Locked down library displays week 4 and 5

A bit late but here are what I did in weeks 4 and 5. In case you missed them here are weeks one, two and three.

Day #22

Call the Midwife

Four books written by Jennifer Worth (three about her days as an East End midwife, and one about her career after that when she moved onto palliative care), a book of correspondence received by her, two books about the TV series and the  official board game.

Day #23

That’s Not My…

Some of Brodie’s That’s Not My… books. He has more but I didn’t have the props to go with any of them.

Brodie had to be asked very nicely to lend me his truck for all of thirty seconds to snap a photo.

Day #24

What I’m (or was) currently reading

A lack of ideas on day 24 meant I just threw my currently reading pile on the table! The two at the back are Jane Eyre and Five on a Hike Together.

Day #25


The bonus of working from home means I can use unorthodox props like small children. Here Brodie is doing a brilliant job of posing as a cheerful Georgie from It. He was very patient in getting dressed up, held the string like he was asked and said cheese half a dozen times for me too.

Day #26

An alliterative arrangement

I think this one’s fairly self explanatory.

From back left:

  • Diamonds and Daggers (Marsh Road Mysteries #1)- Elen Caldecott
  • Wings Over Witchend (Lone Pine #9) – Malcolm Saville
  • A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) – George R R Martin
  • Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #6) – Charlaine Harris
  • The Goddess Guide – Gisele Scanlon
  • Dinosaur Discovery (Adventure Island #7) – Helen Moss
  • Anastasia at This Address (Anastasia Krupnik #8) – Lois Lowry
  • The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events #12) – Lemony Snicket
  • Bad Blood (Being Human #3) – James Goss
  • Brighton Belle (Mirabelle Bevan #1) – Sara Sheridan
  • Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) – Charlaine Harris
  • British Bulldog (Mirabelle Bevan #4) – Sara Sheridan
  • The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events #11) – Lemony Snicket

Day #27

The Zoo

This one has interactive sounds, and it’s a bit dangerous as none of the animals are held securely!

At the back you can see Our Zoo by June Mottershead, the true story of Chester Zoo, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and The Zoo Book by Enid Blyton. In the middle are ABC Zoo by Rod Campbell and Usborne Peep Inside the Zoo, then at the front are a couple of noisy button zoo books.

Day #28

The cover was green…

Also self-explanatory!

Standing books from back left:

  • The Enchanted Wood – Enid Blyton (but not my shelf copy, a spare…)
  • The Story of My Life – Helen Keller
  • Mr Pink Whistle’s Party – Enid Blyton (A Boot’s lending library copy.)
  • The Secret Island – Enid Blyton
  • The Green Story Book – Enid Blyton
  • Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
  • The Ladybird Book of the People Next Door – Jason Hazely
  • The Children at Green Meadows – Enid Blyton
  • The Mystery of the Dinosaur Discovery – Helen Moss
  • The Mystery of the Phantom Lights – Helen Moss
  • Five Lose Dad in the Garden Centre – Bruno Vincent
  • Five Go on a Strategy Away Day – Bruno Vincent
  • Five Go Gluten Free – Bruno Vincent
  • Horseradish – Lemony Snicket
  • The End – Lemony Snicket
  • The Austere Academy – Lemony Snicket
  • Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children – Gillian Philip
  • The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket
  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Books lying flat from back left:

  • Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
  • Pea’s Book of Holidays – Susie Day
  • The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne
  • Mystery Mine – Malcolm Saville
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce
  • Wicked – Gregory Maguire
  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage – Enid Blyton
  • The Door in the Tree – William Corlett
  • Come to the Circus! – Enid Blyton
  • The Wonderful Carpet and other stories – Enid Blyton
  • The Tale of Benjamin Bunny – Beatrix Potter
  • That’s Not My Meercat – Fiona Watt
  • Baby’s First Colours
  • That’s Not My Dinosaur – Fiona Watt
  • Spot’s First Shapes – Eric Hill

Day #29

TV guides

When I get into a TV show I like nothing better than reading all about behind-the-scenes stuff. You can get plenty of that online but you know it’s accurate when it’s come from an official book with glossy photographs.

Day #30

Read your feelings

I had to perhaps widen the definition of ‘feelings’ to those beyond happy and sad etc, as long as you could more or less say “I feel…” I used it!

Happier feelings on the left:

  • Merry Mr Meddle – Enid Blyton
  • Lucky – Alice Sebold
  • Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Roald Dahl
  • Happy Day Stories – Enid Blyton
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl
  • Jolly Little Jumbo – Enid Blyton

A somewhat neutral one in the middle – The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton, and the less happy feelings on the right:

  • The Miserable Mill – Lemony Snicket
  • Desperation – Stephen King
  • The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket
  • The Vile Village – Lemony Snicket
  • Misery – Stephen King
  • The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
  • The Hostile Hospital – Lemony Snicket

Day #31

Read the book, watch the film (children’s edition)

All books I have read and films I have seen!

From back left:

  • The Railway Children – E Nesbit, adapted for film in 1970 and 2000, the latter starring Jemima Rooper.
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce, also a 1999 film
  • Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie. Made into a Disney film in 1953, but also used for the basis of Hook (1993) Peter Pan (2003), Finding Neverland (2004), Peter and Wendy (2015), and Pan (2015) amongst others.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) – J.K. Rowling. The whole series has been filmed, of course.
  • Treasure Island – R.L. Stevenson. Disney’s first fully live-action film, made in 1950, but also a 1990 film starring Charleton Heston, and let’s not forget Muppet Treasure Island from 1994.
  • The BFG – Roald Dahl. First an animated film in 1989 there is also a live action/CGI version from 2016.
  • Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl. Turned into a stop-motion film in 2009 with voice actors including George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Owen Wilson.
  • Swiss Family Robinson – Johann David Wyss – One of my favourite films, starring John Mills in 1960.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne. Winnie-the-Pooh is a Disney film from 2011, but there are many films based on Pooh and his friends.
  • A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted for film in 1995.
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl. A very well-known film from 1996 starring Danny De Vito, Mara Wilson and Pam Ferris.
  • The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. Made into a single film along with books 2 and 3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events series in 2004 with Jim Carrey as Count Olaf.
  • The Princess Bride – William Goldman. A bit of a cult classic film from 1987.
  • What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge. This was made into a TV movie in 1999 with Michael Cera.

How many have you read AND seen?

Day #32

The Color Purple

The title comes from The Color Purple by Alice Walker which does not feature as I don’t have it (nor have I read it).

From the back left (as always):

  • Grave Secret – Charlaine Harris
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
  • The Carniverous Carnival – Lemony Snicket
  • The Witch of Exmoor – Margaret Drabble
  • The Secret Airfield Game – Stephen Thraves
  • Last Scene Alive – Charlaine Harris
  • Russian Roulette – Sara Sheridan
  • The Wide Window – Lemony Snicket
  • Dazzling Diggers – Tony Mitton
  • Fox’s Socks – Julia Donaldson
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
  • Feminism – Deborah Cameron
  • Wizard and Glass – Stephen King
  • The Gods of War – Conn Iggulden
  • Home Improvement Undead Edition – Charlaine Harris and Tony L.P. Kelner
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl
  • When Did You See Her Last? – Lemony Snicket
  • That’s Not My Bear – Fiona Watt
  • Cars – Heath McKenzie
  • That’s Not My Teddy – Fiona Watt

Day #33


These are all Brodie’s books, though he’s not particularly into dinosaurs yet (he has plenty of time for that…) as he’s too busy with vehicles.

Day #34


Various books about or featuring teddies including Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear which is a continuation of the Enchanted Wood series written by Elise Allen, and The Teddy Bear’s Party by Enid Blyton with illustrations by Eileen Soper.

Day #35

Read the book, watch the TV series (children’s edition)

A little repetition from the film display as some have been adapted for more than one medium.

From the back left (back row has matching DVDs in front)

  • The Animals of Farthing Wood – Colin Dann, an animated series from 1992-1995.
  • The Borrowers (Omnibus) – Mary Norton, a 1992 series with Ian Holm as Pod.
  • Five on a Treasure Island – Enid Blyton. The 21 books had two TV series, the 1970s one which is the DVD in front, and a 1990s series which I love but don’t have.
  • The Secret of Killimooin – Enid Blyton. The 5 Secret books were turned into a TV series in the 90s.
  • The Island of Adventure – Enid Blyton. 7 of the 8 books got TV episodes in the 90s, and Castle had its own 8 part adaptation in the 80s with Susan George.
  • The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. The Netflix Original TV adaptation covered all 13 books in the series with Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.
  • The Steps Up the Chimney – William Corlett. The four books of The Magician’s House series were made into a tv series in 1999 with Stephen Fry and Jennifer Saunders voicing talking animals.
  • First Term at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton, finally, finally! adapted as a CBBC series just this year.
  • Noddy Goes to Toyland – Enid Blyton. Noddy has had half a dozen or more TV adaptations which I’ve listed in my Enid Blyton TV and film guide.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne. As well as having films Winnie-the-Pooh has had many TV features too.


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Fan fic Friday: Conquering the Castle, A St Andrews Story, chapter 2

Read chapter one here.

Chapter 2

And so they found themselves at the castle entrance, paying their sixpences to the woman inside the wooden hut. Julian insisted on handing over a shilling for himself and Sally, and Anatoly then insisted on paying for Darrell too. David’s face brightened. “At least being alone has saved me sixpence!”

Julian roared with laughter and banged David on the back. “That’s the spirit. Every cloud has a silver lining!”

“Does that mean you weren’t planning to buy me a guide book?” Sally asked teasingly, indicating the neat pile of little booklets decorated with a line drawing of the castle resting on the window-ledge of the hut.

“No, not at all,” Julian said quickly, picking one up.

“That’ll be tuppence, then,” the woman said and Julian handed over the money.

“What about the rest of us?” David asked.

“You lot can buy your own!” Julian snorted.

“I am sure that Sally will enlighten us with the highlights,” Anatoly said. “Unless… dorogoy? Do you want one of your own?”

“No, it’s fine,” Darrell assured him. “As you say, Sally will tell us everything we need to know.”

“And probably a lot more besides,” David joked, leading the way across the wooden bridge that crossed the dry moat.

“Did you know, this wasn’t the original entrance,” Sally said, nose already buried in her guide book. “It used to be through the foretower, to our right. It was moved here in the late 1500s.”

“She’s started already,” Darrell said with a fond smile.

“What are these rooms?” Julian asked, indicating the open arches to their left and right.

“Well, if you weren’t standing in my light…” Sally pointed out teasingly. It was dim in the short corridor they had entered, and even darker in the rooms on either side.

Julian stepped to the side, taking his shadow with him and Sally squinted at the guide-book again. “Guard chambers,” she said, running a finger down the page.

“What is this deep hole?” Anatoly called from the room to her left.

“There’s one in here, too!” David shouted from the right hand room.

“Can’t you read the signs?” Sally asked with a sigh, though she couldn’t keep up the false irritation and ended up laughing.

“They’re boys. They don’t do reading the signs,” Darrell laughed. She joined Anatoly and pointed to the hand-lettered sign which told them that the deep hole was a failed start to a counter-mine.

“I thought Sally would like to be our guide,” Anatoly said with great dignity before peering down the hole again. The lighting in the room was poor and so he drew a slender pen torch from his pocket and shone it down. It showed him a hole, only a few feet wide, roughly circular and extending down six or so feet.

“You brought a torch?” Darrell asked as Julian and Sally joined them in the small space.

“I thought it might come in handy. I hear there is a not-so-secret secret passage.”

“Did anyone bring rope?” David asked from the doorway.

“Not today,” Julian laughed. “But maybe I should have, what with our propensity to get into trouble.”

They all trooped across the hall and into the other guard chamber which had an almost identical hole dug in the floor. Anatoly shone his torch down it for good measure.

“So what is the deal with these failed counter-mines?” he asked Sally as the torch-light glinted on a few pennies and foreign coins dropped by visitors.

“Well,” Sally held her guide-book close to the wall lamp. “In 1546 and 1547 the castle was under siege.” She skimmed the information as best she could, and summarised it, knowing none of them wanted to know the entire history. “Cardinal Beaton had been murdered and his assassins had taken over the castle. Regent Arran led his troops to recapture the castle and they began digging a mine to get in under the foretower. Those in the castle could see the entrance less than a hundred feet away but they didn’t know where exactly it was going to come out. So they started digging a counter-mine… well, counter-mines of course. Obviously they realised these two weren’t going to work and so they dug a third, round the other side of the foretower and that one was successful.”

“So they dug a mine to meet up with the other mine?” Darrell queried. “Why? Why not just wait for them to pop up and capture them then?”

“I am not sure they would have been able to ‘pop up’,” Anatoly said. “It would all have been flagstones and cobbles inside, even the courtyard. But they could have used gunpowder and caused a great deal of damage, possibly killing many people inside the castle, then entered during the chaos.”

“Yes, it says here they hoped to undermine the foretower,” Sally added.

“Come on, let’s get out into the daylight before you strain your eyes,” Julian said.

The water at the bottom of the well in the centre of the courtyard shimmered as Anatoly shone his torch down it, and five heads peered down.

“Pity there’s a barrier,” David said to Julian. “You like a journey down a well, don’t you, Ju?”

“Only if I think there’s something worth going down for,” Julian replied. “I know there’s lots of coins down there but I doubt they’ll add up to much. Not worth my time.”

“Plus you didn’t bring your rope,” David added.

“That as well,” Julian laughed. “It ruins the line of my winter coat.”

Darrell headed to the steps leading to a platform above the entrance, while David and Anatoly wandered to the back left of the castle. Sally ambled slowly after them, eyes flicking back and forth over the detailed history in the guide-book.

“The castle was originally built at the turn of the 13th century, by Bishop Roger,” Sally read out, “though not much of that early castle still stands. It suffered significant damage during the Wars of Independence with England. It had to be substantially rebuilt by Bishop Walter Trail between 1385 and 1401. More building works were carried out in the early 16th century due to a rise in religious tensions. Archbishop James Beaton built new gun towers to strengthen the castle’s defences…” Sally looked around.

The boys wandered as she talked, politely staying within earshot, however so that Sally didn’t feel like she was talking to herself.

“I think that used to be a gun tower,” she pointed to the right side of the entrance. “The other’s long gone.” She carried on through Cardinal Beaton’s time at the castle, ending in his assassination, and the siege that was responsible for the mine and counter-mine. She paused and bit her lip. “I’m not boring you all, am I?” she asked.

“No, not at all,” they chorused.

“It should be a rule, I think, that if you come to an old place like this then you have to learn something,” Julian said. “And what better way to learn than to listen to an expert on the subject.”

Sally flushed. “I could hardly call myself an expert. I just did a little bit of reading about the castle, that’s all.” She cleared her throat as she gazed into his eyes. “So, er, after that, Archbishop John Hamilton repaired the badly damaged castle in the late 1500s, giving it a new entrance front, but his tenure was brought to an early end, because he opposed the Reformation. He was eventually hanged, for his involvement in the murder of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scot’s second husband.” Sally pulled a face. She did enjoy history but she wished there hadn’t always been so much violence and death. So many lives had been wasted, it seemed, many of them due to religious disagreements.

“This bit will interest you, Ju,” she said more brightly. “Archbishop Hamilton was an active partisan of Mary Queen of Scots, and she was rumoured to have sent some documents to him for safe keeping, as well as a casket of treasures.”

“Treasures?” Julian said, his ears certainly perking up.

“I thought that would get your attention,” Sally said fondly. “Yes, but we don’t know what kind because it went missing. That’s if it was even sent in the first place. There are so many rumours and theories about Mary. Her son James, who became James the Sixth of Scotland and the First of England, was rumoured to really have been fathered by her private secretary David Rizzio, a rumour which was only made more believable by the fact that Darnley murdered Rizzio before James was born.”

Anatoly peered over Sally’s shoulder. “None of that is in this book, is it?” he asked.
Sally flushed. “Just the rumour of a missing treasure. The rest I just happened to read recently.”

“Anyway, St Andrews Castle was left without a resident or a purpose when bishops were abolished in 1592. It fell rapidly into ruin,” she finished. “It’s sad, really. Some of the stone was used to repair the harbour and pier, and the rest was just left.”

“Yes, it’s a shame,” Julian said distractedly as he looked around. “Imagine if it had been looked after, and was still standing today to explore.”

“It would probably be owned by some rich person who would never let anyone in,” Anatoly, always the realist, said.

“And then we wouldn’t be able to visit,” David added. “Oi, Ju. What are you looking for?”

“Oh, nothing… Just wondering. If the treasure had made it to St Andrews, what happened to it after that?”

“I doubt we will ever know,” David laughed. “I mean, it was four hundred years ago. I don’t think we’re going to suddenly find it under a loose brick.”

“You never know,” Julian said. “I’ve found supposedly lost treasures before just like that! Are there any cellars, or dungeons, Sally?”

“Well, there are some prison rooms back there,” Sally pointed out. “The upper floors were destroyed during the siege when French gunners…” she paused, and then haltingly read out “schote doune all the battelyne and caiphouse of the seytoure, and the hoyle ruffe of the chalmeris upone the partis of the sey.”

“They what?” Julian laughed, taking the booklet. He and David looked at it, Anatoly peering between their heads. “Shot down all the battlements?” Julian started.

“All the battlements,” David agreed. “And the… not sure what a caiphouse is, of the sea-tower.”

They looked at Anatoly who looked back blankly. “I have no idea. This is like a whole other language.”

“I suppose it is,” Sally said. “Fifteenth century Scots. At least it’s not in Gaelic!”

“And the whole roof of the… chalermis upon the parting of the sea,” Julian finished.

“Sounds almost biblical,” David laughed, and gratefully took the opportunity to duck through a doorway at the back of the castle towards the prison rooms, he hadn’t like to do so while Sally was talking.

“Another well?” he asked the others as he peered down another opening, this one inside what had clearly once been a tower.

“Bottle dungeon,” Julian corrected him, reading the sign.

They all looked down, the light of Anatoly’s torch barely reaching the bottom of the dank space.

David shuddered. “How absolutely grim.”

“It looks pretty deep,” Anatoly commented. “I should imagine that many prisoners died from being thrown in.”

“I think I’d rather die than be stuck down there,” Julian muttered.

“It’s twenty-four feet deep,” Sally said helpfully, consulting her guidebook again. “And fifteen feet across the bottom. No, Ju,” she shook her head vigorously. “I don’t really want to look. There’s a picture here, that’s enough.”

Darrell, when she joined them, also chose not to look. “You missed a lot of the history of the castle,” Anatoly informed her quietly.

“Oh, what a shame,” she whispered back, a teasing glint in her eye. She wouldn’t have minded listening to Sally, but as she had climbed the uneven, twisting stairs she had gotten distracted imagining high walls around her, flickering torchlight and tapestries on the wall. She had even entertained the idea of writing a story about the castle inhabitants while she had been up there, gazing out to sea.

They had a look at what was left of the kitchens, and the cellars below, and looked out the sea-gate where boats would have brought in supplies.

“There was originally a lot more to the castle,” Sally told them as they looked out to sea, the cathedral and pier visible around the coast to their right. The tide was high, and the waves sent up so much spray that they felt some of it reach them, high above the water as they were.

“This would have been part of the great hall,” she indicated where they stood. “The East Range was much larger and there was a huge circular south east blockhouse too.” She waved her free arm as if sketching in the missing buildings.

Julian smiled at her enthusiasm, her eyes positively shone as she put together the information she knew with what she could see around her.

The others looked around, trying to imagine the castle extending out across what was now the castle sands beach. “What happened? Did it fall into the sea?” Julian queried.

Sally nodded, the wind catching the few strands of hair that escaped her woollen hat and tossing them around. “In 1801. A bad storm eroded the cliff and a lot of the castle was lost. More and more was lost, actually, until they built a sea wall in 1886.”

They all stared at the beach below them, trying to imagine what that would have been like, and Darrell took a half-step back from the edge as a particularly large wave hit the beach. Anatoly reached out and rested a comforting hand on the small of her back.

“Shall we move on?” he asked.

“What’s next?” David consulted Sally.

“Well, there’s the old chapel, but not much of that stands.” She paused as she took in their faces. “Then there’s the mine and counter-mine.” Her friends’ expressions told her which they would rather do. “The mine it is, then!”

To be continued…

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May 2020 Round Up

This covers week 5-9 of the lockdown (or weeks 6-10 if, like us, you had a week of isolation on top!).

What I have read

14 books this month, making it 73 for the year! If I read a lot in June I could be almost at 100 by halfway through the year!

  • Oz Into the Wild – Christopher Golden
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Official Grimoire – A.M. Robinson
  • Hope for the Best (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #10) – Jodi Taylor
  • When Did You Last See Your Father? (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #10.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Why is Nothing Ever Simple? (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #10.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • Undead and Unfinished (Undead #9) – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Plan for the Worst (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #11) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry Of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Mark Salisbury
  • Emerald Star (Hetty Feather #3) – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Undead and Undermined (Undead #10) – MaryJanice Davidson
  • You Can’t Scare Me (Goosebumps #15) – R.L. Stine
  • I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  • Diamond (Hetty Feather #4) – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Five Go Down to the Sea – reviewed here

As always I’ve got some on the go that I haven’t finished

  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet #3) – Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Burning (Unseen Trilogy #1) – Jeffrey J Mariotte

So I finally finished the Oz book after three attempts and goodness knows how many years. It was OK, but I wouldn’t bother reading it again. I always like books set in the Buffyverse and I really loved Oz as character on screen but he can’t really carry a whole book. Plus the events kinda contradict what is said in the TV series.

I have also finished the entire St Mary’s series. Number 11 was the one that just came out last month. It was amazing. It made me want to go back and read the whole series again to look out for all the little hints that you’d never realise were hints until you read the reveal in this one.

I’m now at the end of where I got to the first time I read the Undead series, though I have no recollection of books 9 and 10. Nine and ten had massive shocks in them and I was just as shocked as if I was reading it for the first time! So onto new books in the series.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks but only twice a week
  • Buffy seasons 4-7.
  • The remaining episodes of Outlander season 5, no idea how long it will be until we get another season now.
  • Some of Angel season 1, as when you’ve finished all of Buffy of course you go onto the spin-off series!
  • Blippi as Brodie has become obsessed with him. It’s a guy with a YouTube channel for kids. It’s educational and harmless but pretty annoying! Brodie learned to say Blippi within about two days of watching it but he took 2.5 years to say Mum…
  • The Toy Story films which Brodie loved, and Finding Nemo. He wasn’t so keen on Moana, though.

What I have done

  • A bit more gardening. It hasn’t been the best weather for it and I’ve had to wait until mid-May to plant the seed bombs anyway as we were still getting frosts at night until then. But they’re in now and being watered daily, I have my fingers crossed that something will come up even though they’re in the shade.
  • Ways I have tried to amuse Brodie include: Gummy bear slime – another disaster as he just shouted “sticky! sticky!” and wouldn’t touch it, and a ball drop make of toilet roll tubes. That worked better and he enjoyed dropping coloured pom poms into their matching bowls. We baked cakes from a packet mix (I can’t bake to save my life) and he wouldn’t eat them because the icing was blue. He has done painting, and we both painted rainbows for the living room window.
  • Built Lego things for a virtual lego club, and for Stef’s Enid Blyton library event (I’ll share photos of those in a later blog).
  • Gone on a daily walk for at least an hour
  • Continued with the workouts online. I have done five some weeks! Boxfit, tabata, pilates, body balance, aerobics, dance, yoga, functional fit… if it doesn’t involve high impact I’ve tried it!
  • I started in March but have continued with daily book displays using what I can find around the house.
  • I’m making progress with my cross stitch though I’ve had to sit and unpick it quite far back at least twice when I’ve made a mistake and not noticed.
  • Weekly Zoom and Whatsapp quizzes with my family and Ewan’s. We’ve done Beetle Drive and Countdown to mix it up too.
  • And, just at the end of the month, we have finally been allowed to socialise again (at a distance, of course). We sat in my parents’ garden one afternoon and had Ewan’s parents in our garden the next day.

What has your month looked like?

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Monday #274

Looking at the schedule I keep online, and comparing it to what I’ve actually posted, something has gone a bit awry. Somehow I a) forgot to finish and publish the lockdown display post number 4 last week, b) didn’t do it this week either, and c) scheduled next week’s fan fiction for yesterday instead. I’d blame lockdown fever, but to be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve mucked up like that!

I will do some double length display posts I think to get caught up a bit!

May round up


Conquering the Castle chapter 2


Lock down library book displays weeks 4 & 5

With lockdown easing slightly for many of us I thought I’d try to get back into some Enid Blyton quotes here.

The train whistled, and chuffed out of the station. The children pressed their noses to the window and watched the dirty houses and the tall chimneys race by. How they hated the town! How lovely it would be to be in the clean country, with flowers growing everywhere, and birds singing in the hedges!

– The Enchanted Wood

While I don’t hate the city I live in I can’t wait to be able to drive (or rather, be driven) the permitted five miles to somewhere a bit more nature-y for a walk.

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Conquering the Castle: a St Andrews Story

This isn’t the first piece of fan fiction I have authored alone but it is the first I have published. I of course consulted Pippa-Stef on matters of plot and characterisation.

Saying that, there’s not a huge amount of plot, just five friends exploring an old castle. (And perhaps just a little hint towards the second St Andrews novel which will hopefully be finished some day.)

Chapter 1

It was a cold February day – all the days so far in St Andrews had been cold that year, a side effect of the winds that almost constantly blew in from the North Sea. Not that the cold particularly bothered Anatoly Petrov, or Anthony Pilkington as he was currently known.

He was walking with Julian Kirrin, and David Morton, two new friends of his. His first real friends, which he had made at the grand age of 22. Julian’s fair head was covered in a woollen hat, as was David’s dark one, and they both had on thick coats, scarves pulled up around their chins and gloves on too. Anatoly wore a lighter coat and had forgone the woollen accessories, leaving his dark curls to catch the wind and blow around wildly.

They were on their way to collect Sally Hope, Julian’s girlfriend, and her best friend Darrell Rivers who just so happened to be Anatoly’s girlfriend. Both relationships were quite new, only a handful of dates in, but that didn’t stop David ribbing them all about leaving him out.

His sweetheart of several years, Petronella Sterling, was still at her home in Shropshire, some 350 miles away. It took a full day on several different trains for him to get to her, and so it wasn’t possible for him to visit her on the weekends.

“This isn’t going to be a double date, is it?” he had asked the other four that morning when Sally had suggested exploring the castle to give them something to do that afternoon.

“Well, you’d be a pretty awkward fifth wheel if it was,” Julian said with a laugh, though he tactfully removed his arm from around Sally’s shoulder.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” was David’s glum reply.

“It’s not a double date,” Darrell promised him, nudging Anatoly to step back from where he had been standing close to her back, his hands on her waist. “It’s just five friends having an afternoon out.”

“Just because I’m seeing Julian and Darrell’s seeing Anatoly doesn’t mean that we’re not all friends,” Sally said earnestly, taking David’s arm. “It doesn’t change anything!”

Actually, it changed quite a lot, the dynamic of the group for one thing. The girls naturally gravitated to their boys and vice versa, leaving David one on his own despite how hard they tried to include him. He would just have to get used to it, he knew. He would be just as bad if he was lucky enough to have Peter with him at St Andrews.

The girls were ready and waiting, for once, and the two younger men wasted no time in falling over in mock astonishment. “But it’s only just two o’clock,” Julian said, consulting his watch.

“And you’re both ready?” David added. “At the same time?”

“Well there isn’t usually a queue for the bathrooms in the middle of the day,” Sally said primly. That was the only reason they were sometimes tardy if they were to meet the boys first thing in the morning or for the evening. There was only one bathroom between four rooms, so that meant eight girls who wanted to bathe or wash their hair all at the same time.

“I thought you’d still find a way to keep us waiting, though,” David teased them. “Getting lost in a good book, maybe?”

“Give over!” Darrell smacked his arm. She had, on occasion, forgotten the time while reading, as had Sally. “You two are going on about the time and yet it’s now two-oh-three and we’re still standing here.”

“She has you there,” Anatoly smirked, stepping between Julian and David as they opened and closed their mouths noiselessly, knowing they had somehow just lost that battle.

He took Sally’s hand and bowed over it, just lightly kissing the back of it and making her flush red. He then bowed over Darrell’s hand and kissed it more firmly. She blushed too, but not as much as Sally had. “Ignore these two clowns,” he said. “You are both definitely worth waiting for.”

“Oh, Toly, you’re so smooth!” Darrell said with an embarrassed laugh.

“So smooth he’ll slip right over,” David grumbled, though he was stifling a laugh of his own.

“You could learn a lesson or two from him, then,” Sally shot at him teasingly. “He clearly knows how to treat a lady.”

It was Julian’s turn to flush now, wondering if he had been rude to the girls. He didn’t want Sally to think badly of him. Thankfully she didn’t seem too offended, as she put her gloves on then slipped her arm through his. “Shall we head off?” she suggested.

“History awaits,” he agreed, walking down the steps from the girls’ dorms. Darrell slipped her arm through Anatoly’s too and walked close at his side while David, rolling his eyes, brought up the rear.

“Are you going to test us on this later?” he asked, catching up with Sally and Julian as Anatoly and Darrell seemed to have forgotten they were going somewhere and were dawdling along sharing some private joke.

“I might,” Sally said with a laugh. “So you’d better pay attention.” She had already been reading up on the history of St Andrews, and after looking at the castle’s long and somewhat bloody history had been the one to persuade her friends that it was worth the sixpence entry fee each.

“We’ve seen it from the outside,” Julian had pointed out.

“But there’s a lot more inside,” she’d replied, turning her beguiling blue eyes on him. “There’s a bottle dungeon, and a secret passage,” she had added persuasively, knowing those would interest the others.

“Not so secret, really,” he said. “But if you’re desperate to go in then of course I’ll come with you.”

“We all will,” Darrell said staunchly, elbowing Anatoly before he could disagree. “It sounds really interesting.” That was perhaps stretching the truth a little. Sally was the real history buff amongst them. The others had been quite happy to simply look at the castle from the outside.

To be continued…

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 11 (Epilogue)

Last time we had the conclusion to the children’s adventures in the valley. Now to get them safely home.

Chapter 11, epilogue

Allie was standing at the window, her dressing gown wrapped around her, peering around the curtains and waiting for the big expensive car to sweep into her drive and deliver her children home safe and sound.

A telephone call had come in an hour ago, saying that Bill– well, the caller had referred to him as Mr Cunningham –’s plane had just entered British airspace with the children on board. She had been told to expect them within a few hours, and had been anxiously waiting ever since. She knew that none of them could have been badly hurt otherwise they would have gone to a hospital on landing, not straight home, but she couldn’t rest until she had seen them safe and well with her own eyes. She stiffened with every set of headlights that passed the house, but none of them shone in her direction yet.

Bill nudged Anatoly as they turned into Allie Mannering’s drive way and said, “Can you wake the children up. They’re home.”

Anatoly turned in his seat and reached back to give the two kids closest to him a shake on the knee. “Jack, Lucy-Ann, time to wake up, you are almost home.”

The children had slept a little on the plane, after exhausting everyone with their constant chatter. They had woken upon landing and had been refreshed by the cool night air; but after half an hour in the car they had dozed off again. “It must be your sedate driving,” Bill had teased Anatoly who had taken the wheel to begin with, swapping when they had reached the suburbs to save Bill having to give step by step instructions to the house.
Jack was reasonably alert upon being woken but Lucy-Ann just snuggled further into Jack’s side. “Come on, sleepy head,” he yawned. “Philip! Dinah! We’re home!” he added loudly, elbowing Dinah who was squashed next to him.

“Are we really?” yawned Dinah. “Oh good, I can’t wait to see Mother!” She smiled and nudged Lucy-Ann again. “Won’t it be nice to be in our own beds again tonight?”

“Give me a moss bed anytime,” laughed Jack through a bit of a yawn.

Dinah didn’t have to wait to see her mother, as the moment the car headlights had dazzled her at the window she had dashed across the sitting room to the front door and was at the car as the doors opened.

“Hallo, Mother,” Philip said quite calmly. “Sorry to keep you up so late!”

“Oh Philip!” his mother gasped, pulling him into a tight hug as the girls moved forward to hug her as well. “I’ve been worried sick about you all!”

“You needn’t have been, we were absolutely fine,” he assured her. “In fact we’ve had the most marvellous adventures!”

“Yes, I know,” she said, her mouth pursed as she hugged the girls. “You had better go and get ready for bed while I talk to Bill.”

Lucy-Ann paused only long enough to say “I’m sorry that we worried you, Aunt Allie, we honestly didn’t mean to. It was a complete accident that we got on the wrong plane.”

“I know, dear, I don’t blame you,” Allie said, knowing that Lucy-Ann especially would never do something like that deliberately.

“She blames Bill,” Jack said quietly as they let themselves in the front door.

“I wouldn’t like to be him right now,” Philip agreed.

Anatoly could also sense the tension out on the driveway and slid back into the car as unobtrusively as he could. “I won’t be long,” Bill muttered to him as he walked around the vehicle to Allie.

“Safe and sound, just as I promised,” he said to her, holding his hands up, palms out in a gesture of supplication.

“Oh Bill,” Allie sighed. “Thank you for bringing them back, but how can I keep trusting the them with you when they keep getting into trouble with you?”

“You know that I would never intentionally put them in harm’s way,” he said earnestly. He ushered her inside as she shivered at a sudden breeze. They could hear taps running upstairs, the children’s footsteps as they went back and forth, chattering away.

“I know you wouldn’t but whenever they are with you, they get into trouble!” she said with a sigh. “But thank you for getting them back in one piece. Were they in a terribly bad situation?”

“Well,” he said, not sure how to answer that. “It could have been bad. But they are an incredibly resourceful bunch and had set up quite the little home for themselves. If they had landed anywhere but an enclosed valley I’m quite sure they would have been half-way home before we’d even set up the search parties.”

Allie pursed her lips. “Hows terrible! But I’m glad they managed to settle down somewhere comfortable. I hope Lucy-Ann wasn’t too scared. I’m so glad that no one got hurt.”

“They were all in extremely high spirits when we got to them. They had, in fact, done our job for us and trapped several unpleasant characters in a cave, but I suppose I should let them fill you in fully tomorrow.”

“I wish they wouldn’t get into such dangerous situations,” he said unhappily. She shook her head and turned away from Bill as the children stampeded down the stairs.

“Aunt Allie, what’s the matter?” Lucy-Ann asked as she flung herself on her aunt.

“You’re not giving Bill too hard a time, are you?” Philip asked shrewdly, and for a moment Allie felt like it was her late husband looking at her from under his tuft of hair.

“No, of course she isn’t,” Bill said smoothly. “And I think you lot are supposed to be in bed. It’s nearly midnight and you’ve had a long day.”

“But we wanted to tell you about our adventure,” Jack said as Kiki made snoring sounds on his shoulder.

“There will be plenty of time for that tomorrow, Jack,” Allie said. “Come on now, bed.” She shooed them towards the stairs and then followed them up to make sure they actually went to bed. When she came back down Bill was just emerging from the back hall.

“I thought you could do with a cup of tea,” he said unashamedly.

Allie flushed. She would love a cup of tea but she wasn’t sure she wanted to have one with Bill right now. “Thank you,” she said, closing her eyes with tiredness.

“Go and sit down,” he instructed her, indicating the sitting-room. “I’ll bring it to you.” A few minutes later he set down a tray with two cups, a pot of tea and all the usual accompaniments including biscuits.

“Am I being presumptuous?” he asked, touching the second cup.

She shook her head and then paused. “Maybe a little. You’re not my favourite person right now Bill, I hope you know that.”

“Yes, I know that,” he said, hovering uncertainly by the table. He didn’t want to sit down if he wasn’t welcome. “But I hope that you could bring yourself to forgive me, some day? I think the world of the children.” He cleared his throat. “And of you, of course.”

“I know Bill, which is what makes it difficult for me to forgive you for letting this happen!”

He wanted to say that he didn’t let it happen but he didn’t want to argue with her. He had been responsible for the four children and they had been abducted from more or less under his nose. “Had I escorted the children to the plane after finding out that there was a problem on site, they wouldn’t have gotten on the wrong plane,” he admitted. “But I had no idea that the taxi driver had just dumped their cases by the nearest plane. I honestly thought that they would go to my plane and be entirely out of harm’s way.”

Allie sighed, poured herself a cup of tea and took a sip after adding milk. “I’m sorry, I was just so worried about them! They are all I have and they’re such adventurous children. I worry that one day they’ll get into mischief that they can’t come home to tell me about.”

“For as long as I’m around I will make sure that they always come home to you,” he replied seriously. “I mean that. You can call me any time, Allie, if you’re worried about them for any reason.”

“Thank you,” said Allie, before she took a bit mouthful of tea to hide her emotion from Bill’s kind words.

“I should go,” Bill said quietly. “And you should get off to bed soon, too. I imagine you haven’t slept much the past few nights?”

She shook her head. “Not really. I’ve been much too worried. However I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight because I’ll be checking on the children every hour to make sure they have really come home and this wasn’t all a dream.”

That raised a smile from Bill. “I can assure you that it’s not a dream. Should I pinch you to prove it?”

She moved her arm out of his way and managed a weak laugh. “No, thank you!” Then she paused. “I am really glad you managed to find them, Bill. Thank you.”

“It was nothing,” he lied. “I’ll leave you to get some sleep, then.” He was reluctant to go, however.

“It would be rude of me not to say thank you,” she insisted gently, not entirely sure she wanted him to leave despite her earlier protestations.

“I was just righting a wrong. Good night, Allie. Take care.” And with that he was gone.

Bill went to take the car keys out of his pocket and had a split second of alarm before he remembered that he had left Anatoly in the car while he supposedly ‘dropped’ the children back with their mother and guardian. He headed towards the car only to see the young agent, asleep in the front seat, head tipped back and mouth open, and, Bill guessed, snoring softly.

Anatoly jerked awake the second that Bill opened the door. Had he been asleep? he wondered. He had only closed his eyes for a moment. He cleared his throat. “Sir,” he said with a nod, by way of greeting.

“Sorry I took quite so long, Petrov,” Bill said trying to be formal for a moment. “I was explaining things to the children’s mother.”

“Yes, of course,” Anatoly said as seriously as he could manage. Bill didn’t look flustered or flushed, but he suspected that there had perhaps been more than talking going on. Bill had been inside for a very long time.

Bill cleared his throat, choosing to ignore the unspoken, and entirely false, accusation. “How did you find that mission?” he asked as he started the car and went to back it out of the driveway. “I think you did very well.”

“Well, I wish that my work had actually come in useful,” he said after a moment’s thought. “But I very much enjoyed being out in the field.”

“Your information, especially the information on Otto, was very handy indeed,” Bill said kindly.

Anatoly accepted the praise with an awkward bob of his head. “I am just glad we got the children out of there in one piece,” he said. He paused. “Does this mean that I get to go out again, before I qualify in April, I mean? If I qualify,” he added quickly. He still had nearly eight months of his training to go, after all, and anything could happen in that time.

“I think you will go out again, though I don’t think you need to, “Bill said honestly as they reached the road.

“I want to, though,” Anatoly said carefully, not wanting to appear too eager in case it came off as reckless. “I could not describe what I have done in the past few days as fun, but, I did enjoy it. It was… exhilarating. Hunting for information, relying on just my wits and the gun at my side. I cannot wait to gain more experience.”

Bill nodded, acknowledging that it was an enjoyable state of being to be in, especially when you weren’t in imminent danger. “I see, well perhaps we can arrange for some more field training before your qualification. We may need someone on the ground to help trace those artefact’s owners. Would that suit?”

It wasn’t the most thrilling of jobs but it was better than being in a classroom, and he knew well enough that not showing willing to do the more sedate jobs would go against him. “I would like that,” he said.

“We can see what’s on my desk after the write ups” said Bill said kindly. “But next time those children get into trouble and we need to step in, you can call their mother!” He joked.

“No thanks, I will leave that part to you. You are the senior agent here, you get paid to deal with that level of danger,” Anatoly laughed. “But thank you for including me on this one. It was quite the adventure in the end.”

The end

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Five Go Down to the Sea

We have reached another of my favourites with book #12, this came fourth in my definitive (personal) rankings of the 21 books.

[It has just come to my attention two weeks later that I accidentally skipped book #11, Five Have a Wonderful Time… I will finish my review of Sea in part two then go back!]

A story in three parts

How to divide this one?

  1. The Five head to Tremannon and spend a day or two just having fun
  2. They go to visit Grandad and hear about the wrecker’s way and have a run in with Mr Penruthlan
  3. They investigate the old ruin, get trapped underground then return to Tremannon to solve the mystery

This is quite a slow build as the main action occurs in the last part of the book. It’s page 125 before they go to the old ruin, and page 143 before they go underground. There are only 191 pages in the book!

A look at the general story

The Five are off to stay with the Penruthlans at Tremannon Farm in Cornwall for a nice holiday. As Anne doesn’t want any more adventures they all agree to say pooh-pooh to any adventures that come up.

They begin with typical Blyton holiday activities; eating vast quantities of home-made food and going to the beach for a bathe and a poke around the caves. They pay a visit to an old shepherd – the great grandad of a boy called Yan who hangs around the farm – who knows all about the coast and can tell tales of wreckers from years ago.

Old grandad’s father used to light a lamp which would lure ships onto the rocks to be wrecked and plundered.

There have been no wrecks, and there’s a new lighthouse along the coast anyway so the Five aren’t entirely sure whether to take it seriously or not when he says he’s seen the lights this year, but Julian and Dick think it’s worth a little night-time trip. They don’t make it far, though, as they run into a brute of a man who grabs hold of Dick – a man who they realise is Mr Penruthlan. What’s he doing out on a stormy night, and why has he lied to them and his wife about tending a sick horse?

There’s then a diversion from the mystery as the Barnies – a travelling group of performers – arrive.

Ju and Dick go out again that night, and this time make it to the hill but they need Yan to show them the light flashing. And flashing it is! They see Mr Penruthlan again when they come back, and this time he’s searching through the Barnie’s props and belongings.

The Barnies have their show the next evening, and there’s a huge meal after. Julian and Dick take the surly Guv’nor of the Barnies his meal and discover Clopper, the horse costume is just lying around. In one of Blyton’s funniest scenes ever Julian and Dick don the costume, caper around and then get stuck inside it.

The book was originally serialised in Enid Blyton’s Magazine and Eileen Soper illustrated that, then did fresh ones for the book. Some are very similar, others we get completely different scenes or the same scene a little differently. Below is Clopper falling over from the magazine.

The next day they have decided to pooh-pooh at pooh-poohing adventures, and take a picnic and go off to investigate the ruins where the light flashes. There are four empty rooms and one tower with a great view and a lot of spilled oil drops. Someone’s certainly been signalling from there recently, but who? And why?

Naturally they hunt around and find a not very well hidden hole in the chimney which leads to an underground passage (a lot of Blyton’s passages start in chimneys). Timmy has gone on ahead so instead of following one passage down to the sea they have to head down the other in a more inland direction. That leads them to a storage room where a mystery figure locks them in.

Thankfully Yan is exceptionally brave and comes down the passage – in the dark no less – to rescue them. It is the middle of the night by now and they head down to the beach and see Mr Penruthlan taking a small boat out to meet another one. Yan leads them along the cliffs a little way to another passage, and this one takes them to a barn on Tremannon Farm!

In order to foil Mr Penruthlan they cover the trapdoor with heavy objects and – after running into the Guv’nor who is hanging around in a rather suspicious manner – they tell Mrs Penruthlan the unfortunate news that her husband is a no good smuggler.

Well, I do love Julian but I still love this scene as Mrs Penruthlan boxes his ears for saying such terrible things. She doesn’t know where her husband is – everyone else is out hunting for the lost Five but not him – but he’s a good man and certainly not a smuggler.

Spoilers follow as to the identities of the criminals, you’ve been warned!

Mr Penruthlan then turns up and reveals that a) he wasn’t on the beach earlier and b) he isn’t a smuggler, he has been working with the police to try to catch the smugglers.

So if he wasn’t on the beach, who was? They rush to the trap-door but it has been opened and the men are gone.

The next day the Barnies are moving on, but Julian remembers how the Guv’nor was hanging around the night before. Mr Penruthlan has long suspected someone with the Barnies to be involved in the smuggling, but has never been able to prove it. Suddenly Dick goes utterly mad and races off with Clopper’s head!

Well, Dick may appear mad but actually he is clearly the only one with any brains. The Guv’nor has had Clopper’s head guarded almost every minute they’ve been at Tremannon. And why? Because the smuggled goods were hidden inside.

So it’s a happy ending as the Guv’nor is locked in a barn to await the police and the Barnies head to their next engagement without a surly (and criminal) boss.

The characters

There are several strong supporting characters so I thought I would have a look at them separately rather than bogging down the above summary/review with lots of character detail.

Mrs Penruthlan is, for the most part, Blyton’s typical farmer’s wife. Her children are all grown so she loves to welcome holiday makers and feed them up. She’s happiest when baking or cooking vast quantities of food then watching people devour it – partly why she loves the Barnies coming so much too!

Mr Penruthlan, on the other hand, is a bit of an enigma. As I’ve said above he seems jolly – he laughs his head off at Clopper and he’s the one to rescue Julian and Dick from the costume, but they’ve proven he’s a liar and a sneak.

An interesting side-story with Mr Penruthlan is that his speech is completely unintelligible. He’ll say nothing more than ooh or ock and Mrs Penruthlan will reply implying he’s just said a whole sentence. It turns out later that when he puts his teeth in he’s perfectly capable of regular speech!

Of course he is revealed not to be the baddie at all, it’s a classic case of misdirection just like Mr King in The Rockingdown Mystery. Perhaps Blyton wanted to keep him mysterious by not having him say anything understandable for the majority of the book!

The other character we see a lot of is Yan. Yan is a bit like Tassie from The Castle of Adventure. He doesn’t have a way with animals but he’s grubby and wanders the great outdoors all day. Unlike Tassie, he isn’t welcomed into the group. He seems quite a bit younger than the Five but his age is never given, only that he is of school age.

yan five go down to the sea

Yan as he appears in the book

He lives with his great grandad who is more than 80 years older than him and doesn’t seem to have any other relatives or friends. He is dressed in ragged clothes and probably underfed and plays truant from school almost every day. He tags along after the Five constantly but as he is younger, has poor conversational skills and has nothing to offer the Five in the way of amusing them or informing them, they find him very annoying.

Yan as he appears in the magazine

Mrs Penruthlan gives him a bath at one point and threatens him with sorting him out with new clothes but I wonder that she hasn’t done that before or taken him in a little, it seems like he has a pretty awful life, though his great grandad isn’t deliberately cruel to him. Obviously his great grandad has taken him in (presumably the parents are dead) but it’s no life for a little boy. (I must be going soft due to my own little boy as I’ve never thought this much about Yan before!)

A surely rare example of nudity in Blyton’s works? Yan getting a bath from the magazine serialisation.

The Five (apart from Timmy who loves him) are actually quite hard on Yan. He’s not a fat-headed trouble maker like Richard Kent, or a mean boy like Edgar Stick, his only crime is sneaking around following them as he’s probably fascinated by these well-dressed kids. They tell him to get lost in various different ways, then Julian calls him a little idiot and gives him a shake to send him off.

It doesn’t deter him, though, and he climbs up to nosy in Julian and Dick’s bedroom window after that! (I would accept some harsh words would be necessary at this point, but before it seems unfair).

What’s worse is when Yan follows them to the beach and the caves they just go and leave him as the tide is coming in. They assume he knows the caves and cliffs and will be fine, and only when they realise the beach is gone and the caves flooded with no sign of him having escaped do they worry. Of course he is fine, he does know the coast like the back of his hand, but they didn’t know that! They’re so relieved he is safe that they give him sweets and are rewarded with a bright smile in return, a smile which suddenly makes Yan seem an awful lot less annoying and a lot more sweet.

They are more accepting of him after this – and of course he proves his worth by rescuing them later and taking them safely back to the farm.

Next time; my nitpicks (there are actually quite a lot!) and other things I noticed and wanted to mention.

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Monday #273

I am hoping this will be the last week of full lockdown here in Scotland and that by next week we will have just a little more freedom. I am so looking forward to being allowed to travel just a few miles to walk in the woods instead of pacing the residential streets around my house.

Five Go Down to the Sea


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 11


Locked down library displays 5

“There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.”
― Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense

I think that’s very true and I have met lots of great people through a mutual love of Enid Blyton.

Stef and me wearing Noddy bracelets we bought at Old Thatch


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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane chapter 10

Last time Bill and his men met up with Lucy-Ann, Jack, Dinah and Kiki then snuck through the tunnel from the fern-cave into the back of the treasure caves.

Chapter 10

They were lucky that the men had all put down their weapons in order to batter at the door, and were clearly not expecting an attack from behind. They were so busy hammering at the door, goaded on by shouts from Jim Smith and Pete Bentley, they had no idea that anyone was creeping up behind them. It was a terribly simple job in the end to round them up, as after Bill barked out for them to put their hands up they simply complied. They were too shocked and stunned to do anything else. Only Juan seemed to have the courage to speak, demanding to know how they had got in behind them, and who had locked them in.

Bill silenced him with a few sharp words of his own, and after Smith and Bentley had come in, grinning widely, the men were rounded up. Their hands were bound for the walk to the cave’s entrance, though they would be untied one at a time for the climb down. Nobody expected any trouble from them as there would be several guns pointed at them for the duration and any funny business would be swiftly dealt with.

Anatoly began a quick look over the cave, looking at the treasures and then using the small camera he had brought with him to take pictures of the artefacts so that when they got back to base they could start putting out feelers for people who might be legitimately looking for their lost treasures after hiding them during the war.

Bill, meanwhile, was being led around by the four excited children leaving he, Anatoly, and the few others that hadn’t escorted the men off, to marvel at the wonders of the caves. The children were talking nineteen to the dozen, talking over each other in their excitement and desire for three of them to tell Bill everything about the caves and their adventures, while Philip was trying to tell the others about his adventurous trip to Scotland. What with Kiki adding more than her tuppenceworth it sounded like there were a hundred rowdy people in the caves.

Eventually Bill held his hands up in defeat. “All right you lot, that’s enough,” he said, laughing. “That includes you, Kiki,” he added as the bird kept on shouting. Jack rapped her smartly on the beak and her head retired under her wing after giving him a reproachful look. “I’ve heard most of your adventures from Philip, but you can tell me all your stories on the plane. But one at a time please!”

It was with reluctance that Anatoly tore himself away from the treasures, he had barely skimmed the surface of what had been stored away in those desperate war-time years. Both his rolls of film were already full, however, and so there wasn’t much point in continuing to look other than his own enjoyment.

There was some consternation about how the old couple were going to get down the rocky cliff to the ground, and in the end various ropes were used to create harnesses to help lower them down. They didn’t make a word of protest, even as they bumped a little on the way down, although they were clearly frightened. They had taken Bill to be some sort of deity, bowing to him when he spoke, and had obviously decided that they must obey him no matter what. They meekly allowed themselves to be helped along the walk back to the planes, though Bill insisted they stop two or three times to rest briefly.

At last they reached the hulking shapes of their aeroplanes, looking incongruous in the wild surroundings even with the four others alongside. Bill decided that all the planes ought to be flown back at once, together, and so the passengers were divvied up, the prisoners and guards separate from the rescued parties.

The children went with Bill, of course, and Anatoly dived into that plane too, before anyone could order him elsewhere. He laughed as Lucy-Ann frightened Bill by asking about Martha, who turned out to be a hen and not a missing woman, and settled back in his seat satisfied that they had done a good job. Everyone had been rescued, all their enemies had been captured and with the exception of a few grazed knees and elbows everyone had come out of it unscathed.

I wonder how the old couple are doing?” Jack said, peering out his window to try to catch a glimpse of the other planes. “I bet they’ve never seen a plane up close, let alone flown in one!”

They’ll be all right,” Philip said confidently. “Bill told them to get on board and that everything would be fine, and they obviously think he’s some sort of god so they’ll have believed him.”

The first part of the flight was short, as they were to drop off the old couple not too far from the valley. There was no airstrip in or around Julius Muller’s village, so they hand to land on the outskirts of a nearby town. Only two planes landed, the one carrying the old couple and Bill’s while those containing the captives continued on for London.

Bill’s team had made some contact with Austrian officials beyond getting clearance to fly, though as always it had been full of vague statements and half-truths. As Britain had fought against the Nazis who had invaded Austria, it hadn’t been too difficult to persuade the Austrians to be helpful.

Upon landing the Austrian government was contacted, and some specialist officers were dispatched to collect the old couple and deliver them to Julius Muller. They would leave them to handle the matter of the treasure caves, but Bill knew that he would be keeping an eye on any developments.

That took up more than an hour of their time, though they used some of it to ensure the planes were refuelled and everyone could use the facilities to freshen up.

Bill seemed uneasy, Anatoly thought but he knew better than to voice the suggestion. Kind-hearted Lucy-Ann, however, had no such compunction and slipped her hand into Bill’s as he stood by the plane. “Is everything all right, Bill?”

He smiled at her. “I’ll be able to relax once I’ve dropped you off with your aunt,” he said. “Until then, I’ve no idea what trouble you’ll get yourselves into.”

Soon after they were all on board again, a head count was performed, and with everyone present and correct they took off once more, flying into the twilight on the last leg of their journey home.

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Malory Towers on TV – Episodes five and six

I’ve reviewed the series two episodes at a time so far, so you can read about episodes one and two, then three and four if you haven’t already.

Episode five

We open this episode with the girls playing lacrosse but Sally develops a stomach ache. Having read the books I immediately thought – “Aha! Her appendix!” She goes to the san with it and has a fever and feels sick too.

Darrell suggests they call Sally’s parents and her response is No keep your nose out of my business Darrell Rivers! I think Darrell is pretty confused by Sally’s switches in temperament, while I’m confused why they’ve made the girls such good friends so early in the series.

There’s a nice light-hearted interlude then where the girls practice the ‘California shuffle’, as taught to Irene by her cousins, in their common room.

Back to the tension – with Sally out of action it is Darrell as the first reserve player to take her place. This is great news for her, until she realises that the school they were supposed to play has had to pull out and instead they will be playing Darrel’s old school.

From this point on the episode diverges about as far from the book as possible as we deal with the mystery of how Darrell came to be expelled from her last school.

If you haven’t seen the episode I recommend you don’t read any further right now!

Darrell pretends to feel ill (or at least badly exaggerates) to get out of playing in the match, so she isn’t with the other girls when the St Hilda’s lot arrive.

I was actually really invested in this storyline so when watching I was excited to see the school bus from St Hilda’s pull up on the Malory Towers drive. Miss Gale, the teacher with them seemed very pleasant (at first) saying it’s always fun to see where a St Hilda’s girl ends up, and genuinely seems disappointed that Darrell won’t be playing – That’s a shame… we’d have loved to catch up. Actually, watching it back for the quotes I can see she’s faking, but on first watching I took it at face value.

Miss Gale and the team captain Penelope

Miss Grayling also seems to see through Miss Gale’s act and has the strained smile of someone faking politeness.

She also sees through Darrell’s illness and has a serious conversation with her about facing her fears.

Sometimes we make ourselves feel sick with worry, but Darrell, sometimes we have to face our fears. That’s how we find the courage to overcome them.

– Miss Grayling to Darrell

During the match Miss Potts and Miss Gale are the referees. I’d never really thought about referees before but it seems fair to have one from each school to help eliminate biases. Though I’d expect the Malory Towers referee to be the games mistress or captain not the first form teacher.

Anyway, it doesn’t help much here as Miss Gale reveals a clear bias against Darrell by making several unfair decisions against her. She also makes comments like same old Darrell, never admits to being in the wrong. At first Miss Potts doesn’t see the purported offense(s) and can’t really argue but later she stands up for Darrell even when Miss Gale is backed up by her team captain, Penelope.

The Malory Towers girls still manage to win at least, after adjusting their strategy.

Gwen, of course, has been scheming in the background and corners her cousin after the match. Her cousin is a girl called Joan who says she hasn’t (and won’t) tell Gwen what she wants to know because she’s mean. I like her cousin already!

Joan then says that Darrell is at Malory Towers because she needed a fresh start just like Gwen. I thought that perhaps Gwen had something dark in her background but Joan just explains it as Gwen needing to mix with other girls and have [her] corners knocked off, and some sense knocked in.

And then everything kicks off. The last decision Miss Gale made on the pitch wasn’t backed up by Penelope and the teacher absolutely turns on her after. She makes her do press ups as a punishment.

Stupid girl! You lost us this match… What was wrong with you today? Couldn’t see the ball? Hair in your eyes, was that it? I think I need to get the scissors out again.

It’s quite a nasty scene and it only gets nastier when Darrell turns up and has a serious go at Miss Gale. I totally get why she’s so mad and she’s absolutely right but my god she’s so mouthy and honestly I’d not be surprised if she’d been expelled purely for her mouth and temper.


Miss Gale reaches for Darrell who smacks her hand away and Gwen seeing this shouts for everyone to look as Darrell is attacking a teacher. And then – the big reveal! It turns out that Darrell pushed Miss Gale down the stairs. This is shouted loudly enough by Miss Gale for the whole lacrosse team to hear so the cat is well and truly out of the bag.

Miss Gale is so smug after telling everyone what Darrell apparently did

Anyway, Darrell shouts back and reveals that Miss Gale uses cutting girls’ hair off as a punishment. This is cleverly foreshadowed earlier in the episode when Penelope meets Darrell and Darrell comments (not unkindly) on her haircut which the other girls have been sniggering at. Penelope says she had it cut – you started a craze. Of course Darrell has shorter hair than most of the other girls but I never thought anything of it. Now I see it was Penelope’s way of saying ‘Miss Gale punished me too’ without anyone else understanding.

It looks like Darrell is in massive amounts of trouble but Miss Grayling firmly sends Miss Gale off with her girls, much to Miss Gale’s disgust. She says that she’s proud of Darrell for her outburst and that this is exactly what she mean when she told Darrell she needed to learn to use her temper for good.

I found that quite surprising as Darrell really let rip and, to many, would have shown Malory Towers in a bad light.

Later Miss Grayling says that she’s had Miss Gale fired after speaking to the head of St Hilda’s, and that she knows she is a bully. Seeing as she hovered protectively by Darrell and even put an arm around her when Miss Gale first comes face to face with her, I wonder if she knows Darrell’s whole side of the story? Yet when she asked Darrell why she didn’t tell her parents that Miss Gale was a bully it was in a way that sounds like she didn’t know.

I do wonder if that’s going to be the end of Miss Gale, though. She seems the vindictive type.

Darrell gets a minor punishment for not telling her team about her problems with miss Gale, but all the girls band together to clean the lacrosse boots before she gets to them which is a lovely moment.

Episode six

This is a mixed bag of an episode with lots going on and I was quite baffled by the end of it on first viewing.

Firstly we have Gwen trying to get out of doing the exam by suggesting it will look bad upon Miss Potts as the teacher should she, Gwen, fail it. Obviously Miss Potts sees right through that idea.

Then it’s Alicia’s birthday and she gets a huge hamper sent to her which is quickly confiscated by Matron. In order to steal it back before the contents are eaten, Jean pretends to get her finger stuck in the bed spring. While Matron is rescuing her (she has in fact actually got her finger stuck she was trying so hard to pretend…) Darrell and Alicia sneak down to Matron’s room and leave Irene on lookout.

They don’t hunt very hard as they’re too busy talking clearly for the camera but we get a little insight into Alicia’s background as she says that she only sees her parents once a year as she’s “full board”. That’s entirely new as the Alicia of the books saw her brothers and cousin June regularly in the school holidays and presumably her parents too. There’s no mention of any girls doing “full board” at Malory Towers in fact. Which holiday does she get to go home for, then, I wonder?

Thinking about Harry Potter, Harry has stayed for a lot of holidays (his choice) but always had to go home for summer. A young Tom Riddle once asked to stay all-year round but was told he had to at least go home for the summer, which is obviously the longest holiday.

Either way it’s a long, long time to spend at school and I wonder if they are leading to anything with that admission.

Anyway, they find the hamper eventually and rather than take the basket grab as much as they can carry (surely Matron will notice the lack of contents though!) and nearly get caught as Irene finally displays a bit of her book-personality and has started singing a tune in the hall and is so distracted she doesn’t see Matron until it’s almost too late.

Irene composes a tune

They plan a midnight feast even though it’s the night before the exam – surely they would have been much better doing it the night after! Initially Darrell refuses to go because she knows she will be too tired to do well at the exam otherwise but gives into peer pressure in the end.

In the books we see Betty now and again, she is Alicia’s friend from another tower. We don’t see her here but she is in the san overnight, faking illness to prevent matron from sleeping in Alicia’s dorm room again. Very selfless of Betty, I might say!

Irene, being the clumsy girl of the story makes a bit of a racket and they end up hiding in Miss Grayling’s study as strangely it has been left unlocked.

I thought we might get a farce ala Mam’zelle from St Clare’s but no, she just locks them in the study as she checks for the source of the noise.

They naturally look for a spare key and Darrell finds the exam in the desk drawer. She stares at it for a while, obviously considering looking, and when Gwen sees it she demands to look. Everyone says they can’t as cheating is vile, but before they can say much more they hear someone shouting OWWWW  in the hall outside.

It’s Emily, who either wasn’t invited to the feast or didn’t want to come, that was never explained. Her excuse is that she was coming to warn them about Matron (far too late) and then saw a hooded figure and fell. Something about the way she said all that made me doubt her honesty. Something funny is going on there!

Meanwhile Gwen has slid back into the study (three guesses why!).

The girls make it to bed about 3am (I felt exhausted just thinking about that…) and yet are up for their exam the next day. Miss Grayling discovers her desk is all untidy and the exam is still sitting out. How foolish of them, and particularly Gwen, to have left it like that. (The half eaten sweet in particular…)

It’s so obvious that someone has been looking at the exam so Miss Potts delays it by a few hours. I expected that there would be a different set of questions, and I was right. She also speaks very sternly to the girls. Cheating will not be tolerated at Malory Towers.

Darrell goes to Miss Potts and admits she was in the study but didn’t look at the exam. Perhaps she doesn’t know that Gwen has looked at it. She blatantly lies, however, and says that nobody else was in the study with her. Not very Blyton like!

The other girls are eavesdropping at the door and literally fall into the room where they tell the truth about having been there too (albeit reluctantly on Gwen’s part). None of the girls seem to have put two and to together – Gwen wanted to cheat, Gwen was the last one back to the dorm by a significant time, Gwen was suddenly confident she was going to ace the exam… though Miss Potts gives Gwen a hard look.

Smug Gwen is smug

Some random thoughts

Despite that being over 2,000 words I have a few more!

At times it isn’t Matron working in the San, it’s Margaret. I’m not entirely sure who Margaret is. In the books there is a Matron for each house who looks after the girls and their laundry etc and a different Matron who manages the San.

The Sally situation had me confused for a while. I thought it was leading to the appendix drama but then it seemed not as she recovered. I have now seen the advert for a later episode called The Push where Sally is taken ill so I assume that she will become more ill again. As a side note Matron would never have let Sally watch the lacrosse match in case she was contagious, and she galivants around the school in her dressing-gown a lot for a sick girl.

The war is hinted at a couple of times. Mary-Lou remarks that a chocolate bar would be worth two week’s ration coupons implying that rationing is still on-going, and they are in awe at seeing bananas in Miss Grayling’s study. If this is set in 1946 the year the book was published then it’s just a year after the war ended, and rationing would still be in place (sugar was one of the last to stop). The girls would have been around 4 when the war started and so would probably remember having had bananas before. I’m not sure how quickly everything went back to normal post-war, but the coastline looks remarkably clear. The school would probably have been commandeered by the military or at the very least closed for the duration given its coastal location and closeness to France. I think that’s why Blyton simply ignored the war when she wrote the book!

What did I think?

These episodes definitely depart from the book. For the most part, though, it is done well. The situation with Miss Gale is all done very cleverly with lots of foreshadowing and it’s only watching it for the second time that I was able to take it all in. Similarly the midnight feast/cheating/exam fiasco was clearer the second time around.

I still have some questions about who know what and so on but I hope more of that will become clear in future episodes.

It was good to see more of Irene though she is not quite the girl I love from the books. We are at least getting a hint of her musical inclinations and she says that she’s never allowed to join in the sneaking around type activities because of what she’s like, by which I assume she meant clumsy and forgetful which is totally Irene.

Despite the storylines not always matching up it does stay pretty true to the feel of the books and I’m looking forward to seeing more.



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Monday #272

Don’t ask me what week of lockdown we are into now, I don’t know and honestly I don’t care to know. Time has lost all meaning at the moment. I’m just trying to take each day and week as they come.

Malory Towers episodes 5&6


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


Locked down library week 4

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.

– Mason Cooley

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Locked down library book displays 3

In case you missed them, here are links to week 1 and week 2, and now for week 3!

Day #15


Brodie has a real thing for anything with wheels. He loves cars but has a special fondness for buses, diggers, nangs (any emergency vehicle as they go ‘nang-nang-nang’ with their sirens on), tractors, trains, cement mixers, lorries,vans…

This is a bit of an interactive one as two of the books have those vastly irritating buttons which play sounds. (The level of irritation you experience is directly proportional to how many times your child presses the same one over and over and over.)

Day #16

Harry Potter


One of my other big passions – Harry Potter! I actually joined this bandwagon quite late – I usually can’t stand it when there’s a huge hype about something new and everyone’s reading/watching because it’s the ‘in’ thing. I remember reading the first chapter of the second Harry Potter book at Brownie camp and thinking it wasn’t all that great… Not sure if it was because I was missing the context provided by the first book or I was still in a mood about it all.

Anyway, I watched the first film several years after it came out, then watched however many more were out at that point, and then decided to read the books. I’ve now read them a few times and listened to the audiobooks countless times as that’s what I fall asleep to every night. I also do a lot of Harry Potter quizzes on Facebook… probably too many.

A close of of a couple of bits of this below:

Day #17

Winnie the Pooh

This was another request. I have an aunt who is Tigger mad.


Day #18

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

This was one of my favourites when I was little. I tried to organise the foods in the order they appear in the book – the tiger eats all the sandwiches on the plate, and all the buns (I was loose with the definition of ‘buns’ hence the doughnuts etc), all the cakes in the tin, all the tins in the cupboard, all the food in the fridge and so on. Plus I made a rainbow with the plates which I like!

Here’s an after shot once the tiger has eaten his fill:

Day #19


I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you that I have a lot of books about spelling and grammar! The writing on the notepad is a misquote from Buffy when Xander says “To read makes our speaking English good.” Which brings us nicely to my next display.

Day #20

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Along with Enid Blyton and Harry Potter I also love Buffy. Enid was my first big love and Buffy was probably the second, ever since I saw it at a friend’s house then bought season one and half of season two on video from HMV (yes, younger readers, you got three videos in a boxset and that only fitted around 12 episodes so you had to buy two to get a whole season. They took up a LOT of space!). I’ve watched every episode countless times.

This is just a tiny selection of my Buffy book collection. I probably have around a hundred books. Mostly original novels based on the series, but also some novelisations of episodes and various guides and scripts. I remember a few of the first season novelisations coming to my high school library and the kids went mental for them and there was a huge waiting list. I ended up going and buying Blooded by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder in Waterstones. And then I left it on my shelf for absolutely ages because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. But then I read it, loved it, and never looked back.

Below is a close up of Giles who I bought in Toys R Us. He was the only character they had left, and they had dozens and dozens of him. I felt really sorry for poor Giles. He’s so cool, I mean he’s a librarian after all!

Day #21

Star Wars

I like Star Wars – I’ve seen the original trilogy dozens of times but this is all Ewan’s stuff as he’s more into it than I am.

So there’s a little insight into a few of my other obsessions! I didn’t mean to write so much.

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

Last time Bill and his crew including Philip arrived back in the valley and made their way to the treasure caves.

Chapter 9

Anatoly rolled the best he could, finishing in a crouch, so that he could reach for his gun if it was needed. He looked at Thompson to see if they should scout forward or send for the others to join them. He wondered how much further they would need to go to get to the other children and this old couple he was being told about.

Thompson motioned him forwards, and drawing their guns and torches, they dropped a foot or so down the hole, and into a long tunnel. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark, and they made sure the immediate area was clear before Thompson whistled for the rest to join them. Down the tunnel they went, following its winding curves until at last they came out into a vast cave full of glowing white stalactites. Philip had described this to them all on the plane, but it was something else to see it in person.

“What a sight,” one of the men said, after they had shone their torches around every shining column and ascertained there was nobody around.

“It’s the cave of stars next,” Philip said.

“Hush,” said Bill, holding a hand out for silence. They all froze, and sure enough, from somewhere further into the caves came the sound of quick-moving footsteps. It was impossible for them to tell which way they were headed and so the men hurried forwards, in a neat formation, Bill near the front.

“Halt!” he shouted, and to everyone’s relief, half a dozen torches shone on three children, a parrot and two elderly people.

“Stand still! Put your hands up!” he continued. The footsteps stopped and suddenly there was a squeal, making everyone jump.

“Bill! BILL! Oh, Bill, we thought you were never coming!” then the owner of the voice, who as it turned out, was Lucy-Ann, ran up to Bill and flung herself on her father figure. The others followed, shouting in delight to Bill and Philip as Lucy-Ann flung herself on Philip after Bill’s surprised hug.

“Philip! Dear Philip, you did escape and get to Bill!” she babbled on excitedly as Jack and Dinah welcomed the sight of Bill and his team.

The team of agents and Anatoly gently guided the old couple over to Bill who greeted them gently as they were clearly very scared and overwhelmed about the amount of people suddenly in there.

“Now – where are these men?” Bill asked, looking around.

I bolted them in,” came the surprising statement from a proud-looking Jack.

You did what?” Philip demanded, but had to acquiesce to Bill who inserted himself bodily in front of Jack to interrogate him fully. Anatoly had squeezed in close too, so he heard all about the hole behind the painting, the tunnel to the fern-cave, Jack’s tussle with Pepi – Jack seemed grateful to hear that Pepi had not escaped and was now more securely locked up – and how Jack had had his brilliant idea of locking the men inside the treasure caves.

Bill considered this, listening to the story carefully, occasionally making eye contact with Anatoly. “Well – that seems pretty good work to me! But it won’t be an easy job routing them out of those caves. I wonder if we could take them by surprise from the back – get in at that picture-hole and give them a shock.”

Jack was pleased with this idea, and Bill agreed that they ought to leave a couple of men at the door to create a distraction while the others snuck in through the tunnel. Anatoly hoped fervently he would not be left as a distraction-causer as the other option sounded much more exciting. He looked hopefully to Bill who shot him a quick grin. “Don’t worry, you’ll be perfect for squeezing through narrow tunnels,” he said, acknowledging his skinny build.

“…Jack, you come with me and the others, and show me the way back to your fern-cave, and through the cave of echoes to the passage that leads to the hole at the back of that picture,” Bill said. Then he turned to his men and sorted out who was staying there. “…and Petrov with me as well. You two, Smith and Bentley, stay here to help create the diversion.”

And so they set off, retracing their steps back to the waterfall they had passed earlier. They were able to move less cautiously now that they knew all the men were accounted for and there was a sense of excitement amongst them all.

They crawled into the mossy-floored fern cave and Jack led the way into the tunnel at the back. Anatoly found it fairly easy to follow him, but he could tell that not everyone in his party agreed. There were a lot of mutterings, gruntings and even swear words being issued from some of them as they squeezed their way along through the narrow space.

Anatoly was glad that he was slight as his some of his colleagues got stuck in the drain-pipe like tunnel. He had to help Andrews out by pulling him out of the hole. That did help him be slightly smug as they moved through the rest of the cave system, with Jack leading them.

“I must say that you children manage to get into the most marvellous scrapes. My I’m hot!” Bill said as they reached the cave of echoes. “Hot, hot, HOT HOT,” went the echoes. “That, that, THAT, THAT!”

They quickly realised it was just the echoes bouncing around the rocky walls, but none of them expected was the roar from Jack’s bird Kiki, who began to squawk, making all the agents who were unused to Kiki jump, and even caused Anatoly to half pull out his gun.

They all covered their ears as she did her express-train whistle which sounded horrendous in the confined space as it echoed around and around until it seemed to be embedded deep inside their heads.

With Kiki suitably scolded they carried on, and after Bill commandeered the rope that Anders had tied around his waist, they shinned up a sheer section, and soon came to the hole behind the picture at the back of the treasure caves.

One by one they jumped down from the hole, all grateful to be able to stand straight after being contorted in such a tight space. Jack gave them some directions, and Bill ordered them all to be quiet as they crept through the cave of gold, the cave of books and the one of pictures.

They all stood in silence so that they could hear if the other men were doing their part of the job. Anatoly heard Jack speak to Bill after a fraction of a second of silence. “It’s the men. Hark! They must have got rocks or something to hammer at the door like that. They really will break it down, I should think, by the noise.”

The boy was right, there was a great noise coming from the room, smashing, crashing and yelling going on.

“Now’s our chance,” Anatoly heard Bill whisper. The rest of the men nodded, and drew their weapons, ready for the ambush.

To be continued…

(N.B. if any of the dialogue appears familiar it is because we have borrowed it from the book).

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Letters to Enid 22: from Volume 2 issue 10

Previous letters pages can be found here. I wonder what today’s children would write if the magazine was still going? Or what 1954’s children would have written if they were in our situation.

Letters page from Volume 2, issue 10. May 12th – 25th 1954



 1. A letter from Trevor Harper, Hulls Lane, Sandon, Essex.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I must thank you for my lovely Sunbeam badge. I have shown it to my school teachers and they think it is a very nice one. I have been saving my bus money and have been walking to school, so I am able to send you 6s. for the little blind children. We have a blind man who comes to our school to tune the piano.
Lots of love from,
Trevor Harper.

(You have kind legs as well as a kind heart, Trevor. Well done!)

2. A letter from Pauling Roberts, 15 Tonbridge Road, Redditch, Stockport. 
My dear Enid Blyton,
I am writing to tell you that I went to the Mayor’s Children’s Ball in Stockport Town Hall. It was a fancy-dress party, and I went as “Enid Blyton’s Magazine”. My Mummy dressed me up. I won First Prize, and I was thrilled, and i thought how nice it would be to tell you.
Lots of love from
Pauline Roberts.

(What a good idea, Pauline! I do wish I’d seen you walking into the hall dressed up as our magazine!)

3. A letter from Jane Bate, 305 Daventry Road, Cheylsmore, Coventry.
Dear Enid Blyton,
I have a very bad memory, and when any of my friends ask me what my F.F. Club number is, I can’t remember it. The other day I had an idea. I wrote my number on a very tiny piece of paper and stuck it on the back of my badge. Now when anyone asks me what my number is, all I have to do is look on the back of my badge.
With lots of love from
Jane Bate

(I’ll pass on your good idea to our readers, Jane. Thank you!)

Another rare letter from a boy. I am entirely too cynical but it seems like the winning letter is always one which includes a donation to one of Blyton’s charities. Almost as if they’re buying their place as the weekly winner… (I’m sure they’re doing nothing of the sort, really, that’s just the random sort of thoughts I have sometimes.)

I really love the Enid Blyton’s Magazine costume idea. The first time I read that letter I only skimmed it and entirely missed the costume and wondered why she was writing to say she went to a party and won a prize… I wish I’d seen it too. I’m trying to imagine how it was constructed. Card, painted orange and then written on? Perhaps her face as the picture?

I’m a little baffled by Jane’s letter, though. How often did her F.F. club number come up in conversation? Did children really constantly ask each other what their number was?

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Monday #271

A change to the usual schedule for the moment. I know that children had to wait almost a whole year from the start of a serialised novel in Enid Blyton’s magazine to the final chapter but this is the internet and we don’t have to stand for that!

So as of this week there will be a new chapter of fan fiction every Friday. There are another few weeks of The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane to go then it’ll be something I’ve written alone – Conquering the Castle. That is about Julian, Darrell, Sally, David and Anatoly visiting St Andrews Castle. Then we will plunge straight into The Mystery of the Missing Agent which is Cunningham and Petrov 2, based on the events of The Sea of Adventure. 

In a similar vein I am going to dedicate Sunday to my locked down library displays as I started posting them after I’d done about five weeks worth and I’m sure you don’t want to be seeing them until Christmas.

Wednesday will be a variety of the usual content – book reviews, TV reviews and whatever else I can think up!

Letters to Enid 23


Fan fic Friday Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Aeroplane


Locked down library displays 3

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.”
― John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous


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

Last time Bill collected Anatoly and two other agents from an airstrip in Austria and they began the final part of their journey to the valley.

Chapter 8

Soon they were coming into land at the valley that Philip pointed out. The silence when the engines were killed was almost deafening. The agents, seat belts off, guns out, waited to see if any if the men Philip had told them about came running out.

After a moment, when no one came to see about the noise, the agents then pushed open the doors and dropped to the ground silently. Anatoly gripped his gun as he landed and waited on tenterhooks for his orders from Bill.

Bill left the controls of the plane and climbed out, with Philip following him, and issued his orders, “Scatter, search down here, keep your eyes open for anyone higher up.”

Like the well-practised agents they were they fanned out, keeping their eyes peeled. Nothing stirred. The air was still, everything was still and almost unnaturally so.

Anatoly picked his way up a slope and had just caught sight of a distant building of some sound before a cry went up. One of his colleagues had found something. Clutching his weapon he hurried back the way he had come to see Smith leading a dishevelled man across to Bill.

On Bill’s orders Smith took the man over to a wooden hut and locked him in, pocketing the key. He winked at Anatoly as he returned to the group. “Better luck next time, Petrov.”

“There are still seven men to be accounted for,” Bill was saying. “Right. Well, now – we’d better set off to these treasure caves. Look out, men, in case there’s any ambush. We don’t want to be shot up without warning.”

The men, nodded, Bill directing the men in line with Philip’s instructions from behind. Anatoly was moving stealthily bringing up the rear, not wanting to take a chance that someone might still be down below.

They passed several burnt out homes and a half-burnt cowshed. It was eerie, how deserted the place was. The mountains loomed high all around, making the space feel quite enclosed despite being several miles across.

They marvelled at the waterfall when they reached it. Anatoly was sure he’d never seen such a large one, nor one that spouted so suddenly from inside the rock. He listened as Philip described the route they would take, explaining how they had followed Otto Engler’s map. It took them above the waterfall, on rather a precipitous path, then down the other side to where a curiously bent birch-tree stood.

“The next part’s a bit rough going,” Philip said apologetically. He hadn’t exaggerated, Bill thought as they scrambled along a cliffside, using bushes and trees as hand-holds for at least twenty minutes, until they came to a smooth expanse of black rock, and then on to a tiny burbling spring. From there they could easily see the rock that looked like a human figure, and Bill had them all hunker down. They watched for a few minutes, four men using field-glasses to scan all around as they had been doing for the whole journey.

“Not a soul,” Thompson reported, stowing his glasses back on his kit belt.

“Where are they all?” Anatoly dared to wonder out loud as they all prepared to set off again. “I was expecting this place to be swarming with men.”

“They must all be inside the treasure caves still,” Bill said. “But I don’t like it either. Let’s keep a low profile anyway, we’ve no idea when they might reappear. Can you see the entrance from here, Philip?”

Philip squinted at the rocky cliff, lined with shelves of rock. “I can’t make it out from here, but it’s about halfway up.” In ones and twos the men crept closer and closer to the strange statue-like rock, all on high alert. Bill had Philip wedged between himself and another burly man, ready to shove him to the ground if necessary.

“The cave’s just there,” Philip pointed as soon as they were close enough. They all looked up, several guns pointing in the same direction.

“All right,” Bill said in a low voice. “Anders, Patterson, Ainsley, I want you down here covering us as we climb up.”

“Shall I go first? I think I’d better!” Philip asked Bill as Anatoly readied himself next to Bill, his gun cocked in the same direction as everyone else’s wondering what was going to happen next. This place was giving him the the chills, it was too quiet.

“I don’t think so,” Bill said firmly. “I’m not having you climb up first and have your head blown off if there’s someone just inside. You can wait down here, and I’ll give you the signal when it’s safe to come up.”

“Oh, but Bill!” Philip grumbled as Anatoly moved forward and muttered to Bill;

“Should I lead the way, sir? That way you are less likely to get injured if they are waiting for us, or there is a trap.”

Bill cast an eye over Anatoly, and thought for a moment. It was a dangerous thing to do, to go up first and pop one’s head over the ledge. On the plus side Anatoly had quick reactions and could make the climb no problem. On the down side, he was still young and inexperienced.

“I want two of you to go up together, a little way ahead of the rest of us,” he said at last. Stop as near the cave as you can, and listen for anyone waiting. Thompson, you and Petrov can be up front on this one. Petrov, you’re to wait for Thompson’s say so before making any moves. Got that?”

Anatoly nodded, a little disgruntled on the inside, but mature and well trained enough not to argue with Bill at this point. He could risk himself being sent back to the plane if he played up. He waited for Thompson to nod his head and then they two of them moved forward to the ledge.

At the last moment they tucked their guns back into their holsters to leave both hands free for climbing, and relying on their colleagues to provide cover, they began to climb. It hadn’t looked a particularly long way from the ground, but it was a considerable climb. Both men were hot and sweating by the time they pulled themselves up to the penultimate ledge below the cave, a low whistle from the ground warning them they had reached the last safe spot.

They could hear the rest of the men climbing up below them, small rocks skittering down as they were knocked or broke away from the main cliff. Thompson peeled one hand from where it was clinging on and motioned for silence.

A cool breeze ruffled Anatoly’s curls as they waited, ears straining for any sound inside. All he could hear was the pounding of his own heart. Apparently Thompson couldn’t hear anything untoward either, as a moment later he gave the signal and they heaved themselves up and over onto the wide ledge.

To be continued…

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Locked down library book displays 2

I shared photos of my first week of displays here and now I’m back with what I did back in week 2 (it’s currently week 6…).

Day #8


Fairly straightforward – books about treasure of some kind.

From back left:

  • Treasure at Amory’s (Lone Pine #15) – Malcolm Saville
  • The Adventure of the Secret Necklace – Enid Blyton
  • The Story of the Treasure Seekers – E Nesbit
  • Treasure Island – R L Stevenson (library copy)
  • The Fearless Treasure – Noel Streatfeild
  • Treasure Island – R L Stevenson (my own copy)
  • The Treasure of the Trevellyans – Doris Pocock
  • The Treasure Hunters – Enid Blyton
  • The Mystery of the Hidden Gold (Adventure Island #3) – Helen Moss

Day #9.1

Enid Blytons

I didn’t manage a proper display on day 9 was I was working on my April Fool’s blog about jokes and pranks. These were some of the books I hauled off my shelves for research purposes.

Day 9.2

School stories

Having had a lot of school books out that night the next day I did a proper display using books set in schools.

From back left:

  • Murder Most Unladylike (Wells and Wong Mystery #1) – Robin Stevens
  • The Leader of the Lower School – Angela Brazil
  • The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events #5) – Lemony Snicket
  • Three Terms at Uplands – Angela Brazil
  • An Apple for the Teacher – Charlaine Harris and other authors
  • The Demon Headmaster (The Demon Headmaster #1) – Gillian Cross
  • Upper Fourth at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton
  • An Exciting Term – Angela Brazil
  • The Second Form at St Clare’s – Angela Brazil
  • The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler – Gene Kemp
  • The Song of the Abbey (The Abbey Girls #37) – Elsie J Oxenham
  • Mischief at St Rollo’s – Enid Blyton
  • Noddy Goes to School – Enid Blyton
  • Kits at Clynton Court School – May Wynne

Day #10

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond

This was by request of my mum (by request I mean repeated demand) as Paddington is her favourite. Despite the Paddington on the right being Brodie’s less preferred comfort toy (he used to love them equally but try to put him to bed with this instead of the older dirtier one now and he’ll say no over and over) he still swiped it at least twice before I got a picture.

Day #11


You can’t do Blyton displays without using Noddy!

I used two sets of Noddy Fuzzy Felts one from the 50s and one from the 2000s, as well as Noddy and his car (or Oui Oui as the packaging said in my case) who are beside Noddy’s house-for-one as built by me. At the back is my Noddy Treasury which contains the first four books. The large open book is My Second Big Noddy Book.

Day #12

The Lone Pine books by Malcolm Saville

A selection from the 20 Lone Pine books (the ones I have with dust jackets or printed covers!). A little Mackie, a lone pine tree and some pine cones plus a postcard of Hemperley Farm in Church Stretton aka Ingles Farm in the books.

Day #13

On the farm

A number of Brodie’s farm books, plus a couple of Blyton ones at the back (again my others like The Children of Willow Farm etc don’t have dust jacket).

Brodie really liked playing with this one after I had photographed it.

Day #14

Colouring books

You can’t borrow colouring books from the library but lots of libraries do colouring in groups for adults as well as children. At the front you can see my Famous Five colouring book – I have since finished colouring in the sea!

Week two done, how many more weeks? Who knows.

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Monday #270

I’ve lost track of what week of lockdown we are in now, but I do know that it’s now May. See I might not always know what day it is but I at least know the months!

Locked down library displays 2


Fan fic Friday:

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

“Books were safer than other people anyway.”
Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Seems apt for the current circumstances!

Just some of my lock down companions.

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April 2020 Round Up

We are well into week 5 of lockdown (week 6 if you’re us and had a week of self isolation first…) so this will look a bit different to usual.

What I have read

  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #6) – Jodi Taylor
  • Ships, Stings and Wedding Rings (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #6.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Dead and Loving it – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Dead Over Heels – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Undead and Unworthy (Undead #7) – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Lies, Damned Lies and History (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #7) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Great St Mary’s Day Out (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #7.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • My Name is Markham (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #7.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • Dessicated Water (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #7.7) – Jodi Taylor
  • Undead and Unwelcome (Undead #8) – MaryJanice Davidson
  • Five on a Hike Together – reviewed here and here
  • And the Rest is History (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8) – Jodi Taylor
  • Markham and the Anal Probing* (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8.1) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Very First Damned Thing (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #0.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Making of Outlander: The Official Guide to Seasons 3 & 4 – Tara Bennett
  • A Perfect Storm (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Christmas Past (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #8.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • An Argumentation of Historians (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Battersea Barricades (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Steam Pump Jump (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.6) – Jodi Taylor
  • And Now for Something Completely Different (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #9.7) – Jodi Taylor

As always I’ve got some on the go that I haven’t finished

  • Oz: Into the Wild – Christopher Golden
  • Hope for the Best (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #10) – Jodi Taylor

I thought I hadn’t found much extra time for reading but it seems I was wrong. Lots are short stories but there are still ten full books there as well!

There are also a LOT of St Mary’s books! Mostly on Audible but some of the short stories on Kindle as I already had them and didn’t want to pay £6 for a two hour or under listen. The new one came out on April 16 and I’ve now only got to finish #10, and then two more short stories before I can read it!

*NB contains no actual probing.

The Oz book is one of the Buffy series. A few years ago I started reading my whole collection in order of when they’re set in relation to the TV series. I couldn’t get into this one and so I stalled. This is now the third time I’ve tried to read this one and thankfully I got past the opening chapters and may actually finish it.

What I have watched

  • One Man, Two Guvnors starring Jemima Rooper who made an excellent girl acting as a boy, as always!
  • The live-action Lion King
  • Hollyoaks though it’s down to two episodes a week at the moment
  • Buffy seasons 2, 3 and some of 4 as we’ve been sticking it on just about every night
  • A few more episodes of Outlander season 5

What I have done

  • A fair bit of gardening. We haven’t so much as cut the grass in our private bit of garden in the past 5 years as we never use it – it doesn’t get much sun and there’s a much larger communal area. But I thought Brodie would enjoy playing with mud so I dug out a bit of the flower bed and then decided to carry on. I have some wildflower seed bombs ready to go in when it’s all cleared and I will leave him a space for playing too.
  • Other ways I have tried to amuse Brodie; an ‘assault course‘ of planks and bricks to balance on, made bubble bath foam (total disaster – he hated it), made gloop with cornflour and water (he loved this at least), dug out his play tent and tunnel, had an indoor picnic and a garden one too.
  • Gone on a daily walk for at least an hour
  • Started some workouts that have been put online (so far Boxfit, Pilates, BodyBalance and Tabata). Brodie joins in sometimes and other times used me as a tunnel to crawl under or a surface to drive cars on.
  • I started last month but have continued with daily book displays using what I can find around the house.
  • Started a cross stitch I got free from someone who was clearing out – it’s of Tigger so I can put it in Brodie’s room when it’s done.
  • Weekly Zoom and Whatsapp quizzes with my family and Ewan’s, and some scavenger hunts too.

What has your month looked like?

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Five on a Hike Together part 2

Last time I left off just as the Julian decides that they are going to visit Two Trees and Gloomy Water to see if they can find Saucy Jane (but avoid Maggie who Knows). 

The adventure begins

We are a little over halfway through the book by now, and yet we are only just at the part where the real adventure begins. 

That’s not to say the previous chapters have been boring or eventless, but apart from the strange message in the night it hasn’t been adventurous. 

But now, we get to see the places from the message Dick was given. Two Trees is slightly sinister burnt out ruin and Gloomy Water is exactly as it sounds from the name. I’m stuck with some strange mental images having formed them when I was a child and reading this for the first time and they’re hard to get rid of.

Firstly the two trees are palm trees in my head (no idea why – I did know it was England and not the tropics!) and Gloomy Water is annoyingly small and bordered by a ridiculously even line of shrub/hedges. 

As they were not prepared for camping they end up in the cellars – and I’m absolutely with Anne that having lots of other doors and rooms down there is more than a tad creepy. 

Quickly the hunt for Saucy Jane starts – she’s not in the boat house, so where else could a boat be?

This is the first time I’ve really thought about the history of the house and the boats. Merry Meg, Cheeky Charlie, and Careful Carrie. Were they named after some of the people that lived at Two Trees? (Also why are three alliterative but not the fourth?) Blyton uses Saucy Jane as the name of the narrow boat in The Saucy Jane too, but I’m not sure if it’s a common boat name or not.

I definitely felt a pang or two reading about the little boat house and the boats with the cushions and everything just mouldering away.

Dick and Maggie

An adventure becomes more adventurous when the baddies show up. Dick never got his message but obviously Maggie sought him out and let him know. 

They naturally turn up to do some treasure hunting themselves and are not happy to find the Five right in their way. They attempt to be threatening and menacing but are unarmed and therefore easily held off by Timmy. We know Dirty Dick can be violent and dangerous from our earlier meeting with him, so there is an air from him, but otherwise he and Maggie are not the toughest enemies the Five have faced.

They do steal the Five’s food in an attempt to get rid of them, but Timmy just steals their food in return, and there is an incident where Dirty Dick rows their boat into the Fives’ raft but other than that it’s fairly conflict free. Dick and Maggie think that as the kids have to be back at school on Monday they can just wait it out – of course they have no idea that the Five know about the hidden loot and have all the clues to find it.

The Five find the loot first, but it’s actually a close call. Dick and Maggie are obviously smart people even if they don’t look it because they work out the clues and are extremely close to finding the right spot on the lake themselves. They are hampered by there only being two of them, though, and having the children so close they don’t want to give anything away.

So it’s a moonlight dip for the boys to recover the loot and outwit Dick and Maggie.

Nitpicks, observations and other comments

As always I noted various things that seemed like contradictions, curiosities, plot holes and so on. 

  • Julian creates a comprehensive list of things the girls are to pack but leaves off underwear. As nobody ever goes to the toilet I suppose they never change their pants either.
  • The woman at the inn says that the nearest vet is in Great Giddings but no bus goes there. Surely a village big enough to have a vet would have a bus going there or at least close? It made me think of Robbie Coltrane in the Comic Strip Presents episodes, he would have made it sound very sinister. 
  • The escaped prisoner says to Dick I saw you go in [to the barn] and I’ve got to go in half a tick. This guy is on the run from the police and has agreed to deliver two messages as he goes. So why does he see Dick go into the barn and then wait around for ages? Dick had time to fall asleep, dream and awaken and the narrative has the moon rise etc. There’s no suggestion that there is anyone else around to see him, so unless he saw Dick enter the barn then went off and saw Maggie then returned, I’ve no idea what he was doing all that time.
  • After their run in with the unhelpful policeman George says I hope his dinner’s gone cold. How does she know that he was eating his dinner? We know because Blyton told us but the Five don’t see him at his dinner and he doesn’t say anything about them interrupting his meal.
  • Not strictly a nitpick but George mentions that her mother lived in a town at some point. Kirrin has belonged to her mother’s family for generations so I always assumed that Fanny has been in Kirrin all her life.
  • When Dirty Dick arrives at Gloomy Water he doesn’t recognise Dick, yet they met at his house when he turfs him out. 
  • The bit of paper reads Chimney but later they say One Chimney as if that’s its name. Similarly the prisoner who sent the message is referred to as both Nailer and The Nailer.
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