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Thursday, 21 February 2008

Famous Five

(this was originally put up Over The Other Side - purplecooers will understand - and is here at the request of Mags):

F8 is reading the Famous Five and Hoorah for that.

But apparently “they” are changing Enid Blyton. Presumably to make her “relevant” to Today’s Kids.
This can surely go one of two ways: it depends on who’s in charge, and quite how “relevant” “they” wish to be.

Either way, there will be no more Fanny, no more Dick. No more filthy gypos or queer-looking folk. No more lashings of ginger beer, and an end to JoJo the House Boy. No more, “I say, my man” from uppity ten year olds lording it over the feudal classes (forever chopping sandwiches and baking cookies in numbers sufficient to make that old table groan).

At Kirrin Avenue, the new children will be on eating plans devised by a nutrition expert, one of many specialists Ma has bought in to give her kids the edge over everybody else’s, causing them to follow closely orchestrated regimes with not a minute over to discuss rum-looking fellows or wonder for whom Cookie’s staggering out the back door with an apron full of leftovers (“Hmmm, tantamount to theft, that,” mused Julian, rubbing his chin, “I saw her with my own two eyes. Wonder whether I should inform Father. Get the woman sacked.”). It’s hard to imagine that any Five Find Outing, or Secret Societying will be squeezed into the all-encompassing schedule of Conversational Japanese, Karate and Chess.

Amarinta, Jasper, Delius and Georgiana have enrolled Tiberius in Fruit and Vegetable Tasting Class. Licking plates clean is so not hygienic. Besides there are three dishwashers for that, one of which is called Magda, the other two Miele.

Amarinta has a nut allergy, and none of the Brood like the gluten free goji berry thins Magda is forced to make. Neat cranberries are disturbingly bitter. They snack wretchedly, dim shadows of longing for groaning tables awake somewhere in their collective psyche. Then they have to go and brush their teeth. Even this is timed.

Georgiana is on BabyProzac. Her mother, Aunt Flick, is truly absent yet ruled by Health and Safety. She insists on Risk Assessment forms being e-mailed to her across the world if Georgiana is to undertake anything more dangerous than being driven the mile – one hour in standing traffic – journey to school.

Jasper threatens with burn-out. Captain of everything going, (everything that matters anyway, "Who cares about *loody lacrosse!" bawls Pa, purple with rage when he heard) Jasper strides around with the haunted look of that rabbit in front of those headlights. Choice paralysis is setting in. He’s just so good at so much it’s exhausting. And still Ma insists he runs through his scales last thing at night, when he really should be getting on with his Make A Friend Of A Senior Citizen project (so good for the CV).

Delius doesn’t talk yet, but that’s fine, hey, everyone’s different, don’t judge. He’s just in touch with his inner baby, that’s fine, too. For now, he expresses himself through juggling. He’s really really good. Ma thinks he could be running Gifford’s Circus before long. She longs to call Totti and run it past him.

Or maybe new Enid will be made to feel welcome in Britain’s Mean Streets. Here, the disaffected denizens sport Scrabble names, filched from Jeremy Kyle. Ana, Joolz, Devvon and Gyzel sneer at each other while Tyson prowls in a studded choke collar. Arright?

Ana’s chief utterance is “wha’evah”, and her “My Best Friend Is A Bitch” t-shirt is, by all accounts, minging. There’s never any washing up to do, the cupboard is bare – does she feel an inexplicable primeval twinge at the lack? Possibly not. A sly look does little to animate her bland features. Generally strung out on E-numbers and nervy from a diet of Bird Flu Sticks and chemical-heavy blue liquids masquerading as drink, she has hit a low and is shivering from lack of sugar.

Joolz mooches. His legs splay wide when he sits hunched in front of the Playstation, meaty hands dabbing at consoles, killing things on the screen. Heavy with bling, and vaguely anxious that his low-slung trews might do what gravity and excess material combine to do and hit the floor – innit – he flouts the terms of his ASBO by failing to observe the 500 metre invisible cordon placed round the scene of his latest tracked misdemeanour. Ie: he’s still sleeping with the girl who got him banged up for assault. He didn’t do it. Besides, it was only once and she arxed for it. Silly cow.

Devvon only attends Youth Rehab Program to blag tranqs from the back office. His kids don’t like it, but *uck ‘em. Devvon has Anger Management Issues. “Safe,” he says, pimp-rolling down the street with his hooded crew.

Gyzel, after a misspent infancy on the bottle, is rueing one particular Vicky Pollard session de trop, which resulted in a Little Surprise. She hopes that she and Cyd pass as sisters when they go clubbing together.

Tyson licks the takeaway foil containers clean.

Comfortingly, there are similarities a-plenty twixt old, new and each other.

In both new, improved, relevant versions, the children suffer a recognisable degree of neglect chiming with the original.

In neither will Father have to make much of an appearance, nor will Mother have to shift her little tush to show much interest in her young uns’ whereabouts. So if they could but stumble upon a disused lighthouse or just hook up with an abandoned caravan, then it’s Business As Usual.

For, over at Feral FilthBucket, Mum is down the tattoo parlour while the various Dads not being looked after by Her Majesty’s finest, have long since idled off leaving the ‘yout’ to dabble with drugs and find somewhere to stash their weaponry.

And up at Kirrin Avenue, Pa’s simply never there. Money to make, golf to play, someone else’s wife to sleep with. He slings the Beamer in the drive purely for the vampire hours and is away again by dawn to nab a seat on the train, elbowing the lower-paid out of his expensive way, and barking on his blackberry.
Ma would like to be a colour consultant and prance around with mood boards and swatches, but there simply isn’t time. When she isn’t at Pilates, she is busy lunching on a communal carrot with her Girlfriends, an identikit group, bearing:
as much excess adipose as butterflies
must-have handbags
and humourless laughs, the sort not to trash their features.
There will be one fat friend, a size 12, for them to patronise. Besides, marvellous Magda from Croatia has the whole thing covered back at the ranch, and The Brood is surely too busy with Kumon to contemplate sleuthing?

Until that happy day, when The Famous Five and co are dragged depressingly, relentlessly into the bleaker bookends of the twenty first century, I am happy to let my children enjoy the nonsensical, rampantly unPC Enid Blyton as I did and as so many of you did.


Zoƫ said...

This had me in fits Milla, and reminded me of all the Green Welly brigade Mothers I came across when I attempted to be a stay at home Mum for the 8 weeks after Robyn was born, in this oh so nice Hampshire Village. They wore their kids like accessories, spent their entire lives trying to out compete each other, and were always on some obscure health kick or diet. The endless debates about breast feeding and eco-nappies had me scurrying for the clock in card faster than you can say 'Boden dahlink?'.

It is more true to life than you might imagine, in these here parts!

Fennie said...

So glad you reposted this. I missed it first time. Quite excellent and true. I grew up on old Enid. Loved the stories. Seemed natural then - independence - you were sent out in the morning and expected to amuse yourself - find friends, go sleuthing and so forth. What different times.
There was less crime then because the legions of children patrolled every beat looking for criminals. And for the ones that got away from them there were always Miss Marple and good old Hercule P.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Eeeeeek - long live Enid Blyton unsullied. Thanks for putting this up Milla - I missed it the first time round - but may well have been before my time.

Very witty - but we expect no less from you.

Preseli Mags said...

It is absolutely as brilliant as I remembered. Thanks for posting it again!

KittyB said...

Excellent, Milla, it has stood the test of time - a whole year? surely not! My H is just like your F - with shouts of 'super!' and 'I say!' peppering his conversation, thanks to our Enid. So much better than 'wicked' or, rather, 'wi'ed' and, more disturbingly, 'gay' that comes straight from the playground.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Also so true to life in rural shropshire. I was an Enid Blyton fanatic until my English teacher ridiculed both EB and me in front of the class...I was only 11!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Milla - quick you need to re-write this and add in a chainsaw . . . Here let me help you - sounds of revving chainsaw . . . .

Potty Mummy said...

And will there be honey still for tea? Because if not, I'm fxxking off home, innit...

By the way, is Kirrin Avenue in South Kensington?

Cait O'Connor said...

Loved every line and I missed it on the Other Side, thanks for posting again. Super stuff :))

LittleBrownDog said...

Fan-bl**dy-tastic Milla! As per.

LBD xx

Pipany said...

God, I missed this one first time round Millla and it's so funny; I nearly bust a gut (yes, charming image I know but the Friday night red wine is slowly robbing me of eloquent speech). Keep it as it was I say - I still read the Famous Four to our younger ones and they love it xx

Expatmum said...

Hilarious! Next you'll be telling me that Mallory Towers has gone co-ed and they're all up the duff?

Dusty Spider said...

Great stuff Milla. I'm a convert!
Is that a speck of dust??

elizabethm said...

Just as brilliant as I remembered -not sure whether to laugh or cry. All so near the bone! Fantastic.

@themill said...

Still wonderful a year on....made me cry with laughter.

Her on the Hill said...

Jolly jolly marvellous! L has a reprinted book of EB tales at the end of her bed which we dip into - all sublimely irrelevant and anachronistic at the same time as being quite perfect for a young child's mind. E is currently enjoying her Mallory Towers as much as I did - she said just this evening that it was her best ever book. Can't bear all that Jacqueline Wilson Tracy Beaker stuff - it so rams socio-political correctness down your throat you want to choke on your own peanuts (and I DON'T have a nut allergy!)And Tracy's a little whatsit anyway. Bring back the Gollywog and Little Black Sambo, I say! (Lordy, will I get my knuckles rapped by Headmistress for that?)

garfer said...

EB wrote a great book called 'The Put 'em Rights' in which five properly brought up upper middle class children went around telling off working class oiks for torturing badgers and the like.

I think she was having a head fit.

softinthehead said...

Great stuff, What oh! Giggled all the way through. I loved Enid, so did my kids, one of our favourites was "Up the Faraway Tree" - total fantasy. I remember my daughter reading Mallory Towers and having questions such as "what is the San" and "tuck". :)

Lucy Diamond said...

Oh brilliant brilliant! I was chortling all the way through this. My eldest is absolutely Enid-mad at the moment - she just discovered the St Clares books today and has read the first two already.
It is funny though, hearing her come out with all this cod-1950s speak - "Oh, blow!" she says when something goes wrong. I think I even heard an 'awfully' the other day!

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