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Puffin, Harmondsworth, 1970
(price: 25p (5/-); 192 pages)

dedication: To Annie - for all her 'electrickery'

The blurb on the back:

Catweazle was a magician who lived in the eleventh century, but however hard he tried, his spells hardly ever worked.
Then one day was different. First of all he had two bad omens - a bad dream and an owl hooting in daylight. Then Norman soldiers tried to capture him, so in desperation he used some magic, and it worked! The only trouble was that it had worked in the wrong way: Catweazle flew through Time instead of Space, and ended up in a place Hexwood Farm, nine centuries later, where of course he thought everything he saw - motor cars, telephones, electric light ('Electrickery') - all happened by magic.
How Catweazle is befriended by the farmer's son, Carrot, and how he finds his feet in the twentieth century, while hiding from the world in a water tower, makes a riotously funny story, as anyone who has watched the London Weekend Television serial of Catweazle will know.
For readers of eight and over.

If you're of a certain age, then the word 'Catweazle' will send you spinning back to your childhood in paroxysms of joy (probably). If you're not, then the following may not make sense.

Catweazle was a children's TV drama series created by an erstwhile actor named Richard Carpenter (not Karen's brother), which starred Geoffrey Bayldon in the title role and ran on ITV for two seasons of 13 half-hour episodes each in 1970-71. It was superb - at least in my memory - largely because Bayldon was such a lovely and lovable actor, and the programmes remain fond favourites of those who were kids in the early-'70s.

In the show Catweazle himself is an eccentric Saxon hermit whose attempts to study magic are seldom successful, and who keeps getting into trouble with Norman soldiers. When he is mysteriously transported through time to the present day (as was), he finds that he's quite capable of getting in trouble there as well. He spent the first series on a turkey farm in the company of a young boy named Carrot, and the second with Cedric, a scion of the aristocracy. (There's a class consciousness implicit in this set-up, deriving from the Norman-Saxon split, but it was never fully explored.)

Carpenter wrote a spin-off book for each series, of which this is the first. Regrettably, the stories don't really work on the page at this distance, though the idea that these were marketed for 'readers of eight and over' is quite impressive. They're okay, and the line drawings by George Adamson are quite sweet, but - in the absence of Bayldon - none of it's especially exciting.

Bayldon went on to play The Crowman in Worzel Gummidge, whilst Carpenter wrote masses of stuff for TV, with period pieces becoming something of a specialty: Dick Turpin, Smuggler, Robin of Sherwood and The Borrowers are amongst his many credits.

In case anyone's interested, I'd strongly suggest that - in the wake of Harry Potter - it'd be worth buying the film rights to Catweazle.

back of the cover
Geoffrey Bayldon as Catweazle

Trivial PS - You might also remember a professional wrestler named Catweazle, who had nothing to do with the series except that he nicked the name and image, and even borrowed the magician's familiar: a toad named Touchwood.


from the maker of...

Dick Turpin

Robin of Sherwood

t.v. spin-offs