Most of these are less strange than houses filled with secret passages, and castles with apparent ghosts, but they’re not exactly normal-every-day home for most people, either.
A lot of Blyton’s characters live in caravans at one point or another.
The various circus and fair folk live in traditional ‘gypsy’ style wooden caravans, for example in Mr Galliano’s Circus, Three Boys and a Circus, Come to the Circus, Five Go Off in a Caravan, The Mystery of the Missing Man, The Caravan Family, Five Have a Wonderful Time, Five Have Plenty of Fun, The Rilloby Fair Mystery, and probably quite a few others as well.
The Five themselves stay in old-fashioned caravans while at Faynight’s castle in Five Have a Wonderful Time, and in more ‘modern’ ones in Five Go Off in a Caravan.
The caravans stood on high wheels. There was a window on each side. The door was at the front, and so were the steps, of course. Gay curtains hung at the windows, and a line of bold carving ran around the edges of the out-jutting roof.
“They are old gypsy caravans painted and made really up to date. They’re jolly comfortable inside too, bunks that fold down against the walls in the day-time – a little sink for washing-up, though we usually use the stream, because it’s such a fag to fetch water – a small larder and shelves – cork carpet on the floor with warm rugs so no draught comes through…
– Julian describes the caravans in Five Have a Wonderful Time
Most of the gypsy caravans are beautifully painted in bright colours (red with black and yellow for the boys, and blue with black and yellow for the girls in Five Have a Wonderful Time) and full of carefully-fitted in furniture, beds and little cupboards. Most cooking is done outside, on camp fires, though Mrs Brown (Jimmy’s mother, Mr Galliano’s Circus) has a proper stove in hers. The Browns’ caravan started out as a grubby old thing that had been used for storage, all soot-blackened inside from a broken chimney, but they do it up.
By the end of the second week you wouldn’t have known Jimmy’s caravan. It was painted a nice bright green outside, and the wheels were green too, but the spokes were yellow. The window-sills were yellow and so were the chimney. Jimmy’s father had enough money left to buy some cream-coloured paint for the inside of the caravan.
The inside of the caravan was very different to when it was finished – so light and airy, and it looked twice as big! Jimmy’s father put new glass into the windows, too, and Jimmy slipped off to the town and bought some green and yellow stuff for curtains.
The Caravan Family, unsurprisingly, are a family who normally live in a pair of caravans, too. Theirs are old-fashioned wooden ones, but they are a bit more simple than the elaborate gypsy ones (at least in the original illustrations). One has three bunks for the children and the other a bed for their parents, and each has a door that opens in two parts. One caravan even has a stove and running water. The Caravan family, like the Browns, also have to do theirs up as they have been unused and unloved for a while.
They had once been painted a gay yellow and blue, but now the paint was dull and cracked.
The men let Mummy choose the colours and she chose a ladybird red, deep and clear. She chose a creamy yellow.
Then the men began the painting. They painted the caravans yellow, with red around the windows, and a red edge to the roof. The chimneys were red and yellow and the spokes and rims of the wheels were painted red. The door was yellow, and the shafts were blue.
Men came the next day and put a fine little kitchen-range in Mummy’s caravan, one that would both cook the meals and arm the caravan. But in the children’s caravan was put a closed stove, for heating only.
A red cork carpet is put down, and up the bottoms edges of the walls to keep draughts out, and brightly coloured rugs on top. There is a water tank under the caravans, which they have to pump up to the top tank for the water to come out of the taps. The bedding is blue and yellow, and there are shelves up for the children’s books, too.
The Five’s modern caravans are of shiny metal, and are full of mod-cons like proper bunks (that don’t fold up into the wall) as well as a sink with running water – with a gadget for heating it no less – and a stove, though as the children are too young to drive they are hitched up to horses. Roger, Dinah, Miss Pepper and Mrs Lynton also have a modern caravan for their holiday at the start of The Ragamuffin Mystery, theirs is pulled by the Lyntons’ car.
They certainly were very nice ones, quite modern and streamlined, well built and comfortable.
“They almost reach the ground. And look at the wheels, set so neatly into the side of the vans. I do like the red one, bags I the red one.”
Each van had a little chimney, long narrow windows down the two sides, and tiny ones in front by the driver’s seat. There was a broad door at the back and two steps down. Pretty curtains flutteres at the open windows.
“Red for the green caravan, and green for the red caravan!”
– Anne examines the caravans in Five Go Off in a Caravan
Caravans are not the strangest places to live, though I imagine they could get quite cramped if it’s for more than a holiday.
One of the caravans that featured in the 70s Famous Five TV series is now on a farm as a holiday home if you wanted to try it out yourself!
Talking of cramped, a house-boat would be quite tight for space for a family. That doesn’t stop the Caravan Family (two adults and three children) from spending a summer holiday in one, however.
Being an old boat, it’s one that is pulled by horses from the tow-path rather than having an engine.
[It had] red geraniums and blue lobelias planted in pots and baskets all round the sitting-space on the roof. Down in the cabin-part there were two bedrooms and a small living-room. There was even a tiny kitchen, very clean and neat, with just room to take about two steps in! In one room there was no bed, though Auntie Mollie said it was a bedroom. In the other bedroom there were bunks for beds, just as there were in the caravan – two on one side of the wall, and a third that could be folded up.
Of course the room with ‘no bed’ has a bed that pulls out of the wall.
One of the strangest places to live, unless you are a light-house keeper, is a lighthouse. The Famous Five go to stay in one in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks as their friend, Tinker, owns one. (Well, his father does, but as he has no use for it anymore he has ‘given’ it to his son). The lighthouse is no longer used, as there’s a new, bigger one further up the coast. The only way to it is by boat and at high tide the water’s right up to the front steps. In storms, the whole building is buffeted and soaked with waves, right up to the top.
Inside are curious circular rooms and a lot of steps in a spiral stair-case connecting them all. This particular lighthouse has an even more peculiar feature, however. The lighthouse builders used an existing hole in the rocks when erecting the building as like most lighthouses it needed a deep set of foundations down into the rock, to make it steady. It just so happens at the bottom of this shaft is a little tunnel that leads into a mass of undersea tunnels and caves. It is quite dangerous to get from the lighthouse to these caves as if the tide comes in, they fill up with water!
AND A BUILDING-BLOCK HOUSE FOR ONE
I’ve stuck with ‘real’ world buildings so far, but I have to include just one fantasy one. Noddy’s house-for-one is one of my favourite homes. He buys it from warehouse, and it comes in a nice box with pictures on, like a Lego or Duplo set. He and Big-Ears put it together (they do not, incidentally, start with the roof in case it rains, as Noddy suggests), brick by brick.