November 2022 round up


What I have read

I didn’t manage to read an awful lot in November as I was ill for over a week and didn’t read anything at all other than listening to one audiobook. But as I hit my goal of 100 books back in September, anything I do read is just a bonus! I managed to cram in a few books at the end of the month – ones I’d been waiting on coming into the library for ages.

What I have read:

  • A Symphony of Echoes (Chronicles of St Mary’s #2) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Dead Girls’ Dance (Morganville Vampires #2) – Rachel Caine
  • The Witches – Roald Dahl
  • The Bullet that Missed (Thursday Murder Club #3) – Richard Osman
  • The Christmas Bookshop – Jenny Colgan
  • Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever (Jane Jameson #3) – Molly Harper
  • James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
  • About Time (Time Police #4) – Jodi Taylor

And I’m still working on:

  • The Lighthouse Witches – C.J. Cooke
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Monarchy – David Starkey
  • Five Have a Mystery to Solve

What I have watched

  • I got through a lot of movies last month, even if a lot of them I watched over two nights. I revisited the Chronicles of Narnia and watched all three films, and the firs two Pirates of the Caribbean films (which become rather silly and convoluted from the third one I think). I also watched The Craft after watching the sequel in October, and the 70s version of The Railway Children (which recently I discovered I had on DVD after lamenting it wasn’t streaming anywhere while I was reviewing the Jacqueline Wilson book).
  • I even managed to squeeze in three Christmas movies – Falling for Christmas (Lindsay Lohan’s return to acting), A Castle for Christmas and Noelle.
  • With Brodie I watched Matilda and The Witches seeing as we have read the books. He was engrossed in them both and declared them better than the books.
  • TV wise I watched the new series of The Crown, most of season one of The Originals (the Vampire Diaries spin off, which I’m sure I watched some of before but I don’t remember finishing the first season).
  • Plus the usual suspects of House of Games, Only Connect, Taskmaster and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

What I have done

  • Visited St Andrews for lunch and a bit of shopping (including at the Christmas Shop) – but Brodie was having a not smiling for the camera day.
  • Visited an independent Garden Centre which always has a huge Christmas area, this year it had a cable-car scene set up.
  • We put up our Christmas tree the last weekend of the month – with my Noddy decorations of course.
  • I did a decent amount of Christmas shopping but I know I still need to do more!

 


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Monday #503

Here we are in the last week of November already. We didn’t wait for December to put our Christmas tree up. We put it up yesterday which was the first Sunday of Advent. I’m not entirely sure what that means but I do remember the Blue Peter presenters lighting a candle once a week on their not-at-all flammable tinsel wrapped pair of metal coat hangers. I’m sure Enid would have known all about it.

Five Have a Mystery to Solve

and

November round up

‘Don’t look round, Anne, I’m wrapping up your present,’ said Dick. ‘There’ll be a lot to give out this Christmas, with all of us here—and everyone giving everyone else something!’

‘I’ve a B-O-N-E for Timmy,’ said Anne, ‘but it’s downstairs in the larder. I was afraid he’d sniff it out up here.’

‘Woof,’ said Timmy, slapping his tail against Anne’s legs again.

‘He knows perfectly well that B-O-N-E spells bone,’ said Julian. ‘Now you’ve made him sniff all about my parcels! Timmy—go downstairs, please!’

– from Happy Christmas, Five!

This is very much us at the moment – trying to communicate without Brodie knowing what we are on about. His ears are just too sharp (when it suits him). It won’t be long before he’s as smart as Timmy and can work out what we’re saying even in spellings though…

 

 

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Enid Blyton references in other works of fiction part 2

For years I have been collecting little quotes where other authors have mentioned Blyton in their books. The first I noted long before the blog even existed, though I have no idea what purpose I had noted it down for back then. I pulled together all the references I had collected in a post a while back, but since then I have found more (plus a couple I forgot to add last time) so here’s another collection of quotes.


Class: Welcome to the Little School by the Sea – Jenny Colgan

It’s perhaps not surprising that Jenny Colgan is featuring here, seeing as she wrote her own boarding school stories which she admits are highly influenced by Malory Towers. She mentions Blyton and Malory Towers in her author’s notes in those titles, which I have quoted in my reviews so I won’t repeat them here. However there’s another reference within the first story.

She looked through it all nervously in the staff room. Some modern poetry, nothing too frightening, plus the novel. She was looking forward to Wuthering Heights and Tess for the older ones; she’d never been able to teach those before… Although, she wondered, maybe all the girls here would have read those books already? They were going to be way ahead of what she was used to. What if this was the equivalent for them of Noddy stories?


The Bookshop on the Shore – Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Shore an indirect sequel to The Bookshop on the Corner, as it follows a different main character. Zoe has moved to Kirrinfief (a Blyton reference in its own right) to take over Nina’s mobile bookshop while the latter is on maternity leave, and also to act as an au pair for her host’s unruly children. Her host happens to be a book buyer / seller, scouring estate sales for books which he sells on to bookshops. He is not that good at the job however as his study is crammed full of books he has bought but can’t part with…

Zoe grabbed the nearest book to her. It was a beautiful golden-edged copy of the Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald.

Although not a direct Blyton reference, the book Zoe finds in Ramsay’s study is Blyton’s favourite as a child. This may be coincidence as lots of classic Children’s books are mentioned, but as Colgan is a Blyton fan it may be more than coincidence.

Zoe had been a cheerful, bookish child not much given to introspection. If she had a bad day at school she’d read the Famous Five where friendship was assumed and never questioned. If she’d had a good day at school she’d read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where untold treats and wishes came to good unspoilt children. If she was feeling sorry for herself she’d read What Katy Did and imagine the horror of being trapped in bed. If she was feeling in a positive mood she’d read The Magic Faraway Tree and make up her own lands. In short, she self-medicated with books.


500 Miles From You – Jenny Colgan

500 Miles From You is another sort-of sequel. Set in Kirrinfief again it has a different main character to both the previous two, though Zoe and Nina pop up now and again. It’s less literary as it’s based on a nurse rather than a bookseller, but Colgan still works in a Blyton reference for us.

Now, he knew there was warm bread in the kitchen from the baker’s as well as good cheese and ripe tomatoes and, if he wasn’t mistaken, Nina had bought some ironic Enid Blytonesque ginger beer which they were both enjoying entirely unironically.


Death and Croissants – Ian Moore

A Facebook group I’m in has been running a casual book group lately so I read this so I could join in. I didn’t think it was particularly great but it netted me a new Blyton reference!

If he was going to take part in this adventure – an innocent word, he reckoned, more reminiscent of Enid Blyton than old blokes being possibly done in – then he was going to make damn sure that Valérie d’Orçay didn’t just take him for granted.


True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop – Annie Darling

The first in this series also had a couple of references which I noted in my last post.

So, as the summer’s giddy whirl of parties and celebrations continued, on non-going-out nights, she was in bed by nine. Even missing The Midnight Bell pub quiz, much to Tom and Nina’s dismay because Verity could answer questions on obscure saints and feast days and was no slouch on geography, beekeeping and the collected works of Enid Blyton (though admittedly those last two categories rarely came up).


The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

I was surprised to find a Blyton reference in a Neil Gaiman book, it seemed somehow incongrious in the middle of quite a dark, scary book, but it seems that Gaiman was a fan of Blyton – at least as a child.

I went back to the bedroom. It was my night to have the door to the hallway open, and I waited until my sister was asleep, and wouldn’t tell on me, and then, in the dim light from the hall, I read a Secret Seven mystery until I fell asleep.

There is also a more oblique reference which is not necessarily Blyton, or not exclusive to Blyton anyway.

Adult stories never made sense, and they were so slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?


The Little Wartime Library – Kate Thompson

I featured references from this book in my last post but forgot entirely about the interview with the author at the end.

What did your childhood library look, feel and smell like? Bet you can remember!

Like most, when it came to Enid Blyton, I virtually read the print off the page. Malory Towers gave me the keys to a boarding school experience I’d never have.


The Last Library – Freya Sampson

This is not from the main body of the novel but again is from the author at the end. Or it might have been the beginning I have forgotten!

When I was a child, I used to go to my local library every week and take out six books. It was there that I first discovered Matilda, where I worked my way through the St. Clare’s, Nancy Drew and Point Horror series, and where I borrowed my first Jilly Cooper novel.


Have you spotted any references lately?

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Malory Towers on TV: A series two overview

This is not going to be as easy to write as my overview for series one, mostly because it has taken me so long to watch this series that I’ve practically forgotten what happened at the beginning of it. But I have my reviews to remind me, so let’s get down to it.


A reminder of the episodes

I did this in my series one overview, but this time it’s as much for my benefit as it is for my readers.

1. The Head of Form

Most of the form return for second year (sans Emily and Katherine) and we meet new girl Ellen who’s there on a scholarship and the new teacher Mr Parker. As the title suggests the main plot is about choosing the head of the form which ends up being between Sally, Alicia and Gwen. There begins the disharmony as Darrell tries to be friends with both Sally – who wins head of form – and Alicia, as per the books.

Although Ellen and Nosy Parker are in the books they are played differently on-screen. Ellen is mostly cheerful while Mr Parker is new to the school and rather all over the place with his attempts at discipline.

2. The Dunce’s Cap

Continuing with the theme of Mr Parker being ineffective he brings in the dunce’s cap and shames Mary-Lou for her lack of confidence at reciting in front of the class. This ties in with the magic pink chalk trick which the girls play on Mam’zelle Rougier and Mr Parker.

The trick is funny, but not as well-done as in the book, while the dunce plot seems nothing more than a way to pad out the trick into an entire episode, seeing as they fail to use it to further Ellen’s storyline.

3. The Stray

The fact that Ellen doesn’t fit in becomes more apparent as we see her oversized uniform and her wrong lacrosse kit. She has a rant about how the other girls are lazy and don’t appreciate what they have, leading them to making an act of charity towards her which doesn’t go down well.

The title refers to a cat which Ellen finds and starts to take care of, mean while the leaky roof from previous episodes is explained when we find out that Malory Towers is in financial difficulties.

This is a rather uneven episode, with Ellen’s outburst coming rather out of nowhere, and the cat being rather superfluous.

4. The Audition

Head Girl Georgina Thomas is putting on a play about Lady Jane Malory and her lover Highwayman Jack. Gwen persuades Darrell into auditioning with her as she wants to impress her father, but Darrell still has time to go treasure hunting after Lady Jane Malory’s diary is found.

Almost nothing in this episode comes from the books, and it shows. The auditions are pure nonsense – they HAVE to audition in pairs, regardless of whether both girls even want to be in the play, and only girls from Darrell’s form even audition.

5. The Caricatures

Mary-Lou (who has been revealed as the artist behind some caricatures lately) draws a new one of Mam’zelle Rougier and Matron, leading to a lot of trouble, and Gwen makes a big fuss about learning her lines and making the play a success.

I love the (fairly small) part of the book where Belinda’s drawing causes first an upset and then a resolution between the two Mam’zelles. However Mary-Lou having been secretly skilled at art, leaving secret caricatures around and then drawing a somewhat spiteful picture doesn’t make sense. The story lacks impact, also, as there isn’t the same history of animosity between Matron and Mam’zelle Rougier.

6. The Runaway

Ellen messes up taking a test and is so upset that she runs away. Meanwhile personal belongings are starting to go missing and Gwen’s acting oddly about it.

Ellen’s storyline has been patchy at best, rather than building slowly to this moment for her it has come in fits and starts. The start of the episode does show her waking up amongst her study materials, implying she’s over-doing it but it’s a bit late.

7. The Play

The Lady Jane Malory play is held, with Darrell ending up having to take the role of Highwayman Jack at the last minute. Gwen has to try to keep her lies/secrets from unravelling as her mother comes to see the play, and Mr Thomas (Georgina’s father) also attends and is possibly going to save the school by investing.

This is one of the better episodes due in large part to it heavily featuring Gwen and her mother, both parts being acted extremely well. Lots of intrigue starts to build up here with questions over Mr Thomas’ motivations and Gwen’s behaviour.

8. The Measles

Much of this episode takes place in the San. Georgina has the measles, Mr Parker is unwell but it turns out not to be the measles and Gwen has to quarantine in case she ahs measles.

With Mr Parker absent Sally is given responsibility for the class and struggles to exert her authority, while Gwen is able to discover that Mr Thomas plans to demolish Malory Towers. She also steals something belonging to Georgina, establishing that she taking on the role of thief in this series.

Although there are some fun scenes in this episode (Mr Parker laid up in the san for example) much of it doesn’t make sense. Why is Mr Parker in Matron’s bed? Why is Gwen quarantining right beside a confirmed measles case? Well, to further the plots obviously, but it makes it all look very silly. I found Gwen’s honourable behaviour rather out of character, too.

9. The Sneezing Trick

Stealing a plot from Third Form at Malory Towers, Alicia and Darrell play despite Sally being firmly against it. This sets up a lot of strife as the trick is discovered and Sally takes the blame and Darrell falls out with Alicia for not owning up. Meanwhile, Gwen continues to steal.

This sticks reasonably closely to the (wrong) book, but it’s just not as funny or well-done as it was with Miss Potts, Matron and Mam’zelle Dupont.

10. The School Trip

Gwen carries on stealing, though has an attack of conscience when she finds out how much sentimental value Mary-Lou’s item has for her. Darrell and Sally find a clue to the treasure and Miss Grayling reminisces about her childhood at Malory Towers.

This episode drags a bit as Mary-Lou spends rather a lot of time locked in a cupboard while Gwen runs around risking being caught by having all her stolen goods out in the open. The stuff about Miss Grayling’s childhood was nice but again, seemed freshly made up for this episode.

11. The  Quiz

Malory Towers is to host a quiz against boys from a school nearby. Alicia accuses Ellen of being the thief, and Darrell ‘proves’ it’s true by catching Ellen looking through Mr Parker’s desk in the night.

With Ellen excluded – or so they think – Irene join the quiz team and after an extremely rocky start the girls do win.

Despite trying to base events on the book this falls very flat. Ellen’s actions and motivations are bizarre and the girls’ behaviour during the quiz is just silly. I was very disappointed that Darrell and Sally weren’t stronger in defending Ellen against the first thieving accusation, in fact Darrell’s speech was horrible to watch. The highlight was watching Gwen trying to work out how Ellen was expelled for theft when it wasn’t her.

12. The Heroine

Gwen is desperate to post off her stolen goods and so Mary-Lou ends up taking them to the post office via the cliff path. As per the book she falls over the edge and is later rescued by the thief, aka Gwen.

This sticks as close to the book as it can given the change of the thief’s identity and the fact it was filmed on a sunny afternoon. Some of the drama is lost as the girls chat quite casually despite one of them hanging off a cliff, but overall it’s not a bad episode.

13. The Lost Treasure

Everything comes to a head in this, the final episode. Gwen’s parcel is found revealing her to be the thief, and so Ellen is exonerated amongst her peers. Darrell and Sally go searching for the Malory Treasure while Alicia and Gwen try to delay Miss Grayling from selling the school to Mr Thomas, and then Gwen has to face Miss Grayling – and her dorm mates – over her thieving.

Everything is neatly tied up in the end – as you’d except. I wished Mr Thomas had had more of a comeuppance but I’ll just have to enjoy the memory of him falling in the mud back in episode 7.


 The cast

There were a few changes this term, as shown below.

Returning girls –

Darrell Rivers ( Ella Bright) – continues to battle her temper and finding her place in the form between steady Sally and the wilder Alicia.

Alicia Johns (Zoey Siewart) – The main trick-player for the series Alicia is perhaps in the background more often than she was in series one, though she is key in accusing Ellen of theft.

Irene (Natasha Raphael) – Irene was again under-used in my opinion as she’s very funny when she does get screen time.

Sally Hope (Sienna Arif Knights) – Sally has a bigger role now that she’s not holding onto so many secrets. As head of form she comes up against Darrell and Alicia on several occasions. I think that Sienna Arif Knights was a more confident actress in this series compared to series one, and was able to convey more feeling behind Sally’s prim exterior.

Jean (Beth Bradfield) – Jean’s main role is as a friend to Ellen, and her staunch defender which was nice to see.

Mary-Lou (Imogen Lamb) – Mary-Lou’s character was fleshed out a little more, though deviating from the books, as she is the mystery caricaturist.

Gwendoline Mary Lacey (Danya Griver) – As in series one Danya Griver’s acting was superb and she steals almost every scene she is in. Her facial expressions continue to be wonderful and convey so much without her even having to open her mouth. I can’t say that I was the biggest fan of making Gwen the second form’s thief, but Danya Griver certainly carried it off well, her consistent, skilful acting making you forget when the plot didn’t entirely make sense.

The new girls –

 

Ellen Wilson (Carys John) – Ellen is the new scholarship girl who comes from a much poorer home than the other girls. She finds it difficult to fit in and feels like she isn’t keeping up with the rest of her form, not having studied the same subjects at her previous school. Her story culminates in her trying to steal the answers to the inter school quiz and being falsely accused of the thefts in the second form.

Georgina Thomas (Edie Whitehead) – Not new to the school, but new to our screens, Georgina is solely in charge of the play the second formers put on. She’s also the daughter of Mr Thomas though thankfully she manages to finish out her last year at the school without his actions effecting her.

The returning staff –

Mam’zelle Rougier (Genevieve Beaudet) – Mam’zelle returns to rule her French classes. She has a couple of minor storylines – the chalk and sneezing tricks are played on her, she doesn’t pass on Darrell’s concerns about Mr Thomas to Miss Grayling, and she and Mr Parker play their own trick on the girls after some song lyrics are mistaken for a love letter.

Matron (Ashley MacGuire) – After Gwen, Matron gets some of the best scenes in the series – none of it based on the books, but just lots of little moments peppered throughout the episodes. She gets soaked when the dorm ceiling falls in,  she battles herself over whether or not to eat the chocolate cake they’ve just baked, and so on. She’s very funny, and actually more likeable than in series one.

Miss Grayling (Birgitte Solem) – I swithered over whether to put Miss Grayling as returning or new, as the character returned but the actress did not. Miss Grayling still dishes out good advice but I thought she failed Ellen rather badly in not listening to her.

The new staff –

Mr Parker (Jason Callender) – With Miss Potts gone Mr Parker arrives to take over the form – for 9 of the 13 episodes, anyway. He is a strange teacher, struggling to exert his authority at the beginning before fading into the background or disappearing altogether later in the series. It is a shame that Jason Callender rarely got to shine as his character had moments of sensitivity with his pupils, and I liked the storyline about him being picked on by the boys at his old school, though unfortunately it never went anywhere.

Everyone else –

Ron the garden boy returns and is involved in a few important plots – the selling (and rebuying) of Gwen’s mother’s stolen brooch, and the finding of the treasure.

Mr Thomas, Georgina’s father, has been created for the series and first appears as a benevolent benefactor with the power to save the school. Then we discover that he is only in it for his own gain.

Mrs Lacey returns for an all too brief visit for the school play and is as aloof and wonderful as ever.

Felicity also turns up for the play along with the newly-created character of Mary-Lou’s granny.


My thoughts on the series

I definitely didn’t find this series as compelling as the first, hence me taking months and months to watch just 13 episodes.

But first, the good points –

The standard of the acting remained exceptionally high – I couldn’t fault a single moment of the acting from any of the cast, no matter how young or how little their role.

The costumes, locations, sets and so on were also excellent. Visually it’s all very beautiful and (to my millennial eyes) perfectly of the period.

There were some really humorous moments woven in, and I commend the script writers and the actors for doing that so well. They never felt like filler material, but they brought uplifting moments that slotted nicely in-between slightly heavier or even just serious scenes.

And now for the bad –

I was really disappointed to not get Daphne or Belinda. As two girls left the dorm it’s a real shame we couldn’t have either girl and both their storylines were given to other girls. It was rather square peg in a round hole for both, but Danya Griver and Imogen Lamb acted it all very well and made it as believable as possible.

Both Ellen and Mr Parker had potentially interesting storylines (one from the book and one made up, of course) so I was frustrated that neither of them got the time to really explore that. Ellen seemed to get forgotten about rather a lot, and would then come out of nowhere with a rant or argument. Her storyline was cut in half, with what seemed like a resolution to her problems, then later being accused of theft and deciding to steal the quiz answers. It would have been much better to stick to the book and have one big bang for her with the accusation(s) and cheating at the exam. I can see how that would have reduced her screen-time, however, as Ellen is very much in the background of the book until the end.

As for Mr Parker, he had lots of small moments that didn’t really build to anything. We saw he had a teddy in episode one, that was never mentioned again. He did struggle to exert his authority in a few early episodes, but we never really got to see him bloom into a confident or capable teacher after that, except for perhaps his sensitive chat with Ellen in the san. He is missing entirely for four episodes, and his role in many episodes was reduced to a minor background plot such as playing the love letter trick on the girls or them thinking he was proposing to Matron. I feel like they didn’t really know what to do with him.

The treasure hunting story also suffered from a lot of stop-starting and getting forgotten about. I know the ghost story was similar but that just seemed to work better. It was also patently obvious – even for those who hadn’t read the book surely – that the treasure buried under the cross on the cliff would, after the cliff had crumbled, be likely to still be in the vicinity. Or at least that would be a good place to start looking!

I will caveat some of that with two things – I had long gaps between watching episodes (I watched two at a time until the last three which I did at once) so that may have exacerbated my feelings on the rhythm of the plots. I also realise that I am basing perhaps too much of my opinions on the books. Book Gwen isn’t the same as TV Gwen, so when I’m saying Gwen wouldn’t do that, what I mean is that book Gwen wouldn’t have. My issue is that they’ve changed the character rather than her acting out of character.


Just a last note to say thanks to everyone who’s commented on my reviews of this series, lots of interesting points have been raised and they’ve definitely given me more to think about when watching this adaptation. It’s always interesting to see what others have taken from watching it.

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Monday #502

My first Christmas post of the year went up last week. There may be more yet, there may not, as I might have exhausted the Blyton Christmas material that I have! While I figure that one out I have come up with other posts in the mean time.

Malory Towers on TV: A series two overview

and

Enid Blyton references in other works of fiction part 2

Ronnie, Susie and George were all feeling very sad. Not so much because they were going back to their boarding-schools in a few days, but because when they next broke up for the holidays, their lovely home, Grey Towers, would belong to someone else!

Why can’t we keep it for ourselves?” asked Susie. “Mother, it’s been our home, and Daddy’s home, and Grandpa’s home, and even Great-Grandpa’s home! Why have we got to leave? It ought to be our home too!”

“Well, dear, we’re poor now,” said her mother. “We can’t afford to keep up a big place like this, even though it has belonged to us for three hundred years! Our family used to be rich, you know, in your great-great-grandfather’s time. But then he offended a friend of the king of that day and he was stripped of all his money and the famous family jewels.”

All of them?” said Ronnie, who had heard this story before. “I thought, Mother, that great-great-grandpa hid some of his treasure.”

This is the beginning of Smuggler’s Cave, originally published in the Evening Express in 1945 it was then used in The Enid Blyton Treasury in 1947. The premise of the story will be familiar if you’ve read The Treasure Hunters (1940), but has elements also seen in The Rockingdown Mystery, The Secret of Spiggy Holes and many other Blyton stories.

 

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2022 Christmas gift guide

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is still reasonably far off, but close enough to want to make a start on getting organised. I’ve only bought a few things so far, but that’s better than nothing!

I know I say (or write it) every year but it gets harder to do this list every year! Certainly the past few years there hasn’t been much in the way of new merchandise or anything to suggest. But I’ve found various things and quite a mix of stuff for this year.

Many things from my lists in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 will still be available too.


Beginning with the books

Well, it wouldn’t be an Enid Blyton gift-guide without some books!

There is of course the Jacqueline Wilson continuation of the Faraway Tree series (I have a review of it here).

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure £10.99, from Waterstones

Hodder have released three new short story collections – Stories of Wonders and Wishes, Stories of Mischief Makers and Stories for Bedtime.

Stories of Wonders and Wishes £7.99, Stories of Mischief Makers £7.99, and Stories for Bedtime £7.99, all from Waterstones (£1 dearer than the previous years’ books!)

There is also a new Enchanted Library series for younger readers. There appear to be ten so far, all picture-books, each with three stories inside.

Stories of Animal Secrets
Stories of Nature’s Treasures
Stories of Favourite Friends
Stories of Dreamy Adventures
Stories for All Seasons
Stories of Starry Nights
Stories of Fairy Fun
Stories of Woodland Adventures
Stories for Cosy Days
Stories of Tasty Treats

Stories of Fairy Fun £5.99, Stories of Starry Nights £5.99 and Stories of Cosy Days £5.99, all from Waterstones

There has been a new release of the Adventure Series books with covers based on Stuart Tresilian’s work (iconic, retro covers as they are being advertised), though sadly they appear not to be illustrated internally.

The Island of Adventure £6.99, The Castle of Adventure £6.99 and The Valley of Adventure £6.99, all from Waterstones.

Also out this year is a new edition of Bunny’s First Christmas. There’s was 1993 Parragon version of this, with the story being taken from the Christmas 1954 issue of Enid Blyton’s Magazine.

Bunny’s First Christmas – Paperback £6.99, and Hardback £12.99, both from Waterstones.

Lastly, Zoe Billings – 1970s series superfan turned author – had her second book out this year which is perfect for fans of Blyton.

The Secret of Flittermouse Cliffs £6.99, Waterstones


Handmade gifts

While we may be lacking in official merchandise at the moment fans of Blyton are keeping us going with hand-made items.

Over on Etsy there is actually quite a lot of nice stuff. There are the usual second-hand books, pieces of fabric, and a lot of packs of loose pages from books (not very good value, you’d be better buying a tatty book and taking the pages out of it if you can bear to do such a thing) but there are also quite a few hand-made items.

I quite like the dolls’ house miniatures you can get. Even if you don’t have a dolls’ house, these tiny versions of the real books are super cute. I’d put them on a dolls-sized shelf and put them beside the real books on my real shelves.

8 Famous Five books £8.95, 4 Round the Year books £5.45, both from Landauhouse on Etsy.

CherishbyNicola who I bought my Noddy Christmas tree decorations from a few years ago still has several Noddy items in her Etsy shop while MyOldToyShop has some nice Noddy fridge magnets and pocket mirrors.

Bookmark £7.50 from CherishbyNicola, magnet £2.90, and pocket mirror £4.90 from MyOldToyShop

If you’ve got a big budget then ElfKendalFairies has several felted Faraway Tree characters back in stock. They’re only £75-85 each! At the moment there is Dame Slap, the Saucepan Man, Moon-Face, Mr Whatshisname, Silky, the Angry Pixie and Dame Washalot.

The Saucepan Man £85, Dame Washalot £75 and Silky £85, all from ElfKendalFairies


DVDs

The only new DVDs out are from the Malory Towers TV series. All three series are now out on DVD – in the UK, anyway. I have seen one and two on Amazon abroad.

Series one £9.99, series two £9.99, and series three £12.99 all from Amazon


And lastly…

I almost missed this one. I’ve bought a wallet from Yoshi Goods before and I like their book-themed handbags and purses so I always look when they release a new collection. It wasn’t until I looked again at the gardening book collection that I noticed they’d snuck an Enid Blyton book in!

There are several items in the ‘Green Fingers’ collection but only three have the Blyton book.

Cross body bag £59, Hudson purse £39 and Oxford purse £33, all Yoshi Goods.


Happy shopping!

Posted in Purchases, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Malory Towers on TV series two – Episode thirteen

Series three has been online for some time now, but here I am just getting to the end of series two. I don’t think that I’ve made any secret that I haven’t found this series as compelling as the first, but I will save my thoughts on the series as a whole for another post.


The Lost Treasure

All of a sudden it is the very last day of term, and Miss Grayling announces that she is selling Malory Towers – Mr Thomas is arriving at 11 to sign the contract and then the school will be knocked down. Oddly she only announces this to Darrell’s class who already know the plans for the school. Perhaps she goes class to class telling them one at a time – but it just highlights the tiny cast they have to work with most of the time.

She also brings up the issue of the thefts, admitting she has let the girls down with the school but they’ve also let her down with those. Wow she’s really packing in a lot for a last day of term speech. A bit like Voldemort generally waiting until the end of the school year to attack Harry. Miss Grayling demands the thief own up – if only she’d looked at Gwen at that moment she’d have seen the conflicting emotions on her face and known something was up. But she doesn’t, leaving Gwen to escape (for now). She does go up to Miss Grayling’s door later to confess but she chickens out.

The other girls, although disheartened, decide to go for a swim as it’s their last chance. I was muttering at the TV at this point reminding them that they have an 11am deadline to save the school!

Thank god for Ron the gardener’s boy who brings along Georgina’s mirror and Alicia’s pen which he’s found on the beach.

Darrell and Sally go back along the beach with him and find a necklace and the rest of Gwen’s parcel.

Why would our stolen things be in Gwen’s parcel to her mother?

As the viewer of course we know exactly why. In the books the reader doesn’t know and we get to make the same leap of logic as the girls do – though they ruminate for a while about how Daphne got hold of the things they are so sure Ellen stole. Having seen Gwen do all the thieving on screen it makes Sally’s question seem that little bit more stupid.

On screen they go to tackle Gwen having presumably figured it out, whereas in the book they go to Miss Grayling. Gwen – rather unbelievably even for her – denies being the thief. When the girls press her she comes up with one of the worst excuses ever –

I acquired them yes, but I didn’t steal. I planned to give them back to you.

If that was even remotely true she would have slipped the stolen things back into the owner’s trunks or drawers, or left them somewhere they’d be found like she did with Mary-Lou’s coin.

That aside, she also denies knowing about the necklace they found – which turns out to have Lady Jane Malory’s picture inside. Darrell and Sally rush off to check the inventory (I love Gwen’s eager statement about it being something they should definitely check out – hoping to distract them!) and only Alicia remembers about Gwen, dragging her along to confess.

Miss Grayling is nowhere to be found but they confirm the necklace came from the treasure and make their plan. Darrell and Sally are to go looking for the rest of the treasure while Alicia and Gwen are to stall Miss Grayling to stop her signing the sale papers.

For a minute it’s as if they’ve all forgotten about Gwen’s thefts as she says she’s never wheedled in her life and they all burst out laughing. I mean they are of course happy that they are on the track of the treasure and could save the school, but Gwen has not only stolen from just about every girl in their dorm but also let another take the blame. Surely it’s too soon for them to be so friendly?

On the beach Darrell and Sally find a big heavy wooden box which has somehow tumbled from the cliff and travelled twenty or more feet away from the cliff across the sand to land amongst the rocks. I think it would have been much better if it was still sticking in the cliff a short way up and Mary-Lou’s scrabbling around had uncovered it, causing the necklace to fall from a rotten corner of the wood.

In a nice Blytonian twist the seemingly empty box has a false bottom which opens to reveal some rather cheap-looking costume jewellery. Interestingly it is Ron who finds the false bottom after Sally and Darrell turn to walk way, making him the true hero of the story!

They rush back to the school where Mr Thomas remarks that Someone’s raided the costume trunk – only in his fictional world it’s valuable stuff. They have made it just in time, and prevent Miss Grayling from signing the contract. Sadly she doesn’t exactly tell Mr Thomas where to stuff it in the way I’d have liked her to, she’s too polite for that. I know he’s not a true villain – he hasn’t really schemed or plotted to force Miss Grayling into selling but he’s not a nice character and I wish he’d gotten worse than “I’ve changed my mind… I apologise with all my heart.” She even offers to pay all his legal bills!

And finally Gwen gets her comeuppance – or does she? I’ve said all along that making it Gwen is a problematic choice. Miss Grayling gives her a serious talk – though I feel like her serious thief voice is the same as her serious voice for cheating at a quiz, and I know which one that I think is far worse.

She asks Gwen if she has the qualities needed to be a Malory Towers girl, to which I shouted NO at the screen. Gwen says sometimes, like when she rescued Mary-Lou. It’s hard to watch as Gwen is so upset – admitting that she doesn’t belong there and isn’t really a Malory Towers girl. Danya Griver’s acting is really the only thing that keeps this plot from being a total disaster.

Miss Grayling says she would like to give Gwen a second chance but then drops the bombshell – It must be in the hands of your form.

Oh no says Gwen.

Of course we know what the outcome has to be, as we know that Gwen is a main character who is in all the rest of the books. I just find it harder to believe that they would forgive Gwen than Daphne. Daphne obviously has problems as she has stolen before but you can believe that a real fresh start could work for her. Gwen, on the other hand, has stolen, lied, played dirty tricks and engineered others to take the blame and so on.

The thing is that Gwen’s story really isn’t all that sympathy inducing. It boils down to having no pocket money and nobody liking her. She has no pocket money as she’s disappointed her father with her poor school results and she has no friends as she’s been awful to everyone! It’s not as if she’s truly deprived, either. She has plenty of nice things to begin with and half the things she has taken aren’t ‘nice’ either – Darrell’s hanky, a pen, a sewing kit. Even the nicer things she took aren’t the sort of things she’d be likely to buy with her pocket money. If she’d been stealing sweets I’d have understood!

The girls are, of course, the most decent sort. They are kind to a fault, asking Gwen to explain why she did it, saying they’d have helped her out if she’d told them her pocket money was stopped. And of course they give Gwen her second (or rather third, or fourth?) chance, so we know she will be back. Only time will tell if she comes back as bad as ever or if she has learned from this year.

The random sub-plot of this episode is the girls thinking that Mr Parker and Matron are getting married. They overhear him mentioning ‘popping the question’ and using the chapel, and later he’s seen kneeling on the floor in front of her.

Of course it’s all a misunderstanding – he was talking about his girlfriend who we see at the end of term as he leaves for a new job, and he was looking for Ellen’s cat under the furniture.

A couple of additional points that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Mr Thomas flounces off and takes Georgina with him, carrying just her over-night case. I wonder if he will have to come down off his high-horse to arrange her trunk to be collected or delivered later. (It wasn’t going to fit in his sporty little car anyway, so maybe that was already arranged.)

There’s a nice little scene with Matron in the garden and she has a blanket over her lap. Is the school closing mid-year or is it just a very cold July? Also, surely she should be busy handing back the girls health certificates and making sure everyone packs and takes all their belongings etc.

At one point Ellen and Jean say they must find the cat and run into the bathroom just off their dorm. It seemed as if they were running through there to get elsewhere but the door out of the dorm is not in the bathroom, and the cat has never been brought up into the dorm.

Lastly, Alicia tells them that she has been given a trial for a Canadian skating team so she won’t be back for a year. I had heard that the actress didn’t return for series 3 so this is how she is written out, obviously, though it seems to be leaving the door open for her to return in the future.

 

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Monday #501

Two weeks ago I marked ten years of the blog. Then I came down with tonsillitis (very florid tonsillitis according to my doctor…) and wasn’t up to doing much of anything for a week. Not a great start to my 11th year of blogging, but never mind. After a course of antibiotics I’m back on my feet and writing again.

Malory Towers on TV series two, episode 13

and

2022 Christmas gift guide

I telephoned Imogen Smallwood and discussed my hopes with her. Imogen gave me Barbara [Stoney]’s address and suggested I write to her.

Normal Wright remembers how he organised the first Enid Blyton Day in the Enid Blyton Society Journal #79. I envy the casualness in the way he says he telephoned Enid’s daughter!

 

 

 

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Ten years of World of Blyton

I find it hard to believe but World of Blyton was born ten years ago today! I remember Stef and I sitting in my bedroom at my parents’ house brainstorming ideas, and then blog names and writing our first post. It’s funny to think that the kids that first suggested a newsletter or blog of some kind and inspired us to start this are now all grown ups!

There have been some changes along the way – the biggest being that in 2018 Stef stepped away from the blog and I’ve carried it on by myself. In that time I upgraded to a proper domain (so WordPress isn’t in the web address any more) and have added more storage for all the photos I add.

The last few years have seen a big increase in visitors. I’d like to think that’s down to me learning and getting better as I go on but in reality if you look at the visitor stats they almost doubled between April 2020 and June 2020. And what happened then? Significant parts of the world went into lockdown so people were bored at home and perhaps feeling nostalgic. But in saying that – people are still coming back so I must be doing something right.


Some stats

I haven’t been checking the stats page as frequently as I used to – so I was glad yesterday that I could see that visits are still increasing. I also realised for the first time that the blog’s had over a million hits!

I’m terrible at maths but I reckon the average post must be about 1,000 words (Monday posts are only a few hundred at most but I balance that out by going on for 2-3,000 words at other times…) so the blog is roughly 1.7 million words at this point.

With the average adult novel being between 70,000 and 120,000 words that means this blog is between 14 and 24 novels long. Perhaps I should have gone into book writing…

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October 2022 round up


What I have read

I reached 100 books in September but of course I kept on reading. I haven’t updated my goal yet, but I may still do. Currently I’m at 109/100.

What I have read:

  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – Roald Dahl
  • Lessons (Maggie Adair #3) – Jenny Colgan
  • Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys – Mary Gibson
  • The Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles #1) – Elizabeth Jane Howard
  • True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop (Lonely Hears Bookshop #2) – Annie Darling
  • Balancing ACT: The Authorised Biography of Angela Lansbury – Martin Gottfried
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl

And I’m still working on:

  • The Dead Girls’ Dance (Morganville Vampires #2) – Rachel Caine
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • The Witches – Roald Dahl
  • Monarchy – David Starkey


What I have watched

  • I finished up The Crown earlier this month – only a week or so to go until the next series is out! I also finished Red Dwarf -including the most recent stuff which I’ve only seen once before. As there are about ten series of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces I’m still working my way through that.
  • I finally finished Malory Towers series 2 and reviewed episodes 11&12.
  • We also finished Rings of Power and She-Hulk
  • Only Connect and Taskmaster have been on weekly and House of Games several times a week.
  • On Tuesday nights I watched Hocus Pocus 1 & 2 and 17 Again with my sister.
  • With Brodie it was Ghostbusters 3, as he’d already seen it he was desperate to tell me what was happening and what was going to happen. We also watched Avengers Assemble, which was his first time seeing it. When he wasn’t well at the start of the holidays I persuaded him to watch the Wallace and Grommet short films – A Grand Day Out, A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers.
  • Having finished so many TV series I’ve been sticking on a film before bed most nights and have watched He’s All That, plus the original She’s All That, the remake of Footloose and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

What I have done

  • We started off the month with our walk to the lighthouses and one of our favourite beaches
  • We visited the Transport Museum for Military Vehicle Day (and to see the James Bond Land Rover), and again the day after for a Lego Car racing workshop.
  • Brodie and I had a woodland walk in Perthshire with my parents and we found several geocaches
  • In the holidays we visited Fife Zoo where Brodie got up close with the lemurs, got mugged by swans at the reservoir next door to the zoo, visited the Science Centre, did the Halloween trail at a country park (and fed hoards of ducks), went to the Deer Centre where we picked our pumpkin and went to the local wildlife park.
  • We decorated for Halloween including repurposing a rather soft gingerbread house which had been sitting in the kitchen since December as a haunted house.
  • I borrowed a few more jigsaws from my mum and started with the sweet shop.


What I have bought

I added three magazines to my collection, so I’ve only got 8 more to find.

Also, and totally un-related to Blyton I treated myself to a new phone. It’s not the latest model (in fact it’s two models behind!) but it means I’m not having to charge it all the time and it has various new (to me) features.

How was your November?

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Monday #499

It’s the last Monday, and the last day, of October. That means firstly it’s Halloween today, and that the clocks went back yesterday morning. I’m writing this rather later than usual – at half past five – and it’s already pitch black outside.

October round up

and

Ten years of World of Blyton

I’ve already used this in my review of the latest episodes of Malory Towers on TV but it’s so good I thought it bore repeating.

May the best man win.
Shame you’re just a boy, then.

I love Darrell’s come back against the over confident boys’ team captain. As they walked in they were muttering to each other how this was going to be easy seeing as it was against girls. It would have been nice if the girls had been strong opponents from the start instead of waiting for halfway through to stage a comeback, but they won in the end which is what’s important.

 

 

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Malory Towers on TV series two – Episodes eleven and twelve

I think it’s obvious that I haven’t gotten as into this series as I did the first – hence the sporadic posts with lengthy gaps between. I did sit down and watch the final three episodes of the series earlier this week, though. I had only planned to watch two but found myself wanting to see what came next, a first for this series I think.


Episode eleven – the quiz

My memory is hazy as it’s been a while since I watched episode 10, but I seem to recall Mr Parker being absent for a while. He’s back now, and scolds Ellen for being late to the class – yet half the class is missing anyway. He wants to pick a captain for a quiz team as they are to compete against a nearby boys’ school – Thackerton College.

Naturally Darrell is captain with the other members being Alicia, Jean and Ellen. Gwen is in the background and it’s funny watching her face as she honestly looks as if she’s expecting to get picked.

Ellen is keen to start studying and revising for the quiz right away but as Alicia asks how do you practice a quiz? Darrell suggests they revise capital cities and highest mountains etc. Irene brings up Gregorian chants and surprises them all by talking about them in knowledgeable detail. At this point I made a bet to myself that Gregorian chants would come up in the quiz and either the girls would lament not having Irene on the team or would have remembered something she told them before they cut her off.

Alicia then heaps more difficulties on Ellen – telling the others that she thinks Ellen is the thief. This does happen in the book as well. Strangely, Darrell thinks her diary can provide evidence for or against. Apparently she writes down everything she has done every day, along with everyone else who was there and what they were doing. At the time one of the things was stolen she has recorded that they went swimming and Ellen came late, only putting her feet in. I find that all a bit far-fetched. I know Darrell is a writer (her word-blindness having apparently resolved itself after first year as it has never been mentioned again) and would write a lot, but she’s got other hobbies and interests beyond recording the whereabouts of her entire dorm every minute of the day. They actually have no evidence against Ellen – other than her being poorer than the other girls and often going off on her own. At least book Ellen had been seen looking in drawers (for exam papers).

Ellen doesn’t get know about the accusation so she is more concerned with the quiz. She begs Mr Parker to let her off the team, but he refuses as he has a personal grudge and wants them to thrash the Thackerton team.

Sally forbids Alicia from doing anything about Ellen until she herself as looked into it. I thought it odd that Alicia just accepted that so easily, but then suspected she was just appeasing Sally. I was spot on as Alicia then accuses Ellen to her face later.

I was sorry that Darrell didn’t do a better job of defending Ellen, she just said a few things about her being innocent until proved guilty, and she was part of the team for now implying she expected Ellen to be proven guilty soon.

Ellen goes straight to Miss Grayling (who seems rather more accessible than in the books – I doubt any of the book girls would go banging on her door unexpectedly) but only asks to get out of being on the quiz team. Miss Grayling – not knowing the whole story – asks Ellen to sleep on it.

Returning to something that actually resembles the book again, Ellen sneaks off in the night and Darrell (lying unnaturally flat on her back) wakes up and follows her. She finds her looking in Mr Parker’s drawer and accuses her of being a thief. She demands Ellen turn herself in to Miss Grayling or Darrell will do it herself.

There’s no physical fight as in the book, nor does Darrell discover that it’s answers Ellen is after. Ellen’s headaches are also not part of the plot now. Book Ellen goes to bed but then to the San because of her headache. TV Ellen goes to Miss Grayling’s study, but bumps into Mr Parker who I assume is returning from an evening out as he’s all dressed up (it’s the middle of the night according to him, though!) and he packs Ellen off to Matron as clearly a crying girl must be dealt with by a woman.

The quiz goes ahead without Ellen – to everyone’s surprise Irene gets her place instead. Mr Parker (in a swish set of teaching robes) reads the questions. The Thackerton boys call him Old Nosey Parker – a nod to the girls’ name for the original Miss Parker.

The lead of the boys’ team is arrogant enough to say may the best man win to Darrell who responds excellently with shame you’re just a boy then. Unfortunately the girls are atrocious. I didn’t expect them to know every answer but very quickly they are 14-0 down. Not only do they not know the answers most of the time but are incapable of the simple task of ringing their bell before answering. If they do answer the fail to ring the bell (thus awarding a penalty point to the opposition) and the one time Darrel rings first, she rings two words into the question – how many – so has no chance of getting it right. They are definitely rattled by what has happened with Ellen – they think she’s been expelled as she has disappeared from the dorm so I suppose they should get some leeway but it’s really embarrassing.

We skip a lot of the quiz, but we see Darrell finally answering one right, then Irene messing up a question. The score jumps to 38-19 without us seeing them get more than one right, so heaven knows how they managed to pull that off.

They take a half-time break and Darrell tells the team that only she will ring the bell after they have conferred on each answer (ala University Challenge). Is that going to be enough? Apparently yes as suddenly they seem to know every single answer.

The score then is 63 all. There’s one more question (127 questions seems a random number though). It’s about… Gregorian chants! I was awaiting Irene getting a moment of glory but she goes all vague and forgetful, thankfully the others did listen to her before and are able to come up with the answer, giving them the win.

There isn’t a lot of Gwen in this episode but she does become relevant towards the end of the episode. Of course she knows as well as the audience that she in fact is the thief and not Ellen. You can see she is clearly relieved that someone else is taking the blame for what she’s done and she just sits back and keeps her mouth shut – this is possibly some of the worst Gwen behaviour we’ve ever seen. Her performance in the first book/series trying to get Darrell in trouble for smashing a pen etc is awful, but imagine letting a girl get expelled because she’s been accused of your crimes?

I have to say Ellen’s storyline doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. We began with the overworked girl, afraid of falling behind, being snappy and so on, like the book, then most of that got forgotten after she spent a few days in the San. Then it has been resurrected in the form of the quiz storyline which lacks the same sense of fear and urgency of the original. Book Ellen is terrified of getting bad grades and losing her scholarship. TV Ellen is worried about doing badly in a quiz, a ‘fun’ event which has no bearing on her end of year results or scholarship – though it might mean the other girls giving her a hard time. Stealing the quiz answers seems a step too far even for Ellen, but in trying to make her storyline last 12 episodes they’ve had to stretch it out and add padding. I think it would have worked better to have the quiz in the first half of the series, with her being stressed about it and perhaps ending up in the San, then that way she could have still tried to steal the exam results in this episode.


Episode twelve – the heroine

We begin with the aftermath of what the girl’s think is Ellen’s expulsion. Sally wants to search Ellen’s trunk which is still at the end of her bed (a clue that Ellen is still in the building and isn’t being considered a thief, surely!).

Sally is unusually insensitive and wonders why Ellen’s taken all her stuff, Jean tells her she hasn’t taken anything, what’s in her trunk is all she has. I was actually relieved that Gwen hadn’t put the stolen items in Ellen’s trunk as I could totally see her doing that.

Instead she’s sticking with the book and trying to put the stuff into an envelope which is clearly far too small leading to it bursting. We all know where this is going. On their way to class she asks Mary-Lou for paper and string, asking her to leave them on her bed. She will need to borrow some money for postage, so she goes off somewhere that isn’t class.

In the next scene (after the opening credits) Matron is shown collecting for an orphanage, and Gwen is looking at the collection with a total there’s my solution expression on her face. The others from her class are there too, but it feels like this scene should have gone before the previous one, with Gwen then sneaking off to try to steal some of the charity money – Matron finds a ten shilling note missing later.

Mary-Lou is desperate to help Gwen throughout – this seems rather less likely than it did in the book with the charming (and non-spiteful) Daphne. It leads to her addressing the parcel to Gwen’s mother – a supposed birthday present to her – and going off along the cliff path to post it as Gwen has a ‘report’ with Mam’zelle. Mam’zelle actually comes to the dorm to collect her which seems very unlikely. Surely Mam’zelle would just send one of the girls to fetch her? In another odd moment Matron tells Sally there’s a thief and asks her to hunt her out – not at all professional even for Matron.

Instead of a blustery late afternoon with impending darkness, this is a warm summer’s day so it is already less dramatic. In the book we don’t see what happens to Mary-Lou on her walk, we only find her halfway down the cliff when Daphne goes looking for her. On TV we get to see her trip over nothing, sending the package flying over the edge, and Mary-Lou then leaning over the edge to see it. The actual fall isn’t shown.

Gwen goes after her and finds her about three feet down the cliff, holding on to the package and they have a nice chat before Mary-Lou tries to hand her the parcel. It’s a bit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Elsa’s in the cracked floor and trying to get the grail, and the parcel goes the way of the grail tumbling down. They have another little chat about that before Gwen puts her hand down for Mary-Lou. The dialogue rather spoils what would otherwise be fairly tense – surely I can’t have been the only one shouting stop talking and start rescuing at the TV?

They’re about two or three inches too far apart, and only now does Mary-Lou appear truly frightened. (This is sort of akin to the Titanic where you are half-convinced Jack could get on the door with Rose, it feels like they could just put a little bit more effort in and reach each other).  Instead Gwen runs for the seemingly superfluous rope on a nearby gate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt we can say the latch on the gate is broken – but the rope there is about ten times the length needed to hold it closed, and is more the length needed to rescue someone from a cliff… Mind you I noticed the rope earlier and thought it weird, not thinking at all that without her mackintosh on Gwen would need something for the rescue.

In the book it’s all very dramatic and dangerous. Daphne wraps her legs around a gorse bush and lowers her mackintosh belt tied to her tunic belt and just has to hold on as she can’t pull Mary-Lou up.

Gwen has a handy warning sign to tie her heavy-duty rope to, and then lets that down for Mary-Lou. It even has a nice loop at the end to hold on to, but as Mary-Lou only uses one hand to grab it, she doesn’t have the grip to get pulled up (though Gwen isn’t strong enough to lift her anyway). When Darrell arrives she takes hold of the rope too – Gwen is anxious as her hands are slipping even though the rope’s tied around the sign too. After that Matron and Mr Parker arrive (still in broad daylight) and get Mary-Lou up. Though they also pause for several lines of dialogue before doing anything, which although amusing spoils the tension that’s built up.

I can understand how modern safety rules combined with a limited budget for special effects would mean the original cliff rescue might not be possible, but they could at least have had Mary-Lou a bit further down the cliff. Then it’s back to her dorm – not even the San, though I suppose she’s not cold and wet like Daphne was.

Talking of the San that’s where Ellen is, having had a visit from Miss Grayling. Her illness is being put down to attacks of the nerves or what we’d call panic attacks. This adds some more realistic reasoning behind Ellen’s behaviours but it’s a pity it wasn’t more obvious at the time.

Miss Grayling is understandably quite hard on her but I came away from it thinking that cheating at a quiz is not the same as cheating at tests or exams. Cheating at a quiz is definitely wrong, but there was no reward or prize for winning. Cheating at an exam would have meant an undeserved mark and all the ongoing benefits of having passed the exam.

We end on it being the last day of term and my guess is the girls go to retrieve the fallen package and it reveals the true thief (as in the book), but also find the treasure as the cliff was the same bit where the cross had once stood.

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Letters to Enid 25: From volume 2 issue 13

Previous letters pages can be found here.


         Letters page from Volume 2, issue 13.          June 23rd – July 6, 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from the “Famous Five,” c/o Jennifer Cloy, Station House, Glenluce, Wigtownshire.
Dear Miss Blyton,
At our Sale we sold candy, lemonade and cake, and a lot of our old toys, books and games. All the children from our classes at school came to buy things. There are five of us and so we call ourselves “The Famous Five”. We arranged the Sale and sold all the things ourselves. We hope to have a Fete in the summer too, for the Sunshine Homes.
Yours sincerely
Jennifer Cloy.

(Splendid, Famous Five! Julian, Dick, Anne George and Timmy couldn’t have done better!)

2. A letter from Jose Greenwood, Kingsthorpe, Victoria Road, Stamford.
Dear Enid Blyton,
In the summer Mummy bought me a clock golf set, and I set it out on the lawn. I invited all my friends and I charged them 1/2d a round. We called it the “Kingsthorpe Golf Club” and I made two shillings which I am sending to you for your Blind Children. We are soon going to open the Club again.
Yours sincerely,
Jose Greenwood
(Sunbeam)

(What a marvellous idea, Jose! I shall come and have a 1/2d round if ever I am in Stamford!)

3. A letter from Jeanette Blyth, 49 Dene Lane, Fulwell, Sunderland
Dear Enid Blyton,
The other day my Mummy put a mat out on the lawn. It had only been there a few minutes when a lot of little sparrows came down. I watched, very still – then they all began to pull at the mat and got little fluffy bits of wool. You would have laughed to see them pulling and pulling at the mat. Then they flew away with the bits of wool to make their nests.
Love from
Jeanette Blyth

(A most interesting letter, Jeanette. What fun you must have had!)


So this week the top two letters are money-raising ones. I’ve mentioned my cynicism before and continue to wonder if those sorts of letters were frequently chosen in order to encourage more children to fundraise.

We also have a letter from a boy – which continues to be uncommon. I had to Google ‘clock golf’ which turns out to be a putting game where players putt a golf ball from each in turn of 12 numbered points arranged in a circle to a single hole placed within the circle. You can add obstacles and the hole can be placed anywhere in the circle, it doesn’t have to be dead centre.

I admit I do like Jeanette’s letter – it perfectly encompasses the way that children were so keen to share often trivial stories with Blyton. Of course Blyton was interested in nature and probably enjoyed the letter but it’s one of those little occurrences that isn’t normally worth the price of a stamp!


 

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Monday #498

Every week I have to check what number of Monday I am on. This week, it struck me that almost 500 Mondays, divided by 52 makes nearly 10 years. Checking the earliest post on the blog confirmed the maths – it will be ten years on November 11.

The mathematicians amongst you may be thinking that ten years with 52 Mondays a year is 520 Monday posts. I did try to start numbering the Mondays (at #189 I think) to match the number of weeks the blog had been running, and then to always keep that number consistent even if I missed posting on Monday… but something somewhere (or several somewheres) has gone a bit wrong and I appear to be about 18 out.

But whether or not I’ve counted all the Mondays correctly, they have still passed and the blog will be ten years old soon. I’ll have to think about how to mark that!

Letters to Enid #25

and

Malory Towers on TV series 2, episodes 11 and 12

Topping & Company – a lovely bookstore in St Andrews which not only has rolling ladders, hundreds and hundreds of books, free hot drinks while you browse but also a decent selection of Enid Blytons. There are Topping & Co shops in Edinburgh, Bath and Cambridge, too. I don’t often buy anything in there as I generally don’t buy many brand-new books, but I do like to look!

 

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Blyton for grown-ups: Rules and Lessons by Jenny Colgan

I recommended the first in this series – Class – recently, and having read the other two in the series I thought I’d just write a little bit about those as well.


Class

A quick reminder of Class – Maggie Adair, a Glaswegian teacher, takes a job at Downey House which very much resembles Malory Towers. She has to contend with the posh girls she teaches, her crush on the English teacher at the nearby boys’ school and trying to keep her relationship with Stan (who’s still in Glasgow) going.


Rules

Each book in the series covers a full school year so Rules begins at the start of the autumn term with the girls from book one moving into the next form. (This is one thing that’s less Blyton-ish, but it’s also much less confusing!)

With the thief having left the at the summer holidays, there’s an empty space in Alice, Felicity and Simone’s dorm. This is quickly filled by Zelda Towrell, an American girl. Zelda is possibly even ‘cooler’ than Alice, being American. She rather looks down on the quaint English boarding school, in fact. If she sounds a bit familiar, then that’s no surprise as she’s very like Zerelda Brass from Third Year at Malory Towers. Zelda doesn’t quite stand out the way Zerelda does, as the Downey girls do wear makeup and style their hair but she is still a bit different from the others, a little more OTT perhaps.

She has more sway over her dorm-mates than Zerelda does too, and encourages them to get into trouble leading to Alice being moved to another dorm.

Felicity has her own problems through the year, while Simone begins an awkward relationship with a boy from Downey Boys.

Maggie and Stan are set to get married, even though we the readers can see that this isn’t what she really wants and isn’t what’s right for her, and it isn’t until the very end of the book that David throws himself under the bus (or rather, at a train) and declares his love for her…


Lessons

Perhaps not surprisingly as the series is supposed to be six books long we do not see Maggie and David together at the start of the new term.

In fact, they are further apart than ever. David ends up at a rough comprehensive – mirroring Maggie’s original background, while Maggie is still at Downey Girls. The two are banned from seeing, calling or emailing each other. Despite being two educated professionals they don’t find the loophole in that until near the end of the book when it doesn’t really matter anyway.

With Zelda having left already that means there is space in the dorm for another new girl (and Alice is back). Our new girl this time (I wonder if every year will have a different fourth girl) is another scholarship girl, but one that doesn’t particularly like the school.

She brings a storyline reminiscent of the poison pen letters in Malory Towers, only with this being the 21st century it is online trolling. Just like in Malory Towers the guilty party is really rather unexpected. I thought I had worked it out but nope, it wasn’t who I thought it was!

A word of warning – this book ends of a cliff hanger and as yet there doesn’t seem to be any sign of book #4 in the series!


I noted a few Blyton-like inconsistencies with the numbers last time, and this book goes some way to fixing that. There are other teachers mentioned – Rules adds History and Geography, and Lessons IT, so it’s not inconceivable that there are even more which aren’t mentioned yet. If there wasn’t it makes class sizes problematic and also pastoral care groups – Maggie only has four in hers!

Anyway, these are two more enjoyable entries in the series, both continuing to follow the various threads of the plots established in the first book. I really hope books 4-6 do get written!

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Letters to Enid 24: From volume 2 issue 12

Previous letters pages can be found here. I had been hoping to find the next few issues before I ran out but it’s a year and a half since my last post and I still haven’t managed to get them. I have added a few magazines to my collection since then, and in fact just bought three today, but the missing ones from volume two (#14 and 15) still elude me…


Letters page from Volume 2, issue 12.    9th – 22nd June, 1954.

OUR

LETTER PAGE

 1. A letter from Jennifer Dibbens, 60 Park Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight
Dear Enid Blyton,
I read the letter from the robin, in your magazine, and I put a net bag in my garden, full of feathers from the chickens, and bits of wool. Once morning I aw sparrows on it, pecking out the feathers, In three days the bag was empty and I have had to fill it twice since, I am pleased to help the birds as I am a Busy Bee.
Yours truly,
Jennifer Dibbens

(I am glad you tried the “Lucky Bag” idea with such success, Jennifer!)

2. A letter from Robert Stallard, Beldevere, Connington, Somerset.
Dear Enid Blyton,
Every day my sister and I did small jobs for Mummy. We dusted the rooms tidied up and went to the farm to get eggs. We did other things as well. We have collected 6s. for the Blind Children. This morning we both had our Sunbeam badges. I am going to shine brightly for you.
Lots of love from,
Robert Stallard

(You are very kind, Robert. I liked your letter very much.)

3. A letter from June Hunt, 10 Mile End Avenue, Hatfield, Doncaster.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I enjoy your magazine more than anything in the world. At school we have finished “Five Go Off to Camp,” and we liked it very much. We have just started “Five Get Into Trouble.” I know I shall enjoy it because I have read it many times before. I haven’t any more to say except to thank you for our wonderful magazine, and God bless you.
Yours sincerely,
June Hunt

(What a nice little letter, June. I am glad you like our magazine.)


Good to see another letter from a boy – and one who dusts and tidies no less.

I wish I’d had more teachers like June’s. I don’t think any of my teachers so much as uttered Enid Blyton’s name at school!

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Monday #497

We are over half-way through October already so we are starting to think about Halloween in our house. Brodie wants to go ‘trick or treating’ for ‘candy’ and has been told it’s guising and sweets here (and he can only go to visit people we know!).

Letters to Enid #24

and

Blyton for grown-ups: Rules and Lessons by Jenny Colgan

How, then, do they know their way half across the world?

We do not know. Birds have a great sense of direction, excellent eyesight, and a wonderful memory for landmarks, but these things cannot alone account for the wonders of migration. The wind helps a good deal, because, in the springtime a south-west breeze blows, and in the autumn a north-east wind. Birds starting out on their long journey fly straight upwards until they reach a strong current in the upper atmosphere, and then fly steadily onwards.

It is a brave, venturesome thing, this long flight to far countries.

We are starting to see those wonderful arrow-head formations of geese flying overhead as they migrate to warmer places. Accompanied, of course, by a chorus of honking.

 

 

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Five Go to Demon’s Rocks part 4

Phew, my fourth – and hopefully last review for Demon’s Rocks. I’ve never written a 4 part review for a Famous Five book until now and I didn’t really expect it.


George as a boy

George’s desire to be seen as a boy definitely diminishes through the series. Possibly she comes up against less resistance as those around become used to it, but by these last few books in the series there’s just a couple of references to it and she doesn’t act out at all.

When they go to the garage to order a car the mechanic calls George Master George. Being Kirrin he probably knows she’s a girl but doesn’t mind playing along.

George was pleased to be called Master George. It was nice to be thought a boy.

Later, though, the policeman isn’t fooled and calls her Miss, nobody attempts to correct him.

She barely argues when both Julian and Dick insist on rowing as they are stronger than her. Of course in the first book George is the expert rower, going across to her island regularly. By this point, all of them being that bit older, and George not spending all year at home, it’s not unreasonable that the boys would be stronger rowers. Still, George’s response is pretty mild.

There were two pairs of oars. Julian took one pair, and George was going to take the other, when Dick quietly took them himself, grinning at George’s angry face. ‘Sorry—there’s a good old swell on the sea, and we’ve to row through some pretty good waves. I’m just a bit stronger than you, George!’

‘I row just as well as you do,’ said George.

Like at Finniston Farm George and Anne do the dishes – without much complaint.

George does tell Tinker she hates doing dishes and wishes she wasn’t a girl. Tinker means well with his response but it doesn’t go down well.

‘Oh don’t wash up—just give the things a quick wipe-over!’ said Tinker. ‘Like this!’

‘Oh no!’ said Anne. ‘That’s just like a boy! You’d better leave this side of things to me. I like doing jobs like this, see?’

‘Just like a girl!’ said Tinker, with a grin.

‘No, it isn’t,’ said George. ‘I hate doing them, and I’m a girl—though I wish I wasn’t!’

‘Never mind—you look like a boy, and you’re often as rude as a boy, and you haven’t an awful lot of manners,’ said Tinker, quite thinking that he was comforting George.

‘I’ve more manners than you,’ said George, and stalked off in a huff.

Julian has one moment of gender-specific chivalry as they make their plans to explore the undersea tunnel –

‘Toss for it!’ said Dick, at once. ‘There’s no reason why I shouldn’t go, is there? Or what about us both going, in case the other gets into trouble, and needs help?’

‘Not a bad idea,’ said Julian. ‘Except that there won’t be anyone to look after the girls and Tinker.’

Tinker, although male, clearly isn’t considered old enough or sensible enough to be in charge of the girls (thankfully).

George doesn’t argue about going herself, she has definitely developed a bit in regards to consideration for others, but it’s a shame she’s the only one to do that. The boys still just go off and expect her to keep Anne company.

‘I don’t think I’ll come,’ said Anne, who really didn’t like dark, smelly tunnels and caves. ‘I’ll do the packing.’

‘Timmy and I will help you,’ said George, who knew that Anne wouldn’t like to be left alone in the light-house.

And a brief note on Tinker and his family –

Although presented in the narrative it’s suggested that the Five are thinking along the same lines about Tinker after he reveals his mother died,

‘I’m very, very sorry, Tinker,’ said Anne, shocked. The others were sorry too. No wonder Tinker hadn’t very good manners, and was all on his own. No mother to teach him anything! Poor Tinker! Anne felt as if she wanted to buy him every bun in the shop!

I’d like to think that they mean with no mother AND Prof Hayling as a father it’s no wonder… but equally it could mean that just having no mother was the cause. Which is not very fair!


The food

There are a few meals at Kirrin cottage but the most notable thing about those is which of the scientists actually turns up. (Plus of course Quentin putting coffee over his porridge).

The interest begins when the Five become responsible for their own meals.

Their first night in the light house they have a tea-sup. This is a mixture of tea and supper, consisting of boiled eggs, bread and butter, Joan’s mince pies, cherry buns, macaroons and ginger-beer. I’m not sure which bits were tea and which were supper but it’s not a bad sounding meal.

After that they still manage a snack before bed, even though Dick says

We had such an enormous tea-sup that I feel I can’t manage another meal.

He suggests a chocolate biscuit or two, but Anne brings lemonade, large slices of cake made by Joan and a chocolate biscuit each.

Their first breakfast is eggs, bread and butter with apples after. Not very exciting considering they went to the shops to stock up on food before they travelled.

They do stop for coffee and buns, and then more buns and ice cream in the village though. Anne’s immediate concern (she and I obviously think alike) is to go shopping – and get more eggs, fresh bread and milk. This is followed by a tea of buns with butter and jam and cups of tea. I can’t keep up with the meals, really. Was that an afternoon tea-type snack and Blyton just didn’t write in their main evening meal?

Their next breakfast is better, fried bacon, eggs, buttered toast and marmalade with coffee.

Then there is a terrible issue that they are RUNNING OUT OF FOOD as they are locked in the light house. Thankfully they resolve that fairly quickly as the Five are hungry characters at the best of times.


Talking to the characters

I find those little, occasional moments where Blyton speaks directly to the reader so interesting. They come really at random, usually at the end of a chapter but some books have none and others have several. And sometimes she talks to the characters as well!

She talks to the characters on five separate occasions in this book.

Ah—you wait and see, Tinker! You don’t know the Five! If there’s any adventure about, they’re bound to be right in the middle of it!

The second time she seems to be speaking to us, the readers, as well as she has moved to present tense.

And there they all are in the light-house, playing cards with shouts and laughter, Timmy and Mischief watching. You do have fun together, Five, don’t you

She speaks to the reader again with the villains,

Ebby and Jacob disappeared that night! It wasn’t Constable Sharp they feared—it was the people of the village! They slipped away in the dark and the rain, and were gone. But you’ll be caught, Ebby, you’ll be caught, Jacob! And no one will be sorry for you. No one at all!

And the Five again,

Oh yes they will, Julian—especially when they hear the exciting story you have to tell! You’ll have some fun showing round a gold coin or two. Timmy is to have one hung on his collar, as a reward for guarding you so well—how proud he will be!

Well, good-bye to you all! Good-bye, Julian, and Dick, and a good journey home! Good-bye, Anne and George—and Tinker too, and Mischief, you funny little monkey!

And good-bye, dear old Timmy, best of friends. How we wish we had a dog like you! See you all again some day!

I can’t think of any book with as many examples in it as this one.


Miscellaneous points

  • The Five bike to Kirrin so they live much closer now than they did at the start of the series
  • Fanny talks about George’s aunt and uncle, rather than saying to Quentin your/my brother. Perhaps Blyton knew she had created an inconsistency by this point and didn’t want to add to it. I thought that whichever the siblings are they still can’t talk much if they don’t know where the others are going on a cruise.
  • Interestingly it is chapter two before we see any of the Five. There are books where we don’t have all the Five together straight away but it’s unusual to have a whole chapter without them.
  • I was slightly sad to read about them making plans to visit Kirrin Island when we know they won’t (ever again!) but there’s few better alternatives than a lighthouse!
  • This book is set at the beginning of April. I’m not sure if Finniston Farm specifies when it’s set – I didn’t note that in my review – but it’s very hot so it must be summer, therefore this is the following year.
  • It’s funny how everyone is so disbelieving about the lighthouse. George owns an island with a castle (and a wreck) but Tinker having a lighthouse is so wild to them. Julian is likewise surprised that the tunnels go under the sea, forgetting all about Kirrin’s undersea tunnels?
  • Also funny is the way George Jackson plays a trick on Tinker by putting the electric windows up and down in the car.
  • Julian and Dick pay for the food for going away – I’d have thought that Uncle Quentin could have coughed up a bit of cash for their food seeing as he’s kicking them out.

  • Julian’s poshness becomes obvious (apart from the fact he wears a tie throughout the adventure) when the policeman is so deferential to him. He asks him if he has any suspects in the theft and calls him sir throughout. The locksmith also calls him sir.
  • Thankfully Tinker stops doing his car impressions once they arrive at Demon’s Rocks. It’s possible Blyton rather forgot about them – though Julian does remark later on that Tinker must be growing up as he isn’t making the car noises.
  • Julian’s parents shut up the house before they go away, which isn’t a thing any more now, is it? I mean if you’re going away for a few weeks you might unplug various appliances and tell a neighbour but you don’t call it shutting up the house. I’m not even sure quite what it entails though I always imagine them draping white cloths over everything to keep the dust off. Also interesting is that they leave and have a neighbour lock up. Why when they could have just locked up themselves and handed the keys in.
  • I actually read a modern ebook this time and noted a few updates – the tobacco costs 20p instead of three shillings, and the Loomers get 5p tips rather than one shilling (surely the tobacco should be 15p in that case? Of course it’s sweets in other editions). Yet Julian still only has £1 to buy all the food for going away. They also wear jeans instead of shorts.
  • Tom the tobacconist mentions the Loomers having two children (which brother isn’t clear) but we never see them or the wife or wives.
  • There are quite a lot of similarities to Five Go Down to the Sea. Both have an old man telling tales of wreckers moving lights, and secret tunnels, but there are a lot of differences too.
  • I haven’t mentioned it in these reviews yet but the boys trying to ring the bell (risking life and limb to do so) is one of my absolute Five moments.


Nitpicks

The first is the problem of where they are going to sleep.

George and Anne always sleep in George’s room, there’s two beds in there. The boys normally sleep in a room with two beds in it, too.

Mrs Kirrin then refers to a guest room where she asks Joan to make up a bed there on the couch. This is presumably the room Mr Roland had in Five Go Adventuring Again. Yet Berta slept on a folding bed in the girls’ room when she arrived.

In this book there is apparently not enough bedrooms for eight people, despite there being enough for seven with Mr Roland.

I’ve no idea where Joan is sleeping now, as the boys are offered the loft which is dusty and drafty – previously this has been a perfectly comfortable bedroom for Joan!

It’s rather like a house in a soap whereby a family of four take in two or three waifs and strays and somehow have never seen bedrooms for them. Except only when it suits the story!

  • Joan says that Prof Hayling telephoned to say he was coming this week, but he didn’t, he wrote, (ensuring they wouldn’t have time to stop him). Is this a character error or an author error?
  • Dick is horrified by Tinker describing wreckers, but they know all about wreckers from Tremannon.
  • I had entirely forgotten the little throw-away remarks from George Jackson about the wreckers breaking into the old lighthouse, grabbing the keeper and putting out the light causing another wreck. Yet Jeremiah Boogle implies that the Wreckers were all jailed – for a long time – before the lighthouse was built.
  • With the key lost they block the lighthouse door with some wood and say that nobody could get in, at least not without making a lot of noise. But the police manage to get in quietly!
  • They leave a (paper) note half out under the door to ask for help from the postman or milkman but there is a storm so surely it would just get soaking and be unreadable?
  • Lastly, a nitpick I have to credit to Dale Vincero. Tinker says the lighthouse is about ten miles along this coast. Yet they take around six hours (plus lunch) to get there. Even allowing for the ten miles to be an underestimate, and imagining the road is a generous 50% longer than the ‘as the crow flies’ distance due to winding away from the coast to cross rivers etc, it still can’t be much more than twenty miles by road. At a sedate twenty miles an hour that’s still only an hours’ drive!


Sadly I only have my two least favourites of the series to go now. Will a critical re-reading improve or reduce their standing in my eyes?

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Monday #496

It feels like I was just writing my last (and lighthouse themed) Monday post but it was in fact a week ago. I haven’t visited any exciting places since then, but it’s the first of two weeks school holidays now, so maybe I’ll go somewhere interesting soon.

Five Go to Demon’s Rocks part four

and

Blyton for grown-ups – Rules and Lessons by Jenny Colgan

“Oh, Saucepan, I’d so like a frock!” said Bessie.

Well, Saucepan thought she said “clock,” and off he went to find the biggest one in the Land. He managed to get one at last, and put it on his back. It was a grandfather clock and so large that it quite bent him in two with its weight. Everyone stared in surprise as old Saucepan came up with it.

“Here you are, Bessie dear—here’s your clock,” said Saucepan, beaming at her.

“Saucepan, I said FROCK, not a clock,” said Bessie, trying not to laugh. “A FROCK!”

Poor Saucepan. He simply didn’t know what to do with the clock after that, and in the end he left it in a field, striking all by itself very solemnly.

The perils of surrounding yourself with pots and kettles and pans which go clattering and jangling all day means you never quite hear anyone right, and here – in the Land of Presents – the Saucepan Man’s mis-hearings cause a lot of amusement.

 

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Five Go to Demon’s Rocks part 3 – Fanny, Quentin and Professor Hayling

In part one I looked at Demon’s Rocks as a location and in part two I looked at Jeremiah Boogle and the wreckers. Now, in part three I want to look at the endlessly amusing triangle of Uncle Quentin, Professor Hayling and Aunt Fanny.


Unexpected guests

Poor Aunt Fanny, honestly you have to feel for her in the opening chapters of the book. Uncle Quentin is being, well, his usual short-tempered and unreasonable self.

He begins by shouting the house down to get her attention. Fanny responds with;

Don’t shout like that. I’m not deaf, you know.

Is she irritated, or just resigned? I personally see her as resigned. Quentin isn’t bothered either way, he has important news for her. He has a letter from Professor Hayling who Fanny describes as the man who came to stay a few years ago, and kept forgetting to come in for meals. Someone who sounds like a right pair with Uncle Quentin, then. As Fanny says, her husband could could forget breakfast, dinner and supper for a whole year, and then wonder why he felt hungry!

Also like Uncle Quentin, Prof Hayling seems to have no regard for anyone else’s time or convenience. Instead of coming to stay at Kirrin Cottage next week, his letter announces that he is to arrive that very day.

To briefly return to the Airbnb analogy I can see Prof Hayling giving Kirrin Cottage a bad review for not being ready a week early, while the Kirrins would undoubtedly respond with an equally negative review for the quest who shows up a week early with barely any notice. Not only that but bringing an unexpected child AND monkey.

Initially Quentin demands that the children should just cancel their visit – there not being enough space at Kirrin Cottage for them all apparently. Fanny talks a bit of (temporary) sense into him but he’s too late to delay Professor Hayling who is already on his way. Clearly the letter was an announcement, not a request for permission!

Quentin reverts to demanding that the children not come – ordering his wife to tell George not to come. Aunt Fanny has a lot more sense, though, she hasn’t forgotten that Julian’s parents are going off on a cruise and are shutting up their house.

Having made his order Quentin hardly listens to her. All he cares about are if the children are quiet when they arrive (which is rather unlikely!). Prof Hayling is rather short-tempered according to Uncle Quentin – it’s almost funny the way he says that as if it’s not something that applies equally to him.

Fanny gets a few digs in herself with I’m beginning to feel rather short-tempered too and I’ve a good mind to make up a bed for you in the coal house! so she isn’t taking all this nonsense lying down, which is good.


A perfectly suited pair

Prof Hayling doesn’t disappoint when he arrives. He is just as bad as Uncle Quentin, perhaps worse in fact as he doesn’t have a wife keeping him in check. (Fanny would never let her husband arrive a week early at someone’s house). Prof Hayling claims to have forgotten his son’s name, hence him being called Tinker. Even Tinker himself never mentions his real name. It makes you wonder what Tinker’s home life is like. We at least see that there’s a kindly housekeeper when he returns in the final book, but as fathers go Prof Hayling seems to be fairly ineffectual. At least we know they spend time together, as they went to Demon’s Rocks together, Prof Hayling didn’t just go off to work alone as Quentin might have.

He has, however, remembered to sound-proof his workroom in his garden at home. I hope your workroom is sound-proof too? he says as if this is perfectly normal. It’s also worth pointing out that he has visited before and should know that Quentin’s study is not sound-proofed, but seeing as he can’t remember to come to meals or his only son’s name, I think we can put this down to character error and not necessarily author error.

Poor Fanny is now being subjected to two angry professors (though I don’t recall Quentin ever being referred to as Prof Kirrin), the Five and a mischievous monkey.

The professors are not in a good mood as they are frequently interrupted by noise. WHAT’S ALL THIS NOISE? CAN’T WE HAVE A MOMENT’S PEACE?

Tinker making bell noises and George laughing is absolutely the last straw… I won’t have them in the house, disturbing us when we are doing such important work. Do you hear? SEND THEM AWAY! And that’s my LAST word! 

It would be nice if Quentin thought of taking himself and Prof Hayling away to a nice quiet cottage where they could work undisturbed, but they’d definitely need a housekeeper/cook of they’d likely starve to death.


Tinker and Mischief live up to their names

Tinker, being really very annoying gets the brunt of people’s frustrations. Joan is her usual firm self I don’t feed cars. I have no petrol. Go away, and Fanny’s patience seems to be wearing a little thin at times Stop crying, Tinker, and take your monkey away before Timmy eats him. Quentin as always is the crossest. What is it! If it’s you, George, go away and keep away. And if it’s Tinker, tell him to go to the garage and park himself there. I suppose it’s he who has been making all that row this morning!

Fanny at least does keep her head. That will do, George. You ought to understand your father better than you seem to. You are both exactly the same—impatient, short-tempered, bangers-of-doors, and yet both so kind too! Now—let’s see if we can find a way out.

It’s really Quentin that’s the problem, here, though. George’s visit – she’s only home a few weeks a year as it is – was organised well in advance. His guests just turned up!

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There is a very funny scene where Joan tries to throw a cup of water at Mischief and ends up also hitting Uncle Quentin’s head. A little come-uppance if you will.

A further come-uppance comes as Mischief starts firing raisins at people.

‘What’s that little fathead of a monkey throwing!’ said Mr Kirrin, fiercely, and at once knew when a raisin hit him smartly on the nose. ‘Get rid of him! Put him in the dustbin! Why have I to put up with monkeys that throw things and boys that chug about the house like cars gone mad? I tell you Fanny, I will have it!’

With that being the finals straw, it seems, Fanny gets in one last dig at her husband;

They’re [the children] a nuisance to you—and to be quite honest, you’re a nuisance to them!

Out of desperation Uncle Quentin approves the lighthouse plan.

Go to the light-house—go to the Tower of London—go and live at the Zoo, if you like! The monkeys will welcome that mischievous little creature, sitting grinning up there on the cupboard! But go!


The calm before the storm

With a plan in place the tension in the house is broken, and the next day or so is a bit calmer. The Five tease Tinker about his father with George saying I suppose your father just hands out money whenever you ask him. He’s so vague he wouldn’t know if he paid you three times a day!. Tinker retorts that Yours seems pretty vague too. He poured the coffee over his porridge this morning, instead of the milk. I saw him. And what’s more, he ate it without even noticing it was coffee!’

Despite chastising the others for telling tales on their parents, Julian bets that the Professor won’t be down till about eleven, and forget all about his bacon and eggs, going on to wonder if he ever eats a meal hot as he always seems to wander in late and not know which meal he’s missed.

His bet is pretty much right, though, as Prof Hayling walks in after breakfast is finished. he was woken early in the morning by Tinker, or maybe the monkey, he thinks they look alike in the morning.

As it turns out, Uncle Quentin has also missed breakfast. When George goes to summon him he says he’s had a Very nice couple of boiled eggs, which were actually yesterday’s breakfast! He also has no clue what they’re talking about when they say they’re leaving for the light-house.

Light-house—what light-house?’ said Mr Kirrin, in tones of great astonishment. 

When the car arrives to take them off, Mr Kirrin is startled by the horn and starts accusing Tinker of making the noise. Tinker must be a fantastic mimic if Quentin thinks a real horn as a small boy! He then intends to go and have words with the driver, asking What’s he come here for, anyway? 

Our time with the adults ends with Uncle Quentin saying

Well, good-bye, good-bye! Have a good time, and don’t forget to dry yourselves well after a bathe.

A little bit late, but a little attempt at parenting there from him! It’s not exactly the brief warmth we saw from him in Smuggler’s Top, or Kirrin Island Again, but it’s something.


I promise next time I’ll get to the nitpicks and other comments!

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