Nature Study with Enid Blyton, Part 2: Wind and Rain

March 19, 2010 at 12:02 am | Posted in Anne, Fashion, George, Julian, Learning Stuff, Timmy, Uncle Quentin | 1 Comment
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‘Is it a windy day? I do hope it is, because I am going to talk to you about the wind and its work – and if you can see through the windows what the wind is doing, it will be a great help’. So begins Enid’s chapter on ‘The Wind and its Work’ (Round the Year with Enid Blyton: Spring Time). ‘Where does a wind begin? It must begin somewhere, mustn’t it!’ Yes Enid, it must. But where? Unfortunately this appears to be a question without an answer, but luckily she can tell us why it begins. I do hope you are paying attention:

‘When air is heated over any place it becomes lighter than the colder, denser air round about; the cold air rushes in and pushes the warm air before it. When we feel the cold air rushing in we say, “How windy it is!” The current of cold air has made a wind, which we feel on our faces, and which we see stirring the trees.’

Enid goes on to discuss weather vanes, the different winds (north, south, east and west), where they come from and what they bring us. The west and south-west winds bring rain. They come from across the Atlantic Ocean, collecting moisture on their way. As she notes, ‘it is the west wind that piles up the big grey clouds and brings out our umbrellas’.

There is a superb description of a bracing rainy morning in Five on Kirrin Island Again. It’s the Easter hols and because Uncle Quentin has commandeered Kirrin Island for an important scientific experiment (and erected a tower on it no less – a potent symbol of his uncompromising patriarchal power over poor George), the Five are land-bound.

As we know, the children are hardy types and don’t let the rain keep them indoors: ‘They never really minded the weather. In fact Julian said that he really liked the feel of the wind and rain buffeting against his face’. They don their mackintoshes and sou’westers (presumably so named because they offer protection from south west gales) and set off for an invigorating walk along the cliffs with Timmy: ‘At the top it was very windy indeed. Anne’s sou’wester was blown to the back of her head. The rain stung their cheeks and made them gasp’.

Because the day is so wet, the Kirrins are forced to wait until half past ten that night for Uncle Quentin’s signal to indicate all is well on the island (at night he signals with a lantern; by day he uses heliography aka a mirror and the sun). Aunt Fanny won’t let the children stay up so late, and although Anne and George fall asleep, Dick and Julian do manage to stay awake. I like to think that they stave off sleep by perusing (in a supremely postmodern gesture) Enid’s chapter on ‘The Wind and its Work’, and follow her suggestion to read the story ├ćolus and the Winds (‘it is an old Greek story, and you will find it in the story of Odysseus, or Ulysses’).

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Nature Study with Enid Blyton, Part 1

March 17, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Learning Stuff | 1 Comment
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Have you ever wondered where the wind comes from? Or how bulbs are formed? Or how to tell the difference between the song of a blackbird and thrush? These questions and many more are answered in Round the Year with Enid Blyton: Spring Time. This was published in four parts (one for each season) in 1934, but I like my later (1950s) edition for its lovely cover artwork.

The ‘letter ‘ from Enid Blyton that opens the book demonstrates one of the reasons for her great popularity with children. She speaks directly to the reader as if to a good friend and makes Nature Study (capital ‘N’, capital ‘S’) sound like one of the most fun things in the world (which of course it is, alongside cycling and drinking ginger beer):

Dear Boys and Girls,

I wish you could come with me and walk over the hills, through the fields, and down by the river, finding a hundred exciting or beautiful things by the way. I should like to take you fishing in the ponds, and fill your jars with snails and tadpoles […] I should like to give you a garden of your own, and show you how to make it a place of bright colours and sweet scents.

But I cannot do these things – so instead I have written these four books for you, so that you may read them and do for yourselves all the things I would like to do with you.

When Enid was a child, her father Thomas would take her out on long nature rambles. She later wrote: ‘He knew more about flowers, birds and wild animals than anyone I had ever met […] These were the happiest times, when looking back it seems the days were always warm and sunny and the skies deeply blue’. After Thomas deserted his family the long walks stopped and Blyton’s biographer Barbara Stoney has written of the effect his departure had on the young Enid. With this in mind Blyton’s introductory letter reads more like a missive from a wistfully absentee parent who is sharing his knowledge and interests in the hope of enabling his daughter to do for herself ‘all the things I would like to do with you’.

So, what are these things? Well, there’s too much to convey in just one post but Blyton gives the reader projects that encourage them to take a closer look at the natural world, re-examine the mundane and notice things that are generally taken for granted. The humble onion becomes the object of rapturous study (‘How Our Bulbs are Made’); the sound of birdsong is described as ‘delicious to listen to’ and is analysed and set to words (‘Two Singers – Blackbird and Thrush).

The first chapter is all about keeping Nature Charts because:

There is something that is always with us day in and day out – and that is the weather. No matter where our home or school is, in the heart of town or the depths of country, we all have the weather. Everything in nature depends on the weather – a warm spring means early flowers and early tadpoles. A bitter winter means frozen birds and starving rabbits. The weather decides what we see around us in Nature and for that reason we must notice it every day and make a record of it.

Next – the wind and where it comes from…(exciting, yes?)

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