Return to Kirrin by Neil and Suzy Howlett

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

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

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


Returning to Kirrin

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

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

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

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

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

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


So what is is about?

The blurb reads:

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

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

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

Anne’s updated Kirrin Island picnic


Familiar faces and new ones

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

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

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

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

– Joan’s shocking secret about some of her baking

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

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


The despites

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

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

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

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

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

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


Final thoughts

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

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

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

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Monday #420

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

Return to Kirrin

and

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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


Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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The Famous Five’s other companions

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


 

The accepted but not-so-useful

Berta Wright

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

Marybelle Lenoir

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


The not accepted but useful

Aily

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

Yan

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

yan five go down to the sea

Benny Thomas

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

Henry and William 

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

Martin 

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


Neither accepted nor very useful

Guy and Harry Lawdler

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

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Monday #419

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

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

The Famous Five’s other companions

and

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

“Is this you off on your holiday?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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


The basic plot

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


The characters

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

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


The parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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


Missed tricks

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

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

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


The slightly offensive bits

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

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

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

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


The illustrations

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

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

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

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


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

 

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Monday #418

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

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

Five Go Parenting by Bruno Vincent

and

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

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

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

 

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March 2021 round up

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


What I have read

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

I did read:

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

And I’m currently reading:

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


What I have watched

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

What I have done

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

What I have bought

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

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

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Five Have Plenty of Fun part 3

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


George vs Berta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jo

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

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

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

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


The end

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

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

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

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


And all the rest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible nitpicks I have found:

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

Unusual words and phrases

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday #417

It’s now the last few days of March, which means it’s almost April. That means it’s almost Easter, which (for me) means lots of chocolate. It also means we’re that bit nearer to the bigger lifting of the restrictions is due to take place on April 26. Before that, though, we have the school holidays – considering the first children didn’t even go back until the end of February these seem to have come around far too fast.

Five Have a Puzzling Time part 3

and

March round up

“You’re afraid to fight,” said Pat scornfully. “Cowardy-custard! Afraid to fight! Wants to go Sunday School instead. Pooh, baby! Go along, then. We won’t fight to-day or to-morrow either, little funk. We Taggertys don’t want to have ANY MORE TO DO WITH YOU AT ALL. Good-bye forever.”

Pat dramatically flounces in Those Dreadful Children. 

 

 

 

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Five Have Plenty of Fun part 2 – Quentin and Elbur

Last week I started my review of Five Have Plenty of Fun, but all I really covered was Berta (aka Lesley, Leslie and Jane) and the similarities I spotted between that book and some others by Blyton.

Despite the fact that I don’t think I would like Uncle Quentin at all in real life, I actually really enjoy reading about him. He’s one of the things that makes the Kirrin books stand out, almost as much as Kirrin Island. I also quite like writing about him, as proven by the time I dedicated a whole post to what he gets up to in just one bookFive Go to Smuggler’s Top.

You’d think there would be less material in this book on Quentin – mostly because he and Aunt Fanny disappear for a good chunk, abandoning Berta to the care of Joanna and the Five (do you think Joanna gets extra pay for such duties?) – but there’s a surprising amount to say.


Bad tempered vs good tempered

As we know, Uncle Quentin is bad-tempered and forgetful.

In this book we learn that George sometimes wished that he was a more ordinary parent, one who would play cricket or tennis with children, and not be so horrified at shouting and laughter and silly jokes. He always made a fuss when George’s mother insisted that George should have her cousins to stay. In a sort of flashback we see that he ranted Noisy, rowdy, yelling kids! I shall lock myself in my study and stay there! when he heard his nephews and niece were coming to stay.

Quentin is unmoved by George’s complaints about having Berta dumped on them.

Julian and Dick joke about Quentin blowing up the world in a fit of temper and George says Well, I wish he wouldn’t keep blowing me up if I let a door bang or set Timmy barking. Of course we saw in a previous book that Quentin himself is terrible for slamming doors!

What’s interesting is that when Berta stands up and refuses to be disguised as a boy Quentin is not used to being defied openly like this. I’m pretty sure George has openly defied him many times!

Berta openly defies Uncle Quentin.

On the other hand Elbur Wright – father, or indeed Pops, of Berta is a cheerful, friendly man who gives the children a whole pound to spend on themselves after just meeting them. He sends Berta to stay with them when she is in danger as he has taken such a shine to the Kirrins, being as healthy and happy as they are. He also dearly loves Berta – so much so he would be willing to spill all his scientific secrets to keep her safe, while Quentin appears to suggest he would leave George to rot if it had been her kidnapped!


Traitor or loving father?

I wish we’d seen Quentin and Elbur argue this out, as it is we only see Quentin’s rather strong reaction.

If his Berta is kidnapped, he will give away every single secret he knows to get her back. Pah! What’s he made of? Traitor to us all! How can he even think of giving away secrets for the sake of a silly girl?

Pretty harsh words – especially when you consider what they’re working on. A way giving us heat, light and power for almost nothing, is how George explains it, and a gift to mankind as Quentin himself puts it. So it’s not a dangerous weapon, or anything like that. If he’s going to gift it to mankind then does it matter if someone else makes the same invention/discovery somewhere else? Apart from the prestige, and money of course.


Equally absent-minded

Elbur’s definitely as forgetful and fuddled as Quentin when it comes to real-life things. For example Elbur doesn’t know how many children Quentin has, and mistakes George for a boy, even though he is sending Berta to the same school as Quentin’s daughter and has obviously discussed this with Quentin.

Quentin surpasses even himself in terms of forgetfulness in this book, though. He seems to have a complete blind-spot when it comes to Berta. While most of us would make slip-ups if someone changed their name three times in one week, we’d hopefully be aware of it!

Elbur climbs in the window in a 1am visit

Quentin is the one Elbur talks to about sending Berta to stay and yet he can’t remember Berta’s name, not even when reading a letter from Elbur about Berta. He doesn’t know who she is when he sees her at breakfast the first morning – even though he knew she was arriving in the middle of the night. He then doesn’t recognise her when she has been disguised a boy, despite that letter being all about disguising her as a boy. In fact he is genuinely baffled as to who is standing in his house both times.

What with Berta then being Lesley/Leslie, of course Quentin starts calling her Berta, just a little bit too late, so it’s just as well that he and Fanny have gone off before she becomes Jane.

And to top it all off he absent-mindedly spreads mustard on his toast at breakfast time. According to Fanny it’s the second time that month that he’s confuse the mustard for marmalade. I know they were having bacon and eggs etc too, but mustard doesn’t strike me as something you should have on a breakfast table, especially if you have someone like Uncle Quentin in your house.


Quentin redeems himself

It appears that Quentin does care more than he lets on, though. While they are away Aunt Fanny calls and tells Joanna that Quentin has collapsed and is very ill. She says he has been working very hard, and the news of George being kidnapped was the last straw. Makes you wonder – would he actually give up his secrets for George if he was in Elbur’s shoes? As it is, it’s Elbur’s information they want, Quentin doesn’t know the figures they’re looking for.

There is one nice moment with Quentin, when Aunt Fanny insists on going with him to see Elbur. Her husband gave a sudden smile that lighted up his face and made him seem quite young. “Will you really come with me? I thought you’d hate to leave the children.” As crotchety as he is, I think he really loves his wife.

Aunt Fanny, Elbur, Uncle Quentin and Berta arrive back at Kirrin Cottage.

I also like how he deals with the police at the end of the book. They’ve been pretty useless throughout, and are standing open-mouthed as Julian and Dick try to explain how it is that George is back.

Well, look alive, man – they’ll escape before you can get them if you don’t hurry, he says. And then I want some coffee. I think we’ve talked enough. Do go and catch your kidnappers, my good men. 


So in part 3 I will finally get to the rest of my comments, including a large section on George vs Berta, one on the food plus my nitpicks and other observations.

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The return of Malory Towers on TV: Everything we know

The Malory Towers TV Facebook page shared an exciting article on Wednesday. There are to be 26 new episodes!

There has been talk of more episodes since the first series aired, but I assume due to the pandemic it has been difficult to secure any deal. The series is filmed in the UK (the external scenes) and in Canada (indoor scenes) with cast members from both countries, and so involves a fair bit of international travel, which would complicate any plans to film.

However, it has been declared now so let’s have a look at what we know about the new episodes.


The cast

It has been confirmed that most of the cast are returning.

Confirmed as coming back are Ella Bright (Darrell), Danya Griver (Gwen), Sienna Arif-Knights (Sally), Zoey Siewert (Alicia), Imogen Lamb (Mary-Lou), Natasha Raphael (Irene) and Beth Bradfield (Jean), Ashley McGuire (Matron) and Geneviève Beaudet (Mam’zelle Rougier).

The girls missing from the list are Twinkle Jaiswal (Katherine) and Saskia Kemkers (Emily) but that doesn’t mean we won’t see them. In the books Katherine has moved up to the third form by the time we join Darrell again in the second form, so it may be that they follow the books on that and leave the space for someone else to become head of the second form. Emily is barely in the books – in the first form she joins Darrell when her parents visit at half-term, and in the second form her brooch is stolen by Daphne. The TV series substantially increased her role in the first form, but with the storyline of the ghost resolved, it’s not clear if they continue to write her in.

Of course they’ve not mentioned Miss Grayling or Miss Potts either. Although Miss Potts won’t be their form-mistress any more she is always popping up in the books, so I hope we do see her again. And Miss Grayling must come back!

New girls confirmed are Ellen Wilson (to be played by Carys John), and Bill (Amelie Green).

Not mentioned are the other new girls, Daphne and Belinda. I really hope we do get a Belinda as she is one of my favourites.

Gwen scowling at Belinda Malory Towers

The new teachers are Miss Johnson (Emily Piggford) and Mr Parker (Jason Callender). In the books the second form mistress is Miss Parker, aka Nosy Parker, so it is interesting that they have decided to cast a male teacher. The only men at Malory Towers in the books are Mr Young the music/singing master, Mr Sutton the carpentry teacher (mentioned, never seen) and Pop the handyman.

I don’t know who Miss Johnson is going to be as Miss Peters is the third form mistress.


The plots

We don’t have much to go on for the storylines they will use. Obviously we know what happens in the next two books – but it hasn’t actually been confirmed if we are getting two series.

I am assuming that 26 episodes means two 13 episode series, given that series one was 13 episodes and they’ve already lost a year for filming due to the pandemic. I imagine that they want to film two series back-to-back or at least close together to catch up, aware that the girls are aging. I also can’t see them trying to stretch one book to fill 26 episodes. 13 was just about the right length for the first book – or in fact it could easily have been 12 if they had missed the entirely fabricated debutante episode.

As above we know we will have Ellen so it’s likely that we will have storylines from second form (Ellen being ill and cheating at the exam). It is yet to be seen if we will have a Daphne, however, or if Ellen will be stealing and cheating!

Bill doesn’t appear until the third form, so that lends credence to the theory that we will see the third book adapted too. Unless they decide to combine storylines from the second and third form! Let’s face it, they could do anything.


So when are we going to see the new episodes?

The good news is that they are expected to start shooting the new episodes in the UK this spring and Canada this summer, and we may see it as early as the end of this year.

The first series dropped on iPlayer all at once, and was then shown weekly on CBBC. The decision to put it all on the iPlayer earlier than announced was because the UK had just gone into its first lockdown, and they thought it would give us something to do! I don’t expect we will get to binge-watch this time around, as hopefully life will be a bit more normal by late 2021. Instead I expect episodes will be aired on CBBC and added one at a time to the iPlayer either concurrently with the TV episode or shortly after.


We may not know much, but what I do know is I am excited! I will keep you updated if I see any new announcements about the cast!

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Monday #416

In some welcome good news it has been confirmed that there are to be 26 new episodes of the Malory Towers TV show!

The return of Malory Towers on TV: Everything we know

and

Five Have Plenty of Fun part 2

The magic needles knitted black socks for the stool, and a coat for the coal-scuttle. They knitted one long stocking for the poker and a petticoat for the lamp. They knitted a pink coat for the grand-father clock and a pink bonnet to match. The grandfather clock didn’t like them. After all, it was a grandfather, not a baby! But it had to wear them.

Mother Click-Clack’s magic knitting needles go a little bit wild in Simple Sally’s House in The Magic Knitting Needles (and other stories).

 

 

 

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Five Have Plenty of Fun

I’ve decided that I really must do better with my Famous Five reviews. The site has been running for nearly eight and a half years (!!!), and yet there are still Famous Five books without a review. There are lots of Enid Blyton books as yet unreviewed, but seeing as the Famous Five are a favourite of Stef and I, and more or less the first thing I think of when I think of Blyton, well, it seems remiss of us not to have reviewed the whole series. In fact of the remaining 8 I have still to do, only two have already been reviewed. Perhaps that speaks to the notion that the second half of the series is not as good as the first, though a couple of my favourites are near the end.

Anyway, that is why, a mere three weeks after I finished reviewing Five Go to Mystery Moor I’ve already started on the next book.


A book in how many parts?

I’ve read this one at least as many times as all the rest (I’m a stickler for reading a whole series though start to finish!) but I feel like I don’t remember this one as well. I didn’t have an idea for how many parts until I had read it.

  1. The Five spend time at Kirrin
  2. Berta arrives and there is tension between her and George
  3. George is kidnapped and they must rescue her

It turned out quite simple in the end!


Berta, Lesley, Leslie and Jane

If this is a book you haven’t read then you might be wondering who all these people are. If you’ve read the book (and you don’t have memory issues like Uncle Quentin) then you’ll know they’re all the same person.

Berta Wright, daughter of scientist Elbur Wright, is rumoured to be in danger of being kidnapped in order to ransom scientific information from her father. The Wrights are American and have no family or friends in Britain, and as Elbur has taken a liking to the Kirrins he sends Berta to stay there for her own safety.

He insists that Berta be disguised as a boy, so the poor girl has her hair cut off and gets a new name – Lesley, or as anyone else might assume, Leslie. She is not happy with that plan, but she does get over it fairly quickly as she looks up to sensible Julian.

Berta shares the same speech ‘problems’ as Zerelda of Malory Towers and there is a running joke about her saying twenny, plenny and wunnerful instead of twenty, plenty and wonderful, but she takes it all in good humour.

Although generally likeable Berta is clearly from a very well-off home and she can be a little bit braggy and tactless at times.

She talks about having her father buy Kirrin Island as if buying islands in other countries is perfectly normal.

She mentions that Timmy is only a mongrel more than once, while saying that Sally is a pedigree and cost a lot of money. She also has a strop when told Sally can’t sleep on her bed and says My father will pay you a lot of money to keep me happy suggesting she is a bit spoiled.

Other things she says, or has, indicate money like having her own pool in the garden, a silver hair-brush and clothes that are too expensive to wear in Joan’s cousin’s village.

Despite these flaws she remains likeable, as she copes quite well with being sent off to strangers and having to dress as a boy. She has a good sense of humour and it would have been nice to have her in more of the story but she doesn’t arrive until page 34 and then is packed off to Joan’s cousin by page 121, missing the action of the last chapters, before reappearing for the last six pages.


The Five-Find Outers Fall Into Adventure

On this reading I found this book to have many familiar elements. Blyton frequently used and reused plots, themes and similar characters, weaving them together in new ways.

I noticed a lot of repetition from Five Fall Into Adventure.

The obvious would be that George is kidnapped in both. Then there’s the fact that she’s held in a caravan (in the middle of Ravens Wood in Fall Into Adventure, and at Gringo’s fair in Plenty of Fun). Both times she leaves a note with distinct handwriting (the R in Red Tower in Fall Into Adventure and the G in Gringo in Plenty of Fun). And of course in both books she’s kidnapped for the sake of scientific secrets.

Both books have a case of mistaken identity. In Plenty of Fun George has been kidnapped instead of Berta. In Fall Into Adventure Jo swaps places with George so they’ll think they’ve got the wrong girl.

And there’s another similarity – Jo appears in both books. She assists in the search for George earlier in the book (leading them to Ravens Wood in Fall Into Adventure, going to speak to Spiky and bringing him to the boys in Plenty of Fun), and then joins them for the rescue at the end.

Fall Into Adventure has Jo sleeping in Joan’s room before being sent to stay with her cousin. In Plenty of Fun Berta also sleeps in Joan’s room then goes to stay with her cousin, though on a more temporary basis.

Smaller details include them playing cards by the bay window in both stories and Jo climbing up to a bedroom window at Kirrin Cottage.

There is also a bit of a similarity to Five Go to Mystery Moor, where George ‘competes’ with another girl dressed as a boy. A girl who does not have curly hair and is therefore more boyish than George. Last time both girls wanted to be boys, this time Berta would rather be a girl but George’s attitude is the same. There are also signs that someone else is on Kirrin Island much like in Five Run Away Together.

Now for the Five Find-Outers. The Famous Five are primarily adventurous but there is a little mystery solving too, but this is probably the closest they come to emulating the Find-Outers.

Julian and Dick look for clues in the clearing and find loose items thrown by George, but also note the tyre tracks and make a drawing (the FFO have used drawings of tyre prints, basket marks and tyre tracks), and also note the blue paint on a scraped tree. Anne discretely interrogates the shop-girl who mentions a man asking about children at Kirrin Cottage and gains a few clues too.

They go to the fair to investigate, and sneak a look in the caravans, sending Timmy in to sniff around revealing George’s dressing gown, and then get more useful information from Spiky about the car – which they’ve found and seen the scraped wings – going off that afternoon.

They do make a few dubious leaps of logic, though. They calculate that George can’t have gone more than 12 miles as the car was only gone an hour, which seems fair enough, but they then look at a map and decide she can only be in a certain distance of the nearest town in that direction. No thought that the car could have turned off before then and gone back on itself, no thought that she could have been passed on to another car, or taken somewhere very close and the delay in the car coming back had nothing to do with the distance travelled.

Anyway, they’re lucky and they’re right, of course. As this is not an actual Find-Outers story the remaining investigation is handled speedily. Jim at the garage telephones some friends at other garages and hotels in the vicinity and a hotel porter has not only seen the car that afternoon but heard where it was going, with nice clear directions.

And just like that, they know where George is. All they have to do is rescue her!


I will leave the rescue, plus my usual nitpicks and other comments for next time.

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The Magic Faraway Tree covers through the years

I was looking for something reasonably un-taxing to write this week, and decided that as the Faraway Tree series only has three books (well, four if you include Up the Faraway Tree which is a different format, but even so that only has three editions so hardly adds any complications) so I’m hoping it does prove to be more straight-forward than some of the ones I’ve done.

The ones I’ve done previously are:

The Famous Five, parts one and two
The Adventure Series, parts one and two
The Secret Series
Malory Towers, parts one and two
St Clare’s, parts one and two
The Barney Mysteries
Mr Galliano’s Circus
The Naughtiest Girl
The Five Find-Outers

So now for the Faraway Tree covers!


The classic first editions

Despite there being perhaps slightly longer gaps between books (there are seven years between the first and third books, and twelve years between the first and fourth), and the fourth book being a strip-book put together from Sunny Stories content, all the first editions were illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler.

George Newnes, 1939, 1943, 1946 and 1951.

A really long gap

If you thought 3-5 years between the books above was bad, well, the first time these books were republished was in 1971! Yes, a whopping thirty-two years after The Enchanted Wood was published. I find that quite bizarre. The hardbacks were probably printed many times over – it was common to see 14th or 18th impressions of Blyton’s books in the late 60s, but over thirty years for a new edition seems a very long time. All the other series I’ve looked at had paperback editions by the mid-to-late 1960s, so even for The Secret Island which was out in 1938 had a shorter gap. Many series even had two hardback runs (some complete, some only for certain titles). Anyway, I’m getting off-track here.

The first new editions are from 1971, and so we skip the 1960s style artwork we’ve seen on so many Armada paperbacks, and go straight to Dean with a strong 1970s vibe from an uncredited artist.

The bold colours definitely give me a 70s feel, particularly the green/orange combo of The Enchanted Wood, then on The Magic Faraway Tree I swear there’s a discrete flare to those jeans!

Dean 1971, 1971 and 1972

Mind you Up the Faraway Tree, the fourth book, had to wait until 1981 for its first new edition, which is when the other three got their second. The 1981 editions are from Beaver with covers from Gerry Embleton, who has given Moon-Face a literal moon for a face. I think he was called Moon-Face because his head/face were very round, but not an actual moon. He certainly doesn’t have a moon for a face on the first edition covers, or in any of the internal illustrations, but you can’t always trust illustrators. Both Embleton and Rene Cloke have given Silky wings, and then there’s the infamous back-to-front telescope from Eileen Soper… but I’m getting off-topic again. Moon-Faced or not, he’s a bit of a creepy specimen.

These are, to me, instantly recognisable as being for the Faraway Tree series but that’s perhaps its the cover I most often see for the fourth book.

Beaver 1978, 1978, 1978 and 1981.

Janet, Anne and Georgina

The first ‘complication’ of this series, is that three editions had two different illustrators. The The Enchanted Wood’s 1978, 1985 and 2001 Dean editions were by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone (twin sisters, who as far as I have seen were always credited together on Blyton’s books – this is backed up by Wikipedia). The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree had Dean editions come out within a few years of these, using a similar style but with Georgina Hargreaves as the artist.

Janet Grahame Johnstone died in 1979, and although it is said that her sister Anne fulfilled all outstanding contracts alone, despite never having worked alone before, she did not work on any more Faraway Tree editions. Perhaps there was not a contract in place at the time, and she chose not to take on any new ones in the first few years after the loss of her sister.

What’s interesting is that none of the covers are not the same, they are not even a close-up or cropped piece of the same work, they are three entirely different pieces of artwork. So either Janet and Anne submitted more than one cover and some were used later, or they are taken from the internal illustrations.

Georgina Hargreaves’ covers are reused, but not each time. Her 1981 and 1985 covers of The Magic Faraway Tree use the same artwork but cropped for the second one, but the 2011 edition is different. All three editions are from the same work for The Folk of the Faraway Tree.

All these editions, I believe, are called ‘Deluxe’ editions, I think referring to the full-page and full-colour illustrations inside, also by Georgina Hargreaves (and presumably the Johnstone sisters for The Enchanted Wood). All are quite large books, too, somewhere around a4 size, even so, it’s a shame that the most recent ones have reduced the cover art to a small square.

 


Familiar territory

The next Dean editions came in 1990, with a hardback style that was used on many series and stand-alone titles. I don’t have a better name for these than ‘colour border’, though it’s interesting that sometimes little bits of the square image escape their boundaries.

These were by another uncredited artist. What’s strange to me, is that the first two are quite dull and generic at first glance. They’re just some kids in the woods. The second looks rather like Hollow Tree House, while the first could be any adventure. It’s only on a closer look that you see there are a couple of fairies in them. And then the third, well, that’s a brightly-coloured scene from a dream, perhaps even a nightmare!

All Dean 1990.

Here’s a close-up so you can appreciate the sudden change of direction.


Despite there only being three/four books in the series, that still turned out to be more complex, or at least, more wordy than I had anticipated. I think it’s best if I return for a part two later, instead of making this post two or three thousand words long.

Have you seen any of your favourite covers yet?

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Monday #415

In Scotland we are now allowed to meet in groups of four outdoors, and it’s even getting almost warm enough to sit outside comfortably!

The Faraway Tree covers through the years

and

Five Have Plenty of Fun

The real Green Hedges, Enid’s home from 1938 until shortly before her death in 1968, was demolished in 1973. However there is a perfect miniature of it which can be found in the Bekonscot less than half a mile away from where the real Green Hedges once stood.

The miniature even has a tiny Enid, typing away in the garden, though sometimes (perhaps on rainy days) she moves to the covered porch.

Obviously Bekonscot is closed at the moment but hopefully it will reopen when the rules allow because it’s a lovely place, with a lot more to offer than just Blyton’s house.

 

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A guide to the Famous Five’s sidekicks

We all know about the main Famous Five cast, but what about the various friends that show up throughout the series? They never had any long-term sidekicks, no Robin, no Samwise Gamgee or Watson, but in several stories they had friends who tagged along and helped out (in the subservient sort of way that denotes them as sidekicks and not equals).

They met a lot of other children during the 21 adventures but not all of them are worthy of sidekick status. Some are enemies like Edgar Stick, others are merely rescued by the Five, like Mary Armstrong of the same book.

I will look at the genuine sidekicks first, and perhaps revisit the topic for the hangers-on. In order for me to count them as a sidekick the child must: have some sort of purpose within the story, take part in some or all of the adventure, be accepted however temporarily into the friendship group of the Five.


The repeat offenders

A couple of sidekicks appeared more than once – Jo the gypsy girl and Tinker Hayling.

Jo the gypsy girl

Appearances – Five Fall Into Adventure, Five Have a Wonderful Time and Five Have Plenty of Fun.

The Five first meet Jo on Kirrin beach when she steals George’s sand hole to sit in. At first they want nothing to do with such a dirty little urchin, but when Dick hits her and finds out she’s a girl he is impressed by her pluck. Dick is the only one Jo likes at first, and he is the only reason she helps them track down a kidnapped George – even though it was her who helped with the kidnapping by luring Timmy to eat drugged meat. She shows true bravery by the end of Five Fall Into Adventure, climbing an ivy-covered tower to swap places with George as they look quite alike. In the end she does not return to her father as he is locked up for his part in the kidnap, instead she goes to stay with Joan’s cousin.

She appears again in Five Have a Wonderful Time, just in time to resolve a feud between the Five and some fair-folk some of whom she just so happens to be related to. She then joins in on the attempted rescue of the missing scientist Derek Terry-Kane, but then ends up helping rescuing the Five as well, after getting temporarily tied up herself.

Her last appearance is a brief one in Five Have Plenty of Fun, when she visits Kirrin Cottage at night and finds out that George has been kidnapped (again). Having been told not to take Julian’s bike she takes Dick’s instead and rides off to a fair where she knows people. Later she brings a friend from the fair to speak to the remaining members of the Five as he may have information about George.

Tinker Hayling

Appearances – Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Five Are Together Again

Tinker is – I assume – several years younger than the Five as he behaves like a car. By that I mean he makes car engine noises and requests petrol top ups in the kitchen. Despite being quite annoying due to his car obsession, he has two interesting aspects. The first is he owns a monkey called Mischief, and secondly, he owns a lighthouse. The lighthouse becomes the setting for Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Tinker is involved in the adventure, though his usefulness doesn’t go much beyond having supplied the lighthouse. I don’t mean that he is useless or causes difficulties, but he as a sidekick he doesn’t really shine. Mischief comes in useful, at least, as she finds some very old coins indicating that the old treasure is in the underground caves somewhere.

Tinker shut up said George

When Tinker appears two books later he is still making car noises, but at least with reduced  frequency. He has again provided accommodation for the Five, this time at his home at Big Hollow, where of course a mystery occurs.


The one book wonders

Sooty

The first sidekick to appear in any Five book is Pierre ‘Sooty’ Lenoir, in Five Go to Smuggler’s Top.

Sooty is a school friend of Dick and Julian’s, and the Five go to stay with him at his home, Smuggler’s Top on Castaway Hill. Sooty, at school, is apparently a big joker and always in trouble for playing tricks. At home he is a bit of an inventor, having rigged up a sort of alarm system to warn him if anyone approaches his bedroom. He takes on the task of hiding Timmy in the secret passages of Smuggler’s Top (his step-father hates dogs and won’t have them in the house), he takes the Five on a tour through the catacombs in the hill, and he stands up to Block, his step-father’s creepy man-servant. He even pretends to have bitten Block on the leg to cover for the fact that Timmy nipped him during a skirmish one evening. He even has the dubious honour of being kidnapped, and spends quite a while wandering an unfamiliar area of catacombs with Uncle Quentin before Timmy comes along.

Nobby

The next sidekick comes in the following book – Five Go Off in a Caravan – and is a circus boy. Nobby loves animals, having two dogs of his own, Barker and Growler, and he has a strong friendship with the chimp Pongo, too. He loves to work with the horses, and helps out whenever the horse trainer allows him to.

He has no parents and lives at the circus with his ‘uncle’ Dan, known as Tiger Dan on account of his furious temper. Nobby bravely ignores his uncle’s threats and warnings and to spend time with the Five, and shows them around the circus camp. Having lived a circus life he is very impressed with the Five’s fancy modern caravans and is keen to make a good impression on these posh kids by putting on his best manners.

He gets embroiled in their inevitable adventure, and is lucky to end up free of his cruel uncle and goes to work on a farm near where the Five had been camping.

Jock Robbins

Jock – a good Scottish name and given a Scottish accent in the audiobooks, so I’m claiming him as Scottish – appears in Five Go Off to Camp. He lives on the farm which supplies the Five with copious amounts of food and drink, both take-away and sit in. He is a cheerful, good-natured boy who quickly becomes friends with the Five, showing them around the farm, visiting their camp and accompanying the boys on a middle-of-the-night visit to see the spook trains. He’s not able to join them for their second night-time trip – he’s unfortunate to have a nasty step-father who is trying to keep him away from the Five – but he joins the boys for the final excitement, though, getting himself held prisoner along with Dick and Julian.

Richard Kent

I was of two minds about calling Richard a sidekick. He certainly appears in a significant portion of Five Get Into Trouble, though for a lot of that he’s more of an antagonist than a sidekick.

He meets the Five while they are camping and insists on joining them on their bike tour, even though they find him a bit annoying. He lies that he has permission to ride with them as far as his aunt’s house, but when he gets there his aunt is out, and he runs into Rooky, an ex-employee of his father’s, who has a grudge against him. He brings all this trouble straight to the Five, whereby Dick is kidnapped having been mistaken for Richard.

Richard is not the bravest at this point – he is terrified of Rooky and only accompanies the Five to rescue Dick because he’s too afraid to try to make his own way home alone. At least he makes up for his earlier shortcomings by being the one to hide in the boot of a car being driven by the enemy so that he can summon help.

Toby Thomas

Toby is another farm boy, this time appearing in Five Go to Billycock Hill. It’s his mother’s task to feed the Five while they camp and so Toby, who already knows Julian and Dick from school, is a natural addition to the group. He gets them into trouble by showing them an off-limit pool which they bathe in, but when his cousin Jeff is believed to have stolen a new plane and then died in a crash he shows his backbone. He refuses to believe it and along with the Five investigate the suspicious goings-on at the nearby butterfly farm, ending up in them finding and rescuing Jeff and another pilot.

The Two Harrys

Harry (Henry) and Harry (Harriet) are twins in the Philpot Family. The Five stay at the Philpots’ Farm, Finniston Farm in the aptly named Five on Finniston Farm. The twins are plucky and hard-working, doing all they can to help their over-worked mother. They gain respect for the Five when they pitch in too, and together they work to uncover a centuries-lost treasure.

Wilfrid Layman

Wilfrid is a curious boy. Like Philip Mannering he has a way with animals, though he plays a little pipe to lure them to him. He is not so good with people, which is why Mrs Layman – his aunt – has asked the Five to stay and try to keep him company while she is away. He is not impressed with having to share the cottage with others, but as he takes a liking to Timmy he lets the others stay as well. When the Five manage to strand themselves on the mysterious Whispering Island, Wilfrid is brave enough to row across to attempt a rescue.


Who was your favourite sidekick?

 

 

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Enid Blyton Ephemera

I’m one of those people who keeps everything. Old schoolwork? Check. Ticket stubs? Check. Programmes, leaflets, flyers, wedding favours…? check. Unsurprisingly some of those bits relate to Enid Blyton.

If you look for Enid Blyton ephemera on the internet you’ll probably see vintage postcards, greetings cards, autographed letters,  and other things of some value.

The definition of ephemera is paper items which were meant to be briefly used and enjoyed and then discarded. For example you send a greetings card, the person reads it, perhaps displays it for a short time then discards it (hopefully into the recycling bin these days). Sometimes people do keep hold of these things though, and some of them can become collectible, as the majority of the items produced were discarded.

My collection is not at all valuable but they are things I can’t seem to throw away.


Places I’ve been

I’ve visited a few Blyton places in the past and I’ve always picked up any leaflets or fliers or booklets I could get my hands on.

First up – Mystery, Magic and Midnight Feasts, the Seven Stories Enid Blyton Exhibition from 2013. This was a free leaflet I picked up which has a few puzzles inside and a map of the exhibition space.

Then one of my favourite places in the world – Old Thatch. I must have picked up this one at Old Thatch itself, though you probably could have found it at Tourist Information stands and other visitor attractions in the area.

And another from Old Thatch, a map and some information about the gardens. (I actually have two of these, one from each of my visits, both entirely identical…)

I am infinitely sad that the gardens are now closed due to Old Thatch being sold to new owners. Below are a few postcards that either I bought on one of my visits, or Stef sent me from one of hers.


Places Stef has been

While Stef has been to Seven Stories and Old Thatch she has also been places I haven’t and can always be relied upon to post me a leaflet or flier from places she has been.

Here is a flier for the Ginger-Pop Shop and Eileen Soper’s Illustrated Worlds, which are both sadly closed now.

Next up is another one from Corfe/Dorset, a Famous Five Adventure trail from 2012.

And an Enid Blyton Adventure Trail leaflet, Stef tells this was an Enid Blyton Society get-together where they had lunch at the Spade Oak and then visited Old Thatch after.


More Enid Blyton Society things

I’ve been a member since 2007 and yet I have bits of paper from the late 90s… this is because I’ve been buying the older journals and sometimes they still have the renewal slip inside.

This 1997 one is an advert for the Enid Blyton day – back when the Society was called the Literary Society, and before it was held at Loddon Hall. I wish I’d been able to attend this given the amazing line up, but I was only ten years old and I don’t think I would have really appreciated it back then.

 

Then the 1998 one is a joint advert and renewal slip. It was £3.50 for a two issue UK subscription back then, and is now £10 for 3 issues, proving the continued good value! I also like the sound of the 1998 line up for the Society Day, un-finalised as it is! It’s funny to me that this bit of paper that I’m treating as ephemera has a bit about Enid Blyton ephemera on sale on it.And here is the programme/ticket for the one day I did get to attend, which also happened to be the last day ever (nothing to do with my attending, I promise!). I was lucky to meet Imogen at this day and even spoke to her briefly, and got her autograph.


Performances

There’s only one of these actually, but I have several pieces relating to it. I saw The Bumper Blyton Improvised Adventure at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015.

I picked up a post card when I was there.

And a couple of leaflet/fliers.


And everything else

You’re probably wondering what other useless rubbish I’ve held on to…

Well, there’s the Secret Seven code cracker that went along with the books issued with MacDonald’s Happy Meals in 2014.

I have some of the books as well, but those are designed to be enjoyed for longer than ephemera is.

Some post cards featuring the Paul Child Band, Paul Child being the actor who played Dick in the 90s Famous Five TV series. Unfortunately the band seems to have broken up, I really enjoyed their debut album.

And lastly, one of the business cards for the blog that Stef and I designed, printed and cut out ourselves. Does ephemera even count if you’ve make it yourself?


I still enjoy looking through these now, whether or not I experienced the places or events that they refer to. What seemingly pointless things have you held on to?

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Monday #414

The weather has been a little kinder the past week or so, at least, it has remained mostly in the plus figures which is a start. There has even been some sunshine and I’ve managed to get the washing outside a few times. I’ve notices primroses all over too, but not daffodils quite yet though they can’t be far off.

Enid Blyton Ephemera

and

A guide to the Famous Five’s sidekicks

“Roger, where are all the socks you took back to school with you? It says you took back eight on this list, but I can only find one pair, very holey and dirty.”

“I’ve got one pair on,” said Roger, helpfully. “That makes two.”

Poor Miss Pepper has her own uniform woes to deal with in The Rockingdown Mystery.

 

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