Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 31

Last time Bill, Anatoly and Johns spent the night in Merthyr ready for their early morning trip back to the Mountain.


Chapter 31

The three men woke early the next morning, breakfasted, and then got in the car for Johns to drive them to the chosen meeting place on an abandoned airfield outside of Merthyr.
From Johns phone calls to HQ the previous day, they had to meet at the airfield because the helicopters were due to land just after daybreak and the men needed to kit them out.

They’d drunk plenty of coffee with their breakfast, and brought flasks of the hot liquid for later, though that was perhaps wishful thinking. There was a good chance the coffee would come back with them undrunk, owing to the unpredictable nature of the job.

By 7am the airfield, the former runways cracked and full of weeds, was a bustling hive of activity. Several other cars had arrived and disgorged various agents and a few scientists. There was a bit of an argument going on between the two groups, in fact, as there wasn’t going to be a lot of space on board the choppers, but the scientists wanted to bring more equipment than the nominated pilots were happy with.
Bill sighed and took charge of the situation, negotiating firmly but fairly. He then called everyone together so he could appoint Johns leader of the second team. He, Bill, would lead the first team from the top of the mountain downwards, with Anatoly as his second in command, while Johns would lead the other team from the bottom of the mountain, with Henderson as his second.

He knew he should probably have given Henderson control of the second team, as he had been in charge of all those men until this point, but Johns had been involved from a much earlier point.

“You all right to rappel down onto the mountain top?” he asked Anatoly as he mentally began dividing everyone into two teams. The scientists would have to wait on the ground, with a guard or two, until it was safe for them to enter, then the parts of their kit they were being allowed to take could be pulled up on ropes to the top of the rope ladder.

“I should be well enough at it,” Anatoly said with a wry smile. “I was always very good at climbing a rope in gym class,” he knew that wasn’t what Bill meant, but it was easier to tease Bill than to be serious with him. Anatoly felt that Bill was closer to being family than the service would have allowed under normal circumstances. Had it not been for his father, Anatoly wouldn’t have even had Bill. He smiled at Bill’s disgruntled face and saluted. “It is a privilege to be your second in this,” he added, with more seriousness to his tone. “A lowly agent as myself can never really hope to be given than honour.”

“All right, knock it off,” Bill said amiably. “I’ve nominated you already you don’t need to lay it on so thickly.” Decision made, he divided the remaining men into two groups. One team would board a helicopter with the scientists and land around where he and Johns landed with Philip, the rest would accompany himself and Anatoly and rappel down onto the mountain top. There were last-minute checks, were the ropes the right length, was there enough rope left to make harnesses, enough D rings, and so on, and then they were off.

The helicopters made the journey much faster and easier than by donkey, and with Johns and Bill navigating they didn’t get too close to the mountain in case they alerted the servants and paratroopers still there. Once Johns had successfully taken his chopper down and then was leading the men towards the entrance of the cave, Bill took his men back, higher up above the mountain, ready to rappel down to the platform.

Luck was with them, and nobody was on the flat mountain top. That really would have spoiled the element of surprise. The broken helicopter still sat there, like an abandoned carcass, and Bill hoped it could be coaxed back to life. He sent down the two men who were best at rappelling first, one from each side of the helicopter. Both had done their national service and a few extra years in the Royal Marines. Once they landed and disengaged from the rope they would hold them for the next two men.

Anatoly looked sideways at Bill, waiting for the order to go. He was kitted out and waiting for the command. “Shall we go?” he asked watching the boys on the ground. “We can give them some cover if the other servants appear.”

Bill adjusted his harness, which had been nothing but a length of rope five minutes before, one last time. “Read if you are.”
Anatoly nodded and attached himself to the rope, and started repelling downwards with a smooth practised motion. Bill followed him a few seconds later. Soon they were stood firmly on the plateau of the mountain, looking at the broken Helicopter. “You really did a number on it didn’t you?” Anatoly teased as he and Bill rid themselves of the makeshift harnesses.

“I’d like to see you try to land on the top of a mountain in the dark, lad,” Bill snorted before he turned his attention to the matter at hand.

He raised a hand and waved to the pilot of the helicopter hovering above, which then veered off to the side and began to descend to ground level, leaving them alone on the mountain-top.

“Pfeiffer, you get on at that helicopter and see if you can get it up in the air again,” he commanded. “Everyone else, weapon’s ready, we’re about to go in. I’ll be leading the way, but you’ve a map between three there, so consult those if we get separated.”

The men all nodded and drew their weapons, and with Anatoly leading from the front with Bill, they made their way into the mountain.

If any of the men had been looking for a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse, or even a good fight they would have been sorely disappointed. Food supplies were running low in the mountain and the remaining men had been disagreeing with each other about what the best way to escape would be. So in fact, they were almost relieved to have the decision made for them. Apart from two paratroopers who came to blows with each other, they put up next to no resistance and allowed themselves to be escorted down the tunnels to the rope-ladder.

When they got the men outside and counted them up, they realised that the helicopters would have to do at least two trips each to get everyone out of the valley. Bill radioed up to Pfeiffer to see if the damaged machine would live to fly again, but the news wasn’t good. The two helicopters they had would have to do all the work. Bill sent Anatoly to get Pfeiffer, who had been unfortunately left without a map to get out of the mountain, and then he set about dividing the agents, and the men they had captured up into groups to be transported.

By the time Anatoly and Pfeiffer reached the bottom of the rope ladder and emerged into the daylight again they didn’t have long to wait for the helicopters to return.

“Sorry boss, but the chopper up there’s going to need a whole new steering rig,” Pfeiffer said. “It’ll fly again fine once that’s in, but there was nothing I could do to fix it with just a few tools.

Bill nodded, “Understood. Thank you for looking. We can arrange that when we get back to civilisation.”

“What will happen to the mountain now Bill?” Anatoly asked after a minute. “Do you think we will move our own men in?”

“Fancy a bit of cave-dwelling, do you?” Bill joked. “Our scientists will be in for a while, anyway, then I suppose it’ll depend what they find. We might have to fill the whole thing in… or we might end up using whatever’s in there for our own benefit. Just have to wait and see. For now, I’d be happy never to see the place again. I just want to get back to the Evans’ farm for a slap-up lunch and enjoy the rest of my holiday.”

Anatoly laughed a little, “no, I would not like to live in that cave maze. I could go for that lunch!”
“Did someone mention lunch?” Johns asked, appearing at Bill’s shoulder.

“I did,” Bill confirmed. “Probably a late lunch, by the time we get rid of this lot… but I’m sure Mrs Evans will have kept it warm.”

“Not to mention, getting back from Merthyr,” Anatoly pointed out slyly.

“He’s right, we may have to eat in Merthyr and then get back to the farm for dinner,” Johns pointed out.

Bill consulted his watch. “We’ll see.” When they arrived at the farm they found Mrs Evans bustling around in the kitchen, and soon they were sitting down to eat, Bill, Anatoly and Johns, the four children, Allie, Mr and Mrs Evans, accompanied by Kiki, Snowy and Sally and her babies.

They argued good-naturedly as to whether the meal was a late lunch or an early dinner, and in the end decided that it would depend on each individual perspective, and when that person had last eaten so that everyone saved face.

“Though,” Bill said wisely, “if this is an early dinner, you’ve only got supper to come. I’ve still got dinner and supper.”

The end.

 

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Malory Towers on TV series 2 – Episodes one and two

I gave the majority of the episodes in season one a glowing review (The Dress being the only one I found disappointing) so I’m keen to see how series two holds up.


Episode one: The Head of Form

Episode one begins at the train station, though have just got off the train to get on the bus, rather than boarding the train so we don’t see her parents or Felicity. What we do see the contrast between the two years as now Darrell is popular. There’s all the usual chatter about bagsying seats beside friends and so on.

Gwen introduces the new girl – the new scholarship girl – Ellen, and gives Ellen a run-down of the other girls. I expect this is as much for the viewers’ benefit as Ellen’s. Immediately Gwen latches on to Ellen, I mean she’s the only girl who doesn’t know what she’s like!

At the school Alicia reveals that Betty has left – thus kick-starting the subtle fight between her and Sally over Darrell.

As the episode title suggests the episode is about picking the head of form. In the books this is done by the teachers and announced, but the show has decided to make it a vote. Mr Parker – the new teacher – ‘s first job is to take nominations. He arrives in the classroom just in time, to a chorus of giggles from the girls, as Darrell had bumped into him at the train station causing his case to fall open and reveal a teddy bear.

Gwen nominates herself – I think she just wants the time off sports for school council meetings – and makes Ellen second her.

Irene nominates Alicia – who I wouldn’t have imagined would want to do it, far too many rules and hard work – but it’s seconded by Jean.

And lastly Sally nominates Darrell, though Darrell had been about to nominate Sally. Of course the books have Sally as head girl, so this is an interesting development.

Almost immediately Darrell almost ruins her chances – they go down for a swim before breakfast (something Matron encourages them to do, though I don’t remember it being done last year) and she jumps in with Ellen only to discover Ellen can’t swim. It’s actually quite painful to watch! She has assumed that Gwen is holding Ellen back from swimming because Gwen herself hates is, and knowing what Gwen’s like it’s not an unlikely scenario, but she doesn’t ask Ellen, or give her a chance to speak. And of course Gwen uses the aftermath to get several digs in about Darrell’s temper.

Gwen’s attempts to become form-head are quite funny. She brings Matron flowers but Matron a) has hay fever and b) doesn’t have a vote.

She also puts flowers in the classroom and tells Mr Parker that she’d bring that in as a regular thing if she was head of form. Of course in the books there are flowers in the classrooms and the girls have a rota for watering them and cleaning the chalk boards etc.

After a period last year of it being somewhat forgotten Darrell’s word blindness/dyslexia shows up again. Mr Parker apparently hasn’t heard of it and humiliates her in front of the class over being unable to spell his name.  It’s quite bizarre how wild he goes – as if he’s been pushed to the limits but he’s only been there five minutes and the girls have barely given him any trouble.

Anyway, the upshot is that after Mr Parker gives Irene 200 lines for trying to stand up for Darrell Darrell loses her temper and has to withdraw her nomination.

She then nominates Sally (with no second it would seem) and we are probably back on track for Sally as form head just like in the book.

Alicia makes a speech full of jokes, and declares she’d get rid of detention and order-marks which I think is beyond her remit!

Gwen begins by saying she’s not just a pretty face, but Malory Towers has sharpened her less visible qualities, going on to quote Churchill about everything in her life being a preparation for this moment. So she bigs herself up on all fronts, smarms up to the teachers and makes vague promises. She’d make a good politician!

Sally is more down to earth. She wants to be a form representative, rather than a head, and represents the girls as individuals making things fair and even for them all. Though she leads by saying I don’t want to be head of form, followed by a long enough pause to make you think she’s standing down!

Mrs Grayling sets Mr Parker right on Darrell’s dyslexia and tells him to read up on it, but of course it’s too late for the head girl post which goes to Sally by one vote, Alicia coming in second, of course.

Alicia is much more disappointed that I’d have imagined but she perks up when Darrell reminds her that if she was head girl she’d have to behave. Gwen is also rather disappointed but I can’t imagine how she thought the girls would vote for her after her behaviour last term. Darrell did extend an olive branch but she must know she’s not popular!

The Alicia-Darrell-Sally triangle continues as Alicia wants to keep her plans for a trick secret from Sally, lest she spoil it. She also says that the head girl job is for girls as dull as ditch water so Sally is perfect.

She does however invite her to a midnight feast, where they play loud music and shout and dance – not very sneaky!

We get a hint into what’s to come as Gwen discovers a little drip by her bed and tries to get Ellen to swap her under false pretences, but the other girls stop her. You’d think Ellen would be pleased but she complains that she can’t please everyone at once – just a tiny hint of the attitude of book Ellen I suppose, though so far she has seemed fairly happy.


2 The Dunce’s Cap

The dorm roof is still leaking, again this is probably a hint that Malory Towers is falling apart and there’s no money to fix it. They apparently couldn’t even afford a bucket as the water is just pooling on a chair. Still, it gives Gwen the idea of soaking her unfinished French prep so that  it is illegible.

Unfortunately for her Mam’zelle Rougier just tells her to stay behind after class and redo it! I’m not sure if Mam’zelle simply saw through her story, or just didn’t care.

Also unfortunate is the fact that Matron knows they had a midnight feast and has words with Mr Parker telling him not to let the girls away with any nonsense.

Meanwhile, Alicia’s trick from her brother has arrived, a piece of pink chalk. Unlike in the book the chalk has no instructions so they are confused when it doesn’t draw. I’d have assumed it was to sneak into a classroom to baffle a teacher when writing on the chalkboard.

 

However, they play around testing it out and quickly discover that it is heat-activates. So, the trick is on. And despite Alicia wanting to keep Sally out of pranks in the previous episode, she makes no attempt to keep this one a secret from the head of form.Their first use of it is on Mam’zelle Rougier, using the distraction of Gwen’s sob story about the leak, and pull it off nicely.

Mr Parker, having taken Matron’s words seriously has brought in a dunce’s hat. I’d have thought that was an outdated idea by Malory Towers time but apparently it was still in use in 1950s America.

I thought this would be the start of the pressure on Ellen (her book storyline revolves around her being a scholarship girl under tremendous pressure to do well, so much pressure she makes herself ill and ends up cheating for an exam) along with her statement that she’s never studied Latin before, but in fact it is Mary-Lou that falls apart. She knows her Latin just fine but having to stand up in class and recite it, knowing that the Dunce’s hat awaits any girls who fail, it’s too much for her and she flubs it.

Darrell and Sally had made a joint decision to confiscate Alicia’s chalk to prevent anyone getting caught and having to wear the dunce’s hat but when Mr Parker makes Mary-Lou wear the dunce hat Darrell speaks out and then uses the chalk on his chair as revenge.

I was expecting a nice OY but what we get is a wonky O. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. Turns out it’s a D for dunce. The effect is the same – it’s obviously not a naturally occurring stain but the OY is pretty iconic so it’s a shame they changed it, even if tying it into the fabricated dunce plot is quite clever.

D is for Dunce or is it Derriere?

The second problem is that Mary-Lou was in the dunce’s corner behind the desk, so it’s going to look like she played the trick. The girls’ solution to this is to all join her in the classroom wearing their own home-made dunce’s caps. It’s a nice bit of solidarity, but I’m not sure how it was supposed to stop her from being blamed by Mr Parker. Gwen also takes part which isn’t like her!

Is there a collective noun for a group of dunces?

He catches them and Darrell says it was all her idea, but Mary-Lou (definitely their courage mouse as said in the first episode) goes out to talk to him about the psychological impact of the dunce’s hat, and he actually listens.

The episode ends with Darrell finding an excellent caricature of Mr Parker, but not knowing who drew it. Seeing as there were no caricatures last year, and there is one now that there’s a new girl, my money’s on the new girl.

So far that puts Ellen in the unenviable position of being Ellen, Belinda and possible Daphne too.

The sub-plot of the leak provides us some good comic relief in this episode, as Matron finally investigates. Having poked the ceiling she decides it’s a leaking pipe and sends Irene for the caretaker, but she is caught by Mam’zelle Rougier whose class she’s supposed to be in.

So that leaves Matron plugging the hole with her finger for ages, then using a tissue, leading to the drip becoming a pour and and finally her being soaked as the ceiling collapses. My notes from this scene simply read hahaha Matron. But honestly, she’s the absolute dunce of the episode. It’s a 1940s school, there must be plenty of buckets around, she could have stuck one under the drip and gone to get the caretaker herself. I was literally shouting at the TV GET A BUCKET, MATRON!! 


Some miscellaneous thoughts

The train station they arrive at is called PorthMallory, a new name for the TV show.

Other new names include some of the girls getting surnames – it’s Mary-Lou Linett, Jean Dunlop, and Irene Edwards.

Another even bigger change – and one that I can’t get over yet – is that Miss Grayling is being played by a new actress. She’s fine, but the first one was so perfect! I was wondering who the new teacher was at the start of the first episode as I knew we were getting Mr Parker , as I had missed Gwen telling Ellen (and us again) that she was the head! Obviously things happen and cast members become unavailable, and they’ve done well to have all the original girls come back, but I’m gutted nonetheless.

Miss Grayling with Mr Parker

I’m also missing Miss Potts as she was brilliant!

And lastly, I may be wrong, but I thought that it was usually just the boys that learned Latin at school – after all, they were the ones that would go on to become doctors and lawyers. If so, it continues to show Malory Towers as a somewhat progressive school following on from the girls learning chemistry the previous year.


My thoughts on series two so far

It’s early days but so far this hasn’t quite lived up to series one. It may well pick up, and I’ve still enjoyed it but something is missing.

I haven’t worked out Mr Parker yet, but he’s rather all over the place. He’s half panicked that he isn’t in control and half going over the top to be in control. It is quite a different dynamic, to have a brand-new teacher rather than an old hand. Hopefully he will settle as the girls are obviously suffering a bit!

They have tried to cram quite a lot into the first two episodes so far, and not all of it ties together very well. I’d have liked to see Mr Parker being pushed a lot further before losing it with the girls, perhaps the OY could have pushed him over the edge to bring in the dunce’s cap. I suspect that there’s some back-story there, with the teddy bear and his admission that he had to wear a dunce’s hat at school himself, but we will see. Jason Callender who plays Mr Parker gives a few small clues in an interview about his character development and highlights the fact that he is the first male teacher at the school – something that isn’t mentioned on-screen, but goes some way to explaining his behaviour perhaps.

 

 

 

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Monday #451

In case you missed yesterday’s post today is the day that Malory Towers series 2 comes to BBC iPlayer! Stef and I are going to have a watch-along of at least the first couple of episodes tonight (yes, we live hundreds of miles apart but we press play at the same time and chat on Facebook messenger as we watch!) and I will have a review ready for Wednesday.

Malory Towers series 2

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 31

I think the book of the week has to be Second Form at Malory Towers which will be the basis for the new series of the TV show.

The Second Form features the unforgettable invisible chalk trick, not to mention the dramatic cliff-top rescue of Mary-Lou and the reveal that one of the girls is a thief. I can’t wait to see how the TV show handles all these plots.

Second Form at Malory Towers dust jacket 1957 reprint by Lilian Buchanan

 

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Malory Towers on TV Series Two: Everything we know

In March I posted with what was known about the return of Malory Towers. Well, we know quite a bit more now!


When is it back?

Most importantly the whole of Malory Towers series two drops tomorrow(!) on the BBC iPlayer. It will then air on CBBC in early 2022. Unfortunately information on its release in other countries is scarce, other than for Canada where it will air on the Family Channel, and the US where it will be on BYUtv.  The only time frame I’ve seen is that these will air at a later date.

Series two will have thirteen episodes of 15 minutes each, as before.


The trailer

A trailer has been released in the last week, giving us a few clues as to what’s to come and you can watch that below.

Very, very interesting.

First up we know that Alicia will deploy her sneezing powder to trick the teachers.

And much more importantly we now know that the main plot running through the series will be Malory Towers being in financial difficulties. Of course the school won’t close, but it looks like Darrell and her friends will be channelling inspiration from the Famous Five or the Find-Outers and will go hunting for Lady Jane’s jewels to save the school.

We still haven’t seen any sign of Daphne (or Belinda) but we do see Mary-Lou hanging from the cliff (on a bright, calm day) with a parcel in her hand. It is Gwen who comes to her rescue, though, so I’m wondering how that’s all going to tie together. Has Gwen sent her on the walk to the post office? Or has it somehow to do with Lady Jane’s jewels? I suppose we will just have to watch and find out!


New cast information

In addition to the new girls Ellen Wilson and Bill, and teachers Miss Johnson and Mr Parker (more on them can be found in my previous post) I’ve seen that there will be sixth former Georgina Thomas and her rich father who takes an interest in the school.

Georgina Thomas (to be played by Edie Whitehead) is only mentioned in passing in the books. I’m sure Irene mistakenly takes Georgina’s case and is surprised to find ‘her’ case suddenly contains very fancy pyjamas.

Her father (to be played by Dominic Coleman) definitely isn’t in the books. I’m intrigued to see if his interest in the school is benevolent or not. Will he cause the financial crisis somehow as he wants to snap up the school and turn it into luxury seaside flats? Or will he swoop in to help save the day? Again, we will have to watch and see but I’m suspecting it will be closer to my first suggestion.


The episodes

As above, there will be thirteen episodes in series two. IMDb has names for ten of them:

  • Episode 2.1
  • Episode 2.2
  • Episode 2.3
  • Episode 2.4: The Auditions
  • Episode 2.5: The Caricatures
  • Episode 2.6: The Runaway
  • Episode 2.7: The Play
  • Episode 2.8: The Measles
  • Episode 2.9: The Sneezing Trick
  • Episode 2.10: The School Trip
  • Episode 2.11: The Quiz
  • Episode 2.12: The Heroine
  • Episode 2.13: The Lost Treasure

These give us some more clues.

Episode 5 makes me think of Belinda drawing the two Mam’zelles at war with each other. The problem with that is that it doesn’t appear that Belinda or Mam’zelle Dupont are in the series. Still, I’m sure there are other girls who can draw and pit Mam’zelle Rougier against another member of staff, or two girls against each other. Perhaps Ellen can draw!

Episode 8 has to be Alicia catching the measles and briefly learning what it’s like to not find school work easy.

Episode 9 obviously revolves around Alicia’s sneezing powder from the trailer.

I imagine that Gwen is the heroine of episode 12, as she must rescue Mary-Lou from the cliff. It will be interesting to see if, like Daphne who is briefly the heroine in the book, she is the cause of Mary-Lou’s fall in the first place.

Apart from episode 13 none of the others have names to do with the treasure – or the closing of the school – but I imagine that will be a whole-series story arc that fits in around the shorter storylines indicated by the other episode titles.


So what do I think?

I think that I’m very excited! It seems so long ago that series one aired, and I suppose it was, as it was the spring of 2020. The last year and a half seems to have lasted at least five years, or so it seems sometimes, but actually to commission, film and release a new series which is filmed in two different continents and stars young people while a pandemic goes on is quite a feat. In ‘normal’ times we probably would have expected series two to be ready in spring this year, but I think they’ve done brilliantly all things considering.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 30

Last time Bill, Johns and Anatoly decided to head down to Merthyr Tydfil to stay overnight, and Bill said good bye to Allie and the children.


Chapter 30

With Johns in the driving seat, Anatoly had taken a seat in the back of the car. He knew his place, being the most junior agent in the group.

After Bill had slid into the passenger seat and Johns had eased the car down the rutted farm track Anatoly sat forward and leant on the back of the front seat. “So Bill… you and Allie?” he said questioningly.

“Not now, Petrov,” Bill grumbled, going slightly red at the boy’s chosen topic of conversation. “That’s personal question and none of your business!”

Johns stifled a laugh as he drove, eyes forward as Bill shot him a strong glare from his left.

“Really?” Anatoly responded mildly. “You pumped me for information about my job the second you could, but I get a ‘none of your business’? I shall have to draw my own conclusions, then,” he threatened. “You were very close on the sofa just now, and I noticed that your bedroom was right opposite hers…”

“Drop it!” Bill repeated firmly. “This is not a conversation for work time, Petrov! And stop smirking Johns, keep an eye on your driving!”

Anatoly rolled his eyes and sat back to light a cigarette. “Spoil sport.”

“All the time,” Bill said with a wicked grin. “But you know the rules, private lives are for private time, we’re on the clock, so we don’t discuss things of a personal nature. Don’t tell me you have forgotten all of your training, Petrov?”

“We’re not exactly on the clock right now, though, are we?” Johns said in a neutral sort of voice. “This is more like commuting to work in the morning.”

Bill glared at him even more sternly than before. “Will you do everyone a favour and keep your smart ideas to yourself Johns?” he quipped dryly. “And keep an eye on that road, I do not want to end up in the ditch.”

“Did I get the wrong end of the stick, then?” Anatoly asked, shifting forward so that he was between Bill and Johns again. “Did you make your move on her only for her to reject you?” He was fairly certain that was the furthest from the truth but he thought it might just push Bill into revealing something.

Bill sighed and rolled his eyes. He didn’t answer Anatoly until he’d lit his pipe. He could also see Johns smirking slightly out of the corner of his eye.

“That is not what I intimated at all, Anatoly,” he said calmly.

“I just wondered. You are being so cagey about it I could only imagine that it went badly for you,” Anatoly said with an insouciant shrug.

Bill narrowed his eyes at Anatoly. “You are on thin ice, Petrov,” he said through a cloud of smoke from his pipe. “You should know that nothing goes badly for me,” he couldn’t help but add.

“So, you are saying it went well, then?”

“You’re going around in circles,” Johns said over his shoulder. “Maybe you need to go back to interrogation class.”

“He does indeed,” Bill teased as Anatoly coloured pink in embarrassment.

“I know how to interrogate someone,” Anatoly muttered. “If I was doing it properly Bill would be in terrible pain!”

“Mind you, Bill has the advantage of many years practice in resisting interrogation,” Johns said fairly.

“That is true,” Anatoly agreed. “I would not stand a chance against him.”

Bill tipped his pipe to the other agents. “You’ll get there, you’re still young and new here really!”

Although Johns wasn’t much of a talker and generally preferred to remain quiet, he guided the conversation away from Bill and Mrs Mannering. He had seen more of them together than Anatoly had, and he was fairly certain that something was going on between them. However, if Bill wanted to keep that to himself then he must have good reason, and he, Johns, would do nothing to compromise that.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and soon they were pulling into Merthyr. “Where are the rest of the chaps holed up?” Bill asked as Johns drove up the main street. “Didn’t you say they were all over the place?”

“There’s no hotels, as such, in Merthyr,” Johns said. “So they’re taken rooms in a few different places. Probably for the best, as we wouldn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. It’s Henderson who’s in charge of them, and he’s in a pub down this way,” he said as he turned the car down a narrow street. “Do you want to see him before we find rooms of our own?”

“I’ll stay with the car,” he said to Bill and Anatoly as they stopped outside the pub. “Ready for a quick getaway if needed,” he added with a wink.

“It will be Henderson who will need a quick getaway if he gets on the wrong side of Bill,” Anatoly replied, and dodged a smack from the hand that wasn’t holding Bill’s pipe.

“You’re becoming far too cheeky for you own good,” he said, only half-serious.

Anatoly nodded and saluted. “Life is more fun that way,” he quipped. “After you, boss!”

They found Henderson and one or two others having a quiet drink at the bar and joined them. Anatoly grudgingly accepted a pint as they had little else worth drinking and took a mouthful to show willing. In a low voice Bill quickly outlined their intentions to stay in Merthyr overnight, and made arrangements to meet the helicopters in the morning.

Henderson nominated two of his men to relay the news to the others, too many new faces in and out of the pubs might draw the wrong sort of attention if anyone connected to the men in the mountain were around.

Bill and Anatoly left the pub a short while later, with a rendezvous set up for the following day on a derelict farm just outside the town that hadn’t been built again after the war.

They had to ask around a bit, but found a couple of decent rooms in a guest-house nearer the outskirts of the town, conveniently near to the abandoned farm. Being the senior agent Bill took the double room and left Anatoly and Johns to share the twin.

Before bed they had a drink at the little bar in the sitting-room downstairs and were careful to let the land-lady hear them discussing an entirely fabricated business in vacuum-cleaner sales to cement their innocuous identities. As her carpets were meticulously clean Bill wasn’t worried that she would ask to see any vacuum models.

To be continued…

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Enid Blyton Christmas gift guide 2021

It might just be me but I feel like this post gets a little more difficult to write every year! Perhaps I just got lucky with the first year and there were plenty of good Blyton gifts then, and of course, having already used them, I cant use them again! You can still check out my gift guides for 2018, 2019 and 2020, most of the items are probably still available now!

But never mind, I have found some new things (new as in ‘came out since the last gift post’) to show you all, and who knows, you might just find a good gift amongst them.


Hodder Short Story Collections

I can always rely on Hodder, at least, to release a few short story collections every year!

This year it was Stories of Spells and Enchantments, Pet Stories and Rainy Day Stories. There is already a Blyton book called Rainy Day Stories, though it appears to be unconnected to this new book. The original is more ‘stories to read on a rainy day’, the new one looks like it contains a load of stories where it actually rains!

Spells and Enchantments £6.99, Pet Stories £6.99, Rainy Day Stories £6.99, All from  Waterstones.

Also new from Hodder is Moonface’s Story, to go along with Silky’s Story from last year.

Moonface’s Story £12.99 from Waterstones


Other books

For grown-ups I can highly recommend Enid Blyton, The Untold Story by Brian Carter. (I already have this, Ewan*, in case you’ve landed here via Google, again). If you aren’t sure about spending £20 on a new biography, have a look at my review to see why I think it’s worth it.

Enid Blyton the Untold Story £19.95, Amazon
Enid Blyton the Untold Story £20.00, eBay

Out just in time for Christmas is Enid Blyton – a Literary Life by Andrew Maunder. I’ve put this on my own wish list as it sounds really interesting.

This book is a study of the best-selling writer for children Enid Blyton (1897-1968) and provides a new account of her career. It draws on Blyton’s business correspondence to give a fresh account of a misunderstood figure who for forty years was one of Britain’s most successful and powerful authors. It examines Blyton’s rise to fame in the 1920s and considers the ways in which she managed her career as a storyteller, journalist and magazine editor.

Enid Blyton – a Literary Life, £17.99 at Waterstones

I’m making a couple of late additions here, having had a reminder from a friend.

Return to Kirrin by Neil and Suzie Howlett isn’t new this year, but I only discovered it this year and so it definitely deserves a place in this years’ gift guide. It’s an affectionate story about the Five as grown-ups, coming back together after a period of estrangement, and stumbling on a mystery in the process. I’ve reviewed it if anyone wants to know more.

Return to Kirrin £8.99, Amazon

One that is new this year is Zoe Billings’ The Mystery of Tully Hall. This is more tangentially related to Blyton as it is not a continuation novel, it’s a brand-new set of characters. Zoe channelled some Blyton inspiration while writing, however, and I think that Blyton fans will enjoy this one.

The Mystery of Tully Hall £6.99 on Amazon

(We have a whole lot of recommendations for books that you might like if you like Blyton, but I recommend this one specifically as it has been written and independently published by a friend and Blyton fan. Others to check out include Jemma Hatt’s Adventurers series)


Noddy

Despite Noddy being a perennial favourite there is little in the way of merchandise out at the moment.

I did find four colouring books, all independently (and perhaps unofficially) published recently, three marketed at ‘adults and teens’ though they look like they’re for young children. All four appear to contain colouring pages based on Noddy Toyland Detective, though one has a cover from an earlier adaptation.

Anyway, they look nice enough books and they’re all under £6

Noddy ‘Exclusive Edition’ colouring book £4.34, Noddy ‘Crayola’ colouring book £5.98, Noddy ‘Impressive’ colouring book £5.98, Noddy ‘Excellent’ colouring book £5.98, all from Amazon.

Otherwise, there are various picture books from the past few years which tie-in with episodes of the Toyland Detective show.


Book gift sets

I stumbled upon these during my search and thought they were a great idea – and so good to see Blyton so well represented in the options.

Tea Leaves & Reads gift sets include a book or books, drinks and snacks (dietary requirements can be catered for) for both adults and children plus one or two literary bits and bobs. I like the idea that these are for a grown-up to read with a child but to be honest I’d eat and drink the lot myself! You’re never too old for Haribo. I particularly like that they give a suggested age for the books but follow it with (but come on, we still love these books!)

There’s a good choice of Blyton books (15!), though of course they are all modern (and updated) editions. Most are from the Famous Five or Faraway Tree series, but there are some others, too. Prices start from £12.99 though I’ve shown a few of the more expensive ones below.

Of course, if you had the time you could make up your own box with snacks and drinks you know your giftee will love, and a book of your choice.

Deluxe Enchanted Wood box £16.99, Famous Five books 3&4 box £19.99, Christmas Treats box £15.99


For all your important dates

There are two Enid Blyton calendars out this year from The Calendar Club. Both are Famous Five themed, one slimline and the other a standard square one. I normally get a family planner calendar with spaces for each of us, but I’ve put the square one on my wish list this year. They’ve both got the same images so you won’t miss out whichever you buy.

Square calendar £9.99, Slimline calendar £5.99, both Calendar Club.


If you’re really desperate

You can get the Famous Five for Grown Ups books personalised with your enemy friend’s name on the front. You can generally find these in every charity shop across the UK for £1 or less, while a personalised one

On closer inspection your giftee’s name can also be hidden in the illustration on the cover and you can add a message inside, too. Not sure that justifies charging £14.99 (or £27.99 for some of them!) but there you are, if you’re desperate.

Personalised Five Give Up the Booze £14.99, Personalised Five Go Gluten Free £27.99, both from Gifts24-7.com


*On at least one occasion my partner has searched for ‘Enid Blyton gift ideas’ and started reading one of my gift-guides before realising what site he was on.

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Monday #450

Last week I managed to post the right things, so I’m hoping that will happen again this week. My 2021 gift guide is more or less finished, I just need to agree a night (or nights) with Stef to write chapter 30, as we are generally back to writing each chapter just a day or two before it gets posted.

Tomorrow marks the start of Book Week Scotland (I’m now wondering if there’s a similar thing in England or other parts of the world). The library service I work for is holding some events – actual in-person events! – and there will be hundreds more across the country.

Christmas gift guide for 2021

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 30

“Can’t have them. Don’t mind the parrot,” said Uncle Jocelyn. “Keep the parrot if you want it. Send it away if you don’t. I’m busy.”

Uncle Jocelyn initially refuses to have the children – though Polly can keep the parrot if she wants! I thought of this line this week as I am currently watching the 1980s movie of The Island of Adventure and Uncle Jocelyn says something very similar.

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 29

Last time Bill, Anatoly and Johns made their plans.


Chapter 29

Johns returned later that day, just as the sun was sliding down behind the mountains behind the farm house. He brandished a stack of papers at Bill. “I took the liberty of having them enlarged and some of the writing made clearer,” he said, handing them over. “Hope that’s all right with you!”

“Smart thinking,” Bill acknowledged, taking the maps from him and handing one to Anatoly so he could study it. “Anything else to report?”

“Our colleagues, scientists and all, are taking up almost every available room across three pubs in Merthyr, and will be ready to go first thing in the morning. They’ve come up with an idea that we didn’t, actually…”

Johns took a seat and ran the idea past Bill. “There are two good sized helicopters on standby, down in Cardiff and it won’t take them long to fly up here in the morning, refuel quickly and collect us from wherever we decide. They can then drop half of us off in the valley, near enough where we landed with Philip, and the rest can be parachuted in from the top of the mountain.”

Bill slapped a hand on his thigh. “Yes, that’s a very good idea. I didn’t suggest it myself as I didn’t think we’d get the budget for choppers. But if we have them, then that’s perfect.”

Anatoly grinned. “We can come at them from both sides.”

“Indeed we can,” Bill agreed.

“There’s one or two chaps good with repairs, too,” Johns added. “They’ll see if they can’t get our helicopter back in the air to help ferry the prisoners back.”

“Or at least get it moved from the platform so we can land our choppers on there,” Bill added wisely. “But I wouldn’t say no to a third chopper.”

“What time do we want to start off in the morning?” Anatoly asked, leaning back in his chair. “Presumably, the earlier the better to catch them as unawares as possible?”

“Unfortunately, yes, I think we ought to make it an early start,” Bill sighed. “We can drive down to Merthyr and meet the choppers there, will that work, Johns?”

“I’ll drive back down now and telephone to arrange it, sir,” Johns said, getting up again.

“Is it worth us all going, so that we are all able to start as soon as possible?” Anatoly asked, clearly keen to go. “It seems like a waste of a petrol ration for you to go back and forth to Merthyr again today and then tomorrow.”

“Up to the boss,” Johns deferred to Bill. “I used my warrant card to get petrol, and I don’t mind driving again, but we should be able to get rooms in Merthyr if you prefer.”

Bill didn’t really want to be away from the children and Allie but he knew Anatoly had a point. Johns would be tired out before he saw the action and he didn’t want the man to miss out. This was as much his job as Bill’s after all. “Given that we are getting helicopters, I think it might be a good idea not to bash the petrol budget any more than we have to,” Bill said eventually.

Johns nodded. “I’ll be ready to go whenever you are, sir.”

“I have not even unpacked yet,” Anatoly said, indicating his bag which was ready to go also.

“I’ll just need to let Allie know,” Bill said, hoping that she wouldn’t mind. He would hopefully have all this tied up within a day or two, then they could get back to their holiday.

Anatoly and Johns let him wander downstairs to speak to Allie. Bill found Allie in the sitting room, reading her book, her wrist still in a sling. She looked up as he entered.

“Hullo,” she said fondly. “Have you finished talking with Anatoly and Johns for the moment?”

He took a seat next to her. “I think we are all set for what we need to do,” he said. “We’ve got men, we’ve go maps, we’ve even found a couple of helicopters which will speed things up greatly.”

“Oh, well that’s good news,” she said quietly. “You will get them all, won’t you? And do you think you’ll be gone long?” she put her book to one side and turned to look at him. “And you will be careful, Bill, won’t you?”

“Yes, a day or two at most, and yes,” he said, answering her questions in order. “We’re going to set off tonight, actually, and get an early start from Merthyr tomorrow. Johns says that the men are in rooms at a few pubs and there should be space for the three of us as well.”

Allie nodded, “that would make sense. Hopefully everything goes smoothly.” She looked a little worried, and asked again, “and you will stay safe won’t you?”

“When am I ever not careful?” he asked her teasingly.

“All the time,” she said, seriously but she smiled a little at him. “I would just like you to stay in on piece please?” she added, wryly. “I know I’m one to talk, but both of us can’t be out of action if the children take off again!”

He ignored the jibe. “Now, that’s a thought,” he said, more-or-less seriously. “Are you sure you’re up to keeping them out of trouble while I’m away for a few days, or do I have to leave Johns behind to watch over them?”

“Oh yes,” Allie said firmly. “I’m not letting them leave the farm from now on, unless I’m with them. They won’t get past me!”

Bill grinned. “They know better to cross you.” He had just moved closer, with the intent to kiss her when he heard the heavy boots of Johns and the lighter ones of Anatoly coming down the stairs. Both men looked carefully ahead as they carried various bags of personal items and kit out to the car.

Allie blushed a little and cleared her throat. “You had best get your things ready then, Bill,” Allie said quietly. “Don’t keep the others waiting, and you better explain to the children where you’re going.”

“I’m all packed. I’ll just go up and get my bag,” he said. Having collected his bag he returned downstairs then headed out to the barn where the children had taken to spending a lot of time, so that the dogs could be around Philip. It was cheerily lit by a lantern hanging from a beam and the children had made themselves comfortable on hay bales.

“Don’t stay out here too late,” he warned them. “Your mother will be on her own tonight as I’m off to Merthyr to meet up with the rest of the team.”

“Oh Bill, are you going back to the mountain? Are you sure it’s safe to do so?” Lucy-Ann asked, concerned.

He sent her a reassuring smile. “With Meier, Erlick and the dogs out of the way it will be a piece of cake.”

“I still wish you’d let us come,” grumbled Philip.

“No, not this time,” Bill said. “I don’t think there will be anything like as much trouble as before, there could still be some issues with the men and servants there. No you are better off here at the farm, where you won’t get in my way!” he ended up teasing.

“We wouldn’t get in your way,” Philip began but Bill held his hands up.

“Look, I’ve got to go. Take care of your mother, all right? I don’t want to come back to discover that she’s been spirited away or stumbled into a criminal gang.”

“Of course, Bill,” Dinah said with a nod. She didn’t have any wish to go back into that mountain, that was for sure!

To be continued…

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October 2021 round up

After a long time with no holidays during the pandemic, we not only had a week away in September but also a weekend in October!


What I have read

October was another slow-ish month for reading. I started one I thought I would enjoy but have found it rather dull and difficult to get into, which has then had the knock-on effect of stopping me from picking anything else up for a while. Still, I reached (and exceeded) my goal of 100 books!

  • Come Again – Robert Webb
  • Five Go To Billycock Hill – reviewed here and here
  • The Cornish Midwife (The Cornish Midwife #1) – Jo Bartlett
  • The Library Book – Rebecca Gray
  • 84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street – Helene Hanff
  • Dead Over Heels (Aurora Teagarden Mysteries #5) – Charlaine Harris

And I’m currently reading:

  • Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy – Faye Brann
  • Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race – Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Death of an Avid Reader (Kate Shackleton #6) – Frances Brody

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, though I allowed about three weeks’ worth to build up on the Virgin box before binging my way through.
  • Only Connect and Taskmaster
  • I watched the rest of Hetty Feather and just could not get enough of it! Every episode ends with a preview of the next and it was so hard to turn off the TV. It was brilliantly acted and although it deviated quite a lot from the books after the first couple of series, it was still excellent and true to the characters.
  • After Hetty Feather I began on the new adaptation of The Worst Witch. This is not as good or as well-acted but it has some amusing moments.
  • We didn’t watch any moves on Tuesdays, instead we watched the last episode of the Spice Girls documentary that channel four were showing, and the BBC’s one-off of Spice Girls performances at the BBC. Then we started season two of The Baby-Sitters Club which has just landed on Netflix.
  • Only Murders in the Building, which was very quirky but fun. I hope it does come back for a second season.
  • The first Scream movie, seeing as it was Halloween. I don’t usually do horror/slasher films but I’ve seen this so many times I’m OK with it!

What I have done

  • We had a weekend away in Aviemore, staving in an AirB&B for the first time. Thankfully it turned out to be a very nice little house as I was a bit nervous!
  • While up there we visited The Highland Wildlife Park, Landmark and The Highland Folk Museum. 
  • Back at home we’ve visited our local museum (The McManus) twice, the V&A, and the Discovery. We also visited a funfair when it came to town, we spent a fortune but Brodie enjoyed most of the rides. (The ghost train and a faster spinning ride ended in tears).
  • We did one of our favourite walks again which takes up past a stony little beach which is absolutely covered in sea-glass and pottery. The tide was in but I still collected loads. We also went for a woodland walk ending on a larger, sandy beach even though it was coats and wellies weather.
  • We rode on the big Ferris wheel that comes to town during the holidays sometimes, and went for fancy desserts at Kaspa’s after.
  • We decorated the house for Halloween, and I took Brodie to a special Room on the Broom story-telling and craft session at the library. We also collected twigs and a stick and made our own broom for teddy.

What has your month looked like?

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Monday #449

Last week I think I said I’d put up my October round up, and then got carried away working on the final part of my Five Go to Billycock Hill review, and posted that instead. I will try again this week for the round up (I’m sure you’re all desperate to know what I’ve been reading), and try not to be so forgetful/easily confused.

October round up

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 29

‘Fatty—you didn’t spot You-Know-Who, did you?’ asked Bets, in a low voice. But Eunice’s ears were quick, and she heard.

‘Who’s You-Know-Who?’ she asked, with her mouth full of toast.

Did Blyton somehow predict the publication of The Harry Potter books, some 40 years early? Or, as Tom Riddle took on the name Lord Voldemort in the mid 1940s, did she instead predict that his name would become so fearsome that the wizarding world would be too afraid to use it?

These are both suggestions that wouldn’t look out of place in a certain Anecdotage, but in reality Bets is asking about a dangerous but entirely muggle criminal who is on the loose in Peterswood. She’s just being vague as to not let Eunice in on the secret.

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 28

Last time Anatoly arrived at the Evans’ farm, looking for a holiday but getting swept up in Bill’s plan to storm the mountain.

Chapter 28

With stomachs fit to bursting the men retired to Bill’s bedroom to start making their plans. Bill lit his pipe and the other two lit cigarettes as they made themselves comfortable, then he brought out the map he had found in Meier’s pocket and carefully spread it out on top of the blankets.

“It is a hell of a place,” Anatoly remarked as he looked at the complicated diagram. “How did you get out?”

“With great difficulty,” Bill said. The map was not a straight-forward one to say the least. It encompassed miles of passages which not only meandered east to west and north to south but also upwards and downwards, and not in easily split levels such as in the floor plans of a house. Because of that, it rather resembled a cone of worms. Still, some of it had labels, and so using those and some of the bits he recognised Bill felt like he had a reasonable understanding of the map.

“Do we think that the men in there will have stayed put?” Johns asked. “Some of the servants might have scarpered as might the men who were to test those blasted wings.”

“How many men might be needed to clear the whole thing?” Anatoly added to Bill. “Could it be too big for who we have got?”

“There’s only one way in and out, unless you count the roof,” Bill said. “It might be that some of them have left, but they seemed pretty in awe of the King, so as long as he’s there…” he shrugged. “It shouldn’t be too hard to round up whoever’s left. I’m not expecting a great deal of trouble from them. I bet they’ve all got bad records and have been trying to hide from the police while they earn a bit of money. How many men did you say are joining us?” he asked Johns.

Johns did some adding up. “They sent a dozen, but four of them have escorted Meier and Erlick back to London for questioning. So that leaves eight, plus the three of us. The Cardiff police are pretty keen to have a hand in it as well, so we could have another ten men easily if we want them.”

“Plus the scientists?”

Johns nodded. “Two, possibly three.”

“I want someone to take a look at the equipment and make it safe,” Bill said to Anatoly. “Then we’ll see about what to do with it all.”

“Do we think that the scientists might be of use to us?” Anatoly asked. “More likely than not, they will be defectors.” He stretched out and grinned a little. “It is a while since I was in on a raid,” he mused.

“That would be because your big head gets in the way, all those solo missions have gone to your head,” Johns shot back playfully.

“Play nicely, boys,” Bill said mildly. “We’re going to bring in everyone we find in there, servants, scientists, paratroopers… so we need a plan. What I propose is we enter through the roofless cave, and then systematically search our way up the mountain. There are a lot of dead ends which we can quickly clear, and then we can set up blockades at strategic points to prevent anyone sneaking past us.” He circled a few areas he felt would be key, in pencil.

“Do you want copies of that map made, boss?” Johns asked as Bill made marks to where the cordons were to be set up. “I can drive into town for that?”

“Yes, hopefully they’ll be able to Kodagraph it in Cardiff,” Bill said with a nod. “I think we should have at least five copies made as we’ll have to split up.”

“I’ll go to the station in Merthyr to phone and ask,” Johns offered. “I’ll take the plan just in case I can go straight on to Cardiff.”

“Thanks Johns,” Bill said with a nod.

“What do you want me to do, Bill?” Anatoly asked.

“You, my lad, can tell me what you can about the job you’ve just come back from. I’ve been incommunicado the past few weeks so I haven’t heard a word,” Bill said as Johns folded the map and slipped out.

“You know I cannot-” Anatoly began, but Bill cut him off.

“Yes, believe me, with as many years in the service as I’ve done, I’m well aware of how much you can’t say,” he reminded the younger agent. “I’m not asking for all the details, the wheres or the whos. Just an idea of how it went would do.”

Anatoly accepted that with a nod. “Well then, I suppose it went… well.”

When he didn’t say anything after that Bill sighed. “Is that it? ‘I suppose it went well’?”

“You sound like my father,” Anatoly said with a roll of his eyes. “I achieved my objective. I got the information I was after, and I brought it back. And I am in one piece,” he added as an afterthought. “So yes, it went well.”

“Well, I suppose that’s all we can ask for,” Bill said with a wry smile.

Anatoly must have realised that Bill wasn’t going to let him off without hearing something more because after a deep and despairing sigh he began to outline his arrival in an unnamed place, at an unspecified time with an unspecified purpose. “And then I found myself in the sewer.”

“Ah. Yes, I’ve been there more often than I’d like to remember, unfortunately,” Bill said knowingly. “But sometimes needs must.”

“It got a bit hairy down there,” Anatoly admitted.

“How hairy?” Bill asked curiously.

“We-ll,” Anatoly said, trying to look as if it had been nothing, and not a life-or-death situation. “I was being chased, and I dove down one of the off-shoots to find somewhere to hide, but someone was on my tail quite badly. I found a hiding-hole, and stood there in the dark while they tried to follow me.”

Bill knew that it wouldn’t just have been the dark he was standing in but wisely didn’t comment. “But then what happened?”

“I was not hidden well enough for someone passing right by the end of the passage,” Anatoly said, blushing red. “His torch found me, but then the strangest thing happened… He turned it off, walked away and threw himself down into the sewage, judging by the swearing and shouts I heard.”

“He was one of ours, then. You were unbelievably lucky, Anatoly Petrov!” Bill said, guessing correctly.

Anatoly looked a little chastened. “I understood what it meant,” he muttered, as he reached up to rub the back of his bright red neck.

“There won’t always be someone there to save your skin.” Bill’s tone was grave. Every agent ended up in that sort of situation sooner or later. The sad truth was that too many of them didn’t have the sheer luck of someone else there to intervene. “It happens to the best of us, though. Sometimes, despite our best efforts we end up with our backs against the wall.”

“Then I go down fighting, but keeping my mouth shut,” Anatoly replied. “I know it comes with the job Bill, I know what is at stake!”

“Do you really though?” Bill asked, eyebrow raised. “You’re still young, a lot of this is a game to you, Anatoly. Just like it was for me.”

“I lost my father to this ‘game’, remember? I know how serious it is,” Anatoly said with deathly calm.

Bill held up his hands in surrender, “I know, I know. I’m just used to reminding people of the fact. Lots of people don’t take the job seriously, you know that.”

“Well, more fool them, then,” Anatoly said with a half-hearted shrug and said harshly, “we all cannot all be good at the job.”

Bill looked sternly at him, but let it go to not start an argument. “Come on, let’s get some kit together before Johns comes back with the maps and some extra bodies,” he said, diverting their attention from that topic.

To be continued…

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Five Go to Billycock Hill part 3

For a book I don’t rate that highly I’ve managed to write quite a lot already. At least 1,000 in part one, and another 1,000 in part two of my review.


George as a boy

I think another reason this isn’t one of my favourites is that George takes rather a back-seat in this book. She doesn’t show very much of her trademark attitude at all.

She is pleased when Mr Gringle mistakes her for a boy, but throughout the book she and Anne are relegated to cooking and washing up, and she doesn’t complain even once. At one point the boys discuss aeroplanes and flying while the girls bustle around with the household (or camphold?) duties.

When the boys decide to go down to the butterfly farm at night to do some reconnaissance George doesn’t even suggest she might go, she’s perfectly happy to stay at the tents with Anne. This is a far cry from the George of Five Go Off to Camp, where she ties a string from their tent to her toe so they can’t sneak off without her.

She doesn’t come off against Toby very well when he plays a trick on her. She always says she’s not afraid of spiders (according to the others, anyway) but when she sees the one Toby has hung above her she leaps out of her seat, and is left looking a bit silly when it’s revealed to be fake. She does have a few strong words for Toby after but I don’t feel that she got even, at that point anyway.

Shortly after the spider incident George does express an interest in aeroplanes, saying they would interest me as much as you!

Toby (foolishly) retorts but you’re a girl! Girls don’t understand the first thing about aeroplanes or motor-cars or ships – or spiders either, come to that! I really don’t think you’d be interested, Georgina, dear.

George does answer back, but only with My name is not Georgina. And don’t call me dear! before Julian tells them off for squabbling.

She does, at least, her her own back a little later when she gives Toby a good ducking in the pool. He then swims after her to try to duck her, but she outswims him.

Dick remarks I back old George. She’d out swim most boys.

Toby further antagonises George towards the end of the book when he says that lime-washing is a messy job – job for boys, not girls. He is genuinely surprised that he has offended George with that, as he has forgotten that she doesn’t like to be girlish. He runs back and asks her to weed his mother’s garden by way of apology, and George accepts…


The food

There are a fair few descriptions of meals in this book – more so than a few other recent ones. Largely due to Mrs Thomas at Billycock Farm providing them with so much to eat!

Their first meal – a picnic packed from Kirrin Cottage is not the most inspiring they’ve had. Ham and tomato sandwiches, fruit cake and orangeade with humbugs to follow. What’s interesting is they drink the orangeade out of disposable cardboard cups. In some past books they’ve had a camping cup or two, so I wonder if disposable cups are a sign of the times.

At Billycock Farm they are treated to a large ham, crusty loaves of new bread, crisp lettuces, radishes, an enormous cake, a dish of scones, great slabs of butter and jugs of creamy milk, with honey and home made jam.

They have a light supper one night, just bread and cheese. A tomato or two. Icy cold milk. Strawberries to finish. Only the Five (and possibly my mother) could call a two course meal a light supper.

One breakfast consists of boiled eggs, bread, butter, tomatoes and milk to drink.

Disaster strikes as the larder runs low one morning and they have to breakfast on bread, butter and cheese, drinking water, but sustaining themselves on humbugs after.

Their last meal is a ‘banquet’ though it’s just eggs, ham, bread, butter and salad.


Uncle Quentin and Mr Gringle

Uncle Quentin is only in the first few pages but even so he manages to fall over the children as they are on the floor reading their map. He then rants about not being able to find anything, it’s because he’s tidied his own desk and then forgotten about it.

I’m sure I mentioned this in an earlier part of the review but I feel that Mr Gringle could give Uncle Quentin a run for his money in the surly stakes. He has a similar attitude in that he’s pleased when someone shows an intelligent interest in his work (his work being of utmost importance to the exclusion of everything else) but has little patience for anyone he thinks is playing the fool or is lacking in brains.

Mr Gringle is so focussed on his work he has entirely missed four men living in his housekeeper’s room, and I can imagine that he would go out butterfly hunting and forget to eat.


And lastly – the nitpicks!

There are some famous mistakes in the series, and I’ve found two definite ones here.

Firstly, there’s the matter of the food parcel from Billycock Farm.

In the farmyard Julian says Well let’s start – We’ve got everything in the hand cart now. We’ll just wait for the food.

Firstly, are they starting then, or are they waiting? Soon Toby brings a package of food for them and The others arranged everything neatly in the useful little hand cart. The handcart that everything is already in, they’re just supposed to be adding a food parcel. I thought that perhaps the Five had opened the parcel in order to fit loose food items on the cart, but no, Anne unpacks the parcel at camp later.

Secondly, at the start of chapter six the Five plus Toby are about to follow Mr Gringle to Butterfly farm for a tour. Benny and Curly catch up to them and Toby gives his brother a telling off for coming after them, but tells them to tag along. Benny asks Mr Gringle if his butterflies are afraid of dogs or pigs, and then that’s the last we hear of the two of them. There’s a few references to “the children” and “everyone” along the way, but they go to the farm, have the run-in with Mrs Janes, return to camp where Toby plays his spider trick, and then on to the pool for a swim. At no point are Benny and Curly said to have returned to Billycock Farm.

Dale Vincero, a frequent commenter on this site has picked up on a few things which I will quote below, as I didn’t spot them:

That depiction on the front cover of an aircraft in that posture is seconds away from crashing!

I know very little about aircraft, but it does seem at a strange angle. Perhaps it is executing a roll, or spin, but it’s very low!

On page 77 and 78, cousin Jeff says that since the Five arrived to camp, they would have been quietly checked out by the Military from the airbase. Yet on page 114, the same military know absolutely nothing about the onsite Butterfly Farm and its various men coming and going – personnel who are permanent residents there. And all this within a few hundred metres from of the airbase… !!

This is a bit of a blooper, but you could put it down to character error – as in it is Jeff who has made an incorrect assumption.

There is also a mistake re the storyline in p88, p143. It was actually Julian who gave the money to old Mrs Janes, not Dick. Yet later the storyline insists it was Dick who handed over the money. In later FF books, they have corrected this, with the text having Dick hand over the money.

I have a later edition so mine has already been corrected, if it hadn’t I may have noticed this one!


So there you have it, finally, a review of Five Go to Billycock Hill. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but nor was it significantly better. Time spent with the Five can never be truly bad (unless it’s someone else writing them!) but this one doesn’t quite capture the best of the Five.

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Monday #448

I clean forgot to write this on Sunday evening, so here it is only a bit late though at least it’s still Monday! It’s also November now, and I’m not entirely sure where so much of 2021 has gone already! The clocks changed at the weekend so it’s darker earlier in the evenings (it’s fully dark as I write this, at 6.15) and it’s getting colder by the day. With Halloween over now, I think it’s time to start looking towards Christmas, a bright light in the cold, dark winter months.

October round up

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 28

As we are now looking forward to Christmas, here’s an illustration to start us off. I like the mix of illustrations from Treyer Evans in The Christmas book, where many are of a traditional style but an equal number are in silhouette.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 27

Last time Bill and the children rode home to the Evans’ farm victoriously, with their prisoners in tow.


Chapter 27

Everyone slept well that night, with the exception of Bill and Johns. Johns remained on watch until the small hours of the morning when Bill relieved him, and let him get some sleep on a fold-out bed Mrs Evans had provided.

Johns was still up bright and early to take the prisoners to the Cardiff police station in the morning. He had a good hearty breakfast from Mrs Evans, and a lot of coffee to wake him up. Johns and Bill put the men in the car, hand cuffed of course. Just past 8am, Johns set off to Cardiff with Meier and Erlick to hand them over to the Inspector Bill had met with. David sat in the front with Johns, and two dogs were in the back.

The children, coming down from their adventuring highs were beginning to moon around, not sure what to do with themselves. Bill clapped his hands briskly once the car was out of sight and encouraged them to come along with he and Allie for a walk – “we’ve hardly spent any time together these hols now, what with everything that’s gone on,” he said.

That took up a reasonable portion of the morning as they explored uphill from the farmhouse, though Aunt Allie was relieved when they all returned for lunch in one piece. She had kept a very close eye on all four children all morning, half-sure that one or more of them would fall into some sort of trouble if she let her guard down for even a minute.

When they got back to the farm, Johns was back with the car and talking to a lanky dark-haired young man with a satchel at his feet. “Who’s that with Johns?” Jack asked, squinting into the sun, trying to see. “Is it your boss, Bill? Has he come to give you a medal?”

Bill snorted. “I very much doubt that, Jack. If anything I’ll get my wrist slapped for commandeering Johns for my own means.” He thought he knew who Johns was speaking to, if the short curls being tossed in the breeze were any indication.

He raised a hand in greeting as they got to the farm gate and he could see that it was indeed Anatoly. His verbal greeting got lost in the barking of the eight remaining dogs who, upon smelling Philip had immediately come bounding across the farmyard to jump up at the gate.

Philip sank down in the middle of the pack of dogs while Kiki left her beloved Jack and flew over to Johns and Anatoly and called, “God Save the Queen!” repeatedly at them. “I did not realise you were holidaying in a zoo, Bill,” Anatoly quipped as Bill approached.

“With Philip around I’ve learned to expect nothing less,” Bill replied with a shrug. “Glad you could join us, anyway. Johns? Everything go OK with the handover? Did you get any indication of when they’d take the dogs of our hands?”

Johns nodded, “Smoothly, boss. They weren’t happy but the Cardiff cops took them off my hands no problem, and then as I was filling in the Inspector our boys turned up, with this one here,” he gestured to Anatoly before reaching for his cigarettes.

“I thought I would take advantage and hitch a ride,” Anatoly said, his accent so thick that Bill was really having to listen to make out what he was saying. “Your Inspector Morgan, he was not happy to have these two fine criminals handed to him on the plate, and then have them whisked off again almost right away,” he said with a lazy grin as he lit his own cigarette.

Bill chuckled a little. “That is a shame for him, but I suspect out team will make it up to him,” he said as the children gathered around the agents.

“Are you here to help wind up the rest of the gang?” Jack asked Anatoly as Kiki settled back on his shoulder, and started nibbling his ear.

“Well, I actually came for a few days’ holiday…” Anatoly began.

“You don’t have to join me,” Bill cut in. “If you’re needing a few days to rest and recover.”

Anatoly’s eyes flashed at the challenge, even though Bill’s tone was joking. “I did not say I would not help.”

“Can we tell you all about it?” Lucy-Ann asked excitedly. “The boys were so brave! Philip even almost had to jump out of a helicopter!”

“Johns has filled me in,” Anatoly said somewhat dismissively. The last time he had been around Lucy-Ann and the others he had chatted to them in a fairly friendly way, the age gap between he and the children far smaller than the one between he and the other agents. Now, however, Bill saw that he had shed the last remains of his boyishness.

“He tells me you were all very brave,” Anatoly added after a moment, perhaps noticing the way Lucy-Ann’s face had fallen.

“I did my best,” Lucy-Ann said with a nod, “but Philip was the bravest.”

“I think you were braver than I, Lucy-Ann, you offered to take my place!” Philip gently reminded her, giving her arm a gentle squeeze of gratitude

“Time for some lunch, I think,” Bill said ushering the children towards the farm house, except for Philip who was still surrounded by dogs.

“What will happen to the dogs?” Anatoly asked Johns, echoing Bill’s earlier question.

“Inspector Morgan says they’ll train them up as police dogs, keep a few for themselves and sell the rest to other forces in Wales.”

“Not that Philip wants to give them up,” Bill said as they walked towards the kitchen door. “Philip, Mrs Evans won’t let that lot in her kitchen so if you want to eat you’ll need to leave them behind!”

Philip dismissed the dogs and smiled sheepishly. “They’re gone… I do think mother is mean not to let us take one home. They would make the best pet.”

“And who would take it for walks and feed it every day while you were at school?” Bill asked, repeating Allie’s usual refrain when Philip asked these sorts of questions. “I know your school allows Kiki but an enormous Alsatian that’s used to running for miles every day is another matter,” he added before Philip could suggest taking the dog to school with him.

“Let’s not get into that, and head in for food!” Dinah chipped in before Philip could try another reason on Bill as to why he should be allowed to keep a dog. “Mrs Evans has cooked the most impressive roast dinner I have ever seen!”

“I hope you’ve brought your appetite,” Bill warned Anatoly. “Mrs Evans hasn’t heard of portion control, and even if she had, I’ll wager she’ll be determined to feed you up!”

Anatoly smirked, and patted his stomach. “It has to be better than canteen food, so I will take the challenge! Show me the way someone!” They all laughed and the children started leading Anatoly into the farm house and one of the biggest meals they had ever seen.

To be continued…

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Five Go to Billycock Hill part 2

Last week I started my review of Billycock Hill, only six months after the previous book in the series. So as to not lose momentum, here’s part two.


Not the Five’s finest hours

Having refreshed my memory by reading the book I think that one of the reasons that it isn’t a favourite is that the Five really don’t do anything that brave or impressive throughout. They actually embarrass themselves quite a few times instead.

First up they ignore all the obvious KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING signs to swim near the airbase, having taken Toby’s word that it’s OK to do so.

They run out of Billycock Caves because of some whistling and wailing – and I don’t mean a tactical retreat I mean they run full-tilt out in terror and don’t return to investigate.

The boys, in their only moment of real investigating, get themselves captured and only escape thanks to Timmy coming to look for them. I have to say, that Will Janes must have been hardly able to believe his luck at that point. Having smashed the greenhouse with a rock, and claimed it was kids, and to then stumble on three kids to prove his point!

The whole mystery is solved by them reading two smudgy words printed on the back of a pig and then following Timmy’s nose down a couple of tunnels. To be fair they have almost nothing to go on, no concrete reason to believe that Jeff Thomas isn’t a traitor, no reason to believe he’s being held nearby. I think for me the book would have been stronger if the Five HAD seen something and were trying to find Jeff even if the police and/or the RAF didn’t believe them.

Saying that I actually read this one faster than some of the others, primarily because I compelled to find out what happened next. The curse/blessing of a terrible memory when it comes to book plots.


General things I noticed

Joan is still Joan. This is a mostly meaningless fact as I can’t remember when she changed from Joanna, the idea of noting these things was to build up a picture of the continuity or lack thereof, but it hasn’t worked very well. In another point, the Five are all introduced as Kirrins, despite there being a lot of debate about how that’s possible.

The holiday this time is Whitsun, which is one of those words I read in Blyton books and then realise I’ve no clue what it means. Religious holiday? Specific to the mid 20th century and earlier, or specific to England, or both?

To answer thanks to Google: it’s Christian, one of the many dates calculated in relation to Easter, and not a holiday celebrated in Scotland. It looks like it’s normally a Monday bank holiday in the rest of the UK, though the Five have two weeks off for Whitsun, so either it’s changed in the mean time or Blyton just liked to create random holidays.

Another thing I’ve no idea about is a Billycock hat. As soon as I read the first sentences of the book I recalled that the hill looked like the hat, hence the name, but what on earth is a billycock hat? Turns out its another name for a bowler hat, a hat designed by William Coke, or Billy Cock. Bowler comes from the fact it was mass produced by a company called Bowlers, so rather like calling a vacuum a Hoover.

There are some interesting word-choices through the book. The first being pigling, less common (and not accepted by my spell checker) than piglet – but we’ve all heard of Pigling Bland from Beatrix Potter.

Ices is also odd, when they’re talking about ice-creams. I remember the cheap choc-ices handed out at the end of school sports days, but to read ices and ice-tubs makes me think of literal ice, or at least ice-lollies.

Julian says we shan’t feed there of course rather than the more usual eat there. Blyton often uses yellow-haired as an alternative to the more common blonde

Toby’s dog Binky is another paw-shaker though George and Timmy don’t seem to mind at all, mind you, Binky doesn’t get to do anything heroic or useful!

One of the Five remarks that it would take a hurricane to blow the tents away, which is exactly what happened in The Sea of Adventure 11 years earlier.

Dick says I’m keen on planes. I’m going to fly one when I’m older and expresses interest in planes a couple more times, which is just as well as we’ve made him an RAF pilot in our stories.

The Five are shocked to sleep in until five past nine one morning, how absolutely shocking. I consider that a perfect time to sleep to, if I can get the chance! They’re all concerned about wasting the day if they sleep past seven it seems.

Toby’s dad doesn’t appear (or even get mentioned) until chapter 18, I was beginning to wonder if he was dead.

It’s not very common for Blyton to reference other books in hers (apart from plugging her own books!) but it does happen from time to time, Sherlock Holmes in the Five Find-Outers, for example. In this one it’s Alice in Wonderland

‘Put that pig down, Anne, you must be tired of carrying it,’ said Dick. ‘You look like Alice in Wonderland. She carried a pig, too!’

Anne laughed. ‘It think it’s gone to sleep, just like Alice’s pig!’ she said. And so it had!


Benny Thomas

Toby’s younger brother is arguably the more interesting child of the Thomas family. Toby is a bit of a joker, but not as interesting as Pierre Lenoir or Jock Robbins, and not as infuriating as Richard Kent or Tinker Hayling.

Benny on the other hand is young enough to be cute and amusing with his pigling. According to his family he has had several odd pets over the years including a lamb and a pair of goslings.

Toby’s relationship with his brother is perhaps inconsistent – though I suppose that is quite realistic. The first thing he says about Benny is:

Benny’s a pet—he really is. Kid brothers are usually a nuisance, you know, but Benny isn’t.

Which sort of sets a tone that isn’t maintained through the rest of the book.

For a brother who’s a pet and not a nuisance, Toby is keen to get rid of the boy here:

Benny ran off on his fat little legs.

‘Well, we’ve got rid of him for a few minutes,’ said Toby.

This is after Toby upsets Benny by sticking a pot on his head! After which Toby says of Benny:

‘He’s all right. A bit of a cry-baby, though. I’m trying to bring him up properly—teasing him out of his babyishness, and making him stand on his own feet.’

It’s not said just how old Benny is, but at the beginning the Five think he can’t be older than five.

He’s also dismayed or irritated to see his brother appear here:

 ‘Oh, look there—here’s that little wretch Benny again—and the pigling!’

And of course there’s his joke about the ham on the table in the illustration above!

Benny doesn’t seem to take any of it to heart, though, and Toby is genuinely frightened and upset when Benny goes missing from the farm later, immediately rushing off to look for him.

I was actually quite horrified at that part, actually. This is the first time I’ve read the book since becoming a parent, and the idea that Mrs Thomas went off thinking Benny was with his father and/or brother, while they thought he had gone off with his mother is awful. In this day and age it would be classed as total negligence! It wasn’t just that Benny slipped away from those on the farm, it’s that they assumed he wasn’t there in the first place!


I think I will have to leave it there for this week, and return another week for the nitpicks, the copious amounts of food in this book and a few points about George, Uncle Quentin and Mr Gringle.

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Monday #447

The October holidays have ended where I am, and we are moving firmly through autumn now. We were having unseasonably mild weather for October, then overnight it turned to unseasonably cold – that’s Scotland for you! The hats and gloves are out now, and they’ll stay out for the next five months or so.

Five Go to Billycock Hill part 2

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 27

Mr Goon picked it up and read the message. And he fumed. He read it again. What a pig that boy was! What a little snob! Goon has not ha access to books when he was growing up, whereas Master Frederick Trotteville has at least one middle-class parent who know the advantage of a good education.

If  you’re wracking your brain trying to identify which Find-Outers book this comes from, you can stop. It’s actually from Duncan McLaren’s Looking For Enid. A strange but interesting book which is (according to Scotland on Sunday) a mix of reminiscence, literary detection and fond pastiche. I haven’t read it since I got it in around 2008, which accounts for me not mentioning it on the blog before – I do plan to re-read and review it though!

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 26

Last time the children were reunited with the donkeys, Effans, Trefor and a sheepish David.


Chapter 26

Bill was relieved that the children managed not to get themselves lost, kidnapped or otherwise into trouble for what remained of the afternoon.

In the evening they gathered together again and took the time to share their stories properly. The children had told him some of their adventure already but now Bill got to hear every last detail, and had time to examine Philip’s wings which the boy had collected from the helicopter on their way to the Vale of Butterflies and entrusted to Johns to carry. They really were a fine piece of craftmanship and Bill wasn’t surprised that Philip planned to keep them and show them off.

When at last the children had run out of things to tell them he described his search for them, though his story was not nearly so detailed. There were things he wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t tell the children.

At last it was late enough to retire to ‘bed’ amongst the rugs Effans had brought, but the children stayed awake far later than Bill imagined they could – every time it went quiet someone would remark ‘I say, remember when…’ and a new conversation would break out as they reminisced about the past week or two. At last, however, they fell asleep and all was quiet until the morning.

They rose very early upon Bill’s insistence and after a breakfast of food Effans had been wise enough to keep aside, they set off for the farm. There wasn’t anything left for lunch so they barely stopped except to drink from a spring or clear stream from time to time. The dogs, donkeys, children and adults made quite the procession, Bill thought as he bumped up and down on his donkey’s back.

The children still chattered as they rode, Kiki flying alongside them trying to join in. The dogs darted about, in between the donkeys but mostly surrounding Philip and snapping at Meir and Erlick’s ankles when they passed.

Bill hoped that they would make good time back to the farm. He also didn’t want Allie to worry any longer than she had to. Had they still had the helicopter, he knew he’d have sent Johns back to an airfield and got him to send word to her.

He kept them going at a good pace, and as a result they arrived back at the Evans’ farm around dinner-time. The farm-yard which had, until that point, been drowsing quietly in the late-afternoon sun was suddenly filled with well over thirty bodies if you included Kiki and Snowy. So if you had 33 bodies and 1/3 of them were people… that was like the start of one of those very complicated riddles about how many legs everyone had, and Bill decided he was not going to go there.

Any anyway, Mrs Mannering had now run out to greet them joyously, throwing the maths off entirely.

“MOTHER!” “AUNT ALLIE!” The children called, jumping from their donkeys and running to her for hugs. Lucy-Ann found herself quite overcome with emotion and squeezed Aunt Allie tightly when she had a firm grip around one of her favourite adults. She buried her face in the fabric of her Aunt Allie’s clothes and once again found herself glad that she had such a wonderful person to come back to after an adventure.

Mrs Effans was with them now too, exclaiming loudly in her sing-song voice and adding to the general clamour. Kiki, excited by all the noise began showing off, making Effans and then everyone else start to laugh.

The thought of food brought them under control again at last; they were all very hungry after their early breakfast and long ride. Mrs Evans had clearly done nothing but cook in the previous 24 hours as the table was absolutely laden, which was just as well with all the extra bodies.

Johns and Bill marched Meier and Erlick to a barn, and tied the two men up against a wooden pillar. The dogs, under Philip’s command sat down outside the barn, and Mrs Evans promised to take Johns a tray of food from the groaning table. He thanked her, saluted to Bill and sat down on a bail of hay, gun on display as the others went for food.

It was a jolly meal as the children recounted their adventures for the benefit of Mrs Mannering and Mrs Evans; everyone else had heard it all before. Not that they would tire of it for a while, it was such a thrilling tale.

Mrs Mannering gasped and went quite pale when she was told about Philip being selected to jump from the helicopter with the wings on. Bill squeezed her shoulder comfortingly as he smoked his pipe, using the pipe to hide a lot of his emotions, as he felt similarly to Allie in regards to the danger the children seemed to get into and this adventure had been very close to a tragic ending. Not that they seemed any the worse for wear for any of it. They had obviously been very scared at the time, but having put distance between themselves and the events they were now treating it mostly as a jolly adventure.

Given that they hadn’t slept well during their adventure, it wasn’t surprising that the children soon began yawning over their empty plates. “Bed,” Mrs Mannering said firmly after Kiki started imitating the yawns loudly in between choruses of ‘God save the Queen’. She stood up as the children protested. “I will not take no for an answer, bed, all of you! Maybe a bath first,” she added as an afterthought.

“Oh Mother!” Philip protested. “We’re not all that filthy!”

“You absolutely are, Philip, dear,” his mother replied. “When was the last time any of you washed?”

“Well… we bathed in the stream at some point I’m sure,” he said.

“If you can’t even remember, then you need a bath before bed,” Allie said firmly. “Mrs Evans, can we get the water warmed for the children please?”

Soon Mrs Evans was bustling about drawing a bath in the one and only bathroom. “I’m not going in after Philip,” Dinah protested.

“Why not? You’re just as dirty as me,” her brother retorted. In the end they all had a wash at the sink to remove the worst of the dirt before they got into the bath, Mrs Evans having apologised that she wouldn’t have enough hot water for four baths.

“I feel much better,” Lucy-Ann said as she brushed out her hair, clean and dressed in pyjamas and her dressing gown. “I feel like I have washed off the adventure of that horrible mountain,” she added.

“Silly,” Dinah chided, also dressed in her night things. “You can’t wash off an adventure!”

They really were much too tired to argue it any further, much to Mrs Mannering’s relief, and she personally tucked them each into bed despite protestations that they weren’t babies any longer.

She returned downstairs to find Bill on the sofa with his pipe, looking just as tired as the children had.

He beckoned to her and she sat close to his side so he could put his arm around her. “Thank you, Bill,” she said softly.

“Any time,” he said with a sleepy smile.

To be continued…

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Five Go to Billycock Hill

It was April when I did my last Famous Five review. The delay has mostly been due to the fact that Five Go to Billycock Hill is one of my least favourite Famous Five books. Only Five Have a Mystery to Solve and Five Are Together Again rank lower with me.

In fact I took a trifle out of the fridge to eat as I read to see if it helped, unfortunately it was gone by page 2…


Why do I rate Billycock Hill so badly?

I honestly can’t put my finger on what it is I like less about this book than I do the others. First up, though, it has stuck less in my mind than many of the others in the series. As an adult I’ve never dipped in and out of the series, even as a child I think I would read it through start to finish so I don’t think I’ve read this any less often than the rest. I just don’t recall the details or the plot very well.

I’d forgotten that Toby had a dog, though having read the first few sentences of the book I did have a sudden flash that Billycock Hill’s name had something to do with a hat.

I remember that one of the butterfly men isn’t who he says he is but I wasn’t sure which one, or how that fits in with the story. I know the old woman at the butterfly farm is important, as is her son, and that Jeff Thomas and his friend are accused of stealing a plane and are later found by the Five in the caves, but that’s about it. Oh – other than remembering Benny and his pigling Curly who so often runned away, and in the end delivered an important message to the Five.

One last thing is that I did have a 1970s paperback as a child, and even now my copy isn’t as good as the others – it’s a Brockhampton second edition so the paper quality isn’t as good and the illustrations seem to have been shrunk and aren’t so clear.

Now that I’ve read it I have a couple of ideas as to why it’s near the bottom of my ranking, though it wouldn’t be significantly lower than Five on a Secret Trail, in fact they’re probably quite equal.


Gringle, Brent, Janes, Janes and the mystery men

Quite a lot of the story hinges on the behaviour of the four known and four unknown people at the Butterfly Farm.

First up there is Mr Gringle – a butterfly man. At first he seems affable and is delighted to show the Five plus Toby around the farm. However he quickly reveals a temper akin to Uncle Quentin’s, and he has no tolerance for jokes of any kind. He is also quick to accuse others of playing the fool simply because he doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Mr Gringle is a ‘mad scientist’ type, I suppose, and like Uncle Quentin he is utterly absorbed in his work. He belittles those with less knowledge in his specialist field and pays little to no attention to real-life goings on.

Then Mrs Janes – a woman not dissimilar to Mrs Thomas who we will meet in Five Get Into a Fix. Mrs Janes is presumably a cook/cleaner/housekeeper/laundry woman to the butterfly men as Mr Gringle describes her as someone who ‘does for us’. She is less presentable than Mrs Thomas (in fact she’s called ‘witch-like’ several times) and more hard-worked, but she is also mistreated and used by her son. She warns the Five off, saying her son doesn’t like visitors, even though her son only comes by on occasion to do repairs.

It’s actually quite sad how Mrs Janes is treated. First her son is violent towards her – which she tells the Five. But nobody takes her seriously. The butterfly men either don’t notice or don’t care and the Five don’t really listen to her. Toby’s told them that Will Janes has done jobs for them at the farm and is a decent guy, and they seem to believe him over Mrs Janes. The Five more or less write her off as a crazy old woman, yet later Toby admit that Will Janes is no longer reliable as he is a drunk. The Five are at least kind to her and, in a scene reminiscent of the one at Owl’s Dene with Aggie, Dick gives her some money.

Later it is Mrs Janes that fills in some details for the Five, revealing that she’s been hiding four men in her bedroom (!) on behalf of her son who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Something the butterfly men have been entirely oblivious to!

I say butterfly men so I should talk about Mr Brent now, both the real and the phoney.

Toby was with the Five when they met Mr Gringle and so I knew he was the real deal, but he wasn’t there when they met Mr Brent. He gives them money (which is what they give to Mrs Janes) for a butterfly but is very vague on what kind of butterfly it might be.

Julian sees him again at night, just as a storm rolls in. He says he’s checking the moth traps before the rain washes them away – as there are as many good night-flying moths as there are day-flying butterflies around Billycock Hill. This is a good clue as earlier Mr Gringle explained that you get day-flying moths and night-flying butterflies.

Everything becomes more mysterious when Mr Gringle tells them (angrily) that Mr Brent doesn’t wear dark glasses, wasn’t at the farm that day and wasn’t out on the hill that night.

So the Five agree that they must keep an eye on the Butterfly Farm as something strange is going on. Not that it could have anything to do with the two planes that have just gone missing from the nearby air field, that would be too far-fetched!


I will leave it there for now, and continue with the mystery of the air field next time. Surprisingly I found the book actually quite compelling in a ‘what happens next’ way, and read it all in one afternoon, so I could actually review the whole thing in one go. I won’t, though, as I’ve gone on long enough for one post!

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Monday #446

After a year and a half of not being able to go on holiday we’ve had two in two months. I am writing this from a little house in Aviemore, but by the time it goes live we will be leaving to head home.

Five Go to Billycock Hill

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 26

Pam looks out at Cliff Castle in The Secret of Cliff Castle. What a view to have from your bedroom!

 

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 25

Last time Meier and Erlick attempted to capture the escapees, but the escapees captured them instead.


Chapter 25

“Wipe your feet! Pooh! Gah!” came the sudden cackle from Kiki, to fill the sudden silence. She started one of her dreadful cackling laughs and say happily on Jack’s shoulder. “What do we do now?” Jack asked Bill. “It’s a long way from home, Bill – and we’ve got no food to keep us going if we have to walk back.”

“Effans and Trefor and David are not far off,” Bill said. “I told them to stand by somewhere near this mountain with plenty of donkeys, in case we needed them. I wasn’t sure if the helicopter would fly very far with such a lot of you on board!”

He was as relieved as Lucy-Ann about that, and commended himself silently on his foresight. Of course he hadn’t foreseen having to abandon the helicopter atop the mountain, but still.

“Can we take the dogs back with us?” Philip was asking. “I could look after them till we get them away some place. I daresay you’d like them for the police force, Bill. They’re jolly well trained.”

“Thanks for the offer,” Bill said, grinning. “I’ll accept it.” Johns’ eyebrows had risen at the mention of ‘police’ from Philip but he said nothing. Bill shot him a ‘not now’ look. “And now, quick march!” he encouraged everyone off, away from the mountain with Mieir and Erlick walking grudgingly with them.

Johns covered Meier and Erlick as they marched. He had searched them and decreed them weapon-less, which was a relief to all. Not long after they set off the children admitted to being hungry, something Johns was beginning to realise was a very common thing when it came to children. After Dinah had expressed a hope that Effans had brought food, Bill reassured her. “Well, Mrs Evans was so upset to hear that you were lost, that she immediately did an enormous baking and I believe two of the donkeys are laden with the results. So let’s hurry!”

“Where are they?” Jack asked, obviously thinking with his stomach now that the danger was over.

“In the Vale of Butterflies, waiting for us patiently.” Bill couldn’t help grinning now. Nothing had gone quite to plan, but it had worked out in the end. The children had missed the Vale on their trip thanks to David’s detour, but as he said to them it really was easy to find if you followed the map properly.

They all chattered happily for a while, talking about the Vale of Butterflies and how everything had come right in the end. It was actually very pleasant, almost as if they were simply on holiday. Only Mieir and Erlick’s glowering faces spoiled the effect, so Bill tried not to look directly at them for too long if he could avoid it.

He knew he could trust Johns to keep the two of them inline, especially with the dogs milling around too, but still, he kept at least half his attention on the children and the other half being aware of the two men.

As they walked through a narrow pass, he knew that the Vale of Butterflies would be just on the other side below them and so when they emerged, he turned to take in the children’s faces. He was not disappointed, they all looked absolutely delighted with what they were seeing. In fact they looked almost as delighted as they had when he had landed on the mountain to rescue them!

He had already seen the valley of butterflies briefly, and knew it was simply alive with every colour of butterfly one could imagine. He looked forward to a closer look, however.

“Why are there so many butterflies?” Dinah asked in wonder.

“I suppose because there are so many varieties of food-plants,” Bill said, sounding knowledgeable even to himself. “This valley is apparently as famous for flowers as for butterflies,” he went on.

Philip then spotted Effans, Trefor, David and the donkeys and their was a happy reunion – though David, Bill noted, looked suitable ashamed.

“He got it hot and strong from Mrs Evans when he arrived back alone with the donkeys chasing after him,” he explained to the children. “I also had a few words to say to him, as you can imagine! So now he feels he can’t look anyone in the cave. It won’t go him any harm to feel like that for a while. He behaved like a coward!” he said, starting to feel rather cross all over again as he thought about it.

Lucy-Ann, the kind-hearted girl that she was, however spared David some sympathy and a smile which he accepted gratefully.

Bill had Philip tell the dogs to guard the prisoners so that the rest of them could make a start on Mrs Evans’ picnic. “A pretty couple,” Bill said as Meier and Erlick began to bicker. He smiled in satisfaction. It would be too easy for them now. All he had to do was get them back to civilisation, locked up in separate rooms and then when interrogated they would be nicely played off against each other until the SIS had found out what they wanted. Then they might be handed over to the Welsh police, depending on what they had revealed. Either way, their futures did not look rosy.

“I think we’ll turn our backs on them. They spoil the view.” They did just that, and found that Mrs Evans had truly out-done herself. There were several kinds of meat, eggs, cheese, fresh salad, home-made lemonade, fresh bread, pies, tarts, cakes and more. Bill doubted that he could take a bite of everything even with the emptiness of his stomach.

It was a glorious picnic through and through – and not just for the food. The children were full of chatter and delight as the butterflies flitted around them, and Kiki showing off to Johns and Effans. Effans of course laughed uproariously, so much so that he almost choked. “Death by parrot…” Bill muttered to Johns who was watching Kiki’s antics in a mostly straight-faced way, only the odd smile at her most outrageous phrases showing how amused he was.

After everyone had eaten enough to sate their immediate hunger Bill (feeling particularly magnanimous due to the scenery and company) took some food over to the prisoners. The dogs were well-trained enough not to attempt to steal anything, though they did look at the chunks of bread-and-meat in interest. There would no doubt be enough left-over for them to have something each, even with Snowy taking titbits from everyone.

Once the children could eat no more, they wandered off to explore a little, and Bill went through the nights’ exploits with Effans who hung on to every word in amazement. Trefor and David listened too, but it was unlikely they followed too much of it. Effans could translate for them later, Bill thought as he kept half an eye on the children’s movements. It wouldn’t do to lose them so soon after rescuing them. They had a while before they would need to think about setting up their camp, for it was too late to set off for home now, so he would let them explore in the meantime.

To be continued…

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