A Blyton lunch

January 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Anne, Aunt Fanny, Eating and Drinking, George, Julian, Timmy | 2 Comments
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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’)

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Rainy Days

July 30, 2013 at 10:18 am | Posted in Fashion, Julian | 3 Comments
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raincoatOne of my favourite scenes from the Famous Five stories is perhaps not one of the most exciting moments, but is nevetheless highly evocative of the bracing pleasures of wet and windy mornings, such as today’s. It’s from Five on Kirrin Island Again when the children decide to go out for a clifftop walk in the rain. As they don mackintoshes and sou’-westers and head out into the elements, Julian comments that he really likes ‘the feel of the wind and rain buffeting against his face’.

I never knew what a sou’-wester was when I was a younger reader of the stories, but for those of you who might just be wondering, it’s a waterproof hat, generally in that glorious yellow that you associate with salty sea dog fishermen, with a wide and long section at the back to help protect the neck from the gales that come in from the prevailing south west winds. I don’t have a sou’-wester, as that’s going too far even for me, but I have recently procured the next best thing, a lovely yellow raincoat from Petit Bateau (they do stuff for grown ups as well as children). As well as being a bright and cheery colour on the outside, it’s also got a lovely warm blue and white stripey lining and capacious pockets for essentials (string, compass, Oyster card). Just the ticket as I brave the (typical day off work) weather and head out for a trip to the park.

A Famous Five Christmas 2011

December 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Posted in Anne, Aunt Fanny, Dick, George, Julian, Uncle Quentin | 1 Comment
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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 Anne: 60s animal stamps from retro stationer Present and Correct or (for a time of less austerity) an adorable bunny tuck box to take back to Gaylands school.

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…

For more suggestions, see ‘Christmas Gifts for the Kirrins‘ and ‘Christmas with the Famous Five: Gifts

Tinker, Tailor…

September 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Posted in Dick, Julian, Uncle Quentin | Leave a comment
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“That’s a thing I don’t understand [said Julian] – to be a traitor to one’s own country. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth to think of it. Come on – let’s have a think about dinner, Anne. What are we going to have?” – Five Have a Wonderful Time

Spies are very much in vogue at the moment. I’m eagerly anticipating the new film adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and have just finished a weekend viewing marathon of the original 1979 television series with the great Alec Guinness as George Smiley, who’s brought out of retirement to track down a mole who has penetrated the highest levels of ‘the Circus’, the British Secret Intelligence Service. The plot of the recent BBC series, The Hour, also hinged on the unmasking of Soviet agents working within the Secret Service and (heaven forbid!) the British Broadcasting Corporation, so there is definitely something in the air.

Spies, stolen secrets, kidnappings and defections abound in Blyton’s books. The Famous Five personally take on quite a few of these cases, although their methods are a little different to George Smiley’s. And while betrayal and corruption leave their mark on the characters in le Carré’s novels, the Five are able to quickly deal and move on – often with the aid of a good meal, as Julian’s above comment suggests. Apparently there’s nothing like tinned peaches and home-made custard to get rid of the nasty taste left in the mouth by the deception, violence, and moral ambiguity of spying.

The Famous Five books are (as we know) very much of their time. After the disappearance of two of the ‘Cambridge’ spies, KGB double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean in 1951, there was extreme paranoia about Soviet penetration of the British Secret Service. Blyton’s treatment of spies and traitors offers a narrative of reassurance. The upright and oh-so-British Famous Five are always clear where their loyalties lie and everything always comes right in the end.

In Five Go to Billycock Hill (1957) the children are distraught about the disappearance of their friend Toby’s airman cousin, Jeff. He appears to have gone AWOL with a top RAF aeroplane, prompting Dick to make the rather extreme comment: “If he flew away in that plane, he was a traitor to his country. And traitors deserve to die” ( this has been cut from recent, updated, versions of the book). Happily, Jeff’s innocence is proved with the help of the Five and Toby’s little brother and his pet ‘pigling’.

Likewise, Terry-Kane, a scientist chum of Uncle Quentin’s, suspected of making off with some state scientific secrets, is exonerated in Five Have a Wonderful Time. Characters that the Five or their friends and families like are therefore proved to be OK – an escapist antidote to the disbelief that surrounded the notion that Cambridge educated men like Burgess, Maclean, and later Harold Philby, Anthony Blunt and (possibly) John Cairncross [the Infamous Five!], could be agents of a foreign power. Clearly spies and subterfuge are recurring elements of many of Blyton’s books but Five Have a Wonderful Time was published in 1952, the year after the Burgess and Maclean scandal, and Billycock Hill in 1957, the year after they resurfaced in Moscow. It’s therefore highly likely that these incidents were in Blyton’s mind when she was planning and writing these particular books – and promoting a very different set of ideological and moral values to those of Burgess, Blunt et al.

Tinned Milk Cocoa

February 24, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Eating and Drinking, Julian | Leave a comment
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Tinned Milk. Highly unfashionable but simply delicious and also a staple ingredient for those times when fresh provisions are hard to come by (when living on Kirrin Island for example). I have been a convert to evaporated milk since my ex-housemate (who is Greek) first made me a cup of coffee with milk from a tin. Since then I have attempted to win over many Dubious Sorts, including various work colleagues and house guests. Some (but not all) have succumbed and have gone on to spread the word. Others are already enlightened: one colleague recommended evaporated milk jelly which I subsequently tried, tested and enjoyed as part of a Famous Five High Tea. Today, same colleague and I couldn’t help but digress from work matters in order to discuss the merits of cocoa made with evaporated milk. Being sensible types with simple tastes, the Kirrins too enjoy a nice cocoa with milk straight from the tin, especially after a bracing early morning swim, as in Five Run Away Together:

‘The kettle was boiling away merrily, sending up a cloud of steam from its tin spout […] “I’ll open the tin of milk [said Julian]. George, you take the tin of cocoa and that jug and make enough for all of us.”‘

Without wanting to sound quite as commanding as Julian, I would urge readers of this blog to give tinned milk cocoa a try. But, be warned that evaporated milk and condensed milk are not the same thing (condensed milk is much sweeter).  As I am not working with just a camping stove and tin kettle, I would suggest the following method (altered from original published method due to some further cocoa experimentation):

Use half evaporated milk and half water. You can vary this proportion depending on how rich you like your cocoa to be.

Measure a teaspoon of cocoa powder into your favourite cup or mug and mix with a little water to form a smooth paste.  Gradually add the evaporated milk and water, stirring all the time. Pour the lot into a saucepan.  Heat until steaming but not quite boiling, and stir frequently, ideally with a whisk. Return to mug and add one teaspoon of brown sugar, or more if you have a sweet tooth.

Addenda (July 2011)

I’ve recently tried out the simple ‘camping’ method of cocoa and it’s good, and with less washing up (always a happy thing) – 1 teaspoon of cocoa into a mug, add a little boiling water and stir until it makes a smooth paste, add more hot water (about 2/3rds of a mug) and sugar to taste and then top up with evaporated milk. It should be an almost perfect drinking temperature.

Top Tens… and Top Threes: Caves

January 28, 2011 at 12:03 am | Posted in Anne, Dick, George, Julian, Timmy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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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.

The Billycock Caves, Five Go to Billycock Hill

‘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.

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Chateaux et Chocolat

December 22, 2010 at 1:48 am | Posted in Dick, Eating and Drinking, Joan the Cook, Julian | Leave a comment
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‘”We got fed up with French food,” said Dick. “I came out in spots and Julian was sick”‘ (Five on a Secret Trail)

When Julian and Dick crave a good old-fashioned English ham and mustard sandwich (no sandwich au jambon et moutarde for them) they hotfoot it home from France to join George, Anne and Timmy who are camping on the common behind Kirrin Cottage. It’s odd that Dick doesn’t appreciate French cuisine but perhaps in a few years’ time, when his promising tastebuds develop to their full potential, he will be ready to enjoy a delicious meal at the Hôtel Restaurant du Vieux Pont in Belcastel, France.

Belcastel is a very picturesque village with a castle perched on top of a hill (pictured in the post below) and with Nicole and Michèle Fagegaltier’s restaurant nestling by the river down below. It is a regular haunt of my host of last weekend, who, for the purposes of this blog will be known simply as Mr Lenoir (of Five Go to Smuggler’s Top fame). Mr Lenoir took Professor Hayling and me to the Hôtel Restaurant du Vieux Pont for lunch on Sunday afternoon. We opted for the ‘decouverte de gourmandise’ menu which was 54 euros for five courses  – six if you count the not-insubstantial petit fours served with coffee – or 44 euros for four courses. I didn’t take a picture of each one but the photograph above is of my dessert: ‘Le chocolat en sucré, salé, acide, amer (mousse caramel-chocolat, cigarette à la fleur de sel, moulleux au citron, lait glacé gentiane)’. This, and especially the lemony chocolate fondant cake in the middle, would have sent even Dick and Julian into raptures.

Joan the Cook might not hold with such fancy presentation, however…

Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

December 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Aunt Fanny, Julian | 1 Comment
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A visit to the Geffrye Museum’s ‘Christmas Past’ exhibition has become something of a festive tradition for me since moving to London a few years ago. The Museum is set in eighteenth century almshouses in East London and presents a series of rooms recreating typical middle-class living spaces from the 1600s through to the present day. Every year at Christmas time these rooms are decked out according to the traditions and customs of their period, with decorations ranging from sprigs of rosemary and bay leaves in the earlier rooms, through to the artificial tress and electric fairy lights of the twentieth century.

The room pictured above is the Geffrye Museum’s 1910 drawing/sitting room and is meant to represent a semi-detached house in Golders Green, North London. Although many Blyton aficionados may disagree, I think there is something a little bit Kirrin-ish about it. Obviously Kirrin Cottage is old (it’s been in Aunt Fanny’s family for generations) but, when they had the money, the family may have periodically updated its fittings and furnishings. A short period of prosperity for the Kirrin family in the late nineteenth century could explain the elegant Arts and Crafts fireplace, and although this is supposed to be 1910, it could easily be a room of 20 or even 30 years later, assuming that Aunt Fanny did not always follow the latest trends in interior decoration.

Looking at this room I can imagine the children helping to decorate it with branches of holly (as the most mature and sensible member of the Five I suspect Julian would be the one at the top of the stepladder) and Aunt Fanny stealing a quiet moment to sit down with a cup of tea and fill the stockings (just seen on the sofa) with tangerines and other small gifts – perhaps while the Five are off at Kirrin Farmhouse discovering secret panels and old linen maps.

Christmas gifts for the Kirrins

December 5, 2010 at 11:03 am | Posted in Anne, Aunt Fanny, Cycling, Dick, Eating and Drinking, George, Joan the Cook, Julian, Timmy, Travel, Uncle Quentin | 1 Comment
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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.

Pyjamas

November 23, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Fashion, George, Julian | Leave a comment
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As the evenings draw in and it gets steadily colder and colder, it’s good to have some warm and cosy nightwear – for sleeping in of course, but also for those days (generally Sundays) when getting dressed is just one step too close to leaving the house. According to George, pyjamas are the only way to go, as poor/irritating (delete as applicable) Berta swiftly discovers after arriving at Kirrin Cottage in the middle of the night in Five Have Plenty of Fun:

‘George got out of bed, still looking very mutinous. She watched Berta shake a night-dress out from her night-case and pursed up her lips. “She doesn’t even wear pyjamas!” she thought. “What a ninny!”‘

Too right George! But what pyjamas should one wear? Well, as Eileen Soper makes quite, quite clear, it’s the classic blue & white stripe (occasionally, if certain editions are to be trusted, there is also scope for red & white stripes).

I purchased a fine pair recently from Jack Wills. Promisingly, the company cites ‘British military history, British sporting traditions [and] British country pursuits’ as its design inspiration but normally I would not shop there, being about 10 years too old for their clothes (there is a sister brand, Aubin & Wills, which aims for a slightly older audience). On this occasion, however, I followed the siren call of a Sheringham cable knit cardigan in the window and before I knew it was in the changing room trying on these beauties (left) instead. They are heaven in pyjama form, made from soft brushed cotton and sporting pockets too.

Now, you wouldn’t really think that pockets would be useful in nightwear but, if like George, you are kidnapped and need to throw the contents of your pyjama/dressing gown pockets out into the road to leave crucial clues as to your whereabouts, they can come in extremely handy. For my part, I will not be taking Timmy out for midnight walks (plastic Timmy is thankfully low maintenance), tackling crooks (I hope) or visiting Tesco in mine (apparently a Welsh branch of Tesco has instituted a ban on shoppers wearing pyjamas) but instead I will be lounging about the house, firmly avoiding adventure of any kind.

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