Illuminating observations of the perils of an indiscreet life…

For reasons, that have never been explained to me, at Pudsey (the small town between Leeds and Bradford and somewhat merged into both these days), in the large park behind the swimming pool, just up past the aviary, this is, and has been since my childhood and probably before, a old traction engine.

Not a working one, I should explain, it’s fire box has long been welded shut, the many levers disconnected from such interesting things as breaks and gear boxes. The wheel doesn’t turn the cumbersome front axil. The great steam whistle to warn people ahead that this great lumbering beast of the industrial revolution is ponderous heading towards them has long been detach. But then the great lumbering beast hasn’t moved for over fifty years or more.

Instead of its original intended purpose it has been a climbing frame, and well of possibilities the imagination of children can draw upon for decades. Or at least it was, there is I suspect a fair chance it has long been removed, but it was certain still there when my own children were young enough to clamber all over it and pretend there were driving this mechanical dinosaur. Which is certainly what I did when I was a child. For when I was a child it was a magical thing, impossibly huge and built like a literal tank, only more solidly. Say what you like about the 19th century, when they built a machine they built it to last…

When enmeshed with my childhood imagination that traction became many things as I stood in it cab after clambering up into it. It was the great engine of a land pirate, the scourge of the highways, a lumbering lunar rover transforming the surface mars (yes I know, the moon and mars are separate celestial bodies, I was a child, the rules of logic don’t apply.) In my mind it wasn’t quite as lumbering as it probably was in its working days, except when I used it to singlehandedly save the day when the dinosaurs came back… It was, in short, many things and all of them that special kind of wonderful only a child can imagine, or someone who has been a child and can articulate that sense of endless possibilities and joy without consequence…

Which brings me to that rather ponderously evocative title for this blog, which are words I did not write myself, but borrowed from a chapter in an extraordinary work of fiction by the ever delightful and talented Nimue Brown, who most certainly can articulate the endless possibilities and joy without consequences of a child’s imagination. The Child in question is called Temperance who is been raised by her Granny in the small rural and eminently civilised English town Bromstone, on the unremarkable middling class Baker Street. Temperance’s view of the world and everything in it is a delight, and reminds me of that old traction engine in Pudsey park and all the things it inspired. But then there is something about traction engines. While the novel in which Temperance plays a major role is called with equally ponderous delight, Intelligent Designing for Amateurs.

There is much more than just Temperance’s exuberance in Intelligent Designing for Amateurs, there is indeed a host of characters, from a socialite archaeologist with a serious problem with suitors, an inventor bereft of inspiration but determined to find it, Temperance’s Granny Alice, who may once have been called Anne and spent the years of her youth on the Spanish main. A dog faced boy with a serious rodent problem, the owner of a biscuit factory who has a novel approach to issues of labour. Occasional protests, a mild riot or two, Oh and druids, who own a traction engine…. because why would there not be?

Events, of a mildly calamitous nature, are set in motion when the socialite archaeologist is directed to a small Welsh field and unearths the pieces of Pair Dadeni, which as I am sure you know your Welsh mythology, is otherwise known as The Cauldron of Rebirth. At which point she gets her neighbour Charlie, the budding inventor short of inspiration, to put it back together. Then there is a mildly embarrassing incident when Temperance putting a dead cat in it…

At which point the biscuit factory owner hits upon a way to solve his labour problem’s by ’employing’ the recently deceased… Or possibly the formerly deceased… About this point things start to get somewhat odd and uncanny for Temperance and the inhabitants of Baker Street…

Did I mention the druids in the traction engine?

Under the pen nib of a less skilled writer this could all have devolved into farce quite quickly. Instead despite the strangeness of the characters (who are regardless all perfectly realised) the ecliptic mix of complex elements that is the plot (which regardless of what should be incredulity hangs together perfectly) this is a joyous romp. The novel is something between out and out steampunk, a comedy of manners, political and religious satire, and the kind of pure invention you get when children clamber on board a static traction engine. It put me in mind of Robert Rankin at his wildest, with a touch of Pratchett grounded reality in the unreal thrown in. It is in short just a joy to read. So you should do that.

You should also seek out a traction engine, even a static one in a park, clamber aboard it, throw in some imaginary coal, and have wild adventures… And if your not sure how to do that, ask a child.

This entry was posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, druidry, fiction, goodreads, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, pirates, reads, steampunk, supernatural, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Illuminating observations of the perils of an indiscreet life…

  1. Pingback: Books of the year | The Passing Place

  2. Nimue Brown says:

    Hugest of thanks.


  3. Nimue Brown says:

    Reblogged this on Druid Life and commented:
    Once upon a time I wrote a novel that involved Druids on a traction engine… I was utterly delighted by this recent review for it.


  4. Pingback: Illuminating observations of the perils of an indiscreet existence…

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