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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The Bom Annual

As I mentioned before, when on holiday I bought a copy of the Bom Annual for the princely sum of £1.

This is my very first Bom book of any kind – and so I know almost nothing about him.

In my review I’ll be asking the hard-hitting questions such as: Is Bom a real drummer boy or just a toy? What kind of stories does Bom appear in? and more.

The Bom Annual on the bottom left (it’s missing its dustjacket).


Bom’s books

First, the annual I bought is a one-off. From what I can see there are 8 Bom books (published between 1956 and 1961), 4 regular picture-strip books (1959-1963) and an Australian Weeties picture-strip book (1956). Plus of course the annual, a painting book and four jigsaws.

So, Bom is fairly well represented. I have probably seen his books on eBay etc before but as he looks like he is aimed at the very youngest Blyton fans he isn’t something I have actively sought out.

I’m pleased to have found the annual so cheaply, then as I think it will give me a good introduction to the world of Bom.


When is a review not a review?

I often find my reviews turning into synopsis – and it’s particularly easy for this to happen when it’s a short story collection or something aimed at very young readers. Having looked up Bom on the Enid Blyton Society I found that Terry Gustafson – a frequent reviewer and writer for the Enid Blyton Society Journal – had summed up my feelings on the matter very well.

 a review [of books like this] becomes more of a lengthy synopsis and the reason why anything should be written at all about the simpler books is that a whole host of them are not available… it can be useful if one can read something about it even if it’s just to satisfy one’s curiosity as to content… Not only will the simple reference enable fans to get some idea of what a book is all about, but it may be very helpful to those scores of people who write in enquiring about a particular story they had read years and years ago, or those requesting information about a character they know of but can’t place.

I frequently look up books to try to work out if I’ve read them before, or just to understand what they’re about and so a brief synopsis or vague review isn’t always helpful. I’m not sure exactly how this review will turn out but I suspect that it may be more of a description of the book’s contents.


The annual’s contents

The annual – like the Big Noddy Books – opens with a letter from the title character. Bom introduces himself and confirms that he is A TOY (I hope you’re hearing that in Tom Hanks’ voice, because that’s how I wrote it).

There’s also a handy contents list which tells me that there are:

  • twelve stories
  • four picture strips
  • four picture verses
  • four puzzles (and one set of answers)

So a nice mixed-bag of contents.


The Picture-Strips

The four picture-strips are like what you see in the Noddy Big Books – 9 coloured pictures per page with a brief caption under each. The first and last are full colour, the others are line drawings with one colour added.

They are

  • Bom Goes Adventuring
  • Bom’s Wizard Adventure
  • Bom’s Narrow Escape
  • Bom Visits Noah’s Ark

Bom Goes Adventuring tells us a little about Bom – he lives in a toy fort which is run by Captain Bang, and he is the drummer-boy. Having read the synopsis of the first novel in the Bom series (Bom the Little Toy Drummer) this picture-strip seems to be a very truncated retelling of that story – of how Bom is locked up and punished for being a terrible shot (and other misdemeanours in the full story), and then how he escapes in his drum to go off on his adventures.


The stories

Of the twelve stories nine are straight-forward tales about Bom, but three are rather odd and I’ll explain why in a moment.

The regular stories are:

  • Where Are My drum Sticks?
  • Gallop-A-Gallop-A-Gallop!
  • Pittery-Pattery-Pat!
  • Splash!
  • Away Went the Wuffy Dog
  • And Away Went the Drum
  • Bom and the Weather-Girl
  • It Happened One Afternoon
  • Crack-Crack-Crack!

As for the other three, they are:

  • The Little Sugar House
  • Jane’s Clever Thrush
  • The Magic Duster

What’s odd about these three is that Bom isn’t even in them! The first two appear back to back, after a page headed Please, Skipper Heave-Ho, Tell Me a Story! There is half a page of text where Bom asks his friend to tell him a story and the two that follow are Skipper Heave Ho relating the stories very much in Blyton’s voice! I’m not sure how I feel about that! It looks as if the annual perhaps had to be a certain length and so it was an easy way to bulk it out without having to write more actual Bom material – but according to The Cave of Books, all the stories were specially written! Maybe Blyton just ran out of Bom inspiration!

Saying that The Little Sugar House is one of the strongest stories in the book, with more depth and meaning than anything else.

The stories don’t really follow on from each other, though they don’t contradict each other either. One story begins with a reminder of Captain Bang who chased Bom after he ran away, and who then appears again and having spotted Bom gives chase again so there is some continuity. That story ends with Thunder – Captain Bang’s horse – refusing to stop when they catch up to Bom as Bom had done him a good turn, but somehow I expect that we haven’t seen the last of the captain!

And yes, I was right, Captain Bang does turn up later in the book and has another go at capturing Bom.


The Picture-Verses

These are just poems with a picture.

  • Drummer Boy
  • My Very Good Friend
  • A Picnic With Bom
  • My Wuffy Dog

My Very Good Friend introduces us to Skipper Heave-Ho (who appears in later stories and fulfills a similar role to Big-Ears in the Noddy books) and his unusual upside-down house-boat.


The Puzzles

These are four full-page picture puzzles:

  • Can You Find the Way? (A map-style maze)
  • What is Wrong? (Find the mistakes in the picture)
  • Can You Find Them? (Find the hidden animals)
  • The Toy Shop (Find the toys beginning with the letters given)

I  have to admit that I sometimes struggle with the puzzles Blyton poses in her magazines! Often it’s to do with phrases or objects that are very much out of date now. The Bom ones, being aimed at younger children, though, were nicely at my level, though I missed a few of the ‘what is wrong’ things, I stopped counting at six or seven and there were 10!


So what did I make of Bom?

I quite like Bom. He’s similar to Noddy but not half as foolish! The stories are simple but amusing and Bom does the right thing in them but also has moments of temper which shows he isn’t perfect.

The illustrations – provided by R. Paul-Hoye and H.W. Felstead –  are attractive in both the full colour and line drawings. I think I prefer the full-colour as they are just so bright and inviting.

What confuses me, though, is the world he lives in. At no point does the annual show him having or making a house anywhere – he seems to just wander as he pleases in order to have adventures. I’m used to Noddy who has a house and a business in order to make money to live. Wuffy dog also turns up with no explanation. For several stories it’s just Bom then suddenly he has a dog who sometimes stays with Skipper Heave-Ho.

Anyway, what’s more confusing is Bom saying he’s a toy and then going on to behave as a real boy throughout. In fact – there don’t seem to be any toys in Bom’s world. There are animals who can talk to other animals, and behave in a mildly anthropomorphic way, and there are a few wizards, witches and brownies, but no toys. But if Bom’s a toy, then it stands to reason that the fort is a toy fort, and Captain Bang and Thunder are toys… so that would make it likely that everyone is a toy of some sort. Yet there are no references to anyone being a toy at all! Very confusing. I may have to get a few of the novels to make sense of it all.

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Monday #445

Last October I was writing about how it would be my last month of full furlough. I was right and also wrong, as although I went back to work in November, I was back on furlough January to March. This October I have finally come off furlough (as has everyone as the scheme has ended) and I am back at work my full hours. It’s only 16 hours a week but it does mean back to the evening shifts!

The Bom Annual

and

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

Stuart Tresilian is my second-favourite Enid Blyton illustrator. This illustration of his shows the Mannering-Trents having a picnic in their fern-cave in the Valley of Adventure. I like how Tresilian wasn’t afraid to draw the scene from the rear of the cave, giving us a view of the children’s backs and the view out.

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 24

Last time the escapees met up with Johns and Philip and attempted to evade the Alsatian pack.


Chapter 24

The first dog, panting heavily, was leaping through the water towards them. “Go on! Get them! Find them!” Meier was shouting, egging the creature on.

The dog stopped, just outside the cave, and howled before he was joined by his pack.

“Not a nice sight,” Bill murmured to Johns, wondering how, or if, they could handle this. They were both armed but a pistol each wasn’t going to do much against a whole pack of dogs. Johns continued to stare down the dogs as if he wasn’t in the least impressed by their existence.

“Keep still,” Bill said clearly. “As long as we don’t attempt to move or get away the dogs won’t do anything more than stand and stare.” He hoped, anyway. He seemed to spend a lot of time hoping these days.

Meier and Erlick, even more out of breath than the dogs appeared next, and quickly thought better than to stand in the open where Bill or Johns might shoot them. It was very tempting, thought Bill, only he didn’t think the dogs would react well to someone shooting their masters.

“Come on out!” The dogs have found you. If you don’t want them to set on you, come on out – and throw any gun you’ve got down on the ground, and put your hands up. We’ve got you covered,” Meier commanded.

And so began a hushed conversation between he, Bill, and Johns. Johns asked if they ought to go out and Bill immediately rejected the suggestion. “I doubt if he’ll dare to set the dogs on us. He knows the children are here.”

Jack interjected with an unfortunately convincing argument. “Meier wouldn’t stick at anything.” Meier’s explosion of temper after a minute or two of no response rather proved Jack right.

“You heard what I said. You have one more chance. The dogs are ready to pounce. They’ll round you up all right, and I warn you, their teeth are sharp so don’t resist!” he threatened.

Taking their cue from Bill, nobody moved. Bill wasn’t sure what would be more frightening for them; sitting waiting for the dogs to attack or going out to face Meier. Whichever it was, they would all be in it together.

And then Philip moved. Bill was astounded. What on earth was he doing – surrendering? He couldn’t believe that Philip would turn himself in, return to the mountain and the prospect of being thrown from a helicopter – or worse.

“Put your hands up!” Meier shouted to the boy, and Philip complied.

Bill and the others watched tensely at first, and then with growing admiration as Philip talked to the dogs, causing them to relax from their threatening postures.

“Where are the others?” demanded Meier impatiently. “Tell them to come too, or I’ll give the order for them to be dragged out!”

Bill winced as the lead dog jumped up at Philip, wondering if somehow the magic had failed him, but no, the dog merely delivered a wet lick to the boy’s face, and soon all the dogs were milling around him. When Meier tried to command the dogs again, although they looked at him for a moment they chose to ignore his orders and listen to Philip who led them – or at least as many as would fit – into the cave to join the others.

Philip extended his magic to the others in the cave, laying his hand on John’s and Bill, so that the dogs accepted them. “Philip!” Bill breathed in admiration. “You’re a marvel! It’s magic you use – can’t be anything else!”

“What a boy!” Johns agreed, his face showing his admiration for the boy. The dogs were happily sniffing, licking and laying down in the cave in-between people, wherever there was space.

“Meier’s shortly going to have a fit, I think. He just can’t understand all this!” said Jack.

Outside, Meier’s shouting began again, showing he was indeed getting more and more irate. “Fetch them out, I say! I’ll shoot the lot of you dogs, if you don’t obey orders! What’s come over you? Fetch them out!” he bellowed in vain.

Bill watched to see if the dogs would respond, but they didn’t. Clearly their allegiance had switched to Philip now. He was just wondering how they were going to break this stalemate when Meier fired his gun. At first he thought the man might have carried out his threat and shot at the dogs, but none seemed to be harmed. Still, he judged it was high time to be proactive and not sit around waiting for more shots.

“Philip! Will the dogs obey you? Will they go for Meier and Erlick? If they will – order them to! We’ll give them a taste of their own medicine!”

“Right!” Philip nodded, a determined look in his eye. He pointed to the tree where the two men were hidden and spoke to the dogs, encouraging them to fetch their former masters. The Alsatians gleefully did Philips bidding and rushed across to Meier and Erlick, flung themselves on the men and managed to rid Meier of his gun. “Don’t hurt them! Bring them here!” Philip then ordered the dogs, proud of his control over them.

Bill and Johns exited the cave a moment or two after the dogs, having waiting just long enough to be sure that the animals were doing as they were asked, and were amused to see Erlick screaming and howling for all he was worth. He had seemed brave when he was in charge but was now being revealed as the coward he really was. Bill ignored his pleas of “Call them off,” and kept his eye on Meier who was fighting wildly with little regard for his own safety.

One of the dogs grabbed Meiers’s trousers and hustled the man over to where Bill and Johns were standing. Erlick was brought too, and as the dogs herded the men over, Johns pulled out his weapon, aware that one or other of the men might still be armed.

“Hands up,” said Johns, lest either man have another weapon. “Any funny business on your part, Erlick, and the dogs can have you for all I care. Stand up, Meier, and put your hands up, too.”

Bill made a mental note to see if he could pinch Johns for his team in future as Meier glared at them both.

“Shut up!” he said to Meier as the man began to ask questions then spew forth what only Bill and Johns recognised as offensive statements. He had his gun out himself now, something he didn’t really like to do in front of the children but the situation necessitated it.

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September 2021 round up

In September we finally got to go away on our three-times rearranged holiday and we were lucky to have really good weather!


What I have read

I didn’t read a lot – I took my Kindle on holiday and attempted to read Gone Girl having seen the film. I read 4% that whole week and barely even finished the Sabrina the Teenage Witch book I found in the holiday house. Despite that I am on 94/100 books this year, which is 20 ahead of schedule.

  • Alice in Wonderland: A Puzzle Adventure – Aleksandra Artymowska
  • Night Witch (Rivers Of London Graphic Novel #2) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality – Adam Rutherford
  • Milady’s Dragon – (Sabrina the Teenage Witch #38) – Cathy East Dubowski
  • The New Big Noddy Book (#6)
  • Going Green – Nick Spalding
  • Prue Theroux the Cool Librarian – Gillian Rubinstein
  • The Julius House (Aurora Teagarden #4)
  • Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  • Best Foot Forward – Adam Hills

And I’m currently reading:

  • Come Again – Robert Webb

What I have watched

  • HollyoaksOnly Connect, and the first in another new series of Taskmaster
  • I finally finished all the episodes of Hoarders that were on Amazon Prime and moved onto the CBBC adaptation of Hetty Feather.
  • We only managed one Tuesday night movie this month and it was Raising the Bar (another terrible gymnastics movie) but on holiday we watched Quiz Show.
  • I missed the last few nights of the Paralympics when we went away so after I came back I watched the episodes of The Last Leg which I had recorded.
  • The newest Tomb Raider film. I didn’t know that they had rebooted that film franchise but it was strange watching it, as it’s based on one of the more recent games, and I had watched Ewan play enough of it for it to be oddly familiar.

What I have done

Well, obviously we had our holiday – did I mention we went on holiday?

We stayed near Portsoy on the north-east coast of Scotland, in between Aberdeen and Inverness. While we were away we:

  • Visited a lot of beaches. Namely Portsoy, Cullen, Spey Bay, Macduff, and Portknockie and Sandend. Some were sandy, some were stony, some had rockpools. At Cullen and Spey Bay we saw seals, and also at Cullen we found crabs, little fish and lots of anemones. At Macduff we gathered a whole load of sea glass and bits of pottery, and a few bits of rubbish – we also did some litter picking on both our trips to Spey Bay which Brodie really enjoyed! At Sandend my sister and I braved a sea swim (it was a really warm day!) and I found a starfish in the shallows.
  • Visited the Moray Motor Museum, the Macduff Aquarium, Little Treasures Toy Museum, and the Gordon Castle walled gardens – one of the oldest and largest working walled gardens in the UK. On the way home we stopped in at Wynford Farm Park for lunch, a play and to feed the animals.
  • Explored some former railway lines – in Portsoy and the impressive viaducts at Cullen.
  • We had ice creams a couple of times and got fish and chips our last night (as is our tradition – less washing up to do when you have to pack up as well).

Back at home we:

  • Finally picked the veg we had been growing on the window ledge for months, the crop was not impressive!
  • Visited our local transport museum for its special bus event, and again for their steam day.

What I have bought

Cullen had four vintage/antique shops which is a lot considering how small a place it is. I was excited to explore them so made a special return trip on a Thursday when I knew they’d all be open.

I spotted one or two Noddy bits and pieces in them, but my best finds were in the book room of the ‘Antiques and salvage yard’ shop.

I bought the Bom Annual (my first Bom book) for £1 which was an absolute bargain and a the 6th Big Noddy Book for £5. I put back a copy of Mr Pink Whistle’s Party as I already had a copy, even if it wasn’t the soft-cover with the lovely artwork.

Tangentially related to Blyton I also bought a copy of a 1952 guide book for St Andrews as that’s exactly when Julian, David, Sally Darrell and Anatoly were at university.

In another shop I also bought the first Trixie Belden mystery which is a series suggested by Sean who has reviewed some of the Bobbsey Twins mysteries for us.


What has your month looked like?

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Monday #444

This is the first post for October – the month where it gets colder, darker, the clocks go back and where Halloween comes at the end. As of this week I return to my normal hours at work – so I’ll be working more, and doing evenings again. It’ll take a bit of adjusting to as I had gotten used to having my evenings free for the past year and a half!

September round up

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 24

“It’s expensive,” he said, looking down at his wife. “Two pounds ten shillings a week – and you’ve got to remember that Molly won’t be leaving school and earning money for a while yet.”

Mr Jackson discusses the cost of renting a new house with his wife in The Family at Red Roofs. Money is often a plot in Blyton’s books – often with children raising money for charity, or to buy fireworks as a group etc, or as happens later in this book for the family to survive. But generally it’s small amounts that add up – I can’t think of many times when Blyton has adults discuss their finances. This conversation includes Mr Jackson mentioning the possibility of him getting a raise, and them having to fund the children’s further educations. So it’s all a bit serious and grown-up, but it’s necessary to set the scene for what comes later.

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 23

Last time Bill and the children finally made it to the bottom of the ladder. Now, for freedom?


Chapter 23

As they moved Bill said “If only those wretched dogs don’t find us! Philip’s told me about them and how you thought they were wolves. I don’t fancy a pack of Alsatians on my trail, somehow, with Meier and Erlick urging them on!” He hurried the children onwards, though the girls were beginning to stumble through the tunnel in tiredness. Bill didn’t blame them, he could see the light at the end of the tunnel – the dawn was coming.

“Come on,” he said as the children stopped to gaze around in the light of the new day. “I left Philip and Johns by the stream – where you left Dapple.” He kept up a light chatter as they moved down towards the lush green valley below, telling them how they had taken Dapple home on their first expedition. “He thinks we’re coming through the air of course,” he added, going on to tell them about landing the helicopter in the dark.

“Philip will be looking out for us by that light, then?” Lucy-Ann asked him. “Not by the stream?”

Bill was grateful that he could answer her with a “No. I told him not to, in case anyone was roaming about there, saw the light and spotted him and Johns,” he explained. A wise move, as it had turned out.

They easily made it to the meeting place, and were overjoyed that on the way there, Kiki appeared. Jack was ecstatic and so glad to have his beloved bird back that he couldn’t speak and just scratched her head lovingly as Kiki rubbed herself against him and repeated back his little loving noises. “Oh, good! Oh Jack! Dear old Kiki, isn’t it lovely to have her again. It’s been awful without you Kiki,” Lucy-Ann spoke for them all, glad that Kiki was back in one piece where she belonged.

“You saved us, Kiki, old bird! You led those fellows such a song and dance that they let us escape,” Bill added, feeling the need to acknowledge the bird’s performance however accidental.

“God save the King,” Kiki responded before producing some of her sillier noises.

It was then that Dinah noticed that Snowy was gone. “He hasn’t been with us for some time,” Bill said. “He’ll turn up, I expect – just like Kiki,” he assured her. They were NOT going back for the young goat.

“Dithery, slithery,” Kiki trilled suddenly, her eyes locking on to Jack’s sleeve where Sally the slow-worm was poking her head out into the fresh air. To her credit, Dinah didn’t make a sound. They started moving again, Kiki firmly planted on Jack’s shoulder, muttering to herself and nibbling his ear affectionately. It didn’t take them long before they heard a hailing yell from nearby.

“Hie! Here we are! Jack! Dinah! Lucy-Ann! Bill! And oh, I say, there’s Kiki too. Hurrah! You’ve escaped! But where’s the helicopter? We’ve been waiting and waiting for it!” Philip shouted madly, barely stopping for breath as he jumped around in excitement. Bill couldn’t suppress a smile especially when he noticed Johns standing stolidly behind Philip, ignoring not only the shouting and jumping but also the goat-kid frisking around them both.

Before the happy reunion could get underway, however, they heard a terrible howling in the distance.

“The dogs!” said Jack. “They’re after us!”

Lucy-Ann immediately shank back behind Bill and Johns as she heard the angry howls from the dogs. The two grown-ups exchanged glances and Bill swore in Russian under his breath (a good way to prevent the children knowing exactly what he’d said). He’d been so delighted to have all the children back under his care and pleased with their escape that he hadn’t been keeping enough of an eye out for a retaliation from Meier and Erlick, not to mention keeping an eye (or ear) out for the dogs. They all stood a good chance of being caught again, and Meier would not be kind, Bill was sure.

“Bill! Get into the stream and wade up through the water!” Jack said, taking charge. He explained how that was what Sam had done, claiming that water would break up their scent.

“Well, it’s a poor chance,” Bill said, aware of how many times that hadn’t worked out for various colleagues. “But we’ll try it,” he added, knowing their other options were limited and it couldn’t hurt.

“Blow that helicopter – behaving like that when I wanted to take off to safety. We’d have been quite all right by now if it hadn’t been for the damage to the steering,” he ranted to himself as he waded into the icy water.

The group made their way up the stream as quickly as they could, hoping that the dogs wouldn’t catch up to them. They were looking for a good hiding pace, somewhere where the dogs and men couldn’t find them. Soon they found the very thing, a nice big cave where the water rushed out of it. Bill suggested that they all try and hide in it, hoping that they would all be able to fit!

It turned out that the cave narrowed quite quickly and so the six people and two animals were rather squashed in, but at least they were in, and not visible to anyone who wasn’t within about six feet of the cave.

Bill reached into his pocket and produced some chocolate. “I forgot about this,” he said, and handed it around. Johns grinned and produced his own bar, too. Another mark in his favour, thought Bill.

“Do you think the dogs have lost the trail now?” Jack asked.

“Yes, sounds like it,” Bill said, though more out of hope than true belief. “They’re at a loss, I should think. They must have come to the stream, jumped over it and found the trail at an end. They probably won’t have the sense to realise we’ve gone upstream,” he reasoned, and it sounded convincing. Whether it was right was another matter.

“But I should think the men with them would guess,” said Johns, calmly echoing Bill’s unspoken thoughts. “I know I would! If I went hunting a man with dogs, and we came to a stop by a stream, I’d order the dogs up or downstream at once.”

Johns, who was taking all this in his stride in a particularly impressive manner, was absolutely right but Bill wished that he hadn’t just dashed the children’s hopes in such a no-nonsense way.

Lucy-Ann was already sounding upset at the thought of Meier finding them. “He’s got the most piercing eyes, Bill – honestly, they go right through you.”

“Well, he’d better try looking right through me. He’d be sorry!” Bill said in a threatening voice. At this point he’d like nothing more than to face off against Meier on an even playing field.

Kiki lightened the mood briefly by hiccuping and making even Johns laugh, but the levity was short-lived. “The dogs are coming nearer,” Jack said, and soon the others could hear the howls getting louder.

Dinah and Philip were matter-of-fact as they analysed the situation, and Jack was uncharacteristically sharp with Kiki as she shouted. Lucy-Ann clutched Bill’s hand tighter and tighter as the tension in the cave grew unbearable and then, the sound of a dog splashing through the stream reached their ears.

To be continued…

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Caves and ruins – the reality

I’ve done two ‘reality’ posts already – one about finding a real-life hollow tree, and another about caves and passages at Auchmithie beach. I was on holiday on the north east coast of Scotland earlier in the month and found a few real Blyton-worthy places.


More caves

I only went into one cave, but it was so spectacularly Blyton-worthy that I am sure that all the rest were, too.

The cave was at Portknockie, right by a famous rock formation called Bow Fiddle Rock. Bow Fiddle Rock is plenty Blytonian in itself. It is a natural sea-arch made of quartzite and home to various sea-birds.

bow fiddle rock portknockie

Bow Fiddle Rock, centre, and the cave, far left

bow fiddle rock Portknockie

Bow Fiddle Rock just as a speedboat passed behind the arch

I can very much see the Adventure series children sailing out there for Jack to look at the sea-birds. (But no Great Auks, I’m afraid).

The cave is just a short walk from the village, across the cliff to where there is a good view-point for Bow Fiddle Rock, then down a very worn little path to a stony beach. What at first looks like a smallish and very dark cave then turns out to be a long passage through the rock where the sea comes through.

portknockie cave

The entrance to the cave

portknockie cave

Just inside the cave

You can absolutely imagine a little boat pulling into this cave in the dead of night to unload smuggled goods which could then be taken over the ridge to the next cove and hidden in one of the many caves there – and perhaps even taken up to the village through a secret passage. It’s on the opposite side of the village to the harbour where the legitimate boats would dock. At the top left there’s another (very small) entrance, just right for a young adventurer to watch clandestine goings-on as they try to solve a mystery.

There was another inlet into the rock on the other side of the beach, but the tide was in so I could only get a few photos taken after a bit of a climb up the side of it (Ewan did the climbing, not me!)

We would have explored this area more, but having walked down to the harbour together Brodie then tripped over nothing and skinned all of one knee, curtailing our afternoon out. Maybe next time!


Ruins and secret passages

The first ruin we found was an old manor house which just happened to be in the grounds of where we were staying – something the owners should definitely add to their website! Called Glassaugh House it was built around 1770 but now is in a pretty poor state. The walls are still standing but the roof has more or less collapsed and all the windows are gone. I looked in a couple of windows and it looks like most of the ground floor is storage for firewood with tools and decorating things stored in the front hall.

ruins of glassaugh house

Apparently at some point in the past it was owned by a farmer who used it – including the upper floors – as pens for livestock!

Our welcome pack at the house – the non-ruined one we were staying in – expressly forbade us from exploring the house as it’s in such an unsafe condition. As none of us were fictional teenagers with a penchant for danger, we left well enough alone. I bet the Five would have been right in there, though. When we read ‘please stay away from the old ruin’ we pictured the typical half-fallen in crofters’ cottage you see now and again in rural parts of Scotland. We definitely did not expect an enormous manor house!

More information on the house can be found at Canmore and Buildings at Risk.

The next ruin is at the other end of the scale – just a single wall of what must have been a cottage at some point, overlooking the Portsoy harbour (Portsoy being where some of Peaky Blinders was filmed). Although there’s not much left there now, the window does frame a seriously good view.

portsoy harbour and ruin

Portsoy old harbour (1693) with the ruin behind

portsoy ruin

Looking through the window of the ruin

What’s interesting about Portsoy is that is has one of the oldest harbours in the area and so predated things like customs houses. I learned this in the Salmon Bothy – a tiny museum in Potsoy about the fishing industry. I also learned that one of the large buildings by the harbour – the one I had actually thought might have been the customs house – was owned by a man (one Alexander Brebner) a merchant also believed to be a major smuggler. The whole area was rife with smuggling in those times, and it’s suggested that there were many secret passages especially in and out of that house.

portsoy harbour and ruin

The building to the far left – yes, the one I’ve almost cut off entirely, not knowing its importance at the time the photo was taken – is Alexander Brebner’s house, the one beside it with the blue sign is Portsoy Marble.

I only discovered after we came home that there’s a blocked-up smuggler’s hole at the back of the building, and nobody knows what’s down there! I can imagine a passage snaking from Brebner’s house, under the Portsoy Marble building (it’s not really marble, it serpentine), and up the slope to that old cottage which would be a perfect signalling point for smugglers’ boats. Mind you Laird Brebner, as he was known, was caught smuggling so often he had a lawyer move into his house, so perhaps he wasn’t as sneaky as all that!

It appears that the Old Merchant House is now a holiday rental, I’d definitely love to stay there some time!


 

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Monday #443

This is going up slightly later than usual as I failed to remember to write this on Sunday evening as I normally do. So here I am, a day late, writing this and at the same time wondering what I can write this week. Preferably something that requires minimal research and can be written up in an hour or two (the Holy Grail of blog ideas, then).

Caves and ruins – the reality

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 23

“Out, boy! Out, quickly!”

But Jimmy laughed. He went up to the roaring tiger and looked her in the eyes. He put his arm round her neck and pressed his face against her furry cheek. The great tiger purred happily, and suddenly rolled over on to her back to be tickled like a cat!

In Hurrah for the Circus! Jimmy Brown had gone in to the tigers’ cage to rescue Jemima the monkey from Ruby the tiger. Anyone else (except perhaps Philip Mannering) would have been mauled, but not Jimmy.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 22

The last chapter took us on a brief trip across Europe to see what Anatoly was up to. Before that, Bill and the children were on their way down the ladder in an attempt to escape Fang Mountain.


Chapter 22

Everyone scrambled back up the ladder and over the edge and Bill instructed, “Back into the passages! We can’t afford to be caught now. We’ll wait til whoever it is has gone and then we’ll try again.” He was keeping a calm demeanour but internally he was both furious and very worried. What absolute bad luck for someone to choose that exact moment to come up the ladder! Of course, five minutes earlier and they’d likely have been caught on the way to the ladder, and given the length of the climb five minutes later and they’d have been caught further down the ladder, but still. It was absolutely sickening to be so close to escape and have to turn back. And worse, they were close to being caught now.

He followed the children as they rushed to the passage, where it forked, and he pushed them into the darkest looking passage, but someone was coming at them from the far end. They all rushed backwards towards the ladder where the other people had reached the top of the ladder and were emerging into the cave.

In almost a panic Bill urged the children to try the second of the forks, a passage which led to what seemed like a maze of little caves. Worried they would get hopelessly lost he ordered the children to wait where they were but someone must have seen them as a stentorian voice rang out, “Who’s there? Come out at once!”

No one moved in the darkness, glad of their dark corner and rocky overhang. Bill prayed that the beam from the torch wouldn’t find them, he wasn’t sure what he could do if it did. The footsteps passed by them and Bill heard voices, the men were organising a search. Bill tried to get the children to safety, whispering to try another cave when the cave they were in was filled with light and the beam of a torch fell on Jack’s feet.

Bill was ready to barrel out to defend the children, perhaps he could hold the men off long enough for the children to get to the ladder, but before he could act another voice spoke. The voice, utterly despairing and miserable said “Poor Kiki! Ding dong bell! Peepbo!”

The group gripped each others hands as they heard Kiki’s speech. Bill gripped Jack’s arm as a warning, hoping that Jack wouldn’t lose his head and can call for his beloved bird. Luckily Jack kept his cool as Kiki kept talking. “Send for the doctor! Musty, fusty, dusty, pooh, gah!”

Kiki may have been miserable but she was having the opposite effect on Bill. He was relieved this turn of events, but not for the same reason as Jack. He was, of course, pleased that she was alive and well. He was quite fond of the bird, mad and annoying as she was. No, he was bordering on delighted that she was creating such a nice diversion for them. There was a moment where his hopes seemed to be dashed, however, as in their search for Kiki Meier came too close for comfort. But Kiki did not let them down, and flew from cave to cave, beginning to draw the men away.

Meier sounded suitably puzzled, Bill was pleased to note. “It’s that voice again that we have been hearing in intervals,” he said, his voice low. He was still speaking as he moved to follow the voice but a second later the concealed children and Bill almost let out yells as the sound of a gun being fired echoed around the caves as Meier tried to shoot the unidentified speaker.

Bill kept an arm ready to grab Jack in case he felt the need to go to Kiki’s rescue, but the boy seemed as frozen as the rest of them, awaiting the next development. “Upsadaisy! Wipe your feet, you naughty boy!” came Kiki’s voice, then another shot.

They knew Kiki was not hit as she cackled and then did her impression of a car changing gear.

As Kiki fluttered around above Meier and Erlick’s heads a man ran in, clearly panicked. “Mr. Meier, Sir, sir! All the children run away! Helicopter came back. All alone on mountain top. No one there. Children run away!”

In response Meier let out a loud, ferocious torrent of angry words in a language that even Bill couldn’t understand and he had a working knowledge of at least a dozen languages.

Bill cursed inwardly. He had been hoping it would take longer for them to be missed. Of course they would now put two and two together and realise who they were looking for in these caves. He listened as Erlick – in English – chastised the other man and urged him to act sensibly.

He was gratified to hear that the men thought they had already escaped down the ladder – perhaps they weren’t as smart as he was giving them credit for. If they were going to take the dogs and look out on the mountainside that was a small reprieve for them, at least. They could hole up somewhere and make another attempt to escape later. Despite Philip’s affinity with the dogs he hoped that he and Johns would take measures to avoid detection. He was wishing he had left them a bit further away from the mountain, now.

There was more conversation and when the men began to argue Bill took that as a sign they should get moving. They fled, as quietly as possible back towards the ladder and in a stroke of absolute luck, they found it was still out. Bill urged the children down the ladder, desperate to go before anyone else came along. He could tell that the children were a bag of nerves, probably wondering if they were going to meet someone coming the other way again as they tried yet again to reach freedom.

Bill had the same fear as the children, but surely, surely they couldn’t have such bad luck to have to go through that again? It felt very strange when his feet finally hit solid ground again and he had to resist the urge to do what Lucy-Ann and Dinah had done and sink to the floor.

“Phew! The bottom at last!” he said, not able to think of anything more intelligent at that very moment. “What a climb!” Immediately he turned his attention to more pressing matters, however. It would do them no good to linger in the cave where they could so easily be caught. “Now come on – out we go on the mountain-side. We’ll join up with Philip and Johns.”

To be continued…

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The Adventure Series on the Nintendo DS

You may remember that way back at Christmas 2019 I got a Flips Nintendo DS game of The Adventure Series. My DS tends to live in a drawer at the back of the living room cupboard, in a plastic drawer unit full of old consoles. I think the last time I used it was on holiday a few years ago, as that’s generally the only time I dig it out.

Well, after rescheduling our holiday three times due to COVID restrictions we finally went away at the start of September. So, I dug out the DS, hunted for the charger, crossed my fingers that it would still charge up and work, and put the game in my backpack.

I apologise now for the photos of the gameplay – without buying additional software there’s no way to take screenshots on a DS so I had to take photos with my camera and hope for the best.


So is this a game or a book?

Although marketed as a game, this is more of an interactive reading experience.

The full text of all 8 books is included and in order to interact with the books you need to read them or at least skim through as I mostly did.

As an aside page one of the Island of Adventure book reads The Island of Adventure as first published in 1944 by Macmillans Children’s Books. However, the text is not as first published – it is updated. From looking at the first chapter the same updates have been made as in the 2001 Macmillan edition, which also seem to be the same in the 2006 Macmillan edition which has a cover that matches the one shown in the game.

To return to the game, there are four kinds of interactive elements in the books: illustrations, sounds, puzzle pieces and quizzes, followed by the puzzle at the end of each book.

The ‘interactive’ illustrations are found by tapping text which is in bold. For the first book these are the main characters – which oddly includes Mr Roy but not Aunt Polly or Uncle Jocelyn. The second adds Mrs Mannering but not Tassie, Button or Scar-Neck.

Name those characters!

The sounds are also found by tapping bolded words. They are mostly of Kiki’s noises (a couple of different squawks and other noises are repeated through the book), with some laughter, doors slamming or being knocked on etc. As you can’t tap on the top (or in this case the left) screen, interactive bits there are accessed by a ‘links’ button at the top of the right screen. If there’s more than one you get treasure chests to tap, the order correlating to the bold words on the other screen.

20 puzzle pieces are ‘hidden’ in the book, 17 of them are just sitting at the end of some of the chapters in plain sight. The other three are earned through quizzes.

The three quizzes have five questions each and generally require you to have read the preceding chapters in order to know the answer. Of course I got 5/5 each time but on a second play-through I deliberately answered some wrong and found as long as you scored three or more you would get a puzzle piece. Two or less and you just had to repeat the quiz.

Once you have collected all 20 pieces you can exit the book and go to the puzzle page where you can assemble a scene from the book.

 


As a book

As a reading experience this isn’t great.

There are some nice touches, for example the smooth animation of the pages is accompanied by a pleasant and varying page-turning sound effect. Navigating through the book is easy as you can turn one page at a time, use the contents list accessible at the beginning of each chapter to move through the book or you can scroll across a bar at the bottom to jump back and forth. However you are reading it on two rather small screens (three inches on the diagonal) and while that didn’t strain my (reasonably) youthful eyesight, the fact that so little fits on a page means there are over 1,300 pages! My hardback edition has 327, the equivalent paperback 276.

I mean, who knew that reading on the DS was an actual thing? You can still buy 100 classic books for the DS if you fancy reading Dickens or Austin on two tiny screens… I’ll pass, though.

There are some full page illustrations but as they are split across two screens they are somewhat spoiled. There are also a few smaller illustrations of Kiki and, strangely, the empty tins they find on the island are shown a few times. The same tins, still open but full, are at the chapter headings for the first book, and appear randomly through the second. The second book also uses some ivy and spiderwebs, and one of the castle’s tapestries several times each.

Some illustrations are split where not much is happening, but others cut people in half!

The Amazon listing reads All new illustrations – over 100 new images created for Flips DS, though I can’t find anywhere that tells you who the artist was. I suspect they were created to try to match Tresilian’s style/colours on the covers of the 2006 Macmillan reprints (which have no internal illustrations). 


As a game

The ‘game’ itself isn’t particularly inspiring either. The illustrations are a nice touch but there are not many – a few of the Isle of Gloom, the boat, Craggy Tops and so on accessed by tapping would have been nice. The sounds are amusing to begin with but many of the same ones are repeated quite often and don’t always match the context or description. For example something heavy falling over with a bang is represented by a rat-a-tat-tat. Sometimes the same noise appears three or four times on a single page.

I love a jigsaw puzzle but the one at the end was frustrating due to the game mechanics. All 20 pieces are in the rectangle to begin with so there is no room to move them around without stacking them on top of each other, and one which lands in the right place will drop down out of sight under anything already in that space. The illustration used for the first puzzle also has a lot of brown wall making it tricky to identify where the pieces wen (they are rotatable for extra difficulty!). Turning my screen brightness all the way up helped, but eve then there was a lot of trial and error.


Yay or nay

I’m not sure I would really recommend this for grown-ups. As above it doesn’t do particularly well as either a game or a book, though it’s interesting to have if you happen to still have a working DS. For children, though, especially reluctant readers, it might actually be enough to keep them engaged. Catherine Woolley who worked on the Flips series calls them edutainment (a word which, weirdly, my spell-checker accepts!) and explains that they were created to encourage children to read by adding fun elements.

I’ve just discovered there’s a Faraway Tree version, too, where you can Collect items and unlock bonus content as you read! – Spot the feathers, musical notes, mushrooms and flowers hidden within the pages and collect them all to unlock recipes and fun activities. This sounds a bit more fun than the Adventure books, but the 6 book collection includes 3 of the continuation books.

There’s also Cathy Cassidy books, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl amongst a few others.

I’ve just added the Faraway Tree game to my Christmas/birthday list, and if I get it I’ll let you know (eventually) if it really is more fun.

 

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Monday #442

I’m still working on all those ideas that my holiday gave me, one of which will be up this week. Meanwhile the weather is turning cooler and wetter, though we’ve had a couple of warm sunny days, and the leaves are starting to fall. Summer is definitely passing into autumn!

The Adventure Series on the Nintendo DS

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 22

The New Big Noddy Book (#6, though none of them have an actual number on the cover or anything) is another one I bought on holiday. Brodie was really excited as it has a fire truck on the cover. (No matter how often I say it’s a fire engine he persists in calling it a truck – I blame Blippi!).

This week I offered to read him the fire engine story (the aptly named Noddy and the Fire-Engine) and what happened was I ended up reading the entire book, which took nearly an hour. As soon as I finished one story he was saying ‘read another one!’. When I finished he turned to me and said ‘Read it all again, Mummy!” I declined, and he asked his auntie to read it when she came over but settled for telling her the stories using the pictures. He then wanted it at the next three bedtimes and had to accept just one or two stories each time. It’s now in his bedroom in his pile of bedtime stories so I’m not sure if or when I’ll get it back!

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 21.5

As recently promised here is a mini-chapter which loosely follows on from where we left Bill and the children trying to escape Fang Mountain but takes us somewhere else entirely.


Chapter 21.5

Entirely unbeknownst to Bill, 1,500 miles away at that very moment Anatoly was also making his way down a ladder in fraught circumstances. It was two hours later in Moscow than it was in Wales, putting it at somewhere around four AM but Anatoly hadn’t had the opportunity to check his watch for a while, so he couldn’t be sure. He’d spared a brief thought for Bill, thinking how lucky he was to be enjoying a relaxing holiday and having no idea that he was currently in a sticky situation himself.

His language as he came down the ladder was utterly foul, if muttered under his breath. He had picked up a couple of good English insults – better than even the ones he had heard at school – from Bill and some of the other agents he worked with but those had been merely punctuation in the stream of Russian curses. His father had rarely cursed but his mother frequently went into a torrent of abuse whenever she went into a rage, which was often, so he supposed he had her to thank in a small way for his proficiency with cursing.

His own situation was not ideal and he had not meant to end up being chased, but these Russian KGB agents were hard to trick and ruthless with it. He scrambled down the last rungs of the ladder into the sewers of Moscow, cursing again as he splashed through things he didn’t want to think about, while hoping his modest knowledge of the sewer system would be advantageous to him. He knew the guards were following, but they were a fair way behind, they hadn’t been as young or mobile as Anatoly, and their heavy uniforms would slow them down. He moved along the tunnel and ducked into a smaller tunnel leading to the left, and half crouched as he started along that tunnel, hoping that he wouldn’t be followed.

As he scrambled along his ears strained for footsteps following him. Shortly he found another turn off and slipped into the tunnel and turned off his torch and stood, in a slight curve of the tunnel, hoping he was concealed from searching torches as he caught his breath and waited to see if he was still being followed.

He pressed himself against the dripping tunnel wall as his pursuers came closer, he could hear the splashing of their footsteps and see the faint flicker of their torches. His dark clothing afforded him some protection from sight but in direct torch-light he would still be visible. He could only hope that they would take a different tunnel and not pass the opening to the one he was sheltering in.

The footsteps came closer and Anatoly swallowed hard, wishing that he’d taken up Bill’s offer to join him in Wales with Allie and her children. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to hold his breath as he started to hear the hushed talk as the men drew closer.

His gun was in his hand and he kept a tight grip on it, knowing that it might be all that would stand between life and death for him that morning. He tried to shrink back further as a torch beam suddenly cast a light down the tunnel towards him but he had nowhere else to go. If he turned and ran they would be on him straight away, if he continued to hide they would see him in a few seconds and be on him. His only option was to fight.

To be continued…

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Noddy at the Little Treasures Museum

I think if you go to any British museum for toys or childhood you’ll encounter Noddy. I found several Noddy items at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, and I wasn’t at all surprised to find plenty at the small toy museum we went to while on holiday last week.


Little Treasures Museum

Originally in Kemnay the museum moved into an old church on Seafield Street, Banff in 2019. The museum started out as a Little Treasures shop in 1990, and then a museum in 1996, and has been run by Emily Innes from the start, with some of Emily’s childhood toys included, along with the many, many she has bought and collected for display.

The museum has more than 350 dolls houses, some dating from as early as the 1860s as well as examples of all sorts of toys from the past two hundred years. There are dolls, teddies, soldiers, Barbies, Playmobile, Star Wars merchandise, cars and trains and everything else you could think of – Noddy included, of course.


Our visit

We went on a Thursday afternoon during term-time, and we had the place to ourselves. It isn’t a very large museum but they have certainly packed a lot in. There are dozens of display cases absolutely packed with toys and games.

We spent a good hour looking at everything and exclaiming every time we spotted something that we recognised from our own childhoods. (And yes, I felt very old to see so many of my favourite things like Barbies, Polly Pockets, Quints Dolls, Playmobile and so on to be in a museum but I’m getting used to that sort of thing now.)

There is a play corner at the back with a modern toy kitchen, dolls’ house and other toys so that helped keep Brodie amused once he had looked around the displays, and that meant that we could keep looking ourselves.

The museum isn’t of the professional sort like the V&A one, but it is obviously a labour of love by Mrs Innes and her helpers. For example there wasn’t much information about the toys other than some labels on the cases stating things like the type of toy and sometimes a rough date, and a few were quite funny as they were pretty vague – ‘Dinky cars, very old’ (that’s not an actual example just the sort of thing we saw, I can’t remember precisely what was written).

However that didn’t detract from our enjoyment in the slightest. There was so much to see in every case, and so we’d have been there all day if we’d had to read information about every toy. Plus there really wasn’t room – any signs would have obscured the view of the toys!


Noddy’s Little Treasures

As I said before, Noddy was well represented. He was in at least six different cases, in fact!

My first spot was the set of Noddy crackers obviously bought from Boots – I’d guess these were from the 2000s and based on whatever TV series was on at the time. (You can make out the reflection of the church’s windows in the display glass on this photo.)

Then there was a whole shelf of Noddy things. Two soft dolls, a large figurine, a jack-in-the-box toy (which can be seen better in a later photo) with a battered Noddy car on top, three more Noddy cars, a kaleidoscope and a round tray which I think is one of those toys where you have to get little silver balls into the holes.

On looking closely at this one again, I’ve realised there’s a Noddy pinball game between the giant horse and the kaleidoscope – you’ll see another one better further down.

I like how the smaller Noddy doll is sitting on the larger Noddy’s lap as if he’s about to be read a story.

You can see that the shelf is labelled merely ‘Toys, 1950-1997’ as there were some non-Noddy things like the tiger in there too. (You can see there are Postman Pat toys below, and also my mum and Brodie through the case!)

Below is a better view of the jack-in-the-box and old car.

At the far end of the shelf was a Big-Ears in his car, a Noddy and Big-Ears pair of figures, and behind those is the other Toytown pinball game. I didn’t take many photos of the museum in general but here you can see some of the dolls in the case behind, and packs of cards to the left.

After that I spotted these two which I’m sure are Noddy’s house-for-one and his garage, with the Tellytubbies alongside.

Next I saw this Noddy jigsaw with what I think is a ring-toss game underneath (it was almost entirely obscured by other games).

There is another ring game in another case which can be seen better, along with a printed tray, Big-Ears and Mr Plod dolls, two more Noddy cars, a small Big-Ears figure, a Noddy puppet, what I think is one of those baby toys where you push the top down and the inside rotates (a modern version of the spinning top?) and a child’s bowl. Apologies for the terrible reflections!

Here’s the same shelf from the other side for a better view of the bowl, spinning toy and puppet. (The doll on the right is Miss Hoolie from Ballamory.)

 

The final item in this case was a modern Noddy story.

There was also a case full of books which featured some Blytons but I’ll get to them later as apart from one they weren’t Noddys!

Then lastly, or so I thought, I spotted a Noddy tea-set. These are behind the first Noddy toys I spotted so I must have walked right past them on my first walk around.

I then realised I had missed an entire side-aisle! Down there I found two more Noddy dolls.


The books

One display cabinet was all books at the bottom and there were several Blytons, though they were all reprints and later collections.

Shadow the Sheepdog (Collins, 1950), Amelia Jane Again! (Dean, 1969 and the edition I had as a child), The Tale of Chuck and Clopper (Alligator Books, 2003), The New St Michael Book of Noddy Stories (St Michael [AKA Marks and Spencers], 1982), The Big Enid Blyton Story Annual (Purnell, probably 1976), My Favourite Enid Blyton Story Book (Hamlyn, 1970) and Tales of Brave Adventure (Dean, 1970).


So, if you happen to be on the north-east coast of Scotland (and why wouldn’t you, it’s a beautiful place!) then I recommend you drop into Little Treasures and spend an hour or so marvelling at the thousands of toys they have. I bet there’s something from almost everyone’s childhood to be found!

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Monday #441

I’m just back from a weeks’ holiday and it has given me quite a few ideas for new content for next few weeks.

Noddy at the Little Treasures Museum

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 21.5

“Hallo, Children!
I am Bom, the little Toy Drummer, and I am sending you a letter to tell you that this is my Very Own Annual. I have filled it full of all kinds of things for you, and I hope you will like them.
There are stories and puzzles and verses and so many pictures that I really can’t count them all!
I send you a big bang on my drum – can you hear it? BOM-DIDDY-BOM-DIDDY-BOM-BOM-BOM!
Love to you all
from
Bom

I bought my very first Bom book while I was away – the Bom Annual from 1958.

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 21

This week was supposed to be a mini-chapter just to keep the story going while I didn’t have the book to hand, but it turns out I forgot to schedule and post chapter 21 last week. So you can have chapter 21 this week, and we may or may not then do the mini-chapter (which I have a vague idea for) next week.

Anyway, last time we left off as Bill and the children were poised to leave the top of the mountain after the helicopter failed to take off.


Chapter 21

When Lucy-Ann asked for his hand because she was scared he took her hand and gave it a squeeze of comfort as they set off down the steps. At first the going was good, but he was glad to keep Lucy-Ann close beside him, for he felt she would need the most looking-after. Jack and Dinah kept up a low-voiced narrative telling him what they were passing; the cave Philip had been held in, the stores and so on. They also argued a lot, in less quiet voices, over which way to go.

All the lights were out so they were navigating with only his torch, and he tried to be patient with them. He let them make the decision on which way to go, as he had no idea, but unfortunately they chose wrong at some point and they found themselves hopelessly lost.

Bill felt desperate, he needed to get the children out, he needed to rejoin Johns and Philip and get everyone back to the farm. He cursed himself for not being able to land without damaging the helicopter, but he had to live with that and make the best out of a bad situation. The path they were on now slanted down and Bill hoped that they were heading to an exit unknown by the children.

What they found instead was the balcony that overlooked the strange pit full of a brilliant light. Bill couldn’t understand it. It positively glowed but what colour he couldn’t say, it was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was there for a moment and then the floor slid closed and it was gone. He theorised to the children that there was some metal in the mountain that they were using, and it sounded reasonable but really, he was grasping at straws. He didn’t know what was going on – and he didn’t like it at all. He wondered how safe the mountain was, if whoever was working that strange glowing pit really knew what they were doing.

Jack interrupted his thoughts and said he thought he knew the way from here. Putting his trust in Jack Bill took the lead, Lucy-Ann holding his hand and Jack telling him which way to go whenever they found a fork. They passed a cave with some beautiful silk hangings – hardly the sort of thing you’d expect to see in the middle of a mountain – and then Jack pulled Bill up short and pointed out the King’s bedroom.

Cautiously Bill peered into the room to see a man asleep on a couch. It was the king, according to Jack, and worse luck, the only way they knew from here was to go through the king’s bedroom. So they had two choices – go back and try not to get completely lost looking for another way through, or try to sneak past the sleeping king. Neither were particularly inviting options. He decided that the risk of waking the king was less than the risk of getting lost and running into Meier or one of his men, and so he had them tiptoe through the room one at a time.

They reached the long banqueting room and were glad that it was empty and bare. They made their way through that quickly and continued on. When they were by the throne room, they heard a loud snoring and Bill went to investigate, peeping through some of the wall hangings. The other men, the paratroopers, were all in there, draped across the chairs they had been sat in, the remains of the fabulous feast they had been eating still on the table. No one man was still awake.

After another hasty and whispered conference Bill switched off the light and they crept through that room, too. He was beginning to feel as if he was in a particularly bad dream, traversing passage after passage only to encounter sleeping figures or strange sights. The next of those was a great laboratory, and despite his desire to get out of this place Bill couldn’t help but stop and stare. There was a great deal he recognised in there (and some things he didn’t) and he spared a moment to think how ingenious the inventor – the king – was. Ingenious, and quite possibly mad.

He tried to explain what was happening in the greet lengths of wires, the turning wheels, the glass jars and crystal boxes, and lost himself in watching it all going on again. When Snowy butted against his legs he jumped, and realised they had been standing there for far too long. “Come along!” he said quickly, annoyed with himself. “What am I thinking of, stopping like that!”

Freedom crept closer and soon they stumbled upon the big jugs of ice cold water that was to refresh those who had made it up the big rope ladder. “This is where the ladder is kept,” Jack whispered to Bill but before they could really start looking for the ladder, Lucy-Ann tripped and fell over something. She didn’t make a sound and Bill felt an intense wave of pride for her. “Jack, use my torch, see what Lucy-Ann fell over, quickly,” he said to Jack.

It was the ladder itself! Of all the blessed accidents, the ladder was out, ready to be climbed down. He sent Jack down first, with the girls next and then himself last. It seemed too good to be true, but they were almost out!

His relief was short-lived, however, as just as he had descended twenty or thirty rungs Dinah’s head almost collided with his feet. He swore vigorously under his breath, including a few choice phrases in Russian that he had picked up from Anatoly, when Dinah told him someone was coming up the ladder and swiftly changed direction.

To be continued…

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Kirrin Holidays Brochure from Travel Blyton

Visit Kirrin, the home of the Famous Five. The place where it all started, where Julian, Dick and Anne met George and Timmy. Where gold ingots were found, kidnapped children were rescued and multiple adventures were had.

Visit for a day or better yet, book into one of Kirrin’s stunning hotels and spend a week exploring the area. We promise you will not be disappointed!


Kirrin Cottage and Kirrin Farm

Kirrin Cottage and Kirrin Farm have been restored to their 1940s best, and visitors are free to explore the different rooms, including Quentin’s study and the children’s bedrooms.

If you are brave enough you can take a walk along the secret passage from Uncle Quentin’s study to the bedroom at Kirrin Farm.

For the secret passage walk visitors must be able to climb a stone wall with niches, and are therefore encouraged to wear sensible shoes. Please mind your head on the roof lighting.

Cakes and refreshments, including lashings of ginger-beer, are served in Joanna’s kitchen at Kirrin Cottage and Mrs Sander’s kitchen at Kirrin Farm, daily from 10 am to 4pm

Kirrin Island

Boat tours leave every hour to Kirrin Island (weather permitting), limited to a dozen people at a time (no dogs allowed). These will be piloted by our expert boat handlers Alf and James.

An alternative route is available, starting in the quarry and travelling down the undersea tunnels. This is only suitable for physically fit people wearing stout shoes.

Visitors can stroll around the castle which is home to jackdaws and rabbits, view the wreck from a special viewing-balcony and also venture underground into the dungeons.

At busy times a one-way system may be implemented with visitors entering through the castle courtyard trap-door and exiting through the fireplace in the castle’s last remaining room.

Kirrin Beach, Quarry and Common

Visitors can also enjoy Kirrin’s fine, sandy beach which is served by our authentic ice-cream stall (all major credit and debit cards accepted), and a walk along the moors behind Kirrin Cottage.

March to October our minibus runs to Kirrin Common to see the old cottage there, the spring, and roman digs, though the tunnels under have been closed off for safety reasons.

The Coast Guard’s Cottage

The coastguard’s cottage is now a small museum full of maps and plans of Kirrin and all its secret passages. Trace the routes taken by those brave children and their dog from Kirrin Island to the Quarry and from Kirrin Cottage to Kirrin Farm. Read about the history of Henry John Kirrin and his haul of ingots, and marvel at models of Uncle Quentin’s amazing scientific tower.


 

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Monday #440

It is September and yet the sun is still shining (for now, at least!).

Kirrin Holidays brochure from Travel Blyton

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 20.5*

(I don’t have The Mountain of Adventure to hand this week, so this will be a mini-chapter to fill in until I can get back to my book!)

Edgar Stick dropping in unannounced (literally) on the Five in Five Run Away Together. Just as well none of them were sitting directly under the hole in the roof!

 

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August 2021 round up

August was the month when the schools (and nurseries) went back and social distancing was generally scrapped, leaving us all in a bit of a no-man’s-land where nobody was sure what sort of distancing was polite.


What I have read

In August I really powered through some audiobooks (four, in fact!). It’s amazing how much more I listen when I get really into a book.

  • Katie Morag and the Wedding (Katie Morag #6) – Mairi Hedderwick
  • Katie Morag and the Birthdays (Katie Morag #12) – Mairi Hedderwick
  • Dilly’s Lass (Dilly’s Story #2) – Rosie Goodwin
  • The Key to the Indian (The Indian in the Cupboard #5) – Lynne Reid Banks
  • Confessions of a Curious Bookseller – Elizabeth Green
  • Long Shadows (Elizabeth Cage #3) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted – Robert Hillman
  • Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden #3) – Charlaine Harris
  • The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew #2*) – Carolyne Keene**
  • The Mystery of the Ivory Charm (Nancy Drew #13*) – Carolyne Keene**
  • The Bookshop on the Corner (Scottish Bookshop #1) – Jenny Colgan
  • Black Mould (Rivers Of London Graphic Novel #3) – Ben Aaronovitch

And I’m currently reading:

  • Going Green – Nick Spalding
  • Night Witch (Rivers Of London Graphic Novel #2) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality – Adam Rutherford

*This is the US numbering, the books weren’t published in the UK until some 40 years later, and they printed them in a different order.

** These were both written by the first Nancy Drew writer Mildred Wirt, also known as Mildred Wirt Benson.


What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, some more Mythbusters and Only Connect.
  • I have also returned to the American show Hoarders which is on Amazon Prime.
  • I watched the first episode of season 5 of True Blood before getting sidetracked by Hoarders.
  • Our Tuesday night movies this month were: The Princes Diaries 1&2 and High School Musical 1&2. 
  • The Olympics, mostly the highlights show, and then the Paralympics highlights and The Last Leg.

What I have done

It has been another busy month as Brodie was off nursery and we had another week of annual leave.

We went to:

  • Our new nature walk at Birnie & Gaddon lochs (again)
  • The beach and beach-side park at Carnoustie, and the beach and park at Arbroath
  • Craigtoun Country Park where we rode the miniature railway, the tractor train and Brodie had a go on the trampolines, plus we found a few of the Seven Dwarfs lurking about
  • Tayport for what was supposed to be a short walk, which then turned into a longer walk and beach exploring and a picnic lunch at the harbour

Also this month:

  • Brodie turned 4 so we had a party and I did some baking in advance (the birthday cake is my mum’s work, I don’t do sponges!)
  • We carried on looking after the nursery plot (and eating the produce)

What I have bought

No Blytons but I did buy a very nice copy of Torridons’ Triumph by Marie Muir. I’ve had the second book in the series (Torridons’ Surprise) for years but have never read it as I like to read series in order!


What has your month looked like?

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Monday #439

That’s us at the end of August now, the end of summer probably, but we can always hope for a little more sunshine! I know that Blyton’s characters always said that food tastes better outdoors, and on a nice sunny day that’s definitely true. It’s not quite so true when it’s in the minus figures! Hopefully, though, we won’t be forced into outdoor meals this autumn and winter.

August round up

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 21

Auntie Bessie had made them a lovely picnic lunch. There were ham sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs in their shells, each with a screw of salt beside them, slices of sticky gingerbread, last autumn’s yellow apples and half a bottle of milk each.

“I wonder why food tastes so much nicer out of doors than indoors,” said Rory, munching hard. The children has spread out Rory’s mackintosh and were sitting on it, leaning back against a big old oak tree, with the March sun shining warmly through the bare branches.

I picked a book (The Children of Cherry Tree Farm) at random and turned to a random page and honestly, that’s what I landed on!

 

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