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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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 20

Last time Bill and Johns flew off with Philip aboard the helicopter.


Chapter 20

Philip was overjoyed and looked at Bill with hero’s admiration. He knew that Bill would save them and here he was, doing just that. Bill and Johns settled down to question Philip about all he knew of the mountain and how things worked up there and with the strange “King” and his wings.

Philip was able to tell them the secret of the rope-ladder in the cave, the cruelty of Meier, what he knew of the King, and he was able to repeat what Jack and the girls had told him about their exploration of the mountain.

“What about going in through the cave?” Johns asked, but Philip had to admit he didn’t know how the rope-ladder had been deployed.

“No, we’ll have to take the ‘copter back up,” Bill said. “Only, I think I’d better leave you two down here. I’m not sure it will take six of us.”

Johns didn’t looked convinced at this. “Are you sure that’s wise? I’m sure we could hide this young lad and I can go up with you. It’s not advisable to try and land a ‘copter in the dark, boss.”

“No, I’m not risking you as well as myself,” Bill said firmly. “Besides, there’s no knowing what’ll happen to Philip if he’s let out of our sight for even a minute.”

Philip frowned. “It’s not that bad, Bill!” he objected as Johns looked less convinced that Bill piloting the helicopter alone was a good idea. “Shouldn’t we wait until it’s a bit later, give the men a chance to go to sleep?” he offered as a suggestion, trying to buy them time.

Bill consulted his watch. “It’s fairly late as it is. Let’s just give the helicopter a quick check-over and then I’ll go. It shouldn’t take me long at all.”

Johns gave in. He couldn’t overturn Bill’s orders, he was the boss after all. “Yes sir, he said and got up to give the machine a once over and check how much fuel it had left.

“Don’t give me that look,” Bill said as Philip eyed him balefully. “It’d be no good taking you back up and then us both running into trouble.”
“It’ll be landing on the top, same as before, and then taking off again,” said Bill. “No need for a tour guide.”

Of course, fifteen minutes later as he approached the mountain-top, this time in the dark, he began to wish he hadn’t been so flippant. He hovered for a moment or two, to see if the children would turn the lights on for him, but to no avail.

“Well, here goes nothing,” he muttered grimly to himself and, using the scant moonlight, he guided the helicopter towards the dark shape of the mountaintop.

Bill fervently hoped that the girls and Jack were not in the middle of the landing space. All was went smoothly until he felt one of the skids hit an outcrop of rock, causing the helicopter to veer to one side. Bill fought to gain control of the machine and land. He didn’t want to have to abandon the landing and come up with a plan B for recovering the children. After a hair-raising few moments his skill won through and he managed to get the helicopter down on the platform.

Bill blew out a slow breath as he tried to calm his racing heart. “Jack! Are you there?” he called, ready to take the helicopter back up again should anyone else answer or approach.

He risked turning on his powerful torch as Jack ran over. “I’m here Bill. The coast’s clear. Nobody’s up here,” the boy called. “Gosh, it’s good to have you! Is Philip all right?”

Just as Bill was proud of Philip and Lucy-Anne’s bravery in being willing to jump, he was proud that Jack’s first concern was for someone other than himself.

“Quite all right,” he assured Jack, letting him know that he was with Johns down on the mountainside. “Get into the helicopter, all of you, and we’ll get going while the going’s good,” he urged, not wanting to wait around any longer than necessary. He shone his torch around to see the girls hurrying over.

“I couldn’t quite see where to land,” he admitted to the children. “I must have hit something coming down. I felt a good old jolt, and the helicopter swung round like mad. I hope she’s all right!” His tone was jolly but deep down he was worried that he might have done some damage to the helicopter.

“You went into part of the rocky parapet, I think,” Jack told him as he helped the girls in. “Oh Bill!” This is grand! How did you…”

Bill cut him off. He needed to concentrate and they needed to leave before their luck ran out. “All explanations later!” he said as he pressed the right buttons for take off. “Now – here we go!”

His steady hand guided the helicopter up a few feet, and just as he thought it was going to be all right, the machine swung in a strange way. Bill quickly corrected but decided to land her again, a feeling of foreboding in his stomach. “Now what’s wrong? She shouldn’t do that.”

He checked all his controls and the engine lights, his jaw clenched. He could hear Lucy-Ann willing them to leave the platform and go, and even though he didn’t want to disappoint her, he also felt dread rising. He gave it one more go, his jaw clenched in concentration, hoping he’d just made a bad move with the controls before. With the helicopter in the air once more, Bill hoped to be able to fly off but it swung erratically again.

“Something’s wrong with the steering. Why did I leave Johns down there? He might have been able to put it right. But I didn’t think this machine would hold him as well as you three,” Bill said in an exasperated tone, annoyed that he hadn’t taken Johns’ suggestion about both of them coming along seriously. Had he made decision based on merit, or some desire to be a hero? Bill cursed himself. He was really picking up bad habits from Anatoly, delusions of grandeur he called them.

He tried again, several times, hoping against hope that whatever the problem was it would miraculously solve itself as he was running out of ideas. For over an hour he worked at it, tension growing with every minute that ticked by, knowing that the longer they were there the more likely they were to be discovered.

At last, however, he had to admit defeat, and turned his mind to the only other option. “What about that way out, by the wall?” he asked. “Philip told me about it – something about a rope-ladder and so on.” He also told them about his fruitless search for a way into the mountain from the ground.

He listened in disbelief as Jack told him the secret of the underwater wheel which controlled the ladder. He hadn’t investigated the pool at all, there hadn’t seemed any point. Of course he had been thinking how there couldn’t be a secret entrance through the pool, not about a secret lever or wheel that revealed the entrance. Again, he marvelled at the children’s ability to outhink their enemies.

“Well – it seems to me we’ll have to try to get out that way,” he said. “This pest of a helicopter won’t answer to her controls now. I daren’t try and take off. We’d crash – and we haven’t any wonderful wings to save us, either.”

Lucy-Ann’s disappointment was hard to bear as she exclaimed in dismay. Still, her being hurt in a helicopter crash would be far, far worse, he told himself.

He reassured her all he could as Jack pointed out that the helicopter was a dead give-away that something was afoot. He had to agree, but there was nothing that could be done about it now, other than to get going as quickly as possible. He’d spent far too much time messing about on the mountain-top already. “All the more reason why we should get a move on now,” he said.

He looked down as something butted repeatedly at his legs. “Oh it’s you, Snowy. Well, if you come too, you’ll have to keep at our heels or you’ll give the game away! By the way – Where’s Kiki? I haven’t seen or heard her tonight.”

He listened as Jack told him that Kiki was missing. The boy’s misery was palpable. Bill felt for him, but he also hoped that Jack wouldn’t do anything stupid on their way through the mountain. If he thought he could get to Kiki he could easily put them all in danger.

“Where’s the way out of this place?” he asked, trying to focus them all on the task at hand. He shone his torch. “Over there? Are there steps that go down into the mountain? Well, come on then.” He spoke firmly but cheerily. “Every minute is precious now.”

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Chimney Corner Stories part 2

After discovering my Dean edition of Chimney Corner Stories didn’t contain the same stories found in the first edition I wrote quite a bit about that, so here is a review of the remaining stories.


Toy stories

The three toy stories are quite different from each other, though two throw up questions regarding the ‘rules’ of the toy world.

In The Clockwork Mouse Gerry forgets his purse and the clockwork mouse races off to take it to him out on the street.

It’s unusual to see any Blyton toy running around in the day,  especially on a busy street as so many stories make a point of the toys having to be perfectly still and inanimate during the day and/or when any people are around.

What’s extra bizarre is although Gerry is amazed that the mouse is there with his purse, he can hardly believe it, but then he just jumps on the bus and leaves his miraculous toy in the street!


She Turned Up Her Nose
sounds like the title of a standard unpleasant child sort of story but the She is a doll called Anabella Mary. She’s unpopular like Amelia Jane, but because she’s too grand and stuck up rather than being particularly unkind or naughty. She is not invited to a party as she didn’t help to clean the dolls’ house, but she feels bad and turns her fine coat into new curtains to make amends. It would be interesting to see if she stayed un-stuck-up after that, or if like Amelia Jane just went back to her old ways!

The Smickle-Smockle sounds like something Amelia Jane would make (remember her plasticine snake tail?) but it’s made by a Golly who rather likes to pick on the quieter toys. He makes a strange creature from the plasticine:

“Small head, enormous ears, a long neck, a perfectly round body with wings, and a long tail like a fish. It had three feet at the front and what looked like a wheel behind.”

The pink rabbit is terrified of it and has a miserable few days. The bear tells Golly he must fix the problem so for some reason he makes some plasticine vegetables which the pink rabbit eats. This means Golly must give up his fifteen farthings (less than 4d) to buy new plasticine.

This story throws up a question of the toys ability to digest things – they eat cakes and so on in many stories – but here it’s said that the pink rabbit had insides make of sawdust.


Actions and consequences

Some of these stories could fit into more than one category, I suppose, or at least sound like they could.

The first, Trit-Trot the Pony, could be classified as an animal story as it does feature a rather sentient horse. Trit-Trot likes some of the boys, like Billy, who pass his field, but he dislikes Harry as he is not a kind boy. When Harry steals from Billy, Trit-Trot apprehends him and makes sure Billy gets his money back.

The Little Bully sounds like a straight-forward story about a nasty child but it has talking crabs and lobsters in it. Does that make it an animal story or a magic one perhaps? Anyway, the pinching creatures teach Henry a lesson as he likes to pinch other children.

 

The final one is The Six Little Motor-Cars and has no animals or magic elements. In it, Thomas comes to play with Henry and has a tantrum at home time as he wants to take the toy cars home.

His mother is annoyingly unhelpful and says “He has been very unwell, and I have had to give him his own way a lot. The doctor says it is bad for him to scream.” I mean, emotional blackmail or what?

Henry’s mother crumbles and persuades him to lend the cars and he is naturally very worried about whether they will be looked after. I had a bad feeling about it but was pleasantly surprised that the cars were returned by a sheepish Thomas who has had a stern talking to from his father.


Animal stories

I’m not a huge fan of animal stories, actually. I find animals interesting but I don’t fawn over them the way some people do.

The Three Strange Travellers are a goat a duck and a dog who are all homeless. They band together and shelter with an old woman one night. They are then able to rescue her from thieves and she takes them in permanently. This reminded me a little of the Julia Donaldson book What the Ladybird Heard where the farmyard animals conspire together to foil Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh who come to steal the fine prize cow.

I think Blyton forgot that The Proud Little Dog wasn’t a magic tale as she names the dog Prince, the cat Green-Eyes and the woman Dame Tiptap. Then again, the dog, who is spoiled and runs away seems to be able to communicate on an unusually skilful level with his owner! When he returns a cat and kittens are in his usual place and he has to accept less impressive lodgings as a consequence of his actions.

The Disagreeable Monkey is a story of monkey vs mirror. There are five nice monkeys and the greedy bully Bula.  A mirror is put in their cage and while the other monkeys are amazed to see so many other monkeys, Bula is enraged and tries to fight his reflection. Monkeys are supposed to be intelligent but none of them ever figure it’s a mirror!


And the adventure story

I was excited to read The Secret Cave but it ended up being a little disappointing. The most notable thing about it is that it was written in the first person, which was very unusual for Blyton. It’s not unique but I believe there are only a few times she used that.

The story is told by Roger, who along with his twin Joan and older brother William live in a lonely house by the sea. The only other house nearby is a large empty one. I was picturing Spiggy Holes and The Old House at this point!

Just like in The Secret of Spiggy Holes the story takes the children into the walled gardens of the old house where they find and old shed (locked from the inside) and turn it into a play house (much like in The Treasure Hunters). Inside they find a secret passage under the floor which leads to a cave which is filled with old boxes containing clothes and other personal possessions.

Back in the garden they meet an old man – the owner of the house – who tells them a tale of murder and intrigue which explains the boxes in the cave.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on a couple of points, and although its an attempt to tell a tale like the deliciously dark ones in, say, The Ring o’ Bells Mystery or Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, it just comes across as a load of exposition to resolve the story.

The man’s family was to flee France but were captured at the last minute. Their belongings, as arranged, were delivered to the cave but the ship sank on the return voyage leaving the whole thing a secret.

As the only survivor the man came to live at the house as a boy, but he nor anyone else ever found the secret passage or the cave and boxes.

The fact that nobody – even when looking for a secret passage – ever investigated the shed, or used a boat to look for the cave end, is odd enough. But the shed, locked from the inside, also had a flagstone and a carpet covering the trapdoor. How did they get laid down again so neatly if whoever locked the door then went down the passage? Or if the person came up the passage and laid them down, how did they then lock the door from the inside?


Overall this isn’t one of the best short story collections I’ve read, for me there were too many repeated plots (and too many magical stories). The illustrations were also a bit hit-or-miss, interestingly they were provided by two different artists – Pat Harrison and Cicely Steed.

At some point I will have a look at the first edition I’ve bought and see what that is like.

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Monday #438

I feel like I’m running out of things to say on Mondays! I usually fall back on that British classic of the weather – which has been so-so for the time of year, some rain, some sunshine.

Brodie went back to nursery on Tuesday and it was like he’d never been away. He was giving (impromptu) tours of the nursery to the new boys and girls on their first visits and having “nice chats” with the new parents, which is a far cry from the little boy who could only say 2-3 words at a time last year.

Chimney Corner stories part 2

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 20

There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was very grans and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by the country people in a large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.

This is the opening paragraph of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a book which was one of Enid Blyton’s favourite books as a child.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 19

Last time Bill and Johns landed atop the mountain and rescued Philip.


Chapter 19

Philip stood in the back of the helicopter, using the heavy wings to balance himself against the sides. Despite his brave face he was absolutely terrified. He didn’t believe for a second that these wings – beautifully crafted though they were – would have any effect on his fall. From what he’d heard from Sam not jumping wouldn’t be an option. The pilot’s mate was a hefty chap and no doubt his job would be to push him out if necessary.

He hefted one wing experimentally. It was reassuringly solid even though it was quite light. Yes, if he could manoeuvre himself he might just be able to serve the pilot’s mate a pretty good whack over the head. And then what? Well, the pilot couldn’t very well fly the ‘copter and push him out, could he. Philip had ideas of threatening to bash the pilot over the head too, unless he landed, but he would just have to play it by ear.

It was hard to be stealthy so he moved quickly instead and lunged at the man in the left-hand seat. At the last moment the pilot – who must have seen some reflection, the light gleaming on the golden wings, perhaps, – positively leapt out of his own seat and tackled Philip back.

The helicopter lurched alarmingly but Philip was too busy being grappled to the floor to see what was going on. He tried battering the man with the wings but he hardly had space to move. The pilot was heavy, lying right on top of him, and shouting in his ear. He was shouting back but in the din of the rotor blades neither could hear what the other was saying. Suddenly the pilot reached one hand up and knocked his hat off, revealing a bald head that gleamed in the moonlight. Then he yanked off his flight goggles. Philip was surprised enough by this to have stopped struggling, and his jaw dropped as he recognised Bill’s face.

“Bill!” he yelled, though he barely hear his own voice over the sound of the helicopter.

“How on earth…” he began but Bill, who was now sitting back on his haunches, held his hands up, then pointed to his ear, then down to the ground some way below them. Philip interpreted that as ‘wait until we land’, and grinning madly, shuffled himself into a more comfortable position as Bill went back to the controls.

Philip sat back, amazed at Bill’s magical appearance. He was a bit dazed and said to himself “It’s Bill, it’s good old Bill!” He was desperate to ask how Bill had happened to land a helicopter atop the mountain but he was aware that the two men wouldn’t be able to hear him, so he tried to calm himself until the helicopter landed.

The helicopter touched down with a bit of bump a few minutes later and Bill killed the engine. Blessed silence filled their ears for just a moment before Philip exclaimed, “I say, Bill! Where on earth did you spring from? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was you. I thought I was in serious trouble there.”

Bill turned and looked at the boy, “You almost were! It has taken me an age to track you down! You got yourself into a sticky situation all right, Philip!”

“You mean David got us into a sticky situation!” Philip objected. “Did you know that he got us lost and then rode off and abandoned us?”

“I know something of it,” Bill said, his anger at David leaving the children stirring again. “However, any normal children would have stayed where they were left, made camp and waited for the adults to come and find them!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Johns looked back and forth between the two as they argued but seemed unwilling to intervene. “That’s exactly what we did do!” Philip said indignantly. “I was hardly any distance from the camp at all when those fellows came out of nowhere and marched me off! And of course the others came after me, you would have done the same and you know it!” He tried to point at Bill but caught the end of one wing on the side of the helicopter. “Do you think you could help me out of these now? They look great, but I can’t do a thing in them!”

Bill had to laugh. “All right, Philip. Johns, come and give me a hand to get him out these wings will you?” Johns nodded and moved to Philips side to help Bill manhandle the boy out of the golden wings. “These are surprisingly sturdy,” he remarked as he struggled with a catch on one wing. “But as far as I can see, Boss, there’s no actual mechanics to them.”

“No,” Philip said as Bill suddenly looked very sober. “The King says that he has trapped some sort of anti-gravity rays within the wings. When someone jumps, all he has to do is press the button on each wing to release the rays and then glide to earth.”

Bill gave a snort of disbelief. “I should think he’s a very ill man, or a crazy one if he thinks that will work. I wish we could have discovered this sooner, I hate to think how many men may have lost their lives to this crazy fool.”

“That’s what Sam – he’s the paratrooper we met in the mountain – says. None of them men who jump ever come back. Meier says they’ve been well-paid and sent home… but…”

“Well, it stops now,” Bill said firmly. “First up, we need to get the others off that mountain-top. Then, once we’re back in civilisation I’m going to come down on that lot like a ton of bricks.”

Philip wanted to cheer Bill on, but he thought that this wasn’t the time or the place to do so. “How are you going to get the others off the mountain?” he asked curiously. “Do you have a cunning plan, Bill?”

“Well, that depends,” said Bill. “Where will the others be now that you’ve supposedly jumped?”

“They’ve been sleeping on the mountain-top the past few nights,” Philip said straight away. “The paratroopers are sometimes there during the day, but never at night. They’ll be on their own up there.”

Bill could sense that Philip had guessed his plan. “Excellent,” he said. “There’s just a few things we need to discuss, and then I’m going to take this helicopter back up there and whisk the other three away.”

To be continued…

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The Island of Adventure – TV tie in novel

A long time ago, before the word lockdown had entered our everyday vocabulary, I borrowed two books from the library.

They were The Island of Adventure and The Sea of Adventure, both being novels based on the Cloud 9 TV adaptation of the Adventure Series.

the-island-of-adventure-tv

Then, very recently, some 15 or so months after first borrowing the books, I finally read one.


From bad to worse

In my reviews of the Adventure Series adaptations I’m honest about thinking they’re not very good. They’re better than the Secret Series ones, but that’s not saying much. On the whole they’re moderately interesting and I suspect had they been original works, they’d have been just fine. But as Blyton adaptations they mess with them so much that they don’t always resemble the original books.

If it’s possible, the book is even worse than the TV episode. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Normally I really enjoy reading the book version of a TV show or film I’ve already seen, regardless of which existed first. I enjoy reading the way it all played out originally in the original book, or if it’s a novelisation then I enjoy the added insights you get into the characters’ thoughts.

The book is the worst of both worlds. It takes an already dubious screenplay and then attempts to make it a novel. A film or TV show adapting a book has to make changes as things that work on the page don’t always work on screen. For example characters’ inner thoughts are hard to show on-screen unless you have a voice over, or some special effects are too difficult or expensive to pull off.

The reverse is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent.

On-screen we learn who everyone is through natural dialogue – whereas in the book (as with Blyton’s book) the characters are named in the narration. We also get some of their background early on; such as Jack and Lucy-Ann’s relationship. It wouldn’t really have worked any other way – to have “the boy” fall out of a tree and argue with “the other boy” until they get back to camp where we learn Lucy-Ann and Jack’s names as it would be cumbersome and confusing.

What doesn’t work so well are the paragraphs describing Bill as he acts suspiciously watching the gallery and so on. Obviously when watching the TV episode we don’t know who he is, and we just have to watch those short scenes where he’s in his car watching. They’re intriguing, they leave us wondering.

The first time Bill is mentioned is in the closing paragraph of chapter one:

They didn’t notice the stranger observing them from his open-topped black sports car. Even after they’d gone back inside the gallery he continued watching like a hawk.

Then half-way through chapter two, jammed in between two bits of dialogue is:

Outside, from the cliffs near the house, the stranger in the open-topped sports car was scanning the island through binoculars. Then he swung round until he got a good close-up of Craggy Tops.

At the start of chapter three:

Outside, the strange an who’d been watching Craggy Tops parked his open-topped black sports car, walked up the steps and entered the gallery.

It’s just such childish writing! It’s as if someone watched the episode and simply transcribed exactly what they saw without adding any sort of detail or background. The man isn’t described at all, not his build, colourings or expression. The descriptions of the car are annoyingly repetitive, though.

Right after the last quote, suddenly the man is referred to as Bill with no explanation, but he is also the stranger and the strange man on the next page.

Another bizarre reworking is the conversation Bill has with Sir George over the radio. In the episode we cut to Sir George and then only hear his side of the conversation. In the book is says that Philip can hear Sir George’s voice coming over the radio but we still only get his side of the conversation!

After that, on-screen Sir George mutters to himself then make a phone call, and we cut to Bill and Philip in Bill’s car arriving at the dock. The book skips the Sir George extra and woodenly describes what Bill and Philip do:

“Quick,” said Bill to Philip as soon as he’d finished his conversation. “We need to get over to that island as soon as possible.”

They raced outside, jumped into his car, drove to the jetty and boarded the Crescendo. 


One star

I’m generally quite generous when it comes to rating books, I give most things at least three stars but usually four. This got one star, however.

As I said earlier, the writer didn’t have the best material to work with, but the writing is bland and uninteresting. It’s honestly as if a child has written it – or an adult was given the script and one hour to turn it into a novel.

I didn’t do a word for word read/watch through but I did for a few scenes and I would say 80-90% of the dialogue is exactly the same but there are some unimportant changes made, for no obvious reason that I could see. One or two scenes are reorganised, perhaps to make the reading less choppy as the TV episode does occasionally alternate between scenes occurring at the same time.

In short: I do not recommend. Watch the TV show if you like, it’s not the worst way to spend a few hours but don’t waste your time on this book. It’s an affront to have Enid Blyton’s name on the front of it.

As an aside I now have the TV theme tune stuck in my head.

I’ll always stand byyyy yoooooou!

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Monday #437

It is the first week of the new school year where I am, the summer holidays have absolutely flown by. We packed tons in, and while I’m quite looking forward to a bit of peace while Brodie is at nursery I’m not looking forward to the end of summer and the sunny day trips!

The Island of Adventure: The TV tie-in novel

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 19

I love a wrap-around dustjacket, and although this hasn’t got much on the back it does have a squirrel on the spine.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 18

Last time: Bill and Johns went to the airfield and took off in the helicopter heading for Fang Mountain


Chapter 18

The flight was not a long one at all, and if it had been done in daylight Bill was sure that the views would have been breath-taking. As it was, navigating by weak moonlight, the deep valleys looked like murky pools of darkness broken only by the occasional glint of water. Bill adjusted his flying goggles – an uncomfortable but necessary bit of disguise – and spoke to Johns. “I reckon we must be almost there.” Johns nodded. “Let’s just hope they turn the lights on for us like it says in the note.”

Thankfully, as they circled the approximate location that they had been told to fly to, a big beam of light came on and flashed up into the sky, helping them manoeuvre the helicopter down onto the platform on the mountain. The machine landed with a jolt and Bill let out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. He turned the engine off, and the cockpit light on, and glanced at Johns. “Ready?”

“Yes, sir,” Johns said, looking grim. Without the whirring of the rotors the mountain-top was eerily quiet. Bill and Johns couldn’t see much, the lights were angled in such a way that they couldn’t see into the darkness beyond them. They waited, as they had been instructed to, and Bill felt a prickle of unease run down his spine. Had they been tipped off, somehow, that they were impostors? Suddenly, from nowhere, or so it seemed, came several men. “You the Boss?” Bill called in a voice quite unlike his own, speaking to the man in front who seemed to be in charge. “I’ve taken Kahn’s place,” he said clearly when the man nodded, using Alan’s code name. Apparently even Mike and Alan didn’t entirely trust whatever was going on up here. “He’s on holiday. Had a job finding this place. This is Johns, my mate. We’ve got the goods you wanted.” Apparently there was no problem with any of that as the group of men who had followed the boss onto the mountain top began to efficiently unload the boxes and crates from the rear of the helicopter.

When everything had been unloaded, Bill and Johns jumped out of the helicopter, to await their orders “There is a meal ready for you,” said one of the men, the one whom Bill had heard another man call Meier. “You will start back tomorrow night?”
“No,” Bill said firmly. He didn’t know what was going on up here but he didn’t like it one bit and did not intend to commit to staying. He could see now that there was only one way down into the mountain, through a large hatch which was currently being guarded. As much as he wanted to find the children he didn’t fancy his and Johns’ odds if they went down there tonight. “Got to leave tonight. They’re making enquiries about some of our doings. Got to be back at once,” he said.

“You have been told that – er – that er…”

Bill cut Meier off. “What – that some paratrooper wants a jump off the helicopter? Oh yes,” he said, feigning a complete lack of concern. “That’s okay by me. If a chap wants to do that, well it’s no business of mine.”

“You will be paid very very well,” Meier said grimly. “This time it is double the price. We have a young jumper – it is necessary for our experiments, you understand.”

Bill froze, just for a moment. A young jumper? One of the children? Thank the lord that it had been he and Johns who had come tonight. “What do you mean – a young jumper?” he asked, a little more sharply than he had intended.
“A boy. He is here,” Meier said, before turning to some of the servants and speaking in a language Bill didn’t recognise. As the servant ran off Meier turned to Bill once more and continued, “I have sent him to tell the inventor that you have arrived. Now will you come to have a meal?”

Bill studied the man all the while he was talking and he didn’t even have to play act his rebuttal, “No, I must be off. Get the boy and make him ready.” Bill’s reply had come from the desire to get the young jumper to safety as soon as possible, especially if it was Jack or Philip. If it was one of the boys, he’d be able to get more information from them before returning the following night with reinforcements.

It was only thanks to Bill’s training and experience that he was able to stand by calmly as he saw Philip for the first time. The boy looked pale but he was holding his head high and Bill felt a surge of pride. Some way behind Philip he could see Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah. They were together, then, that was good. He was careful not to take too much of an interest in any of them, which was as much for his sake as for his cover. He was afraid to look and see how upset and frightened Lucy-Ann in particular was. If he did he wasn’t sure he would be able to fly off and leave her behind.

Before he could ask if Philip was ready, another man appeared, dressed as a king. At first glance he appeared majestic but upon closer inspection his crown was crooked and there was something curiously blank about his face. A box was brought in and laid reverently beside him, and this man – this king of the mountain – lifted out a large golden wing. It looked wonderful, the golden feathers shimmered in the light, but Bill couldn’t for the life of him see how it was supposed to make the wearer fly. He watched as the pair of the wings were strapped onto Philip’s arms, the boy making not the slightest bit of a fuss. Bill stayed silent as Philip was shown two buttons on the wings and then gave them an experimental flap. His heart was in his mouth despite knowing that there was no way he would ever let Philip jump out of the helicopter.

As everyone stood and admired the wings on Philip, no one saw Lucy-Ann step forward and move towards the king. Bill steeled himself, not wanting the men to harm Lucy-Ann. He couldn’t trust himself to stay in character if they did. As she laid her hand on the arm of the Kin’ she said, “Your majesty! I think I ought to try out your wings for you. I am much lighter than Philip. It would be an honour for me to try them.” There was a deafening silence in the courtyard, and then Philip broke the spell and stepped forward to hug Lucy-Ann tightly, shielding her with the golden wings.

Bill didn’t know what Philip said to the girl – that unbelievably brave and selfless girl – but with a sob Lucy-Ann let him go. He and Johns boarded the helicopter again, and Philip climbed into the back, needing help from one of the men as the wings prevented him from using his arms.

At the last minute, just as he helicopter cleared the parapet of the mountain-top Bill felt he just had to shout something to the remaining children. He couldn’t just fly off and leave them to think that Philip had jumped to his death. Leaning forward he called “Don’t forget Bill Smugs,” in his own voice, before the helicopter rose further under his guidance and swung away to the south.

To be continued…

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English Heritage vs Enid Blyton: the rematch

You may remember the outrage in June when English Heritage updated their page on Enid Blyton. I had some thoughts on that, which I shared here.

If you missed it, and don’t feel like reading the 1800 words I wrote on the subject, what happened was:

English Heritage added a couple of paragraphs to their Enid Blyton page, which highlighted some of the criticisms she has faced. Of course those were of racism, xenophobia and a lack of literary merit.

The backlash was swift, with thousands of comments on social media decrying the woke,  the pc brigade and cancel culture. English Heritage had to make it clear that they weren’t going to be removing her plaque, while many threatened to cancel or not renew their memberships.

So all in all it was probably a draw. English Heritage faced a lot of angry comments, but after all, isn’t any publicity good publicity? Blyton’s reputation probably wasn’t significantly harmed as these accusations were nothing new, but I doubt any of those ‘avid’ and furious fans went out and bought any of her books.


Round two: Enid 1, English Heritage 0

And so, on to just last week when English Heritage updated the Blyton page for a second time.

The page has gone from 425 words (with 130 being made up of the criticisms) to 739 words, with around the same number as before being critical – though this is now spread over separate sections.

The main criticisms section has been cut down from:

Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit. A 1966 Guardian article noted the racism of The Little Black Doll (1966), in which the doll of the title, Sambo, is only accepted by his owner once his ‘ugly black face’ is washed ‘clean’ by rain. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its ‘faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’. The book, however, was later published by William Collins.

In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer’. Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read.

to:

Both during her lifetime and after, Blyton’s work has been criticised for various aspects of its content. Its formulaic plots and deliberate use of simple language irked some educators.

Others took exception to what they perceived as social snobbery, racism and sexism embedded in Blyton’s storylines. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its ‘faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’. The book, however, was later published by William Collins. In recent years, references to ‘gollywogs’ in Blyton’s stories have been replaced by goblins.

The new wording, I feel, further distances English Heritage from the accusations. They have also added a stronger rebuttal to the accusations:

To those who objected to elements of her work, Blyton replied that the opinion of any critic over 12 years old did not interest her, and she successfully took legal action against a librarian who repeated the persistent story that her prolific output was enabled by a squad of ghost writers.

The article still includes the fact that the Royal Mint decided against featuring Blyton on a new 50p but ends with:

While criticisms of Blyton cannot be entirely dismissed, her work has encouraged generations of children to read. It continues – sometimes in revised form – to sell in considerable quantities. According to UNESCO, she remains the fourth most translated author in the world, after Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and Shakespeare.

The first sentence there previously read Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read. English Heritage appear to be standing behind Blyton now, and making that assertation (the addition of entirely even suggesting that some criticisms could be!) for themselves.

There is also some new information added to the page regarding her books. The entire Success section is new, and the Commemoration section is mostly new except for the sentence about the Royal Mint.


The furore, part two

Well, there isn’t any. The updates to the page have, as far as I have seen, gone almost completely unnoticed by the media and the general public.

The updated page has been shared on the Enid Blyton Society forums, with many members commenting to say how pleased they are.

Other than that, though, nothing. Somehow the softening of the accusations, along with adding more positive information is not considered news-worthy. It probably wouldn’t whip people into foaming at the mouth over political correctness gone mad, so it hasn’t been covered – despite the fact that English Heritage have backtracked somewhat on their earlier stance.

I wonder how many people actually cancelled/did not renew their memberships, and of those, how many would reconsider based on the new page? I imagine that as the accusations of racism etc are still there plenty of people will still be bizarrely offended.


I hope that Blyton fans will be pleased with this latest development – one which has occurred in time for the 124th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth, which is today! So happy birthday, Enid.

I always agreed with the addition of the criticisms, though even without those I felt the page was too short and lacking in information. The new page is, although still short (and containing an error regarding the title of her first proper book) is much better all-round.

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Monday #436

I’m at the end of a week off work now, and we packed a lot in. Now it’s back to normal, or a at least normal for the school holidays during a pandemic. Scotland, as of today, has moved from level 0 to “beyond level 0” which means a bit more freedom for us all.

The 11th of August is Blyton’s birthday so that’s this Wednesday, you can see below what I’ll be posting that day. The first round was a bit of a draw, so let’s see who wins this time.

English Heritage vs Enid Blyton: the rematch

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 18

“Ahoy there! AHOY!”

Granpa had a colossally loud voice when he wanted to make people hear. The fisherman in the far-off boat heard him at once.

“WE’VE GOT YOUR DOG!” Yelled Granpa. “WE ARE TAKING HIM ASHORE. YOU FINISH YOUR NAP. HA HA.

This is from Wake up, Granpa! which I found in Enid Blyton’s Magazine, volume 5 issue 16. It doesn’t appear to have been reprinted anywhere else.

In short, from the beach, Andy spots a dog in trouble in the sea, and wakes up his Granpa who is sleeping in his deckchair. They row out to rescue the dog – whose troubles have gone unnoticed as his owner is asleep in his own boat. Later Andy is known as The Boy Who Rescued The Dog which would also be a good title for the story!

 

 

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 17

Last time Johns arrived at the farmhouse to assist Bill.


Chapter 17

The two men worked and studied the maps of the area through til lunchtime. Bill recounted everything he had found out and every bit of information that he had gotten out of the two men at the pub the night before. Johns took it all in, though Bill could see he was tired from his exceptionally early start. He made up his mind to tell the other man to sleep after lunch, he needed him sharp and ready for the evening. The sun blinded them as they left the barn for the kitchen and Mrs Evans’ amazing cooking.

Allie was helping Mrs Evans set the table for five, and had forgone her sling. Bill wondered if she was trying to make a point that she was at least somewhat recovered now. He hoped she wouldn’t ask to be involved in that evening’s rescue mission. He didn’t think she would, she was a sensible woman and would know that there would be no place for her on such an operation. Still, he knew she wouldn’t be happy about being left behind, what mother would when her children were in danger?

Allie glanced up when Bill and John’s entered and smiled wryly at Bill. “I knew your stomachs would lead you in sooner or later,” she teased, though the laughter didn’t reach her eyes. “Sit down and I’ll get you a drink while Mrs Evans serves.” She moved to get the drinks Mrs Evans has prepared, and thought better of carrying the whole tray over. She brought the drinks to the men, one by one, though they didn’t seem to notice her. They were still discussing something, and Allie found that she couldn’t get close enough to hear their quiet voices. She wished she could ask Bill to let her go with them, but she knew he would say no and point out that it was no place for a woman like her.

Bill and Johns broke apart when Mrs Evans put a heavy dish on the table with a bit of a thump, and both looked guilty having been rudely ignoring the women. Bill cleared his throat. “What a wonderful spread,” he said to Mrs Evans.

“It’s a pity there aren’t more to enjoy it,” she said heavily. She was generally remaining in good humour but now and again the plight of the children caused her to sink into a morose mood.

“Indeed to gootness, it’s awfully quiet without those children,” Mr Evans lamented as he took his seat, still brushing straw from his trousers.

“They will be back soon to enjoy Mrs Evans’ wonderful food,” Bill promised.

“I just know that you will bring them back safe, look you,” Mrs Evans said firmly, sitting down and reaching out to pat his hand.

Bill smiled kindly and looked sideways at Johns. “In the meantime, Johns can make up for four hungry children I’m sure,” he joked weakly.

“I’ll do my best,” Johns promised seriously.

He did eat well, as did Bill. He wasn’t overly hungry but he thought he ought to get a good meal in as who knew what the evening would hold. He sent Johns off to get some rest upstairs, Mrs Evans being good enough to make up a bed for him at short notice, and he sat back and thought about what he still needed to do to be ready for later. Not a lot, really. They’d both change their clothes and pack a bag each but that wouldn’t take long. They’d already planned all their routes, both primary and back-ups. Their contingency plans were in place, as much as they could be. They’d call in to HQ on their way to Abergavenny so that they were up-to-date and on standby, and that was all they could do, really, until they were up in the air.

Bill found himself growing tense as he drove towards the airfield that evening. He really hoped he and Johns could pull this off and rescue the children, or at least get a lie of the land. He wanted to bring the children back as soon as possible but he knew he would have to make a decision once he’d got more of an idea of what was going on on top of that mountain.

Allie had been stoic and wished them luck when they’d left the farmhouse and he prayed he wasn’t going to return with any sort of bad news for her. They’d left early enough to scope out the airfield, just to make sure this wasn’t some sort of trap, though the chances of that were slim. Then they’d collect the required keys and paperwork from a locker on-base. Mike had already passed him a key to a padlock for a side-gate on the base.

Johns was as quiet as a mouse as they got out of the car, just down the road from the airfield. He was a good agent, Bill knew, even though he wished it was Anatoly helping him right now. Johns kept a look out as Bill unlocked the side gate, one hand in his jacket pocket, gripping his gun in case this was all a trap.

But, as promised, the air field was completely deserted, with the exception of old Bert the night watchman. Bert had been well-paid to ignore their night-time activities so he wouldn’t pose any problems, but still, Bill was keen to avoid him this early in the evening. The locker they found easily and removed the key which opened the helicopter doors, also inside was a map with the coordinates of the mountain, other flight routes in the area, safe landing spots and so on clearly marked. A quick scan told Bill that their annotated maps were more or less identical, which was good to know.

Enthused by the fact that the plan seemed to be going well, Bill turned to Johns and motioned him to follow as he headed to the forecourt where the helicopter was standing, ready for its illicit take off. As instructed they flashed a torch on and off in the requisite pattern to let Bert know that the helicopter wasn’t being stolen, and after an answering flash came from the watchman’s hut, Bill opened the helicopter doors. He slung their gear in the back and they settled in the cockpit seats.

“I’ve not flown this model before,” Bill said to Johns. “But I don’t think it’ll be a problem.” He took a few minutes just to familiarise himself with all the controls, noticing that Johns was doing the same, then when they were both confident they knew what was what, Bill pressed the started button for the engine and it purred into life. He performed his flight safety checks diligently and then, at last, he opened the throttle to increase the rotor speed, pulled slowly on the collective and pressed the left foot pedal down, until finally, the helicopter rose slowly into the air.

To be continued…

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July 2021 round up

July brought a heatwave but also some very heavy rain and storms.


What I have read

I started out well in July but didn’t keep it up. Still, 9 books isn’t bad for during the school holidays! I’m now done with the Robert Langdon books so I’m not sure what I’ll focus on next. I’ve still got one more Indian in the Cupboard book to read, and loads of other things on my to-read list.

  • Remember Me? – Sophie Kinsella
  • Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) – Dan Brown
  • Detective Stories (Rivers of London graphic novel #4) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Mystery of Tully Hall – Zöe Billings (reviewed here)
  • The Mystery of the Indian (The Indian in the Cupboard #4) – Lynne Reid Banks
  • Tayside’s Last Days of Steam – W.A.C. Smith
  • Fife’s Lost Railways – Gordon Stansfield
  • Chimney Corner Storiesreviewed here
  • Origin (Robert Langdon #5) – Dan Brown

And I’m currently reading:

  • Dilly’s Lass (Dilly’s Story #2)
  • Confessions of a Curious Bookseller – Elizabeth Green

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, some more Mythbusters and a few more episodes of Loki.
  • Only Connect, which returned for a new series this month.
  • I have finished the fourth season of True Blood which is as far as I ever watched before, now I’ll have to open the still-wrapped season 5 boxset and start that.
  • Our Tuesday night movies this month were: Full Out 2: You Got This!, Footloose and Magic Mike XXL.

What I have done

We’ve been quite busy this month with lots of day-trips as we both took a week of annual leave so we could enjoy ourselves a bit.

We went to:

  • Auchmithie, and explored the beach and caves
  • Two zoos, the larger Five Sisters Zoo which is near Livingston, and the tiny Fife Zoo where we saw armadillos for the first time – they were much livelier and more curious than I had imagined.
  • A new nature reserve we happened to discover (Birnie and Gaddon Lochs) where we saw ducks, swans, a heron, a frog, lots of bees and little blue dragonflies
  • The Discovery – the ship that the ship that took Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica in 1901!
  • Murton Farm which has a few animals but we mostly go for the trampolines, sandpits and other play equipment
  • The Scottish Deer Centre, now reopened under new management and with the addition of a vintage fire engine, which of course Brodie loved.
  • The Dundee Museum of Transport – we went on the special emergency vehicles day and saw a load of police cars and fire engines which were parked outside.
  • East Haven beach where we paddled and explored the rock pools
  • And lastly Auchingarrich where Brodie enjoyed milking a fake cow, petting the guinea-pigs and tortoises and playing in the park

Apart from all those days out we also:

  • Had two separate days of isolating and waiting for Covid test results. On the second day we set up a campsite in the garden and ‘toasted’ marshmallows on a pretend fire.
  • Did some baking. We made some banana bread and ice-cream, but I had rather a disaster trying to make a rhubarb crumble. It was so hot that the crumble just melted together and turned into a soup… It still tasted OK though.
  • Have been looking after nursery plot which is where we got the rhubarb from
  • Visited various parks

 


What I have bought

After my discovery that my copy of Chimney Corner Stories didn’t contain the original 20 stories I ordered myself a new copy which I think is a first edition, though it doesn’t have a dust jacket.

 


What has your month looked like?

 

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Monday #435

Well, somehow it is August already! That means Brodie is about to turn 4, the schools go back in a couple of weeks and we are nearing the end of summer.

July round up

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 17

How surprising people were! You thought some of them were so horrid, and believed all kinds of things about them—and then they turned out quite different and you wanted to be friends.

Elizabeth Allen reflects on not judging people on first appearances in The Naughtiest Girl Again.

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