At this time of year, we have a tradition that every evening of the festivities my guests and I draw
our chairs up to the fireside in the Great Hall and each, in turn, tell tales of the supernatural, which go hand in glove with the
Last night, it was my turn.
You will all be aware that in a dark corner of my domain there is an enormous black bulk that looms over the surrounding environs - The Haunted Tower.
It is now run as a kind of hotel, but this has not always been the case. This is the story of how it came by its name, and my first encounter with the Badfort Crowd.
Shortly after I had purchased Homeward, from Wizard Blenkinsop, the Old Monkey put together a list of recalcitrant tenants who had failed to pay the rents due on the properties they occupied. Foremost of these was a character who you are all now familiar with - Mister Beaver Hateman, and this was to be my first meeting with the gentleman. "He owns that ramshackle castle across from Homeward, Sir, but he rents the Black Tower as his Homeward residence." declared the Old Monkey.
Despite it being Christmas Eve, I decided that the matter of the rent arrears was best dealt with sooner rather than later and so my traction engine was brought around to the front entrance ands we set off to the tower.
The snow lay thick on the ground, and gaunt trees stood up black and leafless out of the white expanse surrounding the Black Tower. The sky was of a frosty blue with sharp twinkling stars, and a hard-looking moon.
Mister Hateman welcomed us with much bonhomie. Although I found him a rather uncouth character, with a somewhat offensive manner, I was willing to give him the chance to redeem his failure to pay his dues. He gave me a tour of the property. It was a wonderful old barrack of a place, with broad passages, twisting interminably like a labyrinth, small bedrooms furnished in an old fashioned manner, and vast reception rooms with polished floors and painted ceilings. Around these were suits of tarnished armour and ancient tapestries embroidered with grim and ghastly legends of the past.
I raised the matter of the unpaid debts. Mister Hateman looked gloomy as I spoke. "Unc, mate, you don't understand, the place is uninhabitable - you can't expect me to pay rent on a haunted tower can you? I mean, really I am doing you a favour by looking after the place ain't I? Cos, believe me, no one else would put up with it!"
Thus speaking, he led me into a large room with a low ceiling, and a broad window looking out on the unkempt park surrounding the tower. The walls were hung with black cloth embroidered with grotesque figures. There was a large old fashioned bed and a quantity of cumbersome furniture. It was clear the the room had not been inhabited for many years and had a desolate and silent look - and to my mind looked gruesome enough to conjure up a battalion of ghosts.
"The Black Chamber!" declared Hateman "the original owner of the tower was a silent misanthropic man, until, that is, he married a beautiful young girl. She slept in this very room. But one day the he got into a right fury after seeing a strange man at the window kissing her hand. In his temper he challenged the man to a duel and killed him. Then he cut the offending hand from his wife. And she died too. But not before she had cursed all those who dared to sleep in her room - foredooming them to a ghastly death. The owner then discovered that the man at her window was in fact her outlaw brother, on the run, who had come one last time to say goodbye to his sister. Within a year the owner was found dead in this room with the mark of three fingers on his wrist. It was thought that in his remorse he had courted death by sleeping in the room cursed by his wife!"
"What errant nonsense!" I declared "And I shall prove it by spending the night here, myself!"
Mister Hateman did his best to persuade me against this course of action. "Look Unc, best you go home, this ain't the place for anyone of a nervous disposition - you leave me to look after the place - if you just pay me and my gang a fair wage we'll look after yer property for you - can't say fairer than that!"
But I would not be deterred. "I'm ready for ghosts or goblins - if any really exist. This is my tower now!"
I took up my quarters in the ghostly territory, with much curiosity, but - as I can aver - no fear. I slipped into bed and placed my large club under my pillow, ready to my hand in case of necessity.
I lay awake for a long time, staring at the queer figures on the draperies which seemed to come alive when the draught fluttered them. I did not feel very comfortable, sceptic as I was. When the candle has burned down pretty low I fell asleep. How long I slumbered I know not: but I woke with the impression that there was something in the room. I heard a soft step crossing the room, and as it drew near a sudden spurt of flame from the candle showed me a woman standing by the side of the bed. She was dressed in a floral brocade and I felt a deadly fear as I realised that this was the veritable phantom!
The next moment I felt my right wrist gripped and with a yell I rolled over, away from the ghost, wrenching my wrist from that horrible clasp. I seized the candle with one hand and in its illumination saw the ghost gliding back towards the tapestries. With the other hand I raised the club from under my pillow and threw it at the retreating figure.
There was a yelp, the fall of a heavy body on the floor, and the thing moaned in the darkness most horribly.
At that point my followers arrived with more candles and we lowered them to look at the ghosts face.
"Beaver Hateman!" I shouted.
"Ow!" he screamed "You miserable old tyrant! bashing me with a club like a bloomin' great bully!"
It did not take long to ascertain that behind the tapestries lay a secret passage which led to Hateman's apartments. The whole story of the previous owner murdering his wife and her brother had been an elaborate charade to persuade me to leave the tower and allow Mister Hateman and his gang to live rent free in it for evermore.
Unfortunately, before I had the chance to rent it out to new tenants, the Black Tower was soon filled with squatters again. Beaver Hateman had been successful in convincing people that it was haunted. News had travelled far and wide, amongst the ghostly fraternity, that it was a welcoming place for ghouls and spectres and it was soon infested with them.
That is the story of how the Black Tower became known as the Haunted Tower.
My usual practice, at Christmas, is to make a presentation, to the dwarfs and other eager neighbours in the towers of Homeward, a sack of coal and a sack of fine fare - cakes, hams, biscuits, chocolate and so on.
In a departure from this tradition, this year I had decided to present all with a copy of the splendid new edition of my biographies - 'The Complete Uncle'.
The majority of the citizens of Homeward were, of course, more than happy with this bountiful gift.
There were a few carpers - the Badfiort Crowd chief amongst them.
As I announced my intentions, to the gathering around the Great Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve, Beaver Hateman shouted "Who wants to read about the boring old tyrant's exploits?". "Despite it's size it won't burn like a good old sack of coal !" guffawed Hitmouse.
I thought nothing of the remarks - the Badfort Crowd always like to kick up a fuss at Christmas, but usually toe the line. They don't like to risk missing out on the Christmas Feast I always lay on for the festivities.
I should have known better. On Christmas morning I made my way to the specially set up 'Book Bank' where the dwarfs and other inhabitants of my many towers would queue up to receive their special Christmas gift. The Old Monkey came running up to me in with a concerned look on his face.
"Sir, Sir, terrible news, I am afraid" he cried. "the Book Bank has been raided - all the books are gone!"
"Stolen ! what heinous act is this, that will ruin the poor dwarf's Christmas ?" I declared.
At this point A.B.Fox appeared with even worse news.
"Sir, the books have been deployed to commit another terrible act." he informed me. "They have been piled up to form a staircase, enabling unknown miscreants to gain access to Comestibles Tower. Large quantities of miscellaneous Christmas provisions are missing!"
"I don't think I need a detective to work out who the culprits might be." I responded. A stroll across to Badfort soon revealed what had become of the missing victuals.
There in front of Hateman's ramshackle castle stood a hastily erected shed with the legend "Food Bank' scrawled across it. Beaver stood in front of it shouting "Roll up, Roll up, free food courtesy of the Badfort Revolutionary Front - if the old gaffer can't be relied on to give you a proper Christmas do, you know you can rely on me!'
"Oh, Sir," said the Old Monkey "he's giving away all your food, what shall we do?"
I looked at all the happy, smiling dwarfs with their arms full of Christmas cheer.
"Hmm, I hate to admit this, but perhaps Hateman has the right idea for a change. There is no doubt that my biographies are educative tomes, but, perhaps, not as cheering as a full belly, a warm fire, and friends to enjoy Christmas with. Bring my traction engine with a trailer full of coal sacks. Let's enjoy the end of the year the way we have always done!"
"Yes, Sir! we should rejoice in the fact that we don't need real food banks here at Homeward, unlike so many poor countries around the world !" said the Old Monkey reflectively.
For one time only, I ordered that the Great Tree be brought in front of the ramparts of Badfort. An unusual, but pleasant, Christmas Day was spent with the Badfort Crowd as our hosts.
In the evening, I shared a toast with Beaver under the branches of the tree.
"Don't worry, we been giving out youse books too, with the grub," he remarked "and actually, gaffer, them yarns about you ain't bad - especially the bits about all our great schemes to overthrow you, they are brilliant!"
"Well, I suppose they had to go in the books, if only to show how my mental agility always manages to thwart your plans!" I replied.
"Ha! not this time, though, you must admit, Unc!" he laughed.
And, truth be told, I am rather glad that his plan succeeded.
I have persuaded the King of the Badgers to issue a pardon for Beaver Hateman and his gang so that they can go home for the festivities.
Earlier this month they had all been arrested and jailed, when it was discovered that they were selling horribly tacky Christmas toy figurines of myself and the King.
These they claimed "will grant every purchaser the wish of their dreams on Christmas Day - a promise to you from Uncle and the King of the Badgers, themselves."
These disgraceful 'souvenirs' were subjected to various tests, by Wizard Blenkinsop, and found to have no magical properties at all. In fact, when the innards were investigated by my detective A.B.Fox they were found to contain a large quantity of soot, a small quantity of explosive and a timing device set to go off on Christmas Day. The recipient of one of these 'presents' would have been covered in soot from head to toe, whilst a recorded message within the object would announce "The King of the Badgers and the tyrant Uncle have perpetrated this attack against you. Rise up and overthrow them, now!"
I have received much praise from leaders around the world for my kindly act, considering how heinous the crimes of the Badfort Crowd.
Whilst not wishing to blow my own trunk, I was pleased at the reception to my magnanimity. Until that is I stumbled across the copy of 'The Badfort News" that my followers had attempted to keep hidden from me:
The decision demonstrate Uncle’s singular ability not only to wield
executive power but also to bend the legislative and judicial branches
of government to his will, and to exert heavy control over the Homeward
“What we are seeing is an elephant who has no limits on his power in a
country that never was democratic, that never had anything called a
balance of power — where one of the estates could balance the power of
another,” said Mister Beaver Hateman on his release.
“There is no Fourth Estate,” he said. “And as a matter of fact there is
no Second or Third Estate. There is just the First, just that fat tyrant pachyderm.
That’s the way things are today in Homeward.”
That is the thanks one gets from those Badfort anarchists for making sure they can enjoy Christmas with the rest of us !
I have a good mind to rescind our usual Christmas Truce and not invite the scoundrels to my Christmas party !
My Head Chef, the dwarf 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.
His Christmas cookbooks are now as much a part of Christmas as mince pies, family
arguments and my speech on TV.
Somewhat annoyingly, it looks like his offering this year is likely to outsell the recently released new edition of my biographies 'The Complete Uncle'
I wish, at this point, to point out that the scurrilous rumours, being put about by Beaver Hateman, that I have been sending my staff out to buy copies of the book in order to boost the position of it in the sales charts are totally unfounded. I may have bought a few additional copies to give to my loyal followers as Christmas gifts. The fact that these followers (in high positions of influence, naturally), number in the thousands is neither here nor there.
Cheapman has surpassed himself this year, with his Christmas television advert for his store.
A poignant animated tale of a dwarf battling to ensure a his best friend, a badger, doesn't miss out on
the festivities by going into hibernation.
The dwarf sneaks into the badger's burrow and spikes his drink with Gleamhound's Sleepeazy potion.
This, of course, has the opposite effect and poor old badger just can't get off to sleep !
So, they all enjoy a wonderful Homeward Christmas around a big tree !
Some carpers and naysayers have criticised the ad - questioning if a dwarf and a badger could ever get on that well. I must admit that dwarfs and badger tend to argue a lot with each other over their respective talents at digging and tunnelling, each laying claim to be the world's best subterranean excavators. These arguments almost always degenerate into fisticuffs.
Nonsense, I say, for, if leopards are to change their spots then what better time than at Christmas !
Others have pointed out that badgers do not actually hibernate in the Winter. Difficult to argue with that.
However, this is not the time of year for nit-picking. Well done, Mister Cheapman for showing the true essence of a Homeward Christmas !
Yesterday, we made are annual trip to Christmas Tree Towers to select our tree for the Great Hall of Homeward.
Christmas Tree Towers are where Cheapman grows all his trees for his department store.
He has a fine selection - you can buy a small tree for a penny, and a giant ten foot tree for a shilling.
Cheapman sells them pre-decorated so, as you can imagine, it is a year round job for the dwarfs who tend the trees and festoon them with lights and baubles.
He reserves the tallest for me, undecorated. One of our little Christmas rituals is for my followers to climb amongst the branches decorating the tree, in the days leading up to the holiday.
Cheapman insists that, in order to imbue the trees with the spirit of Christmas, everyday at Christmas Tree Towers must be Christmas Day.
The dwarfs sing carols as they labour about the trees, and have Christmas Dinner daily. They would get very fat if it were not for the physical labour involved in tree husbandry. Truth be told, they get quite fed up with all the turkey, brussel sprouts and other accoutrement's of Christmas fare.
As a special treat they are allowed to have baked beans on toast for their actual Christmas Day lunch.
On the way back, I felt it my duty to pop into Dearman's store. All his goods are frightfully dear, and therefore he does very little business. In fact, I am the only customer he really has. If I did not find something to buy in his shop I feared that Dearman would have a very dismal Christmas.
As we entered the shop he was weeping loudly and bemoaning his lack of customers.
He cheered up as soon as he caught sight of me, and came running with a big smile on his face.
"Come in, Sir, come in at once!" he declared "Look, I have prime Xmas trees, this year - only £500 6s 6d!"
He showed me a most decrepit specimen. "Sir, I think you will admit that this is a fine example of the yuletide..."
"Enough!" I countered "Please do not inflict your sales patter upon me - I'll take it, and have a nice Christmas!"
"Oh, I shall now, Sir, I shall indeed!" smirked Dearman.
"What shall I do with Mr Dearman's tree, Sir?" enquired the Old Monkey as we rode home in my traction engine.
"Send it to Mister Hateman, with all my best wishes of the season !"
I have received my personal copy of 'The Complete Uncle', just published in the United Kingdom.
What a mighty and excellent tome.
These stories of my life, struggles, and adventures are, of course, well known to me - after all, they happened to me !
But the many eulogies in praise of my great deeds are most gratifying and humbling.
I am quite embarrassed by the praise heaped upon my personage.
To know that I was a guiding light to such luminaries as Mr Self, Mr Gaiman, Ms Summerscale, Mr Riley, Mr Nix, Mr Langford, Mr Pollard, Mr Ingrams, Mr Rowson, Mr Griffiths, and no doubt countless of others, is truly gratifying.
I was somewhat surprised that the Queen, Mr Cameron, Mr Obama, Mr Putin and the King of the Badgers failed to submit their thoughts - considering the assistance I have given them, financially, in the past. I appreciate that they are busy heads of states, but I find it hard to credit the idea that their burden of leadership is greater than mine own. One feels that it would not have taken a great deal of effort to pen a few words of appreciation, but I shall not let such thoughts mar this happy day.
It is wonderful that so many people of influence have acknowledged that they owe their position in society to the lessons that they learnt from me, in their formative years, in regard to the value of good citizenship.
The only criticism I would have is that some of these paeans dwell far too long on some of the regrettable aspects of the books - the modus operandi and behaviour of the Badfort Crowd, for instance.
This was the one flaw I found with the interests of my biographer, Mr J.P.Martin. He would insist on dwelling on their foolish anarchic antics. I notice that his family still insist on maintaining the fiction that my adventures came from his imagination. A great and godly man he was, but clearly my life is not the sort of thing you could just make up !
Since my annual Homeward Christmas card was sent out earlier this week, there have been a number of scurrilous rumours claiming that I am a member of some worldwide organisation conspiring to control world affairs by masterminding events and planting agents in governments and corporations to establish a New World Order and gain further political power and influence !
Going by the hysterical reaction, anyone would imagine that, just because I am a world renowned celebrity, I belong to some weird Kardashian cult.
Let me make this clear, the pyramid shaped Christmas tree was the idea of the photographer, some dubious character by the name of Dave Chapel. I had my suspicions, he claimed that just because he wore a sackcloth robe it did not mean that he had any connection with the Badfort Crowd. He insisted he wore it for purely aesthetic reasons, and because he suffered from piles.
I now know that he is a fully paid up member of the Badfort Revolutionary Front and that this has been a despicable attempt to undermine my good name.
Christmas will soon be upon us, and, once again, I have the tricky problem of deciding what to put in the stockings of all my dear friends. Last year I treated them all to a tin of Whooshmeat - I find luxury comestibles are always well received at this time of year.
The happy day was only marred by the fact that, unbeknownst to myself, the Badfort Crowd had sneakily followed me as I delivered the gift. They placed mousetraps upon said tins, making the operation of a tin opener well-nigh impossible for the recipients swollen fingers.
This year the choice is simple - I shall, of course, be distributing copies of the splendid newly printed 'The Complete Uncle'. I must say that I am rather enamoured of the silver and blue cover - so sophisticated, so dignified. As the Old Monkey has commented 'Very like your own self, Sir!"
It is not too late to order up this edifying tome for your loved ones, either directly from the publisher here: