‘Famous Five to Get 21st Century Makeover’

July 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Learning Stuff | 1 Comment
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reports Alison Flood in the Guardian. Readers of this blog will surely understand the shudder of horror that went through me as I read these words. References to galoshes, jolly japes and mysterious food stuffs (a ‘chocolate mould’, anyone?) are, for me, a large part of the appeal of Enid’s books.

On the one hand I can see Hodder & Stoughton’s point. It is true that the originals will continue to be available (for the time being, at least), but this whole malarky does seem a little insulting to children’s intelligence. Examples of changes cited in the Guardian article include ‘fellow’ being replaced with ‘old man’ and the phrase ‘it’s all very peculiar’ being substituted with ‘it’s all very strange’. I can’t help but think that this narrowing of vocabulary is a bit newspeak-like.

Anne McNeill of Hodder says: ‘Children who read [the Famous Five books] need to be able to easily understand the characterisations and easily to get into the plots. If the text is revised [they’re] more likely to be able to engage with them.’ Are the words ‘peculiar’ and ‘fellow’ really that problematic? As the Enid Blyton Society’s Tony Summerfield suggests, these seem like changes for the sake of it, and Blyton, whose books have already been edited for more understandable reasons of political correctness, is an easy target. Her writing has been repeatedly criticised for being too simple and unchallenging and now it has supposedly become too difficult, archaic and inaccessible (this is not born out by Blyton’s continued sales and popularity).

Personally, I don’t feel that it is really necessary to make everything ahistorical. What about stimulating curiosity about the past? Isn’t it important to understand that society and language have not always been the same as they are now? I do think it is a shame to not give children the opportunity to grapple with, or perhaps even enjoy this idea.

Ultimately, however, it probably doesn’t make that much difference. My selective childhood memory only really recalled the plots, characters and settings of the original stories, and while I remember being a little puzzled by some of the odd phrases and items mentioned it never impinged upon my enjoyment of the books, or put me off reading them. It is only upon recent re-readings that I’ve really started to pick up on and relish the period detail (although I never really liked the Spandau Ballet hair and stonewashed jeans on the covers of my 80s editions).

I can’t help but wonder where all this re-editing will end though. ‘Bestselling children’s author’ Andy Briggs is quoted as saying: ‘It’s an unfortunate necessity… The classic books we were brought up on – the Famous Five, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes – need to be updated.’ Eek.

[I hasten to add that I thoroughly enjoyed Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s contemporary-set Sherlock, screened on BBC 1 last Sunday. The Guardian reviewer thought the ‘three patch problem’ was laboured but I thought it was hilarious, as was the reference to the location of Watson’s war injury – one for all the nerdy Sherlockians out there. It’s not quite the same as re-writing all of Conan Doyle’s books though, is it?]

Lashings of ginger beer… scones

March 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Aunt Fanny, Eating and Drinking, Joan the Cook | 2 Comments
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Like Sherlock Holmes’ “Elementary my dear Watson”, the phrase “lashings of ginger beer” is never actually used in the stories it’s so synonymous with. As previously noted, the Famous Five only ever enjoy lashings of treacle and of hard-boiled eggs (although not together; that particular combination would challenge even their relatively open-minded tastebuds). There are no ‘lashings’ per se of ginger beer – just vast amounts of the stuff, taken at any time of day [‘Lashings of’ is such a great phrase I’m afraid I overuse it a little, but let’s think of posts with this heading as a loosely thematic series rather than a sign of my lack of imagination].

Taking the cousins’ GB fetish one step further is Dan Lepard’s recipe for ginger beer scones, published in the Guardian magazine a few weeks ago. This uses ginger beer in the dough mix, as well as ground ginger and sweet stem ginger. I felt it my duty to try it out and report the results to any aspiring Aunt Fannys or Joanna the Cooks out there, so last week I whipped up a batch and forcefed them to my housemate and work colleagues.

Here is the recipe:

It makes around 16 scones.

425g plain flour
50g icing sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
2½ tsp baking powder
200g crème fraîche
1 large egg
100g chopped glacé or stem ginger (and a little bit more than this would not be a bad thing)
150ml ginger beer
Milk, for brushing the tops

Put the flour, icing sugar, ground ginger and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl or jug, beat the crème fraîche, egg and glacé ­or stem ­ginger with a fork, then stir in the ginger beer. Pour this into the ­dry ingredients and ­gently combine. You should now have ­a very soft and extremely sticky dough.

Generously flour your work surface and tip the dough on to it. Sprinkle plenty of flour on the top and pat it out with your hands to 2-3cm thick. Using a pastry cutter, cut the flattened dough into circles and drop onto a tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment. Brush a little milk onto the tops of the scones to help them go brown.

Put into an oven pre-heated to 220°C (200°C fan-assisted)/425°F/gas mark 7 and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the scones are brown on top. Leave to cool on a rack.

The scones are best eaten warm from the oven. After they cooled down they took on a slightly odd texture that I wasn’t really in to – not quite scone, not quite bun. They also seemed to be the tiniest bit rubbery. Verdict? I would prefer to eat real scones or sticky ginger buns a’la Mrs Sanders but these are worth trying once for their novelty value. Wash down with tea or, if you are a true devotee, a glass of ginger beer.

Brogues for all seasons

February 19, 2010 at 8:51 am | Posted in Fashion, George | Leave a comment
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Brogues: “A great cross-seasonal buy” and “a brilliant flat shoe for women who feel the ballet pump is simply too girlie”, according to last Saturday’s Guardian magazine. Perfect for George (and me) in that case.

Simon Chilvers, the Guardian‘s assistant fashion editor, suggests that at the moment they should be worn with slim rolled-up chinos. Chinos are perhaps a little too early, and American, for the Kirrin boys (they were big with American teens in the 50s and 60s). Julian, Dick, George and Anne tend to wear their brogues with shorts, or with straight leg trousers for the boys and simple skirts for the girls, often teamed with blazers and jumpers as part of their school uniforms (see previous posts on Five on Hike Together),

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