Enid Blyton: The Untold Story by Brian Carter

Some time ago I had an email asking if I would give permission for a photo of Elfin Cottage to appear in a new book about Enid Blyton. After checking with Stef who had taken the photo, I replied saying yes, they could use the photo and I’d love to read the book when it was published.

Fast forward to earlier this year and I got another email, this time with a link to download a digital copy of the now-finished book. That book is Enid Blyton: The Untold Story by Brian Carter.

I now also have a physical copy of the book, both that and the digital edition having been given to me free of charge in exchange for a review. As always my review will be completely honest.


What Enid Blyton: The Untold Story is not

Often I start a review, especially of non-fiction books with an overview of what sort of book I am talking about. However, today I will start with what sort of book this is not.

Although the title is accurate, it could be misconstrued if you are used to the sorts of things that are written about Blyton these days. This book is not a salacious account of her life. It does not drag out tired accusations of naked tennis and lesbian affairs. Thanks goodness! There’s more than enough of that nonsense out there.


What The Untold Story actually is

As the title says, this is an untold story. While perhaps many of the bare facts are available out there especially now that so much information is online, I don’t believe that anyone has taken that information, analysed it and turned it into a readable account before.

It’s hard to describe this book in a snappy sentence or two, so here I will quote from Brian Carter’s website:

This new biography of Enid Blyton will open your eyes to little known facts about her professional life that have never been fully revealed before.
You’ll be thrilled when you discover how she used her little known artistic and literary endowments and her amazing photographic memory in her work as a professional storyteller and universal teacher.
More than this, you’ll see that, apart from writing over seven hundred storybooks for children, she was also a naturalist, poet, columnist & feature writer, editor of educational books, universal teacher, prolific songwriter (over 300 songs), professional storyteller,  playwright, artist & illustrator and a passionate gardener.


The contents

The book is nicely divided into chapters, each covering a different area of Blyton’s professional career. Those chapters are:

  • Enid the naturalist
  • Enid the poet
  • Enid the columnist and feature writer
  • Enid the editor
  • Enid the universal teacher
  • Enid the prolific songwriter
  • Enid the professional storyteller
  • Enid the playwright
  • Enid the artist and illustrator
  • Enid the passionate gardener

Those make up part one of the book which is the largest part. Part two then contains several short articles:

  • Why some of Enid Blyton’s stories are not up to standard 
  • A brief history of The Teachers World
  • The Sunny Stories Magazine – A phenomenal success
  • A short history of Darrell Waters Ltd – Enid Blyton’s own company
  • A short history of Enid Blyton’s Literary Estate
  • A short history of The Enid Blyton Trust
  • A brief history of The Enid Blyton’s Magazine
  • A short treatment of clairvoyance
  • Phrenology & physiognomy 

Then at the end are a huge number of appendices taken from the various magazines, books and other publications to which the early chapters refer to. As well as that there are photographs and scans through part one.


Did I learn anything?

I did, actually. So often when you read about Blyton you will read the same thing over and over. Prolific writer… over 700 books… The Famous Five and Secret Seven… controversy… banned from libraries and schools…

Brian Carter has focussed on some of her lesser-known skills. Most of these subjects I had some knowledge on but phrases from his book such as Enid Blyton, artist and illustrator or qualifications in zoology and botany gave me a momentary pause. But of course they are both entirely accurate, if often forgotten facets of Blyton’s life and career.

I was already aware of her work for Teachers World, if not in great detail, and of her magazines, periodical contributions and various non-fiction books, but the way these are all laid out in The Untold Story brings fresh understanding. Although the book is not presented in chronological order there is enough sense of time and progression that I came away with a much better understanding of how her writing career developed.

There are, of course, various things that have had to be assumed or inferred as the full details are not known. On the whole I found The Untold Story to stick to sensible and natural conclusions and is generally clear when a piece of information is an assumption.

For example

As time went by it must have dawned on Enid that writing songs for schools was not as profitable as writing storybooks. It was probably for this reason she took a clear break from writing songs outright to using some of her own poems as the basis for songs.

There are only two real exceptions to this. The first is a strong assertion that Blyton truly believed in fairies – she may have done but there isn’t the evidence there to say for sure.

Another hint she gave of how strong her belief in these folks can be seen in a passage from an article she wrote for The Teachers World… to introduce her new home, Elfin Cottage, to her fans: “…Flowers “belong” to Elfin Cottage. They look at home there – and that confirms me in my secret belief that fairies and elves, brownies and gnomes, have visited the house and left some of their flower-loving, sunshiny personalities behind.”

Indeed, so strong was her belief in fairies that bits and pieces slipped out unexpectedly in unusual places, as shown in the following extracts from her ‘Enid Blyton’s Nature Lessons’ in The Teachers World: …There are ten stamens hidden away, and each has at its tip a bag of pollen – fine golden dust fit for a fairy’s baking powder…

Given that she was writing to and for children in both these Teachers World examples it’s not surprising that she would say she believes in fairies.

The other inference that goes too far for me is the matter of clairvoyance.

This then is evidence to substantiate the theory that the stories written by Enid Blyton could have been the work of some supernatural agent, such as the soul of someone who lived on this earth before. A hypothetical case could be that of a storyteller whose ambition to have her novels, poems and so on published was thwarted when some untoward event cut short her life. Could her soul have come back, like the souls of Charles Dickens and Patience Worth, to get Enid Blyton to fulfil her ambition? Before coming to such a conclusion, let us turn our attention to the second theory to be considered, namely, that the stories could have been culled from the vast storehouse of material locked away in her subconscious mind and put together spontaneously through the process of the Association of Ideas.

Blyton has talked about the cinema screen in her mind, and so we all know that she doesn’t write using what we would think of as a conventional method. I don’t pretend to understand the human mind – it is fabulous and complex and no two minds think or work in the same way, but to jump to the supernatural is a jump too far for me.

This idea is developed through a whole chapter and referred to elsewhere in the book, however at least at the end of the main chapter the least outlandish of the theories is selected as the most likely.


The writing style

I don’t usually comment on the writing style of books specifically but I thought it deserved a mention here.

The subject matter here could become very dry and academic, but Brian Carter ha managed to keep it engaging and interesting. The small suppositions ‘Enid must have…’ and so on help as does the chatty conversational sentences that pepper the chapters amongst the facts.

There’s a touch of the way Enid used to talk to her readers at the end of some chapters about it. You can find an two such examples below:

Five years after her last commission to write nature lessons for The Teachers World, we find her working assiduously on another commission to write a comprehensive nature and gardening course.


Here we are in 1918 – the year that witnessed the end of the First World War (1914 – 1918) – and it was during this year she began working for the first time…


All in all I found this an excellent book. I don’t believe in clairvoyance or anything like it so I admit I read those parts with a bit of a roll to my eyes, but there’s more than enough real facts through the rest of the book to make up for that.

At the moment the only place to get a copy is eBay – the listing can be found here. The price – £20 plus p&p – may seem a little high but this book has been twenty years in the making and is a clear labour of love. It has also been self-published, however the finished product is of excellent quality. It’s a hefty book, nearing 400 pages, and the cover, pages and dustjacket are all of good quality. The pictures are well reproduced as are the 70+ appendices.

I’m very pleased to have this book on my shelf alongside my other Blyton biographies.

 

 

 

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Monday #427

It is now June and finally some sunshine and warmth has arrived!

Enid Blyton: The Untold Story by Brian Carter

and

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

‘So boys are ham-handed, are they?’ said Dick, pretending to be offended. ‘When have I ever broken anything, I’d like to know? I’m as careful as any girl, when I handle crockery!’

Alas for Dick! The glass he was holding suddenly slipped from his hand, fell to the floor, and broke!

Famous last words from Dick in Five Have a Mystery to Solve.

 

 

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

Last time Bill headed into Merthyr Tydfil to have a talk with the local police.


Chapter 9

Bill was soon in his car and on his way to Cardiff. The drive took less time than he had expected it to, and soon he was trying to locate the main police station with what turned out to be an out-of-date map that had been left in the car. Soon he had gotten fed up of driving in circles, parked the car and went into a corner shop to ask directions from the friendly woman behind the counter who was all to happy to tell him he was only five minutes away, but it was best that he walked as she only knew the way on foot.

He was a little puzzled by this, but politely listened to her directions, and by way of thanks bought a few bars of chocolate which he stowed in the glove compartment of the car. He considered just driving anyway, but if it really was only five minutes to the police headquarters it couldn’t hurt to stretch his legs and walk along. As he expected, he arrived having walked a route he could easily have navigated in the car, but at least the woman had got him there. He checked the correct ID was at the forefront of his wallet – nothing worse than announcing yourself as a Chief Inspector and flashing the badge of a constable – and walked through the imposing double doors.

The desk sergeant looked up as Bill approached, looking uninterested until Bill was right in front of him and flashing his badge. The man stood up and saluted hurriedly. “How can I help you, sir?” the sergeant asked as Bill signed his false identity into the visitor’s book.

“Inspector Morgan, I telephoned ahead,” Bill said. The sergeant was treating him with respect now that he knew who he apparently was, but he could see that he wouldn’t get the same awe and reverence as in the little station at Merthyr.

The sergeant phoned through to Inspector Morgan and the inspector came down to the lobby himself. “It’s a pleasure to have you,” Morgan said, shaking Bill’s hand. “Let’s go to my office and we can compare notes.”

Inspector Morgan turned out to be quite a young man, the type Bill supposed might have had some sort of radical idea or great success which had propelled him through the ranks at speed. He exuded confidence that seemed to belie his youth, and a charisma that helped explain his high rank. Bill settled himself into a comfortable chair in the inspector’s well-appointed office and waited politely for the inspector to be seated himself, and to speak first. He might have outranked the other police man (both in his fictitious persona and his real one) but when on another man’s turf it was polite to allow him the pretence of being in charge.

Inspector Morgan settled into his own chair and cleared his throat. “If you are able to fill me in more fully with what you know, then I can see where I can help,” Morgan began carefully, not wanting to give out more then he was being asked for.

Bill had already gone over at least some of the story on the telephone but it was easier to start afresh so he began at the beginning of his story. “So, you only have the children’s note that asserts that anything is going on?” the inspector asked as he finished his tale. “The lake in the cave is peculiar, I’ll grant you, and I’m just as concerned as you about your missing children, but…” he tailed off for a moment, wanting to choose his words carefully as to not cause offence. “Is it possible that they have exaggerated some part of their story?”

Bill smiled grimly. “No, but I can understand why you would want to consider that possibility. I suppose you’ve heard of the discovery of the treasures in that Austrian cave a few years back?

The inspector looked nonplussed at the sudden change of topic, but nodded. “Yes, I remember it was being guarded by an elderly couple who had no idea the war was over.”

“That’s right,” Bill agreed. “It just so happens that the treasure was discovered by the children I’ve just lost. The same children who helped rumble a gun-running operation last summer in Scotland, and a counterfeit money scheme off the coast of Cornwall the year before that. So if they say one of them has been kidnapped, and that a helicopter has been landing atop a Welsh mountain, then it’s the absolute truth.”

Morgan gave a low whistle, “Good heavens. With all respect, sir, I never for one moment expected children to get involved in such things. I had heard rumours of some plucky kids being involved in those cases, but I didn’t know it was the same group. They must have the most horrible luck to keep running across these things!”

Bill barked a sudden laugh. “I never expected such a thing either, and then I ran into the Mannering and Trent children. They could stumble across criminal activity in the middle of a nunnery.”

“So a Welsh mountain is nothing to them then,” Morgan shook his head, laughing a little. “Well, what is it that I can do to help you?”

“If I may, I’d like to look through your intel on the helicopters that have been disappearing in the area,” Bill said. “The Merthyr lot let me look at their files, but I imagine yours are far more comprehensive. I want to know where the helicopter comes from, and you’re wanting to know where it’s going so it seems we might be able to help each other out here.”

“There isn’t a great deal,” Morgan said, shuffling through the files on his desk to find the one on the helicopters. “Ah, here it is,” he said handing over a manila file to Bill. “This is what we have found out so far.”

Bill thanked him and opened the file, idly wondering if this was everything or a carefully selected set of documents for him to look at. Some police forces liked to look like they were fully cooperating while really keeping their cards – or indeed telling files – close to their chests. Yet when he looked through it seemed quite comprehensive. The investigation centred on three or four airstrips who were reporting suspicious behaviour from some of their pilots. Helicopter flight plans which didn’t tally with the time really taken for the flights, helicopters being refuelled after apparently only flying a few miles, helicopters flying off and not returning for hours – or in one or two cases for days – for no apparent reason. Unfortunately several of the pilots involved had already been fired for their refusal to explain the discrepancies, and had disappeared entirely.

Well, it was all very interesting. Bill took out his notepad and after checking with Morgan that it was all right, he started making notes about these airstrips. The Cardiff police had obviously been looking to see if the helicopters which were temporarily going missing were turning up at other airstrips, or if any had been seen landing anywhere unexpected. It was hardly unsurprising. then, that they had not found anything if the helicopters were landing on a mountain top in the middle of nowhere.

After an hour or so Bill finished his meeting with Inspector Morgan. He tucked his notebook on his jacket pocket and stood up. “Well thank you, Inspector, you have been very helpful!”

Inspector Morgan stood too. “Pleased to be of assistance,” he said. “I trust you will keep me informed on your progress?”

“I will,” Bill agreed. “I’ll be in touch, and would you let me know if you come across anything new, especially about the children I’m looking for?”

“Yes, I’ll send word to the boys at the Merthyr station, they’ll be quicker than a telegram,” he agreed. “I hope you find them safe.”

“So do I,” Bill said grimly, thinking of just what he would do to anyone who may have caused them harm.

To be continued…

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May 2021 round up

Last month I predicted that the weather would turn sunny just as we were allowed to meet indoors again. I was wrong. Not only was it not sunny, it rained. And hailstoned. And rained some more. 


What I have read

This has been a bit of a slow month, reading wise. I can’t even think of a good excuse! I’m still 15 books ahead of my target, though, so I can afford a few slow months.

  • The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2) – Dan Brown
  • Around the World in 80 Puzzles – Aleksandra Artymowska
  • Enid Blyton the Untold Story – Brian Carter (review coming soon)
  • What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.3) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Five on a Secret Trail – Reviewed here, here and here.
  • Dilly’s Sacrifice (Dilly’s Story #1) – Rosie Goodwin
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • The Island of Adventure (TV tie in novel) – Hugh Morgan (review coming soon)

And I’m currently reading:

  • Dark Light (Elizabeth Cage #2) – Jodi Taylor
  • Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) – Gail Carriger
  • Confessions of a Curious Bookseller – Elizabeth Green

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • Richard Osmond’s House of Games and the new series of Taskmaster.
  • A whole lot of the Vampire Diaries, I’m on the last season now and trying to decide what I’ll watch next.
  • Bring It On: All Or Nothing – I resumed my re-watch of the Bring It On series with my sister now that we’re allowed in each others’ houses again. This is the third film, with Solange Knowles and Hayden Panettierre. 
  • Olympus Has Fallen and the sequel London Has Fallen

What I have done

  • Despite the rain we’ve managed to visit a few different beaches, and new parks.
  • We’ve started geocaching – looking for little containers hidden in parks, woods, on paths and streets using a GPS app. 
  • Been out for lunch for the first time this year, and out for cake too!
  • Visited the local zoo for the first time this year
  • Visited the Beatrix Potter garden in Birnam, and a 500 year old hollow tree that reminded me of the tree in Hollow Tree House.
  • Completed another jigsaw (apart from the two missing pieces!)
  • Enjoyed the sunshine that finally arrived at the end of the month and have had some al fresco meals – much more comfortably and warmly than the ones we had around Christmas and New Year!
  • And perhaps most importantly I’ve had my first Covid vaccination!

What has your month looked like?

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Monday #426

With June almost upon us we have finally seen some warm weather this weekend – though a haar somewhat spoiled the sunshine in coastal areas, typical!

May round up

and

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

Dinah, Philip’s sister was hoovering the gallery floor and listening to music on her Walkman at the same time.

I think this quite shows about how well modernising Blyton’s books works! This is a quote from the novelisation of the 90s TV series episode, The Island of Adventure. Of course it’s horrendously outdated now and needs to be changed to refer to Spotify and AirPods.

 

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

Last time Bill investigated inside the mountain but had to turn back to the Evans’ farm empty handed.


Chapter 8

The next morning, although Allie had urged him to go the previous evening, Bill took the car and drove to the police station in Merthyr Tydfil. It was further south than the hospital, set in Graham Street, just off the high street where he was able to park the car.

He took a moment in the car to flick through his wallet and pull out the ID card he wanted to show the local plod, to give him a cover for asking the questions he wanted to ask and hopefully making use of the phone in the policeman’s office.

The young constable on desk duty greeted him in a pleasant Welsh voice, and listened intently as Bill explained who he was – a Chief Inspector from the Kent Police – and that he had run into some funny business he’d like a little help with.

“What can we do for you, Chief Inspector Cunningham?” the man asked, looking a little awed. The police station although probably purpose built was at least a hundred years old and beginning to look a little shabby. He wondered how often anyone above the rank of inspector visited them here.

“Well, I’m looking for information on any helicopters in the area. Who owns them, and so on,” he said pleasantly.

The young constables eyes were like saucers as he listened to the story. He cleared his throat and shuffled some papers, ” We don’t strictly keep records on helicopters, you understand, but I can help you with who might have access to helicopters, sir?”

Not strictly keeping records was an interesting way to phrase it, Bill thought. That meant they did have some sort of records, even if they weren’t typical ones. “Anything you can tell me would be helpful,” he responded.

“I believe that Constable Jones knows more than I do,” the constable said, reaching for the telephone on his desk.

As Bill waited for Jones to be summoned he noted from the half filled in paperwork on the desk that the constable’s name was Evans. Idly he wondered if he was a relative of Mr and Mrs Evans. He doubted it, though. Evans was probably a common Welsh name and Mrs Evans would surely have told him if she knew someone working in the station.

Evans spoke into the telephone in Welsh at first and then, perhaps realising that might seem rude, he switched to English. “I have an Inspector Cunningham from the Kent Constabulary,” he said. “He’s asking about helicopters in the area…” He looked up at Bill. “Constable Jones will be with you in just a moment.”

Constable Jones appeared swiftly and shook Bill’s hand. “If you’d like to follow me, sir, we can speak in private.”

“Thank you, Jones, much appreciated,” Bill said, accepting his invitation through to the rear of the station. He and Jones ended up in a small, cluttered office that obviously provided desk space for half a dozen constables. Uniform jackets with shiny buttons were draped over the backs of chairs to signify ownership – however temporary – and stacks of paperwork threatened to spill from several surfaces.

Jones grabbed a jacket off one chair and offered it to Bill, then sat in another chair himself. “I’m sorry about the facilities,” he said, hurriedly tidying his bit of desk. “Normally Inspector Griffiths would see you, in his office, but he’s off on holiday and…” he trailed off, perhaps realising he oughtn’t to say any more.

“It’s not a problem,” Bill assured him. “Now, what do you know about helicopters in the areas, specifically, any that are involved in what you might call funny business.”

“Well, it’s funny you should ask,” Jones said. “We had an inspector from Cardiff asking questions about airstrips and helicopters not too long ago, apparently they’ve got some big investigation going on.”

“Really,” Bill said, pleasantly surprised. Well, that was helpful. If the police were already looking at strange goings-on with helicopters then the information he needed may just be a telephone call away.

Jones opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted as two other constables entered the room, talking in Welsh. Bill knew but a few basic words in Welsh but even he could tell that the conversation was lewd.

Jones snapped something at them in Welsh and they paused to look at him with open curiosity. “Who’s this, then?” one of them asked, or at least that’s what Bill assumed he was saying.

He stood up. “Chief Inspector Cunningham of the Kent Constabulary. I hope I’m not in your way here?”

“No, not at all,” they stammered, looking so much like deer in the headlights that Bill had to suppress a laugh.

“Go eat your lunch somewhere else,” Jones said to them, jerking his head meaningfully at the door, and they fled.

“Sorry, sir,” Jones stammered, as he went to the ancient filing cabinet to retrieve the information they has gathered for the Cardiff police.

“We kept copies of everything we sent to Cardiff,” he said. Bill took the file with thanks and leafed through it. There was a list of airstrips, airports and helipads operating within a 50 mile radius; much of which overlapped with Cardiff anyway as it was only 25 miles away, a map with the airstrips marked, lists of names and addresses. The file was in a mixture of Welsh and English which hampered him slightly, but Jones was happy to translate. “Those are the details of the inspector we passed all this on to,” he said. “Would you like me to see if I can get him on the telephone for you?”

“That would be extremely helpful Jones, thank you,” Bill nodded, scanning the file, trying to take in as much information as possible. He wondered if the constable would object if he made some notes. He would ask shortly. If the inspector in Cardiff allowed him access to the police files there, he might not need to take notes now and the bigger police station would indeed be able to make him copies, whereas the small station here lacked the man power to do so.

He sat, looking through the file as Jones dialled through to the Cardiff constabulary and asked to be put through to Inspector Morgan.

It didn’t take too long before he was handed the receiver, and Jones excused himself to give Bill privacy. Bill had a really very interesting talk with Inspector Morgan, all about helicopters which disappeared off all all hours, with nobody knowing where they went or why. Bill also gave a brief summary of what he had discovered from Jack’s note and his own explorations.

“If it’s not an inconvenience,” Morgan said when he was done, “might I ask you to come down to Cardiff? I can have a car sent for you, sir.”

“No need, I have my own,” Bill said. “I can be with you in, say, an hour if that suits?” He was glad that he had opted for the Chief Inspector ID, he thought as he put the receiver down. It put him just enough above Inspector Morgan that information could flow the way he wanted it to. Of course, he would help them all he could, but he preferred having the upper hand. Jones hadn’t returned yet so he placed a call of his own, to his headquarters. He wanted to appraise them of his situation as he knew he might need their help later, whether that be man power, a helicopter, or a presence to lean on the Cardiff police. He spoke with Bennett who said he’d pass the information on, and they’d be on standby to offer assistance when needed. He also inquired after Anatoly, wondering if he would want to join him for what could end up being a rescue mission, but Bennett told him that Petrov was out in the field and wouldn’t be back for some time.

To be continued…

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Five on a Secret Trail part 3

Yet again a Famous Five review has run to three parts – and that’s without dedicating a whole post to one character! Here you’ll finally find the comments and nitpicks.


Some general comments

I’ve decided that this one isn’t a nitpick, more of an observation, but I have questions about Timmy’s collar.

Firstly, is it really SO funny that everyone in Kirrin seems to stop and stare and make jokes?

Secondly, it don’t look like I would imagine it to in the illustrations. I thought the collars for dogs (and cats) were generally a sort of cone shape (just put cone collar into Google images to see what I mean). I imagine Aunt Fanny didn’t have a big enough piece of cardboard but the illustrations seems to show a very small cardboard circle sticking straight out which I’m not at all sure would keep Timmy’s long legs away from his ear.

In fact he often looks like a saint whose halo has slipped!

There isn’t very much George-as-a-boy content this time around.

  • Interestingly the twins don’t fall for George being a boy. They both refer to them as girls and although George is irritated with them it’s because they’re denying just having seen each other and not because of the use of girls.
  • George doesn’t make a fuss when the boys make fun of Timmy. George could never bear to look small in front of Julian and Dick. She prided herself on being just like a boy – and she was suddenly certain that her two cousins would think she was “just like a girl” if they heard of the fuss she had made about people laughing a Timmy’s collar.”
  • Julian suggests taking the girls home and he and Dick would stay to investigate. “Anne might go, but George wouldn’t,” said Dick. “You know what old George is – good as any boy, and as full of courage as any boy, too.”

And now for all the rest. Some of these are slightly nit-picky but really they’re just observations, not plot holes or other ‘mistakes’.

    • This is set in August – the previous book was summer, but George says she hasn’t seen Julian and Dick these hols, so it must be a year later than Five Have Plenty of Fun.
    • Chapter one is headed George is rather difficult – I instantly thought isn’t she always
    • George ‘runs away’ to get away from people laughing at Timmy. She tries to run away, just her and Timmy, in Five Run Away Together but Julian catches her and insists they all go, and in Five on Kirrin Island Again she sets off alone to check on Timmy on her island (not quite running away, but similar).
    • Anyway, if she had been patient enough to wait just one day Anne would have arrived and been able to go off with her  (there’s also no real reason for sneaking off – I’m sure her mother would have let her go camping anyway!)
    • For those who criticize the overuse of queer in the books I spotted at least six uses of crazy by page 70 – all between the girls and the twins.
    • Anne goes for night time drink without a torch and gets lost, you’d think she should know better. Also relevant is the illustration shows her fully dressed – did they always sleep in their clothes while camping?
  • Also related is the fact George only brought one mug. That’s why they have to go refill it all the time, including in the night so it’s a bit of a plot point. The one mug gets mentioned rather a lot – it means they all sit by the spring to eat so they can drink, though the mug gets replaced by the pineapple tin later as it holds more!
    • Regarding the night-time flit to the cottage – this is due to them having a non waterproof tent – so a pretty useless tent, then. They leave their bags behind but collect them for pillows once the rain stops, surely they’d be pretty wet?
    • I like how George insists that the people seen at a distance in the night must be up to no good, as why else would they be on the common? Of course it’s not possible that it could be grown-up campers who have a non-waterproof tent.
    • Random capitals – the girls play the Alphabet game with Animals.
    • Julian shows more of his suspicious side after Mystery Moor, he suspects the mad boy and one-eyed dog will raid their camp for food.
    • They go a bit FFO-ish with the footprint they find, as Dick sketches it. “You’re quite a detective, Dick,” said Anne, admiringly, and he laughed. “Oh, anyone can copy foot-prints!” he said. “The thing is to match them up with the owner!” Unfortunately they don’t make use of the sketch other than handing it to the police, but as they’ve trapped the men in the underground passage it’s not really useful.
    • Both George and Anne sleep through the boys discussing whether or not to take the girls home.
    • Anne is the Bets of the story when the others have to explain why the ‘country woman’ is not a real country woman. Our description of her makes her seem country-ish enough, but after they reveal she had gold fillings, dyed hair and soft white hands. Anne even adds that her accent changes. I get irrationally annoyed at this bit as I take people at face-value too, especially when only given half the information!

    • Like Jack in The Castle of Adventure they sleep in a hollow gorse bush. It’s even harder to believe – Jack and Kiki wrapped in a rug, maybe, but two girls and a dog, then four children and a dog? No chance.
    • Guy rides George’s bike back only using one foot, I’m struggling to picture how that works as surely the second pedal would just whack the injured foot unless he could somehow hold it out of the way? I can’t even ride a bike, so it’s really not my area of expertise!
    • Quentin barely features but I love how he opens the door in a temper only to backtrack quickly when he realises it is the inspector.
    • Half past 8 is almost afternoon, according to Dick
    • Lastly, I just have to comment on the cover. I’ve never really paid that much attention to it before. I now realise it shows the Five near the end of the book after they’ve trapped the men underground. I can tell this as Julian has the rope wound around his waist! Blyton mentions ropes around the waist quite a lot but I can’t recall seeing it illustrated before. Somehow I always pictured it under the clothes, but over would probably be more comfortable.

And finally, the real nitpicks.

Bear in mind I’ve already mentioned Dick’s magic hanky, the exceptionally fast police response and the dog/injured boy climbing issues.

  • A stone has been lifted in the stables but no others. As we see them back another night there are other stones of similar size so why not lift them all instead of giving up and coming back later?
  • They say there were no slabs of the right size at the Roman camp, but they lifted some anyway, ahead of the ones that were the right size at the cottage.
  • Timmy is somehow unable to find a person who is up a tree, surely he would be able to smell them and would paw at the trunk indicating to Julian that someone was up there?
  • It’s not a nitpick that they give up very quickly and plan to return to Kirrin to call the police, but it is very un-Fiveish behaviour. What is a bit of a nitpick is that they’re all convinced that Guy has been taken away somewhere, gotten out of the way, and yet they a) stop for breakfast as ten minutes won’t hurt and b) after spying a slab that might fit spend quite some time lifting it, then decide to explore underground despite having no conviction that they’ll find Guy there.
  • Julian thinks that having had some first aid training he can tell just by looking/feeling if Guy’s ankle is broken. When I went over my ankle (at 35 weeks pregnant, no less) I had xrays done and even then they weren’t sure at first!
  • The police say they get all three men but there’s no mention of the woman, Jess. Earlier she stayed in the Roman camp and watched out, was she there this time and just too well hidden? If so, why didn’t she get another rope to help the men out again? If she wasn’t there are the police just that disinterested in arresting her?

Final thoughts?

Do I still feel that this ranks as 18th place? Well, I haven’t read all the books yet on this re-read but yes, I still think this would rank quite lowly.

First, the Guy/Harry thing is overdone. Too many meetings where the same things are said, then the explanation is given by Harry, repeated by the others, then several times after that they repeat how surprised they were that it was twins and not just one boy! OK, we get it!

The enemies are a bit lacking – the Five are never in any danger and never go up against them. The lights/wailing sounds are also a bit silly. The whole idea that Paul has both hidden the blueprints underground in a hard to reach place, but is also so ill that he can’t write a clear map baffles me – given Quentin’s reaction at the end it seems as if the plans went missing fairly recently too. It does say that he half-died escaping with the blueprints but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense.

There are some good moments but overall its one of the weaker books.

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Monday #425

We have had another rainy week – but May is nearly over, and hopefully June will give us some sunshine!

Five on a Secret Trail part 3

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 8

“Are we coming near the Secret Forest? Are we near Killimooin? Blow, I’ve lost it again on the map. I had it a minute ago.”

“Your hand’s over it, silly! Move it, Jack—yes, there, look! Killimooin. We’re coming to the mountains!”

In the pre-Google maps days navigating could easily be hindered by misplaced hands, as shown in The Secret of Killimooin.

 

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

Last time Bill and David headed off into the valleys to collect the children, but only found Dapple.


Chapter 7

The things that concerned him in the note were that Philip had been marched off by force, as well as the fact they had seen a helicopter apparently land on the top of the mountain. Why would there be a helicopter in these mountains? It didn’t make sense.

He forced himself to slow down and read the letter for a third time, though it did not yield any more useful information, other than physical descriptions of the two men. Ape-like and hawk-faced. Well, that was something to go on.

He turned to David who was watching him anxiously, and told him what had happened in a few simple words. “Those wolves you saw were Alsatian dogs,” he added.

David looked confused. “Wolves, yes,” he said after a minute and bared his teeth and growled as if to prove to Bill they had been scary.

“Not wolves, dogs,” Bill said half-heartedly, not really interested in arguing the point. He was looking at the mountain that Jack had described in his note. The mountain which Philip had entered under duress, the rest of the children had apparently followed him into, and upon which a helicopter had landed. He was glad he had brought his revolver along after all.

“First things first,” he muttered to himself. “See what’s in that mountain.”

David seemed to understand his intentions and pulled on his arm, “No, no! Bad place!”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he replied. “The children, or at least, Philip, is in there. I need to go and take a look so I know what I’m dealing with. I’m not asking you to come.”

David looked a little concerned. “I stay, donkeys?” he asked, clearly very afraid.

“Yes. You stay with the donkeys,” Bill said. Normally he would welcome back-up but he didn’t think David would be of much help in this situation. He left his rucksack with David, tucking his gun into the back of his trousers and keeping a torch in his hand. He walked slowly from the clearing they were in, picking out the easiest route towards the sheer rocky bottom of the mountain.

“I don’t suppose saying open sesame will work,” he said to himself as he stood looking up at the mountain from deep in its shadow.

Jack had given the best description he could, but one sheer rocky wall looked very much like another sheer rocky wall, and Bill spend quite a time scrambling around the mountainside looking for some sort of cave or hole into which two men, one boy, one young goat and ten large dogs could vanish.

He found the secret quite by accident when his foot slipped on a loose rock. He reached out to grab some of the tangled creepers and brambles that trailed down the rocks just there, and they swung out as he applied his weight. He righted himself and looked at the vines he held in his hand, giving them an experimental tug. The whole lot moved. He found the far edge and pulled that away from the rocks to reveal a tall crack in the rock. “Oh-ho,” he said quietly to himself.

Taking out his pocket torch he edged into the tunnel that had been revealed. He wondered how far into the mountain this went and how far the children may have made it before either being caught or being forced to stop. He went slowly, wishing he didn’t have to use his torch as that was a sure way for him to get discovered very quickly.

The light reflecting off the body of water that almost filled the cave warned him to stop before he fell in. Not sensing anyone else in the vicinity he flashed his torch around quickly, and then more slowly. The cave seemed to have no top, the roof so high his torch couldn’t pick it out. He turned his attention to the walls, examining them for any holes, levers, buttons, niches, anything that would reveal a way out, and found nothing. Round he went again, and a third time, starting to feel as if he was in some sort of queer dream. At last he had to admit defeat. The walls were solid, there was no way through or up them. He shone his torch up again. Perhaps a rope or platform was lowered down from above to let people in. Or perhaps the men had simply hidden Philip in this cave until dark, and had smuggled him out in the night. If the other children had gone looking for Philip, had they found this cave? If so, where were they? And if not, the same question applied – where on earth were they?

He had a lot of questions and not a single answer.

Dejected and annoyed by his lack of success, Bill headed back to David. He directed the man to head back down the mountain. He mounted his own donkey and followed, all the time formulating a plan.

Allie, bless her, she had so much faith in him. When the donkeys carried them into the farmyard just three days after they’d left, she rushed out, all smiles, obviously expecting to see the four children accompanying he and David. He felt an ache in his heart, as well as a deep shame, as her face fell.

“Allie…” he began, dismounting his donkey clumsily in his haste.

“Bill, where are they? What’s happened?” Allie asked, trying to keep the resentment out of her voice.

“Let’s go inside and we can sit down,” he said.

“I don’t want to go and sit down, I want you to tell me why you’ve come back without the children,” she said, only the slightest wobble in her voice.

“It’s going to be all right,” he said first, and then, he told her everything he knew. The note from Jack, and his exploration of the mountain cave.

Allie was trying not to flap but she expressed her panic to Bill when he had finished his story. “But how are you going to rescue them Bill?” she said, worriedly. “Are you going to call in your friends?”

“I’m going to find out what I can about that helicopter,” he told her, holding her good hand in his. “I can’t find my way into the mountain from the bottom… but maybe I can get in from the top.”

To be continued…

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Five on a Secret Trail part 2

The first part of this review covered my confusion over Harry/Guy, and that will probably continue as I cannot get it into my head which one’s kidnapped and which one isn’t.


Going deeper underground

I have said before that I find it hard to make accurate mental images when it comes to islands/caves/tunnels and so on. I also find it hard to remember where events occur when it comes to underground adventures and get confused easily.

For Secret Trail I remembered that they found an entrance to the tunnels by the spring, that there was a very narrow tunnel behind where they find the bag, and that Guy (I had to stop and think if I meant Guy or not, but I did) is found at the bottom of the big hole in the Roman camp.

I got 2/3 right, Guy is found someway along a tunnel after the big hole and before a rock fall.

I forgot; the Five taking the wrong tunnel even after realising Paul has left arrows, Julian thinking a tunnel is a dead end having not looked for the arrow that points up; them climbing up using niches in the tunnel wall and the rock fall that Guy is behind.

I have some questions about the practicalities of this all so I’ll address those now instead of having a lengthy(ier) nitpick section.

  • It’s said that Timmy was the most difficult of all to heave through. George gets boosted up by Julian but also climbs using the ledges, and gets one more push to hoist herself through the hole, so it seems like it would be very difficult to lift a heavy dog like Timmy above their heads and then for whoever was above to haul him through.
  • George puts her torch between her teeth to climb but then calls to Julian that one more boost and I’ll be through. She doesn’t even drop the torch!
  • I wonder how Guy climbed a rope with a badly sprained ankle which he can barely walk on. I can’t climb a rope to save my lift but don’t you need to use your feet to hold on and push yourself up?
  • This time Timmy and Jet get tied in the boys’ shirts as makeshift harnesses which is actually quite smart – they could have done this the other times there are questions about how on earth they got Timmy up/down into a cave/tunnel etc.


All’s well that ends well

Of course they all escape the underground passages – with the bag of loot – and make their way back to the safety of Kirrin.

Aunt Fanny is supremely unconcerned about their adventure – she’s too busy fussing over Guy’s ankle.

“Mother, you don’t seem at all interested in our adventure,” complained George.

“Oh, I am, dear,” said her mother. “But you do have such a lot, you know.”

The police, though, are much more interested and arrive at warp speed. Seriously – Julian goes to telephone and comes out to ask if he should phone the doctor. He goes in, George and her mother have the dialogue above plus about two other sentences and before George could do more than begin the inspector is at the front door!

On that subject, do inspectors normally race over for reports of funny business coming from children? I know the Kirrins generally get a lot of respect from the police but that seems overkill when a couple of constables normally attend for thefts and kidnappings!

Anyway, the inspector takes their story, discovers the blueprints hidden in the bottom of the bag, and then hears about the men which the Five have neatly trapped in the Roman camp (maybe they should have led with that, instead of wasting time and giving the men time where they could have escaped?) and everything is resolved nicely.


The food

George didn’t pack very well for her camping trip – all she has is a loaf of bread, some tins and dog biscuits. Thankfully Anne brought more and they eat ham sandwiches with bites of tomatoes (I suppose as Aunt Fanny made dozens and dozens of sandwiches she didn’t put tomatoes on in case they went soggy).

When Julian and Dick arrive at half-past twelve they say they haven’t eaten since 6am (bit poor of Aunt Fanny not to feed them when they stopped by!), but it could be worse. They had been in France and they didn’t like the food! It’s said that Dick came out in spots and Julian was sick, but it’s not clear if that was due to the food or the heat.

Their first meal together is ham sandwiches with mustard, eaten with ripe red tomatoes and lettuce hearts from a damp cloth. This a good way to stop Timmy eating them as he hates mustard (incidentally the quiz book So you think you know Enid Blyton’s Famous Five? has an incorrect question about this – it asks which of the Five doesn’t like mustard and fails to give Timmy as a possible answer, they say it’s Julian! I think this is because Dick says You can’t bear mustard can you? Ju, where’s the meat we brought for Tim? He’s talking to Timmy in the first sentence though!)

Later nobody is hungry for supper so they just have cake, biscuits and juice

One of their teas is fruit cake, shortbread biscuits and canned pine-apple on bread. I like tinned pine-apple, but as a sandwich? They dilute the pineapple juice in the tin with spring water to drink.

When the ham’s almost finished there are still a few tomatoes and plenty of cake. Julian opens the last tin of sardines to make sandwiches for he and Dick on their late-night watch – that left me hoping the enemy wouldn’t sniff them out!

The girls look forward to returning to Kirrin for the bathing etc but also for Joan’s marvellous cooking. Sausages and mash – and tomatoes with it (George) and Fried plaice fresh from the sea with Joan’s best chipped potatoes (Anne).

Their triumphant final meal is Home-made veal-and-ham-pie! Stuffed tomatoes! And what a salad – what’s in it, Joan? Radishes, cucumber, carrot, beetroot, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, peas – Joan, you’re a marvel. Yet without even a paragraph break the next words are What is the pudding?


The Famous Five

The Five are rarely referred to as The Famous Five in the books (its interesting as Famous isn’t in any of the book titles either!) but they use the moniker three times in this one.

  • We shan’t be the Five – The Famous Five – if they [Julian and Dick] don’t come (George)
  • Quite Famous Five-ish, in fact (Julian)
  • The Famous Five are off again, and who knows what will happen! (Julian)


Next time: the comments and (more) nitpicks

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Monday #424

The hail seems to have stopped now, as the temperature has finally risen to a more acceptable 8 or 10 degrees most days. It hasn’t stopped raining, but then this is Scotland! From today we can meet people indoors and – even better – we don’t have to socially distance from family and friends indoors. It will almost feel like normal life again!

Five on a Secret Trail part 2

and

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

“Please don’t disturb me, I’m reading.”

– Guy, or is it Harry? I’ve already forgotten.

In Five on a Secret Trail Guy and Harry get annoyed with the girls, and then also the boys for ‘bothering’ them at various times. I can get behind this one, though, nobody wants to be interrupted in the middle of a good book!

The illustration below doesn’t actually show the scene in the quote, this is earlier in the book before the boys arrive. But it shows Guy-or-Harry reading, so it will do!

 

 

 

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

Last time David made his excuses as to why he abandoned the children in the Welsh valleys, and needless to say Bill and Allie were not impressed.


Chapter 6

Bill went to David and Effans and told them of his plan to take David and the donkeys back up the mountain to find the children, and when David had eventually agreed, Bill went upstairs to re-pack his rucksack. As he went through his suitcase his hand touched his service revolver and he wondered if he should take it with him. The children were known to get into scrapes and maybe his weapon would be handy, there was also the man David claimed to have seen which had sent him scurrying down the mountain without the children.

In the end he decided to take it, if he did and didn’t use it then there was no problem. If he didn’t take it and they ran into bother, then he’d regret not having the back-up of the small metal object. He would just be careful to pack it so that Allie didn’t see it. If she knew he was taking a gun it would only worry her unnecessarily. He wouldn’t need much else; Mrs Evans would pack the donkeys’ panniers with food, Effans was supplying another tent, so all he needed was a couple of spare items of clothing and his toothbrush, really.

“How long do you think you might be gone?” Allie asked anxiously when he came down into their sitting room after packing. “How long do you think it will take you to find the children?”

“Well,” Bill said thoughtfully. “It took David a little over a day to get back here, so I expect it will take us a bit longer to get back, maybe two full days as we won’t be fleeing from danger and will want to stop properly overnight to rest. Then we’ll help the children pack up, and start back. So I’d say about four or five days, give or take.”

“I wish I could come with you,” Allie sighed. “This silly hand, why did it have to happen now?”

“Just bad luck,” he said. “There’s no use worrying, Allie. They’ll be camping out in the valleys, they’ve got plenty of food and they know that I’ll be coming to get them. In fact I expect they’ll be disappointed to have their trip cut short like this, but it can’t be helped. Once your hand’s recovered then we can all go for a trip later, we’ve got plenty of holiday left, still.”

Allie sighed and crossed her arms and winced at the pain in her hand. “I wouldn’t worry so much if they weren’t so prone to falling into trouble!”

“Still, it doesn’t do anyone any good to worry too much. Just sit back and enjoy the peace for a few days – you’ll soon be wishing them lost again!”

With the donkeys rested overnight and the map placed carefully in Bill’s rucksack, he and David set off after a hearty breakfast. There wasn’t much conversation to be had with David as he spoke very little English, but now and again Bill would enquire about something amongst the trees and hills and David would try to answer. They made camp that evening, David seemed to indicate that they weren’t too far from where he thought he’d left the children, but there was no point in carrying on in the gathering dark. With the high mountains shading them from the setting sun it grew dark earlier than it otherwise would.

A few hours before they stopped they had left the path they should have taken to the Valley of Butterflies. Bill, following the map, had wanted to carry on, but David had insisted that they hadn’t gone that way. He had tried to explain about the clouds, and at last Bill had come to understand that a fog had come across the valley and caused them to lose their way.

Bill’s heart had sank a little at the realisation that there had been a fog, that meant the children might not be so easy to find after all. He really wished he hadn’t have played the gallant boyfriend to Allie, but had stuck to the original plan and gone with the children. At least then he would know where they were.

Once they had eaten, Bill took out their map and began to mark down the way they had come, to track their way home, and to see how far off route David had brought the children.

David had been reasonably easy-going on the ride back, it had seemed to Bill. He was ashamed of his foolishness at running away, and clearly wished to make amends, and yet the next morning as the headed off again David suddenly seemed reticent. He tried to give Bill directions, pointing with his arms as if Bill was to go collect the children alone, but Bill wasn’t having it.

“Look, if you’re scared of someone, or something, then you’re best sticking with me, see,” he said slowly so that David could take in his meaning. “You don’t want to be out here alone, surely, if something untoward comes along!”

David thought for a moment and obviously decided that Bill was right as his donkey’s nose practically brushed the tail of Bill’s donkey for the rest of their ride.

Keeping his eyes peeled for any signs of life, Bill tried to ignore David riding so close behind him. Idly he wondered if he would soon have Kiki flying towards him, he really would have been overjoyed to have Kiki flutter down and screech in his ear. He’d even have been glad to be subjected to her express-engine-in-a-tunnel squawk.

But it wasn’t Kiki that they found, it was Dapple. The donkey was wading in some shallow water, tied to a long bit of rope. Bill pulled his donkey up and dismounted, leaving David to keep an eye on it. If the missing donkey was here then the children couldn’t be far off.

Dapple was pleased to see Bill and came over, nuzzling at him as if looking for a treat. “I haven’t got anything for you,” Bill said, patting her head. “Now, where are the children?” he asked Dapple. “I don’t suppose you can tell me.”

Then he spotted the piece of paper wedged in Dapple’s harness and plucked it out. He smiled, glad the children were considerate enough to consider that if they’d gone for a walk that he might turn up and worry. His smile soon faded, however, as a few key words jumped out at him.

He turned away from Dapple who returned to nibbling at the long grass that grew along the banks of the stream and sat on a rock to read the note properly.

The story continues in chapter 7

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Five on a Secret Trail

This is one of my lesser favourites, in fact it comes in at 18/21 in my ranking of the series. This is the first time I’ve read it since I wrote that list, so it will be interesting to see if I’d still rank it so lowly once I’m finished.


A story in many parts

Due to the fact that the Five take quite a while to come together, you could divide this into quite a few parts.

  • Just George and Timmy
  • Anne joins George and they discover some odd goings on
  • The boys join them and more strange things happen
  • Guy goes missing – and everything hots up

The building blocks of the Five

The Five are, well, the Five, and I always prefer it when they are together. At least two books suffer from a lack of key members, in my opinion, such as when George is kidnapped in Five Fall Into Adventure and Five Have Plenty of Fun. However there are times when it adds to the book, such as when George has an adventure of her own in Five Go Off to Camp. 

It’s rare, though for books to start without the Five coming together quickly – obviously Five on a Treasure Island they have to meet for the first time, and Five Have a Wonderful Time has Julian, Dick and Anne for a short time before George and Timmy join them, plus a few have the boys travelling to meet the girls in chapter one.

Secret Trail has the longest period between page one and the Five being together, as far as I can see. It begins with just George and Timmy, then Anne joins them on page 19, but the boys (who have been in France) don’t show up until page 69!


More characters = more excitement

Timmy has a mishap with some barbed wire just before the book starts so George’s time as the main character is mostly about her fussing over him and being furious that people are laughing at his carboard collar. She decides to run away – not far, though, just to Kirrin Common.

Anne arrives the next day and heads to the common too, and they have a dull (by George’s standards) time at first. The only interest is a completely mad boy who is friendly one minute and then cross the next, appearing and reappearing in different places and denying all knowledge of past conversations. More about him, later.

Things are suddenly not dull when they seek shelter from the rain in an old cottage one night, and the first of the strange happenings, well, happen. More about that, also later.

Then the boys show up and things escalate – stone slabs lifted for no obvious reason, wailing noises in the night, strange lights. It sounds like the plot of a Scooby Doo episode, so it’s clear someone’s trying to scare them off. Then there’s the watcher on the hills with the field glasses, the faux country woman, the gang searching the cottage in the dead of night… and the boy who is hysterically claiming that Guy is gone… so it takes the full might of the Five together to sort it all out.


The conundrum of the mad boy

George and Anne meet the boy at the cottage, and find him to be a bit of an annoying joker. He makes a load of (apparently convincing) animal noises and ties a ribbon to Timmy’s tail. But he also tells them not to visit the Roman camp he’s camping in, as he doesn’t like being bothered.

Later that day the boy* appears at the girls’ camp, and when they call him out for bothering them when they’re banned from his camp he denies all knowledge.

The next day go to the dig site and the boy is annoyed that they’ve broken their promise about leaving him alone.

On their way back to camp they stumble across the boy* reading under a tree and he denies having seen them at the dig camp.

The next time they see the boy he acknowledges their agreement not to bother each other, but when they see the boy* at the pool just a few minutes later he says they’re barmy as usual.

After the storm the boy (and his dog) visit the cottage to check they’re OK, but soon after the boy* comes to their camp and denies already having seen them that morning.

Once the Five are together they find the boy* reading, and he denies having been with the dog in the morning. Then at the Roman dig, a few minutes later, they find the boy again. There are also two shelves of small finds, one of which the boy insists they don’t touch. He does, however, introduce himself as Guy Lawdler.

They see the boy* later in the day and he says his name is not Guy, but when they see the boy at the pool after that, he says he is Guy.

They next see the boy* at a distance and he ignores them. Then finally, they find the boy* at his camp and discover the truth.

“Twins! Why on earth didn’t we think of that before?” – Julian

Why indeed, Julian? Did they really have completely identical clothing on? Wasn’t it a clue that they appeared some distance apart within minutes without appearing out of breath? Haven’t you met any identical twins before?

I’m being harsh but it’s pretty silly. It’s all carefully orchestrated, yet implausible. It relies on the fact they’ve fallen out and won’t acknowledge each others’ existence, them looking completely identical in every last way, the girls/the Five never seeing one up close and one in the distance, the fact that unlike in any other book none of them introduce themselves.

(Spoiler – * denotes all the interactions with Harry rather than Guy, as far as I can work out!)


Since when did Enid Blyton write horror stories?

I don’t think there is any scarier moment in an Enid Blyton book. There are plenty of tense moments – the tide coming into the underground passages at Demon’s Rocks, or into the mines in The Island of Adventure, Tiger Dan waving his gun around in Five Go Off to Camp, or other similar scenes, but this one is by far the scariest.

It’s not far off the sort of scenes you might see in a horror movie – though of course the people would turn out to be monsters or axe murders, not petty criminals intent on finding some blueprints.

I can just picture the lightening flashing and the two or three figures in the distance showing up clearly. Then, another flash, and a face is looking in the window. Truly creepy!


And on that scary note, I’m going to end the review for now. Next time I will look at the last six chapters where the more serious adventuring happens, plus there will be all the usual nitpicks, a look at the food they eat and George’s I’m as good as a boy moments etc.

Five on a Secret Trail part 2

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Monday #423

It has rained pretty much every day the past week, and it’s due to keep on raining for another few days. In fact it has hailstoned on more than one occasion, I think the weather gods have forgotten that it’s MAY and not January. Bring on better weather and the ability to meet people indoors (May 17 here).

Five on a Secret Trail

and

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

Newly published last month but only now available to buy, Enid Blyton: The Untold Story is a new look at Enid Blyton’s teaching and writing career. The name suggests salacious rumour along the naked tennis lines, but the content delivers well-researched information about Enid Blyton’s less well-known works. It focusses primarily on her educational output including plays, poems, teaching syllabi, nature and gardening books, though it touches on her novels too.

It’s not cheap at £25 but it is a substantial book with various photographs and good-quality reproductions of many magazine pages etc in the appendices. I’m going to review it soon if you’d like to know more before you buy.

 

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

Last time Bill and Allie made a trip to the hospital to check on her hand, and David returned with the donkeys but no children…

(As a side note, it is in this chapter we first mention Sam, the Black paratrooper. Much of the language used to describe him in the book isn’t acceptable today and so I have tried my best to make sensitive updates without losing anything of the original story. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.)


Chapter 5

David turned to her, eyes wide, and stuttered over his words, his broken English and Welsh merging together. Mr Evans had to step in to explain, “David says that there were wolves on the mountain, so he took the donkeys free and came back down the trail.”

Everyone began talking at once, or rather shouting. Mrs Evans let loose a torrent of furious Welsh, making David cower. He tried to back behind one of the donkeys, but the donkey neatly sidestepped and left him without cover. Perhaps it was clever enough to know it didn’t want to attract the ire of the farmer’s wife. A cloud of flour rose in the air from Mrs Evans’ hand as she smacked David first on one arm and then on the other, still haranguing him. Suddenly the musical Welsh language didn’t sound so friendly and welcoming.

Mr Evans took his wife’s arm and carefully pulled her away, murmuring soothingly to her. He then spoke to David in Welsh before turning to Bill and Allie. “There have been no wolves in Wales for hundreds of years, he is mistaken, look you.”

“Wolves! Yes, wolves, howls in the night!” David insisted, nodding while keeping an eye on Mrs Evans and her floury hands. “And a face! In the tree!”

“It was probably one of the children in the tree, whateffer, playing a game,” Mrs Evans said scornfully.

“No,” David said firmly. “Black face.”

Mr Evans asked him something in Welsh, which David answered. “Yes, he says the face was a black one, very dark.”

Bill sighed deeply. “I suppose that he has never met a Black man, has he,” he said to Mr Evans.

Mr Evans shook his head emphatically. “No, nor have I, I have travelled to towns as much as fifty miles away, and I have never seen even one. Nor-”

Bill cut him off with an impatient gesture. “Never mind that. Likely some poor bloke has come here on his holidays with a couple of dogs, climbed a tree, and David’s made an utter fool of himself running back here.”

“Never mind about any of that,” Allie cut in. “What has happened to the children? Are they hurt, why aren’t they with you?” Bill put a hand on her good arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“Now you listen to me,” he said sternly to David. “We entrusted you to guide four children on a nice trip to see some butterflies. And less than a week later you come rushing back pell-mell with a load of unladen donkeys, and a cock and bull story about wolves. If you’ve let those children come to harm, so help me…”

“They wouldn’t come,” babbled David in Welsh as Mr Evans translated. “He told them to mount the donkeys… but the donkeys came without them.”

Mr Evans looked uncomfortable but rallied, “They should still be where David left them, we can head back up and collect them.”

“David, you’ve lost a donkey too, you left with seven and now there’s only six,” Mrs Evans accused, her arms folded. David looked at her warily and then counted the donkeys himself and said something in Welsh.

“He isn’t sure if Dapple followed him,” Mr Evans translated. “She might be back with the children, or she got lost somewhere on the way back. The children have all the tents and food and things, though, so that’s something.”

“That’s something at least,” Bill muttered as Allie looked ready to burst. Philip and Dinah certainly got their tempers from their mother, no mistake. “Best get the donkeys and David fed, and then, I will accompany him back up the mountain for the children!”

David looked startled at the idea that he would have to go back, but then nodded resignedly. He said something to Mr Evans. “He managed the ride back in little more than a day, but he doesn’t recommend it. It will probably take two or perhaps three days to get to where the children are.” What he didn’t add was that he wasn’t sure David would be able to lead Bill straight to them, they had gotten a bit lost as it was, and then he had returned at such a speed.

“Let’s rest the donkeys, as they will need to do the return journey,” Bill said firmly. “I will return with David on the donkeys to make sure we find the children.”

“I shall start preparing more food,” Mrs Evans declared as Mr Evans and David led the donkeys towards the paddock where the two spare donkeys were. “You’ll need some for your journey, indeed to gootness, and the children will need plenty to eat when they get back after their fright!”

Allie just stood where she had stopped and looked aghast at Bill as the others went off. “Allie?” Bill said gently. “Darling, come inside and sit down, let me sort it out.”

“I wish I had insisted on you going with them,” she said with a sigh.

“I couldn’t have gone, you needed me to take you to the hospital,” Bill said firmly. “We weren’t to know that this would happen. The children will have behaved sensibly I’m sure. Jack and Philip will look after the girls and Lucy-Ann will make sure they’re fed, and Dinah will be telling Philip to stop adopting animals,” Bill joked lamely, trying to lighten the mood.

“I just don’t like the thought of them out there alone – again! What if one of them falls and injures themselves?”

“Then at least two of them will come down for help! They’re not daft, Allie!”

“They’ve only got one donkey between them,” she reminded him. “Or maybe not even one, David’s not sure if Dapple is even with them.”

“Maybe Kiki will fly down with a message like a carrier pigeon?” Bill said with a smile. He put his hands on Allie’s shoulders pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’ll go and look for them as soon as the donkeys are ready. I’ll go and find them. I promise I will bring them back in one piece.”

Bill spoke with absolute confidence – but if only he knew what was in store for him.

The story continues in chapter 6

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April 2021 round up

“April showers bring May flowers,” is a well-known saying, but what do April and May showers bring, I wonder? I’m looking forward to May 17 when we can finally meet other people indoors again, but it’ll probably be gloriously sunny by then just to spite us!


What I have read

  • Highland Fling (Mirabelle Bevan Mystery #8) – Sara Sheridan
  • Five Go Parenting – Bruno Vincent (reviewed here)
  • The Organised Time Technique – Gemma Bray
  • Long Way Home (Unseen Trilogy #3) – Jeffrey J Mariotte 
  • Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) – Jim Butcher
  • Return to Kirrin – Neil and Suzy Howlett (reviewed here)
  • Revolting Rhymes – Roald Dahl
  • Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl – Anne Digby (reviewed here)
  • Another Time, Another Place (Chronicles of St Mary’s #12) – Jodi Taylor
  • Every Tool’s a Hammer – Adam Savage
  • White Silence (Elizabeth Cage #1) – Jodi Taylor
  • Angel’s and Demons (Robert Langdon #1) – Dan Brown
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • Medical Care in Dundee: A History in Old Photographs – Dr Graham Lowe
  • Scottish Hospitals – Dr Graham Lowe

And I’m currently reading:

  • Enid Blyton the Untold Story – Brian Carter
  • Dilly’s Sacrifice (Dilly’s Story #1) – Rosie Goodwin
  • Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse – David Mitchell
  • The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon #2) – Dan Brown

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, as usual.
  • Richard Osmond’s House of Games and the new series of Taskmaster.
  • The last few episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, several series of my re-watch of The Vampire Diaries plus a couple of episodes of The Crown.

What I have done

  • Finally finished the Winnie-The-Pooh jigsaw I was working on last month.
  • Did an Easter-egg hunt in the garden and had a picnic
  • Went to the Botanic Gardens and did their Easter rock hunt 
  • Plenty of walks and visits to play parks, Brodie got a balance bike for his Easter so we’ve been encouraging him to wear his helmet and ride it.
  • Went to the beach a few times, though it was pretty cold on at least one occasion
  • Made a “quarry” in the garden for Brodie (it needs more stones!) and planted some vegetables in a clear tub so we can see them grow.
  • We’ve even managed some picnics including a birthday one for my niece
  • Visited a country park which had crazy golf, a tractor ride, pedal carts, sledge run, fairy trail and other fun things to do
  • Returned to work after another four months off

 

 

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Monday #422

Well, it’s May now. This time last year we were a couple of months into a lockdown that we didn’t realise would last as long as it has, but at least now it looks like we are on the way out again.

April round up

and

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

I’ve already used Demon’s Rocks as the location of the week in the past but this week I’m going to have the Demon’s Rocks lighthouse specifically – that’s not cheating at all.

The lighthouse is owned by Professor Hayling, bought for him to do his scientific experiments in in peace (he didn’t bargain for the noise of the seagulls though). It was available to buy as it was no longer in use as a lighthouse due to a bigger one being built in a better spot just along the coast. The lamp at the top of a tight spiral staircase is an old oil one, and an 1896 bell used to hang on the verandah, struck by a hammer mechanism.

What’s more is that the builders of the lighthouse used a natural shaft for its foundations, and that shaft just happened to be the entrance to the undersea tunnels.

Below – a crazy golf lighthouse I saw recently and immediately thought of Demon’s Rocks.

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

Last time Allie injured her hand and Bill took her to the hospital.


Chapter 4

The next day, the four children were packed off with the donkeys and David while Bill and Allie waving from the farm gate. When they were out of sight, Bill put his arm around Allie’s shoulders and hugged her close, minding her hurt hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Absolutely fine,” she said firmly. “Remember what I said about no fussing?”

Pulling his arm away, while laughing, Bill said, “You did. So I should be mean to you, then?”

“There’s no need to go quite that far! You could just treat me as you normally do, rather than as some sort of invalid.”

“Yes Ma’am!” Bill says saluting and turning to lean on the gate.

Allie leant carefully on the gate too, using her good arm, and looking along the path that the children had disappeared down a few minutes ago. “They will be all right with David, won’t they?”

“Of course they will. Come on, let’s get you inside so you can start relaxing and enjoying the peace.”

The day passed quietly, Bill and Allie wandered around the farm, holding hands and talking. They had lunch and then just sat in the sunshine reading their books. Bill’s arm was resting over the back of Allie’s chair, a sign of affection that he hadn’t been able to show around the children.

“This is nice,” Allie commented after a long and comfortable silence, broken only by the bleating of the goats on the hillside nearby and the turning of their pages.

“Very nice indeed,” Bill agreed with a nod. “I could do with stretching my legs shortly however. What do you say?”

“You’re not very good at relaxing, are you Bill? You always need to be doing something or going somewhere,” Allie said, putting her book down. It was quite bothersome trying to read with only one hand to hold the book and turn the pages.

“I’m not,” Bill admitted. “I haven’t ever had anyone who could persuade me to relax and stay still long enough, Allie. I’m trying to learn!” he added with a fond smile at her.

“Well, maybe I can teach you, but I won’t hold my breath,” she said. “You’ve had far too long to pick up bad habits already.”

“Am I that bad?” Bill laughed.

“You’re quite bad,” she said, struggling to keep a straight face herself.

Bill grinned at her, as he lit his pipe. As he waved out the match he winked at her, “Well, you chose to come on holiday with me!”

“Yes, you’ve got me there,” she agreed, unable to think of any sort of argument against that logic. She changed the subject after another comfortable silence. “You don’t mind that we’re keeping things quiet from the children?” They had already discussed this briefly, but she wanted to check that his feelings hadn’t changed since spending so much time with the children this past week.

“No, I don’t mind,” Bill said honestly. “Are you having second thoughts?”

“No, I’m not ready for them to know. It puts too much pressure on us to make it work, I think. I don’t like being dishonest with them, though,” she admitted.

“We aren’t being dishonest,” Bill said knowledgeably. “Being dishonest would be denying anything was happening if they asked us.”

“We’re not being entirely honest either, though, are we?”

“Well no,” Bill agreed. “But we aren’t being entirely dishonest.”

Three days after her accident Bill took Allie back down to the hospital for her check-up. Thankfully they saw a different doctor, and Allie took care to introduce Bill as a ‘dear friend’ to avoid any misunderstandings. On their way back they stopped to enjoy the picnic Mrs Evans had packed them.

“It looks like there’s enough to feed ten of us,” Allie remarked as Bill unpacked the large hamper.

“Where are four hungry children when you need them?” laughed Bill as he put down the sandwiches and reached for some drinks.

“Off having a wonderful time, hopefully,” Allie replied. “There’s probably only just enough food here for them, mind you. They eat such a lot, especially the boys! I can barely keep up during the holidays.”

“Growing boys do eat a lot,” Bill agreed, remembering that Anatoly used to shovel food down in the work canteen when his father would bring him in during the school holidays.

“It seems that it doesn’t always stop when they are grown up,” she said, laughing as she watched Bill take an enormous bite of a thick cheese and tomato sandwich.

He grinned as he chewed, swallowed and said innocently, “It isn’t my fault I have a big bite!”

“Does that make your bite worse than your bark?”

Bill laughed loudly, “Maybe! You’d have to ask my work mates!”

“I didn’t know they were allowed to speak of things like that, I thought they’d be sworn to silence on all work-related matters. Not that I really ever see any of your colleagues! They do like to keep to themselves,” she said, thinking of the few occasions she had seen any of Bill’s fellow agents. They had always stayed in their car or had dragged Bill away for a private word after the briefest of acknowledgements to her. The only one she’d said more than two words to was the boy, Anatoly, and even he was tight-lipped.

“They aren’t really,” agreed Bill. “It seemed like a fairly normal thing to say! The boys would have just laughed.”

“Drat,” she murmured. “There goes my hopes of finding out all your secrets.”

“My boys wouldn’t tell you anyway,” Bill teased. “They think I’m the bees knees!”

Allie gave a somewhat unladylike snort and then covered her face with her good hand in embarrassment. “Is that because you’ve ordered them to think that?”

“Oh yes, my brain washing techniques are world class,” Bill laughed.

They say back to relax and eat, taking their time. Bill drove them back a couple of hours later, with Allie dosing in the front seat.

They enjoyed another peaceful few days before a sudden arrival threw everything into chaos. It was just after lunch, Allie had gone upstairs to lie down for a short while, when the sound of hooves clattered into the farm-yard. At first she thought of horses, but then heard the braying of donkeys.

‘That can’t be the children back already,’ she thought to herself, and glanced out of the hall window as she made her way to the stairs. She could see David, dismounting from his donkey, and five others gathering around him, sides heaving from their brisk trotting, Mrs Evans and Bill moving to intercept him. She held her arm in its sling tighter to herself as she hurried downstairs and burst out the front door, into the clamouring noise of Mrs Evans, Bill, and the donkeys all shouting at once.

“Where are the children?” she demanded.

The story continues in chapter 5

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The Naughtiest Girl continued: Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl

As my library will hopefully be reopening again soon I thought I really should read a few more of the 15 or so books I’ve had out for over a year. I’m getting deja vu over that statement so I’m sure I must have said this the last time I reviewed done of these books, or on some other post at least.

I have at least already read, reviewed and returned The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret, The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend and The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day so that when we reopen other people can borrow them and enjoy their dubious plots and characterisations. And after Well Done, The Naughtiest Girl I only have to subject myself to two more!


The best one yet?

Now that may not sound like a great honour as I’ve been pretty scathing in my reviews of the previous three books, but I did give this three stars while the others have had either one (Saves the Day) or two (Keeps a Secret and Helps a Friend).

I can’t praise it whole-heartedly as it’s nowhere near on par with the originals but it does a much better job both plot-wise and character-wise.


The storylines

There are three storylines in the book which are woven together with mixed success.

First, after the play Elizabeth starred in in the last book her place in the form has dropped and she is terrified she won’t be able to move up to the second form next term.

Secondly, she has also let her piano practice slide and Mr Lewis is not happy with her. There is to be a special concert at the end of term and Elizabeth wants to be picked to play, but she must practice very hard to have a chance.

And thirdly, Elizabeth discovers an old oak tree growing just outside the school walls is to be cut down and she wants to save it.

All these stories fit together. The first two involve Arabella who is competing with Elizabeth for form place, and also to perform in the concert. When an exam paper is stolen shortly before the exams suspicion falls on Elizabeth but she’s not the only one struggling to do well. The last storyline is also involved as the only reason Elizabeth finds the tree is she is looking for a quiet place to study.

Unfortunately, as with all the Anne Digby books, there’s a bit too much going on. The third storyline in particular feels rather crammed in and is resolved all in a rush at the end of the book. Even Elizabeth’s passion for the tree and its inhabitants is rushed – with one or two tales of her feeding squirrels and so on thrown in later in the book.


Too much yet also too little

Where these books fail is hard to pinpoint. On one hand I’ve said there’s too much going on, yet at the same time it often feels as if there’s not enough!

It’s a short book – 154 pages, small paperback pages with large text, and three storylines complete for space. There’s not much time, if any, for other elements such as meals, games, tricks or insights into any of the other children. There are only two school meetings described, the first having very little said at it. The only other element of note is William and Rita are to leave at the end of term and Julian carves them a bear each out of a bit of oak.

What we do get is Elizabeth experiencing events, with a commentary to go along with, then Elizabeth going off to reflect at some length over what has just happened (as well as other characters doing this), so it’s as if we see several things twice over.

For example, after discovering that Arabella is an excellent piano player and wants to play at the concert just to spite Elizabeth, Elizabeth spends three whole pages thinking about this – that’s almost 2% of the book. It’s even split into strange headings –

Envy. That Arabella could play the piano so well…
Realisation. Now she knew why Mr Lewis had chuckled to himself about Arabella…
Scorn. How could Arabella be so unkind about Mr Lewis?…

Everything also happens at a startling pace. This is not a new term, it’s right after the summer play of the previous book so we are thrown into the final three or four weeks of the term. That means Elizabeth has only two or three piano lessons before the concert, and only a few weeks to move from third bottom to nearer the top of the form, whereas Blyton’s school books generally took place over at least a whole term and weeks could pass between incidents. Even Mr Lewis deliberately leaves the choosing of the performers until the last minute – if he didn’t, they’d have been decided before this story began!

As a side note it seems laughable that none of the teachers mentioned exams or anything until this point in the school year, nor noted that Elizabeth had been so busy with the play that she had all but abandoned her studies and music practice. In fact Whyteleaf fails Elizabeth quite a bit as at no point does Miss Ranger discuss her plummet to the bottom of the form, offer her any advice or even notice that Elizabeth is in a panic about moving into the second form.

 


Silly things

One thing that struck me as silly was suddenly having a special performer at the leavers’ concert – a total MacGuffin if I ever read one – serving only to create a pointless competition between Elizabeth and Arabella. The reasoning is weak (though continues the vaguery of how progression through a boarding school works) as Mr Lewis says that last year only two or three boys and girls were old enough to leave, but this year there’s a whole batch.

Secondly, when the headmistresses discover that Elizabeth is up a tree protesting it’s immediate cutting down their reaction is to tell her to stay up there so they can sort it out! They’re very lucky that due to a paperwork problem the tree is not cut down in the end, but they couldn’t possibly have known that before-hand.


So over-all that wasn’t a very positive review, but honestly, this book was better than the others. Elizabeth mostly behaved in an Elizabeth-ish way despite all the navel-gazing

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Monday #421

We’ve had a week of mostly lovely weather, so I’ve been making the most of it before I return to work this week.

The Naughtiest Girl continued: Well Done, the Naughtiest Girl!

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 4

Then, to his unutterable horror, one of the suits of armour walked off its pedestal, held up a stiff and clanking arm, at the end of which shone a wicked-looking revolver, and said:

“The game’s up, Scar-Neck. We’ve got you all!”

The voice sounded hollow. Scar-Neck and the others stared in the utmost dismay, and then looked round at other suits of armour, which were also coming alive! It seemed like a bad dream—but a dream that had too many revolvers in it!

In a scene from The Castle of Adventure that wouldn’t be too out of place in a horror movie, Scar-Neck and his colleagues are seemingly set upon by a small army of medieval knights.

bill in castle of adventure

 

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