I’m eking these books out, very slowly. I love Joan Aiken’s short Arabel books, from across a distance of over 35 years. I’m all ready to read the next one, but might just be able to contain myself. Not sure, though.
The Spiral Stair is all about when Arabel and her raven Mortimer went to stay with Uncle Urk and Aunt Effie, because her father was having his various veins seen to. Her mother put her on the train, after checking with the bowler-hatted gentlemen in her compartment that they’d see her off safely at the stop for Lord Donisthorpe’s zoo. The way you did in those days. Leave your child in the care of two zoo thieves.
Because that’s what they were, and it’s lucky that Arabel and Mortimer were staying at the zoo, and could keep most of the animals safe, with the help of Noah the Boa.
The doughnut machine was useful too, as was Lord Donisthorpe himself. The archetypal, elderly and lordly gent with an adventurous sense of humour.
And I imagine that Arabel’s dad’s veryclose veins were all the better for her little absence.
(There’s something so reassuringly, slightly crazy about Quentin Blake’s illustrations.)