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“I say – this has boiled up into quite an adventure, hasn’t it?”
RIGHT, THAT SHOULD have got you in the mood for some nostalgia. Let’s do this.
First off, who was your favourite? George, Anne, Julian, Dick or Timmy the Dog? Fight it out in the comments section (but play nice – please refer to memory number seven).
Enid Blyton wrote 21 novels in the Famous Five series. That is a lot of adventures, secret passages and smugglers – too much for the memory capacity of just one person so I drafted in the whole newsdesk to help on this one.
Here are eight things you may recall from your favourite childhood books.
1. George divided the crowd
George, remember, was the girl. A typical tomboy, she cut her hair up short and hated when anyone called her by her real name Georgina.
Although it may look like Blyton was trying to break out of her usual stereotyped characters, George is constantly reminded of what a girl should be.
During Five on a Hike Together, Julian tells her:
You may look like a boy and behave like a boy, but you’re a girl all the same. And like it or not, girls have got to be taken care of.
George never insisted on equal rights for girls, she just wanted to be a boy. The greatest moments of her pre-teen life came when someone mistook her for one of the males of the species or said she was “as good as a boy”.
She was a bit of a Marmite character. Some among TheJournal.ie staff “wanted to be her so badly”, while others thought she was “an utter pain in the arse”.
A famous scientist-father brought many perks for George and her cousins but sometimes we forgot how insanely privileged the kids were. George even owned her own picturesque island in Kirrin Bay. Yes, an island.
3. Glorious, glorious food
Tongue sandwiches will always and forever be gross but the rest of what Julian and the gang were presented with sounded much superior to the ham-and-butter sandwiches and mini Toffee Crisps we got in our lunch boxes (sorry Mum!).
Although the menu was actually pretty plain, her descriptions (which should only be read aloud by the Marks & Spencers food ad voiceover woman) always made the picnics appear simply wondrous.
The high tea that awaited them was truly magnificent. A huge ham gleaming as pink as Timmy’s tongue; a salad fit for a king. In fact, as Dick said, fit for several kings, it was so enormous. It had in it everything that anyone could possibly want. “Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, radishes, mustard and cress, carrot grated up – that is carrot, isn’t it, Mrs. Penruthlan?” said Dick. “And lashings of hard-boiled eggs.” There was an enormous tureen of new potatoes, all gleaming with melted butter, scattered with parsley. There was a big bottle of home-made salad cream. “Look at that cream cheese, too,” marveled Dick, quite overcome. “And that fruit cake. And are those drop-scones, or what? Are we supposed to have something of everything, Mrs Penruthlan?”
A wonderful smell came creeping into the little dining-room, followed by the inn-woman carrying a large tray. On it was a steaming tureen of porridge, a bowl of golden syrup, a jug of very thick cream, and a dish of bacon and eggs, all piled high on brown toast. Little mushrooms were on the same dish.
A large ham sat on the table, and there were crusty loaves of new bread. Crisp lettuces, dewy and cool, and red radishes were side by side in a big glass dish, great slabs of butter and jugs of creamy milk.
“Hot scones,” said George, lifting the lid off a dish. “I never thought I’d like hot scones on a summer’s day, but these look heavenly. Running with butter! Just how I like them!”
Even though some of us tried to recreate the magic it never quite worked.
The five once had something called ‘tea-sup’, which was a mysterious combination of tea, supper (neither of which were features of our household) and a picnic. Me and my friend Alice (not her real name) went out to a field to try to recreate ‘tea-sup’ once. We failed. We probably only had custard creams.
4. The Famous Five Club
The back page of most of the novels mention the Famous Five Club which raised funds for the little Children’s Home in Beaconsfield. It was formed in 1952 and badges were mailed out to members. To this day, they still pop up on ebay.
The special badge of honour was extremely lucky for some, according to one blog post on an Enid Blyton Society forum:
I have some copies of Enid Blyton’s Magazine, published in the 1950s, in which Enid Blyton mentions in her editorials that she has spotted children in the street wearing badges (for the Famous Five Club, Magazine Club, etc) and has stopped to talk to them.
And if you thought Harry Potter was the first to get every single imaginable piece of memorabilia, you may be wrong:
5. What were UK customs playing at?
The majority of the kids’ adventures involved smugglers or gypsies. What was the UK Customs service doing all that time? Why were four children catching all the smugglers?
However, it wasn’t all about smuggling and gypsies – or even small crime and minor police investigations.
Our Deputy Editor Christine Bohan recalls one episode “where there was an evil scientist staying with Uncle Quentin – but it turned out he was actually an imposter and he’d done away with the real scientist who had just invented a cure for baldness (yes, really) because he wanted to get the kudos and the money.”
6. Immature laughter
There isn’t much to recall about Dick’s character except it was always hilarious when he and Aunt Fanny were mentioned in the same sentence.
It’s great weather now – we could have good fun,’ said Dick. ‘After all, you must have wanted us to use the tents, Aunt Fanny! Here’s our chance!
As one nameless staffer put it (channelling her inner 11-year-old): “Aunt Fanny. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”
7. Minding one’s manners
The four children – and even Timmy at times – were the most well-mannered folk that have ever existed in print. Hands were always, always, always washed ahead of mealtimes, even if it meant interrupting an adventure.
Julian, being the eldest and the designated leader of the group, tried to influence the others with his brown-nosing behaviour. He hated when anybody was impolite and Aunt Fanny always praised him for his reliability (snorefest).
Notes on the 12-year-old from TheJournal.ie headquarters revealed that although we may have been in awe of him as youngsters, he really was an “utter prig” and an “insufferable bastard”.
Even JK Rowling had some harsh words about his character when comparing him to her Harry Potter. The author said she didn’t want to use a floating timeline, insisting that HP would grow up.
In an interview with The Guardian, she explained, “In book four the hormones are going to kick in – I don’t want him stuck in a state of permanent pre-pubescence like poor Julian in the Famous Five!”
8. The temper on him
Were you as terrified of Uncle Quentin as one of our staffers – who shall remain nameless – in here was?
‘Really, Quentin, you’re so difficult!’ said Aunt Fanny to her husband. The four children sat at the table, eating breakfast, and looking very interested. What had Uncle Quentin done now? Julian winked at Dick, and Anne kicked George under the table. Would Uncle Quentin explode into a temper, as he sometimes did?
Other pertinent quotes from TheJournal.ie team that you may enjoy:
Anne was a 42-year-old housewife trapped in a nine-year-old’s body.
“What the FRICK were tongue sandwiches. Gross.”
Why was camping always a pleasant experience?
“To this day, I get a childish thrill when drinking ginger beer. No picnic is complete without it.”
There’s a new Famous Five book out which contains INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO FIND SECRET PASSAGES. Imagine how much better my childhood could have been if I’d been in possession of this information.
“My favourite book was ‘Five go to Mystery Moor’ followed closely by ‘Five Go to Smuggler’s Top’. Both involved the Famous Five befriending other children. The other children usually had evil fathers, or something to do with gypsies.”
They ate a lot of “high tea”, whatever that is. And macaroons were a thing. I’d never tasted a macaroon until about three years ago.
And did you know?
1. The Isle of Purbeck heath golf course, which is used as one of the locations for Five Have a Mystery to Solve, once belonged to Blyton and her husband Dr Darrell-Waters. They were responsible for extending it to 27 holes.
Image: Becky Stares via Shutterstock
2. There is a link between Enid Blyton, the Famous Five and S Club 7. No, Jo & Co. didn’t try and set up a rival espionage society (did they?) but Jon Lee voiced the part of good-looking, bike-riding Max in the 2008 Disney Channel animated series Famous 5: On the Case.
Jon Lee, third from left here, with three of his S Club buddies as they attempt to set the World Record for the world’s largest ever Chinese Whisper in 2002. Image: James Whatling/UK Press/Press Association Images
But that’s not all. Before hitting the dizzying heights of fame with S Club 7, Lee had already starred in the 1997 musical, The Famous Five, created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth. Just so we could provide you with proof, it was later released on DVD as The Famous Five – Smuggler’s Gold – The Musical.
Do you reckon he was Dick or Julian? Image via Lovefilm.com
In the same year, Royal Mail honoured the author – and her most famous series – with its own stamp.
Image: Neftali via Shutterstock
Have any more memories? Share them with us in the comments section. We can make our very own Famous Five club (too far? sorry).