August 2016/ literary parody /reading time: 15 minutes (3750 words)
After last month’s essay on reading Stephen King’s Carrie as an 11 year old, this month’s longform blog about Enid Blyton is not an obvious follow up, except in the sense that it’s also about parenting and children’s books. In this blog I ask, what would Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books would be like if they were comprehensively revised to reflect contemporary, risk-averse, protective, middle-class parenting? And what beer would George drink if she couldn’t get her hands on ginger beer?
Inspired by #Ukmgchat with Jeff Norton last month which revealed that Jeff once ran the Enid Blyton literary estate and revised her books for modern audiences, myself and my children spent the last two weeks on holidays reading the first two Famous Five book together. Both were revised editions, but the lively, dangerous, silly adventures of the Five are still happily in place. What stood out most of all to me was the wonderful freedom that the children had to have adventures on their own and discover the beautiful British countryside together.
The Famous Five can outwit any smuggler they face, but I do wonder how they might cope with modern, helicopter parents who hover around their children to protect them and guide them through life? In particular, would strong-willed free spirit George survive?
Would you like to find out how they fare? Well, come on Timmy, let’s find out in this new adventure entitled:
Famous Five: Five Go Adventuring with Helicopter Parents
Chapter 1 – All together again
In the back of the Citroen Picasso, looking out the car’s windows, the Five were excited! They were going back to Kirrin Cottage for another summer! Timmy barked loudly and cheerfully as Kirrin Island and its castle came into view.
Eleven-year-old George was the most excited of the Five. George was a wilful, stubborn girl. She hated being called Georgina and hated girl things like pretty dresses or dolls. She only liked boy things like climbing trees or swimming. Until last summer she’d never had any friends, until her three cousins came to stay with her.
As George looked out the window, she remembered her adventures on Kirrin Island. It had been dangerous and exciting and it had made them all the greatest of friends!
George looked around and saw Anne, Dick and Julian looking at her. Her face flushed and she grew upset.
‘Why are you all looking at me?’ George demanded to know from her cousins.
Julian laughed jollily, ‘Silly George, we’re looking at you, because we’re all remembering last summer’s adventures that could never have happened without you!’
George felt her anger and upset slipping away. For so many years she’d been on her own, but now she was here surrounded by the best friends she could ever imagine. She wondered what adventure they’d have this summer.
Everyone smiled, except for Dave and Liz in the front seats of the car. They were the cousins’ parents. Dave and Liz looked very serious. Very serious indeed.
Chapter 2 – Five get a surprise
As the car stopped at the traffic lights near Kirrin Cottage, the Five all stared at a notice pinned to the wall. It was from the police! It said the police were looking for stolen gold and silver valuables and stolen diamonds from two robberies.
George looked around at the others, ‘Maybe we could find the robbers?’ The others all nodded, even Timmy. They couldn’t wait to get to Kirrin cottage and start their search!
So now imagine George and the Five’s surprise when the spacious people carrier drove right past the lane to Kirrin Cottage without stopping!
‘Uncle Dave, Auntie Liz, where are we going?’ asked George questioningly. The others looked at Dave and Liz for an answer too. Even Timmy barked to ask what was happening.
Liz explained everything to the group as the cottage disappeared into the distance.
‘Now children, I know you had great adventures last summer and Christmas at Kirrin Cottage, but you were in a lot of danger. There was climbing and dungeons and stolen goods, even criminals with guns! So after some discussion between ourselves and your parents, George, it’s been agreed that you Four -’
‘And Timmy of course,’ added Dave.
‘You five will spend your summer holidays with the two of us!’ said Liz and smiled to the kids.
The Five looked at each other with surprise. They didn’t know what to think. Even Timmy gave a little bark to indicate he didn’t know what he felt about this turn of events. George was the most worried, but Liz patted her arm.
Liz said, ‘Don’t worry George, you’ll still have loads of adventures this summer. Loads!’
Chapter 3 – A trip to the beach
After getting themselves unpacked at the large, well equipped holiday home Liz and Dave had rented for the summer, the Five and Liz and Dave set out on a trip to the beach.
‘Last one there is a rotten egg!’ Julian shouted. No one wanted to be a rotten egg so they all ran as fast as they could. However, even though they weren’t far, it took a long time to get to the beach.
First they had to stop and go back home to put their Factor 50 sun lotion. Next they had to stop at the main road so that Dave and Liz could help them cross safely, even though there were no cars to be seen in either direction.
Finally the Five raced down the lane to a small beach with a sign up front saying ‘Robber’s Bay’. They immediately started to put on their bathing trunks until –
‘Lunch time!’ called out Liz!
After getting dressed again, just in case they caught colds, they sat down to the food that Dave and Liz had prepared. There was spelt bread and low-fat humus; diced red and yellow peppers; and mis-shapen fruit from the farmer’s market. For dessert, there was yoghurt that Dave explained he had bought straight from a farm shop. And to wash it all down there were lashings of sugar-free organic kombucha! Needless to say George or Timmy didn’t eat very much, but the others seemed to like it.
After lunch Liz told the children, ‘No swimming for at least two hours after your food. We don’t want you getting cramps and drowning.’
The children sat down on the sand to wait. There were sad expressions on their faces. Maybe a holiday with parents wasn’t such a good idea after all. Would there be any adventure at all?
Little did the Five know that there was a chance for adventure coming up just around the corner!
Chapter 4 – A chance for adventure
After sun lotion had been re-applied, the Five walked glumly along the beach, allowed to go on a walk as long as they stayed within view of Liz and Dave. Suddenly Timmy barked.
‘Look, Timmy’s found a cave!’ called out George. She ran after Timmy into it and disappeared out of view. The others cautiously followed them in.
The cave was lit up by gold and silver plates and cups and cutlery. The Five stared at the bounty they’d discovered. This was the gold and silver that the police were looking for. The robbers must be using the cave to hide it.
‘This is the gold and silver that the police are looking for,’ said Anne.
‘Yes, the robbers must be hiding it here,’ said Dick.
Julian immediately knew what to do. ‘Don’t say anything to mum and dad, especially you, silly Anne! We’ll sneak out tonight and keep watch on the cave. When the robbers come back, we’ll push rocks in front of the cave to trap them inside,’ said Julian.
The Five were excited! A great adventure was ahead of them!
Suddenly Five heard worried voices. It was Dave and Liz. Oh no, they were coming into the cave!
Chapter 5 – Disappointment
Half an hour later, a very disappointed Five stood at a safe distance from the cave with Dave and Liz. They watched the police carry all the gold and silver safely out of the cave.
Liz patted George on the back. ‘You did great finding the gold and silver, children, but now it’s up to the grown-ups to take care of the problems.’
Dave added, ‘Although you shouldn’t go into caves. They could be dangerous!’
The police chief approached them. ‘That looks like all the gold and silver that was stolen. We should have known to search Robber’s Bay. Now if only we could find the diamonds. They must be in another cave, but there’s so many caves. We can’t possibly search them all…’
As the police chief walked away, George looked around at the rest of the Five. They looked back at her. Maybe there was a chance for adventure after all!
Chapter 6 – A disappointing decision
That night, the Five met up in George’s bedroom to make a plan. George whispered at the top of her voice, ‘Let’s go down to the beach and start searching through the other caves to find the diamonds!’
Timmy wagged his tail vigorously and barked twice to say he was in agreement and he’d happily bite one of the robbers if the children would let him.
To George’s surprise, Anne and Dick looked nervously at each other. Anne said, ‘What about the robbers?’
Even Julian looked unsure, but said, ‘Let’s do it, but not tonight. We’re tired. We’ll start early tomorrow morning, before Mum and Dad are up.’
George was disappointed, but agreed. She yawned. She was tired too! Within minutes she was fast asleep, dreaming of the adventures ahead.
Chapter 7 – A disappointing change to their plans
The next morning, before the children could start their search, the Five were woken early by Dave and Liz. After a quick breakfast of porridge with ground chia and linseed, the children were packed up in the car and driven up to a community centre where a group of children their age were already gathered.
The Five were surprised. ‘What’s this?’ said Julian questioningly. Timmy barked that he didn’t see any other dogs there either.
Liz said cheerfully, ‘It’s summer camp!’
George shook her head and said, ‘We’re not going to summer camp! We have our own plans for our summer.’
Dave saw the disappointed looks on the children’s faces and tried to cheer them up. ‘You’ll have a great time. We did a lot of research to find this camp. It comes highly recommended. It has a varied schedule of well supervised activities all summer long!’
Liz added, ‘And we’ll take care of Timmy while you’re all in camp,’ to which Timmy barked his dismay and rage.
Anne, Dick and Julian sadly got out of the car, but George wouldn’t move. George didn’t want to leave Timmy and she didn’t want to go to camp.
‘I don’t want to leave Timmy and I don’t want to go to camp,’ George said.
No matter how much Liz and Dave and her three cousins begged George, George refused to leave the car.
Eventually George and Timmy sat alone in the back of the people carrier as Dave and Liz drove them back to the holiday home. Dave and Liz took turns speaking to George in soft caring voices about positive choices and friendship and the importance of structure and pro-social activities. George ignored them.
George glared angrily out the window. She’d make her cousins regret going to camp – she’d find the cave with the diamonds herself!
Chapter 8 – A jolly adventure
Once home, George waited till the coast was clear and then snuck down to the kitchen with her backpack. If she was going adventuring, she’d need a real feast!
In the top cupboard behind a large bag of quinoa, George found Dave and Liz’s secret stash of chocolate and cake. George took the ginger beer from the fridge too.
After sneaking out of the house, George and Timmy searched the sea front for caves. It was dirty, tiring work and all the caves they found were either too small or empty. George soon found herself grumpy and tired.
George stopped and ate the cake and chocolate and drank the beer. The ginger beer tasted funny and George saw it didn’t say ginger on the label, but George found she liked it. Timmy drank some out of George’s cupped hands. He liked it too!
George found herself cheering up. ‘This is a proper feast, isn’t it Timmy?’ Timmy barked as loud as he could to ask for more of that new kind of beer. It made him feel all jolly!
George and Timmy had a jolly afternoon together. George had never been so happy before and neither had Timmy. Sometimes George fell over, but it didn’t hurt and she’d just laugh as she lay on the ground.
‘It’s such fun, isn’t it Timmy?’ said George to Timmy. Timmy barked loudly in agreement.
And to top it all off, they found the cave! Inside diamonds were piled up so high that the whole cave sparkled. George hugged Timmy. ‘We did it, Timmy!’
George forgot all her upset at her cousins. She couldn’t wait to tell them about the cave. They could all go out tonight and catch the robbers and be heroes again!
Great work, George! Just be careful on your way home! Maybe you shouldn’t run so fast, George!
Chapter 9 – George and Timmy have a surprising feeling in their tummies
Unfortunately George didn’t listen to the narrator, because she ran all the way back. Dave and Liz and her cousins looked so relieved when they saw her.
‘Oh silly George, where have you been?’ said Julian.
At this moment George felt the most surprising feeling in her tummy. Timmy felt it too. It wasn’t a nice feeling, it wasn’t a nice feeling at all.
Bleuuurgh! George vomited all over her cousins, her aunt and uncle and the floor. Next Timmy vomited too, all over everyone’s feet.
Oh no, George. Look what you’ve done! You should have listened to me! What an awful mess you’ve made! And look what I’ve had to write!
Chapter 10 – George is confused by Dave and Liz empathetic approach to parenting
That night, Timmy was put in the shed as he was still wet after being cleaned. Dave and Liz came in to talk to George alone in her bedroom after her shower.
George told them she was very sorry for what she had done. She was! She did her best to listen to what they had to say, but they were so very hard to understand. She was used to her father Quentin shouting at her when he was angry, but they didn’t shout. They didn’t even seem angry at all. They said strange things like:
‘You’re wonderful, George, we admire your spirit and your individuality, your joie de vivre.’
‘You don’t allow gender norms to define you, and that’s something we can all learn from.’
After a while George stopped listening, just nodded now and then, until she heard Liz say, ‘But if you don’t go to camp and behave appropriately, then we’ll have no alternative but to send you home, George. Now we don’t want to do that. You’re a sparkling star of authenticity…’
Once they were gone, George walked around her room trying to think. She didn’t want to be sent home! She wanted to spend the summer with her cousins, her only friends! But someone had to stop the diamond thieves and she wanted to have an adventure! What was she going to do?
Chapter 11 – George looks for help from her cousins, but gets screwed over
George decided to go to her cousins. They’d know what to do!
George went to Anne’s room first. Anne was fast asleep, but George shook her awake. ‘Anne, I found the diamonds today!’
Anne didn’t seem to hear her. ‘Oh George, why didn’t you come to summer camp? It was just delightful. We had such a jolly time. We played badminton and did arts and craft and the teachers are so nice…’
Anne just went on and on so George tip-toed quietly out of the room to Dick and Julian’s room. Surely they’d want to catch the robbers!
In their bedroom, George found Dick and Julian crowded around Julian’s smartphone. They barely looked up when George told them about finding the cave and the diamonds or about Dave and Liz threatening to send her home.
Julian pointed at the tiny screen and Dick pushed in close to see it. Julian said, ‘Look at this photo! Will I ask her to send us another photo?’
Dick nodded excitedly. ‘Oh do, Julian, please do!’
George grabbed Julian’s phone. ‘What will we do about the diamonds?’ she whispered furiously as she could.
Julian replied, ‘Sorry Georgina, that’s the police’s job, not ours!’ and grabbed for his phone. George was furious! Julian knew she hated being called Georgina. She furiously threw the phone at the wall!
As George ran down the hall, George heard Julian say, ‘You silly, silly girl! Do you know how much this phone cost? I’m going to tell Mum and Dad about the diamonds tomorrow! That’ll show you!’
George slipped out to the shed. Inside she found Timmy. She hugged him and started crying loudly, even though crying was a girlish thing to do. Timmy wagged his tail and licked her. Even Timmy cried a doggy tear at their predicament, but he barked too in anger too at George’s cousins’ betrayal.
‘Oh no, Timmy, what are we going to do?’
Oh no! Poor George! Poor Timmy! All alone again!
Chapter 12 – George realises she couldn’t bear to lose her friends!
After a little while, George stopped crying. She realised that she couldn’t bear to lose her friends!
George said to Timmy, ‘I’ve realised I can’t bear to lose my friends Timmy! So I know what we’ll do. We’ll go to the cave and trap the robbers and then I’ll make an anonymous phone call to the police to tell them. No one will know it was me. Tomorrow I’ll be a good girl for Dave and Liz and go to camp. I’ll get my friends back and I’m sure I’ll have a good time in camp. At least I hope I will.’
Timmy barked, but not very enthusiastically. He had hoped for blood and violent vengeance on George’s cousins. Ah well. He’d have his day. He could wait.
Chapter 13 – George surprises everyone, including herself and the narrator
George did exactly what she had planned! She raced down to the cave with Timmy. They waited behind a big rock until a motorboat silhouetted by a full moon pulled up on the beach. George’s heart pounded as she saw three dark men climb out of the boat. One of them was holding a gun! George thought it glinted beautifully in the moonlight. The men looked around to make sure the coast was clear and then made their way into the cave.
George clambered up next to the cave. There was a large group of boulders above it. All George needed to do was give one of them a push and they’d all come tumbling down and the dark men would be trapped inside the cave.
George reached out her hand to push, but something inside stopped her. She didn’t know what it was. George found herself thinking about the mysterious boat in the darkness and about that gun glinting in the moonlight. Suddenly it became clear to George what she needed to do.
George walked into the cave. Timmy followed her. Inside the cave was sparkling from the men’s flashlight and the diamonds. The dark men turned and saw George and Timmy.
The man with the gun pointed it at her. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
George’s fear all faded away. ‘My name is George and I want to join you!’
Well knock me down with a feather, I didn’t expect that! Did you?
Chapter 14 -What will there be?
The dark men stared silently at George. The one with the gun asked inquisitorially, ‘Why should we let you join us?’
George explained, ‘I can climb a tree, sail a boat and run faster than any boy. I’m tough and strong, and Timmy here is the smartest, quickest dog in the world.’
The man with the gun asked, ‘But how do we know we can trust you?’
George said, ‘I’ve nowhere else to go’ and as she said those words she knew they were true!
The men weren’t convinced. ‘I’m not convinced,’ said the man with the gun.
George racked her brains, then Timmy barked loudly and told her exactly what to tell the men. George patted Timmy on the head in gratitude, ‘Thanks Timmy’.
George told them, ‘I know where we can rob a brand-new top of the range Citroen Picasso. There’s lots of boot space for our loot and it’ll seat all of us comfortably. You won’t need to go around in motorboats or hide things in smelly caves anymore!’
The men looked at each other, then the man with the gun asked George, ‘Where is it?’
Chapter 15 – There will be blood
Lit only by the moon, George, the three dark men and Timmy the dog made their way across the field towards the holiday home. Timmy ran along in excitement between the men’s legs, almost tripping them. He couldn’t wait to get there, to steal the car or more, to have his vengeance.
The Five slowed as they reached the house. George was filled with a dark excitement too as she stepped onto the footpath of the house. George knew where Dave and Liz kept their keys. She’d just sneak in to get them.
Suddenly The security lights automatically went on then the lights went on in Julian’s bedroom. Julian and Dick must be awake!
George kept on walking towards the house. She gripped the shiny gun the men had given her. She was going to prove that the men could trust her, that she was worthy to be one of the Five.
And she knew one more thing – no one was ever going to call her Georgina again!
Oh reader, George is going to have such an exciting adventure with her new Five, but you’ll have to wait – it’s another story!