Friday, 31 October 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 2

As I warned the other day, I’m not able to post these exactly as I would normally do. We’ll get caught up in the coming month and I’m planning a break from these posts over December to give me a chance to post other things if need be.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires have to take a bus to V.F.D. by themselves but the driver is unable to take them all the way there. They are forced to walk across a dusty, flat landscape to reach the town in the distance. By the time they arrive at the Town Hall they are dirty, windswept and sunburned. They then learn that they will be doing chores for the locals and living with a handyman, so all in all, things are not off to a great start in their new home.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture shows a bunch of birds which seem to be perched on the word ‘Chapter’ while lots more fly around above them. I remember the V.F.D. of the village name stands for Village of Fowl Devotees, these would be the fowls, or rather, crows that are worshipped by the village then.

The chapter itself opens with a discussion about how to choose where to sit when you’re travelling by bus. Personally I’m a window seat kind of person myself. When I was travelling back up from Gloucester I got stuck in an aisle seat and hated it for the hour or so I was stuck there, then moved the first chance I got when some people got off at Manchester. I’d rather take a window seat, even if it does (as Snicket so nicely points out) mean having to watch insects get squashed on the glass.

Mr Poe doesn’t bother to accompany them to their new home to introduce them to their new guardians, or check that they’re all suitable to act as guardians to three children who have been moved around so much they don’t know where they belong any more. So the Baudelaires are dumped on a bus and sent off to V.F.D.’s Town Hall. Considering how much they’ve had to deal with I don’t see why they can’t just be put in charge of their own money themselves. They would probably do a much better job of it than Poe does!

Sunny’s actually progressing to two word sentences now. As she’s seated in the middle seat on the bus she reminds her siblings “No lean!” because she doesn’t want them falling asleep and using her as a pillow. There’s nothing worse than winding up with a stranger sleeping on your shoulder. I’m willing to let family members get away with it though.

The Baudelaires are spending the journey trying to figure out what V.F.D. might stand for. Knowing Mr Poe as well as they do they pretty much immediately rule him out as a potential source of information. The Quagmires on the other hand would probably be exactly the people to help them out. Too bad they’ve been abducted by Count Olaf and his cronies and who knows where they are now.

It isn’t long before the bus driver is announcing their arrival at V.F.D. Klaus, who is beside the window, informs his sisters that it looks ‘flat’:

The countryside looked as if someone had drawn the line of the horizon – the word “horizon” here means “the boundary where the sky ends and the world begins” – and then forgot to draw in anything else.

Love that description.

Considering there are no buildings in sight the children begin to wonder exactly where V.F.D. is. Klaus suggests it is underground which prompts Sunny to reply “Novedri!” meaning “Living underground would be no fun at all!” Looks like she’s back to one word responses for the time being. All they can see in the distance is a bit of a blur, which could be a fata morgana (which is another word for a mirage), I think that’ll be the place they’ll be calling home for this book.

And yes, the bus driver confirms that the blurry speck in the distance is V.F.D. and he can’t get any closer because the Council of Elders makes him drop off all passengers miles away. Sounds a wee bit ominous, don’t you think? I can’t help but reminded of that film The Village. Once again this helps to prove just how incompetent Mr Poe is, considering he’s not warning the children that they’re going to have one hell of a walk to actually reach their new home. Didn’t see any photos of this in the brochure, did they?

You know how I always wonder just when this series is set. Well Violet’s luggage has wheels on the bottom! It’s practically modern times then! Sunny is planted on top to save her from crawling the whole way; her response is “Sanks!” which doesn’t really need translating but gets it anyway, “That’s very considerate of you!”

It’s not a pleasant journey for them. Before too long Violet is looking quite windswept and dishevelled, Klaus is covered in dust and Sunny is sunburned. And then the town comes into view and everything seems to be covered in moving black stuff. And what is the moving black stuff, why it’s birds of course! Every surface is covered in crows:

The crows weren’t squawking or cawing, which is what crows often do, or playing the trumpet, which crows practically never do, but the town was far from silent.

I just love the mental picture this conjures up of a trumpet playing crow.

The Baudelaires are understandably disconcerted at finding their new home completely covered in birds. I imagine that the bits of the town that aren’t covered in black birds will probably be covered with the white stuff such birds are liable to produce. Ew. All the same, Klaus tries to reassure his sisters. Sunny replies “Zimuster” meaning “It would be silly to be afraid of a bunch of birds” but none of the children seem particularly relieved to realise the birds are harmless.

They have to very carefully step over all the crows. I think I would be more afraid of hurting them than of them hurting me. Then again, if I was faced with thousands of silent, staring crows I might feel a little differently. “Racah” Sunny says, meaning “It’s almost like walking through a quiet, but polite, crowd of very short people.”

I then discover why I could only read some of the letters of the word ‘Chapter’ a few pages back. Some of the birds are perched on the letters of the Town Hall ‘so it reads ‘wn Ha’, hehe, I like it when there are clever bits in the book like that, even when they don’t necessarily make sense at first. Violet hesitates before going for the door though. She’s having an attack of nerves and worries about what they’re about to find on the other side. Personally I’d say more crows would be a safe bet! “Gaksoo!” Sunny says, meaning “There’s no point in arguing, because we’ll never know whether we’re right or wrong until we knock on the door” and takes the lead, knocking on the door before anyone can stop her.

I’m kind of right about the crows inside. There aren’t any actual crows, but there are crow portraits! There’s a big room full of chairs and a platform with people sitting on a bench. Everyone sitting at the bench is pretty old, presumably making them the Council of Elders. Oh and they all wear crow hats that make it look like they’ve got birds roosting on their heads. Not sure that look will catch on personally…

And the old people aren’t so impressed with the Baudelaires’ appearances. They’ve just arrived, having gone through massive hardships prior to their arrival, experienced loss and abuse, and they’re criticizing the fact that they’re a bit grubby and sunburned. Oh yeah, we’re less than fifty pages in and you know the children are going to have a tough time of it in this book!

But before the children can explain themselves they get a sharp lesson in the rules of V.F.D. Right now they are talking to Officer Luciana, who is wearing a motorcycle helmet which covers her face. I’m seeing ‘Luciana’ but I’m thinking ‘Olaf’, she’s got to be one of the bad guys, surely. It seems even more likely when you consider that the previous Chief of Police is unwell, having swallows pins (but is described as having a sore throat).

And then it’s the turn of ‘the orphans’, everyone in this series is so sensitive, aren’t they? The children are placed on the platform and the questions begin. Someone’s read The Daily Punctilio and worries that the children will bring more trouble with them. Why is it the Baudelaires always get the blame for Olaf when no one will actually listen to them when he shows up? That’s really the least of their worries though. The Council understand that guardians give children chores, therefore, the children will be responsible for doing the chores of everyone in the village.

It’s not even that simple. They have to be aware of the roosting patterns of the crows so will need to carefully arrange their chores so as not to disturb the birds. Oh, and no one want the children in their houses so they are to be housed with Hector, the handyman. They’re not allowed to say anything during all of this though as they’re not permitted to speak while on the platform. Bet they’re regretting choosing V.F.D. as their new home, they’re about as welcome there as chicken pox!

In order to protect the children a new rule has been created: Rule #19,833 which states villains are not allowed into the area. Because not allowing criminals into the area has worked out so well for the children in the past! This rule will be about as effective as the computer system, the doorman and everything else so far.

So now the children are off to Hector’s house and he’s still not talking to them. There’s some anxiety about whether he’s a little bit of a bad guy, but it’s just that the Council makes him nervous. Once they’re outside he’s actually quite a pleasant sort of person. He likes Mexican food and he likes watching the sun set. Except it’s not really the sunset he wants them to watch, it’s the spectacular moment when all the birds fly off to a new spot to roost for the night.

But the Baudelaires aren’t as free as the birds. They can’t get away from V.F.D and Olaf as easily as that.

Next week we'll be back to the usual schedule with posts every afternoon (apart from Wednesday). See you there.

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