In part one I looked at Demon’s Rocks as a location and in part two I looked at Jeremiah Boogle and the wreckers. Now, in part three I want to look at the endlessly amusing triangle of Uncle Quentin, Professor Hayling and Aunt Fanny.
Poor Aunt Fanny, honestly you have to feel for her in the opening chapters of the book. Uncle Quentin is being, well, his usual short-tempered and unreasonable self.
He begins by shouting the house down to get her attention. Fanny responds with;
Don’t shout like that. I’m not deaf, you know.
Is she irritated, or just resigned? I personally see her as resigned. Quentin isn’t bothered either way, he has important news for her. He has a letter from Professor Hayling who Fanny describes as the man who came to stay a few years ago, and kept forgetting to come in for meals. Someone who sounds like a right pair with Uncle Quentin, then. As Fanny says, her husband could could forget breakfast, dinner and supper for a whole year, and then wonder why he felt hungry!
Also like Uncle Quentin, Prof Hayling seems to have no regard for anyone else’s time or convenience. Instead of coming to stay at Kirrin Cottage next week, his letter announces that he is to arrive that very day.
To briefly return to the Airbnb analogy I can see Prof Hayling giving Kirrin Cottage a bad review for not being ready a week early, while the Kirrins would undoubtedly respond with an equally negative review for the quest who shows up a week early with barely any notice. Not only that but bringing an unexpected child AND monkey.
Initially Quentin demands that the children should just cancel their visit – there not being enough space at Kirrin Cottage for them all apparently. Fanny talks a bit of (temporary) sense into him but he’s too late to delay Professor Hayling who is already on his way. Clearly the letter was an announcement, not a request for permission!
Quentin reverts to demanding that the children not come – ordering his wife to tell George not to come. Aunt Fanny has a lot more sense, though, she hasn’t forgotten that Julian’s parents are going off on a cruise and are shutting up their house.
Having made his order Quentin hardly listens to her. All he cares about are if the children are quiet when they arrive (which is rather unlikely!). Prof Hayling is rather short-tempered according to Uncle Quentin – it’s almost funny the way he says that as if it’s not something that applies equally to him.
Fanny gets a few digs in herself with I’m beginning to feel rather short-tempered too and I’ve a good mind to make up a bed for you in the coal house! so she isn’t taking all this nonsense lying down, which is good.
A perfectly suited pair
Prof Hayling doesn’t disappoint when he arrives. He is just as bad as Uncle Quentin, perhaps worse in fact as he doesn’t have a wife keeping him in check. (Fanny would never let her husband arrive a week early at someone’s house). Prof Hayling claims to have forgotten his son’s name, hence him being called Tinker. Even Tinker himself never mentions his real name. It makes you wonder what Tinker’s home life is like. We at least see that there’s a kindly housekeeper when he returns in the final book, but as fathers go Prof Hayling seems to be fairly ineffectual. At least we know they spend time together, as they went to Demon’s Rocks together, Prof Hayling didn’t just go off to work alone as Quentin might have.
He has, however, remembered to sound-proof his workroom in his garden at home. I hope your workroom is sound-proof too? he says as if this is perfectly normal. It’s also worth pointing out that he has visited before and should know that Quentin’s study is not sound-proofed, but seeing as he can’t remember to come to meals or his only son’s name, I think we can put this down to character error and not necessarily author error.
Poor Fanny is now being subjected to two angry professors (though I don’t recall Quentin ever being referred to as Prof Kirrin), the Five and a mischievous monkey.
The professors are not in a good mood as they are frequently interrupted by noise. WHAT’S ALL THIS NOISE? CAN’T WE HAVE A MOMENT’S PEACE?
Tinker making bell noises and George laughing is absolutely the last straw… I won’t have them in the house, disturbing us when we are doing such important work. Do you hear? SEND THEM AWAY! And that’s my LAST word!
It would be nice if Quentin thought of taking himself and Prof Hayling away to a nice quiet cottage where they could work undisturbed, but they’d definitely need a housekeeper/cook of they’d likely starve to death.
Tinker and Mischief live up to their names
Tinker, being really very annoying gets the brunt of people’s frustrations. Joan is her usual firm self I don’t feed cars. I have no petrol. Go away, and Fanny’s patience seems to be wearing a little thin at times Stop crying, Tinker, and take your monkey away before Timmy eats him. Quentin as always is the crossest. What is it! If it’s you, George, go away and keep away. And if it’s Tinker, tell him to go to the garage and park himself there. I suppose it’s he who has been making all that row this morning!
Fanny at least does keep her head. That will do, George. You ought to understand your father better than you seem to. You are both exactly the same—impatient, short-tempered, bangers-of-doors, and yet both so kind too! Now—let’s see if we can find a way out.
It’s really Quentin that’s the problem, here, though. George’s visit – she’s only home a few weeks a year as it is – was organised well in advance. His guests just turned up!
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There is a very funny scene where Joan tries to throw a cup of water at Mischief and ends up also hitting Uncle Quentin’s head. A little come-uppance if you will.
A further come-uppance comes as Mischief starts firing raisins at people.
‘What’s that little fathead of a monkey throwing!’ said Mr Kirrin, fiercely, and at once knew when a raisin hit him smartly on the nose. ‘Get rid of him! Put him in the dustbin! Why have I to put up with monkeys that throw things and boys that chug about the house like cars gone mad? I tell you Fanny, I will have it!’
With that being the finals straw, it seems, Fanny gets in one last dig at her husband;
They’re [the children] a nuisance to you—and to be quite honest, you’re a nuisance to them!
Out of desperation Uncle Quentin approves the lighthouse plan.
Go to the light-house—go to the Tower of London—go and live at the Zoo, if you like! The monkeys will welcome that mischievous little creature, sitting grinning up there on the cupboard! But go!
The calm before the storm
With a plan in place the tension in the house is broken, and the next day or so is a bit calmer. The Five tease Tinker about his father with George saying I suppose your father just hands out money whenever you ask him. He’s so vague he wouldn’t know if he paid you three times a day!. Tinker retorts that Yours seems pretty vague too. He poured the coffee over his porridge this morning, instead of the milk. I saw him. And what’s more, he ate it without even noticing it was coffee!’
Despite chastising the others for telling tales on their parents, Julian bets that the Professor won’t be down till about eleven, and forget all about his bacon and eggs, going on to wonder if he ever eats a meal hot as he always seems to wander in late and not know which meal he’s missed.
His bet is pretty much right, though, as Prof Hayling walks in after breakfast is finished. he was woken early in the morning by Tinker, or maybe the monkey, he thinks they look alike in the morning.
As it turns out, Uncle Quentin has also missed breakfast. When George goes to summon him he says he’s had a Very nice couple of boiled eggs, which were actually yesterday’s breakfast! He also has no clue what they’re talking about when they say they’re leaving for the light-house.
Light-house—what light-house?’ said Mr Kirrin, in tones of great astonishment.
When the car arrives to take them off, Mr Kirrin is startled by the horn and starts accusing Tinker of making the noise. Tinker must be a fantastic mimic if Quentin thinks a real horn as a small boy! He then intends to go and have words with the driver, asking What’s he come here for, anyway?
Our time with the adults ends with Uncle Quentin saying
Well, good-bye, good-bye! Have a good time, and don’t forget to dry yourselves well after a bathe.
A little bit late, but a little attempt at parenting there from him! It’s not exactly the brief warmth we saw from him in Smuggler’s Top, or Kirrin Island Again, but it’s something.
I promise next time I’ll get to the nitpicks and other comments!