Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 20

Last time Bill and Johns flew off with Philip aboard the helicopter.


Chapter 20

Philip was overjoyed and looked at Bill with hero’s admiration. He knew that Bill would save them and here he was, doing just that. Bill and Johns settled down to question Philip about all he knew of the mountain and how things worked up there and with the strange “King” and his wings.

Philip was able to tell them the secret of the rope-ladder in the cave, the cruelty of Meier, what he knew of the King, and he was able to repeat what Jack and the girls had told him about their exploration of the mountain.

“What about going in through the cave?” Johns asked, but Philip had to admit he didn’t know how the rope-ladder had been deployed.

“No, we’ll have to take the ‘copter back up,” Bill said. “Only, I think I’d better leave you two down here. I’m not sure it will take six of us.”

Johns didn’t looked convinced at this. “Are you sure that’s wise? I’m sure we could hide this young lad and I can go up with you. It’s not advisable to try and land a ‘copter in the dark, boss.”

“No, I’m not risking you as well as myself,” Bill said firmly. “Besides, there’s no knowing what’ll happen to Philip if he’s let out of our sight for even a minute.”

Philip frowned. “It’s not that bad, Bill!” he objected as Johns looked less convinced that Bill piloting the helicopter alone was a good idea. “Shouldn’t we wait until it’s a bit later, give the men a chance to go to sleep?” he offered as a suggestion, trying to buy them time.

Bill consulted his watch. “It’s fairly late as it is. Let’s just give the helicopter a quick check-over and then I’ll go. It shouldn’t take me long at all.”

Johns gave in. He couldn’t overturn Bill’s orders, he was the boss after all. “Yes sir, he said and got up to give the machine a once over and check how much fuel it had left.

“Don’t give me that look,” Bill said as Philip eyed him balefully. “It’d be no good taking you back up and then us both running into trouble.”
“It’ll be landing on the top, same as before, and then taking off again,” said Bill. “No need for a tour guide.”

Of course, fifteen minutes later as he approached the mountain-top, this time in the dark, he began to wish he hadn’t been so flippant. He hovered for a moment or two, to see if the children would turn the lights on for him, but to no avail.

“Well, here goes nothing,” he muttered grimly to himself and, using the scant moonlight, he guided the helicopter towards the dark shape of the mountaintop.

Bill fervently hoped that the girls and Jack were not in the middle of the landing space. All was went smoothly until he felt one of the skids hit an outcrop of rock, causing the helicopter to veer to one side. Bill fought to gain control of the machine and land. He didn’t want to have to abandon the landing and come up with a plan B for recovering the children. After a hair-raising few moments his skill won through and he managed to get the helicopter down on the platform.

Bill blew out a slow breath as he tried to calm his racing heart. “Jack! Are you there?” he called, ready to take the helicopter back up again should anyone else answer or approach.

He risked turning on his powerful torch as Jack ran over. “I’m here Bill. The coast’s clear. Nobody’s up here,” the boy called. “Gosh, it’s good to have you! Is Philip all right?”

Just as Bill was proud of Philip and Lucy-Anne’s bravery in being willing to jump, he was proud that Jack’s first concern was for someone other than himself.

“Quite all right,” he assured Jack, letting him know that he was with Johns down on the mountainside. “Get into the helicopter, all of you, and we’ll get going while the going’s good,” he urged, not wanting to wait around any longer than necessary. He shone his torch around to see the girls hurrying over.

“I couldn’t quite see where to land,” he admitted to the children. “I must have hit something coming down. I felt a good old jolt, and the helicopter swung round like mad. I hope she’s all right!” His tone was jolly but deep down he was worried that he might have done some damage to the helicopter.

“You went into part of the rocky parapet, I think,” Jack told him as he helped the girls in. “Oh Bill!” This is grand! How did you…”

Bill cut him off. He needed to concentrate and they needed to leave before their luck ran out. “All explanations later!” he said as he pressed the right buttons for take off. “Now – here we go!”

His steady hand guided the helicopter up a few feet, and just as he thought it was going to be all right, the machine swung in a strange way. Bill quickly corrected but decided to land her again, a feeling of foreboding in his stomach. “Now what’s wrong? She shouldn’t do that.”

He checked all his controls and the engine lights, his jaw clenched. He could hear Lucy-Ann willing them to leave the platform and go, and even though he didn’t want to disappoint her, he also felt dread rising. He gave it one more go, his jaw clenched in concentration, hoping he’d just made a bad move with the controls before. With the helicopter in the air once more, Bill hoped to be able to fly off but it swung erratically again.

“Something’s wrong with the steering. Why did I leave Johns down there? He might have been able to put it right. But I didn’t think this machine would hold him as well as you three,” Bill said in an exasperated tone, annoyed that he hadn’t taken Johns’ suggestion about both of them coming along seriously. Had he made decision based on merit, or some desire to be a hero? Bill cursed himself. He was really picking up bad habits from Anatoly, delusions of grandeur he called them.

He tried again, several times, hoping against hope that whatever the problem was it would miraculously solve itself as he was running out of ideas. For over an hour he worked at it, tension growing with every minute that ticked by, knowing that the longer they were there the more likely they were to be discovered.

At last, however, he had to admit defeat, and turned his mind to the only other option. “What about that way out, by the wall?” he asked. “Philip told me about it – something about a rope-ladder and so on.” He also told them about his fruitless search for a way into the mountain from the ground.

He listened in disbelief as Jack told him the secret of the underwater wheel which controlled the ladder. He hadn’t investigated the pool at all, there hadn’t seemed any point. Of course he had been thinking how there couldn’t be a secret entrance through the pool, not about a secret lever or wheel that revealed the entrance. Again, he marvelled at the children’s ability to outhink their enemies.

“Well – it seems to me we’ll have to try to get out that way,” he said. “This pest of a helicopter won’t answer to her controls now. I daren’t try and take off. We’d crash – and we haven’t any wonderful wings to save us, either.”

Lucy-Ann’s disappointment was hard to bear as she exclaimed in dismay. Still, her being hurt in a helicopter crash would be far, far worse, he told himself.

He reassured her all he could as Jack pointed out that the helicopter was a dead give-away that something was afoot. He had to agree, but there was nothing that could be done about it now, other than to get going as quickly as possible. He’d spent far too much time messing about on the mountain-top already. “All the more reason why we should get a move on now,” he said.

He looked down as something butted repeatedly at his legs. “Oh it’s you, Snowy. Well, if you come too, you’ll have to keep at our heels or you’ll give the game away! By the way – Where’s Kiki? I haven’t seen or heard her tonight.”

He listened as Jack told him that Kiki was missing. The boy’s misery was palpable. Bill felt for him, but he also hoped that Jack wouldn’t do anything stupid on their way through the mountain. If he thought he could get to Kiki he could easily put them all in danger.

“Where’s the way out of this place?” he asked, trying to focus them all on the task at hand. He shone his torch. “Over there? Are there steps that go down into the mountain? Well, come on then.” He spoke firmly but cheerily. “Every minute is precious now.”

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Chimney Corner Stories part 2

After discovering my Dean edition of Chimney Corner Stories didn’t contain the same stories found in the first edition I wrote quite a bit about that, so here is a review of the remaining stories.


Toy stories

The three toy stories are quite different from each other, though two throw up questions regarding the ‘rules’ of the toy world.

In The Clockwork Mouse Gerry forgets his purse and the clockwork mouse races off to take it to him out on the street.

It’s unusual to see any Blyton toy running around in the day,  especially on a busy street as so many stories make a point of the toys having to be perfectly still and inanimate during the day and/or when any people are around.

What’s extra bizarre is although Gerry is amazed that the mouse is there with his purse, he can hardly believe it, but then he just jumps on the bus and leaves his miraculous toy in the street!


She Turned Up Her Nose
sounds like the title of a standard unpleasant child sort of story but the She is a doll called Anabella Mary. She’s unpopular like Amelia Jane, but because she’s too grand and stuck up rather than being particularly unkind or naughty. She is not invited to a party as she didn’t help to clean the dolls’ house, but she feels bad and turns her fine coat into new curtains to make amends. It would be interesting to see if she stayed un-stuck-up after that, or if like Amelia Jane just went back to her old ways!

The Smickle-Smockle sounds like something Amelia Jane would make (remember her plasticine snake tail?) but it’s made by a Golly who rather likes to pick on the quieter toys. He makes a strange creature from the plasticine:

“Small head, enormous ears, a long neck, a perfectly round body with wings, and a long tail like a fish. It had three feet at the front and what looked like a wheel behind.”

The pink rabbit is terrified of it and has a miserable few days. The bear tells Golly he must fix the problem so for some reason he makes some plasticine vegetables which the pink rabbit eats. This means Golly must give up his fifteen farthings (less than 4d) to buy new plasticine.

This story throws up a question of the toys ability to digest things – they eat cakes and so on in many stories – but here it’s said that the pink rabbit had insides make of sawdust.


Actions and consequences

Some of these stories could fit into more than one category, I suppose, or at least sound like they could.

The first, Trit-Trot the Pony, could be classified as an animal story as it does feature a rather sentient horse. Trit-Trot likes some of the boys, like Billy, who pass his field, but he dislikes Harry as he is not a kind boy. When Harry steals from Billy, Trit-Trot apprehends him and makes sure Billy gets his money back.

The Little Bully sounds like a straight-forward story about a nasty child but it has talking crabs and lobsters in it. Does that make it an animal story or a magic one perhaps? Anyway, the pinching creatures teach Henry a lesson as he likes to pinch other children.

 

The final one is The Six Little Motor-Cars and has no animals or magic elements. In it, Thomas comes to play with Henry and has a tantrum at home time as he wants to take the toy cars home.

His mother is annoyingly unhelpful and says “He has been very unwell, and I have had to give him his own way a lot. The doctor says it is bad for him to scream.” I mean, emotional blackmail or what?

Henry’s mother crumbles and persuades him to lend the cars and he is naturally very worried about whether they will be looked after. I had a bad feeling about it but was pleasantly surprised that the cars were returned by a sheepish Thomas who has had a stern talking to from his father.


Animal stories

I’m not a huge fan of animal stories, actually. I find animals interesting but I don’t fawn over them the way some people do.

The Three Strange Travellers are a goat a duck and a dog who are all homeless. They band together and shelter with an old woman one night. They are then able to rescue her from thieves and she takes them in permanently. This reminded me a little of the Julia Donaldson book What the Ladybird Heard where the farmyard animals conspire together to foil Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh who come to steal the fine prize cow.

I think Blyton forgot that The Proud Little Dog wasn’t a magic tale as she names the dog Prince, the cat Green-Eyes and the woman Dame Tiptap. Then again, the dog, who is spoiled and runs away seems to be able to communicate on an unusually skilful level with his owner! When he returns a cat and kittens are in his usual place and he has to accept less impressive lodgings as a consequence of his actions.

The Disagreeable Monkey is a story of monkey vs mirror. There are five nice monkeys and the greedy bully Bula.  A mirror is put in their cage and while the other monkeys are amazed to see so many other monkeys, Bula is enraged and tries to fight his reflection. Monkeys are supposed to be intelligent but none of them ever figure it’s a mirror!


And the adventure story

I was excited to read The Secret Cave but it ended up being a little disappointing. The most notable thing about it is that it was written in the first person, which was very unusual for Blyton. It’s not unique but I believe there are only a few times she used that.

The story is told by Roger, who along with his twin Joan and older brother William live in a lonely house by the sea. The only other house nearby is a large empty one. I was picturing Spiggy Holes and The Old House at this point!

Just like in The Secret of Spiggy Holes the story takes the children into the walled gardens of the old house where they find and old shed (locked from the inside) and turn it into a play house (much like in The Treasure Hunters). Inside they find a secret passage under the floor which leads to a cave which is filled with old boxes containing clothes and other personal possessions.

Back in the garden they meet an old man – the owner of the house – who tells them a tale of murder and intrigue which explains the boxes in the cave.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on a couple of points, and although its an attempt to tell a tale like the deliciously dark ones in, say, The Ring o’ Bells Mystery or Five Go to Demon’s Rocks, it just comes across as a load of exposition to resolve the story.

The man’s family was to flee France but were captured at the last minute. Their belongings, as arranged, were delivered to the cave but the ship sank on the return voyage leaving the whole thing a secret.

As the only survivor the man came to live at the house as a boy, but he nor anyone else ever found the secret passage or the cave and boxes.

The fact that nobody – even when looking for a secret passage – ever investigated the shed, or used a boat to look for the cave end, is odd enough. But the shed, locked from the inside, also had a flagstone and a carpet covering the trapdoor. How did they get laid down again so neatly if whoever locked the door then went down the passage? Or if the person came up the passage and laid them down, how did they then lock the door from the inside?


Overall this isn’t one of the best short story collections I’ve read, for me there were too many repeated plots (and too many magical stories). The illustrations were also a bit hit-or-miss, interestingly they were provided by two different artists – Pat Harrison and Cicely Steed.

At some point I will have a look at the first edition I’ve bought and see what that is like.

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Monday #438

I feel like I’m running out of things to say on Mondays! I usually fall back on that British classic of the weather – which has been so-so for the time of year, some rain, some sunshine.

Brodie went back to nursery on Tuesday and it was like he’d never been away. He was giving (impromptu) tours of the nursery to the new boys and girls on their first visits and having “nice chats” with the new parents, which is a far cry from the little boy who could only say 2-3 words at a time last year.

Chimney Corner stories part 2

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 20

There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was very grans and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by the country people in a large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.

This is the opening paragraph of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a book which was one of Enid Blyton’s favourite books as a child.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 19

Last time Bill and Johns landed atop the mountain and rescued Philip.


Chapter 19

Philip stood in the back of the helicopter, using the heavy wings to balance himself against the sides. Despite his brave face he was absolutely terrified. He didn’t believe for a second that these wings – beautifully crafted though they were – would have any effect on his fall. From what he’d heard from Sam not jumping wouldn’t be an option. The pilot’s mate was a hefty chap and no doubt his job would be to push him out if necessary.

He hefted one wing experimentally. It was reassuringly solid even though it was quite light. Yes, if he could manoeuvre himself he might just be able to serve the pilot’s mate a pretty good whack over the head. And then what? Well, the pilot couldn’t very well fly the ‘copter and push him out, could he. Philip had ideas of threatening to bash the pilot over the head too, unless he landed, but he would just have to play it by ear.

It was hard to be stealthy so he moved quickly instead and lunged at the man in the left-hand seat. At the last moment the pilot – who must have seen some reflection, the light gleaming on the golden wings, perhaps, – positively leapt out of his own seat and tackled Philip back.

The helicopter lurched alarmingly but Philip was too busy being grappled to the floor to see what was going on. He tried battering the man with the wings but he hardly had space to move. The pilot was heavy, lying right on top of him, and shouting in his ear. He was shouting back but in the din of the rotor blades neither could hear what the other was saying. Suddenly the pilot reached one hand up and knocked his hat off, revealing a bald head that gleamed in the moonlight. Then he yanked off his flight goggles. Philip was surprised enough by this to have stopped struggling, and his jaw dropped as he recognised Bill’s face.

“Bill!” he yelled, though he barely hear his own voice over the sound of the helicopter.

“How on earth…” he began but Bill, who was now sitting back on his haunches, held his hands up, then pointed to his ear, then down to the ground some way below them. Philip interpreted that as ‘wait until we land’, and grinning madly, shuffled himself into a more comfortable position as Bill went back to the controls.

Philip sat back, amazed at Bill’s magical appearance. He was a bit dazed and said to himself “It’s Bill, it’s good old Bill!” He was desperate to ask how Bill had happened to land a helicopter atop the mountain but he was aware that the two men wouldn’t be able to hear him, so he tried to calm himself until the helicopter landed.

The helicopter touched down with a bit of bump a few minutes later and Bill killed the engine. Blessed silence filled their ears for just a moment before Philip exclaimed, “I say, Bill! Where on earth did you spring from? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was you. I thought I was in serious trouble there.”

Bill turned and looked at the boy, “You almost were! It has taken me an age to track you down! You got yourself into a sticky situation all right, Philip!”

“You mean David got us into a sticky situation!” Philip objected. “Did you know that he got us lost and then rode off and abandoned us?”

“I know something of it,” Bill said, his anger at David leaving the children stirring again. “However, any normal children would have stayed where they were left, made camp and waited for the adults to come and find them!” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Johns looked back and forth between the two as they argued but seemed unwilling to intervene. “That’s exactly what we did do!” Philip said indignantly. “I was hardly any distance from the camp at all when those fellows came out of nowhere and marched me off! And of course the others came after me, you would have done the same and you know it!” He tried to point at Bill but caught the end of one wing on the side of the helicopter. “Do you think you could help me out of these now? They look great, but I can’t do a thing in them!”

Bill had to laugh. “All right, Philip. Johns, come and give me a hand to get him out these wings will you?” Johns nodded and moved to Philips side to help Bill manhandle the boy out of the golden wings. “These are surprisingly sturdy,” he remarked as he struggled with a catch on one wing. “But as far as I can see, Boss, there’s no actual mechanics to them.”

“No,” Philip said as Bill suddenly looked very sober. “The King says that he has trapped some sort of anti-gravity rays within the wings. When someone jumps, all he has to do is press the button on each wing to release the rays and then glide to earth.”

Bill gave a snort of disbelief. “I should think he’s a very ill man, or a crazy one if he thinks that will work. I wish we could have discovered this sooner, I hate to think how many men may have lost their lives to this crazy fool.”

“That’s what Sam – he’s the paratrooper we met in the mountain – says. None of them men who jump ever come back. Meier says they’ve been well-paid and sent home… but…”

“Well, it stops now,” Bill said firmly. “First up, we need to get the others off that mountain-top. Then, once we’re back in civilisation I’m going to come down on that lot like a ton of bricks.”

Philip wanted to cheer Bill on, but he thought that this wasn’t the time or the place to do so. “How are you going to get the others off the mountain?” he asked curiously. “Do you have a cunning plan, Bill?”

“Well, that depends,” said Bill. “Where will the others be now that you’ve supposedly jumped?”

“They’ve been sleeping on the mountain-top the past few nights,” Philip said straight away. “The paratroopers are sometimes there during the day, but never at night. They’ll be on their own up there.”

Bill could sense that Philip had guessed his plan. “Excellent,” he said. “There’s just a few things we need to discuss, and then I’m going to take this helicopter back up there and whisk the other three away.”

To be continued…

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The Island of Adventure – TV tie in novel

A long time ago, before the word lockdown had entered our everyday vocabulary, I borrowed two books from the library.

They were The Island of Adventure and The Sea of Adventure, both being novels based on the Cloud 9 TV adaptation of the Adventure Series.

the-island-of-adventure-tv

Then, very recently, some 15 or so months after first borrowing the books, I finally read one.


From bad to worse

In my reviews of the Adventure Series adaptations I’m honest about thinking they’re not very good. They’re better than the Secret Series ones, but that’s not saying much. On the whole they’re moderately interesting and I suspect had they been original works, they’d have been just fine. But as Blyton adaptations they mess with them so much that they don’t always resemble the original books.

If it’s possible, the book is even worse than the TV episode. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Normally I really enjoy reading the book version of a TV show or film I’ve already seen, regardless of which existed first. I enjoy reading the way it all played out originally in the original book, or if it’s a novelisation then I enjoy the added insights you get into the characters’ thoughts.

The book is the worst of both worlds. It takes an already dubious screenplay and then attempts to make it a novel. A film or TV show adapting a book has to make changes as things that work on the page don’t always work on screen. For example characters’ inner thoughts are hard to show on-screen unless you have a voice over, or some special effects are too difficult or expensive to pull off.

The reverse is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent.

On-screen we learn who everyone is through natural dialogue – whereas in the book (as with Blyton’s book) the characters are named in the narration. We also get some of their background early on; such as Jack and Lucy-Ann’s relationship. It wouldn’t really have worked any other way – to have “the boy” fall out of a tree and argue with “the other boy” until they get back to camp where we learn Lucy-Ann and Jack’s names as it would be cumbersome and confusing.

What doesn’t work so well are the paragraphs describing Bill as he acts suspiciously watching the gallery and so on. Obviously when watching the TV episode we don’t know who he is, and we just have to watch those short scenes where he’s in his car watching. They’re intriguing, they leave us wondering.

The first time Bill is mentioned is in the closing paragraph of chapter one:

They didn’t notice the stranger observing them from his open-topped black sports car. Even after they’d gone back inside the gallery he continued watching like a hawk.

Then half-way through chapter two, jammed in between two bits of dialogue is:

Outside, from the cliffs near the house, the stranger in the open-topped sports car was scanning the island through binoculars. Then he swung round until he got a good close-up of Craggy Tops.

At the start of chapter three:

Outside, the strange an who’d been watching Craggy Tops parked his open-topped black sports car, walked up the steps and entered the gallery.

It’s just such childish writing! It’s as if someone watched the episode and simply transcribed exactly what they saw without adding any sort of detail or background. The man isn’t described at all, not his build, colourings or expression. The descriptions of the car are annoyingly repetitive, though.

Right after the last quote, suddenly the man is referred to as Bill with no explanation, but he is also the stranger and the strange man on the next page.

Another bizarre reworking is the conversation Bill has with Sir George over the radio. In the episode we cut to Sir George and then only hear his side of the conversation. In the book is says that Philip can hear Sir George’s voice coming over the radio but we still only get his side of the conversation!

After that, on-screen Sir George mutters to himself then make a phone call, and we cut to Bill and Philip in Bill’s car arriving at the dock. The book skips the Sir George extra and woodenly describes what Bill and Philip do:

“Quick,” said Bill to Philip as soon as he’d finished his conversation. “We need to get over to that island as soon as possible.”

They raced outside, jumped into his car, drove to the jetty and boarded the Crescendo. 


One star

I’m generally quite generous when it comes to rating books, I give most things at least three stars but usually four. This got one star, however.

As I said earlier, the writer didn’t have the best material to work with, but the writing is bland and uninteresting. It’s honestly as if a child has written it – or an adult was given the script and one hour to turn it into a novel.

I didn’t do a word for word read/watch through but I did for a few scenes and I would say 80-90% of the dialogue is exactly the same but there are some unimportant changes made, for no obvious reason that I could see. One or two scenes are reorganised, perhaps to make the reading less choppy as the TV episode does occasionally alternate between scenes occurring at the same time.

In short: I do not recommend. Watch the TV show if you like, it’s not the worst way to spend a few hours but don’t waste your time on this book. It’s an affront to have Enid Blyton’s name on the front of it.

As an aside I now have the TV theme tune stuck in my head.

I’ll always stand byyyy yoooooou!

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Monday #437

It is the first week of the new school year where I am, the summer holidays have absolutely flown by. We packed tons in, and while I’m quite looking forward to a bit of peace while Brodie is at nursery I’m not looking forward to the end of summer and the sunny day trips!

The Island of Adventure: The TV tie-in novel

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 19

I love a wrap-around dustjacket, and although this hasn’t got much on the back it does have a squirrel on the spine.

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 18

Last time: Bill and Johns went to the airfield and took off in the helicopter heading for Fang Mountain


Chapter 18

The flight was not a long one at all, and if it had been done in daylight Bill was sure that the views would have been breath-taking. As it was, navigating by weak moonlight, the deep valleys looked like murky pools of darkness broken only by the occasional glint of water. Bill adjusted his flying goggles – an uncomfortable but necessary bit of disguise – and spoke to Johns. “I reckon we must be almost there.” Johns nodded. “Let’s just hope they turn the lights on for us like it says in the note.”

Thankfully, as they circled the approximate location that they had been told to fly to, a big beam of light came on and flashed up into the sky, helping them manoeuvre the helicopter down onto the platform on the mountain. The machine landed with a jolt and Bill let out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. He turned the engine off, and the cockpit light on, and glanced at Johns. “Ready?”

“Yes, sir,” Johns said, looking grim. Without the whirring of the rotors the mountain-top was eerily quiet. Bill and Johns couldn’t see much, the lights were angled in such a way that they couldn’t see into the darkness beyond them. They waited, as they had been instructed to, and Bill felt a prickle of unease run down his spine. Had they been tipped off, somehow, that they were impostors? Suddenly, from nowhere, or so it seemed, came several men. “You the Boss?” Bill called in a voice quite unlike his own, speaking to the man in front who seemed to be in charge. “I’ve taken Kahn’s place,” he said clearly when the man nodded, using Alan’s code name. Apparently even Mike and Alan didn’t entirely trust whatever was going on up here. “He’s on holiday. Had a job finding this place. This is Johns, my mate. We’ve got the goods you wanted.” Apparently there was no problem with any of that as the group of men who had followed the boss onto the mountain top began to efficiently unload the boxes and crates from the rear of the helicopter.

When everything had been unloaded, Bill and Johns jumped out of the helicopter, to await their orders “There is a meal ready for you,” said one of the men, the one whom Bill had heard another man call Meier. “You will start back tomorrow night?”
“No,” Bill said firmly. He didn’t know what was going on up here but he didn’t like it one bit and did not intend to commit to staying. He could see now that there was only one way down into the mountain, through a large hatch which was currently being guarded. As much as he wanted to find the children he didn’t fancy his and Johns’ odds if they went down there tonight. “Got to leave tonight. They’re making enquiries about some of our doings. Got to be back at once,” he said.

“You have been told that – er – that er…”

Bill cut Meier off. “What – that some paratrooper wants a jump off the helicopter? Oh yes,” he said, feigning a complete lack of concern. “That’s okay by me. If a chap wants to do that, well it’s no business of mine.”

“You will be paid very very well,” Meier said grimly. “This time it is double the price. We have a young jumper – it is necessary for our experiments, you understand.”

Bill froze, just for a moment. A young jumper? One of the children? Thank the lord that it had been he and Johns who had come tonight. “What do you mean – a young jumper?” he asked, a little more sharply than he had intended.
“A boy. He is here,” Meier said, before turning to some of the servants and speaking in a language Bill didn’t recognise. As the servant ran off Meier turned to Bill once more and continued, “I have sent him to tell the inventor that you have arrived. Now will you come to have a meal?”

Bill studied the man all the while he was talking and he didn’t even have to play act his rebuttal, “No, I must be off. Get the boy and make him ready.” Bill’s reply had come from the desire to get the young jumper to safety as soon as possible, especially if it was Jack or Philip. If it was one of the boys, he’d be able to get more information from them before returning the following night with reinforcements.

It was only thanks to Bill’s training and experience that he was able to stand by calmly as he saw Philip for the first time. The boy looked pale but he was holding his head high and Bill felt a surge of pride. Some way behind Philip he could see Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah. They were together, then, that was good. He was careful not to take too much of an interest in any of them, which was as much for his sake as for his cover. He was afraid to look and see how upset and frightened Lucy-Ann in particular was. If he did he wasn’t sure he would be able to fly off and leave her behind.

Before he could ask if Philip was ready, another man appeared, dressed as a king. At first glance he appeared majestic but upon closer inspection his crown was crooked and there was something curiously blank about his face. A box was brought in and laid reverently beside him, and this man – this king of the mountain – lifted out a large golden wing. It looked wonderful, the golden feathers shimmered in the light, but Bill couldn’t for the life of him see how it was supposed to make the wearer fly. He watched as the pair of the wings were strapped onto Philip’s arms, the boy making not the slightest bit of a fuss. Bill stayed silent as Philip was shown two buttons on the wings and then gave them an experimental flap. His heart was in his mouth despite knowing that there was no way he would ever let Philip jump out of the helicopter.

As everyone stood and admired the wings on Philip, no one saw Lucy-Ann step forward and move towards the king. Bill steeled himself, not wanting the men to harm Lucy-Ann. He couldn’t trust himself to stay in character if they did. As she laid her hand on the arm of the Kin’ she said, “Your majesty! I think I ought to try out your wings for you. I am much lighter than Philip. It would be an honour for me to try them.” There was a deafening silence in the courtyard, and then Philip broke the spell and stepped forward to hug Lucy-Ann tightly, shielding her with the golden wings.

Bill didn’t know what Philip said to the girl – that unbelievably brave and selfless girl – but with a sob Lucy-Ann let him go. He and Johns boarded the helicopter again, and Philip climbed into the back, needing help from one of the men as the wings prevented him from using his arms.

At the last minute, just as he helicopter cleared the parapet of the mountain-top Bill felt he just had to shout something to the remaining children. He couldn’t just fly off and leave them to think that Philip had jumped to his death. Leaning forward he called “Don’t forget Bill Smugs,” in his own voice, before the helicopter rose further under his guidance and swung away to the south.

To be continued…

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English Heritage vs Enid Blyton: the rematch

You may remember the outrage in June when English Heritage updated their page on Enid Blyton. I had some thoughts on that, which I shared here.

If you missed it, and don’t feel like reading the 1800 words I wrote on the subject, what happened was:

English Heritage added a couple of paragraphs to their Enid Blyton page, which highlighted some of the criticisms she has faced. Of course those were of racism, xenophobia and a lack of literary merit.

The backlash was swift, with thousands of comments on social media decrying the woke,  the pc brigade and cancel culture. English Heritage had to make it clear that they weren’t going to be removing her plaque, while many threatened to cancel or not renew their memberships.

So all in all it was probably a draw. English Heritage faced a lot of angry comments, but after all, isn’t any publicity good publicity? Blyton’s reputation probably wasn’t significantly harmed as these accusations were nothing new, but I doubt any of those ‘avid’ and furious fans went out and bought any of her books.


Round two: Enid 1, English Heritage 0

And so, on to just last week when English Heritage updated the Blyton page for a second time.

The page has gone from 425 words (with 130 being made up of the criticisms) to 739 words, with around the same number as before being critical – though this is now spread over separate sections.

The main criticisms section has been cut down from:

Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit. A 1966 Guardian article noted the racism of The Little Black Doll (1966), in which the doll of the title, Sambo, is only accepted by his owner once his ‘ugly black face’ is washed ‘clean’ by rain. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its ‘faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’. The book, however, was later published by William Collins.

In 2016, Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer’. Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read.

to:

Both during her lifetime and after, Blyton’s work has been criticised for various aspects of its content. Its formulaic plots and deliberate use of simple language irked some educators.

Others took exception to what they perceived as social snobbery, racism and sexism embedded in Blyton’s storylines. In 1960 the publisher Macmillan refused to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its ‘faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia’. The book, however, was later published by William Collins. In recent years, references to ‘gollywogs’ in Blyton’s stories have been replaced by goblins.

The new wording, I feel, further distances English Heritage from the accusations. They have also added a stronger rebuttal to the accusations:

To those who objected to elements of her work, Blyton replied that the opinion of any critic over 12 years old did not interest her, and she successfully took legal action against a librarian who repeated the persistent story that her prolific output was enabled by a squad of ghost writers.

The article still includes the fact that the Royal Mint decided against featuring Blyton on a new 50p but ends with:

While criticisms of Blyton cannot be entirely dismissed, her work has encouraged generations of children to read. It continues – sometimes in revised form – to sell in considerable quantities. According to UNESCO, she remains the fourth most translated author in the world, after Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and Shakespeare.

The first sentence there previously read Others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read. English Heritage appear to be standing behind Blyton now, and making that assertation (the addition of entirely even suggesting that some criticisms could be!) for themselves.

There is also some new information added to the page regarding her books. The entire Success section is new, and the Commemoration section is mostly new except for the sentence about the Royal Mint.


The furore, part two

Well, there isn’t any. The updates to the page have, as far as I have seen, gone almost completely unnoticed by the media and the general public.

The updated page has been shared on the Enid Blyton Society forums, with many members commenting to say how pleased they are.

Other than that, though, nothing. Somehow the softening of the accusations, along with adding more positive information is not considered news-worthy. It probably wouldn’t whip people into foaming at the mouth over political correctness gone mad, so it hasn’t been covered – despite the fact that English Heritage have backtracked somewhat on their earlier stance.

I wonder how many people actually cancelled/did not renew their memberships, and of those, how many would reconsider based on the new page? I imagine that as the accusations of racism etc are still there plenty of people will still be bizarrely offended.


I hope that Blyton fans will be pleased with this latest development – one which has occurred in time for the 124th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth, which is today! So happy birthday, Enid.

I always agreed with the addition of the criticisms, though even without those I felt the page was too short and lacking in information. The new page is, although still short (and containing an error regarding the title of her first proper book) is much better all-round.

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Monday #436

I’m at the end of a week off work now, and we packed a lot in. Now it’s back to normal, or a at least normal for the school holidays during a pandemic. Scotland, as of today, has moved from level 0 to “beyond level 0” which means a bit more freedom for us all.

The 11th of August is Blyton’s birthday so that’s this Wednesday, you can see below what I’ll be posting that day. The first round was a bit of a draw, so let’s see who wins this time.

English Heritage vs Enid Blyton: the rematch

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 18

“Ahoy there! AHOY!”

Granpa had a colossally loud voice when he wanted to make people hear. The fisherman in the far-off boat heard him at once.

“WE’VE GOT YOUR DOG!” Yelled Granpa. “WE ARE TAKING HIM ASHORE. YOU FINISH YOUR NAP. HA HA.

This is from Wake up, Granpa! which I found in Enid Blyton’s Magazine, volume 5 issue 16. It doesn’t appear to have been reprinted anywhere else.

In short, from the beach, Andy spots a dog in trouble in the sea, and wakes up his Granpa who is sleeping in his deckchair. They row out to rescue the dog – whose troubles have gone unnoticed as his owner is asleep in his own boat. Later Andy is known as The Boy Who Rescued The Dog which would also be a good title for the story!

 

 

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 17

Last time Johns arrived at the farmhouse to assist Bill.


Chapter 17

The two men worked and studied the maps of the area through til lunchtime. Bill recounted everything he had found out and every bit of information that he had gotten out of the two men at the pub the night before. Johns took it all in, though Bill could see he was tired from his exceptionally early start. He made up his mind to tell the other man to sleep after lunch, he needed him sharp and ready for the evening. The sun blinded them as they left the barn for the kitchen and Mrs Evans’ amazing cooking.

Allie was helping Mrs Evans set the table for five, and had forgone her sling. Bill wondered if she was trying to make a point that she was at least somewhat recovered now. He hoped she wouldn’t ask to be involved in that evening’s rescue mission. He didn’t think she would, she was a sensible woman and would know that there would be no place for her on such an operation. Still, he knew she wouldn’t be happy about being left behind, what mother would when her children were in danger?

Allie glanced up when Bill and John’s entered and smiled wryly at Bill. “I knew your stomachs would lead you in sooner or later,” she teased, though the laughter didn’t reach her eyes. “Sit down and I’ll get you a drink while Mrs Evans serves.” She moved to get the drinks Mrs Evans has prepared, and thought better of carrying the whole tray over. She brought the drinks to the men, one by one, though they didn’t seem to notice her. They were still discussing something, and Allie found that she couldn’t get close enough to hear their quiet voices. She wished she could ask Bill to let her go with them, but she knew he would say no and point out that it was no place for a woman like her.

Bill and Johns broke apart when Mrs Evans put a heavy dish on the table with a bit of a thump, and both looked guilty having been rudely ignoring the women. Bill cleared his throat. “What a wonderful spread,” he said to Mrs Evans.

“It’s a pity there aren’t more to enjoy it,” she said heavily. She was generally remaining in good humour but now and again the plight of the children caused her to sink into a morose mood.

“Indeed to gootness, it’s awfully quiet without those children,” Mr Evans lamented as he took his seat, still brushing straw from his trousers.

“They will be back soon to enjoy Mrs Evans’ wonderful food,” Bill promised.

“I just know that you will bring them back safe, look you,” Mrs Evans said firmly, sitting down and reaching out to pat his hand.

Bill smiled kindly and looked sideways at Johns. “In the meantime, Johns can make up for four hungry children I’m sure,” he joked weakly.

“I’ll do my best,” Johns promised seriously.

He did eat well, as did Bill. He wasn’t overly hungry but he thought he ought to get a good meal in as who knew what the evening would hold. He sent Johns off to get some rest upstairs, Mrs Evans being good enough to make up a bed for him at short notice, and he sat back and thought about what he still needed to do to be ready for later. Not a lot, really. They’d both change their clothes and pack a bag each but that wouldn’t take long. They’d already planned all their routes, both primary and back-ups. Their contingency plans were in place, as much as they could be. They’d call in to HQ on their way to Abergavenny so that they were up-to-date and on standby, and that was all they could do, really, until they were up in the air.

Bill found himself growing tense as he drove towards the airfield that evening. He really hoped he and Johns could pull this off and rescue the children, or at least get a lie of the land. He wanted to bring the children back as soon as possible but he knew he would have to make a decision once he’d got more of an idea of what was going on on top of that mountain.

Allie had been stoic and wished them luck when they’d left the farmhouse and he prayed he wasn’t going to return with any sort of bad news for her. They’d left early enough to scope out the airfield, just to make sure this wasn’t some sort of trap, though the chances of that were slim. Then they’d collect the required keys and paperwork from a locker on-base. Mike had already passed him a key to a padlock for a side-gate on the base.

Johns was as quiet as a mouse as they got out of the car, just down the road from the airfield. He was a good agent, Bill knew, even though he wished it was Anatoly helping him right now. Johns kept a look out as Bill unlocked the side gate, one hand in his jacket pocket, gripping his gun in case this was all a trap.

But, as promised, the air field was completely deserted, with the exception of old Bert the night watchman. Bert had been well-paid to ignore their night-time activities so he wouldn’t pose any problems, but still, Bill was keen to avoid him this early in the evening. The locker they found easily and removed the key which opened the helicopter doors, also inside was a map with the coordinates of the mountain, other flight routes in the area, safe landing spots and so on clearly marked. A quick scan told Bill that their annotated maps were more or less identical, which was good to know.

Enthused by the fact that the plan seemed to be going well, Bill turned to Johns and motioned him to follow as he headed to the forecourt where the helicopter was standing, ready for its illicit take off. As instructed they flashed a torch on and off in the requisite pattern to let Bert know that the helicopter wasn’t being stolen, and after an answering flash came from the watchman’s hut, Bill opened the helicopter doors. He slung their gear in the back and they settled in the cockpit seats.

“I’ve not flown this model before,” Bill said to Johns. “But I don’t think it’ll be a problem.” He took a few minutes just to familiarise himself with all the controls, noticing that Johns was doing the same, then when they were both confident they knew what was what, Bill pressed the started button for the engine and it purred into life. He performed his flight safety checks diligently and then, at last, he opened the throttle to increase the rotor speed, pulled slowly on the collective and pressed the left foot pedal down, until finally, the helicopter rose slowly into the air.

To be continued…

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July 2021 round up

July brought a heatwave but also some very heavy rain and storms.


What I have read

I started out well in July but didn’t keep it up. Still, 9 books isn’t bad for during the school holidays! I’m now done with the Robert Langdon books so I’m not sure what I’ll focus on next. I’ve still got one more Indian in the Cupboard book to read, and loads of other things on my to-read list.

  • Remember Me? – Sophie Kinsella
  • Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) – Dan Brown
  • Detective Stories (Rivers of London graphic novel #4) – Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Mystery of Tully Hall – Zöe Billings (reviewed here)
  • The Mystery of the Indian (The Indian in the Cupboard #4) – Lynne Reid Banks
  • Tayside’s Last Days of Steam – W.A.C. Smith
  • Fife’s Lost Railways – Gordon Stansfield
  • Chimney Corner Storiesreviewed here
  • Origin (Robert Langdon #5) – Dan Brown

And I’m currently reading:

  • Dilly’s Lass (Dilly’s Story #2)
  • Confessions of a Curious Bookseller – Elizabeth Green

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, some more Mythbusters and a few more episodes of Loki.
  • Only Connect, which returned for a new series this month.
  • I have finished the fourth season of True Blood which is as far as I ever watched before, now I’ll have to open the still-wrapped season 5 boxset and start that.
  • Our Tuesday night movies this month were: Full Out 2: You Got This!, Footloose and Magic Mike XXL.

What I have done

We’ve been quite busy this month with lots of day-trips as we both took a week of annual leave so we could enjoy ourselves a bit.

We went to:

  • Auchmithie, and explored the beach and caves
  • Two zoos, the larger Five Sisters Zoo which is near Livingston, and the tiny Fife Zoo where we saw armadillos for the first time – they were much livelier and more curious than I had imagined.
  • A new nature reserve we happened to discover (Birnie and Gaddon Lochs) where we saw ducks, swans, a heron, a frog, lots of bees and little blue dragonflies
  • The Discovery – the ship that the ship that took Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica in 1901!
  • Murton Farm which has a few animals but we mostly go for the trampolines, sandpits and other play equipment
  • The Scottish Deer Centre, now reopened under new management and with the addition of a vintage fire engine, which of course Brodie loved.
  • The Dundee Museum of Transport – we went on the special emergency vehicles day and saw a load of police cars and fire engines which were parked outside.
  • East Haven beach where we paddled and explored the rock pools
  • And lastly Auchingarrich where Brodie enjoyed milking a fake cow, petting the guinea-pigs and tortoises and playing in the park

Apart from all those days out we also:

  • Had two separate days of isolating and waiting for Covid test results. On the second day we set up a campsite in the garden and ‘toasted’ marshmallows on a pretend fire.
  • Did some baking. We made some banana bread and ice-cream, but I had rather a disaster trying to make a rhubarb crumble. It was so hot that the crumble just melted together and turned into a soup… It still tasted OK though.
  • Have been looking after nursery plot which is where we got the rhubarb from
  • Visited various parks

 


What I have bought

After my discovery that my copy of Chimney Corner Stories didn’t contain the original 20 stories I ordered myself a new copy which I think is a first edition, though it doesn’t have a dust jacket.

 


What has your month looked like?

 

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Monday #435

Well, somehow it is August already! That means Brodie is about to turn 4, the schools go back in a couple of weeks and we are nearing the end of summer.

July round up

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 17

How surprising people were! You thought some of them were so horrid, and believed all kinds of things about them—and then they turned out quite different and you wanted to be friends.

Elizabeth Allen reflects on not judging people on first appearances in The Naughtiest Girl Again.

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Short Stories: Chimney Corner Stories

This was supposed to be an easy review for me, but it has become complicated and cost me money! (Don’t worry, Cunningham & Petrov will return next Friday!)

While adminning my Enid Blyton Facebook group several answers to the security question – What is your favourite Enid Blyton book? – were Chimney Corner Stories. I also had a skim through the book in response to a question and spotted a few interesting stories, so decided to do a review.

As always, I started with research. I have a Dean & Son edition (I normally dislike D&S but this one has a nice dustjacket, and short story collections aren’t my main interest), and wanted to establish the first edition details and also look at the original sources for the stories, as Blyton rarely wrote fresh material for those sorts of books.

The first Dean & Son edition

At this point I noticed that the story lists didn’t match. At first I thought they were just in a different order, as several were the same. But no. Dean and Son (who I now feel I’m even more justified in disliking) have reprinted the book with the same number of stories but only 8 are the same, the remaining 12 are from elsewhere.

I mean, why? Why publish a new edition but leave out over half the content – yet make it the same length with other content? (Abridged books annoy me greatly but at least they’re usually a bit more obvious about it).

I was so annoyed that I have now ordered an early edition with the original 20 stories but came across another anomaly at the same time. I found ten or so possibilities on eBay which I then looked at more closely. A few were 1953 editions, by Latimer House. Two of the sellers were good enough to show the contents page – with all of 9 stories! I have no idea what that’s all about but I’m glad I paid attention, else I would have been even more annoyed.

The abridged Latimer House edition

For now I will review this shoddy copy as it’s all I have, and will revisit the real thing when it arrives in the next week or so. I mean, who knows, maybe all the people saying this was their favourite book had this reprinted copy anyway!


National Magazine Co contents Vs Dean & Son

First edition contents on the left and Dean & Sons on the right.

The Secret Cave
The Enchanted Table
The Magic Walking-Stick
Winkle-Pip Walks Out
The Three Strange Travellers
The Party in the Hollow Tree
The Golden Enchanter
The Little Paper-Folk
The Enchanted Balloon
Mary Jane, the Little Doll
Polly and the Monkey
The Lazy Giant
The Skippetty Goblins
The Big Humming-Top
The Disagreeable Monkey
Mr. Curly-Wig’s Adventure
Dame Crabby’s Surprise Packet
Bonzo Gets Into Trouble
The Little Bully
In the King’s Shoes
The Clockwork Mouse
Winkle-Pip Walks Out ◊
Trit-Trot the Pony
The Magic Walking Stick ◊
The Snoozy Gnome
The Three Strange Travellers ◊
She Turned Up Her Nose
The Secret Cave ◊
The Proud Little Dog
The Little Bully ◊
The Six Little Motor-Cars
The Unkind Children
The Little Paper-Folk ◊
The Tiresome Poker
The Enchanted Table ◊
The Boy Who Boasted
The Disagreeable Monkey
The Smickle-Smockle
The Golden Enchanter ◊
The Wizard’s Umbrella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

◊= appears in both books


All the stories from the first edition – with the exception of The Little Bully which came from Teacher’s World – come from Sunny Stories Magazine. The additional content for the Dean & Son book also comes from Sunny Stories but most were also published in this book, too.

The first edition

Just out of interest the 9 story edition contains the 8 stories which appear in both editions above, plus The Disagreeable Monkey.


A variety pack

This is a classic short story collection in that it has a variety of different story types. I know that technically the Amelia Jane books, the Mr Meddle books and so on are short story collections, too, but they feel less like that as they are all about the same character(s).

The stories in this collection can be sorted into five broad categories.

Fantasy/magic
Set in a world of witches, wizards, gnomes, elves and fairies. There are a few common types of story under the fantasy umbrella, such as a naughty character who angers a witch or wizard or misuses a magical object and experiences the consequences, or where children from the real world come across magical characters and either perform a good deed for them or are punished for bad behaviour.

  • Winkle-Pip Walks Out
  • The Magic Walking-Stick
  • The Snoozy Gnome
  • The Unkind Children
  • The Little Paper-Folk
  • The Tiresome Poker
  • The Enchanted Table
  • The Boy Who Boasted
  • The Golden Enchanter
  • The Wizard’s Umbrella

Toy stories
Where the nursery (or toy-shop) toys come to life when nobody’s around.

    • The Clockwork Mouse
    • She Turned Up Her Nose
    • The Smickle-Smockle

Actions have consequences
A lot of the magical stories could fit into this category but I think the regular human tales of bullies and kind-deed-doers are a genre of their own.

  • Trit-Trot the Pony
  • The Little Bully
  • The Six Little Motor-Cars

Animal stories
In short stories the animals usually have a ‘voice’ of their own, even if it’s only internal and they behave more like people than animals. Usually there’s a moral about actions having consequences, too.

  • The Three Strange Travellers
  • The Proud Little Dog
  • The Disagreeable Monkey

Adventure stories
Pretty self-explanatory!

  • The Secret Cave

My favourite kind of stories are the adventure ones so it’s a shame to only have one in this book, but I expect that adventure stories are harder to write in short form. I also enjoy the toy stories but my least favourite are the fantasy ones. I tend to find there are so many that they are rather repetitive with their ‘naughty imp makes bad decisions and is punished by Dame so-and-so the witch’ plots, but there are some clever ideas to be found still, and if you only read a few now and again you might not notice the repetition.


Fantasy stories

The majority of the stories in the book are about magic, as above my least favourite genre.

There’s a lot of repetition in names amongst these stories as well as in the plots. Blyton used similar plots across many stories as she wrote hundreds of them, so I blame the publisher for choosing so many similar ones for this collection.

In an alliterative feast we have a Tappetty Witch (the giver of Winkle-Pip’s wishing suit), Tell-Tale Tippy and Enchanter Too-Tall (receiver and giver of the magic walking stick), Tippit the snoozy gnome, Tiptoe Village, a Pippit…

There are two stories with exceptionally similar plots – The Magic Walking Stick (TMWS) and The Tiresome Poker (TTP). In TMWS Enchanter Too-Tall gives Tell-Tale Tippy an enchanted walking stick to punish him for telling tales, while in TTP Sleeky the pixie steals a magic fire-lighting poker. In both stories the main character then desperately tries to get rid of the magical object, throwing them out windows, in bins, into water, and so on. In both the wet object returns in the night and gets into the bed to warm up. Both characters have to mend their bad ways in response to the magic objects’ constant presence.

A third – The Wizard’s Umbrella – is also quite similar. Ribby’s always borrowing things and never returning them so Wizard Deep-One enchants a dog-head umbrella and lends it to him. It then comes alive and after chasing Ribby home, stays there demanding to be fed constantly.

A couple of the stories are set in what you would think would be the normal world until someone magical turns up. In The Unkind Children Winnie and Robert are throwing stones at birds when Mrs-Do-the-Same-to-You turns up and drags them into the woods where they are set upon by pea-shooter wielding brownies. Likewise in The Boy Who Boasted Sammy is just boasting away when Smink shows up and boasts right back. Whatever Sammy boasts about, Smink boasts harder – and can prove it’s all true, unlike Sammy. I started to wonder if Smink’s magic power was making things come true just by saying them, but it didn’t look like that by the end.

The other story, The Little Paper-Folk, is a little different – Jimmy and Susan had been cutting out pictures from magazines when a casual wish not only shrinks them but also brings the paper things to life. Things become tense when the paper people accuse the children of being stuck-up – but it’s not that they don’t want to ride in the car or eat the chocolates, they can’t! They’re real solid people, the cut outs, although alive are still flat!

The opposite occurs in Winkle-Pip Walks Out, after being given a wishing-suit he must grant six wishes every year to regular children, else the suit will stop working. He sets out to the normal world – but he’s warned that children today might be too busy with their wireless-sets and Meccanos to believe in fairies. I wonder if Blyton felt that way (today it would no doubt be too busy with Tik-Tok and Fortnite) as it’s a bit odd, surely Meccano is quite innocuous? As it turns out most of the children he meets are disbelieving and quite nasty!

Of all the magic stories my least favourite has to be The Snoozy Gnome. Tippit falls asleep, his clock stops, he misses a party, but tries to attend the next morning thinking it’s still the day before. As he is dressed as a bear he terrifies everyone. The conundrum of the mistaken time is explained too many times, and really very little happens!

The most interesting story is The Golden Enchanter. In it, the Golden Enchanter hires a new assistant who then tries to rob him. In what is quite an exciting scene they change from animal to animal in a chase – rabbit vs fox, lark vs eagle, mouse vs cat and so on. It made me think of the Wizards’ duel in The Sword in the Stone where Merlin and Madam Mim change rapidly into different creatures.

The last magical story to write about is The Enchanted Table. This is an odd one for me as nobody comes off very well in it. The table is mistreated, but not terribly – the children are careless in kicking it or spilling things on it while eating – so the table starts hitting people, then walks out. It has some adventures, finding itself in places no better than where it started, before ending up somewhere just right.


What with all the confusion over which stories I had, I’ve written an awful lot already so I will write about the rest of the stories in a second post!

 

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Monday #434

We have just had a week of glorious weather in Scotland – possibly our one and only week like that! It’s forecast to be over 20 degrees today as well, but with rain later and rain through the rest of the week as well, though it will stay mild.

Short stories: Chimney Corner Stories

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 17

Below W. Lindsay Cable does a grand job of showing Elizabeth squashed between the jolly girls on the train, and looking none too happy about it!

From The Naughtiest Girl in the School.

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 16

Last time Bill related his evening with Mike and Alan to Allie.


Chapter 16

The morning brought a fresh crisp day, one of the better ones of the trip so far. The Evans were just beginning their morning routine with their animals when a big black shiny car pulled up to the main gate and a young man got out and strode forward to the house, glancing around cautiously.

“He must be here for Mr Cunningham,” Mrs Evans said to her husband, putting down the sack of grain she was carrying and hurrying into the yard.

Bill, sleeping lightly, had heard the purr of the engine and the slam of the car door and entered the kitchen just in time to see Mrs Evans bustling around with the tea-things, not paying any heed to Johns’ protestations. He had quickly thrown on some clothes before coming down, wanting to see who had arrived. He had a hunch it might have been someone from the office but he wasn’t sure and wanted to make sure that the visitor wasn’t hostile.

Johns was trying very hard not to let Mrs Evans cook him a full blown meal. He had eaten on his way up, and had had some strong black coffee. She wasn’t listening, however, and he found himself hen pecked into a chair in the kitchen and waiting as she made him eggs and bacon with toast.

“No use,” Bill said to him as he sat down, glad that it was the ever stolid and sensible Johns that would be accompanying him that evening. “She’ll force food on you, no matter what, so best just to eat it.”

Johns sprang to his feet and held out his hand to shake Bill’s. “I’m beginning to realise that, sir,” he said before sitting back down and taking a deep drink of tea.

“Don’t stand on ceremony,” Bill said, letting him know he didn’t have to be so formal. “We’re in for a bit of a strange one. Might be some off the record stuff. OK?”

Johns raised an eyebrow but nodded minutely. He knew better than to question Bill in front of a civilian. “I’m ready for anything,” he confided. “I even brought some equipment down in the car, in case it could come in handy.”

“Good lad.” He looked up as he heard footsteps on the stairs and Allie appeared, wrapping her robe around herself.

“I thought I heard voices,” she said.

“My backup,” Bill said shortly, crossing the kitchen to her and blocking her from Johns’ view. It didn’t seem right for him to see her in her nightwear. “We’ve got a lot of plans to make, so why don’t you head back to bed and get some more sleep. It’s still early yet.”

“As if I could sleep,” she retorted.

Bill fixed her with a stern look but then relented quickly as she was, quite rightly, not sleeping well while the children were missing. “Go and freshen up then and join us for breakfast,” he said softly. “Mrs Evans is making eggs and bacon so it won’t be long.”

Allie disappeared with a swish of her robe and Bill returned to the table. “How’s she holding up?” John asked, tilting his head in the direction of the now-empty hall.

“Better than could be said for most women with missing children,” he said graciously but not really wanting to discuss Allie with Johns. He liked the stolid-looking agent and thought he was very good at his job, but the one thing Bill knew from his longer service history, was that it was easier to not discuss anyone close to you with work colleagues. The less they knew about each other the better. Anatoly was an exception to the rule and Bill sometimes wondered why he had ever allowed himself to get close to Anatoly and his father in the first place. It was easier not to think about it especially as it brought up a lot of emotions for Anatoly, never mind lots of questionable missions that Bill had scraped out of with Grigori Petrov’s help and knowledge. Lost in his thoughts for a moment, he hadn’t registered what Johns had said. He grunted, as he tuned into the lad’s voice. “Speak up lad. Don’t mumble.”

To his credit Johns simply repeated his words which had been; “Hopefully we will bring them back tonight for her.”

“Hopefully,” Bill agreed. With breakfast served he insisted that Mrs Evans leave them to continue on with her early-morning chores. “I can serve Allie some breakfast, and get us seconds if need be,” he said. “You just get on.”

“Well,” she said dubiously. “You just shout for me if you need anything, look you. There’s more bacon in the larder, and eggs too, and…”

Johns grinned as Bill finally ushered the woman out the kitchen door and closed it. “She’s something, all right.”

“She’s been very kind and looked after us well, especially Allie, er, Mrs Mannering,” Bill corrected himself. “Her heart’s in the right place,” he added.

“Her cooking’s good as well,” Johns added.

Allie reappeared soon after and Bill put out some food for her. “I assume you two are going to shut yourselves away later and make your plans?”

“We might emerge for food, eventually, but yes, we’ll need to shut ourselves away for a good while,” he agreed.

“And will you tell me… will you let me know what you’re planning to do?” she asked.

Bill considered this, it wasn’t standard practice, but none of this was. “I’ll let you know what I can,” he agreed, just cautious that Johns shouldn’t know too much about Bill’s own brand of rule breaking other than what was strictly necessary.

With breakfast eaten, though plenty was still left on the stove, Bill and Johns set off to find a private place to make their plans. There wasn’t anywhere suitable in the farmhouse. The kitchen and sitting-room were too open, the scullery and larder too small, the bedrooms impractical unless they wanted to sprawl on the bed. In the end they settled on one of the smaller barns, one which had an old wooden table in one corner. It had been lying on its side and when they went to turn it upright they discovered it was missing a leg, but they were able to prop it up using an old barrel and it made a reasonable work-surface then.

Bill spread out a couple of maps and placed his notebook beside them. “So, about this mountain,” he began.

To be continued…

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Caves and secret passages – the reality

Following on from finding a true Hollow Tree House we recently made a trip to Auchmithie beach, which just so happens to be the home of several caves and even a ‘secret’ passage or two.

How do they compare to the ones we read about in Blyton’s books? Let’s find out.


About Auchmithie beach

Auchmithie is a little village on the Angus coast, a short distance from Arbroath. There’s a glorious cliff-top walk you can take from the north end of Arbroath right into Auchmithie and along the way there are lots of interesting rock formations to see (including blow holes ala The Rubadub Mystery) and a couple of little beaches.

It’s definitely not somewhere I’d be comfortable taking a three-year-old though, far too many sheer drops! Plus he’d never walk the four miles along and four back. So, we drove up to Auchmithie and squeezed into the last car parking space in the tiny car park (previously I’ve taken the train to Arbroath and then the bus up to Auchmithie, a slightly more Blyton-worthy way of travelling, but not by much).

It was a warm but extremely foggy day at the beach, at times we couldn’t see the top of the cliffs from the beach or one end of the beach from the other which only added to the adventure. It was a bit like Mystery Moor – only we never got lost thankfully. (Some of the photos in the blog are from a previous trip, which was on a clear day.)

Anyway, the beach is accessed by a long track that winds down the hill, at the moment it’s very torn up due to water running down it. Several cottages back onto the gully – looking rather precarious in places as they really are perched on the sides.

At the bottom of the track are a couple of old sheds, and some old boats – a couple half-rotted away. Just to the left is the old (1889) harbour which is no longer in use. The walls have fallen in in several places but you can still walk along one side and scramble across some of the rest.

The beach itself is a stony one – covered in very round stones of varying sizes which form several ‘shelves’ (there’s probably a scientific word for this, but I don’t know what it is!). The cliffs around it are said to be 120 feet high and are red sandstone so they are full of cracks and crevices and loose bits which have fallen down. Sandstone is very soft so you can see so many places the tide has worn it away a little at a time – hence the many caves.

There are also lots of rocky ridges running out to sea, forming channels and gaps where softer rock has worn away.

 

Auchmithie reportedly has a history of smugglers using the caves. Due to the cliff erosion I doubt many of the caves there today would have been there even fifty years ago. The video at the end of this post was taken a year before my visit at the start of the month and in that time the archway shown at the end of the beach (3 minutes 15 on the video) has fallen in.

Still, if you go and explore the beach it doesn’t take too much imagination to turn it into a smugglers’ haunt in your mind, particularly as you walk through the ‘secret’ passages in the rock…


What did Blyton have to say about caves?

I described some of her caves in Blyton’s homeliest secret homes but only one is a beach-cave, the one on Kirrin Island which the Five found in Five Run Away Together.

As I wrote in that post it has:

a soft sandy floor, a rocky ledge which makes a good shelf for their cans and things and a hole in the roof which is part skylight, part chimney and part doorway.

I can safely say that this is not the sort of cave we found at Auchmithie. What we found were dark, damp spaces with uneven rocky floors from where the cliffs above had fallen in to create the caves!

Other books that feature sea-side caves include Five Go Down to the Sea, The Secret of Spiggy Holes, Smuggler Ben and The Island of Adventure.

None of these are turned into homes by the children – rather they are pretty inhospitable places at least at the seaward end.

The children put their three candles together and looked round the small, low-roofed, seaweedy cave. It smelt very dank and musty.

– The Island of Adventure

“It’s cold and dark in there.” She was right. It was. The sunshine could not get inside the deep caves, and they felt damp and mysterious.

The Secret of Spiggy Holes

Auchmithie had a mix of higher and lower-roofed caves, though none of them were particularly seaweed-y. They were definitely a bit dark and dank, though.

Something Blyton’s caves often had in common is how dangerous they are – the ones at Spiggy Holes, Craggy Tops and Tremannon are mostly filled by the sea at each high tide.

Quite terrified now, the boys floundered into the cave, the waves running round their ankles. Jo-Jo came splashing behind them. Ah—he had got those boys now! Wait till he had done with them! They wouldn’t leave their beds again at night!

He stood outside by the entrance, waiting for the boys to come out. He had no idea there was a secret passage there. He stood, panting heavily, the rope-end in his hand. A big wave covered his knees. Jo-Jo muttered something. The tide was coming in rapidly. If those boys didn’t come out immediately they would be trapped there for the night.

Another wave ran up, almost as high as the black man’s waist. It was such a powerful wave that Jo-Jo at once left the cave entrance and tried to make his way back across the beach. He could not risk being dashed to pieces against the cliff by the incoming tide.

The Island of Adventure

The children explored the beach, which was a most exciting one, but rather dangerous. The tide came right up to the cliffs when it was in, and filled most of the caves.

“We shall have to be careful not to get caught in any of these caves when the tide is coming in,” said Jack. “It would be very difficult to get out.”

Miss Dimity warned them too, and told them many stories of people who had explored the caves, forgetting about the tide, and who had had to be rescued by boats when they found that they could not get out of the caves.

One day there was a very high tide indeed. The waves splashed against the cliffs and all the caves were full of water. There was nothing to do down on the beach, because, for one thing, there was no beach, and for another Dimmy said it was dangerous to go down the cliff-path when the tides were high because the spray made the path slippery, and they might easily slip down and fall into the high water.

The Secret of Spiggy Holes

‘This is exciting,’ said George, ‘Caves, and more caves, and yet more caves! And cove after cove, all as lovely as the one before. I suppose when the tide’s in, all these coves are shoulder-high in water.’

‘My word, yes,’ said Julian, who was keeping a very sharp eye indeed on the tide. ‘And a good many of these caves would be flooded too. No wonder Mrs Penruthlan warned us so solemnly about the tides here! I wouldn’t want to try and climb up these cliffs if we were caught!’

– Five Go Down to the Sea

Something else they all have in common is a secret way out (or in!). The cave on Kirrin Island has a hole in the roof, while all the rest have secret passages.

The cave in The Island of Adventure has a passage that leads through the rock to the cellars of Craggy Tops, and also some interior caves though not much is said about them.

It really was fun exploring the caves on the shore. Some of them ran very far back into the cliff. Others had queer holes in their roofs, that led to upper caves. Philip said that in olden times men had used the caves for hiding in, or for storing smuggled goods. But there was nothing to be seen in them now except seaweed and empty shells.

The Island of Adventure

The Spiggy Holes cave leads to at least one other inner cave which still contains evidence of smuggling – old crates and so on – then carries on to the Old House. The one in Five Go Down to the Sea leads up to an old ruin on the cliff, passing an inner cave along the way. There’s also the wrecker’s way which leads from Tremannon Farm to the beach but it’s not clear if any caves are involved.

The caves in Smuggler Ben, at first appear to be perfectly normal but they, too, lead inland to deeper smugglers’ caves.

The three children began to hunt carefully along the rocky cliff. They ran into narrow caves and out again. They came to a big cave, went into that and came out again. It seemed nothing but a large cave, narrowing at the back.


How does Auchmithie compare?

To be honest, the Auchmithie caves are most like the description of the caves in Smuggler Ben! A load of small caves that go nowhere – but of course we didn’t do a great deal of exploring. Who knows what secret tunnels were lurking behind some of the rocks? We had a torch but it was Brodie’s and I think in need of a new battery so it barely illuminated anything. Plus being in caves where you could literally see all the places the roof had already fallen in meant we weren’t keen to spend too much time in the caves!

A few were a bit more interesting, though. The first we saw was tiny, a few feet in any direction, but just along from that we spotted a narrow opening… we couldn’t get too close as the tide was in at that point but as it went out and we got a close look it looked like it went quite far in.

It turned out to be a ‘secret’ passage. It went right through the rock several meters and came out in another bay! As the tide retreated further you could just walk around the outside of the rocky outcrop but that’s just no fun!

 

In that bay were another couple of caves, at first it looked like two separate ones but if you went in you could walk from one into the other. Not exactly a secret passage, but close.

Above, the first photo is the cave on the left. The second is looking into that cave from the one on the right, the last two are the deeper portion of the right cave.

As above the secret passage definitely had at least a few feet of water in it at high tide, but the rest of the caves seemed out of reach of the tide. Several had an abundance of grass and weeds growing in them. I suspect this is because the caves aren’t made from the tide constantly wearing away the rock, they’re formed by the cliffs falling in – though probably aided by winter storms.


Here’s a video where someone goes through that secret tunnel and into the joined caves, it’ll probably give you a better understanding of the layouts.

 

 

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Monday #433

Although I usually write these posts on a Sunday evening today it’s already Monday morning. I’ve had to debate with myself over what I’ll write for Wednesday – my plan had been to review Five Go to Billycock Hill. However I haven’t even taken it off the shelf yet, and my chances of reading enough of it to start writing a review tomorrow evening are slim! Billycock Hill is one of my lesser favourites so I haven’t felt very motivated to start reading it, but I’ll have to if I want to move on to the one I do really like, such as Five on Finniston Farm, Five Get Into a Fix and Five Go to Demon’s Rocks.

Caves and secret passages – the reality

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 16

Jack knocks Horace Tipperlong into the puffin hole in The Sea of Adventure. Stuart Tresilian is my second-favourite Blyton illustrator (after Eileen Soper of course).

Just look at the shock and anger on Horace’s face, and his hand clenched into an impotent fist.

 

 

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 15

Last time Bill met the two pilots, Alan and Mike, and discussed their secretive helicopter job.


Chapter 15

Bill was driving back to the Evans’ farm after the pub closed and Alan and Mike had gone off for their holiday, thinking over everything that had been said in the pub that evening. Bill’s feeling of dread about what the children had gotten themselves mixed up in, was increasing at every moment. He wasn’t going to tell Allie everything because he knew she would get upset if he did.

He had already called in to the SIS, requesting a co-pilot for the next evening. Tomorrow! Alan really had left it until the last minute to recruit someone. Apparently he’d had someone in mind but it had fallen through, which was a stroke of luck for Bill. If they hadn’t been desperate he’d have stood no chance. It didn’t give him much time to prepare, but there wasn’t an awful lot to do, really. Someone would arrive the next morning to be his co-pilot, bringing a pair of phony pilots licences in case anyone asked to see them, and they’d have the day to make their plans before flying out in the early evening.

He hadn’t updated Inspector Morgan as he hadn’t yet decided how to proceed on that front. He’d make a decision in the morning. First he had to worry about what to tell Allie. Mike and Alan had been cagey on the details themselves. What he had heard, though, was hard to believe. Anti-gravity wings? It sounded like something from a science-fiction story. Alan had made vague comments about there being some teething problems with the wings. If these men were jumping out with wings that didn’t work, well, there was only one possible outcome. That made the dogs an even more important asset. A dead man couldn’t get up and make his own way back.

Allie was still up when Bill returned to the farm. “I was getting worried,” she chided, coming out to meet him at the car. “Come inside, Mrs Evans has left you supper and you look like you could use a good rest and some cocoa!” She led him inside and let him go and wash while she warmed some cocoa in the fire for him. She wanted desperately to ask him lots of questions but held her tongue, knowing how tired he was. Allie was nervous about the children but she didn’t want Bill to think she was nagging.

Hoping he didn’t smell too much of the pub, Bill returned downstairs after freshening up. He’d only had a few pints, and they’d been part of his cover but he didn’t want Allie thinking he’d been off boozing instead of working. Mrs Evans had left an enormous plate for him, what must have been a full quarter of a meat-pie, three hard-boiled eggs, heaps of cold new potatoes, lashings of tomatoes… He’d be hard-pushed to eat even half of it.

Allie was at the table, trying not to be impatient. She was flipping ideally through the daily paper she must have read about five times that day. She got up when the metal kettle began to whistle for the cocoa.

“I’ll sort that,” Bill said, but Allie brushed him off. He supposed she found it easier to keep busy. He sat down to his mountain of food as she poured the drinks. “I have a lead,” he told her when she joined him at the table again.

“You do?” she asked eagerly, leaning forward in her chair. “Do you know where the children are?”

“I’m still working on the assumption that they’re in that mountain,” he told her. “I met someone who just happens to have landed a helicopter on top on more than on occasion and he told me that there’s a trap-door in the mountain top. He doesn’t know where it leads to, he’s never been near it, but he has seen men come out of it.”

Allie gasped. “A trap-door in the mountain? Do you know what’s going on there, from this man?”

“He’s given me a fairly good idea,” Bill replied. “There’s some sort of testing outfit been installed there. A new-fangled sort of parachute that resembles a pair of wings. Sounds highly dubious to me, which is why I’m going to be flying in tomorrow night.”

“Wings?” Allie asked startled. She looked fearful. “You don’t think those people would make the children try these things?” she looked very worried that the children could be in more danger than she could have even imagined to begin with.

He had hoped that Allie’s mind wouldn’t have gone there, as his had, but she was a clever woman. “No,” he said, putting as much confidence into that one little word as he could. “They’re children, not trained paratroopers.”

He had questioned Mike and Alan as much as he could without arousing their suspicions. Mike had stressed that the guys trying the wings all seemed too heavy, and he’d warned them to try someone smaller. That had immediately had Bill’s heart in his throat, thinking of the children. Jack and Philip were sturdy for their age but still a good bit lighter than your average paratrooper. “Someone a lot younger might be lighter, perhaps?” he had managed to say quite calmly.

Alan had shrugged. “If they’ve got any skinny young lads we’ve not seen them. Just them great hulking blokes.”

“I told them I’d not take any big blokes up again, so goodness knows what they’ll do. You might turn up to find there’s no-one to jump tomorrow. I doubt it, though. I told them I’d be sending someone less particular than me next time, so I’m betting they’ll try to push the usual types on you. It’s up to you if you take them, though,” Mike had said and it had taken Bill a moment to catch up to what he had said about sending someone new.

“How do you know how particular I am? Or that I’d be the one going, in fact?” he’d asked.

Mike had laughed awkwardly. “Well, I had a mate of mine in mind for this but he’s… otherwise engaged right now.”

“At her majesty’s pleasure,” Alan had said into his pint.

That explained why he, Bill, was being trusted at this eleventh hour. So, if he went, he might well be faced with them trying to make the children jump. At least he would be able to intervene, then. If Mike and Alan had gone… it didn’t bear thinking about.

Allie listened to what he was saying, her face very pale and her lips set in a thin line. “You won’t let them try it on the children will you, Bill?” she said eventually when she had digested what he had said.

He bit back a retort about not being as stupid as all that. “No, of course I wouldn’t,” was what he said instead. “I’m flying in tomorrow to take out the next trooper testing the wings, and I’m going to do as much snooping around as I can. If I can see the kids and get them away then I will do, if not I’ll hopefully have more to go on for another attempt.”

To be continued…

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If You Like Blyton: The Mystery of Tully Hall by Zöe Billings

The Mystery of Tully Hall is the first novel from Zöe Billings, who I know from the Enid Blyton Society Forums and the Enid Blyton Day. If you’ve visited the forums yourself you may know her as George@Kirrin, who calls herself The definitive 78 series nut (I’ve seen her photos of some of her memorabilia and I think she’s definitely earned the right to call herself that.)

I first read this book as a Word file a few years ago when Zöe asked me if I would read it for her and give her my thoughts. Well, of course I proof-read it and sent it back with any corrections I made in red, because that’s just the sort of person I am. Then, last month Zöe self-published her book via Amazon and kindly sent me a free physical copy.

So here’s my usual (but necessary) disclaimer: I received the book free of charge but am under no obligation to review or link to it. All opinions are my own and are absolutely honest.


The Mystery of Tully Hall

Every old hall has a mystery or two – or at least Enid Blyton would have you believing that!  Tully Hall is no exception. It has been closed for several years but now, with a renovation underway for it to open to the public, various pieces of historic silver have been stolen.

The police have no clues – they just keep stopping and searching the builders but finding nothing – so while on a weeks’ holiday together James, Jenny, Barrie and Liz decide they are going to do their best to solve the mystery.


The children

James, Jenny, Barrie and Liz are all in their first year at Grey Owls Boarding school, and made friends at the start of the year. Liz is the youngest at 11, and the others are 12. Despondent at not seeing each other during the holidays due to living in different parts of England and Wales, they hatch a plan to spend a week together at Barrie’s new home in Wales.

The children are very equal in this book – although Liz is a little younger and a little more hesitant at times, they all have equal input into decisions and there’s definitely no ‘we boys will go explore while you girls wash the dishes’. Of course the book is set in modern times where that attitude generally doesn’t fly!


A modern setting

I love the era of Blytons’ books (if I could live in a 1950s world with the internet, smart phones, other mod-cons and less of the rampant sexism and racism, then I probably would, I mean Dior’s The New Look is just fabulous even if I don’t have the waist for it) but I also enjoy books set nowadays. I think it can be hard for authors to write a modern book that captures the joy and freedom of the sort of stories Enid Blyton wrote but still include modern technology. (It’s hard to get lost on the moors with Google Maps on and so on…).

It can be tackled in different ways: The Knights Haddon boarding school bans all technology so it feels like a 1950s world, while the Adventure Island books have the children using phones and computers to look things up, and the boys argue about computer games, but they are not glued to their tech!

The Mystery of Tully Hall goes down the second route – the children all have mobiles which they use but they are not your typical pre-teens obsessed with TikTok or anything so inexplicable to me. They use their phones for Google Maps, to look up information, take photos and to keep in touch with their families. And of course – in the depths of North Wales there isn’t always a good signal when you need it!

Liz’s mobile phone is actually an important plot-point on two occasions which is a nice way of including modern technology without it taking over. Once she leaves it behind and in collecting it witnesses an important clue, and then later… well, I’ll quote from the blurb to give you a clue without spoiling anything:

With nothing but an empty bag and a useless mobile phone to save them, things seem increasingly bleak for the four friends.

All I’ll say is what they come up with using those things is downright ingenious.


My thoughts

I really enjoy this book – and it held up just as well on a second reading. The children are likeable and believable and while there are a few adults in the book (who ensure that safety gear is used and are the providers of many meals and picnics) they don’t get in the way of the adventuring or mystery solving.

There is a mix of mystery solving/investigating and exploring/adventuring in the latter part of the book, while the beginning is full of the sorts of adventures children have purely being in a new place, so the book has a good pace without being head-long at all times. It’s like one of those Famous Five books where the first several chapters are dedicated to the Five travelling to their camp-site and eating a lot of picnics, and then with a mystery afoot things kick into a higher gear. The end chapters are particularly suspenseful as they stumble into some serious trouble.

Oh – and one very pleasant surprise is that there are illustrations – something that’s sorely lacking in so many modern books! There’s even a map, and you know how much me and my poor visual imagination loves a map!


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Monday #432

I’m a bit late with this one, having taken a weeks’ annual leave I’ve rather lost track of what day it is!

If You Like Blyton: The Mystery of Tully Hall by Zöe Billings

and

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Children chapter 15

The circus was going to Little Carlington. As it came by all the village children ran beside it, cheering and shouting in excitement.

“Look at the great big elephant pulling that caravan! See him waving his trunk about!”

“I say, is that a chimpanzee? Why, he’s all dressed up! He’s wearing a jersey and trousers and a straw hat!”

Although it is Mr Galliano’s Circus that is going to Little Carlington this is not the beginning of any of the three books in the series. It is the beginning of A Circus Adventure, a short story first published in 1952, in Sunny Stories numbers 529-532. It was later included in Enid Blyton’s Omnibus which is where I am quoting from.

 

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