I found an old copy of First Term at Malory Towers. I knew better than to open it when I was drowning in work, but bad decisions are stronger than the voice of reason. The book began with “Darrel Rivers looked at herself in the glass” and suddenly released a flood of memories. Before I knew it, I was frantically reading book after book, all deadlines happily forgotten.
Almost half a century back, the world said goodbye to a beloved children’s book author. Enid Blyton made an entire generation of millenials nostalgic for a time they never grew up in. She put her English ways in those of us who never grew up anywhere near England. Suddenly, Indian schoolkids wanted potted meat on bread (even the vegetarians, believe it or not), baked potatoes in their skin, and toast with marmalade. We wanted to wash it down with ginger beer and run off to solve a mystery, climb a tree that would take us to a new land or go into our rooms and wait for the wishing chair to grow its wings.
I turned my back on the pile of work and unearthed some hidden treasures. I climbed the Faraway Tree and was hurt to realize I hadn’t been around here for a while. I forgot about the Angry Pixie and his tendency to throw things at people who peeped, and that Dame Washalot would throw her water down the tree. I wasn’t even halfway into the book and I was soaked and miserable. Luckily for me, Silky would give me Pop Biscuits and take me up to dear old Moon Face, while Saucepan Man would mishear everything I said – poor little dear.
I spent a little more time in the Enchanted Woods. I went up to the land at the top of the tree, forgetting the directions up there. I spent a strange (“queer” or “most curious,” if I may) afternoon with upside-down people before I realized I had to go home – mother would be waiting for me with hot supper. Moon Face gave me a cushion and let me out through the slippery slope, and I laughed on the ride down, reacquainted with the thrill after so long.
It’s strange to read an Enid Blyton book and think, “Wow, I’d completely forgotten about this!” Almost like you let your inner ten-year-old down. As I put down The Faraway Tree series and picked up a St. Clare’s book, I remembered how confused I was when the girls were given “ten shillings” to spend. I still don’t know how much it’s worth now. To be honest, I don’t think I want to know. Why cut this journey short and delve into real world, adult stuff like economics? Oh, and speaking of the real world, Pop Biscuits are a thing now. You can make them with gluten-free flour – and pull me back to the reality of this generation with a sharp thud while you’re at it.
Ah, now I lost my train of thought! What a horrid, beastly feeling it is! While collecting my thoughts, I realized it was midnight. And what better than to read some St. Clare’s while having a perfectly legal midnight feast of my own? My mouth watered for treacle tart and almond cake, but as of now a bowl of instant noodles would have to do. May the journey continue.
Malory Towers and St. Clare’s were my first contact with the idea of boarding school. They made me question the real world with a powerful intensity. Who decided that boarding schools are a punishment? And why play violent and humiliating pranks when you can consult Alicia for perfectly harmless tricks? If you’re scared of her sharp tongue, you can approach Mam’zelle – she’s almost always the victim of these tricks. The girls pretend to be deaf in her class, stick sneeze pellets to the ceiling and give her pencils whose tips mysteriously don’t work. (Psst, they’re made of rubber. Now shh.)
My eyelids were prickling; I had to think of an excuse for leaving all this work undone. And preferably something that didn’t go along the lines of “Irene left my notes in the common room again, that scatter-brained genius!” I reached for the mystery series.
Once again, I had the unfamiliar feeling of opening her books and not knowing what the next sentence would be. Over the years, JK Rowling, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie had worked their way into my memory, wiping all traces of these mystery solvers’ secret passwords, policemen who always ordered them to “Clear Orf,” Fatty, and the faithful canine pal that made itself so essential to the story.
But Blyton isn’t punishing me for my unfaithfulness. Over the next few days, she’ll take me to a place where toys come alive at night. A pixie will join me as the wishing chair takes us to evil goblins or nice wizards – depending on our luck. I’ll go to a (gasp) coed boarding school and have a new set of adventures altogether.
For all the pranks, generously used exclamation marks, magical toys and mysteries, I have to thank her. It’s been a thrilling ride (compare it to a slippery slope, if you will) and before I land smack in the middle of reality, I’ll sign off with one last powerful flashback – her iconic signature that automatically told me I’d stumbled upon a
great simply splendid read.