Blyton’s strangest homes

Recently I looked at Blyton’s secret but homely homes, where children turned caves and trees into lovely cosy places to stay. That got me thinking about some of the other strange ‘homes’ Blyton wrote about, and so I thought I would have a look at them today. I think that some from the previous post would come under the heading of ‘strange’, hollow trees and willow houses aren’t exactly normal but as I’ve already written about them I plan to stick to (mostly) bricks and mortar dwellings that could at least pretend to be normal from the outside.


MOUNTAINS

Mountains, in and of themselves, are not a terrible unusual place to live. But most people would live on a mountain or by a mountain. Blyton has two lots of people who live inside their mountains, and that’s pretty strange!

The Secret Mountain (The Secret Mountain)

The Secret Mountain is a strange place to start with. Located in an unidentified part of Africa, it has a completely flat top. The natives are afraid of it because of its inhabitants – a cult of sun-worshippers with yellow skin and flaming red hair.

The mountain is entered by way of an enormous slab of rock with pivots and slides away if you press it in the right place. Inside is a warren of passages and rooms – and an underground river which bursts out of the side of the mountain to form an enormous waterfall. To top it off – literally – the flat mountain top has an alter used for the sun worshipping and ritual sacrifices!

Fang Mountain (The Mountain of Adventure)

Eight years later, another mountain with some very similar ideas featured in the Adventure Series. Fang Mountain, in Wales, also has a flat top, a series of passages and rooms, and a crowd of folk who more or less sacrifice unsuspecting people!

You enter Fang Mountain through a narrow gap in the rock, hidden by a trailing ivy. Inside you can’t seem to go any further as it’s just a small cave mostly filled by a still, dark pool. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a wheel which, when turned, reveals a rope-ladder and the way into the rest of the mountain. Like The Secret Mountain there’s a throne room and many other spaces (but no river) on the way up to the top.

Killimooin (The Secret of Killimooin)

The mysterious robbers of Killimooin don’t live inside a mountain, but they pass through one on their way into a forest which is entirely sealed off in a ring of mountains.

The little village is reasonably ‘normal’ if very old-fashioned, with wooden huts clustered amongst the trees. Getting there is decidedly not normal, though.

First you must find the secret button on a statue in a small ruined temple, and go underground into the mountain. There you’ll find a rushing river, and the best way down into the forest is by boat!


RAMBLING OLD HOUSES (AND CASTLES)

Blyton wrote about a lot of castles and big old houses, so I will try to stick to ones that were lived in (however temporarily) by the children she wrote about.

Craggy Tops (The Island of Adventure)

Craggy Tops is a very striking building, built right into the cliffs by the sea. It is continually sprayed with sea-water and shrieked at by sea-birds. It would have been a grand home when it was first built, but by the time the Mannerings live there a lack of money has caused it to fall into disrepair. It has no heating, electricity or even running water. The tower-room has no glass in the windows, and some parts of the house are even in ruins. Excitingly, down in the cellars, there is a secret passage leading to a cave on the beach, and another passage which starts down the well and heads under the sea to the Isle of Gloom.

Moon Castle (The Secret of Moon Castle)

Moon Castle is in better condition than Craggy Tops, but it’s probably a lot stranger. It seems perfectly normal for an old castle – though the tower-door is locked and hidden – until strange things happen. A portraits’ eyes glow, a music box plays itself, books throw themselves from shelves, the musical instruments go TWANG and DONG all by themselves, and there’s a secret passage halfway up the wall in Prince Paul’s room. It’s not magic or otherworldy things going on, though, the castle has been built with secret hiding and spying spaces which are utilised by the strange Brimmings to oust the Arnolds and Prince Paul.

Smuggler’s Top (Five Go to Smuggler’s Top)

Smuggler’s Top is a strange house in a strange place. It is built at the top of Castaway Hill, so-called because when the mist rises off the marsh it is cast-away from the mainland. It is only accessible by one road that winds through the marsh which takes you into the narrow, steep, cobbled streets within the walled village on the hill. If you navigate your way to the top, you’ll find Smuggler’s Top, a huge rambling house.

There are multiple secret passages in the house – entrances can be found just inside the front door, Mr Lenoir’s study, the dining-room, Marybelle’s bedroom and two in Sooty’s bedroom, though they seem to run all through the house and there may be even more entrances. Two of the bedroom ones drop straight down into the mass of catacombs that fill the hill – though the other passages also link up to those.

Rockingdown Manor (The Rockingdown Mystery)

Rockingdown Manor is, by most people’s standards a reasonably normal house. It’s very large, of course, being a manor, and the strangeness comes from three things. One, it’s abandoned with lends a creepy air and a lot of cobwebs to it. Two, it has a macabre back-story of a child falling to their death and another dying from scarlet fever. Three, it has a secret entrance in the cellar to an underground river.

Three Men and a Tub Inn (The Rubadub Mystery)

The name alone is unusual enough – it is named for the nearby whirlpool which has a scrubbing-board shaped rock beside it. The inn itself is old-fashioned even by 1950s standards with oak beams on the ceilings and diamond-paned windows. It also has a skylight in the hall on the top floor, accessed by some wooden steps. That’s not so terribly odd, though it just happens to line up perfectly with a gap in the cliffs – very handy for signalling out to sea! The whole roof is quite a curious place a large, uneven place with attic windows and chimneys here and there, if you are daring, or daft, enough you could wander from one window to another.

Old Towers (Five Get Into a Fix)

Old Towers, at first glance, could seem like a pretty normal if old and rambling house atop a hill. That effect is quickly destroyed if anyone happens to try to drive (or ride) up to it – the hill is essentially magnetic and would slow any metal vehicle to a crawl. Then, if anyone happened to look at the house at night then they might see a strange shimmering in a colour they’ve never seen before, and hear a strange rumbling too. In addition to all that weirdness, there’s a series of secret tunnels under the house containing an underground stream.

Peep-Hole (The Secret of Spiggy Holes)

Peep-Hole is a crooked old house with a tower, and is set in a dip in the cliff, so like the Three Men in a Tub Inn, it is perfectly located to signal out to sea and also to the tower of the other old house.

While a house without a secret passage is uncommon in Blyton’s books, secret passages are still uncommon enough in the real world. Peep Hole is another house with a secret passage, this one to be found half-way up a chimney in a tower bedroom. It leads down to the beach and from there also to another old house a little way inland.


And that’s where I will stop today, but I will be back with a few more strange homes another time! What’s your favourite strange or unusual home from a Blyton book?

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Monday #230

Blyton’s strangest homes

and

If you like Blyton: Cream Buns and Crime by Robin Stevens

Here come Sam and Anne, ready for anything that Pete wants them to do. Their mothers look out of the window, shake their heads and say “Ah – there go the Troublesome Three!”

From The Troublesome Three.

Having just read Five Go Adventuring Again I feel compelled to have Mr Roland as the character of the week. Beware: spoilers!

Mr Roland, a tutor, comes to Kirrin Cottage to do what tutors do, tutor. Unfortunately for Uncle Quentin, Mr Roland has an ulterior motive and he’s really there to steal some of his secret work. It’s also unfortunate for George as she’s the only one who sees Mr Roland for who he really is, and he makes life very hard for her as a result. She bases her dislike on two things: one, he doesn’t like Timmy (!) and two, he has thin lips which is a sign of cruelty.

Mr Roland is clever enough to orchestrate a reasonably clever plan, charm Uncle Quentin into hiring him and becoming his friend and also to drive a wedge between George and her cousins and father. He’s not clever enough to defeat the Famous Five, but then, who is?

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Five Go Adventuring Again

After finally reviewing Five on a Treasure Island it has taken me a while to get around to reading the next book, but I’ve done it now.


FOLLOWING IN BIG FOOTSTEPS

Five on a Treasure Island is such a strong start to this series that Five Go Adventuring Again has some big boots to fill. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that it is set in the midst of winter. The winter weather gives it a very different feeling to its predecessor, and allows it to stand on its own feet and have its own identity. The snow and the winter tides mean it’s impossible to row to Kirrin Island, and most of the story takes place indoors at Kirrin Cottage and the newly introduced Kirrin Farm instead. There is less ‘messing around’ and hilarity too, partly because of the weather but also because of the frosty relationship between George and the new tutor, Mr Roland.


THE NEW CHARACTERS

There are two new folk at Kirrin Cottage. One is Joanna, the cook, described as a fat, panting person. She is a wonderful cook and also very adept at keeping Timmy out of the kitchen. We assume that the Kirrins have been able to afford her thanks to the ingots found in the summer.

The second is the above-mentioned Mr Roland. He has been brought in by Quentin and his brother. Primarily he has been hired to tutor Juliana and Dick who are behind in their lessons, thanks to two bouts of flu. However George is also behind – due to a lack of proper schooling (a point I will touch on later) – and Quentin agrees to pay a third of Mr Roland’s fees to help her catch up.

Then up at Kirrin Farm there are Mr and Mrs Sanders. Mr Sanders is a background figure who we don’t see much but Mrs Sanders provides the children with eatables and helps them discover the various secret niches and hidey-holes built into Kirrin Farm.


A THREE-PART STORY

Five on a Treasure Island could be split into three clearly defined parts, and so could this book. The first part concerns the return to Kirrin, the arrival of Mr Roland and the exploration of Kirrin Farm. It is not as adventurous a start as the previous book has, as we are not new to the location or main characters, but the secret hidey-holes (and their contents) at Kirrin Farm quite make up for that. The second part is a brief interlude when Christmas occurs, and most of the story is about the preparations and celebrations. Even the simmering tension between George and Mr Roland is at a careful, low ebb. Then once Christmas is over the hatred between George and Mr Roland increases dramatically, and the main adventure starts to pick up the pace.

Five Go Adventuring Again


GEORGE VS MR ROLAND

The hostilities between George and Mr Roland is the thread that ties the whole story together. They start as soon as she meets him, and he declares he doesn’t like dogs.

There had been a brief awkwardness when George and Anne were fist reunited with Julian and Dick but she warmed up quite quickly and went back to being comfortable with the boys. At first you might think that she will warm to Mr Roland; but she doesn’t. She remains her stubborn, difficult self.

Mr Roland isn’t much better. He can see George doesn’t like him, but he makes little effort to ease relations. He insists on calling her Georgina and makes little to no effort to make friends with Timmy – apart from throwing a few sticks for him to run after on a walk.

Knowing just what Mr Roland is up to (having read the books many times before) it would seem prudent for him to make as good friends with George and Timmy as possible, and only if that failed would it make sense for him to try to ostracise them. He goes straight for isolating George from her cousins and Timmy from the house, though, and making them enemies of those two turns out to be his undoing. Firstly, they would have been at Kirrin Farm instead of seeing him meeting the two artists that he claims not to know, and secondly George wouldn’t have been suspicious enough to cotton on to his plan.

Anyway, George is in the same boat. If she had been able to swallow her dislike and been sensible about Timmy then she would have made life an awful lot easier for herself. Of course we know that she is right about him but it’s more luck than her truly knowing he is a baddie. She simply doesn’t like him, and that fuels her suspicions – she’s quite determined to catch him doing wrong, wrong of any kind.

Dick is the only other person to be not completely sure of Mr Roland. I still don’t like him awfully much sometimes, but I think he’s a sport, he says. Julian, Dick and Anne accept it is annoying to have a tutor, and worse for George as he calls her Georgina etc but they know there’s nothing they can do and make the best of it. Anne positively loves him, and in fact almost falls out with George. George is infuriated by them all ‘sucking up’ to Mr Roland and Anne accuses her of lying about him meeting the artists purely out of spite. George is incredibly honest, though, even when the truth gets her into trouble.

Quentin shows a lack of sense, just like in the last book. He is entirely taken in by the late arrival to tutor interviews, and hires Mr Roland because he’s older than the other applicants and has a knowledge of Quentin’s own work. He states that he partly hired him as it would be company for him, and he would enjoy having someone to discuss science with. He invites him into his study and shows him experiments and chats with him in the evenings, and takes his side at every turn instead of his own daughter’s. Thankfully, when it really matters, he believes that George (per Mr Roland’s accusation) wasn’t guilty of theft and damage, though he still doesn’t believe George that it was Mr Roland.

After Christmas things are even worse, Timmy gets sent outside to live and George isn’t allowed to see him at all. I can see why George gets punished, for skipping lessons and her rude attitude, but it seems unnecessary for them to put Timmy out into the garden in the middle of winter when he’s used to being indoors most of the time. Later (after a lot of snow) he’s allowed in as long as Joanna keeps him away from George, so why couldn’t they do that in the first place (well, because it would hinder the plot of Mr Roland sneaking into Uncle Quentin’s study to steal the papers…)

George tries to be good and manages a whole day of being polite, studious and almost pleasant to Mr Roland. He is pleased, but not pleased enough to let Timmy back in and this is where Julian, Dick and Anne finally turn against him to a degree. George immediately reverts back to her usual self, in the child’s logic of being nice to get what you want and when it doesn’t work behave even worse than before.


THE MAIN ADVENTURE

All the fighting between George and Mr Roland is leading somewhere – out into the snow and back into Uncle Quentin’s study.

George is the one in the study, getting into trouble, when she notices eight wooden panels on the wall. And the room faces east. AND when she checks under the carpet (wall to wall but not fitted) there’s a stone floor…

Julian’s the one out in the snow, wearing a white macintosh and following Mr Roland. He also has a dramatic discovery – the tutor hands some papers to the two artists.

It’s not until that night that they can investigate the possibility of a secret passage, but lo and behold it does turn out that the entrance to the secret way is in Kirrin Cottage all along. No good exploring in the middle of the night – too dark and cold apparently – so the next morning while Uncle Quentin is shovelling snow (purely to give them an opportunity, as the road and village are snowed in, what’s the other point of digging a path to nowhere?) they head into the secret passage.

It leads them to Kirrin Farm – and into a cupboard in one of the artists’ rooms. They of course use that opportunity to hunt for the stolen papers, but are discovered by the artists and flee back along the passage.

But the artists realise there’s a passage there and come creeping along it the next night (they’ve no choice if they want the papers back) and it’s down to Timmy to apprehend them.


INTERESTING POINTS

Reading this for a review I noticed a lot of things I’ve never thought a lot about before.

Julian  talks about “your [George’s] family” when it comes to Kirrin Island etc with no mention of any claim from his family.

Mrs Sanders is very blasé about all the secrets in her farmhouse. There’s a hidey hole by  the fireplace for small items, a cupboard with false back and a sliding panel in the hall. She’s heard of a secret way from the farmhouse but has never cared about these things so never looked for it or really listened to the stories. She seems like a nice lady but she baffles me!

Talking of the hiding place in the cupboard, I always imagined the “dent” the talk about being a man-shaped hollow (which would have made it really obvious that there was a hiding place) but it’s really a tiny dent where a release button is.

The hall panel hides a recipe book, a tobacco pouch and a map. I can see why you’d hide a map to a secret way but why the other things? And why is the entrance to the secret way upstairs? Wouldn’t it have been easier to have another sliding panel in a stone floor instead of a hollow column between rooms then going underground?

Mr Roland must have been thrilled that a secret way exists in his friends’ lodgings no matter where it was located. It would have been perfect for theft, escaping or hiding had he found it first.

Midnight explorations are usually done in holiday homes, or abandoned houses etc, rarely in someone’s own house (at least not for the first time).

At some point in this book Timothy aka Tim starts getting called Timmy. He was never Timmy in the first book though that’s probably his most famous name. By page 22 he gets Timmy but it’s rare, and grows more common as the book goes on. In contrast I think he’s mostly Timmy, occasionally Tim and rarely Timothy as the series progresses.

Anne actually annoys me quite a lot in this book. She is far too loyal to Mr Roland instead of George, then in the secret way she is rather pathetic. Yes she’s scared, yes she’s tired but you can’t sit and rest when your enemies are chasing you!


NITPICKINGS

There’s a reason why Blyton didn’t accept criticisms from the over 12s, and it’s probably because they over-think things and ruin the fun for everyone. I couldn’t help but notice a few things that didn’t make complete sense.

Timmy growls because someone’s moving around downstairs at night. Surely he can’t know it’s Mr Roland from all the way upstairs and it wouldn’t be impossible for Uncle Quentin to have gone down to scribble down a sudden idea, or Aunt Fanny to get something for a headache etc. Even if he knows it’s Mr Roland, (smelled him passing the bedroom door, perhaps? and is smart enough to work out that the noise downstairs is connected? he surely can’t identify sneaking from getting a snack or an aspirin.

George says that she’s never been to a proper school before (to which I assumed she meant she’s only gone to a small village school with one teacher or such like) but Aunt Fanny says George has never been to school.

The carpet in the study goes wall to wall (George doesn’t know if it’s a stone floor) yet they roll it and the hearth rug back to reveal the secret way without moving any furniture.

Why have a false back to a wardrobe in Kirrin Farm and then a door to the secret way behind that? If you wanted to hide you could just go into the secret way.


CRITICISMS ASIDE…

None of my nitpickings are serious. They can be put down to misrememberings, omitted details for speed of story-telling, the fancifulness of installers of secret passages (I mean are there companies in the Yellow Pages doing that sort of thing? Is there even a code of practice? Guidelines? Health and safety laws? I think not on all counts) and so on.

Five Go Adventuring Again is quite different from most of the other books in the series as it has probably the most involvement from adults. Most of that involvement is hindering, but they are a constant presence and that explains the majority of the book being adventure-free. The real adventure is done in a couple of chapters, but there is a good, long, tense build up to it. The winter setting also helps distance itself from the mostly warm adventures of spring, summer and autumn.

This is one of those books (you can find this in films TV shows and pantomimes too) where you’re shouting at the oblivious characters for crying out loud can’t you see he’s a bad guy? and open your eyes, he’s manipulating you and sometimes he’s behind you!! It’s quite satisfying when everyone realises George has been right all along but I always wish they grovelled and apologised a bit more because the poor girl deserves it after all she goes though.


 

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Fiona’s 10 facts about the Adventure Series and me

A way, way back when the blog was relatively new Stef and I both wrote 10 facts about the Famous Five and ourselves. I’m now going to do the same for the Adventure Series.


1. The Circus of Adventure is my favourite in the series, though it seems to be quite low down on most people’s favourite lists.


2. I had some hardbacks and some Armada paperbacks when I was younger, and I was mortified that my mum had used felt-pen to colour in several pictures in The Valley of Adventure.


3. My sister borrowed The River of Adventure from the school library and then dropped it down the toilet. We bought the school a new copy and kept the water-damaged one which my mum covered in blue-and-white floral wrapping paper as the cover was ruined.


4. While Dinah clearly over-reacts to Philip’s pets I have to admit I am often on her side. I would not like beetles or spiders crawling over me, but I wouldn’t mind a mouse or (pet) rat quite so much as long as it wasn’t living inside my clothes.


5. One of my all-time favourite Blyton moments is “don’t forget Bill Smugs”, at the end of The Mountain of Adventure.


6. Bill and Jack feature in the fan-fiction universe Stef and I have created, Anatoly works for Bill, and through that they meet Jack who is a professional photographer.


7. I only watched the TV series (both the full series and the series based on The Castle of Adventure) as an adult and I thought they were both quite poor, though the full series was by far the worst.


8. When I first read The Circus of Adventure I believed that Tauri-Hessia must have been a real place, and was quite disappointed later when I discovered it wasn’t. In fact I’m still mildly disappointed even now!


9. It took me a long while of reading before I realised it was Dinah (a name I’d never seen before) and not Diana, and even longer after that before I could read it without having to correct myself.


10. I really, really wanted Jack to find a Great Auk and I was irritated by Bill and the others being so negative about his chances (even though I know they were right).


So those are mine, what would yours be?

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Monday #279

Ten facts about the Adventure Series and me

and

Five Go Adventuring Again

Amelia Jane had a lovely time all by herself. She snipped a hole in the curtains, and then she snipped another! Then she went to the hearth-rug and cut a whole corner off that! Then she found Nurse’s handkerchief on the floor, and do you know, she cut it into twenty-two tiny pieces. It was one of Nurse’s best hankies too, with a pretty lace edge. But Amelia Jane didn’t care about that! Then she went to the carpet and began to snip little bit of it here and there.

Amelia Jane is extremely naughty in the first story in Naughty Amelia Jane.

Toyland, where Noddy lives, is a whole world full of weird and wonderful towns and villages. There is Bouncing Ball Village where the bouncing balls live, Golliwog town where the Golliwogs live, Rocking-Horse Village is full of rocking horses, Humming-Top Village, Wooden-Engine Village, Dolls-house Town, Skittle Town, Clockwork Mouse Town, Toy-Cat Town, and countless more besides. Noddy stays in Toy Village where toys of all kinds live.

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Noddy and the Case of the Toyland Mischief Maker

A while back I watched an episode of this show Noddy and the Case of the Broken Crystal Memory Game and wrote a bit about the series in general. Then this week I happened to be browsing the children’s channels to find something for Brodie and Noddy happened to be on. So naturally I chose that, and we watched it. I thought I might as well review it too!


When Big Ears’ teapot goes missing, Noddy is surprised to find it hanging from a lamppost. And when Bumpy’s kennel goes missing too, it’s clear there’s a mischief-maker in Toyland. Noddy needs to investigate before Toyland descends into chaos.


This is episode 29 of the series but I don’t think I will have missed too many important plot points in skipping 27 episodes.

As Channel 5’s episode description says the episode starts with Big Ear’s losing his teapot. He and Noddy are baffled, and briefly distracted by some very annoyingly voiced unicorns (my little pony-like creatures) who want to play a game with them.

They decline and Noddy breaks out his binoculars and spots the teapot at the top of a lamppost. Big Ears in the books is a sensible and mature voice of reason against Noddy’s silly youthfulness so it’s jarring to hear hims say ‘Huh, I don’t remember putting it there.” Of course you didn’t put your own teapot on the top of a lamppost and then forget about it!

They then notice that Bumpy Dog’s kennel has been moved on top of a playground roundabout.

They ponder who could have put the hat on the lamppost; someone very tall, or perhaps very good at climbing. Noddy uses his tablet to examine and rule out a few possibilities before landing on the ninjas.

Yes, the nostalgic world of Toyland is now home to some ninjas. The ninjas, being ninjas, hear they are being talked about and turn up to deny they are the guilty party and retrieve the teapot and kennel.

Noddy then spots a builder’s hard hat on another lamppost and decides they are the next suspect. After that, his next suspect is Deltoid as his bike pedal is found beside the builder’s site, and a wall which has had bricks removed to form a smiley face.

Just like the ninjas and builders, Deltoid denies being the mischief maker.

Honking horns draw Noddy’s attention outside where the mother of all traffic jams has formed with hundreds of identical vehicles (apart from his own car and one driven by a cat). The mischief maker has ramped up his or her reign of terror. Dun dun dun.

The traffic lights have been covered by some sticky putty, sticky putty with hoof prints in it. Can you solve the mystery?

Noddy can – and actually he solves it when the Clockwork Mouse says Who would dare do such a thing? and Noddy remembers the unicorns saying something about a dare game earlier. But he still examines the putty with his magnifying glass and takes a photograph with his tablet, which analyses the shape of the print and matches it to the unicorns.

The unicorns have been playing The Dare Game. They are surprised and dismayed that they’ve upset anyone. Noddy ‘solves’ the problem by inviting everyone to join in the dare game with more sensible dares.

It turns out the unicorns are called Naughticorns which pretty much seals their fate as trouble makers! If I’d known their proper name (and had seen the first minute of the episode) I would probably have identified them as the mischief makers right away.


At least Brodie seemed to enjoy it!


Brodie sat and more or less watched the whole episode, unfortunately he wasn’t able to offer a better review than boof. If he had, it would probably have been along the lines of it had lots of bright colours and interesting sounds so I liked it.

Mummy, however, is a lot fussier.

I knew what to expect having seen an episode already, but I still get disappointed by the smooth, shiny computer animated nature of everything, and the inane stupidity of all the characters. I know it’s aimed at very young kids but there are programmes who manage not to infuriate me – Hey Duggee and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom for example.

Some parts of Toyland look good (I like Deltoid’s house in the first episode) and in this one we see ‘downtown’ Toyland with lots of building block buildings. However the cars are completely uninspiring and don’t even look like toys, they look like cheap computer animated cars.

Big Ears at least still has a toadstool house, but it’s not a real toadstool anymore.

The general story-line was fine, though, with a reasonable series of suspects each getting ruled out.

I think I will have to learn to love it if Brodie is going to like it – I’m keen to foster a love of Enid Blyton in him, even if that means watching lots of Noddy: Toyland Detective.


 

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July Round Up 2018


WHAT FIONA HAS READ

I read a lot this month, though there were quite a few short books. I checked out a load of Dr Seuss books from my work and read them for the first time – they didn’t have the best one, Green Eggs and Ham, though!

I only have four more to go to reach my goal of 52, maybe I should increase the target?

  • Outlander (Outlander #1) – Diana Gabaldon
  • All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #7) – Charlaine Harris
  • Virgins (Outlander #0.5) – Diana Gabaldon
  • A Spell of Witches (The Belfry Witches #1) – Kate Saunders
  • Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
  • Fox in Socks – Dr Seuss
  • Oh the Thinks We Can Think – Dr Seuss
  • Horton Hears a Who – Dr Seuss
  • The Foot Book – Dr Seuss
  • If I Ran the Circus – Dr Seuss
  • From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8) – Charlaine Harris
  • The Minpins – Roald Dahl
  • Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) – Charlaine Harris

I’m also still reading:

  • Five Go Adventuring Again – to be reviewed
  • Dragonfly in Amber – (Outlander #2) – Diana Gabaldon

WHAT FIONA HAS WATCHED

  • Some of the World Cup
  • Hollyoaks
  • Brodie’s new favourite, Hey Duggee
  • Older episodes of QI on Netflix
  • Some of the new series of The Highland Midwife
  • The first few episodes of Picnic at Hanging Rock

WHAT FIONA HAS DONE

  • Taken part in a penguin hunt in aid of Maggie’s I’ve visited 47 so far.
  • Started getting organised for Brodie’s first birthday (!!)
  • Borrowed more books from my library than I can reasonable expect to read
  • Taken Brodie to a deer centre
  • Had Stef up to stay and taken a few day trips with her, including St Andrews and the local wildlife park where they have baby wolves!

 


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Monday #278

 

Noddy and the Case of the Toyland Mischief Maker

and

July Round Up

Enid Blyton’s Magazine Annual #1 has 15 stories and picture strips all specially written for the annual. It includes stories from famous series like the Famous Five (A Lazy Afternoon) and Noddy (Come Along, Little Noddy and Look Behind You, Little Noddy), plus Amelia Jane, Mr Meddle, Mr Twiddle, The Three Golliwogs, Brer Fox, Josie Click and Bun and The Secret Seven. There are also some riddles, puzzles and simple craft ideas scattered through the book, and the end papers feature a Famous Five board-game to keep you entertained after you’ve finished reading all the stories.

Mr Eppy is a curious fellow, with two different coloured eyes. He and his wife are taking a cruise in The Ship of Adventure with their nephew Lucian, and while he seems like a perfectly normal chap, the Mannering/Trent children have a bad feeling about him. Of course, it turns out that they are right and he is a cold, calculating man not above using his nephew as a spy and stealing a treasure map from four children. He is also evil enough to try to trap them underground so that he can be the one to recover the treasure.

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Blyton’s homeliest secret homes

There are many sorts of homes in Blyton’s books. Many of them are perfectly average (for the times they were set) rural or village cottages, farms, suburban houses, boarding schools and so on. There are also the slightly more unusual – caravans, narrow-boats – and the very unusual such as castles, palaces and the insides of mountains. And then there are the places that in ordinary view would never be classed as a home, and yet are turned into wonderfully comfortable places to live when the need arises.

There are also lots of temporary lodgings and camp-sites such as the cellar below Two Trees (Five on a Hike Together), the rooms in various farm-houses, bed and breakfast type establishments and relative’s homes and tents galore, but I want to look at the semi-permanent cosy little homes created out of what would not normally be considered a reasonable place to live.


CAVE-DWELLING

Caves often come in handy in Blyton books – they are the perfect place for a secret smuggling tunnel (The Secret of Spiggy Holes, Smuggler Ben, The Island of Adventure, Five Go Down to the Sea to name but a few), storing stolen goods (Five Go Off in a Caravan) and they can be a good place to hang out, or explore (Secret Seven Win Through, Five Go to Demon’s Rocks). They’re not really designed for living in (not these days anyway), yet a few groups of Blyton children make some remarkably comfortable homes in caves…

Five Run Away Together

As the title suggests, in the third Famous Five book they run away – from the Sticks at Kirrin Cottage but it’s not the whys we are looking out, it’s the wheres.

Well, of course they head to Kirrin Island, but then they have to find somewhere to live for however long it takes Aunt Fanny to get out of the hospital. They consider and veto the dungeons (too cold and dark), the only room in the ruined castle (but the roof has now fallen in) and even the old wreck (too rotten, dark, slimy and smelly) and they are stumped for a bit. George is adamant there is nowhere else, she knows every inch of the island, and yet, they then spot a dark hole in the cliff behind the wreck that looks suspiciously like a cave.

And a cave it is! So secret, even George had never set foot in it before. It has all the mod-cons for a cave – 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. It lets in light and fresh air, it lets smoke from the fire escape and with a rope tied to a gorse bush it provides a quicker way in and out than clambering over the slippery rocks and low tide. Best of all – nobody is ever going to spot it!

The Valley of Adventure

There are two cave-homes in this book. The first we see is the smaller of the two, known as Fern Cave. Fern cave is cool and mossy, located near the waterfall which provides the children with fresh drinking water. The large overhanging fern at the entrance keeps out the noise of the waterfall, and the misty spray as well as hiding them from view. The floor is softly mossy and there’s a handy rocky shelf just like in the Kirrin Island cave.

It doesn’t have a skylight, but it does have some other nifty features. At the back is a narrow tunnel which leads to the Cave of Echoes, and then on to a ledge behind the waterfall. It also leads to the other cave(s), but that’s discovered from the other end much later.

The other cave(s) are inhabited by glowing stalagmites and stalactites, statues wearing fine jewellery, old paintings, old books and maps, fine golden treasures and then finally a little old couple and Martha the hen.

This set of caves is well hidden, with the entrance a hole halfway up a rocky wall. There are doors between some of the caves, the first being an enormous studded thing, and the last being the little door which leads to the old couple’s kitchen. They have a whole little house in the caves, and they never leave but when it is fine weather they can go out another hole onto a large, sunny ledge.

The old couple’s cave is certainly the best furnished of all the cave-homes as it has a proper bed and a kitchen table and so on, so it is probably the homeliest if a bit oppressive being stuck inside so much!

The Secret Island

The Arnold children and Jack have a few places to live on their secret island, but when winter comes it is the caves they turn to.

The first cave is a larger, open one which becomes the sitting room and bedroom, with a cheerful warming fire at the entrance. Then the little cave at the back, accessed through a narrow passage is the store-room and hiding-place should anyone come to the island. They make it comfortable by hanging a lantern from the roof and rigging up some wooden shelves for their books and games. Jack fashions wooden stools from bits of tree trunk and a wooden table too, while Peggy sews together rabbit skins to make a blanket they take turns having on their beds of bracken. They even bring up fine sand from the beach to spread on the floor.


TREE-DWELLING

Trees are mentioned in a few books as fun things to climb (Those Dreadful Children), useful for getting in windows (The Secret Room, The Secret of Cliff Castle) and as places to build a tree-house (Well Done Secret Seven). Some Blyton characters even live in trees.

The Secret Island

In addition to the caves, the children make their very own house out of some willow trees. They bend the trees over so they meet as a roof, then they plant cut pieces of willow into the ground for the walls. They stuff heather and bracken in the gaps to keep it weather-proof and even hang a door and make a partition wall in the middle. The best part of Willow House is that planted willow branches start growing again so the walls all sprout leaves!

Hollow Tree House

When Susan, Peter and Amanda found a huge and hollow tree in the middle of some woods, they visited it a lot to play as it was great to climb up into the branches and hide, pretending it was a ship etc. When Susan and Jack run away, though, they turn it into a little house. There’s a ridge in the trunk inside that forms a natural shelf for their clock and other small belongings, and it’s quite dry and warm inside. It gets a bit stuffy sometimes so they cut a hole in the most rotten part of the trunk to form a window, draping it with a curtain of leaves and moss.

The Enchanted Wood / The Magic Faraway Tree

Many people (none of them human, as far as I know!) live in the Faraway Tree. The Angry Pixie has a little house, as do Dame Washalot, Silky and Moonface to name a few. Moonface’s is one we see the most of, and is a round little house with the usual home comforts, and also a door leading to a slippery-slip which is a slide taking you right to the bottom of the tree very quickly. The children also visit Silky’s home quite often for google buns and pop biscuits.

The Little Tree-House (Josie, Click and Bun)

Josie (a doll), Click (a clockwork mouse) and Bun (a rabbit) live inside a tree too. It is a hollow oak tree in which they discover a door with a knocker which leads to a little hall.It has a round kitchen with a little window, and some tiny stairs leading to a round bedroom with another little window. They furnish it with furniture bought at a goblins’ market and Josie sews up curtains and bedding.


CELLAR-DWELLING

The six bad-boys of The Six Bad Boys initially use an old cellar as a meeting-place, and end up spending a lot of time there – escaping various unpleasant homes. Bob even ends up living there for a time when his mother goes away. Usually it is girls who spend time prettifying their surroundings in Blyton’s books but the boys do what they can to make it homely. They bring in candles and an oil-stove, and at Christmas there are decorations and food.


 

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Miss Grayling’s Girls – an introduction

Miss Greyling is the headmistress at Malory Towers. She is ultimately responsible for all the girls at her school, down to accepting their applications to be pupils and expelling them if they cannot be kept on. She is quiet, dignified and well-respected amongst the girls and teachers and for the most part she is a background figure, seen only at the start of term to welcome new girls, and on the rare occasion a girl has done something bad enough to be sent to the headmistresses’ office. This doesn’t happen too often, most transgressions are handled by the class teacher or the form mistress, and little is escalated to the top. There is a slight horror at the idea of being sent to the headmistress, although she is not a monster nor a terrifying figure, the girls know it would be a very serious matter and they could be in real trouble.


ARRIVING AT MALORY TOWERS

Girls who arrive at Malory Towers at the start of term (whether they arrive for first form or higher up the school) all get taken to the headmistresses’ office for what seems to be her standard inspiring speech. Darrell gets it in her first year, and in her last she takes some new pupils to Miss Greyling and hears the speech again, as a nice bookend to her time at Malory Towers. She remembers being a quaking first-former hearing those words and hoping to do her best to fulfil them, and by the last book she is a strapping sixth-former who hopes she has done the school proud.

After a few words to each girl asking them their names and so on, she says to them all:

One day you will leave school and go out into the world as young women. You should take with you eager minds, kind hearts and a will to help. You should take with you a good understanding of many things, and a willingness to accept responsibility and show yourselves as women to be loved and trusted. All these things you will be able to learn at Malory Towers – if you will. I do not count as our successes those who have won scholarships and passed exams, though those things are good things to do. I count as our successes those who learn to be good-hearted and kind, sensible and trustable, good, sound women the world can lean on. Our failures are those who do not learn these things in the years they are here. It is easy for some of you to learn these things, and hard for others. But easy or hard, they must be learnt if you are to be happy, after you leave here, and if you are to bring happiness to others. You will get a tremendous lot out of your time at Malory Towers. See that you give a lot back.

miss grayling malory towers

The feminist in me is cringing a little as I read between the lines there about women being sensible and dependable home-makers as more important than them gaining qualifications, but I will leave that aside, she’s not encouraging them to be vapid airheads as long as they get a good husband after all. I think she means that not everyone will be an academic genius in every subject, but as long as they work hard they will learn skills that will stand them in good stead. The ability to work hard and try when something is difficult is sometimes just as important as actually learning a language or to play an instrument.

So Darrell and most of the other girls who start at Malory Towers get that speech, and Darrell immediately longs to be a Malory Towers’ success. She, of course, does become a success, along with Mary-Lou and Sally. In her sixth year she hears the exact same speech given to some new girls, and at the end Miss Greyling adds:

Six years ago I said those words to Darrell. She is one who has got a great deal out of her time here – and there is no one who has given more back than Darrell has.

Beyond this, it seems that Miss Greyling has some input into all the girl’s schooling. Most pass through without her having to make any big decisions or even speaking to her again but I think she follows them all carefully and is ready to step in if necessary.


A VARIETY OF GIRLS

Not every girl at Malory Towers is a Darrell (or a Mary-Lou or Sally). Others are successes in a more modest way, and some could only be described as disasters.

Being a private boarding school Malory Towers – and Miss Greyling – can be somewhat picky about its intake. Most girls, I assume, simply apply and are accepted based on their school records and a character reference or letter from their parents etc. There are some more special cases at Malory Towers, though, where Miss Greyling intimates she has taken on girls she otherwise wouldn’t have, to give them a chance at making something of themselves, to turn their life around, or because they have nowhere else to go.

Even out of the ‘normal girls’ not all of them want to be a Darrell, though. I’m sure some don’t care, and others already believe themselves so fabulous that they don’t think Malory Towers can offer them much. Either Miss Greyling couldn’t judge them fully based on their applications, or she decided to give these girls a change too.

I will look at some of Malory Towers successes, failures and the in-betweens in my next few posts.


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Monday #277

Miss Grayling’s Girls

and

Blyton’s homeliest secret homes

Just at that moment the old man came into the room again with a jug of water. How he stared! But, before he could do anything, the chest-of-drawers rose up in the air,  knocked the water out of his hand, almost pushed him over, and squeezed itself out of the door.

Just another normal day in the life of the Wishing Chair!

 

Five Go Down to the Sea is the 12th Famous Five adventure. It takes place around Tremmanon Farm in cornwall, where the Five are politely regarded as furriners. It has all the usual elements of a good mystery/adventure – a suspicious man sneaking around in the night, tales of old wreckers, a secret passage, travelling performers and a pantomime horse. Well, the last one might be specific to just this book, but old Clopper adds a lot of amusement, and is tied up in the solving of the mystery too.

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If you like Blyton: The Borrowers by Mary Norton

There are five books about the Borrowers (and one short story) all written by Mary Norton between 1952 and 1982, but this post will focus mostly on the first in the series.

    • The Borrowers (1952)
    • The Borrowers Afield (1954)
    • The Borrowers Afloat (1959)
    • The Borrowers Aloft (1961)
    • Poor Stainless (short story, 1966)
    • The Borrowers Avenged (1982)

BORROWERS

Borrowers are creatures that look just like humans – if humans were only a few inches tall, that is. They live in human’s houses, under floorboards, behind walls. They ‘borrow’ all sorts of things from the ‘human beans’ (whose sole purpose is to provide for Borrowers’, in their minds) like blotting paper for their carpets and thimbles for their cups.

Borrowers are a rare breed by the time the first story starts. The Borrowers the books are about is the Clock family – so named because they live under the clock in the hall. There used to be a huge number of borrowers before that, though. The Overmantles who lived over the mantle in the morning-room (they left because the morning-room stopped being used and otherwise they would have gone cold and hungry), the Rain-Pipes from the stables, the Harpsicords (originally the Linen-Presses before they moved to the drawing room) and so on. But times had changed in the big house – less people, less parties, and less borrowings. Now only the Clocks are left, and even though it’s just the three of them, Pod, Homily and Arrietty, there’s still the risk of being seen, which is the worst thing that could ever happen to a Borrower.


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BORROWER IS SEEN?

When Uncle Hendreary was seen (on the drawing-room mantlepiece, by a maid) he and his family of Borrowers leave the big house for a badger-set across the field.

This is revealed to us near the start of the book when Homily and Pod are explaining more about ‘upstairs’ to Arrietty, who’s a teenage borrower and has never been out of their home. Pod, as it happens, has also been seen. There’s an unexpected boy upstairs, and he caught Pod one night as he went to fetch a cup from the dolls’ house in the nursery.

The Boy is a friendly sort, though, and he starts supplying the Clocks with all sorts of trinkets and dolls’ house items that they would never manage otherwise. Homily isn’t best impressed when he starts yanking up her ceilings but when she sees the treasures he brings, she accepts it.

Unfortunately, Mrs Driver, the formidable housekeeper, finds out what is going on and the Clocks have to flee the house, just like Uncle Hendreary’s lot.

There is at least one other Borrower out there – a wild teen by the name of Dreadful Spiller and he helps them navigate their first days out in the open.


LIKE BLYTON?

If you look closely it’s quite different to anything Blyton wrote but there are familiar elements. To the Borrowers The Boy is almost a mythical creature, as are Mrs Driver and Crampfurl the gardener. And to the human beans the Borrowers are equally fantastical characters, so in a way, it’s not that far off from The Adventures of the Wishing Chair or The Faraway Tree – though it’s more serious than whimsical. There’s a real fear for the Borrowers – given the tale of Cousin Eggletina who was presumably eaten by a cat, I’m not surprised. The grown ups are pretty scared of the Borrowers too, likening them to rats or mice and tearing up half the house to get at them.

The second likeness you could make is one of survival akin to something like The Secret Island or The Hollow Tree House. The Borrowers have to survive in secret without help, without getting caught. Everything has to be planned, all borrowing missions are done with the utmost care – like Jack and Mike fetching the cow and items from Jack’s granddad’s farm.

Although written in the early 50s, contemporary to much of Blyton’s most famous outputs, The Borrowers is set earlier. Uncle Hendreary was seen in eighteen-ninety-something, so it must be the turn of the century. Still, it is a sort of period novel in the way Blyton’s are too, a window to the times with the talk of drawing rooms, blotting paper, parquet floors, a world of big houses with housekeepers and gardeners.

I think, like Blyton, Mary Norton knew what children would like. And so she gives us a thrilling tale of the Borrowers’ survival under the floorboards and beyond the house. The could either imagine ourselves as the resourceful, if quirky, Borrowers or the lucky Boy who discovers them. Who hasn’t had an imaginary friend or creature as a child?

The Borrowers’ home is something out of many children’s dreams – a tiny wonderland of objects. Postage stamp portraits, miniature books, thimbles, safety pins, playing cards, little tins, all repurposed for tiny folk. I used to love making ‘pony houses*’ when I was little, shoe-boxes or photo-album boxes turned into tiny houses with all sorts of little objects forming furniture and belongings. The Borrowers are also very amusing creatures, it is said even their names are borrowed from the human beans. Arriety is probably from Harriet, but I’m not so sure about Pod, Homily or Eggletina!

The characterisation is good, we have three very different personalities amongst the Clocks – Pod is sensible but weary, Homily is frazzled and frightened and Arriety is brave, naive and a dreamer. Arriety’s determination to borrow and make friends with The Boy is a big part of their undoing, but you can understand why she would be beyond fed up of living life in the semi-darkness with only a grating to view the outside world from. She’s not like Homily who would be content to never feel grass under her feet or see anything but the same four walls for the rest of her life.


ADAPTATIONS

Like some of Blyton’s books, The Borrowers has been adapted for TV and Film. The BBC did a brilliant two season series in the 90s, featuring Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings) as Pod. There has also been an Americanized film with Jim Broadbent as Pod, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter) as the added Pea-Green, Arriety’s little brother, and John Goodman as a crazed real estate developer Ocious P Potter. The film doesn’t capture the quaintness of the originals, but it has good acting and some very clever miniature ideas. The main idea of the story is also used for the Anime adaption, called The Secret World of Arrietty. That wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea but I have watched it and I quite liked it, despite it being quite different to the original.

*They were called pony houses because my first one was made for a My Little Pony. Later Cupcake/Jam Pot Dolls and Aladdin and Jasmine Figurines were lucky enough to get cardboard homes, but the name stuck.

 

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Top 11 Famous Five moments

I’ve written plenty about the Famous Five, including putting the whole series into order from my most favourite to least favourite. And now I’ve decided to list my ten favourite moments from the series.

Being 21 books long I can’t mention something from every book, some great titles are strong throughout and I can’t pick out a single ‘moment’. Others are also great all the way through but have standout scenes that stick in my mind. Some are funny, some are frightening and others are simply thrilling. Here’s what I chose (and no I couldn’t narrow it down to 10, again!) Can you guess what I have put in first place?


10

Uncle Quentin can’t get Berta’s name right

Five Have Plenty of Fun

Quentin is often absent-minded and easily confused by anything that isn’t to do with his scientific research. When Berta comes to stay he manages that just fine. But then, due to the threat of kidnap, she changes her name to Leslie and dresses like a boy. This confuses Quentin rather a lot, even though he has been told about it and he continues to call her Berta-er-Leslie. Not long after that Leslie reverts back to being a girl and is then called Jane. Poor Quentin, trying his best, has remembered the name Leslie a bit too late and ends up still getting it wrong.


10

George and Timmy deal with Junior

Five On Finniston Farm

Junior Henning is a very annoying and rude American boy staying with the Philpots at Finniston Farm. He demands breakfast in bed and doesn’t lift a finger to clear up his own mess. Mrs Philpot is desperate for the money Junior’s father is paying so she can’t upset anyone, so George takes matters into her own hands. She and Timmy take up Junior’s breakfast one morning and lets Timmy drag him out of bed, meaning he comes down to the kitchen for his breakfast after that and saves Mrs Philpot at least one job. It’s always good when someone horrible gets their comeuppance, isn’t it?


9

Sooty pretends to have bitten Block

Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

Timmy isn’t allowed at Smuggler’s Top as Mr Lenoir hates dogs, but George just couldn’t leave him behind. This leads to him being smuggled around the big house, and when Block interferes, Timmy bites him. In order to continue the charade that there is no dog at Smuggler’s Top Sooty insists that he must have bitten Block, and that he has a rather nasty taste in his mouth. Sooty goes off to brush his teeth, while Block examines his leg and doubts that the marks were made by human teeth.


8

The Five line up the clues on Gloomy Water

Five on a Hike Together

Having received the mysterious message in the night, the Five of course have to puzzle out the meaning. On a raft, in the middle of Gloomy Water, they must try to align Tall Chimney, Steeple, Tock Hill and Standing Stone. Even with four of them it’s not easy (Timmy, useful as he is, isn’t designed for steering a raft or staring at distant landmarks). Unfortunately for the Five, Dirty Dick and Maggie are on the water too, in a rowing boat, also trying to line up the landmarks. With only two pairs of eyes it’s proving very difficult for them, and there’s a bit of an accidental-on-purpose crash between the two crafts as the Five are exactly where the other two want to be – they just figured out the clues and got there first!


7

A storm throws up the old wreck

Five on a Treasure Island

Against her better judgement George has taken her cousins to Kirrin Island for the first time, and as she had worried it might, a storm blows up. It is an incredible, fierce summer storm and the waves crashing on the island are enormous. In the midst of it Julian goes outside for a look, and the rest follow when he spots a ship lurching towards the rocks. They are horrified as it crashes onto the jagged rocks with a sound of splintering wood, but then as the storm clears and they can see better there’s something very odd about the ship. It’s George who works it out first, recognising the strange ship for what is is, her very own wreck.


6

Julian and Dick get stuck in Clopper

Five Go Down to the Sea

Clopper is the name of the pantomime horse that performs in the Barnies’ shows. Normally containing Mr Binks and Sid, the costume is in three parts and the head is guarded jealously on orders of the guv’nor (because it contains smuggled drugs). At the end of the Barnies’ stay at Tremannon Farm the costume is left unguarded and Julian and Dick decide to have a go. Hearing the Guv’nor returning, they realise they are stuck inside the costume and awkwardly stagger off to seek help. Much to everyone’s surprise, a somewhat unsteady Clopper peeps in at the window while everyone else is eating, and although hot and uncomfortable inside, Julian and Dick leg it when they realise everyone has seen them, with Mr Penruthlan in hot pursuit, thinking it’s a farm horse. Running is too difficult for them, however, and the collapse only to be rescued by a guffawing Mr Penruthlan. The farmer even gives them the costume at the end of the book – making a joke about his two friends who can wear the costume but the only thing they can’t do is work the zip.


5

Julian faces off against the Sticks

Five Run Away Together

In one of his best moments, Julian stands up to the awful Sticks who have invaded Kirrin Cottage. Mrs Stick is the cook (and a good one at that), while her husband is lazing about on leave from his ship. Despite cooking wonderful food, Mrs Stick isn’t feeding the Five well, so Julian goes down to sort it out. He helps himself to all the tastiest morsels from the fridge and flummoxes the tongue-tied Mr Stick with a few deft words. (I have included a few of those words in my post about favourite quotes.)

julian mr stick five run away together


4

 Julian and Dick ring the lighthouse bell

Five Go to Demon’s Rocks

Near the end of this book the Five plus Tinker and Mischief are trapped inside the lighthouse, and the weather is fairly terrible. They have no phone so in order to seek help Julian and Dick decide to try to get the lighthouse working again. The great lamp is lit and  they lift the heavy bell out onto the balcony -Julian nearly going over the railing in the process – and take turns at striking the bell. The whole village hears it, and are very surprised as it has been over 40 since the lighthouse has been in use, since it was replaced by a bigger, more modern one along the coast.


3

Morgan calls his dogs

Five Get Into a Fix

Morgan, the son of Mrs Jones at Magga Farm is rather dour and taciturn, and the Five even suspect he might be up to something. However, come the end of the book the Five, plus Aily and Morgan are trapped underground by the real baddies, and only Morgan’s tremendous voice can save them. He shouts on the dogs once, and Llewellyn Thomas mocks him, saying that the dogs couldn’t possibly hear him from so far underground. Morgan shouts again, giving it his all and his voice cracks at the end. Lewellyn Thomas is not smug for long though, as soon they can hear the sound of seven dogs coming to rescue their master.


 

2

 Dick gets a secret message in the middle of the night

Five on a Hike Together

Dick is sleeping in an old shed at what he thinks is Blue Pond Farmhouse (spoiler, it isn’t!) when he’s woken by a tapping at the window. A bullet-headed man whispers his name and a baffling message to him – repeating it to make sure he’s got it – and then disappears.

Two Trees. Gloomy Water. Saucy Jane. And Maggie knows too.

He knows it isn’t a dream as a little bit of paper is pushed through a crack in the window, bearing the same message. The fact that the man called Dick’s name makes this all the more puzzling.

dick five on a hike together


1

The ash tree falls on Kirrin Cottage

Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

This is my all-time favourite. There’s a terrible storm blowing around Kirrin Cottage and Julian hears some terrible creaking in the middle of the night – the enormous ash tree in the garden is about to come down. He then has to wake the household up, and they only just get downstairs in time before there is an almighty crash. The girls room is destroyed and they would most likely have been killed had Julian not acted.


What would your favourites be?

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Monday #276

My top Famous Five moments

and

If you like Blyton: The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Cliff Castle, from the book The Secret of Cliff Castle, is (hardly surprisingly) a castle on a cliff. Well it’s not a real castle, more a big building built by one of those mysterious old men who likes their privacy but also has more money than sense and thinks building a great hulking castle with towers and slit-windows is an excellent idea. Luckily this old man includes a tiny door in the back, perfect for children involving themselves in an adventure, and also a handy secret passage down to the bottom of the (non-seaside) cliff.

Josephine, often known as Jo, Jones is one of Malory Towers ‘failed experiments’. Mrs Greyling likes taking on troublesome girls and trying to turn them around. Sometimes it works, but not in Jo’s case. Jo’s parents are nouveaux riche (a terrible sin) and they are loud and gaudy with it, and always telling Jo how wonderful she is. Her father in particular thinks that school is just a laugh and that Jo is there to have a good time. Jo ends up being expelled when she takes her own money (three whole pounds!) back from Matron, plus a few more by accident and then runs away with a first former.

I feel sorry for Jo, as although she is rather annoying and full of herself, she hasn’t had much of a chance thanks to her father. She remonstrates with him in the end, telling him that he always said things like being bottom of the form and breaking rules don’t matter, but they do.

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10 facts about Malory Towers and me

1. I didn’t own the full series as a child, but I’m not sure exactly what I did have. Fifth Form I had bought from the library for 20p, and Second Form I bought an Armada paperback somewhere eventually. I think most of the times I read Malory Towers it was books borrowed from the library.

2. My favourite was always Second Form, perhaps because I read it less often and therefore there was more anticipation of that thrilling finale with Mary-Lou and Daphne on the cliffs.

Second Form at Malory Towers dust jacket 1957 reprint by Lilian Buchanan
3. I always pronounced Alicia wrongly in my head as a child and have to correct myself now. It could either be Ah-leesh-ah or Ah-lissy-ah but I thought it was literally the name Alice, followed by an ‘ah’ sound. It was a friend who kindly corrected me one day.

4. I’ve always thought the brown and orange Malory Towers uniform sounded quite ugly, and wonder how Darrell could have liked it so much.

5. Despite loving the books I never had the desire to go to boarding school, sharing a dormitory with five other girls you might hate? No thanks. However, the rocky swimming-pool I would have loved, as I love sea-swimming and swimming in general.

6. I (shock, horror!) often prefer Jenny Chapple’s illustrations to the originals by Stanley Lloyd. Lloyd’s are more detailed and more skilled, but they are so grey and dreary-looking. Jenny Chapple’s are perhaps a touch ‘wibbly-lined’ but they have more character and despite being done some twenty years later for the Armada paperbacks, they are quite in-keeping with the time they are set.

7. I sometimes have cried at both the end of the series and at the end of the pantomime in the fifth book.

8. I have never read the continuation books by Pamela Cox, though I would like to. I have them for my Kindle already, so some day I will read and review them.

9. I always picture Deirdre the first-former in the last book as a tiny version of Deirdre from Coronation St. That hair, those glasses, just the size and age of a petite 11 year old. I think back then that was the only other Deirdre I’d heard of, so that’s how she looked to me.

10. I was struggling to come up with a tenth so I am going to put a totally random thing here, yes, more random than tiny Deirdre Barlow/Rashid. I read a 1980’s Methuen edition of Upper Fourth many times, and the cover always made me think the girls were going out at night in very ‘American’ clothes – it’s actually their pyjamas!

American going-out clothes, in my young mind,


So that is my hodge-podge of Malory Towers facts. What would yours be?

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Another load of search terms (#6)

Every time I look at our search terms there is something interesting, strange, or just completely baffling. Here’s the latest collection! (As usual all capitals are mine, and this is done is gentle jest meaning no malice to whoever is unfortunate enough to have had their search(es) land here.)


MORE MIXED UP TITLES

Review of Secret of Lost of Necklace novel, that’s a lot of ofs. I wasn’t sure what book this referred to – it’s closest to The Adventure of the Secret Necklace, but it turns out that there’s an omnibus edition of that story plus Mischief at St Rollo’s and The Children of Kidillin. The title (with or without the extra of) makes no sense unless the first story is also renamed inside.

Famous Five on Kirron Island review. I’ve seen Karin Cottage, Kitten Island and Kirren Island (the official 70s annuals made the Kirren mistake, and the font made it look like Kitten, which some people then put into eBay listings etc), and my phone wants it to say Kieron when I type it but I’ve never seen Kirron until now.

The Dreadful Children by Enid BlytonI feel bad including this as it’s so close, but it’s just not right. 

The Famous Five Movie in the Whispering IslandThis one’s also really close, there is a Children’s Film Foundation ‘film’, a serialised one, of Five Have a Mystery to Solve and it’s set on Whispering Island.


STRANGE QUESTIONS AND REQUESTS

What is the average yearly mileage driven by an RSPCA inspector?I have absolutely no idea, and I have no idea why this would land anyone on this blog!

Change the end of the Noddy and His Car story. To what? And why? What’s wrong with the real ending? Or is this referring to the fact that golliwogs are changed to goblins even though it happens throughout?

How do Noddy keep himself neat and clean? and the similar yet more specific What steps do Noddy and Big Ears take to became beat and clean in Noddy in the Toyland? can surely only be answered with ‘they wash’? I mean there is running water and soap in Toyland.

How old are Uncle Quentin and Aunt Sally? Who is Aunt Sally? (There is one typo in Five Have Plenty of Fun where Aunt Fanny is called Aunt Sally [Sally being Berta’s poodle] but she’s called Fanny every other time). And to attempt to answer I would assume that they are in their early to mid thirties at the start of the Famous Five series, given that George is 11. I don’t imagine they had her in their teens certainly, but they could be as old as 40 in Five on a Treasure Island. It’s very hard to tell as they aren’t described in terms of age or lack thereof.


CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE

My dog found a mysterious necklace The Five Find-Outers and Dog found a missing necklace, and that sounds a bit like something that could happen in a Blyton book but as far as I know, it isn’t.

An exciting adventure with mountain drawings I suppose the Mountain of Adventure or The Secret Mountain would fit the bill, though there are only a few illustrations showing the mountains in full.


CURIOUS FRAGMENTS

Not eat your story. No, well, I don’t think that books are all that tasty.

Amous Five style stationery and Famous 5 stationary both appear. I’m not sure who the Amous (Amorous?) Five are, but I know that the Famous Five wouldn’t have solved so many mysteries had they stayed stationary.

Well done Enid Blyton ending. Is that supposed to be about the ending of Well Done Secret Seven, or is it a congratulations for the ending of something else?


EVEN FATTY WOULD BE BAFFLED

The strings of incomprehensible nonsense have continued: dhn7hirgef5bxbat1jpotfccea7y3yggz1zyeufzenyvowoqn… etc, and afcrcxew_6ksw4w47yud0arf7eajwrpz5wph1p4dhcbrkfg0hokextwrnnsqcqzqos-zww…etc plus several more.

Corrector of Five on a Treasure Island any one corrector, who or what is a corrector?

Caillou taught my child terrible behavior, well Caillou is a TV programme for children and many people do say that his tantrums and bad behaviour are negatively influencing their children, but how that links to our blog I do not know.


DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK

In the Adventures Series of Enid Blyton, Dinah, why did you like this character of favourite and what is the best thing you like about this character. Why I like Dinah is irrelevant, it should be about why YOU like her.

Four words to describe the character Saucepan Man in Magic Faraway Tree. He isn’t a cheater.

Why I liked book Enchanted Wood. We’re not psychic, we don’t know why you liked (or didn’t like) it!


IT’S BLYTON. BLYTON. BLYTON!

The summary of Enid Blition’s, the name is wrong not to mention that the request isn’t finished!

Poems of Enith Blyron kids, both names are wrong here!


THE RARE SENSIBLE AND INTERESTING ONES

Authors like Enid Blyton, we have a whole section (two infact!) for authors you might like if you like Enid Blyton or if you want a grown-up Blytonian read.

Enid Blyton’s Fatty gets a 21st-century makeover. I’m always interested in moving characters into different times, especially seeing how 1940s/50s characters would work in the modern day. Bill Cunningham would have a mobile phone instead of a wireless to keep in touch with his work, and the Famous Five could Google map their route for their Hike to Two Trees and Gloomy Water. What would Fatty be like in the present day? Well I think he would be fairly similar, though better equipped, ordering disguises and things from Amazon Prime. He would take photographs on his smart phone of things like footprints and there would probably not be a single local bobby in a police house in Peterswood.

Famous Five books from best to worst – I can help you with that, or my opinion on that anyway.

Where is Kirrin Village locatedWe never know, really. On the coast somewhere in the south of England, of which my geographical knowledge is sorely lacking.


And that’s all, until next time!

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