Saturday, September 27, 2014

Noddy in Wonderland

By Paddy Bostock
Fantasy, 346 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Purchase Link

In his wildest dreams, Afghanistan war veteran Noddy Stoddart fantasised about becoming king of Liverpool, even though his brother, Knobby, told him he was crazy. But shooting government minister St John Jaunston in the bottom with an air rifle on a visit to the city leads bizarrely to Noddy’s dream coming true--as president of the newly created People’s Republic of Liverpool.

Outraged as Noddy and his Goth/Punk girlfriend set Britain against him through further “bottom blasting” and then faux vampire actions before escaping to a castle in France, the prime minister initially threatens ancient punishments. But, facing Cabinet backstabbing and the loss of a general election, he succumbs to realpolitik and invites the miscreants home as voter bait.

Mistake, because that’s when—with a little help from his friends, and the involvement of an elf and his dog, Noddy takes full advantage.

The Château de Chanteloire’s Great Hall had witnessed many spectacular historic moments across the centuries—including the bloody, ninth-century altercation between King Louis the Pious and his renegade son, Lothar—and was closed to a general public unaware of its existence. This because it was known only to its current owner, Compte Lucien de Rubempré and his centuries-old pals Mordecai and Arnaud, for whom a return to past glories was always “à disposition,” as he put it.

The size of an average tennis court and refurbished in largely Renaissance style, the hall could seat forty-eight guests on turquoise velvet-covered, high-backed chairs ranged along two mahogany tables each stretching the length of the polished-pine floor fifty feet below the beamed ceiling from which hung candle-lit chandeliers on silver and gold chains. Further illumination was provided by sconces on the gilt-varnished walls. In short, it was a place fit for royalty to impress their neighbours. Also a place for them to eat and drink to excess, canoodle, plot, and fight. Little wonder, with their humble origins, that Noddy, Meryl, Knobby, Rodney, Anthea, Rollo and Ernie should have been gobsmacked when ushered into it by an unctuous Compte Lucien.

“Holy shit!” said Knobby, for example.

But, accustomed to such surroundings, Mordy and Arnaud just smiled and took their seats—Arnaud’s on a special dog chair—around the end of one of the immense tables laid out for this evening’s small party.

“Join us, chaps and chapesses, do,” said Mordy, waving an inviting arm at those still clustered at the doorway staring into a room the like of which they had never seen.

And, one by one, they did. Sitting carefully in case they knocked over one of the crystal goblets set before them, or besmirched any of the gleaming silverware laid out for the entrée of spit-roasted quail and then a main course of wild boar stewed in a sauce of tomatoes and red wine, which would soon be placed before them by three maids in white blousons with purple velvet jupes.

“Just take it easy and relax,” Mordy advised. “It’s only a junket after all.”

Rauf, rauf,” said Arnaud, who would be served his dinner in a special pewter bowl, on which was inscribed in gold letters: Chien.

“But first a toast,” Mordy said, standing on his chair and raising his goblet of Pouilly-Fumé while the maids hurried to fill their guests’ glasses with local Loire reds, whites, and rosés of their choice.

Noddy, Knobby, and Ernie said they’d rather have a beer, thank you very much, but Mordy wasn’t having any of that.

“When in Rome,” he said.

“We’re not in Rome,” said Noddy.

“Manner of speaking, mon ami. Do try a drop of the Pouilly-Fumé. Put hairs on your chest. I can assure you it is of the finest quality.”

So Noddy, Knobby, and Ernie did as advised, while Rodney, Rollo, Anthea, and Meryl went for an assortment of Pinots, Chardonnays, and Rosés d’Anjou.

“Jolly dee,” Mordy said when all the glasses were brimming and everybody was standing expectantly at his or her place. “So, here’s to us all!”

“Us all!” chorused the crews of both the Deux Chevaux and the Range Rover Vogue Sport, swigging at their goblets.

“But especially to Noddy and Meryl without whom this celebration would never have taken place,” Mordy added, addressing the pair sitting next to him.

“Noddy and Meryl!” echoed around the vast space, and then bounced back off the fifty-foot ceiling.

“So now sit and enjoy,” said Mordy. “And, while you eat, you may expect a little in-house entertainment,” he added, replacing his goblet on the tablecloth and pointing to the far end of the hall, where a screen of cinematic dimensions was sliding incongruously into place.

“Porno?” said Noddy, who’d liked the Pouilly-Fumé so much he had already had his glass refilled twice by Françoise, the prettiest of the maids.

“One way of looking at it, old man. You will see... you will see. Now do pay these little quail chappies the attention they deserve, eh?”

Rauf, rauf,” said Arnaud, licking at his bowl.

“Prob’bly won’t be till we’re well past the boar and onto dessert the PM will speak to us,” Mordy added.

“PM of France?” said Rodney Snipes, already the worse for wear after three goblets of Pinot Noir.

“Of Great Britain, mon vieux. Who will shortly be joining us with news I am sure will interest you.”

Biffo?” said Rodney.

“The same. Sources tell me he is about to make the speech of his life.”

“And we’ll see it?”

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