Dive into the fantastically funny world of Terry Pratchett for a festive treat like no other.
Dive into the fantastically funny world of Terry Pratchett for a festive treat like no other.
Visitors to Blackbury often wondered how the great Victorian town hall there was kept so nice and clean. Well, it was because of Albert Scruggins. Albert Scruggins was the caretaker, who lived in the basement with Frambly, the cat, and made endless cups of tea in between stoking the boilers and looking after everything. His father and grandfather had been caretakers before him, and he was pretty proud of living in the town hall, I don’t mind telling you.
One day, not long after Christmas, Albert awoke and immediately knew something was wrong. There was a cold smell in the air, and the light that came through the tiny basement window was dim and white.
Snow, he thought. And he didn’t think much more about it until he opened the door for the milk.
There was no milk – but a huge wall of snow had started to slide into the town hall. Albert slammed the door and locked it. Then he dashed up to the first floor. The windows were all covered in snow.
Up he climbed to the third floor. Snow. Up he scrambled, up the narrow ladder to the clock tower on the roof of the town hall, and poked his head out.
It was just like pictures he had seen of the South Pole. Blackbury stretched out all
white before him. The gasworks were two white lumps.
The public library was completely hidden under a giant drift. The streets could hardly be told apart from the buildings because they were so full of snow.
It was as quiet and white as the inside of a pingpong ball.*
(* Though Albert Scruggins had never actually been inside a ping-pong ball, so he did not know if in fact it may have been full of very tiny creatures having a noisy party!)
Down the stairs ran Albert, with Frambly at his heels. He took his largest spade from the boiler room, opened the door and started to dig. You see, Albert had remembered his granny, who lived on the other side of Blackbury, and he wanted to make sure that she was all right.
He was making a little white tunnel under the great drifts, and was well away from the town hall when the snow in front of him fell away. He had broken into another tunnel and there, holding a gardening trowel in one hand and a coal shovel in the other, was his granny! She had tennis rackets tied to each of her boots, wore a large woolly hat on her head, and was singing ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of her voice.
‘Hullo, Albert,’ she said. ‘I was just coming to see how you were. Brimstone and treacle, but I haven’t seen weather like this since I was a girl! I think I shall learn to ski.’
‘But you’re ninety-eight!’ said Albert.
‘Prime of life, prime of life, never felt fitter! The mayor’s tobogganing on his roof, and everyone’s out digging. It’s lovely and warm under the snow. Holds the heat in, keeps the cold winds out. We – the serious explorers and adventurers, I mean – have got a fire going in the High Street. We’re going to hold a meeting about the snow. Just follow me!’
The snow continued to blow in great drifts around the High Street as Albert Scruggins and his granny reached the huge bonfire. Those who had been able to dig themselves out sat around it, warming their hands and toasting bacon. Somewhere wolves were howling. Everyone looked a bit miserable.
‘Great bags of peppermint!’ bellowed Granny, as she burst out of the snow. ‘Why don’t you have a skiing competition! Don’t sit around like that – it’s unhealthy. I think I myself shall learn to play the trombone.’
Everyone looked even more miserable.
‘All the roads are blocked and the telephone lines are down,’ said someone, ‘and I don’t expect anyone will come and dig us out because hardly anyone outside Gritshire knows where Blackbury is.’
‘When I was in Alaska during the Gold Rush we had to eat our boots in the end,’ said Granny cheerfully. ‘Chins up! A good adventure like this might put some backbone into you.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Albert, thinking of his boots. ‘Well, I suppose the first thing we
need is an Emergency Squad to dig everyone out of their houses. And then we’d
better form an Expedition.’
Just then someone burst out of a snowdrift waving his arms. ‘There’s a monster down at the gasworks!’ he shouted. Then he fell flat on his face in the snow.
After they offered black coffee to bring him round, the newcomer said he was Mr Tanwar from Slate Street. He’d started digging his way out of his house when he’d met a huge white creature, which had been sniffing around his dustbin.
‘It was at least six metres high!’ he said.
‘Great stuff!’ said Granny. ‘We’ve got an Abominable Snowman!’
Of course, no one wanted to go and look, but at last Granny persuaded Albert, Mr Tanwar and one or two of the others to set out for Slate Street. They crept along in single file, pushing through the snow, with Granny in the lead clutching her umbrella. When they got to the street, all they found were giant footprints. Each one was nearly a metre across, with three toes.
‘Where could the Snowman have come from?’ asked Mr Tanwar.
Albert pointed out the white shape of Even Moor, the sinister nearby moorland, just north of Blackbury.
‘The footprints go towards it,’ he said, ‘and there are a lot of places on Even Moor that have never been explored. They say there are still wolves and bears there too.’
‘But there are towns and housing estates all around it,’ said Mr Tanwar.
‘That doesn’t make any difference.’
‘If you think I’m going up on Even Moor you’ve got another think to thunk!’ said a different voice.
Then what they all thought was a snowdrift got up on its hind legs. They all stood petrified, staring at what was now, very clearly, an Abominable Snowman.
It was staring down at them.
Then it burst into tears.
Albert and the others looked rather embarrassed, but Granny took hold of one huge paw and said, ‘There, there . . .’ and other soothing things.
‘It doesn’t look very fierce, I must say,’ said Albert.
‘It leaped right out at me,’ said Mr Tanwar, ‘baring its teeth!’
‘It hasn’t got any teeth,’ said Granny. ‘Look – just pink gums. I think it’s a baby.’
‘It’s six metres high!’ shouted Mr Tanwar.
The Snowman started to cry again, so Granny led it down the street, and it cleared a path through the thick snow. She hooked her umbrella handle round one of its long claws, but everyone who saw them coming leaped over fences and bolted their doors.
When Albert reached his granny’s house he found the Snowman asleep on the back lawn, snoring louder than a sawmill. Granny had filled an old tin bathtub full of milk for it, and was now sitting by the fire knitting a giant collar and lead.
‘Look, Granny, you can’t keep an Abominable Snowman for a pet!’
‘He’s not at all abominable,’ she said sharply. ‘He’s bominable, and I’m taking him to the Post Office tomorrow to get a pet licence.’
So, of course, Albert had to go with her. And this is what occurred: Granny led the Snowman in through the main entrance. For a moment nothing happened. Then there was a roar and a rip (a sound very similar to the noise made by an Abominable Snowman biting the bottom out of a postmaster’s trousers) and suddenly people were jumping out of windows all over the place.
The postmaster himself flew out wearing nothing but his pants,* with the Snowman snapping and galloping after him, and Granny following behind (well, dragged along behind on the lead).
(* Very colourful pants they were too, with pink spots and a picture of a cartoon mouse saying something rather rude.)
‘He called my Snowman a monster!’ she cried.
Finally the postmaster climbed a tree, which the Snowman promptly uprooted and shook, and the unfortunate man fell out into a pond.
No postmen would dare go near Granny’s house after that. And, as time went by, things got even worse. Granny taught the Abominable Snowman how to do tricks. He would lie on his back and wave his legs in the air like a puppy while she scratched his tummy with a rake. Every morning she used to send him along to the newspaper shop for her paper, and he would bring back the newsagent under one arm.
Then one morning the streets of Blackbury shook to the sound of giant footsteps. Down Blackbury High Street stomped a giant Abominable Snow-woman, growling and mumbling. She was at least fifty metres high – taller than the church steeple! – and covered in white fur. People were running for their lives and leaping over walls. Except Granny. She didn’t even know about the Snowwoman until she took her pet baby Abominable Snowman out for a walk and found the giantess outside her house.
‘My word,’ she said, ‘you’re a big one and no mistake!’
With a growl the Snow-woman grabbed her Snow-baby under one arm and Granny under the other and tramped back to Even Moor.
Albert, who had just come to visit his granny, looked on in horror. Then he rushed through the snow to the police station.
‘A whacking great snow creature has just stolen my granny!’ he gasped.
‘Now then, now then,’ said the sergeant, ‘would you care to give me a description of the missing article?’
‘About five foot tall, red face, white hair, a black hat with pins in it, and button boots,’ said Albert. ‘She’s been taken to Even Moor by a monster!’
Soon a group of police officers and a few of the braver townspeople were following the trail of the Snow-woman through the snowbound streets. The giant footprints led up to Even Moor, where the snow was piled in eerie drifts and the wind whistled.
Now Even Moor, although in the centre of the county of Gritshire and surrounded by towns and neat farms, was well known to be one of those few places that had survived unchanged from the dawn of history. There were said to be witches and werewolves there, and giants and brontosauri, all living in its low hills and little woods. It was getting dark and, one by one, the police officers and townspeople following the trail started remembering appointments and hurrying home. In fact, Albert was the only one of the group left when the footprints led to the entrance of a little cave.
He tiptoed very slowly up to it and peered in. The Snow-woman was sitting with her baby in her arms and grunting a snowy lullaby, while Granny was shaking a rattle for it.
‘Hullo, grandson,’ she said. ‘Be quiet or you’ll wake the baby.’
‘I thought you were being torn to pieces!’ gasped Albert.
‘Nonsense!’ said Granny. ‘We get on like a house on fire. I’ve just given her a few hints on baby care. While there’s still snow all over Europe, she’s off tomorrow to travel to India, to join her husband on Mount Everest.’
Then Albert and his granny quietly slipped away from the cave and back to snowy Blackbury.
‘He was a nice little pet,’ said Granny thoughtfully.