This evening I stumbled on an article in the Guardian Online which is based around an interview with Sophie Smallwood – Enid Blyton’s granddaughter. The article, titled ‘Granny, Noddy and Me’ seems to be to be a beautiful insight into how Blyton’s legacy affects her family even now.
At the previous two Enid Blyton days, held by the Enid Blyton Society in Loddon Hall Twyford, I have been lucky enough not only to come into contact with Sophie Smallwood but also her mother Imogen Smallwood. I must admit, I was always a little scared of approaching Imogen because in a way, I didn’t want to bother her. I haven’t read her book A Childhood at Green Hedges where she explained to the world what it was like growing up in the Blyton household for herself so always felt like I shouldn’t approach her until I had. In 2012 I did actually approach her, with Fiona, still without having read the book (but in my defence it is quite hard to get hold of) and she was lovely, very kind and gracious.
However the article, Granny, Noddy and Me is based on Sophie’s own handling of such an extensive legacy. She talks about how she doesn’t like to tell people about her famous ancestry because of the expectations it carries. Smallwood also talks about the way she sees her grandmother.
“Enid Blyton was a publicly owned figure, so there wasn’t a sense of connection. She’s a name rather than a person, and that’s how I viewed her as I was growing up.”
To me, I can see perfect sense in that statement. I can understand the principle. Two of my own grandparents died before I was born, so there is no emotional attachment to them for me; I didn’t build a relationship with them and as Blyton died two years before Sophie Smallwood was even born, I can understand how Smallwood feels about her grandmother.
In the article we get a glimpse of Smallwood’s thinking towards her grandmother alongside the views of her mother, Imogen. You get the sense that Sophie’s own ideas about Blyton are very balanced and she explains why very well. There is no hint that she is swayed by some of her mother’s opinions towards Blyton, but that is neither here nor there. It is quite lovely to know that Imogen didn’t ban her children from reading Blyton’s stories and shared a love for Sophie’s favourite book The Secret Island.
The main point of the interview was to discuss Smallwood’s own foray into the literary world, because in 2009 it was the 60th birthday of one of Blyton’s most well known characters: Noddy. Smallwood wrote a new Noddy book for the celebration, called Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle. I haven’t read the book, I’m sorry to say, but I do remember being enthralled to hear about it at the Enid Blyton Day in 2010. Smallwood talked about how she created the story, using new and loved characters to bring the story together. We were also treated to Robert Tyndall sketching a wonderful little Noddy while Smallwood was talking (Tyndall illustrated Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle).
I have to admit Noddy doesn’t quite have the appeal to me as it does for some people. I remember watching Noddy as a child, when it was on TV, but I don’t remember much more than that. I know a lot of Noddy enthusiasts however will have snapped up this book with delight. Maybe I’ll get around to buying a copy one of these days!
I just thought I would share this article and my recollection of Smallwood’s talk at the Enid Blyton Day in 2010. I found the article to be very sensitively written, although it would have been nice to have a bit more talk about the book, but it was nice to have an insight into Sophie Smallwood’s own relationship with Blyton – even though she had never met her. I especially liked learning that Imogen and Sophie share a favourite Blyton story.