Juvenilia Part One

Jasper Fforde 1988

Portrait of the writer as a young man, 1988. I'm 27 and just started writing - I'd not be published for another 13 years. Still living on the narrowboat, and this was me being bored in the shopping mall in Uxbridge. I still use Olympus XAs, although this one, my first, fell apart years ago.

I don't really remember writing this, although I know I did. Experimenting with words, I think, and all part of what we do to explore the exciting new world into which we have placed ourselves. Poetry, a daily diary, acrostics - I'd recommend them to anyone starting out. Part of the training.

I think it was originally written on my Olivetti laptop - no hard drive, just two 720Kb diskettes - one for the program, one to write files to. I have everything from every computer I've ever owned - except my early early Amstrad PCW 8512, which were tricky to convert. But I still have the discs. What a computer that was for 1986 - and what a lead on the competition!

This has never been published before, and hasn't been read by anyone at all until now - it was me just goofing around with words.

The Amazing story of Reginald Bunger and his wife who got younger and younger


I have read through all sorts of notes and reports,
checked out names in the visitors book,
I have spoken to her brother, her best friend and mother,
her vicar, her father and cook.

They all say the same, a terrible shame,
it would be hard to think of anything worse,
so here is the story, in all its sad glory,
told in poor-rhyming "Rupert-type" verse.


It happened so you please, to a purveyor of cheese,
a young man named Reginald Bunger,
it must be told, for as he grew old,
his wife got younger and younger.

Some men wouldn't mind you would think to find,
that their wife got younger each day,
but the terrible fact (of life's rules she lacked)
caused them both no end of dismay.

It took him some time, but in logic sublime,
he was to realise at last,
that whilst most men and wives spend parallel lives,
his future was to be his bride's past.

They were married by a vicar whose name was Joe Bicker,
a very nice service though he might have been quicker.
he insisted on saying the 8th sermon in German,
in memory of his father whose first name was Herman.

(It is strange to relate, (some men call it fate)
that the dates of their death matched their birth.
they were both thirty nine in the middle of the time
that they were both to spend on this earth.)

The first five years were a ball, they hardly noticed them at all,
And of her regression they were strictly unaware,
her unbridled affection and her youthful complexion,
they put down to good eating and fresh air.

It was odd he did feel, that she started each meal,
with coffee and bread and preserves,
then followed the sweet with a slice of cold meat,
and washed it all down with Hors D'oeuvres

They say love is blind, and so Reg didn't find,
about his spouse there was anything odd,
But the birth of their child, in a situation quite wild,
was to renew his faith in his God.

It was this which hurled the medical world
into panic, for what it was worth,
when it became apparent to that collective talent,
That the pregnancy followed the birth.

They asked Mr. Proctor, the family doctor,
to comment on her newfound youth
Said he: "I say, she looks younger each day,"
Which, strangely enough, was the truth.

They asked men of means, and scholars, and deans,
why on earth she should suffer this curse,
"It's not by her choice" they said in one voice,
"but she's living her life in reverse"

After consulted these men, with no luck and then,
approached a quack Doctor named Silk,
who concocted a drink from syrup and ink,
dried prunes and hippopotamus milk.

As word got about, she was spirited out,
to a government research station near Tring,
where men in white coats made plenty of notes,
and wired her up to a machine that went "Ping"

The man who was head of the scientists said:
to a colleague: "do you realise, dear sir,
No matter how small her earliest recall,
it is something that must yet occur."

"What do you see, in your earliest memory?"
asked these vultures dressed totally in white,
"I see a war" she replied "in which many people died,
and disease and starvation and blight."

"I saw clan against clan, and man killing man,
To animals I saw humans regress,
then a bomb in the bay, that turned night into day,
and I see my own death and darkness."

As she related the tale the men in coats turned quite pale,
And jumped up and down in alarm,
they leapt on the phone, to speak to premiers they'd known,
and pleaded with them to disarm.

The chief in shock went inert, and called "Pink Alert"
so the sirens went off with a roar,
as the blast doors slid shut, for to missiles rebut
She got bored and slipped out the back door.

She got home about one as lunch had begun,
and her husband inquired where she'd been.
"I've pointed out the large flaw in nuclear war,
by telling lies on what I had seen."

She told of the men, and all her answers to them,
said Reg, "My dear this could mean,
a panic attack", but his wife replied "Jack,
it was fated I should intervene."

(The last stanza I wrote, I'm sure you will note,
had the hero's name stated as jack.
if you can think of a rhyme please drop me a line,
with your answer written neatly on the back)

"With the panic and fear, of what they did hear,
from my lips this morning, I think,
Their efforts they will double, and with little trouble,
wash their weapons down the metaphorical sink."

Said Reg "Then tell me, what really did you see?"
-a Pause- "I saw green fields and peace"
and with her reply, she sighed a small sigh
and helped herself to seconds of quiche.

Their fame had begun, and a man from the "Sun"
bought their story for a considerable Fee,
it all came out lies to no-ones surprise,
and they denied it on Breakfast TV.

They gave it all in this celebrity thing,
and bought a nice house with a pool,
as he passed the five-oh, she started to go
to undriving lessons then back to school.

The scientists came, by foot, car or train,
to this child to study and view,
It was quite unique, her awesome technique,
of forgetting all that she knew.

By the end of September she could remember
Of the history of England not a jot,
nor any Monarchs great lives, even Henrys six wives,
she'd completely forgotten the lot.

Reg was very concerned over a question that burned
in his mind about his peculiar lot,
when his wife reached nought, would she as he thought,
disappear, start again, or do what?

As he grew old and bent, and her teens came and went,
and he saw her vocabulary dry up,
from almost a ton, to thirty, to one,
and from a bottle she only could sup.

As soon as he heard her speak her last word,
as soon as she was unable to walk,
He thought he saw arrive, a man with a scythe,
and a bird that resembled a stork.

They had come a bit soon, (They weren't expected till June)
A few months on earth was a bit of a treat,
So as not to make waves, Death visited some graves,
and the stork went on Sesame Street.

As their time grew near, Reg thought he could hear,
Death challenge the stork to play chess,
A beat of a wing, The castling of a king,
but as the end crept up he heard less.

The Stork won the game, to Death's infinite shame,
Having lost to a bird made him writhe,
The stork was quite gleeful, and death was quite hateful,
for he'd wagered - and lost - his best scythe.

So they both passed away in their own special way,
at the opposite ends of existence,
His wife, with the bird, and scarcely a word,
And he with Death was to make no resistance.

For her it was dawn, a time to be reborn,
for him an eternal twilight.
but they both knew, that when her new life was through,
They would meet beyond the finite.


Its twenty years hence and I'll bet a few pence,
their son is slightly odd I'll be reckoned,
what I surmise, with his folks opposite lives,
its doubtful he'll have aged even one second.

Jasper Fforde 1988

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