The joys of Spring…but what if it just goes on giving?
One of Joan Aiken’s ‘modern’ fairy tales, ‘All You’ve Ever Wanted’ is the title story in her first book, and imagines an unfortunate orphan called Matilda who is showered with magical wishes that will keep coming true. Think of the joys of spring – so lovely at first when the garden is busting out all over, but what if it doesn’t stop…?
Every year Matilda receives a birthday wish couched in the usual flowery terms – ‘Each morning make another friend, who’ll be with you till light doth end…’ – sounds like an alarming premonition of the joys of facebook, where a possible 365 new friends’ birthdays may be signalled on your phone each morning? But the most flowery tribute of all brings Matilda’s otherwise burgeoning career to an abrupt end.
That is, until her next birthday wish arrives:
Sadly resigning from her job, Matilda attempts in vain to contact Aunt Gertrude, ‘causing a good deal of confusion by the number of forget-me-nots she left lying around in the Post Office’ and soon realises that even her journey home is going to be a nightmare:
Aunt Gertrude is finally run to ground when she spots a ten month old advertisement in The International Sorcerer’s Bulletin and rushes back from abroad to find her niece living in a summerhouse at the end of the garden armed with an axe to keep the worst of the foliage at bay… But there is one more unstoppable wish still to come for the poor girl’s twenty-first birthday:
Matilda now you’re twenty-one
May you have every sort of fun;
May you have all you’ve ever wanted,
And every future wish be granted.
Happily the by now all too experienced Matilda makes the most sensible wish of all: “I wish Aunt Gertie would lose her power of wishing” – but Aunt Gertie with her usual thoughtlessness has already granted her ‘All you’ve ever wanted’ so she has ‘quite a lot of rather inconvenient things to dispose of, including a lion cub and a baby hippopotamus…’
This and many other delights is now available in Virago’s latest collection of Joan Aiken’s favourite stories