The Sounds of Whispering IslandOctober 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Travel | 2 Comments
Tags: Brownsea Island, Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Jarvis Cocker, National Trust: The Album, The Tempest, Whispering Island
They pulled the boat a little further up on the firm sand, took out their bundle of clothes, and hid them under a bush. They walked up the beach towards towards a wood, thick with great trees. As they neared them, they heard a strange, mysterious sound.
“Whispering!” said George, stopping. “The trees are really whispering. Listen! It’s just as if they were talking to one another under their breath! No wonder it’s called Whispering Island!”
“I don’t like it,” said Anne. “It almost sounds as if they’re saying nasty things about us!”
“Shooey, shooey, shooey, shooey!” said the trees, nodding towards one another as the wind shook them. “Shoey, shooey!”‘
Some classic Blyton prose here, as the Kirrins accidentally land on Whispering Island in Five Have a Mystery to Solve. Later on, after discovering a lost hoard of treasure and eluding some Bad Men, the Five, plus their new chum, Wilfred, attempt to discover a secret passageway via the Wailing Cliffs. In the words of Shakespeare’s Caliban, ‘the isle is full of noises’ and its cliffs make an unearthly sound, ‘like a giant wailing and wailing at the top of his voice, the wailing going up and down in the wind’. For poor Anne it sounds more like someone ‘crying and sobbing and howling’.
There is much speculation about the real settings of the Famous Five books. Corfe Castle in Dorset is generally taken to be the model for Kirrin Castle, for instance, although there are other contenders for the crown too. The original of Whispering Island is widely accepted as being Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset, with Blyton herself noting in her preface to Five Have a Mystery to Solve that ‘the island is real, and lies in the great harbour, still full of whispering trees’.
I was therefore interested to see what sounds Jarvis Cocker would come up with for the album he has recently produced for the National Trust, who administer Brownsea Island. The album features some lovely recordings of creaking staircases, ticking clocks, old music boxes and the sound of billiard games from Chartwell, Blickling, Lanhydrock and Upton House, respectively. I do confess that I was mildly disappointed to hear that the sounds of Brownsea Island are in keeping with this more tranquil perspective. The sound of waves lapping on the shore is no doubt more palatable to the ear than the blood curdling wailing of the wind round the cliffs and the eerie ‘shooey shooey’ of the whispering trees, however…