Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform


Apologies! A little later than advertised… but certainly worth the wait!


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

‘Last one out is a toe-biter!’ announced Kyp.

Atticus hushed him.  He pointed with his tail to the body of the shear-shrike lying on the floor nearby.  The creature was covered in a crust of dirt, inches thick, its beak clogged with muck. 

‘We’re not alone,’ whispered Atticus.

Only now did Kyp see the cavern’s walls, floor and ceiling were crawling with large brown beetles.  There was a loud popping noise, as one launched its fat, drab body into the air, trailing grey powder from its backside. 

‘Dust-bugs,’ cautioned Atticus. ‘Try not to -.’  

His warning came too late; erupting like firecrackers, the beetles took off in unison, the air turning black and unbreathable with the dirt sprayed from their bottoms.  Kyp staggered towards what he hoped was the exit from the cave, dustbugs ricocheting off the walls all about him like artillery shells.  He managed to crawl his way out of the cave and stand up, a dust-cloud surrounding him.

Atticus?’ 

Over here!’  

Kyp froze.  

If Atticus was ‘over there’ then who, or what, had touched him on the shoulder?  

Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment

Chapter 12 – The Phawt-Gnoks Oligarchy


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 10 – Caramels & Coconut Cracknell



It’s 4 o’clock, there’s a nip in the air, and with a little bit of luck there’s a slice of cake nearby. Time then to rejoin Kyp Finnegan and Atticus Weft in their continuing adventures in the fantastical realm of Chimera, the realm of lost things.


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

The freshly-hatched metamorph surveyed its surroundings, its feet scratching amongst the sediment. It ruffled its stubby plume of tail feathers and turned in a circle. It put its head between its legs and blinked. It began pecking at the remains of is cocoon, picking up the husks in its beak and arranging them about its body as if making a nest. The shear-shrike sought to nestle within in it, resting its head on its chest. Agitated suddenly, it kicked the remains of its cocoon. It cawed and flapped its wings, sending the dust of long-dead detritums whirling around it. The blades of its beak snapped open and closed. It made another sound, a scream that set Kyp’s teeth on edge.

‘What’s wrong with it?’ Kyp whispered.

The shear-shrike launched itself into the air. It struck the cave roof and fell back to the ground. Enraged, it took flight again. This time when it met with the ceiling, it emitted a shrill scream of frustration and began to half-fly, half-throw itself at the cave walls. The scissor-snap of its beak made Kyp queasy with dread. At any moment, he expected to be cut into bloody strips or find Atticus sliced into snake rings. The shear-strike began attacking the walls again, slashing at the mattresses. Kyp thought the creature would never tire of its tantrum.

When finally the beating of wings and tearing sounds subsided, Kyp peered up through the white whirl of wadding and saw the shear-shrike had managed what other metamorphs had not; using the formidable tool of its beak, it had cut a way out through the roof.

Kyp and Atticus were free.

Chapter 10 – Caramels & Coconut Cracknell

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment:

Chapter 11 – The Boy In The School Uniform


Throwback Friday #28 Weak Kneed (2003)


It’s a lesser known fact about me that I’m sometimes known to write a song or two when the mood strikes. That mood used to strike much more often, I think because I didn’t second guess myself as much as I do now. I’m no musician after all, so what gives me the temerity to write music and think musically? Good question! Regardless of my innate abilities or otherwise, song-writing is something I’ve done and continue to do, only now it is usually in the service of some bigger, visual ambition.

Back in the early 2000s, my heart was sore and broken, and I wrote a number of songs as a means to move on from one thing or another. They make for quite a collection now. Weak Kneed is one of those songs from that period, a wistful, melancholy little ditty about unrequited love (of course).


Weak kneed

1

If life’s a cabaret and all the world’s a song
then meet the guy with two left feet, whose notes are often wrong
and if life is not a song then the world is but a play
but one in which I’m corpsing or drying or pratfalling
or hissing prompt and stalling and forgetting what to say

But I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees

2

If life’s a circus tent and a carnival of chance
I think I’ll sit this routine out, let the acrobats advance
‘cos you need a winning act for successful vaudeville
and I’m not so great at singing or keeping the plates spinning
or levitating women or topping any bill

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

3

If love’s a magic trick, a clever sleight of hand
my magician’s hat is empty, my best performance panned
‘cos they want a bigger flash, more glitter for their buck
but my repertoire is thinning and my face aches from the grinning
and my hopes I am unpinning from the whims of lady luck

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

4

If love’s the leading role, I’m in the chorus on the right
I’ve been singing just as loudly, I think my face was out of sight
so I don’t know if you saw, I wasn’t on for long
but Shakespeare I was quoting near the spotlight, and emoting
no claim to fame supposing distinction from the throng

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

April 2003


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 9 – Captain Toothache & The Silver Locket


It’s 4pm on Sunday afternoon, which means, here in Red’s Kingdom, it’s time once again to gather around the wireless (or more probably your smart phone!) and continue Kyp Finnegan’s adventures in the curious, fantastical realm of Chimera – a world of peril, danger and excitement!


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

Kyp, who was struggling to take everything in, said, ‘I still don’t understand why you did what you did for her.’

Atticus sighed.

‘Not long after my final transformation, I encountered a boy lost in the labyrinth.  This was many years ago.  He had a label around his neck and a gas mask in a box.  He’d been sent away from his family for his own protection, only no one came to collect him from the railway station. They were supposed to, but no one did. I offered to take him to see Saint Anthony.  I assured him I meant no harm, but the more I talked, the louder he screamed.  He ran from me and Madame Chartreuse was waiting.  He ran right into her arms.  Madame Chartreuse thanked me, praised me.  She offered me a job.  I was to seek out lost children, keep them safe from the dangers of Chimera, from its hazards, but herd them into her clutches, scare them, cajole them, befriend them, whatever it took.  It was a purpose, Kyp.  I was useful again.  I was useful again and I liked it.’


Chapter 9 – Captain Toothache & The Silver Locket

Listen to all previous chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment:

Chapter 10 – Caramels & Coconut Cracknell


MFT #8 Halloween (1978)


John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween is one of my favorite things. Here’s why.

If Halloween was a cake it would be a cake without lashings of chocolate ganache or hidden centres of jelly sweets, or tall strata of sponge in the rainbow colour of unicorns. It Halloween was an item of clothing, it would be something simple, cut sparingly from some all-natural textile. If Halloween was a song, it would have been laid down in the fewest takes possible, with no auto-tune, no vocoder, and no melisma.

The idea of a ‘classy’ slasher film is absurd, as ‘slasher films’ are fundamentally exploitative thrill rides and no better than they should be, but Halloween is, ahem, a cut above the rest.

As I’ve aged, my tolerance for horror cinema has shifted. I could watch any amount of on-screen violence as a Clearasil-dabbed teenager. For the most part, I swerve spectacles of excessive dismemberment now, and a feature of the horror films I’ve come to canonize is they’re largely bloodless affairs.

My other intolerance is for zombies. I’m not talking about actual zombies (though I’ll admit some fatigue with them too). I’m talking about the legions of modern horror films that look and behave like horror films, but are actually hollowed-out meat-puppets, vapid storytelling experiences strung together from carbon copies of other, better examples of the genre. These films are only horror films because the music and the lighting and the violence and the slick marketing are telling us they are. I am fiercely impatient with horror films in which characters walk around in the dark for prolonged periods of time, searching out some jump-scare, some sudden, glitchy walking thing or zooming pale face. These automated suspense-dispensers are to horror what aspartine is to sugar, as if ‘turning off the lights’ is some surefire way of putting the umami into a horror film’s secret sauce.

Of course, Halloween has its fair share of dumb characters walking around in the dark, and I guess we have the extraordinary success of Carpenter’s movie to thank for all the ‘dumb characters walking about in the dark’ that followed it, but Halloween‘s especial powers to frighten derive from its sensitivity, not for shadows, but for daylight. It’s here, in the sunshine, that Halloween makes its move from exploitation flick to the stranger stuff of myth, from cheap-trick to the truly more spookier realm of archetype.



Halloween’s day time scenes look pristine, Haddonfield’s pavements, paths, and big white wooden houses kicking out all this soft matte light, as if the film stock itself has been cut with some fine silvered powder. At other times, the light is honeyed, catching in the hair of Halloween‘s young and beautiful cast, and showing up all those Instagram filters for the synthetic pretenders they are.

If someone were to ask me ‘how I’m doing?’, as my mood pertains to the events of 2020 – and especially the prospect of heading into winter and the shrinking effect of a likely second UK lock-down, I’d likely say I was doing fine. I’d likely say I was prepared for the narrowing, for the darker days to come, and yet, in readiness to write this blogpost, I re-watched Halloween, and something about its onscreen capture of light made me ache. My reaction was due in part to that weird vicarious nostalgia for a time I never lived though and a place I never knew, what you might call the Super 8mm phenomenon, but mostly it was a strong visceral reaction to those moments in Halloween where the film grain holds the setting sun.



But hey, all this poeticism is well and good, but you don’t watch Halloween for the sun-flares. You watch it to be afraid, and while the film’s third act is where you’ll find all the screaming, running, stabbing and falling, this is not for me where the fear lives.

The early sunlit scenes of Halloween are as menacing as anything in horror cinema. These are long, slow shots in which nothing much happens; leaves scud across pavements, a girl in white woollen tights leaves her home, a girl in white woollen tights walks to school; the road is wide, the lawns green, but the overall effect is as if some invisible ether is slowly filling the frame. It certainly looks sunny here and everything looks fine. Everything looks safe. Everything looks normal, but we can’t feel fine, we can’t feel safe, and we know, despite the evidence of our eyes to the contrary, that nothing about this place is normal. There is malice in all this pristine clarity, and this is one of the less trumpeted achievements of Halloween, less trumpeted because it’s none of the ‘scary stuff’ that comes later. These early ‘unremarkable’ scenes produce exquisite feelings of the uncanny – that rarest, most delicate fear. This is the emptied sunlit horror we find in the paintings of De Chirico, it is Halloween‘s mystery and melancholy of the street.


Mystery and Melancholy of a Street’, Giorgio De Chirico, 1914


Halloween isn’t the first horror film to understand the special powers of daylight for producing the conditions for a really good scare. Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961) establishes the template John Carpenter goes on to deploy for Halloween‘s finest moments of unease – daylight and distance.

While The Innocents takes place in a classical haunted house, with Deborah Kerr’s increasingly harried governess gliding about its rooms at night by candelight, it is the pastoral sunlit scene down by the lake packing the most powerful punch. When the spectre of the previous governess manifests suddenly among the tall reeds, there is only sunlight and stillness, and how it chills.


The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, 1961


Halloween plays this same demure trick three times to increasingly pleasurable effect. Distracted during class, Halloween‘s final girl, Laurie Strode, looks out of her classroom window to see a figure in a white mask watching her from the other side of the road. That we can hear the teacher talking away in the background about the ‘personification of fate’ lays in some of the film’s more metaphysical ambitions. She doesn’t know who this figure might be or what he wants with her. Later, walking home with her friend, Laurie sees the same figure standing at the end of a long run of neat hedging. Once at home, Laurie is in her room upstairs, at which point she sees the figure again, who is this time standing silently among the bright flapping sheets of her washing. No thunder claps, no jump scares, no cheap-tricks, and no ‘lights off’ – just the dreadful pricking of these three small slivers of wrongness.



A few years ago, I was riding in the back of someone’s car, driving past homes in some ordinary place of terraced houses and paved front gardens. It was morning, or it was afternoon, some mundane greyish day. I happened to look out of the window and saw a bare-footed woman walking away from the road up through the narrow gap between two houses. The bare-footed woman had no head. It was daylight. I saw her clearly, if fleetingly – a woman in a long dress, her arms hanging loosely at her side – a woman with no head. I sat bolt upright in my seat, my head whipping around to continue looking, to be certain of what I saw, but more houses slid past and the moment was over. I’m pretty sure the woman did have a head. I think something about the play of light between the two houses and the angle of the woman’s body in relation to my own combined to produce this disturbing effect. Anyway, this is what I tell myself, but just for a moment, I had that appalling jigsaw-feeling, that a piece of the world had been jammed into the fabric of reality the wrong way up – but made somehow to fit.


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 8 – The Moppet-Drover


The clocks have gone back and the weather is rotten. It’s time to get comfortable with a cuppa and biscuit, and pick-up where we left off with Kyp Finnegan and Atticus Weft at the mercy of the ankle-snatchers…


Last time in Chimera Book 1 read by Dan Snelgrove:

Sandwiched between a compress of bedsprings, Kyp thought he was going to suffocate. In the hot, airless dark, the ankle-snatchers pulled and prodded him. They put their long clammy fingers in his ears, up his nose and rifled through his pockets. They pulled at his hair. Kyp wanted to scream, but he didn’t dare open his mouth.

At last, he felt the squash of mattresses give way as the ankle-snatchers pulled him out into a dimly illuminated cave. That done, the creatures dropped to the floor and crawled away quickly into the walls.

Kyp sank to his knees, Atticus gathered around his neck and shoulders like a scarf. He tried to get up, but the atmosphere in the cave was hot and airless. If he could only keep his eyes from closing…


Chapter 8 – The Moppet-Drover

Keep up-to-date to with all the latest chapters at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment:

Chapter 9 – Captain Toothache & The Silver Locket


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 7 – The Bedrock Catacombs


It’s time to pop the kettle on, toast those crumpets and grab a handful of Jammie Dodgers as we rejoin Kyp Finnegan after last week’s close encounter with Madame Chartreuse, in Chapter 7 of Chimera Book 1, read by Dan Snelgrove.


Last time in Chimera Book 1:


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment:

Chapter 8 – The Moppet-Drover


Chimera Book 1 / Chapter 6 – The Mannequin


It’s Sunday afternoon, the evening is drawing in, and the wind is scuttling the leaves along the pavements… It must be time for the next chapter of Chimera Book 1, read by Dan Snelgrove.


Last time in Chimera Book 1:

“Kyp wondered how long it would take for the fugue to vanish his memories.  He thought about the magician in the top hat with the nice face and pockets filled with silk.  He imagined the fugue extinguishing the rainbow-coloured spotlights above him one by one, the light around the magician shrinking inch-by inch until there was nothing but the dark.  The idea of that slow, shrinking circle chilled Kyp, but there was comfort in it too. 

He stared down at the babyish crayon drawing in his hand, and at the silly patch of wallpaper.  He thought too about the soft green leaf he still carried about with him, and about the conker on its long red bootlace, his pockets stuffed with all this pointless rubbish.  What good to him was any of it now?  It was all just so much dust, and yet how it weighed on him too.  He might just as well have filled his pockets with rocks.

Kyp was about to tear up the crayon drawing and the wallpaper and scatter their pieces amongst the other scraps and outcasts, when a cry startled him from his chair.  The periwigs ceased their chatter.  Something else was lost in the fog…”


Chapter 6 – The Mannequin


Keep up-to-date to with all the latest chapters here at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment of Chimera!


Chimera Book 1 / Chapters 1 – 5


It gives me great pleasure and a squizz of excitement to announce the first five chapters of my children’s novel, Chimera Book 1, are now available as podcast episodes, with subsequent episodes released on Sundays at 4pm. I’ll be sharing them here at Red’s Kingdom but you can find them on Spotify, Anchor.com, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, and Breaker.

Lots of people to thank, not least actor, Dan Snelgrove, who has given Chimera its many voices and worked so imaginatively to bring this project to life. Big thanks also to composer, Andrew Fisher, for Chimera‘s thirty seconds of musical magic, and to artist, Phil Cooper, for Chimera‘s ‘book cover’. Phil is also creating special edition paintings to accompany the release of new episodes of the Chimera audiobook, which I’ll be sharing on here in due course.

I don’t want to say too much more, except if you’re eight years old or thereabouts you should enjoy this, and if you’re eighty years old, I think you’ll enjoy it too. A short synopsis follows, but why not just pop your headphones on, press play, and prepare to lose yourself to Chimera


“Kyp Finnegan is lost in Chimera after running away from the imposters pretending to be his parents. Chimera is as remarkable as it is dangerous – a fantastical world of lost properties in which bowties evolve into butterflies and abandoned sofas transform into snorting herds of soffalos! With the help of Atticus Weft, a sock-snake with a secret, Kyp must evade the clutches of Madame Chartreuse, who is determined to add him to her collection of lost children and imprison him in Chimera forever…”


Chapter 1 – The Mum & Dad Who Weren’t

Chapter 2 – The Tentacle & The Tea Tray Bridge

Chapter 3 – A Talking Snake

Chapter 4 – The Oblivion Three

Chapter 5 – The Elsewhere Light


Keep up-to-date to with all the latest chapters here at anchor.fm/chimerabook1


Tune in next Sunday at 4pm for the next instalment of Chimera!


Spotlight #3 Dan Snelgrove


Last Friday, I was excited to announce the first in my series of children’s books is being produced as an audio book to be shared here at Red’s Kingdom, starting next month! I have the pleasure of collaborating with a number of talented individuals on this project, including actor, Dan Snelgrove, who is lending Chimera Book One (and its many characters!) his vocal dexterity and flair for rich characterisation.

I caught up with Dan between his recording sessions for Chimera, largely because I couldn’t wait to find out how he was getting on, and to learn more about his approach to giving voice to the book’s array of fantastical characters.

Some of the highlights of our conversation include, ‘the omelette of acting’, and A Dungeons and Dragons Guide To Characterisation…


Actor and voice artist, Dan Snelgrove at work in his studio performing and recording Chimera Book One