Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 10

Last time Bill got to grips with his captivity and Anatoly paired up with a couple of familiar faces from their adventure in the Austrian valley the year before.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 10

Some time later the door to the shack was opened and Bill found himself blinking at the sudden light. He quickly hid his unbound hands behind his back as a figure stepped forward, silhouetted in the sunlight and Bill could make out the glint of a gun pointed at him. “Who are you? Why are you holding me here?” he asked with a not entirely feigned sense of indigence.

“I must apologise for the accommodation,” the man said, waving a hand negligently at the interior of the shack before he crouched down to look Bill in the face. “It’s so hard to get a decent hotel room around these parts.”

Bill considered lunging, the man was off balance crouched as he was but he could tell from the shadows outside that there were at least two other men, perhaps more so he wouldn’t get far.

He also didn’t want to risk the gun going off and striking him in the struggle. He grunted at the comment and tried to stare down the man in front of him, not that he could see him very well because of the light framing him. “What do you want?”

“Why don’t we start with a nice easy question. Who are you?”

“Doctor Walker, Robert Walker. I’m a tutor on a bird watching holiday,” Bill croaked, his brain searching for and finding his alias from the train for this trip.

“I see. And what are you a doctor of, exactly?”

“Ornithology, that is to say the study of birds,” Bill bluffed, trying play up the part of the bumbling doctor on a bird watching holiday. “I came to study the puffins.”

The man stood up. “I know that you have followed us here, Dr Walker. I want to know who you are and what you know. The next time I come to speak with you perhaps you might consider telling me the truth, otherwise things could get quite… unpleasant.”

He backed out and the door was shut and bolted once more.

“But I am on a bird watching holiday!” Bill tried to convince the man through the locked door. He sat back as the man moved away from the shack and let out a long breath. He closed his eyes, and lent his head back against the wood of the shack and tried to start formulating a plan of what to say when the man came back.

“I know that you have followed us here.”

“I want to know what you know.”

Bill pondered these statements. Why did they think he had followed them when in reality he had no idea who they were or what they were up to beyond flying planes in an unusual location. It was they who had approached and attacked him, after all!

As soon as they were out of the briefing the agents grabbed their kit bags and then were bundled into cars and driven to Croydon Airport where the planes were waiting to get them to Scotland in the quickest time possible. Anatoly settled in his seat on the plane and intended to catch some sleep to try and be as sharp as possible when they landed.

The journey by air was far quicker than the one Bill had taken by train, as speed was the goal rather than subterfuge. They landed not too far from where Bill and the children had alighted from their train five days earlier, and travelled to the same harbour where they had been met by Henty. Henty was there again, looking worried.

“I’ve got three boats as requested,” he said. “Plenty of fuel on board, food and water too.”

“Thank you, Henty. Weather report?” asked the leader, Bennett.

“Clear and dry for the next few days, with mild winds,” Henty replied. “Visibility should be good.”

“We will need to be stealthy,” Bennett said with a nod.

“There are maps in each boat too,” Henty added, “I’ve taken the liberty of marking out a few routes you might want to take. I’ve been out since the storm but there’s only so much sea I can cover by myself. I’ve marked one island, one of the first you’ll come to. It’s one of the very few inhabited islands, the couple living there said Cunningham and the kids visited the day they set off and had a meal, then headed north-west.”

Bennett nodded and turned to his team. “Who is piloting each boat? I want you to split up to cover as much ground as possible today, then check in this evening once you’ve holed up.”

Pete Bentley from Anatoly’s team had already volunteered to be the pilot for their boat as he had a boat of his own and was an experienced seaman. Robson would pilot team one’s boat and Smith team two’s.

Anatoly took out one of the maps and scanned the area, wondering which part of the island make up he, Thompson and Bentley would be given to search. He hoped he would be the one to find the children and Bill as that would be a real feather in his cap with the chief. He really wanted to prove himself and prove that even with being younger than the other men around him, he was a good solid agent.

“Spread that out, Petrov,” Bennett said, and he laid it out on the thick sea wall. Everyone gathered around, including Henty, as the chief took a thick marker pen and divided the islands into three roughly equal areas. When he was done the map resembled the world map with its time zones, some straight lines but also various zig-zags where landmasses remained unbroken. “Got that?”

Other maps rustled as the agents unfolded them and made their own dividing maps, using Anatoly’s as a guide. Then they started hashing out where to start, how long it would take to sail to each island and so forth.

Henty looked at his watch, “You’d better get a move on if you want to get much done today, the islands may look close from land but they are a good way out!” The maps were folded up again and Henty added, “Them children were looking for puffins. Find islands with puffins on and you probably won’t be far off.”

The three boats bobbed and knocked together as seven pairs of feet jumped down into them, bodies busy checking the petrol cans, maps, food supplies, the wireless and everything else Henty had packed. You never took anyone’s word for it that things were fully stocked, you’d be an idiot if you did and then discovered something had been forgotten.

Anatoly, Thompson and Bentley checked everything between them, and were mostly happy with what they had. “Not a single pack of smokes,” Thompson said with a sigh, though he had a fresh box in his shirt pocket and probably more in his bag.

“Could do with some booze as well, but what we’ve got will do,” Bentley said with a grin, moving to start the engine.

Anatoly smiled slightly. “I have some vodka in my bag. Keeps the chill of the night and water off.”

“Better than nothing!” laughed Bentley. Henty had his rowing boat in the harbour and had offered to pilot their crafts out but nobody had taken him up on the offer, considering themselves more than up to the job. Bentley took the wheel of their boat and smoothly guided it out of the harbour, and Anatoly looked back as the other two boats slowly receded along with the harbour and Bennett. As per the map they were heading north-west, heading for Bill’s last known location.

To be continued…

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Five Have a Wonderful Time part 2

It’s been a while since part 1 of my review. I had intended to have part two done a week or two ago on a Sunday and then entirely forgot about it – I hadn’t even read the rest of the book let alone written anything about it! I’d like to say I was busy having a wild time but I was probably watching Murder She Wrote

Anyway, last time the Five began their holiday by Faynights Castle, with George and Timmy arriving a bit late, and then ran into rather a lot of bother with the fair-folk and got rescued by none other than Jo.

The part I (mostly) remember

After all the excitement there’s a bit of a calmer interlude. They have dinner with the fair folk who are about falling over themselves to be friendly with the Five, and the next day they go off to visit the castle.

It reads very much like visiting Kirrin Castle, with the one remaining tower with its staircase fallen in and the jackdaws. Only Kirrin doesn’t have a toothless woman at the gate taking money. Timmy isn’t allowed in but suddenly appears in a manner reminiscent of Button the fox cub in The Castle of Adventure. There must be another way in!

Having heard that some men from The Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings have visited that week Julian telephones the society to find out more about the castle. Only, nobody from the society has been to the castle in years. So an unintentional bit of detective work there!

At first I thought the society was a makey-upper as it sounds a bit silly (I found references to The Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings easily, but it turns out that there were some smaller, local organisations that called themselves The Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings (usually limited to a particular area), so Blyton’s one may have been real or at least based on the truth!

Anyway, they make a middle-of-the-night trip and have Timmy show them the way into the castle. Luckily it is not a narrow underground stream, instead it is a passage in the middle of the eight foot wide castle walls which takes them underground then up into the tower. There they discover Derek Terry-Kane being held prisoner, and then that’s where it all goes wrong.


The part I barely remember

I’ve read this book just as many times as all the others as I’m not the type to pick up a random book from mid series and read it without reading all the others. I never skipped any lesser-favourites. And yet my memories of the final chapters inside the castle are extremely vague.

I did remember that Jo and Beauty went along the secret passage and caused mayhem, but that’s about it.

What actually happens is that the Five get locked in with Terry-Kane as Pottersham has come back unexpectedly. This surprised me, as I didn’t remember it at all, and was wondering why they’d bring the fair-folk in as it looked like they were all about to just walk out.

Jo, having been outside the room at the time, hides. I assumed that she would then go fetch the fair-folk, but I had forgotten that she ends up being caught and tied up herself for a while, getting loose having remembered the hints and tips from the rope-man. Then she goes off to fetch the fair-folk.

At this point I began thinking maybe my brain chooses not to remember the latter parts of the book as the Five rather fail to shine! They’ve been captured before but this time just seems a bit worse, somehow.

Jo finds out that the fair-folk have locked up a bad scientist who came asking after them – and I realised it was Uncle Quentin as that sparked a vague memory. Of course Jo thinks it’s Pottersham as she’s never met Quentin.

My notes at this point read:

this is kind of novel, reviewing a 5 book without a clue what’s going on!

Anyway, the fair-folk, or at least the fair-men take over the rescue as it’s men’s work, but Jo being Jo follows them anyway. It’s just as well she does as she’s the only one who realises the men are arriving to take the prisoners away and heads inside to help while the men carry on their work in the courtyard with the peg rope.

Much like The Secret of Spiggy Holes the plan is for Bufflo to throw something (a blunt knife rather than a rock) in through the window, taking with it some string which will then pull up a peg rope. Also like Spiggy Holes he climbs up to see why no-one has come down, and discovers it is because the kidnappers are there. He is more able to deal with this than Mike was as he has his whip and neatly removes the gun from Pottersham’s hand. Pottersham and his men vacate the room at top speed and shut them in, but they’ve got their escape route ready at least.

Meanwhile Beauty is tripping up the men over and over and scaring the life out of them, delaying them long enough for the fair-folk to ensure they don’t get out of the passage. Jo and the Five go back to the camp and then telephone the police who, with Jo, go back to apprehend the men.

Oh – and they realise Uncle Quentin who is remarkably affable having been locked up overnight.

The nitpicks, comments and other observations

I’ll break it down into a few categories again, otherwise it will get a bit unwieldy!


Quentin is at his forgetful best at the start and has never heard of Faynights Castle. Of course he has, Fanny has already told him at least three times. He is relieved to know they are not staying IN the castle itself.

George accidentally slams a door and Quentin goes wild. The biggest slammer-of-doors was her father but he only heard the slams made by other people. The two are very alike though they’d never admit it.

He also has a row with Timmy – That dog has no sense… how am I supposed to remember he’s there? Well, you had spoken to him under the table and prodded him not five minutes earlier. And to prove the above quote, he slams the door on his way out.

Signs of the past

The post is super speedy – so fast postcards sent after breakfast arrive later that morning and not some time in the next week after the person has returned home. The post man also delivers to the rented caravans which are unlikely to have an ‘official’ address.

Julian Kirrin
The Red Caravan
Third field on the left
Angry farmer’s farm

The fair-women go into town to doing their marketing which does not have the same meaning today.

Dick’s uses 

It’s a running joke that Dick is terrible in the kitchen. In this one he picks up an egg which has come straight out of boiling water and drops it as it is so hot. Anne says he is not good with crockery, which is probably true but gives him a convenient excuse not to do the washing up.

He can, however, light a fire efficiently so he’s not entirely useless.

George/Jo as a boy 

I don’t expect boys to tidy up and cook and do things like that – but George ought to because she’s a girl. Good old Anne, propping up the patriarchy there! Interestingly George doesn’t even argue with her.

The boys are typical boys and ‘make’ their bunks by bundling the bedding onto a shelf untidily and folding the bunks away, I suspect George would do the same if Anne wasn’t watching her.

Jo has a nice foster family (no mention if it’s Joan’s cousin still) but they won’t let her wear shorts or be a boy. She still prefers sleeping outside but admits most parts of living in a house are good.

Fanciful food 

They have a tea at a farm-house and buy jam, fruit cake, ham and pickled onions.
Dick has a ham and picked onion sandwich (I prefer cheese with my pickled onions)

Lunch one day is two hard-boiled eggs each, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and cress, and potatoes baked in the fire in their jackets – followed by… slices of tinned pineapple, very sweet and juicy.

They eat a lot of doughnuts which sounds jarringly anachronistic but obviously aren’t – with bread, butter and honey and a sponge cake so more of a massive dessert course than a meal!


They watch jackdaws and comment on their habits without referencing the exact same situation on Kirrin island.

Timmy waits for them to go upstairs to bed in the caravan which is sweet but he’s slept in a caravan with them before!

They call at the post office to check for post, even though the postie brought the postcard the day before and would presumably have done the same again if there had been anything.

On page 67 there is an illustration of Jo rescuing the caravans,  which doesn’t happen until page 78 so it’s a bit of a spoiler!

The farmer is obviously supposed to be difficult but surely any adult could see it would be impossible to move two caravans without horses.

Dick gives a little speech when Jo turns up It’s Jo! The gypsy girl who once got mixed up with us in an adventure! Now it’s a nice little reminder for the readers but doesn’t sound too natural when he’s supposed to be speaking to Julian.

Bufflo looks like Tiger Dan in the illustrations including the dark hair but is described as yellow-haired in the text.

Beauty the snake is once called Beau, in the narrative not in someone’s speech.

I can’t work out how Timmy got into the courtyard. He climbed into a hole in the outer wall, which the Five and Jo then explore and it leads them up into the tower. At no point is there any mention of a small hole or other tunnel which could have led Timmy into the courtyard. Also, this very secret passage which they suspect was used by people hiding in the old days simply comes out via a standard door in the tower, so not very well hidden at all. I expect the tunnel may have continued on past the hole they climbed in at, as that obviously was never an original entrance so I wonder where it did lead.

And lastly, why is Julian so adamant that Jo not try to escape the castle in the dark? As she points out it’s not going to be any lighter in the middle of the day. Oddly she agrees to wait, which isn’t like her!

Other observations

Fanny says that Faynights has good strong air which is what George needs to get over her cold. As opposed to Kirrin’s sea air?

George says that Mother didn’t give me very much to spend so has all the ingot money gone then?

We have a lashings in the book but is is of poisonous snakes, and not ginger-beer.

There are half a dozen gays in the book, all on the same 2-3 pages describing the caravans (Julian uses it twice and George uses it twice), the curtains and the rugs.

The thrush says mind how you do it which had me Googling Thrush sounds, I just can’t hear it at all.

Old Joseph the sailor is rather wasted as he could have been another Jeramiah Boogle or Old Grandad but instead only tells recent stories of the fair-folk.

Dick says we’re in a bit of a fix which Blyton must have remembered as she used Fix later for a book title.

What happened to the fair-folk previously is never made quite clear. There was an incident with someone letting their canaries go free and one where the police were set on them without reason. Its not clear if these were related.

Following on from that, the Five try to talk to the fair-folk about the canaries at at different points it’s supposed that all the canaries must have died, or that half the canaries must have died, but then Julian tells the girls that half the canaries died as if it was a fact.

I can understand that the fair-folk want to keep themselves to themselves but don’t seem to realise that by being rude, aggressive and difficult is likely to attract bad feeling and cause them more trouble. There are three modern caravans in the same field yet it doesn’t seem like the families in those get any bother from the fair-folk. At first the fair-folk say they don’t want anyone in their field but later they say they don’t want any children in the field.

There must be many fair-folk that don’t get mentioned. Beyond the main cast which I listed in the last review there are Dacca the tap dancer who appears briefly twice and Pearl the acrobat.

I found it interesting that Jo has family in the fair and wonder if she has ever thought of running off to live with Alfredo. She does like the foster family but it seems like the fair would suit her better. Perhaps she knows Alfredo wouldn’t have her, as she clearly knows how to find them.

I liked the fact that the baddies dropped a chocolate wrapper in the tunnel as in Blyton’s mind littering was a sign of badness in a person.

And lastly, I found the end a bit disappointing as none of the Five went back to help capture the men, which is something they almost always do!

So there you have it, another 2000+ words on a 192 page book. I’m surprised how little I remembered of the final chapters as they are fairly exciting. I suspect the lack of involvement from the Five themselves is why it ranks lower than several other books in the series for me. I’m used to reading about the Five daringly rescuing people, not Jo!

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Monday #389

Five Have a Wonderful Time part 2


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 10

During their quarantine time the twins could not go out to tea, and could have no one in to play with them, so they felt rather dull.

At the beginning of Summer Term at St Clare’s the twins have to quarantine as they’ve been playing tennis with Winnie who has come down with the mumps. There was no trace and protect then, but Winnie’s mother phoned Katie’s mother and Katie’s mother called the twins’ mother.

Dull is just one of many words I could use for quarantine!

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 9

Last time the SIS put together a search team and Bill woke up in a shack.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 9

Bill felt his consciousness drifting away like a boat on the sea as the energy he had pulled together left him. He slumped against the wall and his head dropped down to his chest. He had no idea for how long he was like that for, but later he jerked awake, groaned and stretched the best he could.

Once he had gotten his bearings again, he recalled his desire to escape. He tried to move around and find a nail with which he would work his bond loose. His fingers scrabbled against the dirt floor and the rough strips of wood which formed the walls, searching for something sharp. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity so he had to shuffle along on his behind, to reach fresh areas. He knew he’d had a small folding knife in his pocket before, but that would have been taken from him when he was captured.

A bread of sweat trickled down his forehead and he grunted as he shifted another few inches along, still searching. He grasped and discarded a cigarette stub, a smooth pebble, a frond of some sort of weed. “Oh for a damned nail,” he thought to himself, and then his fingers touched another stone. This one was not worn smooth by the sea, rather it was rough and triangular shaped.

With a strange twisting motion in his wrist, he got the stone in his fingers and tried to angle the rock towards his bonds and force it up between his wrists and against the ropes, trying to find a weaker spot. A sharp gasp escaped his mouth as he grazed the flesh of his wrists, but he kept hold of the stone. He drew it back and forth repeatedly, creating a slight notch in the rope, and then had to stop to rest his cramping, aching fingers.

Bill had no frame of reference for time as he worked at his bonds. He had to break several times as his wrists and fingers cramped. Eventually he broke through the final part of the bond and slumped tiredly to one side, trying to move his wrists to stop them from aching and cramping as he found his energy leaving him once more and drifting off to sleep again.

Anatoly stood in the locker room at in the London office and swapped out his real life cards and identification papers for a service identity. He stuffed them into his bag he was taking on the journey to Scotland, closed his locker, and went out to join the rest of the team in the briefing room.

He got a brief nod of acknowledgement from Bennett who was heading up the team, which turned out to be comprised of six agents, two of whom he recognised from his trip to an Austrian valley to rescue the Mannering and Trent children. He went to stand beside those two, knowing them to be reasonably friendly.

“You along for this one, then?” Thompson asked him, stretching his thick arms above his head.

“Yes, I have been Bill’s contact from the start,” he replied. He and Thompson had once scaled a cliff in that Austrian valley, not knowing whether or not a gun would be pointed at them when they reached the top, so there was a certain respect between them.

“You’re Bill’s right hand man these days, ain’t you,” said Bentley in a teasing tone of voice.

“He trusts me,” was all that Anatoly could trust himself to say. He didn’t have an answer that was suitable apart from that. He stood and listened to Bennett as be began the briefing, giving an overview of the situation, the timeline and where they were going to start looking.

All the information about Bill’s trip he already knew, having been the one to pass it on in the first place, but he listened respectfully all the same. “It may be that Cunningham gets in touch as or before we even arrive at the coast,” Bennett was saying. “It could be a simple case of malfunctioning equipment. But given the aeroplane sightings, it could be more than that.”

“He does attract trouble,” came a voice from the other side of room. Anatoly bit his lip to stop himself retaliating and starting a fight. He was only here on Roscoe’s grace, he didn’t want Bennett to reporting him and taking him off the mission.

“Pipe down,” Bennett said mildly. “If he does get in touch, we’ll move straight to phase two which is looking into the aeroplane sightings. Either way, we should arrive before dawn at the airstrip, then we’ll take cars to the harbour where we will pick up our boats. There will be three, so two men to a boat and I’ll be staying on the main land to coordinate things.” He paused and looked at Anatoly and frowned. “Two men to two boats, and three on the last,” he amended. “I’ll let you sort yourselves out into teams.”

Anatoly glanced at Thompson who gave him a nod. “You stick with us, lad. If you’re even half as good as Cunningham makes out, you’ll do.”

Anatoly nodded, glad to be with agents he could get along with, and secretly pleased to hear that he was being praised by Bill. He was ready to get going now, because at the moment all the time they weren’t looking for Bill the more chance they had of losing him all together.

“You all know Bill but here’s a recent photograph nonetheless,” Bennett continued, pointing to a cork pin board where there were several photographs, maps and other bits of paper. “I want you to familiarise yourselves with the faces of the four children, too. Their boat is called Lucky Star…” He went on to describe the type of boat it was and pointed out a rough sketch.

Back in his shack Bill woke from his fitful doze and after stretching out the kinks the best he could, began systematically testing his prison. The door was strong and firmly bolted, the walls contained no windows. Although a few of the narrow timber strips forming the walls had started to rot at the bottom that created no more than an inch or so of space. Enough for a mouse to get in, but not for him to get out. He could put his fingers through and get a hold of the wood, but no amount of pushing or pulling made any difference. The planks held.

There was nothing in the shack but himself, a few loose stones and the odd weed which had grown through the rotten gaps at floor level. Not even any water, and as he noticed that he also noticed how thirsty he was. Perhaps they would come to interrogate him soon. Then he could assess his situation better and perhaps make his escape.

To be continued…

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day

My library has partially reopened now, so I thought I should probably get around to reading some of the dozen books I still have out! I haven’t thought much of these Anne Digby continuations hence my lack of enthusiasm over reading any more.

This one is book seven if you go by the new numbering which includes the short story Here’s the Naughtiest Girl as book number 4. It is the third Anne Digby book coming after The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret and The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend.

Where do I even start?

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one other than to say it’s quite possibly even worse than the previous two which is saying something.

It has the same format, a main mystery and a secondary connected plot, as the first continuation.

The mystery is who pulled up the strawberry plants and dropped a silver blazer button as they did so. The connected plot is that the first form are to put on a play.

The play

I’ll start with the play as that’s the slightly more believable part of the book. The play is A Woodland Adventure and Elizabeth immediately wants to play the main character, Fay. She thinks Julian will be perfect as Jonkin the goblin but he’s not too bothered.

Unsurprisingly she and Julian get the parts but both lose them to their understudies (Arabella and Daniel) in separate incidents. Elizabeth gets in a fight with Arabella about the role and – for some reason known only to Anne Digby – climbs up on a desk to shout at her. This doesn’t lose her the part, however, but as she is defending herself to Miss Ranger someone shouts COR!. Everyone thinks it is Elizabeth but she is adamant it was not her. Julian comes to her rescue by making one of his noises and lets everyone believe the COR was him, and loses his part in the play.

Elizabeth and Julian then fall out because they both think the other made the noise and neither will admit it.

Elizabeth loses her part later when she rings the fire bell at night having heard someone shouting fire, fire. There is no fire and Miss Ranger thinks it was a silly prank.

In the end Elizabeth gets her part back and the play goes ahead with her and Daniel in the main roles.

The mystery

Some strawberry plants have been pulled up, presumably by someone looking for ripe fruit too early. A silver blazer button was found by the plants and Rita and William ask the culprit to come forward but no-one does.

Elizabeth and Julian decide they must investigate and go round checking everyone has the requisite three buttons still on their blazer.

At the next meeting William and Rita then ask the rest of the school to investigate the issue. There’s no way this would have happened if it was Blyton writing. William and Rita are supposed to be very wise and clever and would not pit the whole school against one another, asking them to point blame and so on. Plus, it’s a few strawberry plants, hardly the crime of the century.

As it just so happens, assistant matron then talks to Elizabeth about the blazer button she needs to hand in to her. All of a sudden, at this exclusive and presumably expensive school, there is a second-hand uniform sale at the end of the year.

Somehow Elizabeth entirely forgot that she had a loose button on her chest of drawers. Even when that button is then missing she doesn’t put two and two together. She doesn’t ever work it out for herself, Arabella presents her with the button and tells her it was found by the plants.

She speaks with William and Rita who think she must have dropped the button at some other time, but isn’t responsible for pulling up the plants, but Julian thinks someone has it in for Elizabeth what with the COR and the button.

By this time Elizabeth is also in trouble for the false fire alarm so she and Julian investigate that too. She thinks the shouts came from the floor above her dorm so they interrogate everyone who sleeps up there but come up with nothing other than Daniel being a bit shifty.

The ‘big’ reveal

Obviously this will contain spoilers, but I feel like I’m doing a public service by warning people off these books. Notice they don’t come under the If you like Blyton category!

Everything ties together near the end as Elizabeth hears someone shouting fire in the night again and goes to investigate. There is a small fire in Daniel’s room and she rescues him.

And the reveal, hold onto your hats guys because this is something else. Everything has been done by Daniel’s pet crow. Yes. A PET CROW.

At another meeting William and Rita tell us a long story about a boy who rescued an injured crow and took care of it. A crow which then flew all the way to Whyteleaf following the boy’s car. A crow which stole a button from Elizabeth’s room and then dropped it by the strawberry plants it pulled up. A crow which shouted COR outside Elizabeth’s classroom at just the right, or for her wrong, time. A crow which shouted fire so that only Elizabeth heard it, not once but on two separate nights.

Now crows can mimic human speech quite convincingly, and are also known to steal shiny things (while it’s a misnomer that magpies do that). It’s just a huge string of coincidences. A crow could shout COR, but why would everyone think Elizabeth said it when it came from outside the window and presumably her mouth wasn’t moving at the time?

I feel like a lot of people might be thinking so that’s not believable but Kiki is? And yes, Kiki is obviously fictional and not that realistic but she is written so well that it becomes believable just like in stories where there are vampires or Hobbits which we all know are fictional. Rookie (the crow) is barely in this book apart from as a back story.

The later editions of the book give away the fact there’s a crow involved!

Who is Daniel again?

I’ve mentioned Daniel a few times here and realise you might be wondering who the heck he is. He’s not a new boy (first I’ve ever heard of him, though!) but he’s suddenly prominently featured. The book goes to great pains to express how strange Daniel is behaving suddenly.

Normally he is quiet and has his nose stuck in a book, but also tells silly tales at meetings. He is not popular, as he doesn’t do any sports or activities and doesn’t mix with the other children.

Elizabeth is practically obsessed with how strange it is that Daniel has signed up for the play. How strange it is that he’s not that excited despite volunteering. How strange it is that he made a big deal about having something to ask at the meeting, but asks to help in the stables which isn’t an issue for a meeting. How strange it is that he then hangs around the stables but doesn’t really help or learn to ride, he mostly reads.

We are told that Daniel has his own single room in the attic – a point which I knew was going to become relevant later as these rooms are a new insert into the series.

It was obvious from the start that Daniel was going to be involved in the mystery somehow as he is a brand-new character whose only role was to do odd things.

This was a pretty rubbish book, if you hadn’t already picked up on that. Yet again the book was very short and filled with the same repetitive discussions about investigating things, and then discussing what they had investigated and their theories, and then discussing how the theory was right or wrong. Elizabeth didn’t do any lessons or play any music. She didn’t visit the town or go for a walk or have any arguments other than the ones that drove the main plot. There was no charm or humour, whatsoever. Elizabeth doesn’t grow as a person nor do any of the other characters, and while one or two of the crow elements were clever the rest was just silly.


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Monday #388

The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day by Anne Digby


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 9

“They’re a’ daft. Wasting a fine boat like yon, looking for bairds. Bairds! When there’s good fish to be got! Well, they’ll soon see bairds in plenty. Och, they’re a’ dafties!”

A Scottish fisherman can’t get his head around Bill using the Lucky Star to look for birds when he could be fishing instead in The Sea of Adventure.



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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 8

Last time Anatoly found himself getting worried about Bill when he didn’t reply to his radio messages…

cunningham and petrovChapter 8

Anatoly was to be on shift all night, and found himself growing more agitated as time went on and there was no response from Bill. He tried raising him every fifteen minutes, though he knew that Bill might have given up and gone back to wherever he and the kids were camping. He couldn’t leave the wireless room but he knew that a team would be amassing somewhere downstairs, kitting up and receiving orders. It would probably be a small team at this stage, perhaps half a dozen men, enough to look into these mysterious planes and provide Bill a bit of back up.

More than anything, he wanted to be on that team. He picked up his phone and called the commander again.

“No, sir, no word from Cunningham yet,” he said, and winced as the commander demanded to know why he was being disturbed in that case. “I want to be on the team heading for Scotland,” he said as firmly as he thought he could get away with.

“So, Petrov. Why do you think you should be on the team?” Roscoe asked Anatoly later, having heard about his request. He was a bit put out at Anatoly’s forthrightness, if he was honest. He had been debating about sending Anatoly and had decided he was to go, but given his tone, he could now prove himself as to why he should be sent to Scotland.

“Well, I have been the main contact for Bill’s trip so far, so I am up to speed on the wheres and whys of this case,” he replied. “I have already been looking over maps of the area. And besides, Bill would want me in on this.”

Roscoe drummed his fingers on the desk and wondered if that was a good enough excuse to send such a junior agent. After a moment of silence he said, “All right, Petrov. You can go, but you have to stay with the team unless the team leader says otherwise. Do you understand?”

Anatoly swallowed the urge to ask who the team leader was going to be. It wouldn’t matter as he would be expected to ask how high he ought to jump before the leader asked him to jump no matter who he was. “Yes, sir,” he said obediently.

“I’ll send someone to relieve you and you should go and get your kit together and report to Bennett,” Roscoe said, before putting down the phone with a snap.

“Yes, sir,” Anatoly repeated and almost saluted. He caught himself before his hand touched his forehead and dropped it as he put the receiver down. “Ty durak,*” he muttered to himself. He would have to wait for his replacement so he settled in his chair again. ‘Bennett,’ he said to himself, trying to think who that would be. Frank Bennett – usually known as Benny to his equals – probably. Well, he and Bill liked and respected each other so that should be all right.

It was half an hour before another agent came to relieve him, and although he didn’t know his name Anatoly knew it to be someone more senior than he was. He was pretty near the bottom of the heap, with only the new trainees below him, so that it didn’t take much to be senior to him.

“Anything come through yet?” the agent asked, taking the offered seat and adjusting things to his liking.

“No, nothing,” Anatoly said.

“Well, you’d better be off,” the agent said dismissively. “Don’t know who you’ve been sucking up to but it’s paid off and you’re getting to go out, again.”

He ignored the accusation there, it wasn’t worth starting an argument, though he felt his hands draw into fists. He knew how it looked. An agent as junior as he shouldn’t get to do the things he did. He left without another word and headed downstairs to find his team.

Bill groaned and tried to roll over. His head was throbbing and he couldn’t immediately place where he was, or why he was lying on the hard ground. He tried to open his eyes as he felt a slight breeze on his face but the slightest bit of light hurt his eyes.

The last thing he remembered was waiting for a message from HQ. Had he fallen and banged his head? The boat seemed to be pitching back and forth still, though there were no sounds of a storm. He hoped the children wouldn’t get too much of a fright if they found him lying on the boat with a lump on his head which must have been the size of an egg from the pain it was causing.

It took him a while, but eventually as the rocking lessened and he worked up to opening his eyes a bit further, he realised that he was not in fact on his boat. He wasn’t on a boat at all. He was in a small room with wooden planks for walls.

The wind whistled through the slats of the wooden room so Bill realised he must be in a shack, probably on another island. His head felt like it was splitting in two as he tried to sit up. He lent against the rough wood and tried to see where he was through the gaps in the walls.

He couldn’t see much, though it looked like he hadn’t travelled far from what he could see of the landscape. Focusing he could hear the familiar cries of seabirds and smell the tang of the sea. He could also smell cigarette smoke, telling him that there was someone else about, probably a guard. He knew he would need to think about escaping sooner rather than later as nothing good could come of him being held here, but he also knew he wasn’t up to staging any sort of attempt right now. He would just rest his eyes for a short while and try to regain some strength before he made a more thorough examination of his shack. He might just find a loose board or some sort of weapon. Once he could move that was.

*you fool

To be continued…

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August 2020 Round Up

My work was tentatively supposed to reopen the week beginning the 24th of August but it’s still closed. When it does open it will only be click and collect so I won’t be needed for a while…

What I have read

This felt like – and really was! – another not-so-good month for reading as I haven’t felt motivated to pick up anything new. Only eight books read!

  • Tales from the Folly (Rivers of London short stories) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • A Book of Book Lists – Alex Johnson
  • Undead and Unsure (Undead #12) – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Doing Time (The Time Police #1) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Girl With the Pearl in Her Nose (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #11.2) – Jodi Taylor
  • Little Stars (Hetty Feather #5) – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Mary Anne and the Little Princess (The Baby-Sitters Club #102) – Ann M Martin
  • The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day – Anne Digby

As always I’ve got some on the go that I haven’t finished (way more than these three but I only list ones I’ve actually picked up in the past month!):

  • Five Have a Wonderful Time – part one of the review is here
  • The Bermondsey Bookshop – Mary Gibson
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

What I have watched

  • I finally finished Malory Towers on the iPlayer, which I have been reviewing two episodes at a time.
  • We have started watching Richard Osman’s House of Games every night as we eat tea and it’s a very good quiz show. After that has been repeats of Travel Man where Richard Ayoade spends 48 hours in a different city with a celebrity guest. I’ve ended up half-watching while I’m on my laptop as I can never be bothered getting up to change the channel. It’s quite a good show though!
  • Red Dwarf: The first 3,000 years. This was a three-part documentary about the making of the show and it makes me want to re-watch the whole show again – maybe we will as we haven’t picked a new thing since finishing Angel in July.
  • Murder She Wrote. I’ve gone back to this after a bit of a break, and having finished season 9 I’ve now started on 10, and there’s only 12!
  • Mary Poppins Returns. Not as good as the original, of course, as nobody can compare to Julie Andrews but this was actually very enjoyable.
  • Having had a few days at home we’ve let Brodie watch some movies and so we watched Monsters Inc, The Aristocats and Cars. We also watched Jurassic World (again) and found it wasn’t as bad as we remembered, and X:Men Dark Phoenix for the first time, which wasn’t as bad as we anticipated (the adverts made it look like it was just a repeat of X:Men The Last Stand).

What I have done

  • More parks and walks, some picnics and we’ve even braved an outdoor farm attraction – where we navigated a maze and Brodie rode the barrel train – and our local wildlife park.
  • Went to the beach and saw lots of jellyfish (even caught a few for a closer look) and collected a whole bucket of shells.
  • Celebrated Brodie’s third birthday with a small garden party.
  • Continued the 5 weekly workouts I’ve been doing which have included Tabata, Boxfit, HIIT, Body Balance, yoga, circuit training, aerobics, stretching and pilates. I’m actually really sad that the gyms are about to reopen as that means no more free online workouts!
  • Gone back to my sewing and made a bit of progress.
  • Dug out one of my jigsaws to do (it was this one if anyone’s interested).
  • Had a little bit of free time as Brodie started nursery, at first only three hours but last week he did four hours on the one day he went.
  • Went for a Covid test as I had the cold and then it turned into a cough, and had to isolate for three days waiting for the results, not a lot of fun!

What has your month looked like?


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Monday #387

My library opens this week! I already have a wish list so I hope I can get a click and collect appointment. Not that I don’t have a ton of my own books to read, and half a dozen unread library books still on my card!

August round up


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent, chapter 8

Amanda pegged up the curtains and looked at them with pride. She hadn’t liked the work, but now that it was done she liked seeing the result.

– The Put-Em-Rights

This is exactly how I feel about housework! There only enjoyable part is the end result.

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 7

In the last chapter Anatoly was manning the radio waiting for contact with Bill and got the strange news that a plane had been seen above their island.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 7

Anatoly had the night off so he could sleep, freshen up, shave, change clothes and stretch his legs the next morning before he was back in the small dark radio room, waiting for any other news from Bill.

The chief had simply noted down the strange aeroplane activity and told Anatoly to relay to Bill to keep his eyes peeled for anything else peculiar while they made some enquiries of their own.

It was another long, boring day on standby in the radio room. Anatoly spent some more time reading his book and the newspaper, doing the crossword and then decided to write down what he could remember of his time with his father in case he ever felt like he had forgotten anything.

The writing took most of the day and he was so absorbed he almost didn’t hear the radio crackling into life and Bill’s voice over the speaker. “2890, reporting.”

Anatoly responded with his number and “Receiving,” and waited for Bill’s message. There was such a long pause that he thought the connection with Bill had been lost, but then he spoke again. This time it was in code. He spent half a second wondering what had happened to make full code a necessity, and then hastily started scribbling everything down. Bill would know he’d need a moment to decode, but he still knew to work quickly.

He knew Bill’s preferred code well, and soon had the message written in plain English below the coded one. In time he would be able to decode as he listened.

So the mystery planes had returned, and now they were dropping things into the sea. He reflected for a second that the last time he worked with Bill they had a missing aeroplane, and now they had more aeroplanes than they really wanted.

“I’ll pass that on,” he replied in code, a little slower at it than Bill was. “I’ve not turned up anything to tell you, but there’s a message from your aunt. I don’t need to give that in code, do I?”

“No, you can just tell me that,” Bill replied and Anatoly could hear the amusement in his voice.

“OK, well, she said that she is getting on as well as can be expected, but she has the measles pretty badly. The doctor has seen her and will check on her again soon.”

“Thank you,” Bill said after a moment. “I’ll do some looking around myself tomorrow,” he added in his code. “I’ll be in touch with co-ordinates when I have them.”

And that was the end of the transmission. He reported it dutifully to Roscoe’s receptionist, and sat back to wait for the end of his shift.

The time passed slowly over the next day or so. Anatoly didn’t receive a message from Bill the following day, so he was very glad when he was relieved of his radio duties. He slept in his bedsit that night, as someone else manned the radio.

The next day Bill was supposed to check in, when Anatoly was back on duty for the night shift. He was sitting up, drinking coffee, to try and keep himself awake when the radio went.

“2890 reporting,” said Bill’s crackly voice over the radio.

Anatoly fiddled with the dial, trying to get a clearer connection but no no avail, the problem must have been on Bill’s side.

“3847 receiving,” he said, hoping it was audible over the whistling and static.

Bill’s message came through in code again, and he had to get him to repeat some of it as it was very difficult to hear him. In the end, though, he had the message, that a plane had flown low over their island and the surrounding ones more than once. He passed that on right away, not to Roscoe as he had gone home at six as always, but to the night commander whose job it was to deal with whatever he could and call in the chief if required.

“Have you still got him on the line?” the commander asked. “Good. Tell him to stand by for an important announcement. I’ll need to check in with the Chief on this one.”

Anatoly’s telephone line was put on hold so he returned his attention to the wireless and told Bill to go on standby for the important announcement. He got a curt reply indicating that the message had been received, and then waited himself for his orders.

A short time later the commander was back on the line. “Petrov? The message to Cunningham is as follows; ‘Stay on your island and lie low. A team is on its way to you. We will request coordinates when we are in your vicinity so keep checking your transmitter.’”

“Right away, sir,” Anatoly said deferentially, and, quickly translating that into code, relayed it to Bill. There was no response, however. He fiddled with the dials and repeated himself. He repeated the message half a dozen times more. He swallowed hard, and told himself that perhaps the weather had gotten bad and Bill’s reply couldn’t get through, but he had a horrible feeling that something dreadful had happened.

To be continued…

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Malory Towers on TV: A series overview

It took about five months but I have now watched the whole series. In my last post I had intended to give some thoughts on the series as a whole, but rather ran out of space/time having written a lot about the final episode.

The episodes

This overview contains spoilers!

1. The First Day

Darrell, Sally and Gwen arrive at Malory Towers for the first time. We learn that Darrell is there for a fresh start and she may have been asked to leave her previous school – St Hilda’s – while Alicia begins her tales of Lady Jane Malory, the resident ghost.

This is a good opening episode, introducing us to the main cast. It sticks reasonably closely to the book with the exception of the ghost story and the rumour about Darrell’s expulsion.

2. The New Girls

Gwen begins to investigate why Darrell left St Hilda’s and Darrell ends up admitting it was true but not the reason behind it. Sally denies having a sister, Alicia carries on with her ghost tales and Gwen discovers she’s not the top student she thought she would be.

As the girls are settling in it’s not surprising that nothing major happens in this episode, but it establishes Gwen’s nature as a sneak, the mystery of Sally’s family and Alicia’s slightly mean streak.

3. The Trick

Darrell and Alicia start playing tricks and Alicia ramps up the ghost stories again – scaring Mary-Lou badly.

This episode rather goes its own way featuring only one plot from the book – the deaf trick – which has the perpetrator switched. The ghost stuff, at this point, started to feel a bit like filler nonsense.

4. The Slap

After Gwen ducks Mary-Lou in the pool Darrell slaps her and the other girls struggle to work out how to deal with this. We discover that Darrell left St Hilda’s because she pushed a teacher down the stairs.

There might be just the one slap instead of four but it doesn’t truly matter as the spirit of the book is kept here. Information about Darrell’s past continues to be teased out, and is perhaps related to the fact we see her having trouble with writing and spelling – something book Darrell was very good at.

5. The Match

The first formers play against St Hilda’s at lacrosse, and it becomes clear that the St Hilda’s mistress has it in for Darrell. We discover that Miss Gale was bullying girls and cutting their hair as punishment, and the episode ends on the reveal to everyone that Darrell pushed Miss Gale down the stairs.

I’m glad we only had to wait until episode 5 to resolve the mystery of Darrell’s last school. It was quite dark, and although a complete TV fabrication it was a good story.

6. The Midnight Feast

The girls hold a midnight feast the night before an exam and end up in Miss Grayling’s study. Darrell is tempted to cheat by looking at the questions but doesn’t. Gwen does look but it is discovered that someone had been in the study so the exam is changed and she doesn’t gain anything.

This episode doesn’t really resemble the book but draws on plots from other Blyton books. The midnight feast was a nice inclusion, and the ghost story becomes more of a mystery than complete imagination.

7. The Open Day

Darrell hasn’t a special friend so takes Emily for lunch with her family, and tries to keep her underwhelming exam results hidden from them. Both her results and Gwen’s end up being found out, and their parents deal with it very differently.

This episode half sticks to the book and half doesn’t. Darrell not having a friend and taking Emily out is pretty similar, but in the book she doesn’t have exam results to hide. It cleverly shows the difference between Darrell’s life and Gwen’s though, and perhaps helps the viewer have more sympathy for Gwen.

8. The Push

Darrell and Sally argue about her sister and Darrell pushes Sally over. Sally ends up in the San and Darrell runs off into the night to fetch her father as he is a surgeon.

Sally’s illness gets this whole episode and at first sticks to the book but then veers off into silly territory as Darrell attempts to walk 10 miles in the dark. Matron also features heavily and goes from a bit lazy and mean to downright negligent.

9. The Letter

Sally recovers from her appendicitis, but her mother wants to take her home for good and she wants to stay. Darrell begins remedial classes due to her poor results, and finds out she has word blindness (dyslexia).

This is another half and half episode. It roughly follows the book in regards to Sally’s mother visiting, but drags it out with some silliness. The plot about Darrell’s dyslexia is entirely made up for the show, but it’s a relief for it to have come to a head.

10. The Dress

There is a debutante at Malory Towers and Gwen is trying to get in her good books – if only she knew who it was. It turns out to be Pamela who teaches remedial, and she and Darrell go head to head arguing about what’s right for Pamela’s future.

This episode is entirely made up for the show and is the weakest of the lot. I like the feminist arguments Darrell puts forward but there is a lot of silliness too.

11. The Spider

Gwen starts playing mean tricks on Mary-Lou while Darrell and Sally hatch a plan to give Mary-Lou more confidence. Darrell pretends to drown and has Mary-Lou save her.

This episode more or less follows the book, though it has brought various small scenes from different chapters together.

12. The Ghost

The ongoing story line of the Malory Towers is finally resolved as Darrell and Sally catch Emily sneaking to the San to visit her mother who works there. Matron catches them and Margaret almost loses her job.

Finally the ghost story is over! In the end the reveal is quite satisfying, actually.

13. The Last Day

Darrell is accused of playing the tricks on Mary-Lou and more of her classmates vote her guilty than innocent. Mary-Lou turns up the evidence that proves Gwen was the guilty party.

This is almost a part 2 to episode 11, and roughly follows the book but in a much shorter time frame. Darrell has a rather hard time but at least it ends well for her.

Although the series has left no loose ends, I felt a few story lines were rather abandoned. Darrell’s dyslexia was diagnosed and then Pamela left (she didn’t even come back after the debutante ball to collect her things!). Diagnosing dyslexia doesn’t make it go away. We never really got a full explanation as to what happened between Miss Gale and Darrell. Did Miss Gale falsely accuse Darrell of pushing her down the stairs? Did she try to hit Darrell and she defended herself? All we know is the Miss Gale was a bully and Darrell didn’t assault her.

Miss Grayling’s sad loss in the war is only briefly touched on and never expanded – but perhaps that’s yet to come!

If we get a series 2, and I really hope we do, I hope that Darrell’s dyslexia is an on-going story line. I’d like it if Margaret didn’t just disappear into the abyss of South Tower, and that Matron continues to get her comeuppance for her terrible behaviour.

Now that a secret passage has been introduced that can’t just be forgotten about, either!

The cast and characters

Darrell Rivers – Ella Bright

Darrell has more going on in the adaptation than the books, not only has she a temper but also a complicated back story and a learning disorder. Ella Bright plays her wonderfully whether she’s laughing, shouting or crying.

Alicia Johns – Zoey Siewert

Alicia is a little different from the books as she doesn’t have her cutting tongue or spiteful nature. She does still love her practical jokes, though. Zoey Siewart has a Canadian accent but it has no impact on her credibility as Alicia.

Irene – Natasha Raphael

I wish Irene had been featured more as she is terribly funny on the page and on screen. Natasha Raphael captures her absent-mindedness brilliantly.

Sally Hope – Sienna Arif Knights

Sally has quite a complicated character to play, she’s unhappy but also angry for much of the story and then opens up to a friendship with Darrell. The series shows her being friendly on occasion earlier than the book, otherwise she probably wouldn’t have had any lines. Sienna Arif-Knight embodies Sally’s steadfast sensibility well in the later episodes.

Jean  – Beth Bradford

In the books Jean is a shrewd, forthright Scot who rarely speaks unless its to put someone sensibly in their place. On screen Beth Bradford gets to have a bit more fun as Jean is involved in most of the main plots.

Katherine – Twinkle Jaiswal

Katherine is the sensible head of the form and Twinkle Jaiswal plays her with authority but also a sense of fairness and empathy.

Emily – Saskia Kemkers

Emily barely features in the books other than to be sewing quietly and spending one picnic with the Rivers family. On screen she has a background role in the main plots, then Saskia Kemkers gets to shine when it is revealed she is the ghost. She shows us Emily is a girl with a lot of worry and weight on her shoulders.

Mary-Lou – Imogen Lamb

Mary-Lou is just like in the books, almost annoyingly cowardly. Imogen Lamb absolutely looks the part of mouse-like Mary-Lou and also had some of the most wonderful, unexpectedly humorous facial expressions.

Gwendoline Lacey – Danya Griver

Gwen is just as scheming and vicious as in the books and Danya Griver plays her perfectly. She is hands down the best actress in the whole series. Her face is just so expressive and captures the nuances of Gwen’s complicated character perfectly.

Pamela – Hannah Saxby

There may be a Pamela at Malory Towers in the books but this character is a TV creation. She is games captain and runs remedial study sessions for the lower formers.

Ron – Jude Harper Wrobel

Another TV-only character, Ron is the gardener’s boy who pops up now and again to lend a bike or catch a spider.

Miss Grayling – Jennifer Wigmore

Miss Grayling features a little more often than in the books but she gives very good advice when she does appear and Jennifer Wigmore plays her with great dignity and compassion. There are hints of a backstory involving a lost love in the war.

Miss Potts – Imali Perera

Miss Potts is younger than I imagined but otherwise just as sensible and all-seeing. Imali Perera gets some great lines and delivers them with some wonderful facial expressions.

Matron – Ashley MacGuire

Matron’s role is changed greatly from the book. In the book she appears at the start and end of term and pops up occasionally to hand out mending or to tend to sick girls. Screen Matron is seen frequently and is a very large personality – she is in turn greedy, scheming, lazy, squeamish, cruel and more. Ashley MacGuire plays her with great humour so despite all her shortcomings Matron can be, if not likeable, then at least relatable at times.

Mam’zelle Rougier – Genevieve Beaudet

Malory Towers on screen has only one French mistress so Genevieve Beaudet has had to take on a role which has amalgamated two characters. She acts mostly the haughty and sharp nature of Mam’zelle Rougier but on occasion the foolishness of Mam’zelle Dupont.

Margaret – Christine Horne

Margaret is an entirely new character, the assistant to Matron of north tower. She is much kinder than Matron and when we see her she is soft spoken and takes time to listen to the girls. As Margaret is so quiet Christine Horne doesn’t really get a chance to shine but she plays Margaret’s

Mrs Lacey – Naomi Sheldon

Mrs Lacey is also a bit younger and more glamorous (and more eyebrowed!) than I imagined but she is absolutely as self-absorbed, silly and affected as in the book.

Mr Rivers – Rob Carter, Mrs Rivers – Flora Dawson and Felicity – Minti Gorne

None of the Riverses are as I imagine them – Mrs Rivers is particularly glamorous, Mr Rivers is less imposing and Felicity more annoying! Saying that Rob Carter and Flora Dawson had me almost in tears at their loving portrayal of Darrell’s parents.

Every actor in this adaptation is great, my favourites were Danya Griver (Gwen), Imali Perera (Miss Potts), Ella Bright (Darrell) and Jennifer Wigmore (Miss Grayling).

What I haven’t mentioned above but should be clear from the pictures is that this is a very diverse cast. No cast will every match anyone’s imagination and rarely does any show cast actors that match every description from the source material. So whether it’s someone with a different hair colour, or who is taller or shorter, or has different eyes, or a different skin colour, I can’t see how it matters.

What’s also interesting is that actually this is probably a more realistic representation of an English boarding school of the time. There would have been a lot of girls of colour from the British Commonwealth as English schools were seen as extremely attractive places for rich young women to receive an education.

Also of note is the cast featuring an actor with a facial difference (I have replaced the phrase facial disfigurement which I have used before with facial difference as I have done some reading and think it is a kinder and more useful term). Jean’s difference is not referenced by the script and the programme makers explain a bit about it below:

Beth Bradfield’s visible difference was not central to her character Jean’s story line. How did you decide that and did any of the cast say anything about it to Beth, or did they just accept Beth for who she is?

With regards to Beth’s casting process, we had an open casting process with no predetermined physical requirements for any character. We always look for ways to represent people who have a disability or look different because we feel that is so important and so we looked for the girl first before writing the storyline to suit her backstory.

We kept it very light and we never called out or discussed Beth’s visible difference. Everyone fully accepted, without question or comment, Beth for who she is.

CBBC Malory Towers Q&A on Changing Faces

Where did the idea for Jean’s character to be played by an actor with a visible difference come from? Was it decided from the outset or during the casting process?

This was a natural decision that evolved from the casting process. The role that media can play in authentically portraying the lives of people from different backgrounds is really important and how important it is for young people to see people like them reflected on screen was also something we were aware of.

CBBC Malory Towers Q&A on Changing Faces

One thing I noticed is a slight lack of teachers at the school. The only teachers with speaking parts and names are the three above and so it feels a little bit different from the books where there is more of a variety of teachers for different subjects.

There are also no other girls with names/speaking parts – for example Alicia’s friend Betty, or any of the myriad of non North-tower first-formers. I appreciate this will have been for budgetary reasons but it made the world feel a bit small at times.

I’ll end by just saying that I really enjoyed the series despite the various niggles and look forward to more, if there is any. I haven’t had room to cover the costumes or locations here but all are excellent and various screen shots can be seen amongst the full episode reviews.

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Monday #386

I think my library will be opening again this week, but with limited staffing offering a click/call and collect service. That means I won’t be back yet but I can perhaps get some new books!

Malory Towers on TV: a look at the series as a whole


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 7

Out of the slowly moving mists rose a tall, steep hill, whose rocky sides were as steep as cliffs. The hill seemed to swim in the mists, and to have no roots in the earth. It was covered with buildings which even at that distance looked old and quaint.

Where is Blyton describing? Castaway Hill of course!


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Lego Blyton: The Secret Seven

I’d rather forgotten about these Lego scenes I did a while ago. I posted about the Five On a Treasure Island one, and Five on a Hike Together and now it’s the Secret Seven’s turn.

The Secret Seven and the Curse of the Pirates

This is not another Pamela Butchart sequel, but I decided to make up my own story for this scene rather than try to recreate something from the books which I’ve only read once.

Below is the Seven and Scamper (an entirely different dog to Timmy, honest!) meeting in Peter and Janet’s shed. The biscuit tin is in the middle of the table and hot drinks have been provided.

Peter is taking charge as usual and calling the meeting to order. Then all of a sudden something appears at the window. A skull and crossbones. An upside-down skull and crossbones to be precise.

The Seven and Scamper rush outside to investigate, Colin still clutching his mug. It’s Susie, Binkie and Jeff in their pirate costumes, come to annoy the Seven.

Peter is furious and brandishes a broom at the trio, warning them to get off the shed roof as they have a very important meeting to hold.

Susie just laughs as the broom is far too short to be of any use. “You just try and climb up here, Peter, and you’ll be sorry!” she shouts, waving her cutlass.

I rather expect the Seven will have to slink off and hold their important meeting somewhere else as Susie has won here!



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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 6

Bill has headed off to Scotland in his new disguise with the Mannering/Trent children, leaving Anatoly behind to man the wireless.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 6

Just after six the next morning Anatoly stumbled into the SIS offices, poured himself a coffee and headed upstairs.

“You’re in early,” said the woman sitting at the desk.

“Do I not know it,” he said wryly, taking sip of coffee. “Roscoe should have booked me a room?” he added.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Chief Roscoe,” she said, “doesn’t make bookings. One of his staff will have, though. Name?”

“Petrov,” Anatoly supplied with a wry smile. “Roscoe will have authorised it, even if he did not book it himself.” He waited patiently for her to check her list.

“Petrov… Petrov…” she said slowly, running a manicured finger down her clipboard. He felt she was deliberately making him wait for his lack of respect when talking about the chief. The feeling seemed to be proven right when the red fingernail slid back up to near the top before she found what she was looking for. “Room eight.”

He tipped his coffee cup at her. “Thank you,” he said over his shoulder. He pushed the door to room eight open, turned on the light, and surveyed the dreariness of the room. He was going to be in here for at least the next two weeks and wasn’t looking forward to it but he was used to roughing it, but with meals on wheels as a perk.

The chair looked reasonably comfortable at least, and he dropped his tall frame into it after setting the coffee down. The wireless was top-of-the-range, all the SIS one were, and so he switched it on, let it warm up and then tuned it into the frequency that Bill would be using for his messages. He yawned even as he finished his coffee and rubbed his face. He would need to come up with some way to amuse himself as he waited for contact.

He stretched out, took off his jacket and began to empty his pockets. He pulled out his note book, a pen, a book and the morning’s paper, and arranged them on the desk in front of him. He knew he probably wouldn’t hear anything much until the afternoon, when Henty was supposed to radio in but the radio had to be on in case Bill needed to get hold of them should he run into any trouble.

As he expected, he was left in peace all morning. He read the paper, did the crossword and read a few chapters of his book before he got restless. There was still hours until a lunch would be brought in for him so he took the time to do a workout; taking off his tie and rolling up his sleeves before doing a series of push ups and sit ups.

Around 11, there was a rattle outside and he knew that the tea woman was on her rounds. There was a knock on the door. “Tea, love?”

He ran a hand through his unruly hair, hoping that he didn’t look too untidy after his early start and impromptu work out. “I could murder a cup,” he said with a grin, using a phrase he heard all too often around the offices.

She gave him a little wry smile. “With milk and sugar?”

He nodded. “Perfect.”

She nodded and came back with a tray with a milky cup of tea and a plate with two digestive biscuits on it. “There you are, dear. One lump or two?” she asked, holding the tongs above a little sugar bowl.

“Oh two, definitely. Please.”

“Most everyone says that,” she said with a laugh. “I ought to stop asking, really.”

He laughed too. “Well, it is not as if we can have that many at home, not with the rationing.”

She nodded in agreement, “I don’t know many who have sugar at home.”

“No, it always seems to go as soon as you get any,” he said glumly. “Anyway, thanks for this.” He raised the cup as a salute and turned to the wireless as it made another of its little beeps, this time accompanied by a short burst of static. He waited, hearing the tea-woman closing the door behind her, wondering if this time there was actually a message to come.

“3956 reporting,” said a voice, and Anatoly grabbed his notepad and pen quickly. 3956 was Henty’s code number.

“3847 receiving,” Anatoly said clearly, pen poised to take notes.

“The boat has been handed to 2890, and he and his friends are safely off. Over.”

“Message received. Over and out.” Anatoly made a note of the time and sat back. So Bill and the children were out at sea somewhere now. Well, that was good. He turned off the microphone and then reached for the phone and asked the switch board for Chief Roscoe’s office. He’d want to know about the safe handover.

“Chief Roscoe is in a meeting, may I take a message?” his secretary said coolly. She was the gate-keeper of the Chief, like a Rottweiler on guard, it was her duty to keep anything from bothering him unless it was either desperately urgent or already in his diary.

“3956 has made contact. The hand over to 2890 is complete.”

She repeated the message carefully, out of politeness he assumed. She wouldn’t have made it to Chief’s receptionist if she couldn’t write down a message like that without making a mistake. “Anything else?”

“No, that is all.”

“I’ll see that he gets your message.”

He hung up and sat back with a sigh. It wasn’t even noon yet, and he wouldn’t be relieved until eight o’clock. The rest of the day passed in a haze of boredom. His book turned out to be quite dull, and apart from his lunch being delivered at one, and another cup of tea at three, he was left to his own devices. As expected, there was no contact from Bill that evening.

The next day was just as slow – he had a different book, at least, but there were only so many chapters he could read in one sitting. He did his work out twice; once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. The afternoon cup of tea had come with a sandwich at least; the tea-woman knew he was stuck there until eight and had brought that to keep him going which he appreciated. He put it aside until five, then devoured it.

About seven thirty the radio beeped and Anatoly, who, to his shame had dozed off ever so slightly, jerked awake, blinked several times and then scrambled to the radio receiver. “3847 receiving,” he said, scrambling for his pencil and paper and stifling a yawn

“2890 reporting,” Bill repeated. “Are you receiving? Over.”

“Receiving loud and clear, over” Anatoly said sticking to the script. He knew that, although he’d have have enjoyed having a conversation with Bill, he had to stick to short curt predetermined service script because the longer one was on radio the more likely they were to have the messages infiltrated.

“A message for my aunt first,” Bill said. “We’ve arrived and set up camp. Weather is lovely and there’s plenty of wildlife. Everyone is well and looking forward to exploring. I hope she’s feeling better soon.” Anatoly knew that he was at liberty to make that message a bit less vague for Mrs Mannering, and he would do that, for now he just scribbled it down.

“Message received,” he confirmed. “Any further messages?”

“You’d like it here, we even spotted a plane today,” Bill said over the wireless, hoping Anatoly would understand that the appearance of a plane overhead in the middle of nowhere wasn’t the best sign.

Anatoly wrote “plane,” on his notepad and sat for a moment, letting that sink in. There shouldn’t be any planes where Bill was. It wasn’t on any flight paths. There weren’t any airfields for god knows how many miles.

“Did it come in to land?” he asked.

“No,” said Bill, “we just watched it overhead.”

“I will pass that on,” Anatoly said, cursing the fact they hadn’t come up with a comprehensive list of codes for such a situation.

“I have no further information for now,” Bill said. “Will report again tomorrow.”

“Received,” Anatoly said. He wanted to warn Bill not to let his guard down, but held his tongue. “Over and out.”

To be continued…

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Five Have a Wonderful Time

Well, this is embarrassing. My last review in the Famous Five series was Five Go Down to the Sea. That’s book #12. Five Have a Wonderful Time is book #11.

I would like to pass this off as me being rebellious and reviewing them in a non-standard order or being clever and reviewing them in an order that benefits some sort of astute insights. But I can’t. The truth is I accidentally missed out Five Have a Wonderful Time, which I can’t understand seeing as they are shelved in series order.

But anyway, I am here, writing now to fix my egregious error.

Five Have a Wonderful Time ranks 13th in my Famous Five rankings, so it’s just below the middle. I think in my rankings I said I found the number of adults involved irritating, and the vague title doesn’t help.

A story in how many parts?

Part one: The boys and Anne are camping and George joins them.
Part two: The fair-folk arrive and stand off against the Five before Jo arrives.
Part three: The Five plus Jo start investigating the face at the window in the castle.

Where’s George?

We start this book with just Julian, Dick and Anne on holiday. It’s rare for the Five to be apart like that especially at the beginning of a book, so there has to be a good reason. George has been bathing in April and staying in too long according to her mother, and has caught a cold which has precluded her from going caravanning.

So at first the other three are having a good time on holiday but missing George and Timmy, while George is stropping around in irritation that she’s stuck at Kirrin instead of with her cousins.

Their disparate worlds briefly collide when Julian calls to ask if Uncle Quentin is all right as two scientists have gone missing. His concerns are dismissed, as of course Quentin is absolutely fine but this is a nice early hint that adventure is on the way.

Julian only speaks to Aunt Fanny on the phone but George and Timmy are properly reunited with the others by page 21 (and the story starts on page 9!).

Scientists and fair-folk

This section is surprisingly tense and exciting. There are several books with long, slow, meandering beginnings, and others where there are odd happenings early-ish, but there are two story lines running here one of which gets very tense.

Firstly we have more details about the missing scientists who appear to have walked out and [taken] important papers with them. The word defecting isn’t used but there’s talk of them being traitors and selling secrets. Terry-Kane bought ticket to Paris, so he looks guilty at least. (I can never remember which one’s which between Terry-Kane and Pottersham, but I remember one has huge eyebrows). Later Pottersham is said to be in the pay of a country unfriendly to us which is sinister if a bit vague. Blyton wouldn’t have wanted to offend any readers by mentioning their country, of course. There have been many reported sightings of the pair abroad – but of course if you’ve read the book you know they’re false sightings as they’re rather a lot closer than that.

And the other story line now – the field their caravans are in suddenly starts filling with the caravans of fair-folk. There are Mr Slither and his pythons, Bufflo and his whip (and Skippy his wife), Mr India-Rubber who can wriggle about bonelessly, Alfredo the fierce-looking fire eater and his tiny wife Anita, and a man who can untie himself from any ropes.

The Five like circus and fair-folk but immediately get off on the wrong foot with this lot when Timmy barks at Mr Slither’s snakes. They didn’t have a chance, really, anyway, as the fair-folk have had a bad time recently with a cage of canaries being set free and the police being called on them so they are adamant that they won’t have children near them. Mr India-Rubber says there’s Us-folk and you-folk, and they don’t mix. Bufflo warns them off, the rope man warns them off, Mr India-Rubber warns them and does a strangle wriggle across the ground that knocks Julian and Dick off their feet.

So suddenly their idyllic camping ground has become an unpleasant place to be. They can’t move on as unlike in Five Go Off in a Caravan they have no horses. It’s quite horrible, actually, seeing the Five being bullied by adults and nobody there to help them out. Julian does some standing up to them but he’s not as strong as against, say, Mr Stick or Tiger Dan. Perhaps because he’s stuck in such close quarters with several enemies.

It all comes to a head when the Five’s caravans go missing. They aren’t far away – just in the next field – but the Farmer is furious and they’re in rather a pickle.

The fair-folk won’t bring the caravans back and it reaches a stand off with them vs Julian and Dick (fierce as George is even she doesn’t demand to go along) until Jo shows up.

I actually find this a really disappointing resolution to this problem. Jo runs up and declares how wonderful the Five are, and as Alfredo is her uncle they all listen to her and change their tune.

For me it’s such a pity that Julian, Dick and Timmy don’t hold their own against the fair-folk when they’ve done so against much tougher enemies including armed ones. I would have liked it if they had managed to resolve the problems themselves – perhaps by saving a caravan from burning, rescuing one of the fair animals from drowning or something.

It’s also disappointing that the fair-folk don’t really learn a lesson here. They accept the Five as Jo says they are decent but there’s no comeuppance for their bullying or unfair judgement of the Five. (You’d think as fair-folk were so often unfairly judged as thieves and trouble makers etc that they’d be a bit less quick to judgement themselves).

Julian is relieved but still has a mind to push off home – and I’d be the same. I know it’s cutting your nose to spite your face but why would you want to be around people who can be so nasty for no reason? He says it’s a matter of pride and I really know where he’s coming from with that. It’s a bit Elizabeth Allen-ish, actually, when she thinks it’s feeble to change her mind to stay at Whyteleaf when she said she’d go.

But of course they stay – the story would end right in the middle of the book otherwise! What changes Julian’s mind is he and Dick spotting a face with pronounced eyebrows at the window in the castle’s tower. One of the missing scientists had very strong eyebrows, and as the face was seen after the castle closed to visitors for the day, it’s something they have to look into.

Dick spots someone at a castle window in “Five Have a Wonderful Time” illustrated by Eileen Soper

I will be back with the rest of the story plus my lengthy list of nitpicks in a week or two.


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Monday #385

Another week where I’m not back at work, so I thought we’d have three posts for a change.

Five Have a Wonderful Time


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 6


Lego Blyton: The Secret Seven

Amelia carefully let herself down from the tree-branch and sat on the top of the red umbrella, holding on to the little stick that stuck up from the bottom. The bear didn’t know anything about Amelia doing this, for he couldn’t see through the umbrella!

He thought that his umbrella was very heavy, though.

Amelia Jane plays a trick on the teddy bear in Amelia Jane is Tired from Amelia Jane Again!.


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 5

After crashing at Anatoly’s place Bill has been to get his disguise sorted and is now making his final arrangements for travel.

cunningham and petrovChapter 5

Bill was already there when Anatoly got back to his bedsit, and he did a double-take as he saw a bearded man sitting in his chair. “What-” he began, then recognised Bill’s twinkling eyes.

“Do you like my beard?” Bill asked with a grin.

“It is quite convincing,” Anatoly answered, dumping his case of files on the bed and taking a closer look. “You can really not tell it is fake unless you look closely.”

“Hopefully, apart from the children, no one will get close enough to tell the difference,” Bill said with a smile. “Are those files anything to do with me?”

“They are all to do with you. I have never met anyone who could generate so much paperwork in a bid to disappear,” Anatoly said with a false tone of weariness.

“Well I’m a very important person to make disappear,” chuckled Bill. He gestured to the papers, “May I?”

“Of course. There are maps of some islands you might want to visit, details of where and when to meet the boat you will be using, the train timetable… Oh and some papers and documents pertaining to a Dr Walker which is to be your new identity.”

Bill nodded and picked up the sheaf of papers, setting them down on the small table. He nodded to the side, “I brought fish and chips by the way.”

“Oh good, I am starving,” Anatoly said, reaching over and grabbing a greasy newspaper wrapped bundle.

Bill smiled as Anatoly dug into the fish and chips has if he hadn’t eaten since the toast at breakfast, which in all likelihood, he hadn’t. Bill would have preferred that Anatoly took more care of himself but he also knew that being a junior in their jot meant having to do a lot of running around after all the higher ups, and often abandoning meals half-way through if they were even sat down to in the first place.

“So you are leaving this evening, then?” Anatoly said between mouthfuls, slowing down now that more than half of the meal had gone.

“Yes, I need to leave in a few hours get to Euston for nine-thirty to meet the children,” Bill explained, double-checking the tickets from the bundle of papers.

Anatoly was quiet as he finished the fish and chips, as he was thinking hard. “Should I… I mean… Would it be a good idea for me to follow on?” he asked. “Just in case there is any trouble.” He was keen to do so, keen to be of help, but he worried that it might sound as if he didn’t think Bill could take care of himself.

Bill paused on a chip for a moment, “Yes, that isn’t half a bad idea, lad! Just make sure you aren’t followed yourself.”

“I got top marks for stealth and shadowing!” Anatoly said indignantly, balling up the newspaper and tossing it in the waste paper basket.

“I know you did, but arrogance is not a reason to forget your training and abandon caution!” Bill reminded him gently.

Knowing it was no good arguing with Bill, Anatoly merely grunted. Of course he wasn’t going to throw caution to the wind and forget his training, just because he knew he was good at his job. He wouldn’t be good as his job if that was the case. “I will leave shortly after you then. Follow you to the station. Wait until you are on the train and it leaves.”

Bill nodded, “And then be careful on your way home in case the people after me, have clocked you. It never hurts to be more cautious!”

This time he scowled. “I am not sixteen any more, Bill.” He said testily. “I have been out in the field alone. I know what I am doing!”

Holding up his hands, Bill shrugged, “OK, ok, well I’m just trying to look after you Anatoly.”

Keeping a careful hold on his temper Anatoly replied; “I know. But I am not a child. I do not need looking after. I am a grown man and your colleague now.”

“I understand,” Bill said, reaching for his pipe, after finishing his supper. “Do you mind if I smoke?

“No, it is fine.” Bill lit his pipe carefully and sat back to smoke it. He looked relaxed but his mind was active, going over all his carefully laid plans.

Anatoly on the other hand was fidgety. He always was when he was eager to get going, when there was something that needed to be done. For him the clock seemed to be ticking more slowly than usual. He had already checked his weapons and laid them ready to be holstered and now there was nothing to do but wait. He was impatient to go, for the opportunity to practice the art of stealth again, for real. He always ducked and dived in London now, it was second nature, but it was more exciting if it was real. And of course, there was always the possibility of trouble. He practically itched to get involved in some action. He didn’t anticipate any trouble, not really. If anyone knew where Bill was there was nothing stopping them storming into the block of flats there and then. But you never knew.

Just before nine Bill stood up, stretched and nodded at Anatoly. “Time to suit up, we’re leaving in five.” He checked all his bags, and pulled on the big overcoat, buttoning it up.

Anatoly holstered his weapons; a revolver on either side under his jacket and a knife strapped to his left ankle. It was probably over-kill but it was always better to be over rather than under armed. He watched as Bill donned a black-checked cap and thick glasses. He looked different, especially with the beard. But then he hunched his shoulders and squinted as if even with the glasses he couldn’t see every well and he became even less like Bill Cunningham.

Bill smirked at Anatoly. “Will I do?” he asked with a slight wink.

“You are quite unrecognisable,” he said honestly. He made a mental note to practice harder at disguises himself.

“You’d better go out first,” Bill said practically, then follow at a distance.

Anatoly did as he was told, and shadowed Bill all the way to Euston Station. It was easy as Bill was shuffling along at a gentle pace and making no attempt to go unseen. He didn’t spot anyone following him, or paying him an undue attention. In fact, he seemed almost invisible to the various people who passed him, looking as shabby and old as he did.

Bill moved through the station, and once he had spotted the children, he looked over his shoulder once, gave Anatoly a small nod of his head, hailed the porter for their bags and followed the children to their train.

There didn’t seem to be anyone suspicious at the station either, but Anatoly bought an evening edition of a newspaper and leaned against a wall to peruse it, all the while keeping an eye on Bill’s train. It was busy, lots of businessmen boarding, possibly heading home after meetings in the capital. They would have to catch what sleep they could on the train and then work their usual day in the office, he guessed. He didn’t envy them in that. Nobody untoward looking boarded the train at Bill’s, or any other, carriage, and at ten precisely the train pulled out of the station leaving nothing but a cloud of smoke.

To be continued…

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Malory Towers on TV: Episode thirteen

I’ve come to this last episode wondering how it (and the series) will end. Will there be a huge cliff hanger? We already know why Darrell was asked to leave her last school, Pamela’s story was abruptly resolved when she disappeared and the ghost has been explained. We should see Gwen being unmasked as Mary-Lou’s tormentor but beyond that? Will they be setting up for series two?

Gwen vs Darrell

As I thought the main story – the only story really – was about finding out who played the tricks on Mary-Lou. Playing out similarly to the book (at least at first) they discover the smashed pen and go to check the girls’ lockers for ink-stained shoes. Gwen gets there first, though, and inks Darrell’s shoes and hides her own.

When Darrell’s shoes are discovered most of the girls turn on her (stupidly nobody notices that Gwen has ink all over her fingers!).

In the book Mary-Lou stands by Darrell, and Sally too, while Alicia is vehement Darrell is no longer her friend. On screen only Sally stands by Darrell, while Alicia is slightly more ambivalent, though it’s clear she thinks Darrell could have done it. Gwen gets Alicia’s line about it being the “Straight-forward Darrell Rivers.”

The show has all this happen in a single day – the last day of term – while in the book, although it’s over a few pages quite a bit more time passes.

The girls try to handle it more fairly on screen despite the short time-frame. Katharine holds a vote amongst the nine girls, to see who thinks Darrell is responsible for the crimes. In the book she says;

I can’t believe it’s Darrell either. But – I suppose – until it’s proved differently we’ll have to think of her as the culprit. it’s a pity, because we’ve all liked Darrell.

Which seems a bit of a cop-out.

Unfortunately the ‘fair trial’ on screen doesn’t work out in Darrell’s favour. She is understandably hot-headed in her attempts to defend herself. Sally, Irene and Emily stand on Darrell’s side, but Jean, Katherine, Alicia and of course Gwen stand against her. Mary-Lou has run off (surely any vote must come from all the girls, though!) and Darrell isn’t allowed to vote for herself, so she is deemed the culprit.

Above: it’s all even until Alicia betrays Darrell.

Sally is the voice of reason on screen (again). She tells Darrell that this person has it in for her, not Mary-Lou, and that it must be Gwen. She also points out that the real inky shoes must be hidden somewhere. (We know Gwen wore her own shoes but it is possible that she could have planned ahead and used Darrell’s, so her logic is slightly flawed, but no worse than in the books).

The reason Mary-Lou missed the vote is she has run off to investigate. In the book she tosses and turns one night, some time after the incident, then goes shoe-hunting. On screen they go home in a few hours so she goes running pell-mell to Ron, to hear if he really caught a spider for Gwen, as Darrell had just revealed. She also finds Gwen’s shoes in the greenhouse (strange place for Gwen to hide them!), and rushes back to prove Darrell’s innocence.

I really wanted to see Gwen get her comeuppance but Darrell stops the girls taking the story to Miss Grayling and is altogether annoyingly magnanimous and empathetic. After everything Gwen has done and Darrell is kind in return. I know, I probably sound like a mean Gwen-like person! Being kind and understanding is probably what Gwen needs most but I wouldn’t be able to be so kind. I might not have taken it to Miss Grayling but I’d probably have had some strong words for Gwen. I’d not have been running around after her offering sympathy and encouragement.

Darrell is also surprisingly generous to Alicia, who she had offered to have to visit in the summer to save her from spending all summer with Matron. Alicia then turns her back on Darrell and votes against her – saying she believes that Darrell could be a cruel bully. Yet Darrell still invites her to stay after a weak apology from Alicia. Although Darrell says to Sally that Sally’s the friend she can rely on it’s a shame she doesn’t tell Alicia on screen that she will stick to Sally and Mary-Lou as her friends like she does in the book. Nor do we get the little insight into Alicia’s personality that we get from Blyton’s narration;

One by one the girls begged Darrell’s pardon. Alicia was a little stiff about it, for she felt really ashamed of the hard words she had said. But then, Alicia was hard. She had a good many lessons to learn before she could lose her hardness and gain in sympathy and understanding of others…

I think if you don’t mind, I’ll stick to Sally and Mary-Lou. I wasn’t always nice to them, but they did stick by me when I was in trouble – and they’re my real friends now.

The rush of it being the last day means that Gwen gives Mary-Lou her special hairbrush instead of buying her a new pen, but it’s nice as Gwen says that giving her hair a hundred strokes a night gives her courage so it might do the same for Mary-Lou.

Thoughts on this episode

It was good that this one stuck fairly closely to the book, even if it did speed up and dramatise it all a bit more. I had to flick though the book to check the details as it’s so easy to get muddled.

I did recognise Alicia’s line that’s a nice bit of spite for you, though.

Talking of Alicia she’s to spend all summer at school as Betty’s people can no longer have her. That’s the second time they’ve let her down (the first time was at half-term). Also, Matron is to give back all confiscated tuck as it’s the last day of term and Alicia is a bit worried as she’s already emptied her huge confiscated hamper! (If she hadn’t, surely a lot of the food would be inedible by this point, I mean it wouldn’t have been stuffed with preservatives like today!

It turns out to be a non-issue as Matron has clearly had a personality transplant and has refilled it as a belated birthday gift for Alicia, seeing as they will be stuck together all summer. Yet Matron also sits in the first formers’ dorm and falls asleep instead of supervising their packing as she is supposed to, so she can’t be an entirely new woman.

At last they found a real use for the gardener’s boy (who is called Ron, I could never remember that for past reviews). As above he is able to tell Darrell then Mary-Lou about catching the spider for Gwen and then about running into her that morning with shoes in a kit bag. Still, it’s odd to have a whole new character with so little importance.

In nitpicks:

There are more secret conversations held within earshot of other people. Emily and Katherine discuss Mary-Lou who is standing at the other end of the same piano, then Sally and Darrell discuss her from one bed in the dorm when Mary-Lou is not that far away.

Mary-Lou is front left with the pigtails, Emily and Katherine are standing at the back right.

When Darrell persuades Gwen to face the girls at assembly she quickly braids Gwen’s hair for her. We see her take a large chunk from the nape of the neck and begin a simple three strand braid. When Gwen runs inside with her, however, it’s a proper French plait starting at the crown. Later it’s back to being a loose, low braid (see above where Gwen gives Mary-Lou the hairbrush).

There is a somewhat silly song at the end assembly.

Four tall towers that train by esteem
Of the cliff corner view of the school of our dreams
Four tall towers teach us how to strive
To be women the world can lean on
Women who will thrive
They gave…

I love the Miss Grayling speech but it becomes a bit cringey when it’s turned into a twee song. Also since when did the towers themselves do any teaching?

As they board the coach (surely a school of Malory Towers’ size would need more than one small coach? I appreciate the difficulty in getting vintage coaches but I also think it’s the same one as used by St Hilda’s in a previous episode) we see a glimpse of two teachers who’ve never had a speaking line in thirteen episodes. I wonder, if we get a series 2, will the girls still be taught by Miss Potts, rather than Miss Parker?

I can’t find anything about a second series but I really hope they will do all six books.

I had intended to write a review of the series as a whole but I think I’ll leave it for another day as I’ve written rather a lot already!

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Monday #384

Tomorrow is the 123rd anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth. There is still quite a lot of Brodie’s birthday cake left so I will eat a piece for Enid tomorrow (any excuse!).

Malory Towers on TV: Episode 13 and my thoughts on the series


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 5

“Many happy returns of the day, Joan! I hope you’ll have a lovely birthday! Here’s a little present for you from me!”

Elizabeth wishes Joan a happy birthday in The Naughtiest Girl in the School. Joan’s birthday is lovely, thanks to Elizabeth but the fall out is hard on them both.


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 4

Previously Bill turned up at Anatoly’s flat to hide out, they made some plans and then Bill visited an old friend.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 4

Bill dumped his pile over a rack and began to change. There was a dusty mirror with a crack down one side in the corner, behind piles of stuff, and Simon pulled it out and propped it up for him. He decided that the patched trousers were a no, they were a bit too shabby. He wanted an air of a tutor or teacher who was too absorbed in his subject to take any great care over his appearance, but he didn’t want to appear too down-at-heel. The second pair were better, however. They were of dark green cord, a trifle flattened in places, and nothing like he would ever wear normally – which was exactly what he was after.

Simon bustled around, finding other pieces that Bill could work with. Soon the pile of discards was higher than the usable garments. “Would you like to try some hair pieces on now?” asked Simon standing next to Bill, some beards and wigs in his hands.

“I don’t do wigs,” Bill said firmly. “A hat would do, and a beard would be useful.”

“Well, here,” said Simon, handing over a handful of hair, which would indeed turn out to be beards. “Have a play around with these! I still think you’d be better off with some hair as well, but then, I’m only a costumier, what do I know!” he smirked.

“Quite,” Bill said mildly. He held up the first beard in front of his lower face, a rather shaggy ginger affair and looked in the mirror. “Och aye,” he said in a poor Scottish accent. “No, doesn’t do to look like you’re mocking the locals.”

The next was a shade close to his own hair but was shot through with grey. “Too ageing.” Then another was “Too blonde.” At last he settled on a black beard which had a nice shape to it.

“Not too obvious at all,” Simon teased. “You look like a rather clever man I suppose, with that beard.”

“I look just as clever without it, thanks. Have you got a bottle of glue I can take as well?”

Simon pursed his lips as he handed over the glue. “If you say so,” he grinned.

Bill then selected a pair of thick glasses that hid his eyes well, and a rather ugly checked cap. Although he didn’t want a wig a hat would disguise his unfortunately distinctive balding head.

“Is that everything you need?”

Bill cast an eye over what he had gathered. “Yes, I think this’ll do just fine. Thanks, Simon. I owe you one.”

“I’ll put it on the bill, Bill,” his friend said as he began to hanging up all the discarded outfits. “There are some bags in that cupboard, over there,” he pointed. “You’ll need one to put all this stuff in.”

Bill ignored the joke. Simon made it every time. He found a bag large enough for his new identity and folded the clothes carefully into it. “I’ll see you around.”

“Most likely! I mean who else are you going to get your disguises off of?” Simon asked with a smirk.

“Just stay out of trouble,” Bill warned him. “I shan’t be impressed if I turn up looking to turn myself into a renowned scientist and discover you’ve been locked up for dodgy dealings.”

“They won’t catch me,” Simon promised. “Money talks Bill, you know that!”

Bill strode purposefully away from Simon’s house and, in the tube station bathroom, turned himself into a respectable tutor for four ailing children. He wedged the door shut for the few minutes it took to glue the beard in place, and even he had to admit that it looked quite good.

His next port of call was a travel agents. He had no particular requirements and so walked into the first one he saw and made some enquiries about Scottish islands. Unfortunately all the information was about tourist spots like Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye. He tried two further agents with the same result. If you wanted to tour desolate uninhabited islands in Scotland it seemed as if you just had to turn up and find your own way. Perhaps that was just as well. The more off the beaten track they went, the less likely they were to run into anyone else.

He found a telephone box and placed a call to the SIS offices and left a cryptic message for Anatoly, asking for him to see what he could do about finding a suitable location for setting off, and hiring a mode of transport too.

Anatoly decoded it, sighed and got up to go to Chief Roscoe. He knocked on the chief’s door and waited to be let in.

“Is there a problem?” he asked. “I thought we had covered everything.”

“I have just received this message from Cunningham, sir,” said Anatoly, handing over his decoded message. “He needs more help in getting to a more remote area of Scotland. Most of the travel agents only offer tours to the more tourist based areas, Edinburgh and Inverness for example. They are too populated for Bill to hide out, sir.”

“I see.” Roscoe read the message for himself. “Right. Leave it with me, then. I’ll get someone on this. You’ll have everything Bill needs on your desk by six.”

Anatoly nodded, saluted and turned to leave the office. He worked on all he could, informing the local agent base to expect Bill and giving them all the code words to look out for.

A fat bundle of files dropped onto his desk at four-thirty. “With compliments from Chief Roscoe,” the agent delivering them said, looking Anatoly over without any subtlety. Anatoly could tell he was trying to work out why a nobody junior agent was being sent files directly from someone as important as Roscoe. He just nodded and thanked the man curtly, choosing to continue going over the document he was already working on and ignoring the new delivery until he had gone.

When the nosy floor runner had gone, Anatoly pulled the bundle towards him, skimmed the papers, and saw it was all sorted for Bill’s trip. Shuffling the pages carefully square again he put them in his bag to take back to his bedsit so Bill could read them before he set off that evening.

To be continued…

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