You’d like Grubson Pug if you met him. He’s a sea-dog and captain of his own ship, The Beagle. Grubson lives in St Benfro, a seaside town in the west of Wales. He’s partly French, partly Pug and a little bit Welsh. He and his family live in a tall white-washed house overlooking the harbour.
During his Christmas Voyage, he shows just how far he will go to make Christmas special for his children – but his perseverance is tested on the return voyage during a fierce Winter storm.
Everyone in St Benfro knows Banzai: he’s a bandana-wearing, Siamese, garlic-chewing, arm-wrestling ship’s cat aboard The Beagle. He’s a free spirit and full of fun – burdened only by his huge and heavy carpet-bag which is precious and full of secrets.
The contents of this closely-guarded bag are not revealed until Book Two when Banzai realises that he has promises to keep and responsibilities to face. Quite without warning, he disappears to Venice. And the adventure begins!
Bonsai is a tiny chip off the old block: at only 3 years old, he runs away to sea aboard a merchant ship from Siam to find his hero – Uncle Banzai. He finds himself in the trading centre of Venice – in the middle of Carnivale. Wandering the backwaters with his trusty Mr Wong (like a teddy bear for a cat) he becomes more and more lost. And then he loses Mr Wong ...
“This is Mr.Wong!” [Banzai exclaimed]. “All the knittens in my family are called Mr.Wong. He has travelled all over the world with me on many voyages. My grandmothers knitted him for me when I was born.”
The grandmother cats use special wool and knit in a very particular way as each knitten must closely resemble the kitten who owns it.
Each knitten’s sparkly nose gives its owner a sensitive sense of smell. Every knitten has glittery ears to give its kitten sharp hearing. All four knitten paws must always sparkle with the magical thread to give a kitten fast feet and no knitten would be without a twinkly tail – which helps kittens to balance in tricky situations. (From Banzai’s Unexpected Voyage).
Horatio Fox lives at the top of Gunfort Mansions in St Benfro. He was bequeathed many artefacts by his pirate aunt, including a very special pair of reading glasses, treasure chests and a Talking Telescope. From a turret above his apartment, Horatio and his Telescope discuss the comings and goings in the harbour of St Benfro.
Widely-read and well-educated, Horatio is very wise: not a natural mariner (he gets very sea-sick) he willingly sets sail aboard the Beagle when his friends need help.
Bella is the youngest daughter of Grubson and Adele. Totally self-obsessed, she stresses about her dresses and bows and thinks of nothing but her appearance. All this makes her rather selfish ... but we know this is just a phase – she’ll grow out of it – with a little help.
Clementina is Bella’s sister who dreams of becoming a concert pianist. She’s yet to learn that some practice might be involved here – in the meantime, it’s easier to blame the old piano or her long claws – or anything rather than herself.
Fabrice is Grubson’s eldest son who is going to be a world-class cyclist one day. That is one day when he’s stopped having second helpings at every meal – when he doesn’t spend all day snacking on sweeties - when he’s found a saddle which doesn’t give him blisters in very inconvenient places. Then he’ll start to train. (Hmmm – we’ll see.)
A special mention for the petit Henri – every reader has a big soft spot for this tiny dog.
Laughed at by his brother and sisters and tutted at by his mother, he’s the weeniest and wheeziest of the family.
Determined to become a fearless sea captain, he spends hours indoors studying maritime charts and preparing for his future at sea; which comes sooner than he thinks in Book Two.
Lefty Gibbet doesn’t refer to himself as a mongrel – he’s a “sea gypsy”. His mother was a Lurcher, daughter of a game-keeper and his father, a Greyhound was a fire-eater with a circus. Lefty is so-called having been left by the love of his life: a pert little poodle from Paris called Mimi.
Sebastian Barafundle on the other hand is a well-bred Spaniel who escaped his grandmother, Lady Barafundle who was planning his marriage to the awful Cecilia Savilton (heiress to a hotel empire). Sebastian has breeding and she has money – but he ran away to sea and won’t return until Cecilia has been safely married off.
Marjorie is not strictly a crew member but she is a seafaring parrot and was included with the ship when Grubson bought The Beagle. However, both Marjorie and Grubson are very clear that he does NOT own her. When needed, she sits on Grubson’s shoulder to shriek threats at vagabonds and customs inspectors.
Fraulein Schneerer is a concert pianist who owns a vast and twinkling piano emporium in London. With a German father and a French mother she considers herself truly continental and very sophisticated. Her husky voice, silky ears and Mimosa perfume make her strangely alluring – and she understands the importance of practising one’s arpeggios.
Frankie Aquitaine is the famous cycling whippet who has won so many coveted trophies all over Europe. Since retiring he seems to have a constant cold but this doesn’t stop him building perfect racing bikes. He runs a shop in St Malo where he supplies bicycles to aspiring winners and passes on his valuable advice.
Senor Castanet is highly-strung – even he would agree with that. Widely regarded as a fashion guru throughout Europe, he runs an exquisite couture house in the swanky part of Seville. He has firm ideas of what it is to look and to be beautiful – he knows it starts with the heart and the rest will follow. Even his fantastic party dresses and glittering gowns can’t make a pouty moody face and a jealous heart attractive.
The Labradoge is a kindly statesman who wants nothing more than the happiness of the Venetian citizens and for all traders and visitors to be made welcome to his special city. This involves arranging the biggest cat show Venice has ever seen – assisted by his faithful but disapproving secretary, a Dachshund named Daniel.
Nautilus and his brothers and cousins are the life-force of Grubson’s Venice – they are the skilled gondoliers who get involved in everyone else’s business and sing to anyone who will listen. Nautilus is the head of a large family and has a huge heart. When he hears about Banzai’s troubles and the missing Bonsai, he puts the word out to the family in a huge effort to help... and just to complicate matters, it’s Carnival time – an irresistible excuse for all Venetians to don masks and costumes for a full-on caper through town.
Guillaume looks very like his cousin Grubson, with just the addition of a very carefully waxed and curled moustache. He runs a restaurant in St.Malo – where in fact, Chez Guillaume is part of the harbour wall. On stormy days or full moon nights, when the tide and the waves are swollen and angry, Guillaume’s brave little building withstands a bashing.