Milo adjusts his orange muffs to their smallest setting and eases... Hamlet shakes his head and squeals. by Virginia Macgregor

What Milo Saw on Bonfire Night
by Virginia Macgregor
Milo adjusts his orange muffs to their smallest setting and eases them over Hamlet’s ears.
Hamlet shakes his head and squeals.
‘If you wriggle, they’ll fall off!’ Milo picks Hamlet up and rubs him under his
chin. Hamlet’s eyes go wide, which is what happens when he’s happy. ‘It’s for your own
good,’ adds Milo.
Milo read an article on the internet about how, on Bonfire Night, you have to
keep animals away from the noise or they get scared and run away or poo in the middle
of the lounge. Problem is, there’ll be so many fireworks going off around Slipton tonight
that it’s impossible to keep Hamlet away from the bangs and whizzes and crashes. Plus,
Hamlet’s hearing is super-sensitive. Milo’s training his own hearing to be as good as
Hamlet’s: Gran said it would help to make up for Milo’s eyes not working properly.
Milo puts Hamlet down in his cage and tops up his oats and his water. Hamlet
plops himself down on the straw and looks up at Milo. Milo wishes Mum wouldn’t
make Hamlet stay in this cold, damp garage. He lifts one side of the muffs and whispers
into Hamlet’s white ear: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to get you out of here.’
Milo closes the garage door behind him and walks through the kitchen and into
the hallway.
He can smell Gran’s apricot perfume.
He shifts his head.
Through the pinhole, Milo sees Gran standing by the front door in her woolly
gloves, scarf and hat and her fur-lined boots and big waterproof coat – the one she wore
when she went out fishing in Inveraray. Milo’s impressed Gran’s managed to get
everything on by herself – she struggles with zips and buttons and bending down to pull
on her shoes.
Gran turns round and smiles at Milo.
‘What are you doing, Gran?’
Gran digs around in the pocket of her waterproof, pulls out three tickets and
hands them to Milo.
Milo holds the tickets up to his eyes.
Fireworks in Slipton Park.
‘Wow, Gran!’
Fireworks are one of Milo’s favourite things in the whole world. They’d never
been to the Fireworks in Slipton Park because Dad did his own fireworks display. The
best fireworks in Slipton, Dad used to say. He loved Bonfire Night, just like Mum loved
Christmas. He spent weeks and weeks planning it. Every few days long, cylindrical
packages turned up on the doorstep. Milo remembers being scared that the fireworks
would go off in the red Royal Mail van and that the postman would get blown up. Dad
turned his nose up at the Fireworks in Slipton Park: They’re not properly planned, he’d
say. His fireworks had a careful order with colours that matched and a soundtrack that
he’d blare through the speakers he set up in the garden.
Milo wonders about Dad, who went off to live in Abu Dhabi with his girlfriend,
(Mum calls her The Tart): do they have fireworks there and does The Tart like them?
‘How did you get the tickets, Gran?’
Milo follow’s Gran’s eyes as they look up at the landing where Milo keeps his
computer. He’s taught her to surf the internet. She’s really good.
‘Is Mum coming?’ Milo asks.
Gran frowns and looks towards the lounge. They can hear the theme tune of
Mum’s holiday programme.
‘I’ll get her,’ says Milo.
Milo stands at the door of the lounge and looks at Mum sprawled on the sofa in her
trackie bums with a packet of milk chocolate Hobnobs balanced on her tummy. A rerun
of Holiday Hideaways blinks blue against Mum’s face.
She doesn’t look up.
‘We’re going to the fireworks – in the park.’
She stares at the screen: a long deserted beach with white sand and a couple
cuddling under a palm tree.
‘It’ll be fun,’ says Milo.
‘I’m tired,’ Mum mumbles.
‘You’re always tired.’
Mum grabs a Hobnob from the packet.
‘Gran got a ticket for you. She ordered it especially.’
‘Tell me about it when you get back,’ says Mum and then bites into her Hobnob.
Everyone’s sad about Dad not being here. Milo’s sad. Gran’s sad – and she
moved all the way from Inveraray to live with him. But at least they’re trying to make
the best of it.
‘Fine.’ Milo walks out and bangs the door behind him, which he feels bad about
because he knows Mum can’t help it. But she could make more of an effort, couldn’t
she? It’s been months and months since Dad left.
Milo and Gran walk through the park gates. Milo shifts his head to take it all in: lanterns
hang from the trees, torches on poles line the paths and a big bonfire with a pretend
scarecrow-looking Guy Fawkes stands in the middle of the grassy bit. On a platform,
grey-haired men play the drums and the guitar and sing in croaky voices. By the lake,
people wearing sweatshirts with Fabulous Fireworks Ltd. written in luminous yellow
writing across the front are setting up the fireworks display.
Gran smiles and squeezes Milo’s hand. It’s not as good as being at Dad’s
firework display, thinks Milo, but fireworks are fireworks and they can do with being
cheered up.
‘Taking your Gran out for a walk?’
Milo spins round. He narrows his eyes: it’s Stan from school. Three of his mates
hang behind him, kicking at tufts of grass.
Stan grabs Gran’s hand and yanks it up and down. ‘Good evening, Mrs Moon.’
Gran pulls her hand away and stuffs it into her pocket.
‘Enjoying the show, Mrs Moon?’
Gran stares at him.
‘She doesn’t say much, does she?’ Stan says.
‘She can’t,’ says Milo under his breath.
‘She can’t what?’
Milo wishes Stan would go and stand in the middle of the bonfire and burn to a
crisp like Guy Fawkes.
‘That’s a bit weird,’ Stan says.
You’re the one who's weird, thinks Milo, with your spiky gelled hair and your
lime green trainers and your puffa jacket that makes you look like a giant, black
‘Well, enjoy the show,’ says Stan and walks off again.
Milo breathes out.
Gran looks at him and wrinkles her brow. She can always feel it – when Milo’s
insides collapse and he can’t breathe. Like on the night he found Dad with The Tart in
the shed.
‘It’s okay, Gran. He’s an idiot. Let’s go and find good view for the fireworks.’
They walk past the hot-dog van and the coconut shy and the bumper cars.
‘Look, candyfloss!’ Mum loves candyfloss, just like Milo loves Fluff on toast.
‘I’ll go and get Mum a bag.’ Maybe that will cheer her up a bit, thinks Milo. He takes
Gran’s arm and pulls her towards one of the park benches. ‘Why don’t you sit here and
wait for me?’ Gran must be tired from walking all the way from home.
Gran nods and sits down.
The queue is so long that Milo thinks of giving up but then things haven’t been
great between him and Mum lately and she’ll be pleased that he thought of her. He
keeps looking over to check on Gran but the park is packed with people and at night
everything looks fuzzy, so he can’t see her. By the time he’s got his bag of candyfloss,
the fireworks have started.
Milo runs over to the bench. It’s empty.
He looks around. Maybe she got up to get a better view. Gran’s small, like Milo.
‘Gran!’ he yells.
He rubs his eyes. When he tries to look too hard, the pinhole goes smaller. Come
on, focus, he thinks. But he can’t see Gran anywhere.
He clenches his fists. He shouldn’t have left her. And he should have checked
whether Gran took her un-muddling pills before they came out.
The fireworks bang overhead. He looks up and sees wobbly red lines in the black
sky. Then he closes his eyes. Sometimes, when you can’t hear something very well, you
can close your eyes and listen really carefully and then you get a picture behind your
eyelids. You can work out what a firework looks like from how it sounds: if it’s tall and
skinny, it wheezes and fizzles, and if it’s fat like a dandelion, it bangs and whooshes. For
a moment, Milo gets lost in the sound of the fireworks and the buzz of people talking
and the crooning of the old guys on the stage and he forgets about Dad having left and
about Mum lying on the sofa on her own and about Hamlet cooped up in his cage in the
garage and stupid Stan. And then there’s a thump in his chest. His eyes fly open. Gran.
He has to find Gran.
She’s a slow walker so she can’t have got far – could she?
Gran, Milo whispers in his head. Where are you?
Gran once wrote in her pad that, to understand someone, you need to put yourself
in their shoes and walk around in them for a bit.
Come on, Milo, think. If you were Gran, where would you go?
Milo walks up and down all the paths and along the perimeter of the black iron
fence and checks the benches and stands on the big rock in the middle of the park so that
he can get a better view. But his eyes are tired and the fireworks are so loud they give
him a headache.
They should have stayed at home. Gran’s been getting confused lately. It wasn’t
safe to bring her out here. He shakes his head. This was a stupid idea. A stupid, stupid
Milo sits down on the damp grass, leans his back against the rock and puts his
hands over his ears.
‘Lost your Gran?’
Milo screws shut his eyes. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse.
‘You’d better make sure she doesn’t drown,’ says Stan.
Milo opens his eyes. ‘What did you say?’
‘Just saying.’ Stan laughs. ‘Might fall in or something.’
Milo jumps up. He gets it. Gran loves the sea – she loves the water.
He pushes Stan out of the way and runs down to the lake.
Gran stands at the edge of the lake. Mr Gupta, one of organisers of Fireworks in The
Park, is helping her untie the rope of one of the rowing boats they let people take out in
the summer.
She looks up at him and smiles.
‘What are you doing, Gran?’
Mr Gupta points to the pad in Gran’s hand. ‘She asked if she could take the boat
out so that you could both see the fireworks better. I’m not sure it’s allowed but I won’t
tell if you don’t.’ He winks at Milo. Milo likes grown-ups who don’t act like grown-ups
all the time.
Gran scribbles on her pad. Apart from the torches on sticks and the glow bands
and a few bits of light from people’s torches it’s a bit dark to read and Milo’s eyes don’t
work well at night, but he holds the pad close to his eyes and concentrates really hard.
Row us out, Milo.
He leans forward and kisses her cheek. ‘Of course, Gran.’
Mr Gupta helps Gran into the boat and pulls out the oars for Milo.
‘I’ll wait for you to come back in,’ he says.
As Milo rows out to the middle of the lake, he sees Stan and his mates hanging
around the edge of the water. Although Milo can’t see Stan’s expression from this far
away, he can guess: his face will be all gnarly and screwed up and cross because Gran
and Milo are going to have a better view of the fireworks than anyone else in the whole
There’s a bang overhead.
And a whizz.
And a crash.
Milo points to the ripples in the water. ‘Look, Gran.’
Together, they look across the water at the wobbly reflections of the fireworks in
the lake. They’re beautiful, much more beautiful than in the sky.
When they get home Milo tucks Gran into bed and then goes downstairs.
Mum’s fallen asleep in front of the TV. He puts the bag of candyfloss on the
floor beside her. The candyfloss got wet in the rowing boat so most of it’s dissolved, but
it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? He’s decided he he’s not going to tell Mum about
Gran walking off on her own. It’ll be their secret.
Before heading back upstairs, Milo goes to get Hamlet from the garage. He takes
off his earmuffs and kisses Hamlet’s black ear and his white ear and Hamlet squeals but
this time it’s a happy squeal, not a cross squeal, like earlier. He holds Hamlet really tight
and breathes in his fur. Then he carries him up to Gran’s room and places him on Gran’s
‘Keep Gran warm,’ he whispers.
Milo snuggles in beside Gran and puts his hand on Hamlet’s soft belly and rests
his head on Gran’s shoulder and falls asleep.
What Milo Saw
A BIG story about a small boy who sees the world a little differently
'From the first page, we were hooked . . . If you loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime, this is for you . . . Brilliant! *****'
Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually
go blind. But for now he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't.
When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises
there's something very wrong at the home. The grown-ups won't listen to him so with just Tripi, the
nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the
nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.
Insightful, wise and surprising, What Milo Saw is a novel filled with big ideas, simple truths and an
emotional message that will resonate with everyone. Milo sees the world in a very special way and it
will be impossible for you not to fall in love with him, savour every moment you spend with him and
then share his story with everyone you know.
'A poignant and very clever read – you'll fall in love with Milo!'