And now for my miscellaneous musings and nitpicks!
For an adventure set on a farm the Five don’t actually seem to do a lot of eating, at least, not on-page.
As I’ve mentioned already they do visit the dairy twice, once for ice-creams and once for platefuls of macaroons and more ice-creams. It’s a it reminiscent of the scene in Hike where they go on about how many rounds of sandwiches they’ll eat, and the woman is astonished. Well, Janie’s mother is astonished that a whole plate of macaroons – at least 20 – has disappeared.
One breakfast comprises cold ham, boiled eggs, fruit and coffee – not a combination I’d be particularly happy to see laid out!
Their celebration meal after the treasure is found is a bit better, but still not the most impressive amongst the Five books (or many others). Thickly buttered bread, home-made jam, home-made cheese, ginger cake, fruit cake, plums, home-cooked ham. It amounts to making your own sandwiches with cheese and ham or jam, some cake and fruit. Where’s the meat-pie, the salad and tomatoes, the jam tart and so on? I’m guessing Mrs Philpot is on a budget for the meals!
And lastly, a snack while they are out is a Grimy packet of peppermints.
George and Harriet as boys
George doesn’t really play up to being ‘as good as a boy’ in this book. First she demands the boys take her suitcase, as that’s what they’d do if they had any manners.
Then at the farm she and Anne do a lot of clearing up after meals, washing dishes, laying the table and preparing food. While George is not unkind and would want to help, there’s not a single time she suggests the boys help, or complains that they get to go off and milk cows or repair chicken coops while she is stuck doing girls’ work. In fact, it’s said that she wants to help lay the table, not even that she is resigned to doing it. Is this a sign she is maturing and moving on, or did Blyton just forget about that element of the story?
She is pleased, however, that both Junior and Mr Henning believe she is a a boy to begin with. Obviously neither of them are paying attention to the sleeping arrangements. Later, though, Junior tells her to skip it, sister, so he has obviously figured it out.
As for Harriet, she’s a bit more like Henry/etta from Five Go to Mystery Moor. She likes to be mistaken for a boy but doesn’t go on about it. With Harriet it seems to be more about the twins being alike, than her necessarily wanting to be a boy. Mrs Philpot says
They feel they have to be alike, and as Harry can’t have long hair like a girl, Harriet has to have short hair to be like Harry.
She is often referred to as Harriet through the book, and seems perfectly happy with it. Mind you, what a way to name twins! Having them both as Harry would be pretty confusing.
I suspect that the benefits of being treated the same as Harry does appeal to her, though. She gets to camp in the bar and do the physical labour and repairs with her brother, though she does help in the kitchen on occasion while the Five are there.
It’s interesting to wonder how George and Harriet would fare in the future. Would they ‘grow out of’ wanting to be a boy/look like their twin before or after it becomes too difficult due to reaching their teenage years? There’s nothing to say that either of them would have to develop a liking for all things pink and girly, but they will be accustomed to being treated pretty much equally with their male counterparts, and probably find it quite an adjustment to be treated as young women. But then that’s often the case when children are young, girls can run and play etc until they are needed at home while the boy can get an education or job outside the home.
A couple of points on the illustrations.
First the endpapers show the tunnel very close to the farmhouse, making it seem even more odd that it has never been found before.
Secondly, Junior is referred to as a fat, pasty-faced boy. However none of the illustrations suggest he is at all fat.
- I was so caught up with my AirBnb analogy I forgot about my usual thing of dividing the story into parts. This is a hard one to do, but I suppose part one be from page one up until they leave the dairy for the farm. Then their time on the farm while the Harries are unfriendly, the time while the Harries are friendly, and lastly the hunt for the castle site and the treasure.
- There is a special note at the beginning of the book telling us that the farm is based on a real farm, which Enid’s family actually owned and although it doesn’t say there we know it was in Stourton Caundle, Dorset. She tells us that the chapel is real (and in fact here is a photo of it) and so was the heavy door in the farmhouse. She never found the castle site or the secret passage, though. The location of the real Stourton Caundle castle, long lost just like Finniston Castle, has been identified thanks to old maps and satellite photos.
- Talking of locations, this one is one of the few Fives where the location is actually mentioned – Tremannon in Cornwall being another. It is always assumed that Kirrin is in Dorset, and there are theories on where many other places are based on, but no locations are given for Mystery Moor, Demon’s Rocks, and so on. But Finniston Farm being in Dorset – as stated in the book, not just because it’s based on a real Dorset farm. This is good evidence that Kirrin is probably in Dorset as the girls take the bus to Finniston Village, and Mrs Philpot is an old school friend of Aunt Fanny.
- Anne is teased for her interest in horse brasses and other old things. While I can’t help feeling her sudden interest is merely an excuse for her to want to go into the antique shop where the knowledgeable Mr Finniston resides, I also love antique shops and second hand shops. I’m very much with Anne on her hobby so it’s a shame she doesn’t actually have time to really look at or buy anything during the story. Maybe after the book ends!
- Describing Junior as under the clothes rather than bed clothes conjures up a slightly different picture.
- Dick is uncharacteristically mean when he and Julian first meet the girls, pointing out that George has a spot and Anne’s hair doesn’t suit her being in a pony-tail. It’s a shame that Anne gets embarrassed by this and makes the excuse that it’s just because it is hot, and then takes her hair down. I was also annoyed at him for saying he hoped the girls were back as Mrs Philpot wanted help with shelling peas. It clearly never occurred to him to offer to help himself. (Yes, he was working on the chicken coop but there were four of them doing it and it was obviously a job that was going to take a few days. A break to shell peas, a time-sensitive task as it needed to be done before dinner, wouldn’t have been a problem.)
- Nosey riding Snippet and forgetting to roll over to dislodge him is very like the way Miranda rides Looney from the Barney Mysteries.
- Blyton words in a little self-reference by calling one of the fields Faraway Field. There are probably lots of Faraway-named things out there as they are far away, but this is unlikely to be a coincidence here!
- Blyton talks directly to Anne at one point – You’re wrong, Anne You’ll see far too much of [Junior]. It’s a good thing Timmy’s there – he’s the only one that can, manage people like Junior.
- I was surprised how often the lack of money was mentioned. Usually in Blyton’s books nobody wants to admit struggling, certainly not mentioning it multiple times.
- I spent quite a while trying to work out the family relations in Finniston. Old Great- Grandad is Jonathan Finniston, so I wondered if Mrs Philpot was nee Finniston, and his grandson-in-law has taken over the farm. But later Old Great Grandad mentions that Mr Philpot is his grandson, obviously his daughter’s son. It’s not said how Mr Finniston in the shop is related to Old Great Grandad, but they must be related (even if distantly) if they are descended from the Finnistons of Finniston Village.
- Junior buys about 30 macaroons a week from the shop, and George says it’s no wonder he’s pasty. That’s a bit rich considering she polished off at least five or six plus an ice-cream that afternoon, and could easily do that most days of the week. I actually feel slightly sorry for Junior as his father won’t take him out, even though he says he’s lonely alone. He does bring a lot of it on himself but clearly he has been raised that way.
- Myxomatosis has wiped out most of the rabbits on the farm, having first arrived in the UK in 1953 and killing 99% of the rabbit population, then causing regional outbreaks in the decades after.
- One of the boys says that I thought I saw two people up on that hill after tea yesterday. It must have been Mr Henning and that friend of his – with Junior. So did they see two or three people? (or do they not count Junior as a person?)
- And lastly, I thought it funny that they insist on a wash and tea before showing off the treasures. Interesting priorities!
Next up will be one of my favourites – Five Go to Demon’s Rocks.