Tags: Little Book of lunch, sandwiches
My friend and work colleague Wendy pointed out this enjoyable feature on lunchbox sandwiches in the Guardian yesterday with the instruction “scroll down”.
Ha ha! I was very pleased to see ‘The Enid Blyton’ given its full due as a valid lunch option. Sandwiches with sides of radishes and hard boiled eggs are excellent lunchtime fare, my only quibble would be to suggest that for a more aesthetically pleasing, and authentically Blytonian, experience you should wrap your dipping salt up in a little screw of paper rather than use tupperware. The sandwiches that the authors of this article and The Little Book of Lunch suggest are watercress – very tasty and classy – but Enid has a wonderful knack for making the humble sandwich sound like the most appetising thing ever, even when it includes such retro delights as Spam. So here are a few more canonical suggestions:
‘”Cucumber dipped in vinegar! Spam and lettuce! Egg! Sardine! Oooh, Mr Luffy, your sandwiches are much nicer than ours,” said Anne, beginning on two together, one cucumber and the other Spam and lettuce” (Five Go Off to Camp, sandwich-maker: Mrs Luffy).
‘”Aunt Fanny cut dozens and dozens of sandwiches,” said Anne. “She said if we kept them in this tin they wouldn’t go stale, and would last a day or two till we went back. I’m hungry. Shall we have some now?”
They sat out in the sun, munching the ham sandwiches. Anne had brought tomatoes too, and they took a bite at a sandwich and then a bite at a tomato.’ (Five on a Secret Trail, sandwich-maker: Aunt Fanny, with improvisation by Anne).
Potted meat (devoured ravenously and even two at a time by a malnourished Uncle Quentin) (Five on Kirrin Island Again, sandwich-maker: Aunt Fanny).
‘They had a magnificent lunch about half-past twelve. Really, Mrs Johnson had surpassed herself! Egg and sardine sandwiches, tomato and lettuce, ham – there seemed no end to them!’ (Five Go to Mystery Moor, sandwich-maker: Mrs Johnson, of Johnson’s Riding School).
‘”I made [Timmy’s] sandwiches myself.” [said George]. And so she had! She had bought sausagemeat at the butchers and had actually made Timmy twelve sandwiches with it, all neatly cut and packed. (Five Get Into Trouble, sandwich-maker: George).
Perhaps the best sandwich-making and eating in the Famous Five books comes in Five on a Hike Together. The process of making the cheese, pork, ham and egg sandwiches (4 different types – not all together!) is stretched across no less than five pages (the children do ask for eight sandwiches each so it takes a while) and then there are seven pages of expectation and build up before the children finally sit down in the heather on Fallaway Hill in the late autumn sun to munch their sandwiches while gazing across the lonely moor.
‘At last the sandwiches were finished and the old woman appeared again. She had packed them up neatly in four parcels of grease-proof paper, and had pencilled on each what they were. Julian read what she had written and winked at the others.
“My word – we’re in for a grand time!” he said.’
(Five on a Hike Together, sandwich-maker: un-named ‘shop woman’ aka ‘old woman’ aka ‘Ma’)
Tags: Petit Bateau, pyjamas
The Famous Five Christmas present countdown challenge is over! So, last but definitely not least, George. As we know, George would rather be a boy and likes to dress like one. She’s also a keen sailor so what could be better than this cosy pair of boys pyjamas, with a sailing boat motif and/or a stylish boy’s sailors sweater from Petit Bateau?
Happy Christmas everyone! Se you in 2014 x
Tags: bicycles, coffee, loyalty card, Tapped and Packed
A true virtue in the Blyton world is loyalty. It makes up for all manner of other anti-social and annoying habits such as George’s bad temper and Anne’s occasional wimpiness. Loyalty is indeed good (more loyalty in the world please!), as is coffee, and bicycles. So, with this in mind, the new loyalty scheme set up by my (workplace’s) local coffee shop has everything going for it. Tapped and Packed not only do excellent coffee, cakes and sandwiches, they also have bicycle iconography galore – there’s an old bike outside, plus bicycles are stamped onto the cafe’s takeaway cups. There’s even a cute little cyclist who’s used on the loyalty card – collect six cyclist stamps and your next coffee is free! What could be nicer than that?
Tags: Captain Pugwash, Jeake's House, John Ryan, Lion Street Store, Rye, Rye Art Gallery
Anne and I popped down to Rye yesterday for a pre-Christmas break. As some readers may know, Rye was the inspiration for Smuggler’s Top, the setting of the fourth Famous Five adventure. It’s a lovely cobbled town, built on a hill and once the home of smugglers as well as many literary types including Henry James, Radclyffe Hall and E F Benson.
We stayed in the cosy and splendidly decorated Jeake’s House. It was built by an astrologically-minded Samuel Jeakes and a plaque in the wall records the position of the stars at the time the foundation stone of the building was laid in 1689. After various travails across the centuries, Jeake’s house was bought by the American poet Conrad Aiken in the 1920s, and in the 1980s taken over by Jenny Hadfield who has turned it into a very nice place to stay. The bedrooms are now named after Aiken and various literary and artistic luminaries who visited or lived in Rye. We were in the snug and ceiling-beamed ‘T S Eliot’ room but you can also bed down with Radclyffe Hall and Malcolm Lowry amongst others.
It’s ideal for a winter’s stay as there are plenty of communal spaces in which to relax including the parlour (pictured above) and the theatrical-looking bar which is well-stocked with board games, newspapers and alcohol (just write down what you have and it’s charged to your room). Breakfast was in part of the house which was formerly a Quaker chapel. Anne had the full English; I had my current favourite morning repast – a boiled egg with Marmite soldiers.
Top (cold and wet weather) things we did during our brief visited included: a drink by the Giant’s Fireplace in the legendary Mermaid Inn (hangout of smugglers in the 18th century); a trip to the Rye Art Gallery to see an excellent little exhibition on animator John Ryan (creator of Captain Pugwash and long-time resident of Rye); and a look around the Lion Street Store, a wonderful emporium of prints, jewellery, stationery and much more, showcasing work by makers and illustrators such as Emily Warren, James Brown, Nicholas John Frith and Alice Pattullo. A great place for last minute gifts for people with good (nay, excellent) taste.
It’s now officially Christmas Eve and I’m back in London, typing this in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. Tomorrow we collect our bird from the butchers – not a turkey from Kirrin farm, alas – and stock up on Brussels sprouts.
Good luck to everyone who still has presents to buy!
Tags: Famous Five Christmas presents
Well, it’s now December so it’s time for the annual suggestions of presents for the Kirrin clan or for similar-minded folk.
For Julian: Also from Present and Correct, these stylish and useful map crayons for Julian who loves to boast about his excellent map reading skills and well-developed bump of locality. Or from Temple of Commerce, a corrective grammar sticker pack so he can put the grammatical world to rights.
For Aunt Fanny: a beautiful bedspread from vintage retailer Horrockses. These are based on original 40s and 50s patterns. I like this one which is called ‘Betty’.
For George: A dog lamp that will recall the hi-jinx of Five on a Secret Trail. Note that Pedlars actullay describe it as a ‘collar of shame’. So perhaps this is actually quite an insensitive present (and again not an austerity gift)…
For Timmy: Well, I confess I’m struggling a bit here. In previous years I’ve suggested a studded collar and a fake bunny for him to chase and there’s only so much variety you can introduce into doggy gifts. Perhaps George could get him this bone shaped biscuit cutter so that Joan the Cook could make some of her legendary biscuits just for him?
For Dick: Gourmand and gourmet Dick might like to enjoy his ice cream out of one of these gold ice cream bowls, also from Pedlars.
For Uncle Quentin: The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing should keep Uncle Quentin quiet and out of the way on Christmas Day. Although I’ve blatantly taken this image from Amazon, I of course suggest that all bookish presents are purchased from your nearest non-chain book shop. I’ve already been to the wondrous Broadway Bookshop for some of my gifts…
Tags: doughnuts, Five Have a Wonderful Time, Jones Dairy
After referring to the dairy in Five Have a Wonderful Time in my last-but-one-post, I decided to have an early morning visit to Jones Dairy. This cafe and shop is just off Columbia Road and is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
On Sundays the cafe opens at 8am – perfect for an early morning visit to the flower market before the crowds descend. There is tea and French press coffee (with hot milk if so desired); a selection of bagels with various fillings; Chelsea buns, Bath buns and, yes, doughnuts, just like the dairy in Wonderful Time (‘”I feel like having a couple of doughnuts at the dairy”, said George’).
This used to be a working dairy with eight milking cows occupying the space now used for the cafe (pictured below). Every six months the cows would be exchanged for cows fresh from the Welsh hills. Sadly there are no longer inner city cows here (although this is probably good for them), so the cafe and shop do not supply their own milk, cheese, cream and ice cream in the style of the Blytonian dairies featured in the Famous Five and the Five Findouters stories. However, the shop does stock a range of English and Welsh cheeses, English honey, eggs, fresh bread, Welsh cakes (75p each), lemon, orange and limecurd plus packets of quality tea and coffee. It’s perfect for provisions, especially if you happen to be staying in a gypsy caravan nearby, along with a fire-eater, knife-thrower and bendy man who appears to be made from India Rubber. Perhaps this is not too outlandish for Shoreditch?
Tags: Ambrette, Batchelor's Patisserie, Blackbird, Five Have a Wonderful Time, Lifeboat Ale and Cider House, Margate, Nayland Rock Shelter, R G Scotts, Reading Rooms, Shell Grotto, Turner Contemporary
The trip to Margate was good fun. The town was much as anticipated – run down in places (very run down) and very much on the up in other parts. The most visible sign of this is the brand new and proudly modern Turner Contemporary gallery, built on the seafront in the spot where J M W Turner used to stay. The Old Town too is a thriving cluster of shops, cafes, galleries and pubs, and there are also some nice things a bit further afield too.
The Turner Contemporary is a real shot in the arm in terms of Margate’s revival. Exhibitions will change on a six-monthly basis and next year will see a major exhibition of Turner paintings which will hopefully draw visitors from far and wide. The inaugural exhibition is a group of specially-commissioned works inspired by Turner and Margate, focused around a work by Turner himself: The Eruption of Souffrier Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent, at midnight, on the night of 30th April, 1812.
This piece (below) is by Daniel Buren. It is actually two floors high (this picture was taken from the first floor balcony). As you enter the gallery it fills your vision and floods the room with glorious yellow light, capturing something of the visual and emotional impact of Tuner’s famous sunsets. Thursday was a gloomy day but the yellow and different shades of grey looked good together.
In the evening we drank perry in The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House and had impressive Indian food at The Ambrette (delicious spiced local crab). We stayed in the beautiful Reading Rooms, a new-ish B&B in a Georgian townhouse in Hawley Square. Words cannot describe its loveliness. Here is a picture of the exquisite breakfast served in my exquisite room: fresh fruit salad, toast with cream cheese, cinnamon and honey (plus extra toast and jams), tea and freshly squeezed juice. It’s like a very sophisticated version of the breakfast the Famous Five enjoy so much in Five on a Hike Together [NB more traditional FF fare such as porridge, bacon and eggs and sausages is also available on the Reading Rooms’ extensive breakfast menu].
Fueled by breakfast we set off to explore some of the local independent shops (my favourites were crafty place Blackbird; the Pilgrims Hospice Charity bookshop in the old Midland Bank; and R G Scotts – old furniture, crockery, vintage maps etc) before braving the strangeness of the Shell Grotto (£3 entry). This underground network of passages, with 4.6 million shells lining its walls and ceilings, was discovered in 1835. Everything about it is a complete mystery – it is not known when it was created or by whom, or what the various symbols depicted on its walls actually mean. It’s very dank and slightly sinister – Anne would definitely not like it and I suspect George and the boys, and even Timmy, would get the willies too.
After this we needed some fresh air and a nice cup of restorative tea. We found it in Batchelor’s Patisserie, pictured below and (as I liked it so much) in the first photo of this post.
Batchelor’s is a proper bakery and cafe with original Formica fittings and display cases full of amazing treats. We had an old school cheese quiche and salad for lunch but you can also get sausage rolls, soup and sandwiches as well as cheese and fruit scones, fresh doughnuts, Congress tarts, various slices, cheesecake, coffee cake as well as a selection of fancy French macaroons, petit fours, Kentish ice cream and even home-made jam to take away. They sell a wide range of loaves too, and almost everything is made on site. Batchelor’s even has a proper 1950s style coffee machine and serves up a quality cappuccino. It reminded me a bit of the dairy/cafe that the Five frequent in Five Have a Wonderful Time where they get addicted to the doughnuts and ice cream (‘”Timmy’s silly over those doughnuts” said George, “he just wolfs them down”‘).
The sun finally came out late on Friday morning and effected an incredible transformation on the town. Although much of it is still rather desolate – the old lido is deserted and empty for example – the sun brought people out onto the golden sands and the view from the Nayland Rock shelter, where T S Eliot gained inspiration for ‘The Wasteland’, was decidedly cheery.
In two years’ time the 1920s Dreamland Amusement park will be restored and re-opened so hopefully this will add further to the re-invigoration of Britain’s oldest seaside resort. I will almost certainly go back but am now looking forward to more Kentish fun with next month’s cycling holiday which kicks off in Margate’s neighbouring town of Broadstairs…
Tags: Billycock Caves, Cheddar Caves, Five Go to Billycock Hill, Five Go to Demon's Rocks, Five Run Away Together, Jeremiah Boogle, John Mullan, Kirrin Island, Top Tens, Wreckers' Caves
John Mullan’s excellent and entertaining Guardian series picks out various literary ‘Ten of the Best’ categories – villains, moustaches, fake deaths, towers, instances of invisibility etc. (Freud would probably find the selection of ‘best ofs’ I’ve highlighted here revealing but we’ll skip over that). Professor Mullan gets a big thumbs up for his learned, wide-ranging and completely unsnobbish selections. So alongside Homer, Shakespeare, the Brontes, Dostoyevsky, Melville, Proust and modern authors such as Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith and Philip Roth, we also find children’s writers such as C S Lewis, Alan Garner and (hurrah!) Enid Blyton. The latter makes it into the categories of ‘Ten of the Best Swimming Scenes’ (Five Get Into Trouble), ‘Examples of Rowing’ (Five on a Treasure Island) and ‘Secret Societies’ (the Secret Seven). It’s rather jolly to see the ‘wild swimming’ antics of the Five positioned between Byron’s ‘Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos’ and The Swimmer by John Cheever, or the rowing from Five on a Treasure Island sitting alongside the rather darker example from The Talented Mr Ripley.
With some of these categories in mind, I am going to begin an occasional series of ‘Best ofs’ drawn from the Famous Five – by contributing a Blytonian example to categories where she doesn’t feature, or by drawing up a top three or five for categories in which there are numerous FF contenders (caves, breakfasts, beaches, horrid children). Sometimes I’ll just offer up my pick of other features of her books (animal characters, secret passages, farmers’ wives, hoards of treasure etc.). Is this extremely nerdy? Should I find a better use of my time? Probably. But please humour me and do feel free to nominate your own.
As caves have already been mentioned, I will start here. Mullan’s examples are all excellent, ranging from the cave of Mammon in Spenser’s The Faerie Queen to the Marabar Caves from E M Forster’s A Passage to India (read Mullan’s full selection here). As I do not have the whole history of world literature to draw upon I will not aim for ten and instead propose a modest three. So my offerings are:
The Kirrin Island Cave, Five Run Away Together
When the Five slope off to Kirrin Island to get away from the nasty Stick family they plan to sleep in Kirrin Castle. Unfortunately the roof has fallen in since the previous summer and they need to find an alternative place to stay. While scoping out the old wreck (too smelly, wood too rotten) Dick spots what looks like a cave in the cliffs. “There aren’t any caves on Kirrin,” asserts George, before the children make their way over the rocks to investigate further…
‘”It is a cave!” said Dick, in delight, stepping into it. “And my, what a fine one”.
It really was a beauty. Its floor was spread with fine white sand, as soft as powder and perfectly dry, for the cave was clearly higher than the tide reached, except possibly in a bad winter storm. Round one side of it ran a stone ledge.
“Exactly like a shelf made for us!” cried Anne in joy. “We can put all our things here. How lovely! Let’s come and live here and sleep here. And look Julian – we’ve even got a skylight in the roof!”‘
The skylight comes in handy as a quick exit onto the clifftop (Julian rigs up a rope) and it even helps them take a hostage in the form of the Sticks’ nasty son, Edgar, who takes an unfortunate tumble through the hole. The children make beds of heather and there is a very nice scene where they make a little fire to watch as they fall asleep. Once the children retrieve various household possessions from Kirrin Cottage, stolen by the Sticks and brought to the island (the Sticks are of course involved in Something Fishy), the cave becomes even more cosy. It’s so cosy in fact, that Jenny Armstrong, the little girl the children rescue from the Sticks’ clutches, isn’t that fussed about being returned to her parents and would rather stay on Kirrin Island with the Five.
‘Warning’, reads the sign at the entrance to Billycock Caves. ‘Keep only to the roped ways. Beware of losing your way in the unroped tunnels’. The caves constitute a veritable Labyrinth, and provide the perfect place for some bad men to hide kidnapped airmen Jeff and Ray. They are also cold, magnificent, and awe-inspiring. The children go exploring one rainy day, carefully staying to the roped ways. They soon come to a cave ‘full of what looked like gleaming icicles. Some hung down from the roof, others rose up from ground. In some places the one below had reached to the one hanging down, so that they had joined, making it look as if the cave was held up by great shining pillars.
“Oh!” said Anne, catching her breath. “What a wonderful sight! How they gleam and shine!”‘
The next cave they go through is smaller but full of rainbow-coloured ‘icicles’; the one after is ‘of a dazzling white, wall, roof, floor and pillars. So many stalactites and stalagmites had joined that they almost formed a snow-white screen through which the children peered’.
The children are chased out by eerie whistling sounds but luckily, Curly the Pigling is not deterred and his wanderings lead to the rescue of the two airmen. Phew. The Billycock Caves are probably based on Cheddar Caves in Somerset.
The Wreckers’ Caves, Five Go to Demon’s Rocks
Baddies Jacob and Ebeneezer supplement their dishonest earnings by showing trippers around the dark and smelly Wreckers’ Caves near the village of Demon’s Rocks. Luckily the Five, plus Tinker and his pet monkey, Mischief, have a better guide in the form of old Jeremiah Boogle, a salty seadog who spends his days sitting on the quayside smoking his pipe and telling tales of One-Ear Bill, an olden time wrecker. Curiously, the caves don’t lead back into the cliffs but instead descend steeply and wend their way under the sea (much like the undersea passage that leads from Kirrin Farm to Kirrin Island – it must be a feature of the coast in this part of the country). This makes the Wreckers’ Caves very unnerving as the sound of the sea ‘mumbling and grumbling’ overhead can be clearly heard. While many people, and not least Jacob and Ebby, have attempted to find One-Ear Bill’s hidden treasure it takes the Five, plus monkey, to finally track down the stolen hoard of gold coins.
Tags: Christmas gifts, Eagle of the Ninth, Hadrian's Wall, Old Town, Persephone Books
Here are this year’s suggestions for Christmas gifts for members of the Kirrin Family, or your own equivalent George, Aunt Fanny etc.
Julian is interested in archaeology and the Romans, as we know from Five on a Secret Trail. He also prides himself on his map-reading and path-finding skills. So how about this English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Archaeological map? It details the whole length of the famous Roman frontier, built by the Emperor Hadrian from AD122, and points out temples, bath houses, kilns etc in addition to the wall and its fortifications. To complement this, Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1954 novel, The Eagle of the Ninth. A proper boy’s own adventure story (but so much more than this too) in which a young centurion sets out to discover what happened to his father’s legion when it marched into the mists of Caledonia in AD117 and never returned…
“Who’s this from? I say who gave this to me? Where’s the label? Oh – from Mr Roland, how decent of him! Look Julian, a pocket knife with three blades!” A classic Swiss Army knife for Dick would be an infinitely useful gift. For Dick’s modern equivalent, perhaps a version that includes a memory stick?
A stylish bicycle bell for George. She might also like a sturdy basket for her bicycle as she always has to carry a heavy, smelly bone for Timmy whenever the Five go off somewhere.
Anne has expressed her desire to learn to paint and draw. As the Five take in some truly stunning scenery on their numerous adventures, a portable pencil and watercolour paint set might come in handy.
Present choices for canines are somewhat limited. As Timmy got a sexy studded collar last year, perhaps his passion for rabbits could be indulged this Christmas? He’s strictly forbidden to chase real bunnies so this running rabbit toy could be a suitable substitute. It squeaks and is double stitched for extra strength.
I have previously mused on Aunt Fanny’s hypothetical reading tastes, so what could be nicer for her than a beautiful Persephone book? There are some suggestions for books to match every taste on the Persephone website and you can even buy someone a book a month for a whole year. NB On the 14th and 15th December there will be a Christmas open house at Perspephone’s Lamb’s Conduit Street shop. All books will be gift-wrapped free of charge and there will be mulled wine and mince pies all round. Wizard!
Like many Uncles and other random male relatives, Quentin can be tricky to buy for. There’s a lot to be said for the classic gift of a good pair of socks or a tie. Quentin is usually quite scruffy – his work is more important than sartorial elegance. But when he finally presents his scientific gift to mankind he’s going to need a decent tie to wear for meeting the Prime Minister, receiving the Nobel Prize etc etc. This one from Old Town is quite nice.
Joan the Cook. After working flat out to produce a massive Christmas lunch, plus numerous puddings and cakes, Joan deserves to put her feet up for a while. As we know from Five Fall into Adventure, she has a bit of a soft spot for a man in uniform. When the police visit Kirrin Cottage to investigate a burglary they manage to eat up all of Joan’s home-made buns during the course of their preliminary investigation.
‘”You’d better stay in and give the policemen a good tea,” said Julian. “They’re coming back with a photographer.”
“Then I’d better do another baking,” said Joan, pleased.
“Yes, make one of your chocolate cakes,” said Anne.
“Oh, do you think they’d like one?” said Joan.
“Not for them Joan – for us, of course!” said George.’
That night Joan ‘dream[s] of policemen eating her chocolate cakes’. So, some classic British cinema in the form of the Ealing Studios production The Blue Lamp could tickle her pink.
Tags: Round the Year: Winter Time, snow
‘”Golly, it’s snowing!” [George] said suddenly sitting up. “I thought it would when I saw the leaden sky this morning. It’s snowing hard! It will be quite thick by tonight – inches deep.”‘(Five Go Adventuring Again)
The news is full of tales of snow-related woe this week, and many people are finding their lives disrupted by travel chaos and the extreme cold. It might therefore be worth turning to Blyton to remember the magical side of snow too:
‘In winter-time the clouds often float through very cold air, and it sometimes happens that instead of turning into raindrops, as they usually do, they change from water-vapour into tiny ice-crystals. The crystals join together and make snowflakes. They are too heavy to float about the sky, so down they come. They are so soft and light that, although there may be many thousands of snowflakes falling around us, we never hear a sound.
Have you ever seen an ice-crystal? I should like you to see one, because I know you will be surprised at its lovely shape. To see crystals properly, you want a piece of black cloth. Catch a snowflake on it and look at it through a small magnifying glass.
You will see that the flake is made of tiny glittering crystals – and every one of them has six sides! Catch as many as you like and count the number of points they have, and you will always find six, or a multiple of six. Some of the crystals are feathery-looking, some are star-shaped, others are plain – but all are exquisitely fragile and delicate.’ (Around the Year: Winter Time)
The ‘Things to Do’ section of the chapter on ‘The Story of Frost and Snow’ suggests that ‘the very first chance you have, catch a snowflake on something dark and look at it closely – with a magnifying glass if you can. Count its sides’.
Why don’t we give it a try?