I was recently introduced to a wondrous thing called the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator. It’s fairly self-explanatory – at the touch of a button you get a name almost as unwieldy as that of the man himself.* I like this because unusual character names tend to be a good story starting point for me, and in fact I’ve written some shorts based around names thrown up by the generator. If you’re feeling uninspired, why not have a go? Meanwhile, in lieu of having anything more helpful to blog about, I thought I would post some of them here. This is the first one.
Timothy Clavichord was bored.
He had been alone in the house ever since Papa had gone to the bakery over twenty minutes prior, and Mama had left hours before anyone else was awake to get to her office in the city. She was climbing the corporate ladder and deemed it wasteful to sleep more than four hours a night.
‘They never think of me,’ grumped Timothy Clavichord, burling uselessly on a broken stool. ‘Left all alone with nothing to do.’
There was of course plenty to do, for Timothy was a healthy young man of ten who was presently all by himself in a marvellous old house in the countryside. It had a musty attic and a spooky cellar, not to mention a whole corridor of forgotten rooms draped in dust sheets. There were secret nooks and unexpected crannies, an enormous overgrown garden, and several rooms lined with books. What we’re saying is, there was all manner of exploring and reading and adventuring to be done and a sprawling summer holiday to do it in – but Timothy was not interested.
The trouble was that Timothy missed his own house. His house was white walled and tidy and always warm, not messy and draughty and falling apart. His toilet flushed properly first time and was always clean, but here you had to pull a chain nineteen times to produce a trickle of water that was a strange rusty gold colour. His house was decorated with two vases and a sprinkling of inspirational quotations, but here there was an army of crooked paintings that glared angrily at him whenever he walked by. And, perhaps the most galling thing of all, Timothy’s house had a computer and a television in every room, but this house had just one black and white set which only tuned in to crackling black and white static.
Put simply, it was the worst place Timothy Clavichord had ever been.
The house had recently been inherited by Papa, the sole beneficiary in the will of his Great Aunt Margaret. Papa had been unaware that he even had a great aunt, much less one who lived only a couple of hours away in an enormous house outside the city, so this had come as a shock.
‘I’d have visited her if I’d known,’ he kept saying, rubbing the bridge of his nose in a confused sort of way. ‘Poor Great Aunt Margaret, pottering about on her own in a place like this. No wonder it’s a little run down.’
But he hadn’t known, so he didn’t visit, and Great Aunt Margaret had let the house fall into disrepair and now she was dead.
If Timothy Clavichord had been blessed with an imagination, he might have wondered why Great Aunt Margaret – Great Great Aunt Margaret, to him – had not made her presence known to her nephew when she was alive. She knew about Papa even if he did not know about her, for there was his name in black and white on her will. Why did she never get in touch? Was she not curious about him? Or her great great nephew, Timothy Clavichord III?
But Timothy was not particularly imaginative, so it didn’t occur to him to ask such things.
If Timothy Clavichord had been a more adventurous child, he might have used the opportunity of the empty house to go exploring, particularly in those rooms he had been told to avoid. These were the musty attic, which Papa had declared out of bounds until he had checked it for rot and upturned nails, and the spooky cellar, which Mama had forbidden on the grounds the light didn’t work and he might fall and break his neck.
But the banning of the rooms did not make them more alluring to Timothy. He knew that whatever they contained, it wouldn’t be a computer with an internet connection, or a working television, and as such they were not worth his time.
If Timothy had looked in the attic, he might have found a leather satchel stuffed with curling papers giving the distinct impression that Great Aunt Margaret was not your average little old lady. He might have seen recipes for some very strange concoctions, not to mention a series of correspondence explaining exactly why Papa was blissfully unaware of his extended family. Some of the information contained therein, should it be discovered, would catapult the finder into the adventure of a lifetime.
On the other hand, if a hypothetically inquisitive version of Timothy ventured into the darkness of the cellar, he might find a trap door giving access to some surprising secrets indeed. Had he lifted said door and gone forth into the network of tunnels underneath, he might have gone on a journey so fraught with peril and excitement he would have forgotten all about colour televisions and fancy toilets. And sunlight.
But Timothy was not in the least bit curious about the magic in the attic or the danger in the cellar. He was not interested in finding out what was shrouded beneath the elderly sheets in the empty rooms around him, or exploring the jungle like garden where a scaly sea tiger lived in the neglected pond.
Instead, the curiously incurious Timothy Clavichord remained on his broken stool, spinning around and disconsolately pining for his Xbox.
And the mystery of Great Aunt Margaret remained unsolved.
*The man himself, in case you are unaware, is a British actor who you might know as the BBC’s most recent incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Martin Crieff from the Radio 4 comedy Cabin Pressure, or the bad guy in Star Trek Into Darkness. They call him the demographic spanner. (They don’t, but maybe they should.)