Some thoughts on Enid Blyton and the 50p coin

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Recently, it was proposed to put Enid Blyton, the children’s author, onto the 50p coin. This was rejected on the grounds that she was a racist, homophobic and sexist.

This worries me slightly because we are judging someone from a different era in the light of our own. Admittedly, the three things she has been accused of are deeply unpleasant—at least to our more enlightened eyes. I personally abhor all these things.

She has also been condemned and removed from libraries, not because of this, but because some people thought that she used too simple language and did not stretch children’s vocabulary.

When I was a child, I loved her books. I read them avidly. They were exciting. Her Famous Five books, her Mallory Towers books, the Adventure books, the Faraway tree books, the Secret Seven, and my favourite as a child, Shadow the Sheepdog were all read with great pleasure.

Now let us examine the accusations.

Racism.

She certainly had golliwogs in the Noddy books, and they were the baddies. But golliwogs were common toys in the 40s and 50s and no one thought anything was wrong with them. There was The Black and White Minstrel Show on the TV, and the blacking up of white men as black minstrels was accepted.

Now I’m not saying it was right, Clearly it must have been deeply offensive to black people. What I am saying, is that when she was writing, golliwogs were not considered to be offensive, and so to brand her as racist on the grounds of having gollisogs in the Noddy books, and making them bad, was acceptable at the time.

Sexism.

Was she sexist? At that time, it women usually stopped working when they married. They then devoted their time to looking after the home and raising the children. That was how it was.

Because Anne, in the Famous Five, did the cooking when they were camping does not make Miss Blyton a sexist. She was reflecting the way things were at that time. Boys simply did not cook.

That they do now, shows how far we’ve come. When she was writing, boys didn’t learn cooking and needlework at school, neither did girls do woodwork and metalwork. Now they are all merged together under the title of Technology, or Design and Technology.

Homophobia.

Homosexual acts were illegal in England and Wales until 1967, but only between consenting adults over the age of 21, and even then, not in the armed forces, It was illegal in Scotland until 1980 and Northern Ireland until 1982. Thus, during the time when Enid Nlyton was writing, homosexuality was frowned upon by the state.

Having said that, reading the Famous Five books, Miss Blyton had a transexual (although the term was not used in those days.) Georgina, one of the five, and known as George, always dressed as a boy and had her hair cut short (unlike Anne who had long hair). She also expressed the desire to be a boy and behaved as a boy. That sounds very much like a transexual to me.

To conclude, I think that it is unfair to judge someone from a totally different era, with a totally different mindset by our much more enlightened and liberal standards.

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Miss Blyton was very important as an author. She got many children interested in reading. I am one of them. I devoured her books, as I said at the beginning of this post.
Some of her works, I understand, have been reworked. Things that we now consider wrong, why can’t they be altered. Noddy’s golliwogs could easily be changed into something else. Her baddies in the Famous Five, Sevret Seven and Adventure series, if people don’t think having them as foreign is right, could have their nationality changed.

The very first story I wrote was based on Shadow the Sheepdog. I was only about seven at the time. Would I have become a writer if I’d not had that early inspiration?

I think it’s wrong to judge people by today’s standards when the standards they lived in were so different.
I would love to hear what you think of this. Please post your comments in the comments box.

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Carthinal 5

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Several months later, as Carthinal and Wren were just leaving on a job, The Bull charged into the headquarters.
“Green Fish on our patch.” He paused for breath. “Their boss is with ‘em., too. Think they want to try a takeover.”
The Rooster surged to his feet and began pointing and giving orders. “Fox, Wren, come ‘ere. Job’s cancelled. Porcupine, get th’ weapons. Bull, find th’ other big guys and come back ‘ere. Quickly. Everyone oo’s ‘ere gather round.”
Porcupine arrived pulling a large chest. The Rooster opened it and began handing out weapons. Daggers in the main, but he gave a bows to a couple of the stronger lads, who set about stringing them. Carthinal watched as they heaved on the heavy wood, realising the bows would need a great deal of strength to draw.
“Fox, take this knife.”
“I’ve never used one before.” Carthinal looked at the weapon, turning it over in his hands.
“Mind.” The Wren came up and took it from him. “It’s sharp. Very. You c’d cut yer fingers off.”
Carthinal grimaced and took it from her. “I’ll be careful. What happens now?”
“We go and fight Green Fish off our patch.”
Carthinal frowned and looked at his dagger again. “I don’t know how to fight.”
It was Wren’s turn to grimace. “Then you’ll ’ave ter learn quick. That or die.” She gave a little laugh. “I’d ’ate ter see that ’appen.”
The gang was making its way through the door and into the street. Wren and Carthinal rushed to catch up. Green Fish had set themselves up in the park where Carthinal had slept when he first found himself on the streets. The gang, about thirty strong, stood in the entrance to the park.
A few citizens were strolling in the park as it was a pleasant spring day. One of the first of the year. They stopped, frozen in their tracks.
The Rooster stepped in front of the rest of the gang. “You’re on our patch.”
Another young man stepped in front of the group facing the Beasts. “Sez oo?”
“Sez me, and we’re gonna see you gone or dead.”
He beckoned the rest of the gang, who rushed through the gates. As soon as the gate cleared, the citizens rushed out. Carthinal watched them go, wishing he could go with them, but he must fight. How should he do it?
“Come on,” Wren whispered. “We’re missing all the fun.”
Fun? What’s fun about probably getting hurt, or possibly getting killed? In spite of his fears, Carthinal rushed towards the fight, after Wren.
It looked like chaos to Carthinal. He grasped his knife trying to find someone who he didn’t know to stab. He looked around. He recognised everyone. Then he saw someone he knew. Someone who was not one of the Beasts. Someone who had tried to rob him.
He felt his anger rise from somewhere in his stomach. Carthinal deserved to have his own back on this young man, and, although smaller, he rushed through the melee. He almost tripped over a body lying on the ground, but managed to catch his balance. The trip propelled him forward towards his selected victim. He held his dagger before him and thrust it forwards.
The young man in question had his back to Carthinal, and the dagger entered between his ribs, and pierced a lung. He went down with a cry. Carthinal smiled.
He found himself in the middle of the battle. How dare these people try to take over his gang’s territory? His anger had not been assuaged. The stabbing of his enemy only fed it. He swung the knife at random, but, as luck would have it, he made contact with a young woman’s eyes. She screamed and fell.
So it went on for what seemed to Carthinal like hours. When the last of Green Fish ran away, leaving their friends groaning on the park grass, he looked at the sky. The sun had not moved far. The battle had taken no more than half an hour. He looked around to see how many of his friends had been injured.
There was The Rooster, covered in blood, but checking those lying on the ground. Some he helped to their feet, calling others to take them away. Some he sighed over, bent and closed their eyes, but most he left.
The sound of pounding feet brought Carthinal to his senses. The Cat, blood running from a cut on his cheek, called “Fox, run. It’s the guard. If they catch you, you might as well have been killed here.”
All those who could, scattered in all directions. The guards tried to pursue them, but quickly lost them as soon as they got into the poor quarter. Gradually all made their way back to the headquarters.

 

The Rooster counted them. “We lost five. I hope the injured make it back. I sent them off with help before the guards arrived.”
Slowly the injured, and those helping them arrived.
“Did we lose any on the way?” he asked The Scorpion, who was helping the injured.
“No. We all got back.”
Carthinal looked round the room. Some had minor wounds, others more serious. He had a cut on his hand, and one young woman had managed to cut his shirt, but the knife had not gone through.
“Where’s Wren?” he asked. He felt a hollow feeling in his stomach as he realised she was nowhere to be seen.
The Rooster searched the room with his eyes. He turned to The Scorpion. “But we didn’t all get back. The Wren isn’t here.”
The Scorpion hung his head. “Sorry, boss. I thought she was with Fox.”
“Thought? Thought?” The Rooster paced up and down. “What do you mean, ‘Thought’? Did you think to check with Fox?”
The Scorpion shook his head. “Sorry” he repeated, shuffling his feet.
“We must find her.” The Rooster began organising the search. “She wasn’t among the dead, so she left the park. Let’s just hope she’s not been caught by the Guard.”

Where is Wren? Has she been caught? Find out the first Tuesday in October.

This is the story of Carthinal’s youth. Carthinal is a young man in my Wolves of Vimar series which begins with The Wolf Pack. You can buy this, and my other books, by clicking on the images in the side bar.

I hope you are enjoying this story. Please let me know in the comments.

Review of Off Centre in the Attic by Mary Deal

 

I gave this book 5 stars on Amazon.

 

This is a book of short stories and flash fiction. The tales vary in length some of which are only a sentence or two,

The common thing about them is that they are all about some quirky character or event. Some of the characters you would love to meet, and others not so much.

A few of the stories I thought could be worked into complete novels. They left the reader thinking about what happened to the people in the tale. Others are complete in themselves.

I particularly liked the characters in the trailer home. That one could be made into a novel. Then there is the one about the goats. What did happen to them?

Some of the stories are sad and some happy, but all are fascinating reading. Mary Deal is an excellent judge of character, and has obviously spent much time watching people and learning from her observations.

The writing is good. Just a couple of places where she uses ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’, but this is not enough to detract from the rest of the writing. She builds the characters well and the reader empathises with them.

A good read. As a book of short stories, it can be read in bits, or one after the other. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in people, and in quirky tales.

The Day on Vimar. How the people of that world break up the day.

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I’ve often wondered why we start the day in the middle of the night, and the year at a date that seems rather random.

Let’s think about the day first.

To me, it would seem obvious that the day begins when the sun rises. Or, I suppose you could say it ends when the sun sets, which would mean the next day begins at either sunrise or sunset. But why did someone—who?—decide the middle of the hours of darkness was a good idea? Anyway, midnight isn’t the middle of the hours of darkness all the year round, anyway.

Now if we say the day begins at sunrise, I can see that would be a problem, especially for the modern world. That can be solved by saying the day begins at the time of dawn on the equinoxes. That is round about 6am.

When I devised my world of Vimar for my Wolves of Vimar Series, I had to decide on how the people would break up their day. This is a totally different world from Earth, although, for simplicity’s sake, I still use hours and minutes. The people on Vimar hold the number six as sacred and all multiples of six also have power. Thus 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day makes sense.

So, on Vimar, the day begins at what we would call 06:00 or 6am. That to them would be 00:00. They begin counting from there. 7am would be 01:00. 10am would be 04:00. What we call midday, to someone on Vimar would be 06:00.

They also use the 24 hour clock.

If a person wanted to have a meeting at, say, 10am, by our standard, they would say, “I’ll meet you at the fourth hour.”

I don’t use the time very much in the book, but I thought it would be essential in my world building to try to think about this.

I will go into the year on the third Tuesday of next month,

If you want to read more, and about Carthinal and his friends and their adventures on the world of Vimar, you can buy the first 3 books by clicking on the covers in the sidebar. I am serialising Carthinal’s early life on the first Tuesday of every month.

Please leave a comment in the comments box. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Collective Nouns

 

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A lot of things have been irritating me in people’s use of the English Language, but recently it seems the fact that a collective noun is singular has disappeared.

One I hear frequently, being a fan of Manchester United, is in one of their songs.

‘U-N-I-T-E-D United are the team for me.’

Now we would not say, ‘some team’, or ‘those team’. We would be aware that ‘team’ is singular in those cases, so why, in this one case, does ‘team’ suddenly become plural?
Is it one team, or several? No, it’s one team, so it’s singular.

Similarly ‘Crowd’. ‘The crowd are…’ is now commonplace. ‘The crowd are cheering.’ Again, we would not say ‘Those crowd’ or ‘Some crowd’ We’re talking about one crowd, so it’s singular.

I can understand it in some instances where there is a plural noun involved, as in ‘A crowd of people’, but it’s still the crowd we’re referring to.
‘The crowd of people was making its way toward the exit.’

We often get ‘The flock of sheep are…’ instead of ‘The flock of sheep is…’.

‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary is beautiful.’ not ‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary are beautiful.’
Just remember that if you wouldn’t say ‘some bunch,’ or ‘some crowd,’ you use the singular verb. It’s not the individual flowers we’re referring to here, but the bunch. One bunch, Singular.

Please save my sanity and be careful when you come across a collective noun and decide whether or not you should use the plural. Chances are, you shouldn’t.

Carthinal part 4

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Carthinal spent the next few weeks learning the language of the underworld. The Rooster would not allow him to leave the headquarters until he was reasonably proficient. He must be able to talk with other members of the gang without the Guard understanding.
One day, after he had been with The Beasts for six months, The Rooster called to him. “Fox, you go with Wren. There’ll be lots of punters out in the market. She’ll pick a pocket, then pass it to you. You leave in th’ opposite direction an’ come back ’ere. Don’t run. That’d raise suspicions.”
Carthinal grinned. At last The Rooster trusted him to do a job. His eyes glowed with a seeming inner light, and he jigged on the spot.
“Fox,” The Rooster called as they passed him. “Cover yer ’ead. Yer auburn ’air is too distinctive. Can’t do anything ’bout those eyes, but don’t look straight at anyone. No one else ’as eyes that dark blue.”
Carthinal nodded as he pulled a hood over his hair, and left in the company of The Wren.
The Wren had brown hair and eyes, and was of small stature. They walked to the market, but as soon as they entered The Wren whispered to Carthinal.
“We separate here. Keep me in sight. When you see me bump into a punter, come to me. Don’t stop. I’ll put the stuff into your hand. Keep on going and don’t look at me.”
Carthinal mingled with the crowds, pretending to look at the goods in the market, but always keeping The Wren in sight. She passed many people, and Carthinal wondered how she chose her victim. He saw her stumble and bump into a rich-looking woman.
He walked quickly towards her and heard her say. “I’m sorry ma’am. Caught me foot on summat.” She looked down as if to search for what had tripped her.
Carthinal walked by, close to the woman and The Wren, and felt her hand touch his. He gripped something and continued walking, After a few yards he turned in the direction of the gang headquarters.
“Well done. You’re a natural.” The Wren caught him up.
Carthinal grinned at her. “I did alright, then?”
“Very good for a first time. In fact, I’ve had buddies worse than that after years of practice.”
Carthinal puffed his chest out. He would make sure he was the best in the gang.
The Rooster patted them both on the back. “Looks like you’ll make a good pair. A good haul here, too. There’s even an emperor in the purse.”
He held up a large coin made of platinum. “A few copper royals, ten silver crowns, and three gold monarchs as well.” He grinned and then sent them to get some food at the opposite end of the large room.
Carthinal had been sharing a room with The Cat who hoped to be a cat burglar and had begun his training. Soon, Carthinal and he became firm friends.
“What do you want to do, here?” queried The Cat one day.
Carthinal shrugged. “Not sure.”
“How do you fancy being a burglar? Lots of excitement.”
“No, that doesn’t appeal to me, really.”
“Y’ could be a pick-pocket, like The Wren, or The Rooster could set yer up in a shop in town, an’ you could be a fence.” The Cat’s gaze scanned Carthinal from head to foot. “I don’t think you’d be very good as security, though. We need people built like The Bull for that. Then there’re th’ beggars. They play on people’s sympathy. Usually with an injury or summat. You ain’t got no injury, but you’re pretty enough to make punters feel sorry for yer.”
“I’ve not thought about it, Cat. I suppose I should, really.’
It was decided for him, eventually.
The Rooster called him one day. “Fox, yer must earn yer keep. We ain’t a charity. Go over to The Snake and say I told ’im ter teach you ‘ow ter pick a pocket.”
Carthinal began to learn the art of picking pockets under The Snake’s tutelage. The Snake, as his name implies, was a slippery customer. He was tall and slender with thin, brown hair and green eyes.
“ I ’ave a pouch in me pocket. I’m gonna walk over there.” He pointed to the opposite side of the room. I want yer t’ get it out of me pocket. Dunna worry ’bout me feelin’ yer at th’ moment Just get it.”
This Carthinal did, In spite of what The Snake said, he tried to get it without the young man feeling him.
“Not bad. Yer technique’s not quite right, but we’ll work on that. Yer did well for a first time.”
So it went on over the next few months. Carthinal became better at picking pockets, until eventually, he was allowed to go out with The Wren again, this time to be the ‘dip’ while she received his stolen goods.
They came to the market, and Carthinal sighted a man with a bulging pocket. He stealthily walked towards him, looking the other way. Then he stumbled and bumped into the man, reaching quickly into his pocket and extracting a full purse. The Wren walked past as if she were looking at the stall, and Carthinal pressed the purse into her hand and walked away in the opposite direction.
The victim put his hand to his pocket to get his money to pay for a purchase. “Hey, I’ve been robbed.” He scanned the marketplace. Turning to the man next to him he said, “Did you see anything?”
The man shook his head.
Carthinal looked back and saw this exchange, but continued wending his way towards the gang’s headquarters. No one noticed the boy weaving between them, but concentrated on what went on at the stall, where the victim stridently called for the guard.
Back at the headquarters, The Wren handed the pouch over to The Rooster.
“Well done, the pair of you. Fox, you’re proving yourself a handy pickpocket.”

So Carthinal is learning to be a pickpocket. How will that square with his upbringing? Find out next time on the first Tuesday of August.

If you would like to know more about Carthinal’s later adventures, you can buy The Wolf Pack by clicking on the link here, and it will take you to amazon where you are. It is available both as an ebook or a paperback.

Please leave a comment in the box. I would love to hear your views on this little tale.

Review of Relissarium Wars, Part 1 by Andrew C. Broderick

 

I’ve just finished reading Book 1 of The Relissarium Wars and found it an excellent read.

It is, in fact, more of a novella than a book, but it is the first part of a series, and so is probably simply an introduction.

The characters are introduced in this book, along with the main storyline, which will, I presume, continue through the other books to come.


Theo is a farmer on the moon of Reliss, but is persuaded by his brother to pick up a package for him on his regular trip to the market. Little does Theo realise that this simple favour will land him into something much bigger and more dangerous than he thought. He is in over his head, but has to take part in a rebellion as there is no way out for him to get back home. Especially as his moon home has been annihilated, and so, with a price on his head, he has no choice but to help the Carbonari.

The book is well written. I was delighted not to come across typos and grammatical errors! There is plenty of action and the characters are believable, if not much development, but this may come in later books. This is after all a very short book taking place in a very short time. Hardly enough time for anyone’s character to develop.

I would recommend this book to any scifi fan and fans of action adventure.

There are dragons and magic in the world if only you look for them… V.M. Sang

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