Enid Blyton Day: 10th May, 2008
Once again held at Loddon Hall in Twyford, Berkshire, this year's Day saw about 130 attendees, down from last year's record 165 but still pretty busy! You can skip straight to the photos or read on for the full story...
Report by Keith Robinson
With excerpts from various members of the Society Forums
Living in America makes it very difficult to turn up at Enid Blyton Day every year, but having missed last year's Day I was determined to make it this time around! My wife and I weren't entirely sure we could afford an adventure in England, what with the horrible exchange rate as it is, but in the end we decided to go ahead.
I arrived at Twyford Station just after 10am and strolled along the road to Loddon Hall. I was greeted in the doorway by a cheerful Tony Summerfield. How nice to see the great man again! Also in the doorway I bumped into Julie, aka Julie2owlsdene on the forums. I found Julie instantly likeable and very easy to get along with — I felt I'd known her for years! And good old Anita was there too, with her daughter Hannah. It's such a pleasure bumping into all these familiar, friendly people!
Before I even had time to look around, I came across Nanine (Nanny) of the popular Yahoo! Blyton Group. She and her husband Maiko had driven all the way from the Netherlands. This may seem an impossibly long drive (especially sloshing through the English Channel with water coming up over the wheels) but I envied them — a car is a much easier way to travel than by plane when it comes to carting luggage about. With them was Wolfgang from Germany. He had flown into Heathrow (the dreaded Terminal 5!) and it was good to finally meet him. He's a lot taller than I expected, which is ironic since Nanine commented that I was shorter than she expected. Anyway, it was good to see they'd all made it okay, as well as Frank, also from Germany.
Then I found Nigel and Jane and even more time flew by. This is all before I even had a chance to look at the books for sale around the walls of the hall. There was just too much going on at once to really take it all in. I finally met Rob (Viking Star), whom I had talked with a lot on the forums about my Aunt June at Haunted Mangerton Cottage!
I had a very nice chat with Julie again, and also with Pippa-Stef. I also glimpsed Anna Moss across the room as Anita was introducing her to others, but somehow I missed out there. And I chatted with Sue, although for the life of me I can't be sure WHICH Sue!
Nigel Rowe wrote, "For the first time we had friends from the three main Blyton websites there: EBS, Yahoo! Group and EnidBlyton.net." Thanks for including me in that, Nigel, but what would be a really massive achievement is getting Heather from Australia over too (Heather's Blyton Pages): England, Netherlands, America and Australia — golly!
There were a number of absentees including Prabhu (noddy13) and Zoe (george@kirrin), both of whom I had met two years ago in 2006. Also missing was Ming, who had come along in 2007; apparently she was very upset at not being able to make it this year, and I for one would have loved to meet her. I also know that Timmy-the-dog would have been there but was out of the country just a day or two longer than expected. Poor Timmy! I can't believe I missed Trevor Bolton, who WAS present this year; I wanted to talk to him, but didn't even know he was there. I should have looked at the list on the table in the entrance!
When I was able to get a breather I started poking around the bookshelves in the hope of a good deal. There was one rack in particular that had books marked "Under £5" and I planned to come back and buy some later as there were a few I spotted that I would have liked. But, before I knew it, there were guest speakers on stage, then lunch, then more speakers and TV clips, and suddenly I had to leave... and I never got a chance to buy any. Bah!
There was a lot of interest in the original Adventure series paintings by Stuart Tresilian. These framed originals, larger than the final printed book covers, are stunning and only recently acquired by the Society. The manuscripts were interesting as well — I've seen original manuscripts before, but it's still fascinating to thumb through pages of Enid's original typed work and see where she made corrections here and there.
Alongside the Tresilian paintings and manuscripts was a painting of Green Hedges by our very own Julie2owlsdene! Nice work, Julie! How about some more? What about putting together some scenes showing characters from our favorite books, like the Famous Five or the Five Find-Outers? It's always interesting to me to see how different people visualize characters.
As we all took seats for the various guest speakers, I found Anita wielding a pair of scissors. She explained that Vivienne Endecott had thrust them into her hands and told her she'd need them. "Hmm, what's Viv up to?" we wondered.
The first speaker was Pam Cox, author of the St Clare's sequels, Third Form and Sixth Form. With the release of her new book, Kitty at St Clare's, her presence at the Day was timely. Pam got up on stage and said she was very nervous about speaking, but once people started asking her questions she seemed to relax and answered clearly. Anita reports, "Pamela spoke about how she loved the St. Clare's books as a child and had always felt sorry that Enid Blyton had never written about Pat and Isabel's time in the Sixth Form. Her books fill in some of the gaps in the series — she said that the Blytonian language comes to her naturally and she finds it easy to write in the required style. However, the stories don't come to her effortlessly, as if on a cinema screen in her mind, though she wishes that were the case! I've read Pamela's additions to the St. Clare's series, including the latest book (Kitty at St. Clare's) and I find them lively and enjoyable. Pamela has been commissioned to write six Malory Towers sequels too, focussing on Felicity's years at the school."
Nigel Rowe said, "Although not really that mad on the Girly School Books, I did buy and have just read Kitty at St Clare's. I was amazed at how good it was. It really could have been written by Enid herself."
With Pam's books being so highly regarded, it's interesting to note that she's been commissioned by Chorion to write a futher SIX books for the Malory Towers series — thus doubling the length of the series!
After Pam left the stage, Anita learnt what the scissors were for. Viv went up on stage to unveil a portrait of Enid, painted by artist Hannah Avery to mark the 40th anniversary of Enid Blyton's death. Actually she asked Anita to come up and unveil it, along with myself — a total surprise, but a privilege too! So up I went with Anita, and we spent some time unwrapping the painting. It proved to be a very good likeness of Enid, showing her with Corfe Castle in the background.
Lunchtime came. I had forgotten to bring some lunch with me, so I jumped in line fairly early hoping for a short wait. No such luck! My stomach rumbled as I waited for the caterers to deal with those who had ordered in advance. The cheek! And all I wanted was a quick sandwich. I finally got to the serving hatch. "If I order a sandwich," I asked, "am I going to have to wait in line again?" They said yes, it'll have to be prepared and I'd have to come back and get it. "In that case," I grumped, "just give me a sausage roll and a coke." So I took my sausage roll outside and found Nanine and Maiko sitting on the wall digging in to whatever lunch they'd brought with them. My sausage roll was dry and more pastry than sausage, but no matter, I'd survive.
After lunch, Esra Cafer from Chorion entered the stage to introduce an episode from the new Disney "Famous 5 On The Case" series. I think the atmosphere turned decidedly chilly at this point. As the episode started, we all jumped a mile as the sound was up way too high. I was annoyed to find that, even with the volume correctly adjusted, the sound quality was awful. I remembered this same problem from two years ago, in 2006, and couldn't believe we were once again being subjected to the same poor sound system!
Anyway, the episode played out and there was a stilted applause. Esra then took questions about the series, and this is where she got an earful from disgruntled fans who couldn't see any evidence of Enid Blyton in the series other than the title. Esra explained that, in her experience, period settings just don't sell very well to children, so it's necessary to update the Famous Five to a modern setting. I understand this totally, and I know this explains the name changes too; you just don't have kids named Julian, Dick, Anne or George anymore — they need cool modern names like Max, Dylan, Allie and Jo! Oddly enough, Timmy's name has stuck — perhaps the ONLY recognizable aspect of the new animated series. Still, it would have been nice to retain a little more similarity to the original characters, if not in name then in the types of adventures they find themselves in. Gone are the old pirates of Wrecker's Way — now it's the modern pirates of a DVD factory!
It's interesting to note, too, that these new characters are supposedly the children of the original Five. Bearing in mind that the new kids on the block are perhaps 10-12 years old, and it's now 2008, and the first Five book was in 1942, this means that the Five were around 60 when they had their children. Or, if you go by the last published Five book in 1963, that means they were all about 40 — still kind of old. And this also assumes they each got married and had children around the same time, which itself is highly unlikely. Oh, and one of them moved to California in the meantime (thus explaining the token American character, Allie, who was no doubt shoe-horned in to appeal to an American audience, who apparently are unable to watch anything at all unless there's at least one character with a US passport).
Robert Houghton wrote, "I hated the Famous Five cartoon — didn't expect to like it before I even saw it. I thought it was very 'Scooby Doo', and the parts that worked best were the typically-cartoon-like slapstick scenes and the cheesy one-liners, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Enid Blyton. I found the plot boring and predictable."
It's worth noting that Esra's desire is for the series to generate more Enid Blyton book sales. Exactly how it will do this I'm not sure, as in my opinion the series is far too modern and, frankly, silly to bear any real resemblance to the originals. Anyone who makes the connection between these cartoons and the books is in for a culture shock!
On the other hand, this is a series for kids and should perhaps be enjoyed on that level. John Lynch (Lucky Star) said: "I'll say again that I thought the dreaded cartoon was not that bad. I actually enjoyed it. I agree that it bears little relation to the FF books we know and love but the point was made that it may encourage kids to seek out the originals. Time will tell. Someone also made the point that kids would be disappointed by the real thing as it doesn't resemble the cartoons. I disagree; I think kids are very adaptable in what they watch/read and the original books are strong enough to hold their own in the 21st century just as they have for decades. We will have to see if sales go up, down or remain the same over the coming months."
I have the Disney channel at my house in America so will look out for this series if and when it starts showing here. And I'll look hard for any clues relating to Enid Blyton!
Next up were clips from an interview with Kate Winslet, in which she spoke about her recording of the Faraway Tree series. She loved the books as a child, being particularly fond of the Saucepan Man, and she herself suggested that she make the recording. Long before the Day, Tony had mentioned that Kate Winslet might actually be present in Twyford to talk IN PERSON about the recordings. I was staggered by this news, and told my wife immediately. Suddenly she wanted to come along too, but as Tony said, nothing is certain and for that reason it's best not to say anything about Kate's possible appearance. Besides, if word got out, Loddon Hall would be swarming with groupies looking for autographs and not in the slightest bit interested in Enid Blyton.
Unfortunately Kate wasn't there. I can almost see her agent scowling at her and saying, "You have an audition for a blockbusting movie in Hollywood. You are NOT going to Enid Blyton Day in Twyford." What a rotter!
There was a break and then I decided to skip the next guest speaker. This was John Lester, reading extracts from The Island of Adventure. With all due respect to John, I personally wasn't interested in this so went outside to chat with Tony. Moments later, Nigel came out to join us mumbling something like, "It's not Ky-Ky, it's Ki-Ki!" I was amused when, after a while, he got a text message from Jane (still sitting in the audience) saying that everyone could hear him talking, so be careful!
I explained that time was marching on and it was soon time for me to go, as I was being picked up around 4pm for an onward journey to the Cotswolds. For that reason I didn't want to sit in an audience for the remainder of my Day. It's a shame that I couldn't go and pick through the books once more, but I felt that it would be a little distracting to the audience if I did so!
And so it was, during the screening of the 1982 film version of The Island of Adventure, that I snuck out the back way. I caught a glimpse of an adult Philip as he ran off to the school, calling over his shoulder, "I'm Philip. Philip Mannering," and I shuddered. To me this was like Five Go Mad in Dorset, with Ade Edmondson in shorts and blazer. I hear that this particular episode was very good though, so perhaps I shouldn't judge it on the choice of actor alone.
As Robert Houghton said, "The clip from 'The Island of Adventure' was certainly worth seeing, and I wish I could obtain a copy of it, as, despite the 'ancient looking' Philip, the rest of the cast and the settings seemed very well done, as did the script, which took its time and didnt rush events like so many episodes of 'The Famous Five' seemed to do. It is probably one of the best Enid Blyton adaptations I've seen, even though it had been updated."
I wasn't present for the picnic that followed, but Anita explained it well: "After a bit of a debate about where to have the picnic, about twenty (?) of us headed for Dinton Pastures where we had a veritable feast. There were sandwiches, pies and pasties, Dorset knobs (crusty little rolls!), hard-boiled eggs, sausage rolls, tomatoes, biscuits and cakes of various kinds, home-made shortbread, gingerbread and macaroons, scones with jam and clotted cream, chocolate, fudge, tinned pineapple, strawberries, satsumas, apples, ginger-beer, orange juice, lime cordial...! Afterwards, Hannah and I went for a walk by the lake with Pippa-Stef, David Cook and Viv. With birdsong and bluebells, willows, swans, ducks and a heron it really was typically Blytonian!"
Well put! And, to finish off, Anna Moss said, "It was great to meet everyone and I had my first ever taste of ginger beer! And I adored the macaroons!"