Well, here we are, finally at the nitpicks I promised. Hope they were worth it!
Warning, this first nitpick is a long one!
The timeline of the story in regards to the Barnies’ visit makes no sense to me. If you read the book quickly you’re unlikely to notice, but I was trying to pay attention to as many details as I could.
Early in their visit Mrs P tells the Five that she’s heard the Barnies are coming soon, though she has no firm date which must be inconvenient as there will be at least some prep to do!
Anyway, a few days later (it’s unclear exactly how many days) the Barnies pass the Five and say they’re staying at Poltelly farm that night, then coming to Tremannon soon. That turns out to be two days later.
You might imagine that there is to be a show at Poltelly, but no, the Tremannon show is to be the first, first of the season, first of their tour of Cornwall, or of that bit of coast it isn’t clear. What doesn’t make sense is that the point the Barnies pass the Five is within walking distance of Tremannon. Even if the Five take a few shortcuts there’s no reason why the Barnies couldn’t go straight to Tremannon instead of travelling on elsewhere then coming back.
They say they will do one night at Tremannon and then move on, and the huge feast Mrs P puts on for them certainly seems like a ‘last night’ event, but when Yan rescues the Five from the Wrecker’s Way he says the Barnies have performed again!
The Wreckers’ Way(s)
The logic in the discussion on pages 131-135 baffles me entirely and I read it at least twice. They (mostly Julian and Dick) suggest some possibilities for how the Wrecker’s Way was used and where it is.
I will paraphrase for you:
Dick: The Wreckers’ Way leads from the house to the beach.
Julian: I’m not sure. The Wreckers’ Way may have lead to the sea from inland somewhere, something convenient for the villagers. No, I think the people in this house flashed the lights, then when a ship was wrecked they signalled to a watcher on the hills, then the people from the house went down to the coves and waited for the friends to come down the Wreckers’ Way.
Now, it just so happens he is correct, technically. The secret passage called the Wreckers’ Way leads from the farm to the beach. BUT there is another secret passage from the house to further along the beach, one which has a branch leading to a storage room for wrecked goods. You could argue that both should be called Wreckers’ Ways as they are both used the wreckers.
They then discuss how its likely to be smuggling now and not wrecking, and that there must be a passage from the house to the coves. Why they don’t believe that to be the or at least a wreckers’ way is surprising.
The smuggling operation
I can’t quite get my head around the reaches of the Guvnor’s smuggling operations.
All the flashing lights (at least two nights) and the secret rendezvous with at least four men at the boat seems like a lot of work for what is one small package. I understand that a small package could be worth a lot of money but why not save time and bring in dozens to store? Or, if it is handing over one little packet surely it could be done discreetly in the day? Perhaps he is a Mr Barling type who loves the thrill of clandestine moonlight smuggling trips but that’s never suggested.
He is travelling presumably a significant amount of the year with the Barnies, so how often do they come to Tremannon? Yearly? Obviously it is perfectly set up for smuggling but does he have several such places around Cornwall?
When he’s apprehended Mr P says that is one of many packets…. around this coast. So perhaps he does deal in bulk, but again, so much work for a package at a time?
- The Five plan to arrive at the station 7 minutes before the train is due. I know that trains were less strict on times in Blyton’s books but the Five are usually more sensible and would leave more time for unexpected events.
- There’s a question mark missing on page 54 when Dick asks Is it true that your father was one of the Wreckers in the old days. I have a sixth impression so I wonder if this has always been missing and the mistake repeated in every impression or if it’s a new error.
- A ham is described as being as pink as Tommy’s tongue when I assume it is meant to be Timmy!
- Why does Sid have to keep Clopper’s head when it’s Mr Binks who wears it?
- It seems unlikely that the Guvnor would just leave Clopper’s head lying around when it’s normally guarded 24/7, and when Julian and Dick caper out in the suit he then paces the barn instead of going after them. I can only imagine he thought that it was Sid and Mr Binks, but surely he’d be able to tell it wasn’t, given that the two boys can barely run in it?
- There’s a strange line on page 128. Only the tower seems still strong, which is strange tense to use when nobody is speaking. The rest of the descriptions of the ruined house are in the past tense.
- It is unusually stupid of the Five to go into a room which they know can close behind you, and not make sure the door does not in fact close behind them. I know Timmy can’t operate all door handles but they don’t even know if there is a handle!
- Julian and Dick get given Clopper at the end so why oh why is it never mentioned again?
- One of the dogs on the farm is called Ben and Benny (not really a nitpick) but is also called that dog Scottie. That Scottie dog would make more sense, the first implies his name is Scottie.
I never thought I’d have so much to say about Five Go Down to the Sea, as usually the more I like a book the less I can say about it (Smuggler’s Top being an exception.) Despite the number of nitpicks I’ve pointed out here I am fairly sure I didn’t notice a single one of these as a child, I just enjoyed the story.
Next post: Five Go to Mystery Moor