Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Robert Dodds and Haunted Cattle

This week we have Robert Dodds author of The Murrian (which is book of the month) on blogging duty. Read on for a crazy adventure!

Hello blogpersons!

I’m very excited that Scottish Book Trust have chosen my new book ‘The Murrian’ as their book of the month for November, and also delighted to be invited to make a guest appearance on the blog!

This is my first ever blog. Aargh! What do I write about? How about a glimpse of my weekend? Well, on Saturday I met up with my friend Elizabeth who lives in the north of England to go for a walk near Chillingham in Northumbria, so I think you should know that it’s a strange and dangerous place to go, as it is home to both a wild castle and haunted cattle.

As we set off, the day was bright and clear. Yet the valley was filled with the sounds of phantom moo-ing, and we soon came across signs warning of the awful consequences of meddling with these fearsome creatures.


Obviously no-one in their right mind would ignore such a sign.


We pushed on, along muddy paths, where deep, squelching footprints showed where other brave souls had gone before us. None of the footprints were coming back the other way. What had happened to all these people?


The footprints reminded me of how the idea had come to me for my first children’s novel, ‘The Midnight Clowns’. On another muddy walk, years ago, it had occurred to me how scary it would be to come across a set of footprints in the mud made by great long thin shoes. Who would wear such shoes? Well, the obvious answer was clowns. But why would anyone dress as a clown to go on a walk in the countryside? The answer was, again, obvious – there might be people who didn’t just dress up as clowns, but really were clowns, with great long feet ending in toes like sausages, and brightly coloured faces. Since one didn’t see them about, they must only come out at night, like vampires…
Anyway, back in the present moment, it was bright daylight, and there were no clowns about, just the ghostly moo-ing from somewhere up ahead.
A little further on, we came across the entrance to the wild castle. Speaking of vampires, it had a creepy vampire bat gate. I felt an overwhelming urge to pose as a bat in front of this.


The wild castle itself was not visible beyond this forbidding gate, which was locked anyway, and we weren’t sure which way to go. Elizabeth decided we should climb over the wall.


On the other side, we found ourselves in a really spooky graveyard. The sounds of ghostly moo-ing were even louder here, and suddenly Elizabeth was knocked over by an invisible ghost cow!


In something of a panic, we looked around for helpful signs to get us out of this spot. All the signs were ambiguous.



However, a mysterious red arm appeared behind a tree trunk, pointing us away from the graveyard.


We followed this direction, and found ourselves safe and sound back at the car park. We drove to the local pub for a fortifying drink, and questioned the barman about the local wild castle and haunted cattle.
“Don’t you mean haunted castle and wild cattle?” he said.
We looked again at the leaflet describing our walk. Yes, it was haunted castle and wild cattle. That did make more sense. But what had knocked Elizabeth over in the graveyard?
If you’re feeling brave, try it for yourself. Go for a walk in the woods near Chillingham Castle.

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