Eleven-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley has been dealt a pretty raw deal. while hideous parents show him precious little in the way of love and affection, school bullies make his life a misery. So Roy takes comfort in looking after the birds in his garden, and in return the birds hatch a series of ambitious schemes to protect their new friend. As with the best-laid plans, however, these get blown completely off course – and as a result the lives of both Roy and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges are turned upside down – but in a surprisingly good way.
Targeted Age Group:: 11-80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to demonstrate to my own kids that not all children in this world have it so easy as they do. But I also wanted to show them that we are all shaped by our environment and upbringing. So that's why I created Roy and Harry, both of whom have had to learn the hard way. I was inspired by writers like Clive King who wrote 'Stig of the Dump', which I loved as a child. You may also detect touches of Roald Dahl and Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole in my story. These are writers I have grown up with, and hugely admire.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters are all based on people or combinations of people I have known, or people in the public eye, but obviously with different names. In fact, the old gardener who makes a brief appearance in Roy's own story is based entirely on a real gardener my parents used to employ, and he too was an ARP man during the war. And Max Clivedon the PR guru is deliberately based on the real Max Clifford.
The song had come to its conclusion with a little trill.
There was a pause. Then the blackbirds took their leave
of the big tree. The other birds followed with an
enormous flurry of beating wings and in an instant the
mass of feathery bodies had dispersed into the grey,
cloudless sky from where they had come.
The blackbird who had addressed them all had the
furthest to fly to return to his family’s nest. He swooped
gracefully over rooftops, railway lines, roads and little
patches of green playing areas and headed for the
centre of town. On his way he glided momentarily over
a parade of shops.
What he didn’t know, of course, was that the corner
building of this modest terrace was the shirt factory
where Roy’s dad worked. Although at the present
moment, Stanley Nuttersley wasn’t working at all. In
fact, none of the people at Nuttersley Shirts were.
Instead, they were seated around a large table; a table
that was usually covered by various parts of
disembodied shirts. This afternoon, however, a large
flowery tablecloth with matching china teacups and
plates had transformed the table. And at the centre, in
pride of place, sat the magnificent birthday cake itself.
“My dear ladies. What can I say? As you all know,
today is a very special day. It is Cynthia’s birthday. She
has been an inspiration to us all. Not only is she
celebrating a very full and wonderful life, but today
marks the thirtieth year that Cynthia has been with us
at Nuttersley’s Shirts.” Stanley Nuttersley’s eyes focused
on the large cake and his stomach rumbled. “Yet during
this time”, he continued, “she has remained a loyal,
reliable and priceless member of staff. In all these
years, I can honestly say that I have never heard a bad
word pass her lips. Cynthia, my dear, it is with very
great pleasure that I present you with this card and
small token of appreciation.” Stanley Nuttersley twisted
his large frame and recovered a large brown envelope
from his seat. Then he stooped to pluck an impressive
bunch of flowers from the floor beneath the table.
The tears in Cynthia’s eyes welled up behind her
thick glasses and rolled down her sunken cheeks. It was
the first time she had cried in public for many years.
The last time she could remember doing so was when
her little Mickey was born all those years ago. She could
still remember that little red face, pointed head and big
blue eyes. He was such a beautiful little thing that she
supposed he’d have made anyone want to cry. But now
she wasn’t so sure why it was that her vision was going
all watery. Perhaps it was simply because she didn’t like
being reminded that she was old, and had left her best
years behind her. When she was a schoolgirl she had
been a lively young thing. She’d been captain of the
school hockey team and had even been known to play
football with the boys in her street – which in those days
was almost unheard of.
Now her close friends were consoling her. Doreen
handed her a pink tissue to blow her nose and Pat had
her arm around her. Ronald, the driver had raised his
glass and was smiling from ear to ear.
Stanley Nuttersley stooped awkwardly and planted
two delicate kisses on either of Cynthia’s cheeks. Then,
though he knew he shouldn’t, he leaned over the table
and stretched his arm in the direction of the plate of
sugary doughnuts. They had been freshly baked no
more than fifteen minutes earlier and were still warm
when he’d fetched them from the bakery. The trouble
was he couldn’t quite reach them. It was rather
unfortunate that he couldn’t because at the very same
time, Cynthia had decided that she was going to give a
little speech. Having taken firm hold of her walking
frame, she thrust it purposefully to the floor to prove to
herself that she still had strength in both her arms.
The sharp pain in Stanley Nuttersley’s right big toe
was excruciating. All thoughts of the sweet warm dough
had now evaporated, along with his sense of balance.
And like a large, motionless statue that had been
suddenly struck by a double-decker bus, he now felt
himself sway and then fall.
The crash was spectacular. Crockery jumped from
the tablecloth, and biscuits, doughnuts and little
triangular sandwiches managed to fling themselves in
every conceivable direction. One jam tart somehow got
catapulted so high in the air that it got wedged into a
dusty air vent just below the ceiling. Stanley Nuttersley
himself had fallen on the weakest point of the table with
such force that he’d actually broken it in two. Despite
this, the table legs remained intact and upright, so that
the table now took the form of a large ‘v’ shape. And all
the items that hadn’t been propelled elsewhere had slid
down the two steep sides of the tabletop and found
themselves either lying next to or on top of Stanley
Nuttersley, with the exception of the birthday cake.
The magnificent birthday cake that had been so
lovingly laboured over by little Lizzie, the trainee at the
bakery, had been transformed in an instant into a less
than magnificent giant splodge. Most of this was now
adhering to Stanley Nuttersley’s ample bottom, and he
could almost feel the cream and sticky strawberry jam
oozing through his trousers.
To some extent, the accident, though shocking, came
as a relief to Cynthia. After all, she had no idea what she
was going to say in her little speech. She would be the
first to admit that she wasn’t very good with words
anyhow. Now, of course, no one knew quite what to say.
The owner of Nuttersley Shirts, the man whose name
appeared on all the shirt labels, the very same man who
paid their wages, was lying in front of everyone in a
most undignified fashion in a puddle of cream and jam.
What was there to say?
Stanley Nuttersley hated being the butt of any joke.
But there was something he hated even more, and that
was embarrassing silences in a room full of people. He
hated them so much that he always felt compelled to
talk about absolutely anything at dinner parties to fill
these embarrassing gaps. He’d been known to talk
about earthworms, garden manure, flying saucers, even
pig farming – about which he knew nothing. And now,
to his credit, he looked up at his bewildered staff and he
chuckled. And the chuckle turned into a laugh. And the
laugh became so infectious that it wasn’t long before the
entire room reverberated to the sound of laughter.
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