The Madhatters

Next door live three old ladies. 
They’re sisters, well into their eighties, 
but to us kids, they seem beyond time. 
They like to ask me and my brother in for cakes on winter evenings. 
They have no electricity so their front room remains continually lost in the romance of candlelight. 
There are stacks of newspapers, magazines everywhere. Their faded yellow prints paw at us as we stand in the semi darkness breathing the rustling of ancient books, the faint whiff of ghosts.

The eldest sister Sara is confined to a wheelchair. 
She spends her days sitting in the window 
feeding the budgies she keeps in an enormous cage. 
We love those birds, their greens and sudden darts of yellow. 
She tells us stories of their adventures in Africa with such animation, 
we’re all transported there. 
And as we eat the strange sweet squares of pink icing 
and sip our orange squash, they promise us this is nothing.

That one day we’ll have a proper tea party, 
just like Alice in Wonderland, with hats and everything, 
and there’ll be magic teapots that can talk, 
and a cat that never stops smiling, 
and the budgies will don their tuxedos, 
and they’ll wear their ball gowns, 
and my brother can sport his cowboy suit if he wants. 
And we’ll have an enormous birthday cake 
shaped like an aeroplane that will zoom around the room, and endless cups of tea that can refill themselves.

When we leave, my brother whispers to me, “do you think they really are witches?” I reply, 'It’s hard to tell, 
we’ll have to wait till we get the invite.'

Why not try...
  • talking about the three old ladies in this poem.
  • answering the question: Who do you think they are?
  • and: What might happen if you went to visit them?
  • finding out more about Alice in Wonderland and The Mad Hatter's tea party.



Aoife Mannix - The Madhatters

Aoife Mannix - The Madhatters