Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy

Allegra McEvedy is a Blyton fan. I hate reading that when about to read or watch a work based on Blyton’s books. I hate it because it always gives me hope that this one will be good, and inevitably it just increases my disappointment. But anyway, Allegra McEvedy loved the Famous Five and Secret Seven but her favourite was the Naughtiest Girl.


Some questions

As is the case with many non-fiction books this one has a contents list. I always read this to give me an idea of what’s to come, to whet the appetite. But often, like today, it just leaves me with a lot of questions…

When did any Blyton character ever eat fluffy puffy cheesy pillows or triply cheesy straws? Do you remember garlic mushrooms or rainbow veggie skewers? When did they drink fruity smoothies? What version of The Secret Island has them eating strawberry, mint and spinach salad? What on earth is a sticky piglet?

I think most of the answers will be along the lines of nothing even remotely resembling those dishes ever appeared in a Blyton book. 

I was expecting this as any Blyton fan I know who has perused this has said it was nice but half of it wasn’t very Blytonian. I suppose they wanted a certain length of book and had to pad it out but surely they could have found some less anomalous dishes?

There are some genuinely Blyton sounding recipes amongst the strange ones, though. No Blyton cookbook would be complete without a recipe for ginger beer, jam tarts, google buns and pop-cakes and this one has all those. It also has ones for lemonade, gingerbread, soft-boiled (or indeed ‘dippy’) eggs, macaroons, porridge and cherry loaf; all suitable Blyton-fare. I can also understand the drop scones, scrambled eggs (without the aforementioned garlic mushrooms!), bloomer loaf (you’ve got to have something to make your sandwiches out of after all), meringues, quiches and peppermint creams.

Not so much the kedgeree, melon boats and honey-onion sausage rolls!

Some strange ingredients

Having read through the recipes I’ve noticed a lot of ingredients that I suspect wouldn’t have been used in Blyton’s writing heyday. I’ve had to research some of them though, as it’s hard to always know what’s accurate. Blyton wrote a lot of her books in the days of rationing, so much of the food featured in her books were either unavailable or in short supply such as sugar, cheese, meats, sweets and so on. Foods like bananas were available before the war, and again after yet they rarely appear in her books (for example they only appear once in the Famous Five books as the favourite food of Charlie the Chimp in Five Are Together Again) so it’s hard to tell based just on her books what was actually available and what she included because she was familiar with it. She included lots of delicious things as she knew what her readers would be longing for, so perhaps anything too exotic wouldn’t have elicited the same response from them. Many children would have been too young to remember or know what bananas were.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I suspect the below examples are unlikely to have been commonly available in 1940s and 50s Britain:

  • Maple bacon appears in the recipe for dippy eggs, and again in one of the porridge recipes.
  • Bananas are also suggested as a porridge topping, though by the late 50s and early 60s this might have been more usual.
  • Yoghurt for the fruit smoothies – yoghurt was first available in 1963 from the Ski brand.
  • Courgettes are just small marrows, but I don’t recall them ever mentioned in anything from that time period, nor bell peppers.
  • Balsamic vinegar (for the skewers) and Parmesan for the quiche seem unlikely as they would have to be imported specially.
  • Ready rolled pastry was possibly available but I can’t see Aunt Fanny or Joanna ‘cheating’ like that!
  • Broccoli was not known, apparently, though I’m basing that on one reminiscence I read.
  • The kedgeree contains turmeric and curry powder which weren’t commonly available again until after rationing ended, and it wasn’t until the late 60s that people could buy the Vesta curries that were so many people’s introductions to Indian cuisine. As a side note I like kedgeree without the peas and cream. It still doesn’t strike me as very Blyton, though!

Some random points

The ‘fluffly puffy cheesy pillows’ turn out to be potato things, not pastry as I initially thought.

The mackerel pate recipe makes enough for ‘a small bowlful, enough for a round of sarnies each for the Famous Five, and Timmy can lick the bowl.’ Since when did any of the Five eat one round of sandwiches on a picnic?

Jack’s trout is served with almonds and lemon-butter sauce, disappointingly inauthentic to Secret Island cooking.

Sticky piglets turn out to be cocktail sausages with a 1/4 date and 1/2 a slice of streaky bacon wrapped around them. Yuck!

A brief review

I wanted to love this book. I don’t.

It has some good bits. The best bit is the Faraway Tree recipes. I (and I’m sure lots of others) would love to make google buns and pop cakes (though the books have pop biscuits in actual fact – thank you to Isla for reminding me of this).

The google buns are little scone-like things (I’m no baking expert!) while the pop cakes have a honey and white chocolate filling.

The toffee is also a fitting inclusion and makes sense compared to a lot of the other recipes. I won’t be trying to make it though as won’t attempt toffee as MOLTEN TOFFEE IS AS HOT AS LAVA AND VERY DANGEROUS! 

I also liked the fact that the gingerbread recipe is to make a gingerbread shed for the Secret Seven. That nicely ties together a common foodstuff and a Blytonian icon.

There are actually six sections to the book, each with recipes that are supposed to be themed to the series. As above the Faraway Tree section is quite good. The other are for The Naughtiest Girl (breakfast foods), The Secret Seven (elevenses), The Famous Five (picnics), The Secret Island (suppers) and Malory Towers (midnight feasts). Each has a few recipes that to me fit in with a Blyton theme, but also several (examples at the top of this post) that don’t fit with the specific series let alone her greater works.

There is a short extract from each series at the start of each section, each focusing on a foody moment. It would have been nice, though, to also have a brief quote or reference to when a recipe was or might have been eaten by Blyton’s characters.

Instead the bulk of the recipes don’t mention Blyton, her books or her characters. They could be any old recipes. For example the midnight feasts at Malory Towers has some things that would have been impossible for them to eat. While muffins and biscuits would have appeared in their tuck boxes they would not have been oven-cooking sticky piglets or chopping melon to make melon boats.

Illustrations are similarly awkward. If you look closely the Naughtiest Girl recipes have children in school uniforms (but Mark Beech’s ragged looking illustrations make them look like urchins rather than boarding school kids), and the Malory Towers girls are in similarly ragged pyjamas. The Secret Seven shed appears on one recipe, and some children who may be the Famous Five are there too (though only properly recognisable when all together), and a fairy that’s probably Silky is featured as well. A lot of pages have random kids bouncing and climbing over photos of the food, though.

So in short; nice idea, poor execution. Not enough Blytonian recipes and not enough links between the recipes and her influence and inspiration.

If I ever try the Faraway Tree recipes, I’ll let you know.

Posted in Book reviews, Food and recipes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 5 – the successes

So far I have introduced Miss Grayling and the role she plays at Malory Towers, looked at some failures, experiments and girls who almost messed up their schooling. Now I’m going to have a look at the girls who can call themselves Malory Towers’ successes.

Darrell Rivers

Well, you can’t write a post about Malory Towers’ successes without mentioning the heroine of the series, can you!

Darrell isn’t consistently a success, however. She has quite a lot of ups and downs. In her first year she slaps Gwendoline for ducking Mary-Lou and has a blazing row with Sally that culminates with Darrell pushing her over. She is always contrite moments after these outbursts and knows it is something she has to work on, and she learns to control her temper over her years at Malory Towers. Although she improves it is a slow and steady process, and she is not rewarded with the position of head of form until her fourth year. She then manages to lose it part way through the year by shaking June Johns in a temper.

After that Darrell does still become games captain in the fifth form – as well as penning the entire script for a pantomime – and is even head girl in the sixth form.

In her final year she takes the new girls to Miss Grayling in order to hear her inspiring speech again (quoted here) and after, Miss Grayling speaks to her. She adds something to her speech though;

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.

The after the awed new girls leave she speaks to Darrell in private.

You are one of our successes, Darrell. One of our biggest successes. Sally is another, and so is Mary-Lou.

She adds that there is only one true failure, Gwendoline Mary (who I discussed at length before) and asks Darrell to try to influence Gwen to heal the rift with her father. Although Darrell is ultimately unsuccessful in that endeavour she does do what she can to help Gwen when she leaves Malory Towers unexpectedly.

After Malory Towers she plans to head to St Andrews University (and if you read some of our fan fiction you can see what she gets up to there).

Below; Darrell comes out at the end of the pantomime.

Sally Hope

Sally spends most of her first year being secretive and sullen, but we discover that she is feeling pushed aside by a new sibling. After she mends her relationship with her mother and becomes best friends with Darrell she settles into being steady and dependable, enough that she is head of the second form the next year.

She is excellent at tennis and swimming, and becomes head of games in her sixth year. She spends her time in the upper school working very hard in supporting the younger girls to excel at sports. As above she is called one of Malory Towers biggest successes by Miss Grayling, and she heads to St Andrews with Darrell when she leaves.

Below; Sally is pushed over by Darrell


Irene is lovable and all the girls are fond of her, finding her forgetfulness very amusing. She is a genius at both maths and music, but it is music that dominates her time at Malory Towers. She is always humming ditties and tapping rhythms, sometimes getting herself into trouble for doing so. She writes all the music for the fifth years’ pantomime and leaves Malory Towers to pursue a career in music at Guildhall.

Below; Irene almost takes out Belinda’s eye with a hairbrush

Belinda Morris

Belinda is similar to Irene in the gifted but hopeless category. She, like Irene is a popular girl though her passion is art. She is marvellous at drawing and painting. She designs and paints all the scenery for the fifth form pantomime and after Malory Towers she attends a school of art.

Below; Belinda adds a scowl to her sketchbook


Throughout her time at Malory Towers Mary-Lou is described as timid and quiet. She is, however, also fiercely loyal and a good friend. She is kind-hearted and never has a bad word to say about anyone. Mary-Lou goes on to train as a children’s nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital after she leaves school.

Below; in a moment of bravery Mary-Lou investigates who the real culprit is

Felicity Rivers

Although we don’t see Felicity completing her time at Malory Towers (at least not in the canonical Blyton books which to me are the only ones which count!) I feel she was destined to be a success.

She follows in Darrell’s footsteps in intelligence and sporting prowess but she doesn’t have her sister’s temper, which makes life easier for her. She can be a little too easily led at times, and follows June a bit too long, but she realises that sensible Susan is a better friend than devil-may-care June and settles down.

Darrell has thoroughly impressed upon her the importance of doing well at Malory Towers and carrying on the tradition she has set, and so I’m sure Felicity does very well.

Other girls

There are, of course, other girls who are well-liked and leave on good terms. Clarissa and Bill open a riding school, Janet trains as a dress designer and so on. Most of the girls who almost messed it up end up successful – Mavis leaves to train as a singer and Amanda stays on to coach younger girls before attempting to continue her Olympic career for example. There must also be hundreds of girls from other forms and other towers who do well, but Blyton naturally chose to focus on a select number of them.


Posted in Characters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday #239

Miss Grayling’s Girls – the successes


Jolly Good Food, the Enid Blyton Children’s Cookbook

What is the good of a pretty face if there is a spiteful heart beneath it? Has Prudence any real friends, dear? She knows the meaning of riches and good food, a car, servants and things of that kind, but does she know the meaning of kindness, loyalty, humility and charity?

In The Family at Red Roofs Mrs Jackson talks to her daughter Molly about a school friend that Molly is envious of.

Bumpy dog appears in many Noddy books and adaptations. He is an extremely boisterous animal, always knocking people over and bouncing around – hence his name. Noddy first meets him in book #14, Noddy and the Bumpy Dog after he has been injured by a sailor doll on a bike. He likes him very much but finds him much too bumpy to keep, so Bumpy Dog ends up going to live with Tessie Bear, and visiting Noddy frequently.

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Run Away Together

I’m not doing all that well at reading through the Famous Fives am I! Once upon a time I could devour the 21 books in a matter of weeks, now I’m lucky to get through one a month. But here I am reviewing the third one, so I should reach Five Are Together Again by 2020!

At Kirrin Again

This is our third Famous Five adventure and they are yet to venture further than the idyllic Kirrin – and why would they? Summer or winter it has everything they need for a smashing adventure. We are back to summer for this story, so a whole year has passed since the events of Five On a Treasure Island. Not much has changed, though. The children state they are a year older (naturally), and this time George is lonely and missing her cousins and fits right in with them as soon as they arrive. They haven’t been to Kirrin Island together since the previous summer, they visited at Easter and the weather was too bad. The island is the same as ever – only the wreck has moved a little, battered by winter storms, and the last remaining whole room in the castle has fallen in.

The only change at Kirrin Cottage is a new cook. The fat, panting Joanna is gone and the sour-faced Mrs Stick is in her place. I had to remind myself that it’s only those of us who have read the whole series (perhaps over and over) that will see this as a major thing. For the children and first-time readers Joanna has only served one book, so her absence is less of a wrench.

Another three parter?

If you try hard enough you can probably divide any book into three parts. I mean every book is supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end, though I always assume the beginning and end to be short while the middle encompasses the main story line. The Famous Five books can, so far, be broken into three chunks of varying length.

For Five Run Away Together the three parts can probably be identified thus:

  1. The first page through to Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin leaving Kirrin – three chapters
  2. The Five having to live with the Sticks alone and then planning to leave – six chapters
  3. On the island and the  adventure – thirteen chapters

The Five vs the Sticks

There’s not a huge amount to say about the first part of the book – the children arrive at Kirrin and enjoy bathing and swimming, a trip to the island and so on, but with a background of worry as Aunt Fanny isn’t feeling well.

The story kicks off when, on returning from the island, George’s parents are gone – her mother has been taken into hospital and they are alone with the Sticks.

So let me backtrack – who are the Sticks?

Mrs Stick is a wonderful cook but she is short tempered and does not like the fact she now has four children to cook for and the lady of the house is not well enough to assist. She has a ratty little dog too, who mostly stays in the kitchen lest he fight with Timmy.

She has brought her son, Edgar, with her and he’s a spotty-faced lad of about 13 or 14. That makes him ages with, or a little older than Julian. I always think of him as a bit younger than that, probably because he is so immature. He taunts George by singing Georgie Porgie pudding and pie at her for example, and does a lot of crying near the end of the book. He is awful to George when she can’t find her parents – he knows what has happened but sits smugly in an armchair and refuses to say anything until she loses her temper and slaps him.

So now they are ‘under the thumb’ of the Sticks as Julian puts it and they have a few rather unpleasant days. Mrs Stick stops cooking for them and they are stuck with stale sandwiches for lunch. Julian is then forced to tackle them on a few occasions – in order for them to get a decent supper.

This is when they discover Mr Stick, a small, grubby man who needs a shave, sleeping on the kitchen sofa. He claims his ship is docked nearby and Uncle Quentin said he could stay but this is a dubious tale. The Five can’t do much about it though!

julian mr stick five run away together

Julian is, in my opinion, fabulous in his confrontations with the Sticks. I have given a few
examples in a post about my favourite Blyton quotes. In short, he is quick tongued while Mr Stick keeps repeating now look ‘ere. Julian doesn’t want to look, and says so, all while maintaining a polite tone. I love the moment where he accidentally drops a sticky jam tart on the sleeping Mr Stick’s face and yet still waltzes off with a good supper.

He does tell the Sticks a few home truths, however, about Tinker needing a bath and that they haven’t raised Edgar very well and that makes things worse. Usually Julian is too smart to exacerbate a bad situation but the Sticks are so infuriating I can understand why he couldn’t hold back.

The two boys show off their typical roles around this time – Julian takes charge, tackles the Sticks and is described as grave and grown-up. Meanwhile Dick supports him but also tries to lighten the mood with humour.

Things become untenable when the Sticks try to poison Timmy – an idea Blyton will revisit in Five Go Off in a Caravan – and George starts getting awkward. She has a secret plan and wants the others to go back to their home. Of course they stick (sorry, bad pun) it out, and finally Julian catches her trying to run away to her island. George is quite stupid to think the others wouldn’t go with her, because of course, they agree to do exactly that.

The Secret Kirrin island

At this point the story evolves into something a bit different. We are suddenly in a Secret Island or Hollow Tree House sort of book. The children gather lots of supplies, and buy a few things too. Amongst other things they take secret island – tinned food, candles, kettle, saucepan, cutlery, big tins of water, a last-minute tin-opener and a huge bone for Timmy. It’s a wonder George’s boat can hold them all.

They are not in as dire a situation as the Arnolds, Jack, or Susan and Peter Frost. They are capable of standing up to the Sticks and not starving but life is rather unpleasant for them. Plus there’s the worry that the Sticks will poison Timmy – an idea that Blyton repeats in Five Go Off in a Caravan. So they are better off on the island, and after all George had, earlier in the book, wished that her mother would let them camp on the island for a few days. A case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ I think!

So they have supplies and made a few clever plans. They leave out a train timetable with a train to Julian’s home underlined, and set off in that direction to fool the Sticks. A smarter family might have realised they were being led down the garden path but the Sticks take it at face value. They also arrange for Alf to sail near the island with a flag when George’s parents return so that they can return too.

Once on the island they have to find somewhere to live. The remaining room is no good (though I seem to recall it recovers for Five on Kirrin Island Again), the dungeons are too dark and dank, and the wreck is too wet and smelly. There’s no willow trees to create a house and there are no handle cave… wait, yes there is! There’s a cave George has never found before with a soft sandy floor, a shelf for their supplies and a nice skylight/alternative entrance in the roof.

I’m going to stop there as the adventure proper starts in the next chapter and I’ve already written tons and run out of time too!


Posted in Book reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Putting the Five Find-Outers books in order part 2

Recently I started putting these books in order of favourites, and I did my top five from the series. Now I’m going to have a look at the five books I am putting in the middle. My middling favourites, if you will.

My middling five Five Find-Outer books

6. The Mystery of Holly Lane

This is one I didn’t read as a child. As an adult I thought the mystery was satisfying enough but I found it quite forgettable (but I’m someone who can read the same book twice in four years and still not remember whodunit. From what I do remember it had a good final solution and some interesting characters. What I found the most memorable is the foreign chap at the start with who is looking for Grintriss, thus accidentally showing the Find-Outers the area their next mystery will be in.

7. The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat

This book benefits from the introduction of a new police-man, PC Pippin, and the Find-Outers revel in giving him a false mystery to solve. Fatty does some of his red-headed boy shenanigans, but the main mystery is a serious one. You feel sorry for Boysie and Zoe as they’re clearly good people – but there are plenty of suspects who may not be so nice. The ending is a bit rushed as we suddenly get given a new piece of information that solves the mystery. If we’d had it before it would have been solved much earlier.

8. The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

On the whole this is a decent mystery, almost an impossible one given that the cat’s there one minute and gone the next. Miss Trimble (who will pop up again later) is perhaps one-dimensional but her dimension is at least an amusing one, while Tupping is someone you enjoy hating. Proving Luke’s innocence (and Tupping’s guilt) gives the story an edge of tension, though the majority of it plays out between the Hilton’s garden and the one next door so it can feel a bit insular and restrictive at times.

9. The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

This is another story where Goon violently thrusts the clues at the Find-Outers, in this case tiny, soaking clothing down Fatty’s back. If you can get over that stupidity, you can appreciate how strange the mystery is. Why has someone thrown a bag of tiny clothes into the river? Who is Eurycles? How do those things tie in with the burglary at Mr Fellows’ house? The Find Find-Outers find out all these things between funny interludes where Fatty practices his new skill of ventriloquism and drives Goon mad.

10. The Mystery of Banshee Towers

This is the worst of the series according to most people, perhaps one of Blyton’s worst books over all. I’m inclined to agree that it is not one of the strongest mysteries, as it relies a bit too much on a phoney banshee which the Find-Outers should be smart enough not to believe in – plus the various errors in continuity. Saying that I have a certain amount of fondness for this book, which is mostly nostalgia combined with the memory of how long and hard I hunted for my hardback. I can’t dislike a book I worked so hard to get!

I think Banshee Towers is probably my most controversial choice this time around, particularly after the comments on my previous post. I’d be interested to know just how far down other people’s lists it would appear.

Posted in Personal Experiences, Reading Recommendations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Monday #238

Putting the Find-Outers in Order


Five Run Away Together

Mr Galliano’s Circus is more of a thing than a place but I think it can count for location of the week as wherever the circus folk set it up it becomes a bustling village of brightly painted caravans and cages. Some of the caravans change over time as performers come and go but the over-all air of cheerful hustle and bustle and hard work remains. While each individual caravan is a home to a person or a family the whole field or green becomes a home to the people of the circus as they light campfires to cook on and sit around.

Let’s get one thing clear, character of the week or not, Aunt Harriet and Uncle Henry are not good people. In fact they are absolutely awful people. They take in their two nieces and nephew while their parents are away working as pioneering aviators, and when those parents disappear they turn against the children. They prevent them attending school in order that they can work the farm (Mike) and do all the cooking and cleaning and laundry (Peggy and Nora). They get slapped, shaken and scolded for the smallest of errors and sent to bed without eating despite being exceptionally hardworking. They are so bad that the children would rather fend for themselves on an island than live with them.

What’s perhaps the worst part is that these children have known happier times, and then lose their beloved parents only for their last living relatives to turn on them and punish them for being otherwise alone in the world.

They’re so awful they don’t even get illustrated!

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

September Round Up 2018


Not a bad month though most of the novels are ones I’ve read before. I haven’t read the latest few of the St Mary’s books so I thought I should re-read from the start to refresh my memory before I read the new ones. I’m almost finished my re-read (well, listen) of the Sookie Stackhouse books, but I was waiting for my next Audible credit to get the next one so I started rereading the Harper Connelly series which I was able to borrow from my library on audiobook.

  • The Very First Damned Thing (A Chronicles of St Mary’s #0.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • When a Child is Born (A Chronicles of St Mary’s #2.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Books Make a Home – Damian Thompson
  • The Smart Approach to Bath Design* – Susan Maney
  • Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12) – Charlaine Harris
  • Voyager (Outlander #3)
  • A Second Chance (A Chronicles of St Mary’s #3) – Jodi Taylor
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly #1) – Charlaine Harris
  • Roman Holiday (A Chronicles of St Mary’s #3.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly #2) – Charlaine Harris

And I’ve still to finish:

  • Red Dwarf: Better than Life – Grant Naylor


  • Hollyoaks
  • Hey Duggee, Pocoyo and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, alternated to avoid complete boredom.
  • Outlander series 3 (which follows the plot of Voyager, which I was reading at the same time).
  • The O series of QI as it’s the latest to be on Netflix
  • Another new series of Taskmaster


  • A first aid course so that I can act as a first aider at work
  • Took part in Dundee’s first Pride march
  • Become an auntie for the second time, with a new nephew
  • A lot of boring work to change over direct debits and card details (some companies just don’t make it easy when you get a new bank account!)
  • Run after Brodie even more than usual as he has now learned to walk.
  • Taken Brodie to Auchingarrich, soft play, and lots of play parks.

*If you have a bathroom the size of an average living room and a load of money. Both of which I lack.

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 4 – the ones who almost messed it up

Not every girl fits neatly into ‘success’ or ‘failure’. Some are distinctly one or the other by the end, some change back and forth through the years and some are a grey area all the way through.

Some of these girls come out of Malory Towers looking like successes – Miss Grayling doesn’t have a chart she ticks or crosses, or at least she doesn’t share it with the reader – but have had some serious hiccups along the way. A few I imagine Miss Grayling wouldn’t consider true successes based on her speech, but they get through without being expelled or leaving in disgrace.

Alicia Johns

Alicia is clever, capable and popular. She excels at school work, has lots of friends, does well at sports and can be very amusing when she wants to be. On paper she is a Malory Towers success. Unfortunately she is also very spiteful and sharp-tongued. She isn’t universally popular as a lot of girls have been on the receiving end of some very cruel remarks from her. She isn’t an outright bully (in my opinion) as she never wages a campaign against anyone in particular, she just can’t keep her mouth shut when she thinks someone’s being stupid, lazy or annoying.

Alicia does learn a powerful lesson when she fails her school certificate exam by coming down with measles. She suddenly realises what is must be like to have to work hard at school – before she’s never had to make much effort as essays and maths and everything has always just come easily to her. She is a trifle more humble after that and is grateful to be allowed to move up into the fifth form and pass the exam later.

Below; Alicia in her Demon King costume for the pantomime

June Johns

June is Alicia’s cousin and similar in many ways. She is clever, funny and amusing but also unkind, underhand and untrustworthy. She is also very wild and gets into trouble in ways Alicia doesn’t. June is almost expelled towards the end of her second year at Malory Towers when she is revealed to be the person sending poison-pen letters to Moira and Felicity. It is not her actions that save her, though, it’s Moira seeing that she had wronged June and coming to ask Miss Grayling to give her another chance. The next year June has knuckled down a bit but still finds authority hard to deal with. She shows how brave she is, though, by saving Amanda’s life when she almost drowns. By the end of the series June is definitely a better person and has a promising future at Malory Towers.

Below; June rows out to rescue Amanda

Amanda Chartelow

Amanda is a great swimmer and sports person, having gone to Trenigan Towers, a school known for its emphasis on sports. She is only at Malory Towers because her school burned down (prompting my question of where all the 0ther Trenigan girls are, presumably they are wherever all the Mazely Manor girls went.) Like Maureen, Amanda looks down on Malory Towers, though she does it in a more deliberate way. The tennis courts are not to her standard. The swimming pool isn’t as big. They don’t focus on games as much as she would like. She is very aware of her abilities and boasts that she ought to win at least two events in the next olympic games, and she is not popular due to her boasting and rude remarks.

Not one for shirking Amanda nearly messes up her time at Malory Towers in the most extreme way. She almost gets herself killed by ignoring all the warnings that the coast is not safe for sea-swimming. What do they know? So she goes for a swim and gets into trouble in the strong currents, and only survives because June (who she has aggressively coached just to prove a point) rows out and saves her.

She is a bit more humble after that, and throws herself into coaching all the girls who want it – instead of just the ones she deems ‘worthy’ – and integrates much more with the school.

Below; Amanda shows off her diving prowess.

Moira Linton

Moira is bossy, domineering and unpopular. Being young for her form she is kept back in the fifth instead of moving up to the sixth. It is suggested by some of the new fifth formers that she has been left behind as she is so unpopular with the other girls. I can’t see that being the reason, the other girls wouldn’t get to make that decision and I don’t think Miss Grayling would make an important decision based on popularity. I can, however, imagine Miss Grayling thinking Moira needs more time to emotionally mature in order to move up the school.

Anyway, being an old hand at the fifth form, Moira is naturally made joint-head of the form. None of the new fifth-formers take to her, and Alicia particularly clashes with her on many occasions. She is unable to understand that not all girls are strong and bolshy like she is, and she is too proud to ever admit if she is wrong or someone else’s idea is better than hers.

It’s probably not surprising that she ends up getting poison-pen letters, as she seems to unfairly exert her power over the lower school if ever one of them cheeks her. She made an entire form learn Kubla Kahn once, because one of them wrote a poem (presumably not a kind one) about her and wouldn’t own up.

She must see she isn’t blameless in it all, as at the end she speaks to Miss Grayling and asks that June not be expelled for the letters. The fifth-formers see her in a better light after that, and although she is still somewhat domineering in Last Term at Malory Towers she is better tolerated.

Below; Moira chairs the first meeting of the pantomime committee

Catherine Gray

Catherine is also left down from the sixth form, and she is the joint-head with Moira. She is more or less the opposite of Moira though. She is endlessly patient, kind and ingratiating. In fact she’s so helpful she’s an absolute pain in the behind. Nobody can move without Catherine simpering over them and offering to do all their jobs for them – only lazy Gwen generally accepts the help. She’s nicknamed Saint Catherine by the other girls and finally she stops offering help as she gets tired of the snarky replies she gets.

I almost feel sorry for Catherine but you’d think she’d learn after so many year at Malory Towers. She isn’t likeable helpful. Mary-Lou is kind, considerate and helpful without being pushy and ‘holier than thou’ about it. Catherine seems to enjoy ‘rescuing’ people and sticking her nose in where it isn’t wanted or needed. She leaves without ever going into sixth form, to stay and home and look after her mother who thinks herself rather an invalid. I suppose that would suit her!

The Batten Twins

As written about by Stef when looking at the twinniest twins, the Batten twins don’t do very well at first. Connie is bigger and ever so slightly older than Ruth, and she’s much more confident and forceful even though Ruth is the smarter of the two. Connie ends up speaking for her twin and doing all sorts of things for her. Ruth is left as a sort of shadow to her twin. Ruth passes the ‘school cert’ and moves up into the fifth form while Connie fails it and remains in the fourth. Neither sister is happy at first but Ruth is then able to be herself and look after herself, and Connie presumably settles too.

Below; Connie comes to the fifth-form dormitory to check on Ruth and is sent away.


Mavis is an excellent singer but she nearly scuppers her planned opera career by disobeying orders and going to sing in a talent contest at night. She misses the bus back and tries to walk but ends up soaked in a ditch. She is very ill afterwards and for a time it seems she may never sing again. By the end of the series she is getting her voice back and has learned that there is more to her than just a voice.

Below; Mavis is found soaking wet in the night.

mavis malory towers


Deirdre, as discussed in the previous post is a weak little thing. This is her only real ‘crime’. She was foolish enough to follow Jo and run away from Malory Towers. You can understand why, though. She has no mother and her father is at sea a great deal of the time. Her only other relative is a great-aunt who doesn’t send Deirdre any pocket-money or biscuits at school. She must feel quite lonely and left out so when faced with Jo’s wealth and generosity she is easily swayed.

Miss Grayling does have some quite serious words with her after she is returned to Malory Towers, and Deirdre realises she needs to buck herself up. Without Jo’s influence I hope she settles better into Malory Towers.

Below; Deirdre sneaks after Jo

stanley lloyd

We don’t really know what happens to all these girls after their moment(s) in the spotlight. Some of them we see more of; like Alicia, and know they finish their sixth year. Others fade into the background (like Connie) or we never see again (like Deirdre). I’d like to think that they all use their experiences to improve upon themselves and go on to do well. I would like to know if Amanda ever made it to the Olympic Games and if she ever won a medal, and to know how June turns out in the end.

Posted in Characters | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday #237

It’s October already! How did that happen?

September Round Up


Miss Grayling’s girls part 4

“Nobody’s ever nervous! We’ve lived all our lives in the circus. Most of us were born in one. Why should we be nervous? Hallo – it’s my time to go on.”

Willie answers Fenella’s question about performing in Come to the Circus.

Favourite Enid Blyton Stories comes out on October 4, and contains stories chosen by such famous people as Jaqueline Wilson and Michael Morpugo. So far the contents have been kept secret, so I look forward to seeing what was chosen when the book comes out.

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Putting the Five Find-Outers books in order

Last year I ordered the books in some of Blyton’s biggest series into favourites. I did The Famous Five, The Adventure Series, The Secret Series, Malory Towers and The Barney Mysteries. I have now realised that I missed the Five Find-Outers. I probably chose to skip this one at the time because I am not quite so familiar with this series, and being a longer one that makes it even harder but I’m ready to have a go at it now!

For ease I have split them into three groups (and posts) – top, middling, and bottom. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the ones at the bottom, it just means I like them less than the ones at the top. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly out of the seven books I didn’t read as a child four are in the bottom group, one is in the middle and one in the top. But which ones are those? You’ll have to read on to find out.

My top Five Find-Outers books

1. The Mystery of the Invisible Thief

What can I say, I just love this one. I love the obsession the Find-Outers suddenly develop with large shoes, to the point of prostrating themselves on the ground to check the shoe’s soles while they’re being worn. The mystery is baffling – who has such large hands and feet, and WHY on earth are they leaving mucky prints everywhere? There is also the joy of Goon attempting to disguise himself (hard with those eyes and that figure!) and the enjoyable accidental solving of the mystery thanks to Pip’s joke.

2. The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters

I know that this isn’t on most people’s favourites list, but I really like it. I enjoy a good whodunit. This is the first book where Fatty does his red-headed boys routine and it’s so funny to see Goon perplexed and angry at the telegraph boy and butcher’s boy when it’s all Fatty. I think they do some great detective work in this book with collecting handwriting samples etc. Yes there’s luck in their supposition about the person taking the bus to Sheepsale but it’s not a wild guess and they do examine their several suspects in great detail.

3. The Mystery of the Burnt Cottagethe-mystery-of-the-burnt-cottage

This, oddly enough, is one of the ones I didn’t read as a child. I say odd as it’s unusual for me to start part-way through a series. Anyway, usually the first book in a series is one of the strongest maybe it has something to do with introducing a cast of characters and the world they live in? Anyway, this is a strong book as it has a solid mystery, it has good suspects (including ones you just have to dislike – who’s nastier, Mr Hicks or Mr Smellie?) and good detective work about the trains and aeroplanes.

4. The Mystery of the Missing Man

This is, perhaps, not the strongest of the mysteries. It’s not a weak one, having said that. It is exciting as there’s a dangerous escaped criminal on the loose, who is a master of disguise and could be anyone. The reveal of who he is isn’t amazing but reasonably surprising. However, I particularly enjoy the book as there’s so much humour to be found in Eunice bothering Fatty to the point that he takes up jogging to avoid her. I also like the flea-circus and coleopterist  settings as they’re a bit different.

5. The Mystery of the Strange Messages

I like this one as the messages are truly strange. Turn him out of the Ivies (what or where is the Ivies?), ask Smith what his real name is. Better go and see Smith. Just who is Smith? Mr Goon is at his foolish best as he assumes these messages are a joke from Fatty and co, and angrily gives them ‘back’ to the Find-Outers. That gives them lots of investigating to do with not a lot to go on. Unfortunately Goon also works enough out to go and give Smith an undeserved hard time, and the story moves from a mystery to the Find-Outers trying to help the Smiths.

So there are my top five. Some controversial choices, perhaps. What would your top five look like?

Posted in Personal Experiences, Reading Recommendations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

If you like Blyton: The Lone Pine Series by Malcolm Saville

I will start with an honest admission – I didn’t like this series the first time I tried it. I had heard that Malcolm Saville was like Enid Blyton and if I like the Famous Five etc then I would like the Lone Pine books. I dutifully borrowed the first one from the library and I gave up after about one chapter. I gave up so early that I didn’t even recall the start of the book when I came to try again as an adult.

I feel it’s important for me to stress that as an adult I very much like them, and if I had given them a proper chance as a child I probably would have ended up devouring the series. (Side note: I didn’t like Harry Potter when it first came out. I read the first chapter or so of the second book and abandoned it again quickly. Then years later I saw the first films, read the whole series and now I’ve read them dozens of times. I was a harsh and hard to please reader sometimes!)

I’ve only read sixteen of the Lone Pine books so far, as I had trouble getting the 17th for a long time.

The Lone Pine Books

There are 20 Lone Pine books in total, as well as one hard-to-get-hold-of short story (The Flower-Show Hat (1950).

  • Mystery at Witchend (1943)
  • Seven White Gates (1944)
  • The Gay Dolphin Adventure (1945)
  • The Secret of Grey Walls (1947)
  • Lone Pine Five (1949)
  • The Elusive Grasshopper (1951)
  • The Neglected Mountain (1953)
  • Saucers Over The Moor (1955)
  • Wings Over Witchend (1956)
  • Lone Pine London (1957)
  • The Secret of the Gorge (1958)
  • Mystery Mine (1959)
  • Sea Witch Comes Home (1960)
  • Not Scarlet But Gold (1962)
  • Treasure at Amorys (1964)
  • Man With Three Fingers (1966)
  • Rye Royal (1969)
  • Strangers at Witchend (1970)
  • Where’s My Girl? (1972)
  • Home to Witchend (1978)

The books feature a group of children who have formed a club called the Lone Pine Club – named for the solitary pine tree which guards their den/club house in Shropshire.

Interestingly (to me anyway) Saville clearly liked to vary his titles – he didn’t use the same format or even include Lone Pine in more than a couple of titles. #

malcolm saville

The Lone Piners

There are nine human members of the Lone Pine Club plus the obligatory dog. However, it is ?=rare for all nine members to appear in the same story (this only happens in the final book, in fact). This is mostly because they don’t all live in the same place(s) and so some adventures only involve local members.

The core of the club, and in every book, are David Morton (the Captain) and David’s younger twin siblings, Dickie and Mary plus Mackie, (short for Macbeth) the Mortons’ Scottish Terrier.

David and the twins move to Witchend – a house in the Shropshire hills – as evacuees from the Second World War in Mystery at Witchend. They meet Peter, who lives with her father on the Long Mynd where her father is in charge of the reservoir. The other founding member is Tom Ingles from the Ingles Farm down the lane from Witchend. Peter and Tom feature in most of the Shropshire-based stories but don’t often travel to the other locations.

Jenny Harman first appears in the second book, she lives near Peter’s aunt and uncle by the Stiperstones (not too far from the Mynd).

Cousins Jonathan and Penny Warrender join in the third book, when the Mortons visit Rye.

Harriet Sparrow is the last member to join, in the tenth book, when Jonathan meets her in London.

Lone Pine Locations

Several of the books are set in Shropshire, many featuring the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones (Mystery at Witchend, Seven White Gates, The Secret of Grey Walls, Lone Pine Five, The Neglected Mountain, Wings Over Witchend, The Secret of the Gorge, Not Scarlet But Gold, The Man With Three Fingers, Strangers at Witchend and Home to Witchend) as that is where the Mortons, Peter, Tom and Jenny live.

They also visit Sussex several times, in particular Rye (The Gay Dolphin Adventure and Rye Royal), and the Romney Marshes (The Elusive Grasshopper and Treasure at Amorys)

Also visited is Dartmoor (Saucers over the Moor and Where’s My Girl), London (Lone Pine London), Yorkshire (Mystery Mine) and Suffolk (Sea Witch Comes Home).

Blyton used some real places in her books, others were very loosely based on real places and most were just made up, but I think all of Lone Pine Locations are real (bar individuals’ homes/farms etc). Saville really brings his locations to life with rich (and accurate) descriptions of each place, and many of them can be visited today and immediately recognised.

The best part (in my humble opinion) is that each book has a map of where the story is set, highlighting all the important landmarks and locations.

Why would you like these just because you like Blyton? 

There are a lot of familiar ideas between Blyton and Saville. Both authors’ books have a group or groups of children who camp out, solve mysteries and catch criminals. They are both of the same period (at least the start of the Lone Pine books are contemporaneous to Blyton’s works, but Saville continued writing into the 1970s) where boys take care of girls and children can run rather wild without parental influence.

The Lone Piners as a group are like a mixture of the Famous Five, The Adventure Series lot, the Five Find-Outers and the Secret Seven. They are an organised club with rules, passwords etc like the Secret Seven, and they often ‘formally’ investigate mysteries like the Five Find-Outers. Yet they also accidentally fall into adventures while camping, holidaying and travelling like the Famous Five or Adventure Series children do.

Saying that, they are not so similar that you would confuse one for the other. Blyton’s writing and Saville’s are somewhat different. Blyton, in my mind, is a more straight-forward writer. She generally writes what she means and her characters are similarly straight-forward. She does of course feature secrets, liars and plot twists but for the main part people come out and say what they mean and say it clearly. Saville prefers to make allusions, uses more metaphors and his characters do more ‘beating around the bush’. I find that a bit frustrating sometimes, actually, that instead of just saying something, a Saville character will keep quiet and we will waste time going in the wrong direction until they decide to speak up.

As I’ve said above the Lone Pine books don’t feature the same characters each time, unlike Blyton’s major mystery/adventure series which have the same line up each time. Saville’s children also grow up more obviously. The Famous Five do age, but not greatly. They mature a little, it is mentioned they are older and more responsible. The Lone Piners go through more development as they age – for example they begin romantic entanglements (David and Peter, Tom and Jenny in particular) and tire of their rural home life and long for a more cosmopolitan existence (Tom). Saville also moves with the times – his 1940s books are set in the 40s, and his 1960s books definitely have a nod to 60s vehicles, fashion and ways of life. It’s quite bizarre actually, as the Lone Piners are perhaps one year older but life has moved on by a decade!

Both Blyton’s children and Saville’s age a lot less than they should, the Famous Five age a few years over 21 adventures / 20 years, and the Lone Piners age around the same over 20 adventures / 35 years.

So there you have it. I would have liked to go into more details about the plots of each book but a) that would have made this post far too long and b) it’s been ages since I read them and I wouldn’t be able to do them justice. I will need to re-read them some day and perhaps review them too.

Let me know if you are a Malcolm Saville fan too!

Posted in Reading Recommendations | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Monday #236

If you like Blyton: The Lone Pine books by Malcolm Saville


Putting the Five Find-Outers in order

“And remember what I’ve said – there is NO BOY HERE!”

– The Dragon

This is from The Boy Next Door, and so The Dragon is not a mythical beast, merely a fierce woman. Her words are clearly lies, as Lucy and Robin have just met the boy that doesn’t exist.

Mister Meddle reminds me of Mr Twiddle in that neither of them are very capable when it comes to doing every day tasks. Mr Twiddle is likeable despite being forgetful and foolish while Mister Meddle is plain incompetent. The strange thing about Mister Meddle is that he is from a fantasy world full of goblins and magic spells and I’m fairly sure he’s not human. He lives with his Aunt Jemima who asks – well, demands – that he runs errands and makes himself useful but he is guaranteed to mess up the easiest of tasks. Usually it’s because he’s decided it would be easier to clean the house with a spell instead of a broom, and being daft it all goes very wrong.


Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Miss Grayling’s Girls part 3 – the experiments

Not every girl fits neatly into ‘success’ or ‘failure’. Some are distinctly one or the other by the end, some change back and forth through the years and some are a grey area all the way through.

A few girls are taken on as ‘experiments’ to see how they do. Jo was an experiment who failed, but here are some who made a success of things after a fashion.


Daphne starts Malory Towers in the second form, and is immediately befriended by Gwendoline. Partly because Gwen has no ‘special friend’ of her own, but also because Gwen is a sucker for anyone she thinks matches her social status. Daphne is charming, attractive and tells wonderful tales of yachting with princes and staying up to champagne dinners.

All is not what it seems, however. Mary-Lou is also very taken with Daphne and when Daphne is upset that she cannot post a parcel, Mary-Lou goes out in a storm to do it for her. In possibly the most exciting chapter in any of the Malory Towers books Daphne ends up saving Mary-Lou from falling off a cliff. Initially lauded as a hero, we swiftly discover that Daphne is in fact a thief. The parcel she wanted to send was full of empty purses and jewellery belonging to the other girls, and she needed to send it away to dispose of the evidence of her theft.

Miss Grayling reminds Daphne’s that she has been expelled for theft from other schools already. What’s interesting is that neither school told her parents, just asked them to remove her. It makes me wonder what reason Daphne gave and how her parents reacted. Miss Grayling then says she will give Daphne another chance, but only if the second formers agree, and Daphne must tell them what she’s done herself.

The girls are surprised that a girl like Daphne would steal and Gwen immediately casts her aside, furious that she has been taken for a fool. The other girls are more understanding, and give Daphne a second (well, third at least) chance and she settles into Malory Towers quietly after that.

Daphne is an interesting character. At times she seems very nice and good, and yet she is a liar and a thief. She doesn’t seem to steal just for the sake of having nice things for herself, she steals them to try to make herself fit in with the wealthy girls around her. This allows her to be very generous with ‘her’ money, thus making her seem more kind and good than she is.

I have to think she’s also quite stupid, though. Miss Grayling knows her past as do the teachers. Even if she thinks that Malory Towers doesn’t know, seeing as nobody told her parents, she does the same thing at a third school. If you’re caught stealing and expelled twice why would you be daft enough to do it a third time

Thankfully the Malory Towers girls forgiving her seems to make her see sense, that her value doesn’t come from imaginary (or real) wealth and gives her a better chance at starting over.

Below; Daphne wraps her feet around a gorse bush and takes Mary-Lou’s weight on her coat’s belt to stop her sliding down the cliff.


Zerelda is an American girl who arrives in Third Year at Malory Towers. She is very beautiful and cares greatly for her appearance. She styles herself so glamorously, with make-up and a fancy hairstyle that she is mistaken for a new mistress at first.

Like Maureen, Zerelda thinks herself a wonderful actress. In fact, she thinks she’s quite wonderful all-round and gets a bit of an unwelcome shock when her acting is  completely torn apart by Miss Hibbert and school-work is poor enough that she is put in a class with girls a year younger than she is.

However Zerelda is also quite likeable, as she is cheerful and friendly. Once she realises her future does not lie in acting, she throws herself into trying to be as much like the other girls at Malory Towers as she can. She also gets moved back up the school once she knuckles down to her work.

Below; Zerelda and her ‘Lossie Laxton’ hairstyle.


Ellen is a scholarship girl, joining the second form. She is quickly disliked by everyone as she is snappy and irritable and pushes away any offers of friendship. What the other girls don’t know is that she is terribly stressed about maintaining her results in order to stay at the school, and she is making herself ill through overwork. It all comes to a head when she ends up in the san for over a week, and by her perception is so behind on her work that the only answer is to cheat by looking at the exam papers.

Having been sneaking around looking for the papers she is then accused (by Alicia mostly) of being the thief (when as above, it is in fact Daphne). She ends up back with Matron while the other girls think she has been expelled but after a long talk with Miss Grayling Ellen is encouraged to stay and ends up moving a form ahead within a year.

I feel for Ellen. She had to work so hard to get to Malory Towers, and her family spent a lot of money on uniforms etc for her. She worked herself to exhaustion to pass the scholarship exam, then studied all through the holidays before she arrived at school. Then she’s run down and ill, and we all know how hard it is to write an essay or even answer a quiz when you’re like that. Then she gets accused of being a thief on top of it all.

Below; Ellen hides in a cupboard to avoid being caught snooping at exam papers, but Darrell finds her.

I just want to add that I know scholarship pupils aren’t experiments, they are every bit as bright if not brighter than those who are fortunate enough to be able to pay for a top class education.

I just included Ellen here as Malory Towers doesn’t have many scholarship pupils – in fact Ellen is the only one I know of. In that sense she could be a bit of a ‘trial’, to see if she fitted in with the richer girls.


Maureen is not a particularly unpleasant person, though she has a lot in common with Gwendoline Mary. She is quite full of herself, thinking she is marvellous at singing, acting, sewing, drawing and so on. Actually she’s quite average, so unlike someone genuinely skilled like Mavis she can’t get away with so much boasting. Even when she isn’t boasting she’s still talking about herself and her old school. She does also show a slightly nasty side at times, though. When she goes out for half-term with Gwen and the Laceys, she makes out that she never would have expected to be Cinderella (a lie) and that Gwen is in the huff as she wasn’t chosen (only partly true). She continues this charade back at school, winding Gwen up with constant references to how disappointed Gwen is and how she [Maureen] would never expect a part in the play.

What Maureen fails to realise is that while there is initially sympathy for her school having closed down, it’s very irritating for her to constantly talk about her old school – especially when she goes on about how much better it was than Malory Towers. Nothing wrong with her being very fond of her school, but a bit of a social faux pas to inadvertently slag off her new school while she’s at it.

The Malory Towers girls get tired of her very quickly and decide to ‘take her down a peg or two’. They suddenly pretend to see how marvellous she is at all the things she brags about, and ask her to do some things for the pantomime. Then when she presents them with drawings and musical compositions they laugh and pretend she’s deliberately done them awfully for comic effect. I feel bad for Maureen here as she is genuinely very hurt – but unfortunately a lot of it is of her own making as she is spectacularly unaware of her own limitations.

Maureen rather fades into the background after that – apart from needling Gwen. I think the other girls think they deserve each other and leave them to it!

Below; Maureen fancies herself as Cinderella for the school play.

stanley lloyd

Maureen is also not quite an experiment. She is, however, taken on at very short notice as her own school has closed down. I suspect Miss Grayling perhaps lowered the entry qualifications given the situation, or didn’t have time to fully assess Maureen.

(I wonder where all the other Mazely Manor girls went, actually. Maureen says it’s a very select school so it could have had quite a small roll, but you’d think more than one might end up at Malory Towers)

This post was meant to be titled ‘in-betweeners’ and originally included eight more girls, ones who finished well, but nearly fell at various hurdles along the way. That took me to over 2,000 words though so I am saving those girls for another week!

Posted in Characters | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Valley of Adventure Travel Brochure from Travel Blyton

If Demon’s Rocks isn’t the holiday destination for you, why not try The Valley of Adventure. Adventurous by name and adventurous by nature!

The rocky mountain pass which previously kept the valley secluded and secretive has been recently reopened. Now visitors can enjoy a scenic drive and enter the valley by tour bus, or, if purchasing premium passes they can arrive by aeroplane*.

*Seats are allocated, please do not try to hide at the back, also be careful to board the correct plane.

Those in good health can take a well-signposted walk via the ruined village, cow shed, false treasure-cave entrance, fern cave and waterfall all the way to the treasure caves (stout shoes are recommended). The young, elderly, or infirm may prefer to travel on the newly installed cable-car, hop on and off points are available at each notable location.

The treasure caves have been re-filled with authentic-to-the-period statues, art works and jewellery and are equipped with a state of the art burglar alarm system. There is full disabled access via a lift, though care must be taken in the ‘stars’ cave as lighting is minimal to preserve the effect of the phosphorescence.

On dry days the sun-ledge will open to allow visitors to enjoy the sunshine.

The hut-tearoom by the airstrip has been extended to contain a luxury cafe serving light lunches, snacks and all-day refreshments. The hut is also home to the History of the Valley exhibition which contains maps and photographs of the secret passages which run between the caves.



Posted in Locations | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Monday #235


The Valley of Adventure Holidays, 2018


Miss Grayling’s Girls part 3 – the in-betweeners

After writing a travel brochure for it recently, this week’s location has to be Demon’s Rocks.

Demon’s Rocks is around the coast from Kirrin, close enough to drive the distance in one day. While Kirrin is a sleepy fishing village, Demon’s Rocks has a proper harbour and a lighthouse. The lighthouse is there to try to keep ships of the wicked rocks that give the place it’s name, and it’s the history of wreckers who would use the dangerous rocks to their advantage there that makes the location so interesting. That and lots of underground tunnels and caves! The underground part is double interesting though, due to the rumours of lost gold belonging to the wreckers.

By the time the Five visit the lighthouse is no longer in use – it has been replaced by a bigger, brighter one along the coast. Demon’s Rocks harbour also seems quieter, but that’s not a bad thing for a nice holiday. The lighthouse would be an exciting place to stay, I think, but then I like historical buildings.

Bert Monkey is a troublesome chap who comes to Noddy in Noddy and the Magic Rubber. His tail, which he seems to have no control over at all, has stolen a magic rubber from his grandmother and he would like Noddy’s help to get it back. The two trail all over Toyland while Bert’s tail does everything it can to cause trouble. It honks Noddy’s car’s horn, it tickles people, trips up, pokes them in the eye and more. Perhaps his tail alone should have been the character for the week!

Posted in Blog talk | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Reads

The days are starting to get a little shorter and colder now, after a glorious summer. Soon the leaves will be turning and falling, and it will be perfect curl-up-with-a-book season, so I thought I would put together a list of Blyton’s autumnal reads (some easier to get a hold of than others).

Five On a Hike Together takes place at October half-term, and it’s cool enough that the children choose to stay in farmhouses instead of sleeping outdoors – of course until they end up at Two Trees and set up camp in the cellar.

The orange colour for the end-papers must have been chosen to give them an autumnal feel, just as blue end-papers often depict seaside scenes or night-time ones.

Autumn Days is a book of songs for children, first published in 1926. It would appear to also have the musical scores for the six songs (music written by Cecil Sharman).

The Secret
I Do Like
The Little Smoker
The Very Tall Daisies
The Magic Key
The Little Red Leaves

I don’t have any further information however, not even a picture of the cover. This seems like quite a rare little book, so if you come across one think yourself lucky!

Secret Seven on the Trail is set in a foggy time of autumn while the Seven are busy competing with the rival group the ‘Famous Five’ (not that Five, but Susie’s group of friends) and also unravelling a mystery involving half-heard messages and a railway line.

Secret Seven Fireworks is (naturally) set in November, and focuses on the children trying to solve a burglary. They still have time to make a guy to burn and procure a number of fireworks for their own fireworks party. There’s an extract in our post about Bonfires Guys and Fireworks and also other bonfire night tales, so I won’t repeat them all here even though they are autumnal.

The Hidey-Hole is Enid Blyton’s last full-length novel, though it’s a short one. It is primarily about three children who go blackberry picking and also find some stolen goods while they’re at it.

Round the Year Autumn as the title suggests is a whole book about autumn. It is a non-fiction book with eleven chapters covering all sorts of interesting things about the season.

In our cornfields
The birds fly south
All about shadows
Bulbs for the classroom
Spiders and their ways
The rain and what it does
Our tiny ploughman, the worm
How seeds seek their fortunes
The clouds we see
Our cats and dogs
The cheeky house-sparrow

There are plenty of short stories which are set in autumn – and this is in no way an exhaustive list. I’ve picked out ones I knew to be autumnal and added anything I could find by searching for autumnal keywords too.

Rambles with Uncle Nat – a fictional story full of factual information – has seven stories (each story is a chapter) covering autumnal themes like acorns, leaves and squirrels.

The Bee Postman
Away Go the Seeds
Conkers and Acorns
The Brilliant Leaves
The Busy Squirrel
The Ivy Feast
The Wonder Working Worm



Into The Heart of the Wood is from The Enid Blyton Holiday Book. I have every holiday book except the first and third, but I know that this one had a lovely autumnal colour plate by Grace Lodge to go with it.

the enid blyton holiday book grace lodge

Blackberry Pie and The Squirrels and the Nuts are from The Enid Blyton Book of the Year (a large volume with stories, songs, plays, poems and more for every month).

Blackberry Pie is a very short tale about a boy called Jeffery who is disappointing when he can’t go blackberry picking because his mother wants him to do some errands for her. He does it with good grace after a minor grumble and is rewarded with a huge blackberry bush to pick to his hearts content at the house he goes to on his errands.

The Squirrels and the Nuts is no longer, and is about two red squirrels who get into an argument when they can’t agree which stored nuts belong to which squirrel. By the time they’ve stopped fighting the other woodland animals have helped themselves to all the nuts.

And in The Nature Lover’s Book you will find Autumn Days and An Exciting Ramble. The Nature Lover’s Book is about three children, Pat, Janet and John, who go on walks with their Uncle Merry. He uses each walk to teach them about the countryside they pass through.

Autumn Days has Uncle Merry teaching them about spiders and their webs, why the leaves change colour, about hedgehogs hibernating, flowers of autumn and swallows migrating.

In An Exciting Ramble they collect hazel nuts, acorns, blackberries, elderberries, seeds of all kinds and anything else that could be planted to grow the next year.

We have already shared a couple of Enid Blyton’s autumnal poems – A Passing of Summer and Dead Leaves.

There are many more, though! There’s the aptly named Autumn from Enid Blyton’s Calendar of 1943, and Happy Days which can be read here on the Enid Blyton Society’s webpage.

I love how with Blyton you never know what you’re going to get from a poem. It might  be an education trip through a plant’s growth (Blackberries) or the migration of birds (Off to the South), or it might be an imaginative tale including pixies (Hazel Nuts).

Off to the South (From Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

WHERE ARE the Cuckoos? One by one
They gathered together and then were gone.
And the Swifts that darted high and low
Cried “Summer is over and we must go!”
The Nightingale no longer sings,
South he’s gone on his russet-wings,
And the Willow-wren and the Chiff-chaff, too,
Have flown to a land where the skies are blue.
The Fly-catcher’s gone, for his larder’s bare,
And the Blackcap’s flown where there’s food to spare,
The Martins are off and the Swallows sing
“Good-bye! Good-bye! We’ll be back in the spring!”

We’re sad when the twittering migrants go,
But they’ll be back when the daffodils blow!

Hazel Nuts (Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

THERE ARE NUTS on the hazel-tree, pointed and brown,
And the pixies are waiting until they fall down!

Now what are they waiting for? Pixies don’t feast
On hard hazel nuts they don’t like in the least!

Oh, they’re waiting until the nuts fall from the bough,
Then up they fly – see them, they’re fluttering up now!

And each little pixie pulls of the green case
That holds the brown hazel nut neatly in place.

They turn them the other way up – and behold,
They were hats, snugly fitting, to keep out the cold!

The hazel-tree’s generous – it grows nuts for you,
And hats for the pixies in winter-time, too!

Blackberries (Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

Shone in August when we passed by.

The petals fell to the ditch below,
And little green knobs began to grow.

We watched them eagerly till one day
We saw them redden on every spray.

They turned to purple, they grew and grew
And the sun shone down on them all day through.

And now they are black and juicy and sweet
Ready for children (and birds!) to eat.

So let’s take our baskets and run down the lane,
For it’s blackberry, blackberry time again!

October (Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

I GIVE you nuts in cloaks of green
I give you berries, black and red,
Conkers, polished bright and clean,
Dropping down from overhead.
In the fields for you I grow
Mushrooms at the dawn of day,
And on the hedged high and low,
Old Man’s beard, soft and grey.
I give you leaves of red and gold,
I bid the ivy spread its honey,
And though my nights are long and cold,
My autumn days are sweet and sunny.

The Last Feast of Autumn (Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year)

ON MY WALL the ivy grows,
And now, when other flowers are dead,
A thousand buds of green it shows,
And soon a honeyed feast is spread
For starving flies and drowsy bees,
For hungry wasps and beetles bright,
Who dip as often as they please
Into nectar with delight.
The peacock butterflies are there,
Red Admirals spread their gaudy wings,
And blustering blue bottles share
The feast that ivy blossom brings.

Drink and be glad, you creatures small,
For soon Jack Frost, with fingers white,
Will creep along the ivied wall,
And nip you cruelly in the night!

Autumn Fruits is also from Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year but unfortunately my copy is a slightly later edition and it is abridged so doesn’t contain this poem. There are possibly some other autumn-themed poems in it, too.

Some other stuff

A while back Stef visited Bourne End in Autumn and wrote about it – Bourne End in the Autumn.

Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year contains more than just poems and stories, it also has nature notes for each month, detailing trees, fruits, flowers, birds, animals and more. The autumnal notes discuss the turning and falling of leaves, the migration of birds and so on.

There are also plays (Goodbye Swallows) and songs (Goodbye Song and The Wind’s Broom).

Happy reading!​

Posted in Poetry, Reading Recommendations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment