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Feather's Miscellany: Bed-Time Stories

"One of the many delights of my young fatherhood was telling bed-time stories each night to my three young daughters, Sarah, Katherine and Anna,'' writes John Waddington-Feather.

After bath-time we’d line up at the bottom of the stairs, then, carrying the youngest, Anna, on my shoulders with the other two following behind, we’d mount the stairs singing, “Hey-oh, hey-oh! It’s off to bed we go!” to the tune the dwarves sang in “Snow White” as they marched off to work.

Once snuggled into their beds and cuddling their teddies, I’d tell them tales whose central character was Quill Hedghog and the adventures he had with his friend Horatio the cat and other animals. At first a wicked witch was the baddie in the tales; then Mungo Brown, the wicked alleycat, appeared on the scene, hungering after power and wealth. The Animalfolk called it mungomania, a disease he’d picked up after a visit to the Humanfolk world.

Those animal characters were based on real creatures which lived in the forty-acre meadow opposite our home near the moors in West Yorkshire. It was alive with hedgehogs, moles, badgers, hawks and other creatures; some of whom like the hedgehogs visited our garden. Then the farm was sold off and the builders moved in. The meadow was smothered in a rash of tightly crammed houses on a new estate. And the wildlife disappeared overnight.

It had its effect on all of us and my eldest daughter, Sarah, suggested I write a protest novel about the spoliation of the countryside. I obliged and in 1965 wrote the first of a series of novels called “Quill’s Adventures in the Great Beyond”, which I couldn’t get published so I published it myself under the imprint Feather Books like the rest.

The novel began with Quill Hedgehog leaving his cosy home under Oak Tree in Domusland to find adventure abroad in The Great Beyond. On his journey he meets up with a tramp-cat, Horatio Fitzworthy, an aristocrat usurped from his ancestral home, Fitzworthy Castle in The Great Beyond, by a greedy alleycat, Mungo Brown, who is the family lawyer. Mungo has done the dirty on Horatio by seizing his castle and lands, while he was away on one of his walking jaunts. The alleycat brought in an army of Wasteland rats to build dirty, ugly, industrial cities throughout the lovely land.

In the end, Quill and Horatio join forces with the other Animalfolk like Hoot Owl, Bill Badger and frisk Otter, to drive out Mungo and his hordes.

When they were published, I read my stories in schools to alert youngsters to care for their environment, and recently, many years later, it gave me great pleasure to read in the local press that my reading had borne fruit; for someone had written an article about walking near my home on Lyth Hill, saying that every time she walked there, she was reminded of my Quill Hedgehog novels read to her at primary school.

Of course, the novels can be read by adults on a different level. Conservation is the main theme but I also introduce an element of gentle satire on the human condition. The Animalfolk secretly observe the Humanfolk, their neighbours over the border, neighbours who haven’t yet evolved into the peaceful, civilised people the Animalfolk are.

“They’ve simply gone up the wrong branch of the Evolution Tree, and we just have to wait patiently for them to come down and join us,” observes the wise Hoot Owl. In the last novel in the series, “Quill’s Adventures in Spaceland”, Mungo comes to his senses and turns over a new leaf. Let’s hope we follow suit!

The first three novels in the series are now published as e-books on Kindle, alongside my crime novels and trilogy of romance novels; and in time the rest of the series will appear on Kindle at Amazon.co.uk John Waddington-Feather, a special website set up for my work.



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