Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Everything I know, I learned from Enid Blyton


Well, OK, not everything. I mean, I did go to school. It's just that as I was walking into Forest Hill today (I know, such a glamorous lifestyle), I heard a starling sing and it reminded me of the Enid Blyton Nature Lover's series; she describes his "song" as gurgles and gasps, splutters and wheezes. I still have the books. I loved them. How I longed to go on country walks with Uncle Merry, and rambles with Zacky the Gipsy. I read the books avidly, learning about birds, trees, plants, reptiles. Out I'd go trying to find the things Blyton wrote about. We were a bit short on mountain hares and fallow deer in Radlett, but I had a damned good look for them all the same. So, little success on my own rambles, but the series did inspire in me a love of natural history books, and of nature itself.

And, of course, I read the Famous Five, and the Secret Seven. Again, out I'd trot to try and build a den in the woods, or set up camp at the bottom of the garden. I wanted to solve mysteries, have adventures, explore new things. I read the Mystery of… books. I can't remember the title but in one of them, the children go behind a waterfall and find a secret place where the mystery is solved. To this day, I have a fascination with waterfalls and at the first opportunity, I will try and make my way behind one. Here I am doing this very thing in Jersey (a long time ago). Note that I did not try this when I visited Niagara Falls - although I did do the touristy behind the falls thing. Not the same at all. But still good.


 It's amazing really that one author has been so influential in shaping my imagination. Yes, of course she was hugely prolific, but it's not just that. There was something in her words that spoke to me, opened up a new world, made me want to live that life, both inside and outside my head. From a writer's point of view, this is an incredible achievement. It's why I write, I think. I want to write stories that fuel such excitement and wonder, both for myself and for others. What a gift! But analysing what it is that captivates is nigh on impossible. It's not just the subject matter, it's not just the choice of words, the characters, or the setting. It's not even right place, right time writing. Perhaps it's an authenticity; writing about the extraordinary or the unknown with a sense of reality. After all, I was never going to get to Narnia however many wardrobes I went in, but I could have an adventure, couldn't I?

Anyway, whatever it was that worked the magic, I will always hold those books in my heart. And, who knows, there may still be adventures ahead. 

12 comments:

  1. What a great post. I was a huge fan of Mallory Towers too. I also wanted to go to a school like that. They were always stories we could escape into. As you say it is impossible to analyse the writing in order to find the 'magic'. I agree with you as I am sure it is why I write too, so that I can fuel such excitement and wonder with others. I better get back to writing and can't wait to read the magic in your writing.

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  2. Ha, I remember The Secret Seven, The Famous Five (I always wanted to be George) and Mallory Towers (I never knew what lacrosse was but I wanted to play it) ;-) There was a realness about the stories but also, always, that sense of adventure that maybe, if you looked hard enough, you could also find in your own life. Great post, Sue.

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  3. Never read Enid Blyton (doubt if American siblings the Bobbsy Twins were as memorable) but love and share your feeling of wanting to be somewhere else, where mysterious places and magic events are lurking just out of sight...a lovely post!

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  4. I loved her books too. Famous Five, Secret Seven and the school series. I feel that I write a bit like her, as was said I think by Frank Cottrell-Boyce at a conference, realism with magic.

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  5. I was waiting at the 176/197 bus stop in Forest Hill this morning (ditto the glamorous lifestyle) and heard a bird sing just as your quote from Enid Blyton describes. So! That is what a Starling sounds like! I have never read the Nature Lover series and it would not have been much help during my Australian childhood but perhaps I should read it now - for those Forest Hill moments.

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  6. Brilliant and of course Enid Blyton shaped us and made us want to go out and have adventures. And go to boarding school. Do you remember how the girls would go off on some sort of adventure and then some lovely lady would invite them in to tea and there would be a huge spread laid out with such amazing treats as hard boiled eggs and lettuce!! Imagine kids today getting off on hard boiled eggs. I couldn't see the point either, but oh well, different times. Lovely post Sue.

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  7. Wait ... but is that really you in the photo?

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    1. Yup, really me but a LONG time ago!

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  8. I loved Enid Blyton books as well, especially the Five books and Adventure on..., but there was always the added thrill. My mother deemed that they were "not good writing" and I was not allowed to read them, so I simply borrowed them from friends, read them in the toilet or under the bedclothes. Forbidden fruit!

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  9. I can't remember if I ever read any. I did set up a detective agency when I was a sprog hoping to solve such exciting mysteries. My first and last case was finding a missing cat, I failed.

    Making bases in woods was fun though the owner would usually turn up and kick me and my friends off their land. There should be a law allowing kids to make bases and dens in any wood they like...

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  10. Yes, I read most of them also, Wasn't really into Mallory Towers as much as my sister was though. My all time favourite was, The Magic Faraway Tree. I won a book token in an art competition when I was really little and that was my first book of Enid Blyton's. I think it will always be my favourite.

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  11. I'd forgotten the school series! And now I remember so many more. In prticular, one book of shorter stories which featured a king who had a plate of jelly that constantly filled up!

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