Christmas with the Famous Five: “Oh Christmas tree”

December 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Anne, Aunt Fanny, George | Leave a comment
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As in my London flat, the excitement builds in Kirrin Cottage as Christmas draws near. Even nasty tutor Mr Roland gets into the spirit and goes outside to dig up a little spruce fir tree before taking Julian, Dick and Anne into town to buy decorations as the Kirrins don’t have anything to put on the tree. I’m a little unclear as to why George’s homelife was quite so sad and deprived before her cousins appeared (this lends credibility to my Aunt Fanny-as-wartime-spy theory, methinks). Fanny is so homely that even if the family was poor they could have made do and managed a halfway decent Christmas (a bird from the family farm, holly, mistletoe and a tree from the garden).

Anyway, apart from the whole ‘George vs Mr Roland’ storyline, which will bring Christmas day to a downbeat end, things are looking up at Kirrin Cottage this Christmas: ‘Joanna the cook was busy baking Christmas cakes. An enormous turkey had been sent over from Kirrin Farm, and was hanging up in the larder […] There were boxes on the shelf in the sitting room, and mysterious parcels everywhere. It was very, very Christmassy!’

Most exciting of all, of course, is the Christmas tree:

‘Now it stood in the hall, with coloured candles in holders clipped to the branches, and gay shining ornaments hanging from top to bottom. Silver strands of frosted string hung down from the branches like icicles, and Anne had put bits of white cotton-wool here and there to look like snow. It really was a lovely sight to see.’

The Five wait until Christmas Eve before installing their tree, and the candles are not lit until after tea on Christmas day. While waiting for the tree does make it more special, I want the chance to fully appreciate the joy of the beautiful tree. This year’s tree was a bit bigger than expected, and came complete with mud and spiders, but looks very pretty now with glass baubles, crystal droplets and the odd bird or two.

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Christmas with the Famous Five, Part 1

December 10, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Posted in George, Timmy | Leave a comment
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One of the things I love about children’s books are their descriptions of Christmases past. Lucy M. Boston’s The Children of Green Knowe (1954) has to be a contender for one of the best Christmas children’s books ever. Young Toseland (or Tolly for short) is a lonely only child (much like George pre-Julian, Dick and Anne) who goes to stay with his grandmother at her ancient and magical house of Green Knowe. Whereas George gets to bond with her cousins, Tolly’s new-found friends are relatives too…but ones who lived three hundred ago.

This first Green Knowe book is set in the run up to Christmas and is full of lovely Christmas rituals – decorating the tree with ancient glass baubles that have been handed down over generations, shopping for gifts – most unusually a real live partridge in a pear tree, and attending midnight mass at the local church.The Children of Green Knowe was made into a television series and was broadcast in the run up to Christmas in 1986. It’s not available on DVD or video, but for anyone wanting to revisit (or discover) this lovely adaptation, there is a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen at BFI Southbank on the 17th December and it is also available to watch via the BFI’s fabulous mediatheque (currently available in London, Derby and Cambridge).

Enid too is not without a Christmas-themed Famous Five adventure, albeit one lacking the magical and Pagan-meets-Christian qualities of Green Knowe. Five Go Adventuring Again is the second FF book and is set during the holidays immediately following the summer adventures of Five on a Treasure Island.

When Julian, Dick and Anne’s parents fall ill with scarlet fever (an affliction that strikes quite often over the course of the 21 FF books) they are invited to Kirrin Cottage to spend the holidays with George, Aunt Fanny and the ever-irritable Uncle Quentin. Sadly, this means that George will not get to experience the parties, circuses and pantomimes that usually make up part of her cousins’ Christmases, and the holiday is also somewhat dampened by the presence of a live-in tutor called Mr Roland. Not only does he subject the children to hours of French, Latin and maths (he’s obviously a bit of a polymath) but he also takes a dislike to George and her beloved Timmy, who gets exiled to his kennel after taking one nip too many at the tutor’s ankles. Things get worse and worse for poor George and when her father’s important scientific formula gets stolen, she starts to realise that Mr Roland has not come to Kirrin Cottage solely to make her life a misery…

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