reach the topmost books.
The library walls are of a brown colour with rich red silk curtains. In it there are nine immense gas fires in fireplaces shaped like dragons. One lights the gas, and the dragons become red-hot. It looks fine on a winter evening.
Goodman and Shudder spent the whole day consulting a tremendous book bound in black leather and trimmed with gold and red. This is the A.B.C.Complete Guide to Homeward and it is so big that it has to be wheeled around on a trolley.
The Library is a mysterious place at the best of times - honeycombed with secret passages. Goodman confided in me that he often had the strange feeling of being watched. Whilst they were selecting places to visit, he kept sensing someone else in the room - but every time he thought he glimpsed something in corner of his eye he would turn around and it would have disappeared. Strange, indeed.
They decided that we would, of course, have to visit all the great towers of Homeward. The Sweet Tower, The Haunted Tower, Watercress Tower, Lonely Tower, Grey Tower, Ironside Tower, Treacle Tower, Lion Tower and the Pleasure Palace at Montague Tower.
It is a long tome since I last inspected The Oil Tanks, so they went on the list. The Arts are important so they added the Homeward Art Gallery at Crack House. My Museum is always of interest too. The dwarfs will be expecting me to visit their Drinking Fountains. One always likes to do a bit of shopping whilst on these trips so they added the Animal's Novelty Shop and Cadcoon's Store. It would also be the opportunity to pay a few visits - Captain Walrus at his Lighthouse and Brass's previous owner, Mrs Moonray, at the Blowpipe Laundry.
For relaxation and pleasure they selected Water-Step Hill, The Sinking Parade, Monkey-and-Engine-Room Wood, and the Fun Fair near Sunset Beach.
I went to have a look at my bus today, and I must say, Cowgill has done a superb job.
It is double height and extra wide so there will be plenty of room - even for a well-proportioned elephant like myself.
It has a sunroof that opens automatically and there is even room for my car. I think, however, that I would prefer the space to be used for a jacuzzi and dining area. There is nothing better than a nice mud wallow after a sumptuous banquet.
It even has a nice gold badge with my initial on it - so as we tour my estates the citizens of Homeward will know that I approach and can rush out to welcome me.
I am really looking forward to this trip now - if only for the fact that it will provide a welcome break from having to look at the dismal sight of Badfort, and the crowd of reprobates that live there, everyday.
The last few days it seems to have rained continuously....which only seems to add to the general feeling of malaise and ennui that besets me at this time of year.
Despite the rain, the Old Monkey and I decided to go for a walk hoping to sweep away the mental cobwebs that engulfed me.
My mackintosh is a big purple tarpaulin that fits me like a haystack, but the Old Monkey has a rather smart, bright yellow one with a belt. I don't think it suits him very well. It has a huge collar that makes his face look too small, and, as he was wearing an enormous yellow sou'wester as well. he seemed all mackintosh.
As we shuffled along an idea occurred to the Old Monkey.
"What you need to do, Sir, is a change of scenery - a different routine. Something to reinvigorate your senses and inspire your imagination." he said.
I mulled this other and when we got home I asked him what he had in mind - he showed me something on the interweb.
"Escape the rat race with a tour of the whole of your estates. We should do like these people. Take a double decker bus trip to view all the amazing sites to be seen in Homeward." said the excited monkey.
I must say it is a great idea and would be an amazing journey to embark on.
I shall get Cowgill working on a bus conversion immediately - he will be annoyed at having to delay work on the new moon rocket, but, I think that this expedition will rejuvenate us all.
I'm feeling quite fired up - the perfect antidote to January blues.
My Head Chef, the dwarf Mig, has been forced to make an apology to the staff of Cheapman's store for an outburst in which he criticised the store for its lack of involvement with the use of oxy-acetylene gas for cooking.
Mig uses an oxy-acetylene gas stove. He stands on it to work and wears dark glasses, or else the glare would ruin his eyes. He has long been a proponent of this style of cooking, and has achieved a great deal of celebrity on the television extolling its virtues. However, it is looked on by many as being excessively dangerous.
Mig has also for a long time been the face of Cheapman's Stores in his advertising campaigns but was furious when Mr Cheapman failed to turn up for a debate on the merits of oxy-acetylene cooking. He told reporters: "It is shocking that the people that I work for did not turn up on the day. I do not know why. The fact that your PR department has not even got the confidence to turn up and talk about what you do ... how dare they not? I was really upset."
But Mig was forced to write the letter of apology, that was sent to 150,000 staff after a tense telephone conversation between Mr Cheapman and the TV chef.
I cannot say that I was very happy about Mig using his position as my Head Chef to gain celebrity. I hope he has learnt a salutary lesson from this.
We went for a little spin around Sunset Cove in my yacht yesterday.
It was all going rather well until we were surrounded by a flotilla of small boats filled with the Badfort Crowd. They showed reckless, dangerous and potentially hostile intent.
Beaver stood in one of them with a megaphone. "Coming at you Unc!" he shouted and then proceeded to sing a disgraceful song.
Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies? You fat elephant, you fat elephant You ate all the pies
I told Cowgill to take evasive action so he lowered the hydrofoils enabling the yacht to rise above the water and move away at high speed.
Of course, this resulted in a massive jet of water, forced backwards in our wake, which did cause the Badfort Crowd's boats to be somewhat buffeted. I must admit I was pleased to see Beaver being flung in the water as his boat capsized. I do not normally take glee in others misfortunes but in this instance I felt that justice had been served.
I must say I did not like the tone of it. His picture revealed him to be a vain man - he clearly wore a wig. In fact, the beard looked false too. He looked vaguely familiar. I was just puzzling over his name when it came to me. Breave ? - why that's an anagram of..."Beaver !" shouted Brass as he bounded in.
Brass is my watchdog. He is a large thin dog with a shaggy yellow coat. He has such a fearfully loud bark that it makes the eardrums tingle. It really is most objectionable but it means that he is a fine guard against enemies. He is very loyal which is always a treat in the world of treachery that surrounds me.
He had been keeping watch in the Great Courtyard when he heard a scrabbling sound coming from the Snow Elephant. Before long a ladder appeared and he spotted Beaver and his cronies climbing down from a hidden compartment within the bowels of the beast.
"I heard them whispering Boss - they are out to rob you - they are piling up your treasures and have lowered the drawbridge so that the wooden-legged donkey can bring in a cart,"said Brass. I gave him permission to rouse the inhabitants of Homeward and he let out a series of ear-splitting barks - enough to waken anybody from their slumbers.
A battle ensued and we soon had the miscreants routed. Brass managed to nip Beaver's backside several times and chased Hitmouse into the moat.
Typical - only a few days into the new year and already Beaver is causing trouble again.
Yesterday it snowed relentlessly for the whole day. We awoke this morning to find a giant snow elephant outside the walls of Homeward. It is quite spectacular - twice the size of a double decker bus.
When went to investigate we discovered a note:-
I have long been an admirer of your philanthropic works. Being a multi-millionaire myself, I appreciate that many people are not at all gracious for the bounteous help what we give them. I felt that you deserved a reward for all your great deeds and therefore had my minions construct this snow sculpture depicting your wondrous self. It sits on a hidden wheeled platform and I hope it will make a suitable decoration for the Great Courtyard of Homeward.
Happy New Year
Sir Breave Nanthem
I must admit I have never heard of the fellow but it is nice to know that ones charitable efforts have not gone unnoticed.
The Old Monkey was extremely excited at the prospect of spending many playful hours sliding done my trunk. The sculpture's that is.
Cowgill soon had a teams of dwarfs dragging it through the gates of Homeward and I must admit it looks splendid in the Courtyard.
I was asked to pick my favourite movie by a Celebrity magazine. I chose 'It's a Wonderful Life' because it reminds me so much of my early struggles, the accusations of bicycle theft, and the way that so many rallied around to help me when all seemed lost.