As this is a fantasy dinner party, to which I could invite anybody I choose, living or dead, I thought why stop at bringing back the dead? Why not invite guests, who have, strictly speaking, never taken a breath, except in the pages of a book, where they are very much alive and ready to entertain or provide company at a moments notice.
So, the weather forecast has been checked, the roof swept and Mina’s tartan rug laid out in readiness. Radio Ham provides some background mood music, blending nicely with the sound of the traffic on the bypass, dogs barking and local youngsters remodelling the playground in the park, as our guests begin to arrive …
First up the fire-escape is Mulch Diggums, looking dapper in a garish Hawaiian shirt and matching shorts. No dinner party would be complete without a tunnelling dwarf, and Mulch is probably my favourite character from the Artemis Fowl books – a rogue you can love from a distance, preferably upwind. I realise he may put everyone else off their food, but he will definitely provide some entertainment and keep things from getting too serious.
Next to arrive is Sally Lockhart, the heroine of Philip Pullman’s series of Victorian thrillers. It will be fascinating to talk to someone who lived during the Victorian era and I think Miss Lockhart will be equally interested to meet creatures of different species and people from other times. I suspect Mulch is a little enamoured with her, by the way he is surreptitiously combing his beard hair. Ever the lady, Sally, is talking politely with him as though meeting a tunnelling dwarf were nothing out of the ordinary.
Sherlock Holmes arrives in a flurry, folding his long limbs under him as he sits at the side of the rug, taking in every detail of his surroundings, his mind alive at such an opportunity to glimpse the future. The Monster Munch remain untouched – all his attention focussed on Mulch, who steals said potato snack while Holmes takes a sample of the dwarf’s beard hair for analysis.
Holmes may end up offending the rest of the guests, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet such a unique individual. If he can draw his eyes away from the dwarf for long enough to notice, I suspect he may find Sally Lockhart a worthy rival for Irene Adler.
Hester Shaw docks the Jenny Haniver above the Heights and descends a ladder to join us, silently scowling at the gathered company. I wasn’t sure the Mortal Engines aeronaut would accept my invitation, but I’m glad she did, I just hope she doesn’t kill anyone. It’s a long shot, but I’m hoping Hester might agree to taking us all on a trip in the airship after the meal, to sample the splendour of Hardacre, which let’s face it, is probably best seen from the air – high up – in the air. I sit Hester between Mulch and Holmes, in the hope that one of them will be quick enough to disarm her, should anyone attempt to steal one of her chips.
Calvin and Hobbes are dropped off by Ros, their baby-sitter, I can hear them arguing in the car park below. Neither Holmes nor Hester look impressed at the sight of a child and his stuffed tiger, but I love Calvin and Hobbes, so I had to invite them. Calvin is wearing his best shirt and looks like he doesn’t want to be here, until he sees the Monster Munch and Mulch, though Hobbes seems a little wary of the dwarf. Within moments of their arrival, Calvin and Mulch are competing to see who can stuff the most chips into their mouth in one go; Calvin doesn’t stand a chance. Meanwhile Hobbes has gone dewy-eyed at the sight of our final guest …
Minnie Hughes, all the way from the Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel in Manod, Wales. I didn’t want Calvin to be the only youngster at the party, though I suspect Minnie will be far advanced in maturity and find him more than a little irritating. I expect her to spend much of the evening quizzing Sherlock on his methods and might even offer her services as a Baker Street Irregular. I’m sure Holmes will be interested to hear how she masterminded the theft of the Van Gogh painting in Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Framed.
My guests are assembled, the conversation is flowing, and so far Hester hasn’t produced a weapon, which has to be a good omen for the evening. Thank you for joining me at my fantasy dinner party – now don’t let your chips go cold …