The majickal world of Matlock the Hare

By Phil Lovesey

Sometimes, in this saztaculous, often crumlush thing we call life, we can find ourselves wondering just how we ended up doing the things we are currently doing. So what does it take for an ex-Essex boy who once worked as an advertising copywriter and subsequently mid-list crime-writer, to end up being invited to scribe a few griffles for the esteemed Pagan Dawn?

Indeed, if there has been a less travelled road, then I’ve most probably pid-padded along it… although, as I was to discover, its real name was Trefflepugga Path.

Whoa, hold on! Saztaculous? Crumlush? Griffles? What in Oramus’ name is this clottabussed-fool griffling about? I must blame two things – my crumlush wife Jacqui and a certain green-robed, majickal hare: Matlock.

Jacqui is an artist and illustrator with a searing passion for nature. She’s far more Pagan than me. Not long after we met, she bought a new calendar, a small piece of dark-blue card with little more than a series of circles and curves on it. “Where are the pictures?” I predictably asked. “Couldn’t we have had one with kittens on? Or motorbikes?”

She did that thing she does with her eyes which shows that although she loves me, I have so much more to learn. “It’s a lunar calendar.  It shows phases of the moon, the times for positive thoughts and affirmations.”

“Right,” I replied, probably quietly, shaking my head in that way that showed although I loved her, I had next to no idea what she was griffling about – not even the oidiest notion. Pid-pad forward a few years and I arrive home juzzpapped from work to find Jacqui has painted a miniature watercolour of what I could only describe as ‘some sort of wizard-hare thing’.

“Where did he come from?” I asked. She shrugged. “He just pid-padded here.” ‘Pid-padded?’ She smiled. “It means walked. It’s the noise he makes when he’s walking.” “Right,” I replied, not really giving the odd little picture another thought.

Something else about Jacqui – her conviction is ‘felt’. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when a few days later, the hare was selling on eBay. Folk were bidding and paying for her green-robed, wand-wielding creation. “He needs a name,” I said, looking at the listings page. “He’s already got one,” she smiled. “Matlock.”

Why Matlock and its peffa-perfect significance? This Derbyshire town has always been a personal favourite, with its colourful eccentricity, gaudy amusement arcades, seemingly endless chip shops and a glazzplatz more besides.

It’s a place that reflects Jacqui and myself, the Essex boy and the Pagan – an oidy piece of Southend dropped into this most saztaculous and majickal place where sprits of the elders are heard as vibrantly as the slot-machines and ice-cream vendors. If you’ve never visited Matlock Bath, do. See the Victorian petrifying well, take the cable car up to Abraham Heights and explore the caves. Experience the loveable nuttiness of the annual Matlock illuminations. If there was going to be a majickal hare he had to be called Matlock. Part me, part Jacqui; part old, part new; part nature, part nurture – all saztaculously whimiscal.

“We should write a book…”

By now, Jacqui’s collectors were emailing for more details about the furry fellow; where he lived, what he did, who were his friends, how did he become majickal? “We should write a book about him,” she said one night, as we lay in bed watching Match of the Day, eating Mini-Cheddars.

“Who?” I asked, trying to concentrate on Arsenal vs Stoke. “I’m not sure I’m qualified to write Wenger’s biography.”
“I meant Matlock, you clottabus,” she griffled, bliffing me in the ribs. “We should make a series of handmade books. You’re a writer,” she pressed, in that way that’s difficult to refuse. “Write something majickal about Matlock” She grabbed a handful of cheddars, turning back to the TV. “Arsenal got caught in another offside trap?” “No,” I quietly griffled, “but I think I have.”

Over the next few weeks we worked on a series of handmade Matlock books: Finding the Foffle; Saving the Stag; Healing the Honqulip; Battling the Berriftomus and Seasoning the Sisteraculous. We had to devise maps, dalelore, a complete cosmology, characters and the language (griffles) of the dales with a glossary.

To our immense (or ganticus as they’d griffle in Winchett Dale) pleasure, the books were a success; so much so, we built a website dedicated to the majickal hare that only months earlier had been one small painting. Folk emailed us, using our griffles – something about Matlock had captured people’s hearts. Inevitably, Jacqui’s intuitive extrapluffs reared their heads once again as she announced it was about time we wrote a full novel featuring Matlock. “And it should be a trilogy,” she added, with the confidence of one who simply knows.

“Right,” I slowly griffled. “But it’s a ganticus amount of work and what I’d want to do is perhaps use Matlock to show how things are out here, in The Great Beyond.” She thought about this. “You mean, create a trilogy of works that allegorically blends whimsical fantasy with a subtle underlying Orwellian commentary exposing the clottabussed nature of bureaucracy, social injustice and personal greed and ambition?”

“Pretty much,” I griffled, impressed, wondering how she always knew so much about wildflowers, too. Jacqui who knows her Herb Robert, Robert Fripp and Robert Louis Stevenson equally well and in Pagan spades, apparently…

The Riddle of Trefflepugga Path

A year later, we self-published our first ganticus Matlock adventure, The Riddle of Trefflepugga Path, in which our somewhat reluctant hare-hero tackles the first of three peffa-twizzly tasks on his journey to becoming a Most Majelicus hare. It was an achievement we were immensely proud of, even more so when we managed to crowdfund part two of the trilogy, The Puzzle of the Tillian Wand, on Kickstarter – thanks to the saztaculous support of a growing number of Matlock fans across the globe.

As we said in the poster for the first book: “You’ll chickle, you’ll eyesplash, you’ll dudge your wammets!” And folk seem to like doing all three.

Now we’re ‘griffling and illuminating’ the third book in the trilogy, The Trial of the Majickal-Elders. I’ve had more fun, mor