All You’ve Ever Wanted – a Joan Aiken wish comes true!

Pat painted AYEW“May all your way be strewn with flowers…”

Joan Aiken’s modern fairy tale, All You’ve Ever Wanted  is the title story of her first book published in 1953, and imagines an unfortunate orphan called Matilda, who is showered with magical wishes that will keep coming true.  Think of the joys of spring  –  lovely at first when the garden is busting out all over, but what if it can’t be stopped…?

Every year Matilda receives a birthday greeting in a pink and silver envelope from an absent Aunt (unfortunately also a witch) invariably couched in the usual poetic and flowery terms:

‘Each morning make another friend,

Who’ll be with you till light doth end…’

Written in the 1950’s this seems like an alarming premonition of the then unheard of joys of social media where announcements of a possible 365 new friends’ birthdays could be signalled to your phone every morning… But it is the most flowery tribute of all that brings Matilda’s otherwise burgeoning career to an abrupt end. No stranger to London office life in wartime Joan Aiken conjures a wickedly vivid picture:

That is, until her next birthday arrives bringing her own post:

Forced to resign from her job, Matilda attempts to send a telegram to 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 desperate niece forced to isolate 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…’

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This and many other delights is now available in Virago’s latest collection of Joan Aiken’s favourite stories

The Gift Giving

Gift Giving &amp; back

Read Joan Aiken’s own introduction to her Stories

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Illustration by Pat Marriott, Joan Aiken’s long term colleague,

cheekily coloured in!

Dangerous Wishes?

What if you really could have All You’ve Ever Wanted‘?

Of course in Joan Aiken’s wild imagination this is the sort of  wish that could go wildly wrong – in fact she had such fun with the idea that it led to a whole collection of stories giving a new twist to fairy tale themes, and they became her first story collection, published nearly seventy years ago.

In the title story, All You’ve Ever Wanted our heroine, the ill-starred Matilda, an orphan of course,  is brought up by six unlikely Aunts – but every year on her birthday  the seventh and absentee Aunt, sends a delightful Greetings Card with Best Birthday Wishes which has the unfortunate habit of coming true –  to the letter! 

One year Matilda is promised that she will be greeted every day by a ‘Rosy Morn’ but:

  “as you know, a red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning, and the fatal result of Aunt Gertie’s well meaning verse was that it rained every day for the entire year.”

Worse still was the verse on another  card which promised that her life would  hold  ‘Many Happy Hours’ and all her way ‘Be Strewn with Flowers’ –   the effect of which was to send her rushing out of her now embarrassingly blossom-filled office at the Ministry of Alarm and Despondency, where in fact she had previously spent many happy hours, to send desperate pleas for help  to Aunt Gertie  via The Times and The International Sorcerers’ Bulletin – because of course Aunt Gertie is a witch…

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Two more well meant wishes offer the joys of constant companionship from ever faithful friends –  and perhaps those of us dealing with the twenty-four hour demands of social networking, know what this can actually be like…!    

The first of these read:

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For a story first published in 1953, this was remarkably prescient – who would have imagined that these days it would be perfectly possible to have  three hundred and sixty-five friends  appearing ‘cheery and frolicsome and gay’ on your doorstep every morning, or at least on your phone screen! Would this be ‘All You’ve Ever Wanted’, or would it make you yearn to erase your Twitter account and Facebook page at once and escape to a desert island…..?

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Read more of Matilda’s story here

Visit the website to read more about  ALL YOU’VE EVER WANTED Joan’s first book, published in 1953 and all her other story collections

Look out for new collection of favourite Aiken stories  now out from

Virago Children’s Classics

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And

Read a wonderful letter from Joan Aiken which introduces this collection

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