Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 6

Last time David made his excuses as to why he abandoned the children in the Welsh valleys, and needless to say Bill and Allie were not impressed.

Chapter 6

Bill went to David and Effans and told them of his plan to take David and the donkeys back up the mountain to find the children, and when David had eventually agreed, Bill went upstairs to re-pack his rucksack. As he went through his suitcase his hand touched his service revolver and he wondered if he should take it with him. The children were known to get into scrapes and maybe his weapon would be handy, there was also the man David claimed to have seen which had sent him scurrying down the mountain without the children.

In the end he decided to take it, if he did and didn’t use it then there was no problem. If he didn’t take it and they ran into bother, then he’d regret not having the back-up of the small metal object. He would just be careful to pack it so that Allie didn’t see it. If she knew he was taking a gun it would only worry her unnecessarily. He wouldn’t need much else; Mrs Evans would pack the donkeys’ panniers with food, Effans was supplying another tent, so all he needed was a couple of spare items of clothing and his toothbrush, really.

“How long do you think you might be gone?” Allie asked anxiously when he came down into their sitting room after packing. “How long do you think it will take you to find the children?”

“Well,” Bill said thoughtfully. “It took David a little over a day to get back here, so I expect it will take us a bit longer to get back, maybe two full days as we won’t be fleeing from danger and will want to stop properly overnight to rest. Then we’ll help the children pack up, and start back. So I’d say about four or five days, give or take.”

“I wish I could come with you,” Allie sighed. “This silly hand, why did it have to happen now?”

“Just bad luck,” he said. “There’s no use worrying, Allie. They’ll be camping out in the valleys, they’ve got plenty of food and they know that I’ll be coming to get them. In fact I expect they’ll be disappointed to have their trip cut short like this, but it can’t be helped. Once your hand’s recovered then we can all go for a trip later, we’ve got plenty of holiday left, still.”

Allie sighed and crossed her arms and winced at the pain in her hand. “I wouldn’t worry so much if they weren’t so prone to falling into trouble!”

“Still, it doesn’t do anyone any good to worry too much. Just sit back and enjoy the peace for a few days – you’ll soon be wishing them lost again!”

With the donkeys rested overnight and the map placed carefully in Bill’s rucksack, he and David set off after a hearty breakfast. There wasn’t much conversation to be had with David as he spoke very little English, but now and again Bill would enquire about something amongst the trees and hills and David would try to answer. They made camp that evening, David seemed to indicate that they weren’t too far from where he thought he’d left the children, but there was no point in carrying on in the gathering dark. With the high mountains shading them from the setting sun it grew dark earlier than it otherwise would.

A few hours before they stopped they had left the path they should have taken to the Valley of Butterflies. Bill, following the map, had wanted to carry on, but David had insisted that they hadn’t gone that way. He had tried to explain about the clouds, and at last Bill had come to understand that a fog had come across the valley and caused them to lose their way.

Bill’s heart had sank a little at the realisation that there had been a fog, that meant the children might not be so easy to find after all. He really wished he hadn’t have played the gallant boyfriend to Allie, but had stuck to the original plan and gone with the children. At least then he would know where they were.

Once they had eaten, Bill took out their map and began to mark down the way they had come, to track their way home, and to see how far off route David had brought the children.

David had been reasonably easy-going on the ride back, it had seemed to Bill. He was ashamed of his foolishness at running away, and clearly wished to make amends, and yet the next morning as the headed off again David suddenly seemed reticent. He tried to give Bill directions, pointing with his arms as if Bill was to go collect the children alone, but Bill wasn’t having it.

“Look, if you’re scared of someone, or something, then you’re best sticking with me, see,” he said slowly so that David could take in his meaning. “You don’t want to be out here alone, surely, if something untoward comes along!”

David thought for a moment and obviously decided that Bill was right as his donkey’s nose practically brushed the tail of Bill’s donkey for the rest of their ride.

Keeping his eyes peeled for any signs of life, Bill tried to ignore David riding so close behind him. Idly he wondered if he would soon have Kiki flying towards him, he really would have been overjoyed to have Kiki flutter down and screech in his ear. He’d even have been glad to be subjected to her express-engine-in-a-tunnel squawk.

But it wasn’t Kiki that they found, it was Dapple. The donkey was wading in some shallow water, tied to a long bit of rope. Bill pulled his donkey up and dismounted, leaving David to keep an eye on it. If the missing donkey was here then the children couldn’t be far off.

Dapple was pleased to see Bill and came over, nuzzling at him as if looking for a treat. “I haven’t got anything for you,” Bill said, patting her head. “Now, where are the children?” he asked Dapple. “I don’t suppose you can tell me.”

Then he spotted the piece of paper wedged in Dapple’s harness and plucked it out. He smiled, glad the children were considerate enough to consider that if they’d gone for a walk that he might turn up and worry. His smile soon faded, however, as a few key words jumped out at him.

He turned away from Dapple who returned to nibbling at the long grass that grew along the banks of the stream and sat on a rock to read the note properly.

To be continued…

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Five on a Secret Trail

This is one of my lesser favourites, in fact it comes in at 18/21 in my ranking of the series. This is the first time I’ve read it since I wrote that list, so it will be interesting to see if I’d still rank it so lowly once I’m finished.

A story in many parts

Due to the fact that the Five take quite a while to come together, you could divide this into quite a few parts.

  • Just George and Timmy
  • Anne joins George and they discover some odd goings on
  • The boys join them and more strange things happen
  • Guy goes missing – and everything hots up

The building blocks of the Five

The Five are, well, the Five, and I always prefer it when they are together. At least two books suffer from a lack of key members, in my opinion, such as when George is kidnapped in Five Fall Into Adventure and Five Have Plenty of Fun. However there are times when it adds to the book, such as when George has an adventure of her own in Five Go Off to Camp. 

It’s rare, though for books to start without the Five coming together quickly – obviously Five on a Treasure Island they have to meet for the first time, and Five Have a Wonderful Time has Julian, Dick and Anne for a short time before George and Timmy join them, plus a few have the boys travelling to meet the girls in chapter one.

Secret Trail has the longest period between page one and the Five being together, as far as I can see. It begins with just George and Timmy, then Anne joins them on page 19, but the boys (who have been in France) don’t show up until page 69!

More characters = more excitement

Timmy has a mishap with some barbed wire just before the book starts so George’s time as the main character is mostly about her fussing over him and being furious that people are laughing at his carboard collar. She decides to run away – not far, though, just to Kirrin Common.

Anne arrives the next day and heads to the common too, and they have a dull (by George’s standards) time at first. The only interest is a completely mad boy who is friendly one minute and then cross the next, appearing and reappearing in different places and denying all knowledge of past conversations. More about him, later.

Things are suddenly not dull when they seek shelter from the rain in an old cottage one night, and the first of the strange happenings, well, happen. More about that, also later.

Then the boys show up and things escalate – stone slabs lifted for no obvious reason, wailing noises in the night, strange lights. It sounds like the plot of a Scooby Doo episode, so it’s clear someone’s trying to scare them off. Then there’s the watcher on the hills with the field glasses, the faux country woman, the gang searching the cottage in the dead of night… and the boy who is hysterically claiming that Guy is gone… so it takes the full might of the Five together to sort it all out.

The conundrum of the mad boy

George and Anne meet the boy at the cottage, and find him to be a bit of an annoying joker. He makes a load of (apparently convincing) animal noises and ties a ribbon to Timmy’s tail. But he also tells them not to visit the Roman camp he’s camping in, as he doesn’t like being bothered.

Later that day the boy* appears at the girls’ camp, and when they call him out for bothering them when they’re banned from his camp he denies all knowledge.

The next day go to the dig site and the boy is annoyed that they’ve broken their promise about leaving him alone.

On their way back to camp they stumble across the boy* reading under a tree and he denies having seen them at the dig camp.

The next time they see the boy he acknowledges their agreement not to bother each other, but when they see the boy* at the pool just a few minutes later he says they’re barmy as usual.

After the storm the boy (and his dog) visit the cottage to check they’re OK, but soon after the boy* comes to their camp and denies already having seen them that morning.

Once the Five are together they find the boy* reading, and he denies having been with the dog in the morning. Then at the Roman dig, a few minutes later, they find the boy again. There are also two shelves of small finds, one of which the boy insists they don’t touch. He does, however, introduce himself as Guy Lawdler.

They see the boy* later in the day and he says his name is not Guy, but when they see the boy at the pool after that, he says he is Guy.

They next see the boy* at a distance and he ignores them. Then finally, they find the boy* at his camp and discover the truth.

“Twins! Why on earth didn’t we think of that before?” – Julian

Why indeed, Julian? Did they really have completely identical clothing on? Wasn’t it a clue that they appeared some distance apart within minutes without appearing out of breath? Haven’t you met any identical twins before?

I’m being harsh but it’s pretty silly. It’s all carefully orchestrated, yet implausible. It relies on the fact they’ve fallen out and won’t acknowledge each others’ existence, them looking completely identical in every last way, the girls/the Five never seeing one up close and one in the distance, the fact that unlike in any other book none of them introduce themselves.

(Spoiler – * denotes all the interactions with Harry rather than Guy, as far as I can work out!)

Since when did Enid Blyton write horror stories?

I don’t think there is any scarier moment in an Enid Blyton book. There are plenty of tense moments – the tide coming into the underground passages at Demon’s Rocks, or into the mines in The Island of Adventure, Tiger Dan waving his gun around in Five Go Off to Camp, or other similar scenes, but this one is by far the scariest.

It’s not far off the sort of scenes you might see in a horror movie – though of course the people would turn out to be monsters or axe murders, not petty criminals intent on finding some blueprints.

I can just picture the lightening flashing and the two or three figures in the distance showing up clearly. Then, another flash, and a face is looking in the window. Truly creepy!

And on that scary note, I’m going to end the review for now. Next time I will look at the last six chapters where the more serious adventuring happens, plus there will be all the usual nitpicks, a look at the food they eat and George’s I’m as good as a boy moments etc.


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Monday #423

It has rained pretty much every day the past week, and it’s due to keep on raining for another few days. In fact it has hailstoned on more than one occasion, I think the weather gods have forgotten that it’s MAY and not January. Bring on better weather and the ability to meet people indoors (May 17 here).

Five on a Secret Trail


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 6

Newly published last month but only now available to buy, Enid Blyton: The Untold Story is a new look at Enid Blyton’s teaching and writing career. The name suggests salacious rumour along the naked tennis lines, but the content delivers well-researched information about Enid Blyton’s less well-known works. It focusses primarily on her educational output including plays, poems, teaching syllabi, nature and gardening books, though it touches on her novels too.

It’s not cheap at £25 but it is a substantial book with various photographs and good-quality reproductions of many magazine pages etc in the appendices. I’m going to review it soon if you’d like to know more before you buy.


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 5

Last time Bill and Allie made a trip to the hospital to check on her hand, and David returned with the donkeys but no children…

(As a side note, it is in this chapter we first mention Sam, the Black paratrooper. Much of the language used to describe him in the book isn’t acceptable today and so I have tried my best to make sensitive updates without losing anything of the original story. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.)

Chapter 5

David turned to her, eyes wide, and stuttered over his words, his broken English and Welsh merging together. Mr Evans had to step in to explain, “David says that there were wolves on the mountain, so he took the donkeys free and came back down the trail.”

Everyone began talking at once, or rather shouting. Mrs Evans let loose a torrent of furious Welsh, making David cower. He tried to back behind one of the donkeys, but the donkey neatly sidestepped and left him without cover. Perhaps it was clever enough to know it didn’t want to attract the ire of the farmer’s wife. A cloud of flour rose in the air from Mrs Evans’ hand as she smacked David first on one arm and then on the other, still haranguing him. Suddenly the musical Welsh language didn’t sound so friendly and welcoming.

Mr Evans took his wife’s arm and carefully pulled her away, murmuring soothingly to her. He then spoke to David in Welsh before turning to Bill and Allie. “There have been no wolves in Wales for hundreds of years, he is mistaken, look you.”

“Wolves! Yes, wolves, howls in the night!” David insisted, nodding while keeping an eye on Mrs Evans and her floury hands. “And a face! In the tree!”

“It was probably one of the children in the tree, whateffer, playing a game,” Mrs Evans said scornfully.

“No,” David said firmly. “Black face.”

Mr Evans asked him something in Welsh, which David answered. “Yes, he says the face was a black one, very dark.”

Bill sighed deeply. “I suppose that he has never met a Black man, has he,” he said to Mr Evans.

Mr Evans shook his head emphatically. “No, nor have I, I have travelled to towns as much as fifty miles away, and I have never seen even one. Nor-”

Bill cut him off with an impatient gesture. “Never mind that. Likely some poor bloke has come here on his holidays with a couple of dogs, climbed a tree, and David’s made an utter fool of himself running back here.”

“Never mind about any of that,” Allie cut in. “What has happened to the children? Are they hurt, why aren’t they with you?” Bill put a hand on her good arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“Now you listen to me,” he said sternly to David. “We entrusted you to guide four children on a nice trip to see some butterflies. And less than a week later you come rushing back pell-mell with a load of unladen donkeys, and a cock and bull story about wolves. If you’ve let those children come to harm, so help me…”

“They wouldn’t come,” babbled David in Welsh as Mr Evans translated. “He told them to mount the donkeys… but the donkeys came without them.”

Mr Evans looked uncomfortable but rallied, “They should still be where David left them, we can head back up and collect them.”

“David, you’ve lost a donkey too, you left with seven and now there’s only six,” Mrs Evans accused, her arms folded. David looked at her warily and then counted the donkeys himself and said something in Welsh.

“He isn’t sure if Dapple followed him,” Mr Evans translated. “She might be back with the children, or she got lost somewhere on the way back. The children have all the tents and food and things, though, so that’s something.”

“That’s something at least,” Bill muttered as Allie looked ready to burst. Philip and Dinah certainly got their tempers from their mother, no mistake. “Best get the donkeys and David fed, and then, I will accompany him back up the mountain for the children!”

David looked startled at the idea that he would have to go back, but then nodded resignedly. He said something to Mr Evans. “He managed the ride back in little more than a day, but he doesn’t recommend it. It will probably take two or perhaps three days to get to where the children are.” What he didn’t add was that he wasn’t sure David would be able to lead Bill straight to them, they had gotten a bit lost as it was, and then he had returned at such a speed.

“Let’s rest the donkeys, as they will need to do the return journey,” Bill said firmly. “I will return with David on the donkeys to make sure we find the children.”

“I shall start preparing more food,” Mrs Evans declared as Mr Evans and David led the donkeys towards the paddock where the two spare donkeys were. “You’ll need some for your journey, indeed to gootness, and the children will need plenty to eat when they get back after their fright!”

Allie just stood where she had stopped and looked aghast at Bill as the others went off. “Allie?” Bill said gently. “Darling, come inside and sit down, let me sort it out.”

“I wish I had insisted on you going with them,” she said with a sigh.

“I couldn’t have gone, you needed me to take you to the hospital,” Bill said firmly. “We weren’t to know that this would happen. The children will have behaved sensibly I’m sure. Jack and Philip will look after the girls and Lucy-Ann will make sure they’re fed, and Dinah will be telling Philip to stop adopting animals,” Bill joked lamely, trying to lighten the mood.

“I just don’t like the thought of them out there alone – again! What if one of them falls and injures themselves?”

“Then at least two of them will come down for help! They’re not daft, Allie!”

“They’ve only got one donkey between them,” she reminded him. “Or maybe not even one, David’s not sure if Dapple is even with them.”

“Maybe Kiki will fly down with a message like a carrier pigeon?” Bill said with a smile. He put his hands on Allie’s shoulders pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’ll go and look for them as soon as the donkeys are ready. I’ll go and find them. I promise I will bring them back in one piece.”

Bill spoke with absolute confidence – but if only he knew what was in store for him.

To be continued…

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April 2021 round up

“April showers bring May flowers,” is a well-known saying, but what do April and May showers bring, I wonder? I’m looking forward to May 17 when we can finally meet other people indoors again, but it’ll probably be gloriously sunny by then just to spite us!

What I have read

  • Highland Fling (Mirabelle Bevan Mystery #8) – Sara Sheridan
  • Five Go Parenting – Bruno Vincent (reviewed here)
  • The Organised Time Technique – Gemma Bray
  • Long Way Home (Unseen Trilogy #3) – Jeffrey J Mariotte 
  • Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) – Jim Butcher
  • Return to Kirrin – Neil and Suzy Howlett (reviewed here)
  • Revolting Rhymes – Roald Dahl
  • Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl – Anne Digby (reviewed here)
  • Another Time, Another Place (Chronicles of St Mary’s #12) – Jodi Taylor
  • Every Tool’s a Hammer – Adam Savage
  • White Silence (Elizabeth Cage #1) – Jodi Taylor
  • Angel’s and Demons (Robert Langdon #1) – Dan Brown
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • Medical Care in Dundee: A History in Old Photographs – Dr Graham Lowe
  • Scottish Hospitals – Dr Graham Lowe

And I’m currently reading:

  • Enid Blyton the Untold Story – Brian Carter
  • Dilly’s Sacrifice (Dilly’s Story #1) – Rosie Goodwin
  • Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse – David Mitchell
  • The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2) – Dan Brown

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • Richard Osmond’s House of Games and the new series of Taskmaster.
  • The last few episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, several series of my re-watch of The Vampire Diaries plus a couple of episodes of The Crown.

What I have done

  • Finally finished the Winnie-The-Pooh jigsaw I was working on last month.
  • Did an Easter-egg hunt in the garden and had a picnic
  • Went to the Botanic Gardens and did their Easter rock hunt 
  • Plenty of walks and visits to play parks, Brodie got a balance bike for his Easter so we’ve been encouraging him to wear his helmet and ride it.
  • Went to the beach a few times, though it was pretty cold on at least one occasion
  • Made a “quarry” in the garden for Brodie (it needs more stones!) and planted some vegetables in a clear tub so we can see them grow.
  • We’ve even managed some picnics including a birthday one for my niece
  • Visited a country park which had crazy golf, a tractor ride, pedal carts, sledge run, fairy trail and other fun things to do
  • Returned to work after another four months off



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Monday #422

Well, it’s May now. This time last year we were a couple of months into a lockdown that we didn’t realise would last as long as it has, but at least now it looks like we are on the way out again.

April round up


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 5

I’ve already used Demon’s Rocks as the location of the week in the past but this week I’m going to have the Demon’s Rocks lighthouse specifically – that’s not cheating at all.

The lighthouse is owned by Professor Hayling, bought for him to do his scientific experiments in in peace (he didn’t bargain for the noise of the seagulls though). It was available to buy as it was no longer in use as a lighthouse due to a bigger one being built in a better spot just along the coast. The lamp at the top of a tight spiral staircase is an old oil one, and an 1896 bell used to hang on the verandah, struck by a hammer mechanism.

What’s more is that the builders of the lighthouse used a natural shaft for its foundations, and that shaft just happened to be the entrance to the undersea tunnels.

Below – a crazy golf lighthouse I saw recently and immediately thought of Demon’s Rocks.

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 4

Last time Allie injured her hand and Bill took her to the hospital.

Chapter 4

The next day, the four children were packed off with the donkeys and David while Bill and Allie waving from the farm gate. When they were out of sight, Bill put his arm around Allie’s shoulders and hugged her close, minding her hurt hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Absolutely fine,” she said firmly. “Remember what I said about no fussing?”

Pulling his arm away, while laughing, Bill said, “You did. So I should be mean to you, then?”

“There’s no need to go quite that far! You could just treat me as you normally do, rather than as some sort of invalid.”

“Yes Ma’am!” Bill says saluting and turning to lean on the gate.

Allie leant carefully on the gate too, using her good arm, and looking along the path that the children had disappeared down a few minutes ago. “They will be all right with David, won’t they?”

“Of course they will. Come on, let’s get you inside so you can start relaxing and enjoying the peace.”

The day passed quietly, Bill and Allie wandered around the farm, holding hands and talking. They had lunch and then just sat in the sunshine reading their books. Bill’s arm was resting over the back of Allie’s chair, a sign of affection that he hadn’t been able to show around the children.

“This is nice,” Allie commented after a long and comfortable silence, broken only by the bleating of the goats on the hillside nearby and the turning of their pages.

“Very nice indeed,” Bill agreed with a nod. “I could do with stretching my legs shortly however. What do you say?”

“You’re not very good at relaxing, are you Bill? You always need to be doing something or going somewhere,” Allie said, putting her book down. It was quite bothersome trying to read with only one hand to hold the book and turn the pages.

“I’m not,” Bill admitted. “I haven’t ever had anyone who could persuade me to relax and stay still long enough, Allie. I’m trying to learn!” he added with a fond smile at her.

“Well, maybe I can teach you, but I won’t hold my breath,” she said. “You’ve had far too long to pick up bad habits already.”

“Am I that bad?” Bill laughed.

“You’re quite bad,” she said, struggling to keep a straight face herself.

Bill grinned at her, as he lit his pipe. As he waved out the match he winked at her, “Well, you chose to come on holiday with me!”

“Yes, you’ve got me there,” she agreed, unable to think of any sort of argument against that logic. She changed the subject after another comfortable silence. “You don’t mind that we’re keeping things quiet from the children?” They had already discussed this briefly, but she wanted to check that his feelings hadn’t changed since spending so much time with the children this past week.

“No, I don’t mind,” Bill said honestly. “Are you having second thoughts?”

“No, I’m not ready for them to know. It puts too much pressure on us to make it work, I think. I don’t like being dishonest with them, though,” she admitted.

“We aren’t being dishonest,” Bill said knowledgeably. “Being dishonest would be denying anything was happening if they asked us.”

“We’re not being entirely honest either, though, are we?”

“Well no,” Bill agreed. “But we aren’t being entirely dishonest.”

Three days after her accident Bill took Allie back down to the hospital for her check-up. Thankfully they saw a different doctor, and Allie took care to introduce Bill as a ‘dear friend’ to avoid any misunderstandings. On their way back they stopped to enjoy the picnic Mrs Evans had packed them.

“It looks like there’s enough to feed ten of us,” Allie remarked as Bill unpacked the large hamper.

“Where are four hungry children when you need them?” laughed Bill as he put down the sandwiches and reached for some drinks.

“Off having a wonderful time, hopefully,” Allie replied. “There’s probably only just enough food here for them, mind you. They eat such a lot, especially the boys! I can barely keep up during the holidays.”

“Growing boys do eat a lot,” Bill agreed, remembering that Anatoly used to shovel food down in the work canteen when his father would bring him in during the school holidays.

“It seems that it doesn’t always stop when they are grown up,” she said, laughing as she watched Bill take an enormous bite of a thick cheese and tomato sandwich.

He grinned as he chewed, swallowed and said innocently, “It isn’t my fault I have a big bite!”

“Does that make your bite worse than your bark?”

Bill laughed loudly, “Maybe! You’d have to ask my work mates!”

“I didn’t know they were allowed to speak of things like that, I thought they’d be sworn to silence on all work-related matters. Not that I really ever see any of your colleagues! They do like to keep to themselves,” she said, thinking of the few occasions she had seen any of Bill’s fellow agents. They had always stayed in their car or had dragged Bill away for a private word after the briefest of acknowledgements to her. The only one she’d said more than two words to was the boy, Anatoly, and even he was tight-lipped.

“They aren’t really,” agreed Bill. “It seemed like a fairly normal thing to say! The boys would have just laughed.”

“Drat,” she murmured. “There goes my hopes of finding out all your secrets.”

“My boys wouldn’t tell you anyway,” Bill teased. “They think I’m the bees knees!”

Allie gave a somewhat unladylike snort and then covered her face with her good hand in embarrassment. “Is that because you’ve ordered them to think that?”

“Oh yes, my brain washing techniques are world class,” Bill laughed.

They say back to relax and eat, taking their time. Bill drove them back a couple of hours later, with Allie dosing in the front seat.

They enjoyed another peaceful few days before a sudden arrival threw everything into chaos. It was just after lunch, Allie had gone upstairs to lie down for a short while, when the sound of hooves clattered into the farm-yard. At first she thought of horses, but then heard the braying of donkeys.

‘That can’t be the children back already,’ she thought to herself, and glanced out of the hall window as she made her way to the stairs. She could see David, dismounting from his donkey, and five others gathering around him, sides heaving from their brisk trotting, Mrs Evans and Bill moving to intercept him. She held her arm in its sling tighter to herself as she hurried downstairs and burst out the front door, into the clamouring noise of Mrs Evans, Bill, and the donkeys all shouting at once.

“Where are the children?” she demanded.

To be continued…

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl

As my library will hopefully be reopening again soon I thought I really should read a few more of the 15 or so books I’ve had out for over a year. I’m getting deja vu over that statement so I’m sure I must have said this the last time I reviewed done of these books, or on some other post at least.

I have at least already read, reviewed and returned The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret, The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend and The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day so that when we reopen other people can borrow them and enjoy their dubious plots and characterisations. And after Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl I only have to subject myself to two more!

The best one yet?

Now that may not sound like a great honour as I’ve been pretty scathing in my reviews of the previous three books, but I did give this three stars while the others have had either one (Saves the Day) or two (Keeps a Secret and Helps a Friend).

I can’t praise it whole-heartedly as it’s nowhere near on par with the originals but it does a much better job both plot-wise and character-wise.

The storylines

There are three storylines in the book which are woven together with mixed success.

First, after the play Elizabeth starred in in the last book her place in the form has dropped and she is terrified she won’t be able to move up to the second form next term.

Secondly, she has also let her piano practice slide and Mr Lewis is not happy with her. There is to be a special concert at the end of term and Elizabeth wants to be picked to play, but she must practice very hard to have a chance.

And thirdly, Elizabeth discovers an old oak tree growing just outside the school walls is to be cut down and she wants to save it.

All these stories fit together. The first two involve Arabella who is competing with Elizabeth for form place, and also to perform in the concert. When an exam paper is stolen shortly before the exams suspicion falls on Elizabeth but she’s not the only one struggling to do well. The last storyline is also involved as the only reason Elizabeth finds the tree is she is looking for a quiet place to study.

Unfortunately, as with all the Anne Digby books, there’s a bit too much going on. The third storyline in particular feels rather crammed in and is resolved all in a rush at the end of the book. Even Elizabeth’s passion for the tree and its inhabitants is rushed – with one or two tales of her feeding squirrels and so on thrown in later in the book.

Too much yet also too little

Where these books fail is hard to pinpoint. On one hand I’ve said there’s too much going on, yet at the same time it often feels as if there’s not enough!

It’s a short book – 154 pages, small paperback pages with large text, and three storylines complete for space. There’s not much time, if any, for other elements such as meals, games, tricks or insights into any of the other children. There are only two school meetings described, the first having very little said at it. The only other element of note is William and Rita are to leave at the end of term and Julian carves them a bear each out of a bit of oak.

What we do get is Elizabeth experiencing events, with a commentary to go along with, then Elizabeth going off to reflect at some length over what has just happened (as well as other characters doing this), so it’s as if we see several things twice over.

For example, after discovering that Arabella is an excellent piano player and wants to play at the concert just to spite Elizabeth, Elizabeth spends three whole pages thinking about this – that’s almost 2% of the book. It’s even split into strange headings –

Envy. That Arabella could play the piano so well…
Realisation. Now she knew why Mr Lewis had chuckled to himself about Arabella…
Scorn. How could Arabella be so unkind about Mr Lewis?…

Everything also happens at a startling pace. This is not a new term, it’s right after the summer play of the previous book so we are thrown into the final three or four weeks of the term. That means Elizabeth has only two or three piano lessons before the concert, and only a few weeks to move from third bottom to nearer the top of the form, whereas Blyton’s school books generally took place over at least a whole term and weeks could pass between incidents. Even Mr Lewis deliberately leaves the choosing of the performers until the last minute – if he didn’t, they’d have been decided before this story began!

As a side note it seems laughable that none of the teachers mentioned exams or anything until this point in the school year, nor noted that Elizabeth had been so busy with the play that she had all but abandoned her studies and music practice. In fact Whyteleaf fails Elizabeth quite a bit as at no point does Miss Ranger discuss her plummet to the bottom of the form, offer her any advice or even notice that Elizabeth is in a panic about moving into the second form.


Silly things

One thing that struck me as silly was suddenly having a special performer at the leavers’ concert – a total MacGuffin if I ever read one – serving only to create a pointless competition between Elizabeth and Arabella. The reasoning is weak (though continues the vaguery of how progression through a boarding school works) as Mr Lewis says that last year only two or three boys and girls were old enough to leave, but this year there’s a whole batch.

Secondly, when the headmistresses discover that Elizabeth is up a tree protesting it’s immediate cutting down their reaction is to tell her to stay up there so they can sort it out! They’re very lucky that due to a paperwork problem the tree is not cut down in the end, but they couldn’t possibly have known that before-hand.

So over-all that wasn’t a very positive review, but honestly, this book was better than the others. Elizabeth mostly behaved in an Elizabeth-ish way despite all the navel-gazing

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Monday #421

We’ve had a week of mostly lovely weather, so I’ve been making the most of it before I return to work this week.

The Naughtiest Girl continued: Well Done, the Naughtiest Girl!


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 4

Then, to his unutterable horror, one of the suits of armour walked off its pedestal, held up a stiff and clanking arm, at the end of which shone a wicked-looking revolver, and said:

“The game’s up, Scar-Neck. We’ve got you all!”

The voice sounded hollow. Scar-Neck and the others stared in the utmost dismay, and then looked round at other suits of armour, which were also coming alive! It seemed like a bad dream—but a dream that had too many revolvers in it!

In a scene from The Castle of Adventure that wouldn’t be too out of place in a horror movie, Scar-Neck and his colleagues are seemingly set upon by a small army of medieval knights.

bill in castle of adventure


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 3

Last time Bill, Allie and the children arrived in Wales to stay with the Evans on their farm.

Chapter 3

The next day, there was a nasty shock for Bill and Allie, especially Allie. She was in the barn with Mrs Evans when the barn door slammed on her hand. Bill hadn’t been present, he had been on the other side of the farm. He rushed over when he heard her scream. She was very white and cradling her hand against her chest.

“It was the barn door,” Mrs Evans said, almost as white as Allie. “It mustn’t have been secured properly, and it’s blown shut in the wind, right on her hand, look you!”

Bill managed to convince a very shocked and pain filled Allie to allow him to gently examine her hand and announced that he would have to take her to the hospital at Merthyr Tydfil and get an x-ray done.

Soon, they were in the car, Bill driving as quickly as he dared as Allie sat in the passenger seat in main, her arm strapped against her chest in Bill’s best first aid attempts.

Bill had studied maps of the area before they arrived, and so he knew the rough location of the hospital; it was to the south-east of Cyfarthfa Castle. With that in his mind it wasn’t too difficult for him to find the rambling red-bricked hospital and soon he was helping Allie out of the car and through the entrance to the accident and emergency room, the carved décor above the door bearing the date 1895.

After Allie had been examined, and an x-ray taken, they waited around a while before the doctor called them back in. They watched him hold the x-ray to the light to examine it, though neither knew enough to know what he was looking at. “You did the right thing, bringing your wife in to see us, Mr Mannering. She’s broken a small bone just here,” he explained, pointing to a spot on the x-ray.

Bill, looking sheepish, glanced at Allie and said, “Mrs Mannering is not my wife, Doctor. We’re good friends,” he corrected.

“I do apologise,” the doctor said. “I just assumed because… well, never mind. I’ll have a nurse bandage up that hand, with a sling to support it, and then you must rest it, Mrs Mannering. We don’t want you to aggravate the break else it won’t heal. I’d advise you to come back in two or three days for another x-ray, perhaps your, ah, friend, could bring you again?”

Bill and Allie locked eyes. “We will arrange it,” Bill said after half a second. “Let’s get that hand seen to Mrs Mannering,” he added, taking on a persona to guard against the doctor’s attitude.

Allie accepted his use of her last name without question and nodded her agreement. Presently a nurse came through, bringing rolls of bandages and a sling with her, and within a few minutes Allie’s hand was neatly bandaged and supported against her chest.

“Now, you will remember to have your husband bring you back in a few days?” the nurse asked in her sing-song voice, just as they were leaving. Bill decided not to make a correction this time and simply agreed before leading Allie out to the car.

Allie sank gratefully into the passenger seat. “Thank you, Bill,” she said tiredly. “But wasn’t that doctor a bit off when you said that we weren’t married?”

“He was wise to have shut up when he did, else I might have done something I’d regret,” Bill said as he put the car into gear and eased out of the parking space.

“Would it be so bad if we were married?” Allie joked weakly. They had only moved to a romantic relationship recently, but she had caught herself wondering how things would go.

“No, of course not, that’s not what I meant at all,” Bill reassured her her hurriedly. “It just seemed to me as if he was about to hint about some sort of impropriety and I wasn’t going to have it!”

“My hero,” Allie said, a bit dopey from the painkillers she had been given. She dozed off a bit even though the journey was short.

Back at the farm the children were upset at the news that Allie couldn’t join them on their donkey trek, and she tried to insist that Bill go along without her but he wouldn’t hear of it. Even the children agreed that he ought to stay behind, despite them wishing he could go.

The children were advised to go to bed early, as they had a long ride the next day, and Allie said she would probably go not long after as she was tired from her stressful day. “You know, I really could manage without you for a few days,” she said to Bill once they were alone in the cosy sitting-room. “My hand feels fine now, truly it does.”

Bill raised an eyebrow at her as he puffed on his pipe. “Now Allie, that is a silly thing to say,” he said levelly. “You will need me to here to help you fetch and carry things,” he added with a wink.

“As much as that would be nice, I don’t need it,” she said. “Mrs Evans does all the cooking and cleaning so I don’t need much else. I can just enjoy the peace and read a book.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me, Allie?”

“No, of course not,” Allie said, wondering why she always seemed to say the wrong thing around Bill. “I just know the children would love you to go along and I don’t want to spoil everyone’s holiday just because of my silly hand.”

“They are old enough to go off on their own,” Bill said in a much more jovial voice than he felt. He would have loved to have gone with the kids but he felt he needed to be around for taking Allie to the hospital and any other little jobs she needed doing. He didn’t want her to put any strain on her hand as she needed to get better and he wanted her to relax as much as possible.

“I know they are. But they enjoy spending time with you!” she tried.

“Allie, this is as much a holiday for you and I as it is the children. I can always follow them after I’ve taken you to the doctors in the middle of the week, if you are on the mend,” Bill said firmly.

“All right.” Allie gave in gracefully, she could tell that Bill’s mind was made up. “Just as long as you don’t fuss around me all week. You know I can’t stand fussing.”

He held up both hands with a smile, pipe in his teeth. “I promise not to fuss!” he said around it.

He removed the pipe and sat back in his chair. “The children will enjoy themselves, and to top it all off, whose going to save us all if we all get into an adventure this time?” Bill added teasingly.

“You said it yourself, nobody is going to find an adventure in this middle-of-nowhere place,” Allie replied. “And you had better be right, as if there’s anything I hate more than fussing it’s my children falling into adventures!”

To be continued… 

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Return to Kirrin by Neil and Suzy Howlett

I am in a couple of Enid Blyton Facebook groups with Suzy Howlett and had seen her mention her ‘unofficial’ novel a few times.

Now I’m always very wary about Enid Blyton continuation books – and I think I have good reason. So far Pamela Cox’s Malory Towers, Anne Digby’s Naughtiest Girl, Bruno Vincent’s Famous Five and Pamela Butchart’s Secret Seven have all been a big disappointment.

But, having read the synopsis of this book, and Suzy’s comments on it, I decided that I could give this one a go. I actually downloaded a free sample (the first few chapters) several months ago and was pleasantly surprised by those, but I still procrastinated over buying and reading the whole thing!

Returning to Kirrin

I’ll begin with saying that I actually quite enjoyed this book, despite a few things which I will touch on later.

I think there are a couple of key differences between this and the other continuations that I’ve highlighted above. Firstly, as the title suggests, this is set later in the Kirrins’ lives. They are all adults now, in or approaching their forties. That means that although we are with familiar characters and locations it is expected that many changes will have occurred in the intervening years. Although their backstories are not explored in great detail (I suspect that could take up several novels) we get enough insight to begin to understand why the Kirrins are the way they are as 30 or 40 somethings. That removes the vast majority of potential complaints about ‘she wouldn’t say that’ or ‘he wouldn’t do that’ because, as authors of a new story Neil and Suzy have taken our beloved Five, or should I say four, rather, through their late teens, twenties and thirties and developed them into somewhat different people to the children we once knew.

The 1979 setting allows for fresh language (though nods to the original language are made), fresh attitudes, plots and so on. Also relevant is that as Neil and Suzy were young adults in 1979 they have written about a time they know, giving a more accurate representation than some of the other continuations written decades before the authors were born and then updated to reflect modern sensibilities.

Secondly, this book was written by true fans with real affection for the series. Suzy herself has said

We wanted to keep it affectionate yet also amusing to those who really know the characters. We couldn’t make the characters perfect – because nobody is – but they are still very good souls at heart, even if one or two lost the way for a while.

So it’s not at all in the same vein as the Bruno Vincent books which exist simply to poke fun at every Famous Five trope, or anything related to the topic of the book (parenting, diets, Brexit etc).

So what is is about?

The blurb reads:

A cracking adventure for grown-ups! It is 1979, and Mrs Thatcher has just become Prime Minister. Punk and Ford Capris are everywhere. Julian Kirrin, now a forty-something entrepreneur, has big ideas for Kirrin Island. But he has to convince Julian, Dick, Anne and George – not an easy job! The Kirrin cousins have grown up and grown apart. Anne has a perfect marriage and twins who are a little unusual. Dick is still seeking success and the love of a good woman. George is as fierce and independent as ever, despite her teenage son. Her dog, Gary, is not at all like Timmy! Of course, there will be temper tantrums, awkward children and suspicious activities at sea, but serious danger and old political secrets threaten the cousins. Is there always a way to escape? Can you ever dip your toe into the same rock pool twice?

I think that summarises the book better than I could – and certainly more succinctly. Julian does manage to get his siblings, cousin and extended family over to Kirrin but nothing from then on goes smoothly. Anne tries her best to recreate their childhood joys in picnics but it’s not entirely appreciated (other than by Dick’s appetite). Dick tries to further his stalled policing career by investigating some strange lights in Kirrin Bay but it rather backfires on him. George is just downright furious that her father has passed ownership of the island to Julian and not her (and too right!) and so won’t go along with anything he says. Julian is rather over extended and relying heavily on this venture so all these complications do nothing for his blood pressure.

“Well, I’ve lots of things you will all remember.” Anne opened the lid. “So, sandwiches, of course, ham and tomato, egg and lettuce, and smoked salmon, as we didn’t have any sardines or, er, tongue. Hard-boiled eggs too, with salt to sprinkle on, plums, fruitcake, and buns. And we’ve got ginger beer to drink, just like we used to.”

Anne’s updated Kirrin Island picnic

Familiar faces and new ones

Of course as above, the human members of the Five are back, if a little different as grown-ups. None with perhaps the exception of Dick are particularly likeable at the beginning, but as I said earlier we are given reasons for the changes to their personalities, and they do improve as the book goes on!

Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin appear, sadly divorced now (clearly his volatile temper finally was enough for her!). Although Quentin was often hard to like in the books he did have his moments where you could see why Fanny loved him – he, like the four, has not aged so well. Fanny also has her demons now which was quite sad to see.

Also along for the ride are Joan (more of a loud-mouthed lush than I recall), the Coastguard (not holding the same fond memories of the Five as they do of him), Alf/James (again, not so fond), and an old friend of the Five’s who Dick is particularly pleased to see.

And chocolate brownies now. Betty Crocker Mix, it’s called. You get a little cardboard baking tray thing to put the mixture in, so there’s no dirty washing up. American, you know, but your mother never minded.

– Joan’s shocking secret about some of her baking

There are several new characters too. Radclyffe, George’s son, is an interesting character. His relationship with his mother is complicated but well-written, and he embodies more of the Five’s youthful exploits (though in a less superior-morals sort of way) than the grown-up four do. Anne’s boy-girl twins who although are around the same age as Anne in Five on a Treasure Island are so mollycoddled they don’t get up to much. Julian’s son Hugh is an adult himself and has followed his father’s footsteps into the business. He come across as very competent and sensible.

Timmy, dear Timmy is no longer with us, which is tragic enough, but George has a new dog – Gary. Unfortunately for her as well as much as for us Gary is not a very pleasant dog! I almost feel sorry for him, as he could never live up to Timmy no matter how nice he was.

The despites

Earlier I said I enjoyed this despite a few things. I always give honest reviews so, here are the despites, though they are extremely petty.

This is not how I like to imagine the Five. Although we have only published up to their early university years Stef and I have mapped out and even written large chunks of the Five’s lives (I’ve even done a few paragraphs about Darrell in her 90s!) and so we have a very strong sense of who they are as adults. It’s not all saccharine and happiness – there are troubles times in almost every marriage for one reason or another as well as in their personal lives, but I think we manage to retain them as good people throughout, despite any mistakes they make. Though we do have George rather estranged from her cousins for a long time – mostly because we didn’t know what else to do with her!

However I’m aware this is a criticism on par with those who refuse to watch otherwise excellent adaptations of books because the visuals don’t perfectly match their imaginations. It’s not my vision of the Five, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

There were also one or two minor details that were either mistakes or were simply changed to suit the plot. One was that the secret passage to Kirrin Island begins in Quentin’s study, whereas in the original books the passages go from the study to Kirrin Farm, and another runs from Kirrin Quarry to the island – though it’s possible that there are other branches connecting them that weren’t discovered until later.

The second, and this is hard to mention without giving away a detail that I don’t want to spoil, is that a familiar character is given a nationality that isn’t in the books. Julian once queries if that character is from that country, but it’s never mentioned again, yet now they have an undeniable accent.

Neither of these affect the enjoyment of the book, they are just little things I noticed having read all the books dozens of times over.

Final thoughts

The new Five made me feel quite sad throughout, as I was always searching for signs of the children I know so well. All the returning characters have their unpleasant moments which wasn’t always nice to read – but it does all come right in the end though. It actually left me wishing for a sequel so I could see them all fully enjoying their new leases of life – and if that’s not an endorsement coming from me then nothing is!

It also made me shed a few tears (the good kind) particularly near the end so I think the ‘affectionate’ and ‘touching’ descriptions from the authors were apt.

If you want to try it out yourself I suspect Amazon are still offering the free sample (I can’t check as I’ve already bought it and it doesn’t offer samples unless you’re signed in). If not, significant chunks are available as a ‘look inside’ preview, or the paperback is £8.99 and the Kindle edition is only £3.61.

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Monday #420

Since my last Monday post not only has the weather suddenly improved (most likely temporarily, of course, as this is Scotland), but some of our restrictions have been lifted earlier than anticipated. This means we can meet in slightly larger groups (6 people) outside and also travel outwith our local authority area. Hooray!

Return to Kirrin


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 3

And then Ern behaved magnificently… He reached up a hand and swept a whole row of kettles and pans off the shelf just above him. They clattered to the floor with an awful din, and startled the two men out of their wits. Then Ern leapt up into the air, hands above his head, and moaned in a horrible, hollow voice, “I’m coming! I’m coming!” The two men took to their heels and raced out of the kitchen door.

This is from The Mystery of the Strange Messages but I found it in an advert for the book in Enid Blyton’s Magazine.




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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 2

Last week the new Cunningham and Petrov story went live with chapter one, where Bill pops in to see Anatoly on his way out of work for his nice, quiet Welsh holiday.

Chapter 2

After the long drive to Wales, a huge meal and the children finally out and exploring the farm before bed, Bill sat back in his chair, his arm resting on the back of Allie’s chair as he puffed on his pipe. “What are the bets that Philip comes back with a farm animal as a new friend?” he asked Allie with a twinkle in his eye.

“I certainly won’t bet against that,” she laughed. “I know I’ll lose. The question is, which animal will he come back with? I know Mrs Evans doesn’t mind the hens roaming the house but she might draw the line at a cow!”

“Or a pig,” Bill chortled. “Shall we take a stroll Allie?”

Allie stifled a yawn. She was tired from the long journey, but a gentle stroll to stretch her legs would probably do her good. “Yes, all right. Let’s go before I fall asleep right where I sit!”

Bill nodded, stood and helped her up. He wedged his pipe in his mouth. They strolled out of the kitchen and into the farm yard. “It’s so peaceful around here,” Allie said with a smile.

“Well, it is when the children are at a safe distance,” he chuckled, taking her hand and tucking her arm into his free one. “Have I told you lately that you’re a saint for taking them all on at once?”

She blushed and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I didn’t have much choice, Bill,” she said gently. “I couldn’t leave Lucy-Ann and Jack in the situation they were in. It wasn’t fair.”

“No, it sounds like they were pretty miserable,” Bill agreed. “But still, you didn’t have to double your workload and take them on, too. A lot of married couples wouldn’t do what you did.”

She shrugged. “I’m just a kind person,” she said with a slight smile. “And it was good for Dinah and Philip.”

“You’re not just kind,” he corrected her. “You’re simply wonderful.” He smiled as she yawned again. “Maybe we’ve done enough for one day, let’s get you up to bed. Your bed. You’re next door to me, I believe.” He stopped, aware he had let himself get flustered after inadvertently saying what could have been construed as an inappropriate remark.

Allie smiled at his embarrassment. “I am, it will be nice to know you are close by for a change,” she said quietly, giving his arm a squeeze to let him know that he was alright and she hadn’t taken any offence.

“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you if Philip’s cow decides to start wandering in the night,” he grinned.

As it turned out, Philip had adopted a baby goat, and not a cow, but as Bill said goodnight to Allie at her bedroom door, he said the offer of protection still stood. “You just give a shout and I’ll come fend off any manner of farmyard beasts for you.”

She laughed a little, “You won’t like it if I shout at 3am!”she smiled, looked around and kissed his cheek before heading towards her room and closing the door.

Bill watched until she closed her door then turned to enter his room. He knew he would get up at any time of night no matter what. If Allie needed him then he’d be there.

The next day was rather relaxed. Allie and Bill went for a walk while the children went to see Trevor and the donkeys. They walked up the mountain a short way and then turned around to head back down to the farm and their dinner.

They both found the fresh mountain air refreshing and invigorating, allowing them both to relax. Even the children seemed easier to deal with then there were acres of space for them to explore; they were always at their worst when cooped up.

The arrival of the donkeys had everyone excited, although Allie viewed them with more trepidation than anyone else, even quiet Lucy-Ann. She was touched when Bill rode alongside her that first day, solicitously making sure that she was all right the whole time. There had been nothing he could do to stop her being stiff and sore the next day, however.

She soon got used to the donkeys, and they had several pleasant rides into the mountains through the first week of their holiday, carefree days where they rode where they wanted, stopped to picnic and then rode on past the beautiful scenery that seemed to fill every inch of their visions.

Allie wasn’t quiet as thrilled as the others about the idea of camping – she was thoroughly enjoying the comforts of the farmhouse and Mrs Evans’ cooking – but she would never have considered not going. She knew how much the children wanted her and Bill to come along, and she knew it would be fun. Her husband had loved being in the wild, he had been every bit as obsessed with birds and animals as Philip was, and so it wasn’t as if she wasn’t used to camping, although it had been a long time since she had done it.

Bill was looking at her a little concernedly while they were talking about camping, hoping she would be all right. Allie always seemed to take challenges on the chin but he knew how much more comfortable she was in the farm house.

“You know,” he said as they wandered the farm yard, trying to work off at least a little of their enormous dinner. “The children could very much take themselves off for a few days, camping and leave us here. I very much doubt that even they could get mixed up in anything out here.”

“No, even they couldn’t find trouble in a place like this,” she agreed. “But no, I can’t let them go off anyway. It would disappoint them so if we weren’t to join them. And I see so little of them during term-time it would be a shame to miss out on spending time with them in the holidays.

Laughing, Bill held his hands up in defeat. “If you want to go, then of course, we’ll go.”

To be continued…

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The Famous Five’s other companions

Recently I wrote about the Famous Five’s sidekicks, but I didn’t include every child they met on their adventures. There were several who, although they either appeared in a significant chunk of the book, or contributed to the adventure, for one reason or another weren’t accepted as a friend of the group. Or some were accepted but failed to contribute to the adventure. Here are those children.


The accepted but not-so-useful

Berta Wright

Although George doesn’t really accept Berta the others do, and she becomes one of the group for a time at Kirrin in Five Have Plenty of Fun. She consents to being disguised as a boy and gives a convincing performance but she doesn’t contribute in any way to the rescue of George, in fact she’s shipped off to stay somewhere else.

Marybelle Lenoir

Sooty’s little sister is ages with Anne, but is even less adventurous. She spends lots time with the Five while they stay at Smuggler’s Top and they enjoy each others’ company, and she even accompanies them on their various underground jaunts. However, she is extremely quiet and shy and has little to contribute to the adventure, not even navigating the catacombs under her own house.

The not accepted but useful


Given that Aily is much younger than the Five, and also speaks very little English it’s hardly surprising that she doesn’t join the Five in the same way as say, Nobby or Sooty does. However she does spend some time with them during Five Get Into a Fix. She brings the notes thrown by Mrs Thomas to their attention, even if she has no idea of their significance, and then leads them to the entrance to the underground passage under the big house.


Yan is a major annoyance to the Five in Five Go Down to the Sea, always turning up to stare at them. They let him introduce them to his Old Grandad as they’re interested in the stories of wreckers, but that’s as far as it goes in terms of willingly spending time with him. Later, though, they’re very glad when he follows them down the wreckers’ way – in the dark no less – and rescues them from the room they got trapped in.

yan five go down to the sea

Benny Thomas

The younger brother of Toby, Benny is significantly younger than the Five and not even old enough to be allowed to walk up to their camp. Yet he proves useful as he frequently lets his pigling Curly run away so that he can wander too, and it’s his pigling that is instrumental in the Five discovering the whereabouts of the two missing pilots in Five Go to Billycock Hill.

Henry and William 

Neither Henry or William made it onto the sidekicks list, but for slightly different reasons. Both come to the rescue at the end of Five Go to Mystery Moor, but neither are really accepted by the Five as friends. William is barely mentioned until the end, he is eleven, the same age as George and Dick were in Five On a Treasure Island, but quite a bit younger than they are by this book. Henry – a girl who almost equals George in her determination to be mistaken for a boy – is almost accepted into the group, she joins Julian, Dick and Anne for a picnic and they get along with her, but George can’t stand her and so they readily ditch her to go camping together.


The Five do attempt to befriend Martin in Five on Kirrin Island Again, but they agree that he is a bit of a curious boy and difficult to get along with. Dick doesn’t trust him as he asks George a lot of questions about her island and her father’s work. Though Martin initially is working for his guardian, Mr Curton, he does tell the Five the truth about him later on, and accompanies the boys through the undersea tunnel in an attempt to foil the plans to blow up the island.

Neither accepted nor very useful

Guy and Harry Lawdler

The twins Guy and Harry are a strange pair. They love each other but also often fall out so badly that they pretend the other doesn’t exist. That means that George and Anne think they have been seeing the same – and very mad – boy when in fact they’ve met them both. This prevents them – or Julian and Dick – from making friends with the boys until the very end of the book when they rescue Harry from the dig site. 

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Monday #419

Well, my hope for better weather in April really hasn’t worked out for me. It has been very cold again and we’ve had snow and hail several days running, though it hasn’t stuck.

Still, every cold and snowy day that passes is a day closer to hopeful normality.

The Famous Five’s other companions


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 2

“You’ll get plenty of wind in a minute—more than we want. We must take in some of the sail. The ship will heel right over if we let her have all this sail when next the wind gets up. There’s going to be a gale. I can hear it coming.”

There was a queer humming noise in the air that seemed to come from nowhere at all. Then an enormous purple cloud blew up from the west and completely covered the sun. The world went dark, and great spots of rain fell.

A storm strikes The Adventurous Four at sea in The Adventurous Four.

The Adventurous Four, 1st Edition Cover by E.H Davie


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 1

Here we are with a new Cunningham and Petrov story. Our first – The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane – took place during The Valley of Adventure, the second – The Mystery of the Missing Agent – was during The Sea of Adventure, and so if you know your Adventure Series books you’ll know that this one will set during The Mountain of Adventure.

The book shows us what happened to the children when they disappeared into the mountain, but apart from a few lines at the end where Bill summarises his efforts to find them, we don’t know the details of what he did.

As before this works on the premise that Bill is an SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) agent, and his use of police titles in the books is part of a false identity to cover his real one. Anatoly who is 20 now qualified as an agent shortly before The Sea of Adventure, and has been in the job a year.

Chapter 1

Bill shuffled the last bits of paperwork that had needed his attention and slipped them into an envelope. He sealed it and added the envelope to his ‘out’ tray with a sigh. He had worked hard to move up the ranks of the SIS but he had enough men under him now that there could be a tiresome amount of paperwork at times. Like when one of his men had done something foolishly flashy like blow up an office building – thankfully empty at the time – and the higher ups demanded Bill either justify the move or outline how he was going to handle the agent in question.

At least he was on holiday now. After the debacle in May where he’d had to ‘disappear’ and in fact ended up running straight into the exact enemies he was hiding from, he had been given an extended period of leave which he had decided to save until the schools broke up in July. He and Allie were taking the children to a lonely part of the Welsh countryside for the holidays, and he was looking forward to it immensely.

He whistled a jaunty tune as he strolled down the corridor on his way out of the building, deciding at the last moment to swing by the junior agents’ offices on the lower floors to see Anatoly. He had a mind to invite him along to Wales if he found himself with any free time. The boy had been working too hard of late and could do with a break, he thought.

Anatoly looked up as there came a knock on his small office door. He tiredly shut the file of papers he was taking notes from, information he was trying to memorise for his next mission. He pushed the file off his desk and into his top drawer. “Come in,” he said, his Russian accent surprisingly forward at the moment.

“Just thought I’d stop by and say cheerio,” Bill said.

“Is this you off on your holiday?”

“It is indeed. We head off tomorrow morning. It’ll take us at least six or seven hours to drive to where we’re staying, so I want to get started at a decent time.” He helped himself to a pencil and scrap of paper from Anatoly’s desk and jotted down the address of the farmhouse they would be staying in.

“There’s no telephone on at the farmhouse, but Merthyr Tydfil’s a decent sized place around 15 miles down the road so they can get a telegram to me without too much bother,” he said, passing the paper to Anatoly and dropping the pencil into a battered pot. “Hopefully not being on the phone means they’ll leave me alone unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“You’re welcome to drop by at any time, of course,” he added casually.

“Drop by?” Anatoly asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, travel across and stay if you find yourself with some free time,” Bill amended his phrasing. He personally felt that Anatoly could do with a break, he had been working flat out since becoming a qualified agent and, truth be told, he was a little worried that Anatoly wasn’t giving himself any sort of balance between work and life outside of the job. The role of an agent could be very full on at times but he knew it was important to make use of what down time they got to regroup and recharge.

“I will… think about it,” Anatoly said with a nod. “However, I am in line to be sent out sometime soon.”

“Oh?” Bill asked, raising an eyebrow. “Any ideas where?” He was technically Anatoly’s line manager but with him being off for a time, the chief was going to be giving Anatoly his orders.

“You know I could not say even if I knew,” Anatoly replied steadily, his speech more clipped and sounding like he was new to England instead of raised there. He hated being this way with Bill but there would become a point when Anatoly would have break away and become his own man. The chief had been very clear about that this morning. With his background, language capabilities and talent for the job, Anatoly was a key agent to send out into the field and infiltrate Soviet lines, discover secrets and search for possible defectors to the West.

“I understand,” Bill said, keeping his expression pleasantly neutral. “I’ll be away eight weeks I hope, so just remember you’re welcome to join us if you get back in time. And take care, wherever they send you.”

Anatoly inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I will, I am always careful,” he said quietly. “I should say the same to you. You had better keep an eye on those children.”

“We’re going to the middle of nowhere Wales,” Bill said. “If they can drag me into some adventure there, they’ll be clever.”

He found himself repeating that sentiment in the car the next day as the children joked about falling into an adventure. He said it right before they reached the rambling farmhouse that they were going to stay in so Allie had no chance to deliver another warning about staying out of trouble, like the one she had given him earlier that morning.

“It’s like you don’t trust me at all,” he had said, pretending to be wounded.

“I don’t,” she had said with a smile, and allowed him to kiss her quickly. There had always been a certain something between them, ever since they had met, but it had only been since she had learned that he’d almost been lost to her on that Scottish island that she had expressed her feelings for him.

It was early days and they hadn’t yet said anything to the children – though he felt that they suspected something was going on – so they were just carefully seeing where things would go. Spending eight weeks in rural Wales with four rowdy children would certainly be a good test.

To be continued…

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Famous Five for Grown Ups: Five Go Parenting by Bruno Vincent

As you can see this week I decided to read Five Go Parenting. You might be wondering why given my scathing review of the only other one I’ve read before now (namely Five On a Strategy Away Day). But, this and a few others, also unread, have been sitting on a shelf in my hall for at least four years now. I knew it would be a short read and something to review, so I braved it.

Stef has already reviewed it, and reasonably favourably. So let’s see what I thought.

The basic plot

The Five have apprehended Cousin Rupert once more, and his wife this time. They are sitting smugly afterwards when Wendy, from social services, drops by and persuades them to take in Rupert’s baby daughter Lily, at least until after the trial. The rest of the book is the Five lurching from one disaster to another while taking care of Lily.

The characters

Despite being from the same author as Five on a Strategy Away Day, the Five are not the same people in this book. Thankfully, they are much nicer people. Not as nice as they were as children, but they are not bitter, jaded or drunk at least. I wondered if this had been written after Strategy Away Day, and feedback had come in that the Five were too unlikeable, but it’s the other way around. Parenting was published later, so if it was too do with feedback it must have been that the Five were a too nice and bland.

The Five are all clearly good people in this book, as they take in Lily and all genuinely try their best to look after her. However, they seem to have lost most of their personalities somewhere between 1963 and 2016. The Five are now watered-down versions of themselves. Julian is not at all bossy or confident. George is not sulky, or prone to fits of temper. Anne is no more maternal or housewife-like than the rest of them, and Timmy just happens to be in the room most of the time. Dick is the only one who has retained any sense of self – he’s still the cheerful, joking one. He is, though, the one who screams – and yes I mean screams out loud (the phrase is screamed like he had never screamed before) when he sees Lily and realises what Wendy is asking of them. Which is not really like Dick, not really a normal human response, and isn’t at all funny either.

The parenting

The Five do OK at the parenting. It’s hard, the housework slides, they spend too much on a fancy pram, but they keep Lily alive and well for several weeks so they do about as well as most new parents.

It all just falls a bit flat, for me. I’ve been there – the sleepless nights, the exploding nappy disasters, the moments when you think they’re going to cry for ever more. I’ve talked to other parents about it, and read blogs, articles and books, and watched TV programmes where the main joke is how hard parenting is. Some of these conversations, blogs, books, programmes etc are really, really funny. This book is not.

I don’t know if Bruno Vincent has kids, but I rather suspect not. The book reads like he has visited the big tell-it-like-it-is parenting blogs (I follow a few, and I love them) or perhaps Mumsnet and written a long list common themes like:

Lots of people asking – Why won’t my baby stop crying?
Nappy changing disasters – poo everywhere (check how far baby poo can realistically be fired)
Parents take it in shifts to sleep
Everyone’s got baby sick down themselves because they’re too tired or busy to change
Haha, some of these parents are really snobby about wooden toys
People really start obsessively applying for schools before their child turns one?
Mums get really mad when dads try to sneak off to the pub
Sling-wearing is really popular now, everyone recommends doing it while doing the housework or anything else that needs done…
Neurotic parents panic at the slightest thing like baby going red while crying
Posh mummy vs slummy mummy cliques
Everyone seems to have a Sophie the Giraffe

And so on, then just crammed them all in. Now all of these are true. But they are also only funny if you know enough about them to make it seem real. Nothing the Five do or experience is wrong, it’s just really flat. I mean it helps that there are four adults tag-teaming, but even without that nothing that happens has the same impact as when reading a mummy-blogger rage posting about her little devil of a child.

Similarly there are references to Ubers and so on which seem added purely to look incongruous to the original setting.

Missed tricks

There are at least two ways this book could have made itself funnier.

Firstly, the book entirely misses an opportunity for an actually funny joke. Dick and George are persuaded into looking at the prams beyond the cheap-and-basic ones, and Dick settles on a BabyCrooz Metro-Glider. It folds itself up at the press of a button, has a phone charger and running lights, and an LCD display that shows you your step count and calorie burn. Now I’d buy it for the steps and calories alone, but that’s not the point. Later in the book Dick and Julian join a dads’ class at the park and end up haring around trying to keep up. By the End Dick is bent double, leaning heavily on the buggy, his chest on fire, sweat dripping from his chin. Now surely that’s the prime opportunity for him to look at the calorie display and have it tell him he’s burned something ludicrously low, like 50 calories – enough for one Jaffa cake. Instead the fact the pram has counted his steps and calories isn’t even mentioned.

Secondly, there was an opportunity to poke gentle fun at the four humans’ personalities. If I had written it I would have had Anne be the keenest to take Lily in, full of confidence that she could manage it (at least mostly) by herself. “I’ve been training myself to be the perfect wife and mother since I was eight, you know.” But of course it would be a lot harder than she thought, and so the others would step in to help. Julian would insist on a strict set of rules (a Gina Ford-type routine) as “You’ve got to show them who’s boss.” Dick would be the opposite and insist Anne just needed to relax, as babies can tell when you’re stressed. And George might say that Lily was protesting at wearing pink, frilly dresses all the time and being gender stereotyped at such a young age.

The slightly offensive bits

Blyton gets a lot of flack for her out-dated attitudes, but there are a couple of things in this book that are surprising for 2016.

The main one is that when Dick and Julian go along to the Dads’ club Dick is absolutely desperate to work in to every conversation that he and Julian are not a couple. Now obviously, as bothers they don’t want people thinking they are a couple as that’s weird, but instead of saying they are brothers Dick just bleats on about them not being a gay couple three times in as many pages. (It later turns out that the man running the group is married to another man, so it might have been mildly funny if he had challenged Dick the first time he’d said “were’ not a gay couple”.)

Secondly, although not offensive, but just inexplicable, Rupert is released thanks to his lawyer but cannot take his child back until her mother is also released. Just why?

Also not very offensive but pointless is Dick holding a breast-pump then dropping it in horror once he realises what it is. Firstly, why would the social worker bring that from Lily’s house, as it would serve no purpose, and secondly it’s just so immature.

The illustrations

On one hand it’s great that they’ve used the original illustrations inside, and have had Ruth Palmer do her wonderful imitation of Eileen Soper’s work for the cover.

Unfortunately the internal illustrations are not reproduced well, they are shrunken and so much thicker and heavier and a few are covered in black flecks. What’s worse is that many of them don’t fit at all with the caption underneath, all quotes from the book. None of the pictures appear near their the pages their quotes are from and the cynic in me thinks that’s so readers hopefully forget the context. (Some examples above and below).

One example is a bit of dialogue between Dick and the dads’ club organiser, put under a picture of Mr Barling’s next door neighbour leaning on his wall, spade in hand to speak to the Five. Only Dick’s conversation occurs while they’re running with prams. It would have been easy to have that conversation, or a similar one, occur with a neighbour who wanted to offer unhelpful advice.

One which would have been funny is the one with George and Anne sneaking down some stairs in a passage captioned with Desperate not to make a noise, each footfall was a slow delicate manoeuvre, and they moved with the careful deliberation of a pair of astronauts on a moonwalk.  Only in the text it’s Dick and Julian that are creeping silently through the house.

I could keep going on and on as there are many more things I could highlight in this book, but I won’t. It’s the best Famous Five for Grown Ups I’ve read, but as I’ve only read two that doesn’t say much. Best avoided. If you really want to read funny parenting stories, try Sarah Turner (The Unmumsy Mum), Kathryn Wallace (I Know, I Need to Stop Talking) or Helen Wallen (Just a Normal Mummy).

Looking for something else to read? More Famous Five for Grown-Ups reviews can be found here.


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Monday #418

There were some gremlins in the blog this week I think – last Monday’s post went missing and I only noticed yesterday, and when I found it, it published itself! So now you know what’s coming up last week…

Anyway, the large amounts of chocolate I talked about have now materialised – causing Brodie to shout “I love Easter Day!”, though the weather was pretty miserable.

Five Go Parenting by Bruno Vincent


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 1

“You can’t help liking all the animals really, can you, when you live so close to them. I mean—a farm’s rather like one great big family, and even the tiniest chick belongs to it.”

Cyril waxes lyrical about the joys of life on the farm in Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm.


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March 2021 round up

March brought some easing of restrictions (finally) and even a few days of sunshine. I’m looking forward to even less restrictions and hopefully more sunshine in April.

What I have read

I had another month where I felt I didn’t pick up enough books – or at least not books I could be satisfied about having read. I did get through quite a few more audiobooks, though.

I did read:

No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday (No-One Ever Has Sex #1) – Tracy Bloom
The Phoenix and the Carpet
(Five Children #2) – E. Nesbit
The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
The Home Edit: Conquer the Clutter with Style – Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin
The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald
Anastasia’s Chosen Career (Anastasia Krupnik #7) – Lois Lowry
We Are Feminist: An Infographic History – Helen Pankhurst
Five Have Plenty of Fun – reviewed here and here
No-One Ever Has Sex in the Suburbs (No-One Ever Has Sex #2) – Tracy Bloom
Indian Summer (Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries #7) – Sara Sheridan
Anastasia at This Address (Anastasia Krupnik #8) – Lois Lowry

And I’m currently reading:

The Organised Time Technique – Gemma Bray
Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) – Jim Butcher (narrated by the lovely James Marsters)
Enid Blyton: The Untold Story – Brian Carter

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • More Mythbusters and Only Connect, Richard Osmond’s House of Games and the new series of Taskmaster.
  • I finished Outlander and Wandavision, and moved on to the new series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and to re-watch The Vampire Diaries.

What I have done

  • Most of a really hard Winnie-the-Pooh jigsaw which I need to finish
  • Some slightly less cold and wet walks and trips to the park. With Brodie at nursery 4 days a week we have less time, but the weather has been better too.
  • Completed the boot camp portion of The Organised Mum Method so every part of every room has been tidied and cleaned now. I also channelled a bit of the Home Edit aesthetic with new storage containers and boxes to keep everything more organised.
  • With restrictions lifted slightly I was able to have a (one year late) mother’s day afternoon tea (home-made) celebration, which was also a joint 60th birthday celebration for my dad.
  • Finally organised the books that live in the wardrobe after I messed them all up making my book displays last year.

What I have bought

I did some serious eBaying to buy Stef a full set of books from one of Blyton’s series, I won’t say which yet as I don’t think they’ve arrived yet.

While I was on eBay I spotted a copy of The Magic Knitting Needles and other Stories and got it, completing that series of books. I also found these Noddy jigsaws which I couldn’t resist. I’ll say they’re for Brodie but we know that’s just an excuse.

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Five Have Plenty of Fun part 3

Right, here we are at part three and I’m not letting this review turn into a four-parter, so get ready as this might will be a lengthy post… I’ve already written about Berta and some similarities to other Blyton books and Uncle Quentin and Elbur Wright, now for all the rest.

George vs Berta

Often George gets her own section, all about her pretending to be a boy. This time we’ve got that plus Berta forced into dressing as a boy.

Elbur mistakes George for a boy (I must say, you’ve got a fine boy he says to Quentin) and ruffles George’s hair which she normally hates but she grins because he thinks she’s a boy. This is cancelled out by the fact that the policemen call George Miss George, and she doesn’t complain.

Naturally George is very annoyed that Berta is going to be disguised as a boy. As she showed with Henrietta in the previous book she likes to be the only one. Berta to be a boy!  Goodness! If ever anyone looked less like a boy it was Berta! George was most annoyed. She loved to dress like a boy, but she didn’t feel inclined to urge anyone else to! 

To be fair I think George gets a raw deal sometimes. Nobody really takes her seriously, and in fact she’s repeatedly told she doesn’t make a good boy because her hair is too curly. This was brought up in the last book, and it was just as silly then as it is now. This time it’s Aunt Fanny peddling the idea that boys can’t have curly hair, and Berta makes a better boy as she has straight hair. Though apparently Berta’s hair has grown so much in one week that she no longer looks so much like a boy. How fast does her hair grow? I bet it had been a lot longer than a week since Julian, Dick or George had haircuts.

Now, while I understand George is annoyed by everyone fawning over a girl who doesn’t even want to be a boy she kind of had it in for Berta even before then. She (and the others) aren’t keen on a stranger tagging along with them for the rest of the holidays but when she hears another dog is coming she gets quite silly. Yes, it’s possible that any two dogs might not get along, but people introduce dogs all the time. Unless they have a dog who goes wild at the sight of another dog (which Timmy categorically does not) then they simply assume that everything will be fine when a friend visits and brings a dog.

The funny thing is that Timmy is eminently sensible, much more so than George, and when he’s told to accept new people/dogs/monkeys etc he does. He only ever fights with dogs that threaten him or the Five. Or  ones he’s been told to hate like Tinker.

This is where George gets silly, telling Timmy to hate the other dog and to growl at it so that it can’t stay. That’s petty even for her.

Lastly, George is also petty when it comes to talking about Berta’s new identity. She knows that Berta could be in real danger and when everyone is saying they must remember to call him by his new name she buts in with hers and shes. There are a lot of theories out there about Blyton predicting Google with her google buns and so on, and they’re mostly nonsense, but given the current gender identity arguments going on right now I thought this little scene was really interesting. It struck me as a parallel to many trans or nonbinary people’s experiences today where they are being deliberately misgendered by others.


It’s good to see Jo back but I’d say this is her smallest role of her three books.

It is amusing that although George and Jo have a grudging friendship they could be united in their dislike of Berta. Jo can’t stand the girl, as she thinks that Berta should go and announce that they’ve kidnapped the wrong girl so that George would be freed.

Jo doesn’t turn up until page 133, after Jane, aka Berta, has gone to stay with her. She immediately recognises Gringo as belonging to the fair and wants to go there straight away in the dark. Julian forbids her to take his bike, and thinks that’s the end of it. But of course as he says She is a pickle and a scamp and a scallywag but her heart’s in the right place, and she simply takes Dick’s bike instead. This causes Julian to upgrade his assessment of her to a monkey, a gallant, plucky, loyal, aggravating monkey.

At least Jo leaves a note on the doorstep in the morning and cleans the bike before returning it. I think they forgive her because she turns up the information they need via her friend Spiky, and then of course she is instrumental in the rescue at the end.

The end

Not the end of this post – you wish! – but the end of the story.

This is the part that I don’t remember so well. I remember the boys going around the house without any luck and Jo opening the coal-hole for them to find, and Dick tripping over a cat but that’s about it.

It’s strange how this part hasn’t stuck with me. Maybe it’s because to begin with it’s just Julian and Dick. Or because they’re a bit stupid and don’t think about climbing the gates for a good few minutes. Nor do they realise Jo has followed them even though Dick does say he has a feeling someone else is there. Then they can’t find their way in until Jo shows it to them.

To refresh my memory as much as yours, they lock various people in their rooms, find George in a cistern room and rescue her, but Dick steps on the cat on the stairs, Timmy chases the cat, and wakes up the men who shove the three children into a room. Then they have a stand-off as Timmy is loose in the hall so the men who weren’t locked in don’t dare come out. And finally Jo reveals herself and lets them out. Then it’s back home to fall asleep, before Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin, Elbur, Berta and the police turn up in the morning and nobody really knows what’s going on.

And all the rest

Now, finally, for the observations and nitpicks. First, the food. Mystery Moor was light on meals, or at least, descriptions of meals, but there is loads of food in Five Have Plenty of Fun – must be because Joanna is around!

  • Their first picnic is neatly packed sandwiches, packets of biscuits and chocolate. A bag contained ripe plums, and there were two bottles of lemonade. The lemonade is home-made and icy-cold. Plus in Dick’s words – A fruit cake – a whole fruit cake – we’re in luck.
  • For Timmy George packed some biscuits and a bone and a pot of paste. She even spreads the paste on the biscuits for him.
  • The next picnic has sardine sandwiches with tomatoes, and egg-and-lettuce sandwiches (this is a slight rearrangement of fillings from Mystery Moor where they have egg and sardine sandwiches, and tomato and lettuce ones. I’m not sure I’m a fan of any of those combos!)
  • They receive a hamper of American goodies from Elbur. It contains snick-snacks (I can’t find any evidence of this being a real product or brand), shrimp, lobster, crab and a dozen other things all in one tin, with which Dick says they’ll make sandwiches with and Gorgies which Anne supposes is something you gorge yourself on.
  • A meal indoors is Ham and salad and new potatoes piled high in a big dish. There were firm red tomatoes from the greenhouse, and lettuces with enormous yellow-green hearts, crisp radishes, and a whole cucumber for anyone to cut as they liked. Slices of hard-boiled egg were mixed in with the salad, and Joan had put in tiny boiled carrots and peas as well, with Fresh raspberries from the garden, sugar and home-made ice-cream. 
  • Despite all the food on offer the Five forget to have breakfast and tea (on separate days!)
  • One breakfast is a plain [one] of boiled eggs toast and butter, and after the forgotten tea Joanna offers them bacon and eggs as a treat.
  • Their celebration breakfast at the end of the book is bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried bread and mushrooms, lots and lots of hot coffee and toast and marmalade.

There was a lot of sleeping in this book (following nicely from Anne sleeping through everything in Mystery moor!)

  • Anne sleeps through Berta arriving in the night and later through Sally being brought down to the bedroom, then falls straight back to sleep once George takes the poodle out
  • Dick sleeps through Jo throwing stones at the bedroom window and Julian speaking to her from inside
  • Joanna and Anne go off to bed as normal even though the boys have gone out to rescue George – in a nice twist they actually don’t manage much sleep
  • Everyone sleeps through Aunt Fanny etc arriving home in the morning

While they don’t run into any policemen as awful as Goon or the one in Hike, the police they do see are not as in awe of the Five as they often are, and so they don’t really work together at all.

  • The police say they shouldn’t have arranged to move Jane without consulting them, and Julian is quite taken aback.
  • They also say that this can’t be dealt with by children, and when asked if they (the police) can get George back the sergeant’s answer is a hardly comforting maybe.
  • Dick suggests it might be better to tell the kidnappers that it is not Berta that they have, the response No you leave this to us. You’ll only hinder us if you interfere or try meddling on your own. You just sit back and take things easy. The children’s version of don’t worry your pretty little head, said by a policeman to a women.
  • Dick asks what they’re going to do to get George back (seeing as they seem to have done nothing so far to protect Berta or rescue George!) and the sergeant says that George is in no danger. She’s not the person they want, they will free her as soon as they realise that. Well it is a Blyton book so we know she isn’t really going to be murdered but that’s a bit of a blasé attitude!
  • The police aren’t very interested in any of the clues the boys find, in fact they suggest they’re probably not clues at all.

Possible nitpicks I have found:

  • The Five realise very late that Sally is an obvious sign that Berta is at Kirrin and the adults obviously don’t consider it at all
  • First Berta is to sleep on a camp bed in the girls’ room, even though it’s a real squash. This early in the book Joan/Joanna hasn’t even been mentioned but later we see that she is at Kirrin Cottage and still has the attic room. Yet it’s not until much later on that Berta is sent to sleep in her room, as Jo had done in Five Fall Into Adventure. Is that because Jo was more equal to the hired help while Berta is above her?
  • When Berta moves to Joanna’s room Joanna says she will shut the window for extra safety – but in Five Fall Into Adventure it’s said that she always sleeps with her window shut.
  • Kirrin Castle has it’s one whole room still, the room that was supposed to have been destroyed after Five on a Treasure Island yet was back in Five on Kirrin Island Again.
  • James has George’s boat for ages. Every time she checks he promises he will fix it but then goes out fishing, then he promises to have it done that evening, but it’s not ready until 2pm the next day – what has he been doing to it?
  • Anne tells the shop-girl that their friend Leslie is staying, but of course, the shop-girl can’t tell she’s pronouncing it with an ie and not an ey!
  • When grabbing George the kidnapper says this is the one, the one with curly hair even though Berta has long blonde hair and George has short dark hair. Julian says that the kidnappers were looking for a girl dressed as a boy. Why? Is that because they knew if Sally was there then Berta was there, but the only new child was a boy, ergo it was Berta? Elbur could have spirited Berta away elsewhere and asked the Kirrins to care for Sally to prevent Berta’s identity being given away by the dog.
  • When they go to the fair Anne has to stay home with Sally in case she is recognised, but why can’t they just leave Sally with Joanna?
  • Gringo has George – who has been kicking and screaming – in his caravan and all he does to hide her better is move the caravan across the field. I know he is relying on his workers being too scared to get any closer but all it would take is George opening a window or door and screaming.
  • Joan is strangely forgetful twice – first about the telegram saying that uncle Quentin and and Aunt Fanny will be away a whole week, and again about a phone call from aunt Fanny who saying he is better and they are coming home as soon as possible. Neither have any major impact on the plot so why doesn’t Joan just tell the Five as soon as she sees them?

Unusual words and phrases

  • Fanny has a soup-cup out for Berta, what is the difference between that and a normal cup? Is it one of those shallow, wider ones, like a bowl with a handle?
  • George’s dressing gown has a girdle which to me is one of those corset-like things, rather than a tie or sash.
  • Jo says of Spiky You can say what you like. He’s an oyster, he is. I assume she means shut tight like a clam?
  • George is being held in the cistern room. To me a cistern is what holds water for your toilet, but in this case I assume it’s a room with some sort of water tank in it.

And all the really random stuff that is less easy to categorise…

  • When Elbur called to say Quentin had to come help with the figures I did wonder if this could be a ruse to leave Berta less protected, but it’s too convoluted to work
  • Alf is James again
  • It’s just as well it was Anne and not George who saw the light on the island at night, given George’s overreaction in Five Run Away Together
  • Julian and Dick agree to break one of the cycling rules they’re usually so hot on, and let George come back on the bike step because it’s urgent
  • It is summer, so it’s not long since the events of Mystery Moor.
  • Uncle Quentin is working on something that will give us heat, light and power for almost nothing… a gift to mankind. How I wish that was true!
  • They plan to go fishing in lobster cove, which I don’t recall ever being mentioned before. They also plan to explore the caves in the cliffs – well, if they did I’m sure they’d find secret passages or some sort of other adventure!
  • Both Timmy and Sally sleep on their respective mistresses’ feet, even though Timmy was strictly supposed to sleep in his basket in the earlier books
  • Uncle Quentin is called the master, and it’s Miss Anne, Miss George, and Miss Berta, plus Mam for Aunt Fanny.
  • I love the line Clever old Timmy knew that this was one of the times when joy must be dumb 
  • There is mention of a paper boy who is scared of dogs. I assume that this is not Sid from Five Fall Into Adventure.

And finally my last thoughts. For the first time during lockdown I actually enjoyed reading about other locations and nice weather. Previously it had just made me feel a bit miserable, this I definitely longed to be on a sunny beach, with a book and an ice cream of course, but I suppose the difference is this time it doesn’t seem like such an unobtainable goal.

It always surprises me how certain books can provoke me to write thousands of words (this one has reached well over 5,000 by this point, I mean that’s longer than the dissertation I wrote in my final year at uni…) but others only get one post. It doesn’t even seem consistent as to whether favourite or least favourite books get long write ups or shorter ones. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I’d not have predicted I’d have such a lot to say about this book.

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