In a cosy room at Castle Marsh, Fred and George are relaxing after a nice meal with their guests, Max the Tonkinese cat from the Shadows of the Past series and Stanley the labrador dog and Katrina von Cat from the Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets. Fred tells all here. After the conversation there is a chance to enter the BookElves Giveaway to win one of these books, or others from the 12 Authors of Christmas.
So, Stanley and Kristina von Kat, and Max the cat from the Shadows series came round for dinner. It was a bit strange, since Max is looked after by his Jemima, and of course we have a Jemima too, so sometimes the conversation got a bit confusing. It was also confusing because these big animals live in a very different world from us. They live with people who celebrate something called Christmas and it seems to consist mainly of eating and getting presents. But we found plenty to talk about anyway – we just told them what we did during our Yuletide festival.
Max asked who we liked to spend Christmas with.
“We always spend Yuletide together. I can’t imagine spending it with anyone else.” I said.
“We usually spend it with Jemima as well,” said George.
“One year we spend Yuletide at Castle Buckmore,” I recalled. “It was all much grander there. It’s nice spending it with other friends as well, but I like spending it with family.”
“I would like to spend it with Henry the dog, who has a British accent just like me and enjoys drinking tea,” said Katrina.
“Our accents are British,” George said.
Katrina just looked at him. Maybe ours are slightly countrified and she doesn’t recognise them.
Stanley didn’t notice. “Oh, I would like to spend Christmas with the dog who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz,” he said. I think it’s a book, but it isn’t in our library.
Max was more on our wavelength. “I like to spend it with Jemima, of course! Joe too, I suppose … and Uncle Richard. But it would be even better if the twins’ parents came home and we could all be together like before. After all, Christmas is a time for families– that’s what they say, isn’t it?”
Well, Yuletide is a time for families here too, so we agreed with him. “What special customs do you have at this time of year?” I asked.
“Does eating roast turkey on Christmas Day count?” asked Max. “I’ve also been out carol singing with the twins, but got told off for caterwauling … I don’t understand why, because I thought I was being quite musical.”
“You’d get on well with Kira,” I told him, “she likes to sing. We have a lot of things that happen, it’s very traditional. Well, on Solstice Day we have the Solstice Speech, and the feast…”
“…and the next day is the treasure hunt,” George added.
George explained. “They roam the countryside, although some castles have a resident narrator…”
“And they tell stories from dawn till dusk…”
“…and later if we can keep them going,” George finished.
“Then later in the week we have Games Day, when people run races and lift things, hit targets and things like that,” I continued.
“And on Green Willow day we all walk round the outside of the castle and finish inside and recite our allegiance to Castle Marsh,” George said.
“And then we have another feast! That’s my favourite bit because it means all my duties are over.”
I noticed Katrina yawn. “What customs do you have?” I asked politely.
Katrina looked at him sternly, then smiled at me. “My special custom is to chase Stanley around the tree and then sleep on his dog bed.”
“Sounds like perfect harmony,” muttered George, although I heard him clearly.
“The treasure hunt sounds good,” said Max. “I’ve never been on one. It sounds quite exciting, but at the moment my life is already filled with more excitement than I can cope with. Time-travel doesn’t leave much room for treasure-hunting, although we are on a quest to find the twins’ missing parents, so I suppose that’s a sort of hunting, isn’t it?”
“Definitely,” I said.
“Do you ever get lost?” he asked.
“I got lost in the snow once looking for a bone,” said Stanley.
“Zorg once got lost on a treasure hunt but I never got lost on one.” Katrina elaborated: “That silly guinea pig got lost in a cookie jar. Oh, I hate when he gets lost in the cookie jar.”
They must have enormous cookie jars where she lives, I thought, but I just said, “I mistook a clue at Buckmore once and ended up in Lady Nimrod’s apartments, which was quite amusing. She’d been warned someone might get it wrong and end up there, and she kept me there for ages when the hunt was over, and everybody teased me asking what we’d been doing all that time.”
“What were you doing?” asked Max.
“Playing chess. Well, she was playing chess, I was getting beaten.”
George just smiled at me, and then asked them: “Do you enjoy playing games at your Christmas time?”
“No,” Katrina said sternly. “I do not enjoy playing games. I like to sip a spot of tea.”
“Let me get you some more,” I said, which seemed to mellow her attitude towards me somewhat.
“I like to run around the tree,” said Stanley.
“Nice,” said Max, rubbing his ear. “For me it depends on what the game is. I don’t like anything too loud or energetic. Jemima tried to make me play Twister once, but I just ended up tying myself in knots – it was most uncomfortable.”
“You might like Charades, then,” said George. “You have to act out the name of a book or play. The others have to guess what it is.
“I’m good at guessing that,” I said, although I expect it sounded a bit bigheaded.
“It’s because you’ve read more books than anyone else,” said George.
“You’ve read a lot of books too!”
“Yes, but no one is going to suggest “Particle theory and the strange lights of the North” as a party title.”
Well, I suppose I agreed with George there, although I‘d love to see him try to act that one out!
Katrina’s tea arrived, and the rest of us swigged our drinks while she sipped daintily.
“Have you ever tried ice-skating?” George asked. “We go sliding about on the ice when the marshes freeze.”
“I enjoy that,” I said. “It’s fun. I’m good at sliding, and I can change direction and everything.”
“I do it,” said George, “but I have to hold on to someone or something to change direction.”
“I like hockey and chasing the puck around on the ice. It is really nice. Does that count?” said Stanley.
“Absolutely,” I said. “That sounds very clever.”
“Well, actually,” put in Katrina, “in my younger years, I was an ice skating champion. I won for Great Britain’s team in Cat Ice Skating.”
We all congratulated her but she just looked at the fire. I had that anxious feeling I get when someone is not enjoying themselves.
“What about you, Max?” Stanley asked.
“Hmm, no I can’t say that I have. My balance isn’t particularly good – I know that I’m a cat and am supposed to be agile, but I’m just not – and I think I’d be scared of falling over and hurting myself. I’m also worried that I’ve used up enough of my nine lives as it is, on all my dangerous missions, so why take unnecessary risks? No, just leave me to have a nice comfortable snooze in front of the fire, thank you very much.”
Katrina gave him a sidelong glance. I was sure she’d been impressed with him, because he’s an impressive cat. Maybe she couldn’t decide whether he should be pitied for not being agile, or whether ‘dangerous missions’ made up for it all.
“Is there anything you don’t like about Christmas,” I asked.
“Christmas crackers,” said Max promptly. “They go bang and are too loud – they always make me jump.”
We all agreed with him on that one.
“Katrina gets treats,” said Stanley mournfully.
“Oh yes,” said Katrina at the same time as Stanley. “All the kids yelling. Yelling and screaming, “Yay, I’ve got presents, Yippee!””
They sounded very ill-mannered, these kids. Ours wouldn’t do that. They are always very polite and grateful for their presents on Green Willow Day. I have to make a lot of speeches at Yuletide. I hate making speeches. Somehow it seemed churlish to say so in front of our guests.
“The only thing I don’t like about Yuletide,” George said, “is being interrupted when I’m in the middle of something interesting.”
I laughed. “You mean being torn away from your experiments to meet people and enjoy yourself?”
“Yes, I don’t like that.” George said, and Max nodded sympathetically. “And you don’t like making speeches. There’s about one a day, isn’t there?”
“Yes.” I admitted. “Two on Green Willow Day.”
I smiled at my guests, trying to make light of it, but I found they hadn’t really noticed my self-pity. Max was curled up in his sofa, his half-lidded eyes glinting in the firelight; Katrina had finished her tea and was making herself comfortable again. Stanley was stretched out on the rug in front of the fire, chewing an old ball he’d found under the sofa.
George gave me a look.
“All right then,” I said, and he slipped off back to his latest experiment. I suppose he’d not be missed by our guests at this hour. When he’s on the trail of something, it’s hard to keep him away from his work.
I just relaxed and looked at the fire, ignoring the little snuffling noises from Max as he relived his adventures. It was very nice to have guests. Just like travel, it broadens the mind.
Have a happy Yuletide, or Christmas, or whatever you celebrate this winter season, dear reader.
You can find more interviews with the five animal characters at Stanley & Katrina’s blog and at Wendy Leighton-Porter’s website.
Visit all the authors!
Jemima Pett: the Princelings of the East series (1st, 11th and 18th December)
M G King: Fizz & Peppers at the Bottom of the World (2nd and 10th December)
Fiona Ingram: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab (3rd and 12th December)
Wendy Leighton-Porter: The Shadows from the Past series (4th and 14th December)
Stanley and Katrina (Pet Authors): The Perpetual Papers of a Pack of Pets (5th and 17th December)
Ben Zackheim: Shirley Link, ace detective series (6th and 19th December)
Rebecca Douglass: The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners (7th and 16th December)
Cheryl Carpinello: The Young Knights of the Round Table series (8th and 13th December)
S Smith: The Seed Savers series (9th and 18th December)
Julie Grasso: Caramel Cardamom series (11th and 22nd December)
Paul R Hewlett: Lionel’s Grand Adventure series (16th and 20th December)
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Contest runs: December 1st to 23rd, 11:59 pm EST, 2013
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