The Deptford Mice Almanack | August

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At last the two itinerant rats where discovered skulking in a deserted rabbit hole, and were brought before the Starwife. They were none other than Vinegar Pete and Leering Macky, who where believed to have perished with the rest of Jupiter’s followers more than ten years ago.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: My favourite entry this month is actually the 1st. I hadn’t really considered that the fieldmice and other small fuzzy creatures of the farming countryside would be under threat every summer from the harvest, but of course they would. I can imagine that, it being Robin Jarvis, the ghosts of those who had faced a quick but gory death with their temporary summer homes would probably return to walk the fields in the condition in which they had died. I bet the young mice of Fennywolde scare themselves silly with tales of bloody, manged ghouls roaming among the shorn wheat…

Of greatest note in terms of plot this month is the return of (gasp) Vinegar Pete and Leering Macky. Like everyone else, I had thought them either plagued to death in The Dark Portal, or ice wraithed in The Final Reckoning. It appears however that they are both born under the Wheel of Fortune in the Rat Zodiac, because they seem to have actually lived through the entire Deptford Mice trilogy. What a feat!

Matt’s Thoughts: The world of the Deptford Mice Almanack is a sort of twilight world of remembrance and haunted psyches. The more I read it, I realise that it is somewhat unique in what it achieves: it tells us about aftermath and pain.

Most of Mr Jarvis’ books have tragedy built into them – especially the third book of most of the trilogies, with lots of beloved characters meeting horrible ends. And we assume, of course, that this would continue to be a source of sadness for those who remain as time goes on, but the books often end with just a brief epilogue, so we don’t have to live through the pain too much.

Whereas, month by month, the Almanack chronicles trauma. Thomas still drinking, the shrews remembering Tysle day, William Scuttle looking at a picture of the Starwife and perhaps most vividly of all – Alison Sedge, looking positively ratlike indeed.

The other thing is that I’m starting to connect the dots of Alison’s dire warning and the appearance of Vinegar Pete and Leering Macky. You get the feeling that there was one almighty final showdown going to happen with the original cast of the Mice.

I’m not sure what kind of epic adventure the fourth Deptford Mice book would’ve been, and we’ll possibly never know, but it’s tantalising!

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The Deptford Mice Almanack | July

 

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Waldo and Dilly-O are fine fellows, if a trifle boisterous. Named after Arthur’s two late friends, Oswald and Piccadilly, they seem to be to be quite a pawful, but my attention was taken by Waldo, who is quite artistic. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This month starts off in bad, bad form, with the very first date being the fall of Sarpedon at the Black Temple. This is only somewhat made up for by the inclusion of the ‘Nine Bright Stars’ poem, and the only drawing of the Dark Despoiler we’re ever likely to get – Gervase’s small doodle on the 28th, scrawled over by Pirkin Gim-Gim (the absolute heathen). I’ve moaned and groaned about the Scale being short-changed in the Almanack before, but this month really shows how little the folk of Greenwich seem to know about the Serpent’s brood. Quite a dangerous ignorance, if you assssk me.

Lizard business aside, I’d forgotten that Morgan was actually born in the House of Mabb, ‘a loner who shifts his allegiance to whomever is in power’. I find this a trifle harsh in description of Morgan specifically, since he never actually chose to be Jupiter’s henchrat for most of his life. Considering that his one goal was independence, it’s rather grimly ironic that he was literally born to be a lackey, if a respected one.

There are a couple of mysterious dates this month – Baffles Day on the 14th, upon which Audrey lost one of her tail bells (who found it? we must ask ourselves), and the mention of the Holly Princes of the old squirrel realms. Once more, we catch glimpses of tunnels branching off to either side, leading away into darkness.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: A few little poignant gems in here – Madame Akkikuyu’s final resting place, Arthur and Audrey leaving Fennywolde. Also, some lovely stuff like Arthur naming his kids Oswald and Piccadilly – nice to know those two lived on in some form!

I know that the humorous entries were meant to be the ones such as the 7th and 29th, but I must admit, I got my biggest chuckle from the 30th, where we see a toothy maw waiting for a frightened mouse to run into its hole from a thunderstorm. I feel this is the sort of scenario that is told to frighten young fieldmice into obedience – a little bit like the mouse equivalent of Stranger Danger.

Finally, it seemed very fitting – in the month where we have just finished Whortle’s Hope – to read these words ‘I … was met with great friendliness by Master William Scuttle, the present King of the Field … [i]t was wonderful to note the great respect which the others have for him.’ What a great character he was.

The Deptford Mice Almanack | June

 

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The country mouse keeps his eyes peeled during this month as he goes about his business, for the Green Mouse is supposed to visit and bless the hedgerows, and to spy Him bodes wondrous joy and fortune. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Plenty of grand events going on this month, among them Audrey’s marriage to Twit beneath the hanging tree, the siege of Hara, and a multitude of deaths, including Imelza, Jenkin and Young Whortle. Oswald is also commemorated on the 11th, his birthday – it is both heartwarming and heartrending to hear that that mild, timid young mouse was awarded the Sign of Bravery and Courage after his death.

Most ominous to me is the very last entry for this month – Thomas and Woodget arrive at the Lotus Parlour, and are apprehended by the Scale. We all know where that led, and in true Robin Jarvis fashion, the knowledge makes us both dread and anticipate turning the page.

 

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Well, that was a momentous month – all the events of The Crystal Prison, plus all the gruesome battles from Thomas, all in the one section! The continued joy of this book is the extra illustrations of scenes that we know well but have never seen – the unhinged Madame Akkikuyu wandering through Greenwich Park, Piccadilly with his sad farewell note, Twit standing up to the mob and offering to marry Audrey.

I couldn’t help but check my own hand out to see how I fit on the rat zodiac – a good dose of courage and a sizeable amount of cunning as well …hmm.

Finally, this was the month that Young Whortle was murdered by the corn dolly – which is rather grim, considering that next month’s book is the tale of that young mouse.

The Deptford Mice Almanack | May

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Two years after moving to Holeborn and becoming the new Thane, Arthur brown married Nel Poot. Many of the mice from the Cutty Sark made the journey to celebrate the wedding. Gwen Triton, however, attended the event alone, since Thomas was too ‘ill’ to travel and Arthur’s sister, the Starwife, was too busy with her high office. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: My favourite entries this month are of course all the little sideways references to the events of Thomas, but something I’d forgotten, and which I found very intriguing, was the Feast of Osfrid the Mouse Martyr on the 17th. If I recall correctly, there is also a sort of mousey ‘saint’ mentioned elsewhere in the Almanack – the patron of eyesight, to whom Oswald often prayed.

This makes me wonder about all the other mouse saints and martyrs who must surely exist. There are Greenie pilgrims and holy crusaders, so why should there not be other, more regional, holy figures too? I wonder what horrible deaths they faced in days of long ago, or how they came to be ‘canonised’ in the name of the Green. What a fascinating blend of different belief systems!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: What an eventful month! I was thrilled to see so many of the key events of The Dark Portal and the early part of The Crystal Prison playing out. The illustrations of Jupiter drowning, or his spirit rising from the burning rubbish heap, were just thrilling to see. I’ve got to say this Almanack is almost like being allowed to see all the spare doodles and archived illustrations that we like to think lurk all around Robin’s house.

But laid out like this, we also realise May was the trigger for the unhappy adventures of Thomas and Woodget (great creepy illustration of Dimlon!), making me wonder – what headspace was Thomas Triton really in when Twit first arrived at the Cutty Sark? Was he in the midst of brooding for his old friend?

The Deptford Mice Almanack | April

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Rosemary, she of savoury scent, flowers now. Where wife, she rule home and husband, it grow best. Mouseys bury dead with sprigs, to tell bucket kickers they not forget. Rosemary very good in lotions to make hair soft but strong, Akkikuyu must wash locks every April whether they dirty or not – her beauty too much to let slip.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: For somebody who only gets her hair done once a year, I must say, Madame Akkikuyu isn’t looking too shabby in this month’s calendar illustration. I have to wonder whether this is a depiction of her in her travelling youth, perhaps mere weeks after she commandeered Simoon’s esoteric paraphernalia. She rather looks as if she’s practicing her act – and now, the Mystical, the Marvellous, Madame Akkikuyu!

This month’s points of interest include the rather trusting mouse custom of the Day of Keys on the 4th, and, on the 6th, Spittle’s first sighting of what we must assume is a portent of Jupiter’s – I mean, the Great Plague’s – arrival in old London town. We also have a piece on the rare Sign of Grace and Beauty, a somewhat maligned mousebrass that seems to be more of a curse than a blessing to those who receive it. (One wonders if mouse fables perhaps contain a moral tale of a fair maiden turned cruel and heartless by the fickle enchantment of that brass.)

There are other sorrows too; Lost Sweethearts Day on the 19th is a maudlin favourite of mine, and of course we have the tragic and untimely demise of Vespertilio on the 27th.

Lastly, and perhaps most ominously of all, is the small entry on the 29th, describing how Madame Akkikuyu first ventured into the Skirtings to tell the fortunes of the Deptford Mice. Imagine if she had taken the long way round!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: Highlights for me of this month were the diagrams of rat ears and the rather humorous tale of Freddy Beechnut and his Hopping the Hare. Still, however, the theme of Thomas Triton’s alcoholism remains, which is sad.

I do have to ask, did anyone ever make the Blind Brass Biscuits?

The Deptford Mice Almanack | March

 

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The place I had accidentally discovered was a pagan rat temple dedicated to the Raith Sidhe, and upon one of the three altars was the headless skeleton of a rat. 

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I’m going to nominate this as my second favourite almanack month painting after October (a heavy metal album cover) and December (a certain big-time Deptford villain looking sumptuously ugly in glorious technicolour). March is Raith Sidhe Month, with the moon smack dab in the House of Hobb as we enter the sign the Bloodybones, and what better compliment to that than the high priest of Hobb marauding across the page in his grisly disguise.

This month we see the return of Gervase from Holeborn, where he’d been visiting Arthur Brown, now Thane of the City, and his family. The 16th details the gruesome discovery he makes on his way back to Greenwich, and it’s all a bit hilariously Indiana Jones. Imagine, Gervase Brightkin: Archaeologist, exposing heinous rat cults and grappling with cackling high priests on precipitous cliff edges. (This needs to be a spin-off comic immediately.)

Just before, on the 15th, we have a brief record of the dark day that Morgan throttled Black Ratchet and clawed his way up to the lauded position of Jupiter’s right-hand henchrat. In less bloody history, the 25th details the legend of Wilfrid, the first mouse smith, to whom the Green taught the method of brass-making in the lost mists of the past. Wilfrid’s empty brass, also known as the Sign of the Maker, adorns the coat of arms I created for Robin a few years ago.

Matt’s Thoughts: A month which threw me mostly back to the world of Oaken Throne, reminding me that despite the thickness of that book, all the events in that story actually took place in a remarkably few short days. We’re also picking up on Gervase’s contempt for Thomas Triton, which is somewhat sad, given that the Almanack is (I believe) the tail end of the Deptford stories timeline. The idea that Thomas Triton, one of the great Jarvis heroes, disappears from the histories as an alcoholic is so tragic.

Highlight of this month for me, without a doubt, was the entry for the 30th, where we see an illustration of the famous Grill. This particularly sinister item of Victorian finery was mentioned many, many times in the original trilogy, but this is the first time I remember actually seeing it.

The Deptford Mice Almanack | February

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As I questioned the present Starwife about Piccadilly, her eyes became filled with sorrow, and when she saw the drawings of him which I had drafted from the various descriptions I had heard, she could not speak and rushed quickly away.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: For this little forktail, February is all about Scalian New Year, which I decided at age ten falls upon the 4th. Do not ask me what the significance of that date is because I’ve honestly no idea, but since then, ever year, I have done something to honour Sarpedon the Mighty.

It always seemed to me a bit of a swizz that every other god in the Deptford universe  should have so many festivals and holy days, while the Scale were left standing gloomily on the sidelines. Even Jupiter has the repurposed Hobber rights of First Blood and Goregut to look forward to. Blame it on biased squirrel scribes or ancient records now lost to mould in the Starwife’s archives, but the Scale have been short-changed for high days and revels, and over the years I have done what I can to rectify that sad state of affairs.

Speaking of First Blood, that falls this month, as well as the moon entering the House of Hobb in what should be the start of a new calendar year for all Children of the Raith Sidhe. It may also be noted that these events coincide with one another in a manner that I imagine was quite difficult for Jupiter’s lieutenants to gloss over in the past. Of final note is the birthday of Wendel Maculatum, right in the Peeler – well, that explains his gift for turning sacrifices into ‘art’!

Matt’s Thoughts: I love the illustration for this month – both because it’s possibly one of the single best illustrations of Thomas Triton you’re likely to see, and also because its corresponding entry for the 10th refers to the tossing of the coin to propitiate the Lords of the Deep. Those three can certainly do with plenty of propitiation, that’s for sure!

I loved the mix of the humorous (Madame Akkikuyu’s sniffles remedy) and the tragic (the burial mound of Mr Woodruffe and the entry for Piccadilly’s birthday). Also, given that 18th marks the beginning of the Ash Month, I was actually wondering to what degree the Wyrd Museum was taking shape when this was written?

The idea that ash trees are somewhat distasteful to squirrels because of some dim dark connection to the World Ash Tree, while being completely my own reading into the passage, is an idea that I find quite appealing. You could see somebody like the old Starwife (or even the current one) knowing the whole tale of Yggdrasil and thinking it a rather pathetic example of squabbling divinities engaging in power struggles.