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SPANNERS4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NIV)

      Perhaps you’ve noticed that good manners have become an endangered species, although they have yet to gain “protected” status. Almost everyone still enjoys being on the receiving end of polite treatment, but few seem to care to cultivate the behavior in themselves-and good manners have to be cultivated, they seldom grow naturally. Clearly there is a lot to be said in favor of practicing good manners, much to be gained by simple politeness, but it takes some real effort and motivation to incorporate good manners in our normal behavior. For Christians that motivation is simply expressed when Paul says that “love is not rude” (or “ill-mannered” or “unseemly,” 1 Cor. 13:5).

      Though it can be shown that good manners are of value to everyone and good for all of society, people cannot generally be expected to behave well for a vague or intangible reason. The easiest and perhaps most natural response to bad behavior is bad behavior. Even if we know that bad manners contribute to societal decay and an overall atmosphere of violence and intolerance few people think about such concepts in a moment of anger, frustration, or impatience. Many of the ways that we interact with strangers today seem to be almost designed to promote the attitudes that provoke bad manners (freeway driving, shopping lines, drive through service, telephone sales, etc.) In fact, in keeping with the general decline in the practice of good manners, there are multitudes of training programs today that actually encourage bad manners as a device for personal success under the banner of “assertiveness.”

Some seem to think that the solution to the problems associated with bad manners in general is to be found in fear (“an armed society is a polite society”) or else in regimentation and mandated conformity (dress codes, regulations). These are unlikely solutions though. They do not address the basic problem of (not) respecting and caring for other people. While either fear or rules can provoke an attitude, neither can provide effective motivation for a sustained good attitude. The attitude that produces good manners is a product of training and motivation. People will not behave well unless they 1) want to behave well and 2) know how to. “Love is not rude.” People (you and I) have to learn-again-to value people. Christian leaders are directed to teach people “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone” (Titus 3:2 NRSV). The gospel of God’s love supplies the motive to want to behave well and the church is to be a training ground for good manners, teaching believers how to behave well. The Christian way of life is directly based on values that demand good manners, respectful and polite treatment of other people-thoughtfulness, even toward anonymous strangers. Wherever society’s manners may go, the Christian mandate is to behave well among the misbehaving. Good deeds truly begin with good manners. Jesus summarized the concept by saying, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” (Matthew 7:12)

Where Have All The (Good) Manners Gone?

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK.  MAKE A  COMMENT.TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT MANNERS IN TODAYS SOCIETY.

 

 

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bulliesxxxxxxxxxx

My parents kept me from children who were rough

Who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes

Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street

And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

 

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron

Their jerkin hands and their knees tight on my arms.

I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys

Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

 

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges

Like dogs to bark at my world. They threw mud

While I looked the other way, pretending to smile.

I long to forgive them, but they never smiled

 

Stephen Spender

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE POEM?

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enidxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMPILED BY ANITA BENSOUSSANE

Early Family Life
Enid and Her Father, Thomas Carey Blyton
Enid and Her Mother, Theresa Mary Blyton (Nee Harrison)
First School
Childhood Games
Books That Enid Read as a Girl
Senior School
Her Parents’ Separation
Early Writing
Music
Teacher-Training
First Recorded Publication of an Enid Blyton Work
Teaching
The Death of Her Father
Success as a Writer
Marriage to Hugh Alexander Pollock
Early Work and First Novel
Life at Elfin Cottage
Old Thatch
Pets
Birth of Gillian and Imogen
Green Hedges
Divorce of Hugh and Enid
Marriage to Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters
Major Series and Other Writing
Enid Blyton’s Magazine
Final Years
Her Legacy

1. EARLY FAMILY LIFE

Enid Mary Blyton was born on 11th August 1897 at 354 Lordship Lane, a two-bedroom flat above a shop in East Dulwich, South London. Shortly after her birth her parents moved to Beckenham in Kent and it was there, in a number of different houses over the years, that Enid Blyton spent her childhood. She had two younger brothers—Hanly, born in 1899, and Carey, born in 1902.

2. ENID AND HER FATHER, THOMAS CAREY BLYTON

Enid’s father, Thomas, was a cutlery salesman as a young man. He then joined his uncle’s firm selling Yorkshire cloth and, later still, set up his own business as a clothing wholesaler. He and his daughter had a close, loving relationship—both had dark hair and alert brown eyes, and shared an appetite for knowledge and a zest for life. Together they enjoyed nature rambles, gardening, the theatre, art, music and literature. When Enid had whooping cough as a baby, and was not expected to live till morning, her father refused to accept the doctor’s opinion and sat up all night with her, cradling her and willing her to survive.

Enid learnt a lot from her father, especially about nature. In her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1952), she wrote:

“…my father loved the countryside, loved flowers and birds and wild animals, and knew more about them than anyone I had ever met. And what was more he was willing to take me with him on his expeditions, and share his love and his knowledge with me!
That was marvellous to me. It’s the very best way of learning about nature if you can go for walks with someone who really knows.”

Thomas also taught his young daughter lessons that would stand her in good stead in daily life. When she wanted to plant seeds in her own patch of garden he made a bargain with her, saying:

“If you want anything badly, you have to work for it. I will give you enough money to buy your own seeds, if you earn it. I want my bicycle cleaned—cleaned well, too. And I want the weeds cleared from that bed over there. If the work is done properly, it is worth sixpence to me, and that will buy you six penny packets of seeds.”
Enid appreciated the seeds, and the flowers which sprang up from them, all the more for having been made to work for them. Part of the pleasure and value lay in the fact that she had earned them for herself.

3. ENID AND HER MOTHER, THERESA MARY BLYTON (NEE HARRISON)

Although she adored her father, Enid’s relationship with her mother, Theresa, was more turbulent. Theresa was a tall, raven-haired woman whose life revolved around housework. She was not creative and artistic like Thomas, and did not share his interests. She expected her daughter to help with household chores but gave her sons a lot more freedom, which Enid, who was not very domesticated, resented. Stern and house-proud, Theresa did not approve of Enid devoting so much time to nature-walks, reading and other hobbies when there was work to be done in the house. Neither did she understand why her husband encouraged their daughter in such activities.

4. FIRST SCHOOL

Enid began her schooldays at a small school run by two sisters in a house called Tresco, almost opposite the Blyton home. As an adult, Enid Blyton said about the school:

“I remember everything about it—the room, the garden, the pictures on the wall, the little chairs, the dog there, and the lovely smells that used to creep out from the kitchen into our classroom when we sat doing dictation. I remember how we used to take biscuits for our mid-morning lunch and ‘swap’ them with one another—and how we used to dislike one small boy who was clever at swapping a small biscuit for a big one.”
Enid’s days at Tresco were happy. She was a bright girl, blessed with a good memory, and she shone at art and nature study, though she struggled with mathematics.

5. CHILDHOOD GAMES

Games that Enid played as a child included Red Indians, Burglars and Policemen, building dens and playing with tops, hoops and marbles. Indoors she played card games, Snakes and Ladders, Draughts and Chess. Her father thought that all young children should learn to play Chess because “… if they have any brains it will train them to think clearly, quickly and to plan things a long way ahead. And if they haven’t any brains it will make the best of those they have!”

6. BOOKS THAT ENID READ AS A GIRL

Enid loved reading. Among the books she read were Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women. She said of the characters in Little Women:

“Those were real children… ‘When I grow up I will write books about real children,’ I thought. ‘That’s the kind of book I like best. That’s the kind of book I would know how to write.'”
Enid Blyton enjoyed myths and legends too, and poetry and annuals, and magazines like Strand Magazine and Punch. She was fascinated by Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia:
“It gave me my thirst for knowledge of all kinds, and taught me as much as ever I learnt at school.”
Grimm’s fairy-tales she considered “cruel and frightening” and, although she liked Hans Christian Andersen’s stories, some of them were “too sad.” Among her favourite books were Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books and R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island, but the one she loved best of all, and read at least a dozen times, was The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. What appealed to her “wasn’t so much the story as the strange ‘feel’ of the tale, the ‘atmosphere’ as we call it. It hung over me for a very long time, and gave me pleasant shivers.”
7. SENIOR SCHOOL

In 1907 Enid Blyton became a pupil at St. Christopher’s School for Girls in Beckenham. She was not a boarder, like so many of the characters in her books, but a day-girl. Intelligent, popular and full of fun, she threw herself wholeheartedly into school life. During her time at St. Christopher’s she organised concerts, played practical jokes, became tennis champion and captain of the lacrosse team, and was awarded prizes in various subjects, especially English composition. In her final two years she was appointed Head Girl.

Outside school she and two of her friends, Mary Attenborough and Mirabel Davis, created a magazine called Dab, for which Enid wrote short stories. The title of the magazine was formed from the initials of the contributors’ surnames.

Enid’s first holiday abroad in 1913 was to stay with one of her French teachers, Mlle. Louise Bertraine, at her home in Annecy, France.

8. HER PARENTS’ SEPARATION

Thomas and Theresa had little in common and grew more and more unhappy and frustrated in their marriage as the years passed. They had frequent violent rows, causing their children great distress. At night-time, Enid, Hanly and Carey would sit at the top of the stairs with their arms around one another for comfort, listening to their parents’ heated arguments. One night, when Enid was not quite thirteen, the children heard their father state angrily that he was leaving and would not be coming back. To Enid’s shock she learnt that there was another woman in his life, Florence Agnes Delattre, a secretary, and that from now on he would be living with her.

Since marital breakdown was regarded as a scandal in suburban Beckenham in 1910, Theresa forced Enid and her brothers to pretend, if asked, that their father was merely “away on a visit.” This pretence, which the family kept up for years, appears to have left Enid with a lifelong tendency to cover up anything unpleasant and put on a façade. In 1951 she wove this traumatic experience into a novel, The Six Bad Boys.

Her father’s leaving was hard for Enid to accept and she seems to have viewed it as a rejection of her personally. Years later, when she was married, she had difficulty conceiving a baby and was found to have an under-developed uterus, equivalent to that of a girl aged twelve or thirteen. It has been suggested that the trauma of her father’s departure may have had a long-term effect on her physical as well as her emotional development.

9. EARLY WRITING

Deprived of Thomas’s support and inspiration, Enid was now more than ever at the mercy of her mother, with whom she did not see eye to eye. To assuage her unhappiness she took to locking herself in her bedroom and writing compulsively, setting a pattern which was to be repeated in adulthood. She had a vivid imagination and had known for some time that she wanted to be a writer, and now she spent every spare minute honing her talent. Her mother despaired of her, dismissing her work as mere “scribbling.” Enid sent off numerous stories and poems to magazines in the hope that they would be published but, except for one poem which was printed by Arthur Mee in his magazine when she was fourteen, she had no luck at this stage, receiving hundreds of rejection slips. Her mother considered her efforts a “waste of time and money” but Enid was encouraged by her schoolfriend Mary’s aunt, Mabel Attenborough, who had become a good friend and confidante.

10. MUSIC

Towards the end of 1916 Enid Blyton was due to begin studying at the Guildhall School of Music. She had a gift for music and her family had always assumed that she would become a professional musician like her father’s sister, May Crossland. Throughout her childhood Enid had spent many hours practising the piano but, as she grew older, she begrudged devoting hours to the piano when she would rather be writing. She was aware that her true talent lay in telling stories, but found it impossible to convince her family of that.

11. TEACHER-TRAINING

It was after a spell teaching Sunday School in the summer of 1916, while staying with friends of Mabel Attenborough at Seckford Hall near Woodbridge in Suffolk, that Enid suddenly knew what to do. She made up her mind to turn down her place at the Guildhall School of Music and train as a teacher instead. That would give her close contact with the children for whom she knew she wanted to write, and she would be able to study them and get to know their interests.

Enid lost no time in putting her plan into action and, in September 1916, she embarked upon a Froebel-based teacher-training course at Ipswich High School. Things had deteriorated badly between her and Theresa and it was around this time that Enid broke ties completely with her mother, spending holidays from college with the Attenboroughs rather than returning home to her mother and brothers. She kept in touch with her father, visiting him at his office in London, but she could not bring herself to accept Florence, with whom Thomas had had three more children, and she and her father were not as close as they had once been.

12. FIRST RECORDED PUBLICATION OF AN ENID BLYTON WORK

In 1917 one of Enid’s poems, “Have You…?” was accepted for publication by Nash’s Magazine. Since a couple of earlier published poems (including the one printed in the Arthur Mee magazine) have never been traced, “Have You…?” is the first recorded publication of an Enid Blyton work.

13. TEACHING

Enid Blyton proved to be an inventive, energetic teacher and, after completing her training in December 1918, she taught for a year at a boys’ preparatory school, Bickley Park School in Kent. Next she became governess to the four Thompson brothers, relatives of Mabel Attenborough, at a house called Southernhay in Surbiton, Surrey. She remained there for four years and, during that time, a number of children from neighbouring families also came to join her “experimental school,” as she called it. The accounts of lessons at “Miss Brown’s School” in Enid Blyton’s Book of the Year (1941) surely owe something to her years as a teacher at her own little school in Surbiton, which she later said was “one of the happiest times of my life.”

14. THE DEATH OF HER FATHER

It may have been a happy period on the whole but it was in 1920, while teaching at Southernhay, that Enid received the news that her father had died suddenly, of a heart attack, while out fishing on the Thames. At least, that is what she was told but the truth was that he had suffered a stroke and died in an armchair at home in Sunbury, where he lived with Florence and his new family. It appears that the true whereabouts of his death was not made public as it would have caused embarrassment owing to Theresa having been so secretive about the breakdown of her marriage.

Enid had continued to visit her father at his London office, despite being estranged from the rest of her family, and the news must have come as a dreadful shock. However, she did not attend his funeral or even mention his death to the Thompsons. It may be that, having cut herself off from the rest of her family, she did not feel up to dealing with such a difficult and emotional occasion and answering awkward questions from either her family or her employers. Or perhaps her way of coping was to shut away her feelings, as she had been taught to do as a child.

15. SUCCESS AS A WRITER

Enid persevered with her writing and, in the early 1920s, began to achieve success. Stories and articles were accepted for publication by various periodicals, including Teacher’s World, and she also wrote verses for greetings cards. 1922 saw the publication of her first book, Child Whispers, a slim volume of poetry, and in 1923 a couple more books were published as well as over a hundred and twenty shorter pieces—stories, verses, reviews and plays.

16. MARRIAGE TO HUGH ALEXANDER POLLOCK

On 28th August 1924 Enid Blyton married Hugh Alexander Pollock, who was editor of the book department for the publishing firm George Newnes. The two of them had met when Enid was commissioned by Newnes to write a children’s book about London Zoo—The Zoo Book (1924.) Hugh had been born and brought up in Ayr and had joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers at the beginning of the First World War, being awarded the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order) in 1919. His first marriage had ended when his wife had an affair, and he had to obtain a divorce in order to marry Enid.

The wedding, at Bromley Register Office, was a quiet occasion, with no member of either Enid’s or Hugh’s family attending the ceremony. The couple honeymooned in Jersey and Enid was later to base Kirrin in the Famous Five books on an island, castle and village they visited there. After the wedding Enid and Hugh lived first of all in an apartment in Chelsea, moving to their first house, newly-built Elfin Cottage in Beckenham, in 1926.

17. EARLY WORK AND FIRST NOVEL

Enid Blyton worked on a number of educational books in the 1920s-30s, among other things, and in 1926 she began writing and editing a fortnightly magazine, Sunny Stories for Little Folks. It became a weekly publication in 1937 and changed its name to Enid Blyton’s Sunny Stories, finally becoming Sunny Stories. What could be said to be Enid Blyton’s first full-length novel, The Enid Blyton Book of Bunnies, was published in 1925 (it was later re-titled The Adventures of Binkle and Flip.) However, that book is episodic in nature, reading more like a collection of individual stories about two mischievous rabbits, and The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies, published in 1926, is perhaps more deserving of the title “first novel.”

In 1927 Hugh persuaded Enid to start using a typewriter. Before that she had written her manuscripts in longhand. Hugh was instrumental in helping his wife establish herself as a writer by publishing her stories at Newnes and, almost certainly, by teaching her about contracts and the business side of her work.

18. LIFE AT ELFIN COTTAGE

Hugh and Enid led a quiet and contented life in the early years of their marriage, their leisure time consisting of gardening, occasional outings to the theatre and cinema, and seaside holidays. Hugh indulged his wife’s playful, childlike side and they would build snowmen together, play “catch” and French cricket in the garden, and have games of “conkers.”

19. OLD THATCH

In 1929 they moved to Old Thatch, a sixteenth-century thatched cottage with a lovely garden near the River Thames in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire. Enid described it as being “like a house in a fairy tale.” It had once been an inn and Dick Turpin was said to have slept there and stabled his horse, Black Bess, in one of the stables. There was also a tale of treasure hidden on the premises, which has never been found.

At Old Thatch Hugh and Enid began to have more of a social life, enjoying dinner parties, tennis and bridge. In October 1930 they went on a cruise to Madeira and the Canary Islands aboard the Stella Polaris, the details of which remained vividly in Enid’s mind, providing her with material for books written years later such as The Pole Star Family and The Ship of Adventure, both published in 1950.

20. PETS

As children, Enid and her brothers had not been allowed to keep pets. Their mother was not fond of animals and their father was worried that cats and dogs might spoil his garden. Enid had once found a stray kitten which she called Chippy and kept secretly for a fortnight, but when her mother found out about it the kitten was sent away. Enid made up for that by having plenty of pets when she was grown-up—dogs, cats, goldfish, hedgehogs, tortoises, fantail pigeons, hens, ducks and many others. One of her most famous pets was Bobs, a fox-terrier. Enid Blyton wrote letters for her Teacher’s World column about family life as seen through the eyes of Bobs—in fact, she kept on writing these “Letters from Bobs” long after the dog had died!

21. BIRTH OF GILLIAN AND IMOGEN

Enid and Hugh had trouble starting a family but eventually, on 15th July 1931, their elder daughter Gillian was born. After a miscarriage in 1934 they went on to have another daughter, Imogen, who was born on 27th October 1935.

1938 saw the publication of Enid Blyton’s first full-length adventure book, The Secret Island. She had already written another fairly long adventure story, The Wonderful Adventure, in 1927, but that was really a novella rather than a full-length novel. Enid was by now giving more time than ever to her writing, relying increasingly on domestic staff for housework, gardening and childcare, and she did not have a lot of time to spend with her children. She played with the girls for an hour after tea and sometimes took Imogen out with her to meet Gillian from school. Enid and Hugh no longer had as much time together either. Both were very busy with their work and Hugh, who had been working with Churchill on his writings about the First World War, was falling into depression at the realisation that the world was on the brink of another war. He turned to alcohol for consolation, drinking secretly in a cubby-hole beneath the stairs, while Enid sought solace in her writing and in the close companionship of her friend, Dorothy. Dorothy Richards, a maternity nurse, had come to help out for a few weeks after Imogen was born, and she and Enid had quickly become firm friends. Dorothy, who often came to stay at Old Thatch, was a serene figure who gave Enid a feeling of security at a time when her relationship with Hugh was beginning to disintegrate, and Enid felt that she could rely on her and confide in her.

22. GREEN HEDGES

It was to Dorothy, not Hugh, that Enid turned for help and advice when hunting for a new and larger home, settling on a detached eight-bedroom house, about thirty or so years old, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. The house was mock-Tudor in style, with beams and lead-paned windows, and was set in two-and-a-half acres of garden “with a great many little lawns surrounded by green yew hedges.” Enid organised the move in August 1938, while Hugh was ill in hospital with pneumonia, and her Sunny Stories readers chose a name for the house—Green Hedges.

23. DIVORCE OF HUGH AND ENID

Enid continued writing during the war years. Hugh rejoined his old regiment—the Royal Scots Fusiliers—and was soon posted to Dorking in Surrey to train Home Guard officers. His absence put even more strain on the already fragile marriage and, while on holiday with Dorothy in Devon in the spring of 1941, Enid Blyton met the man who was to become her second husband, surgeon Kenneth Fraser Darrell Waters. Hugh had also become romantically involved with novelist Ida Crowe, and he and Enid were divorced in 1942. Kenneth divorced his wife too, with whom he had had no children.

24. MARRIAGE TO KENNETH FRASER DARRELL WATERS

Kenneth and Enid were married at the City of Westminster Register Office on 20th October 1943, six days before Hugh’s wedding to Ida. Gillian and Imogen had not seen their father since June 1942, when he had left for America to advise on Civil Defence, and sadly they were never to see him again. Although she had promised that Hugh would be free to see his daughters after the divorce, Enid went back on her word and refused to allow him any access at all. She cut her first husband out of her life just as she had done with her mother, perhaps pretending to herself that neither had ever existed. In doing this she was continuing the pattern of behaviour—pretence and denial—that she had learnt in childhood, and making a fiction of her own life. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life (1952), contains photographs of her “happy little family”—herself, her second husband Kenneth, Gillian and Imogen. There is no mention of Hugh and, although it is not explicitly stated, readers are given the impression that Kenneth is the girls’ father.

Kenneth, a surgeon, worked at St. Stephen’s Hospital in Chelsea, London. He was an active man who enjoyed gardening, tennis and golf. While he was serving in the Navy in the First World War, his ship had been torpedoed at the Battle of Jutland, permanently damaging his hearing. As a result, Kenneth found social situations awkward. His deafness made communication difficult, causing him to come across as rude or insensitive at times.

Immensely proud of one another’s achievements, Enid and Kenneth were very happy although they were bitterly disappointed when, after discovering she was pregnant in the spring of 1945, Enid miscarried five months later, following a fall from a ladder. The baby would have been Kenneth’s first child and it would also have been the son for which both of them longed.

Kenneth and Enid travelled abroad together only once, in 1948, when they joined friends for a three week semi-business holiday in New York, sailing out on the Queen Elizabeth and back on the Queen Mary. Again, Enid Blyton was to use this experience in a book—The Queen Elizabeth Family, published in 1951. Otherwise, most of their holidays were spent in Dorset where they purchased a golf course and a farm in the 1950s. The farm in Five on Finniston Farm (1960) was inspired by Enid and Kenneth’s own farm, Manor Farm in Stourton Caundle, while Five Have a Mystery to Solve (1962) is set firmly in a part of Dorset which Enid Blyton loved, with Whispering Island being based on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour.

25. MAJOR SERIES AND OTHER WRITING

Enid Blyton ceased writing her regular column for Teacher’s World in 1945, after almost twenty-three years, giving her the opportunity to widen the range of her writing activities. Daughters Gillian and Imogen were both at boarding-school and she had begun most of her major series by then including the Secret series, the Famous Five books, the Find-Outers mysteries, the Adventure series, the St. Clare’s books, the Cherry Tree/Willow Farm series and the Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair books. These were later to be joined by the Secret Seven books, the Barney (or “R”) mysteries, the Malory Towers series and the Six Cousins books. Noddy made his first appearance in 1949 and by the mid-fifties there was a huge amount of Noddy-themed merchandise in the shops.

Altogether, Enid Blyton is believed to have written around 700 books (including collections of short stories) as well as magazines, articles and poems. She wrote an incredible variety of books for children aged about two to fourteen—adventure and mystery stories, school stories, circus and farm books, fantasy tales, fairy-tales, family stories, nursery stories, nature books, religious books, animal stories, poetry, plays and songs, as well as re-telling myths, legends and other traditional tales. She earned a fortune from her writing and in 1950 she set up her own limited company, Darrell Waters Ltd., to manage the financial side of things.

26. ENID BLYTON’S MAGAZINE

In 1952 Enid relinquished Sunny Stories after twenty-six years, launching her fortnightly Enid Blyton’s Magazine in March 1953. She wrote all the contents herself except for the advertisements, using the magazine to mould her readership through her stories, editorials and news-pages, encouraging her child readers to be kind, helpful and responsible and impressing upon them that, if they used their initiative, they could do their bit and make a difference to society, whatever their age. Through the pages of her magazine she promoted four clubs which children could join—the Busy Bees (which helped animals), the Famous Five Club (which raised money for a children’s home), the Sunbeam Society (which helped blind children) and the Magazine Club (which raised money for children who had spastic cerebral palsy.) Thousands of readers joined and Enid Blyton spoke proudly of the “army of children” who were helping her carry out the work she wanted to do.

Enid Blyton’s Magazine folded in September 1959 as Enid wished to spend more time with Kenneth, who had retired from his work as a surgeon in 1957. By that time the four clubs had approximately 500,000 members between them and had raised about £35,000 in six years—an enormous amount of money in those days.

27. FINAL YEARS

It was in the late 1950s that Enid Blyton’s health began to deteriorate. She experienced bouts of breathlessness and had a suspected heart attack. By the early 1960s it was apparent that she was suffering from dementia. Her mind was no longer sharp and she became confused, afflicted by worrying memory lapses and seized by a desire to return to her childhood home in Beckenham with both her parents. Her last two books (excluding reprints of earlier material) were re-tellings of Bible stories, The Man Who Stopped to Help and The Boy Who Came Back, both published in August 1965.

Kenneth was ill too, with severe arthritis. The medicine he took for his arthritis damaged his kidneys and he died on 15th September 1967, leaving Enid a lonely and vulnerable woman. Gillian and Imogen were in their thirties by then, living away from home. They visited regularly and did what they could for their mother but she declined physically and mentally over the next few months, cared for by her staff at Green Hedges. In the late summer of 1968 Enid was admitted to a Hampstead nursing home and, three months later, she died peacefully in her sleep on 28th November 1968, at the age of 71. She was cremated at Golders Green in North London and a memorial service was held for her at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, on 3rd January 1969.

28. HER LEGACY

Several decades after her death, Enid Blyton is not forgotten. The best of her lives on in her books, many of which are still in print, and she continues to entertain, educate and inspire children around the globe through the words she wrote. She encourages her readers to look afresh at the world around them—to observe, explore, investigate, discover and learn. Long may that continue! To quote a few apt lines from Enid Blyton’s “The Poet,” published in The Poetry Review in 1919:

“Dear heart
And soul of a child,
Sing on!”

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top secret

Please don’t read this poem.
It’s only meant for me.
That’s it. Just move along now.
There’s nothing here to see.

Besides, I’m sure you’d rather
just go outside and play.
So put the poem down now
and slowly back away.

Hey, why are you still reading?
That isn’t very nice.
I’ve asked you once politely.
Don’t make me ask you twice.

I’m telling you, it’s private.
Do not read one more line.
Hey! That’s one more. Now stop it.
This isn’t yours; it’s mine.

You’re not allowed to read this.
You really have to stop.
If you don’t quit this instant,
I swear I’ll call a cop.

He’ll drag you off in handcuffs.
He’ll lock you up in jail,
and leave you there forever
until you’re old and frail.

Your friends will all forget you.
You won’t be even missed.
Your family, too, will likely
forget that you exist.

And all because you read this
instead of having fun.
It’s too late now, amigo;
the poem’s nearly done.

There’s only one solution.
Here’s what you’ll have to do:
Tell all your friends and family
they shouldn’t read it too.

–Kenn Nesbitt

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220px-Gelett_Burgess Gelett Burgess

I’d Rather Have Habits Than Clothes,
For that’s where my intellect shows.
And as for my hair,
Do you think I should care
To comb it at night with my toes?

I’d rather have ears than a nose,
I’d rather have fingers than toes,
But as for my hair:
I’m glad it’s all there;
I’ll be awfully sad when it goes.

I wish that my Room had a Floor;
I don’t so much care for a Door,
But this walking around
Without touching the ground
Is getting to be quite a bore!
Gelett Burgess

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Want to get your kids started on some new crafts at home? Buy them a book – we’ve rounded up 10 of the best.

Crafting With Kids

Crafting With Kids

This bright, fun book has 35 colourful projects for both girls and boys, including fancy dress costumes and seasonal decorations. Get kids started on potatoe prints, papier mache, sewing, stencilling and puppet making.

By Catherine Woram, it costs £12.99, Ryland Peters & Small(opens in a new window).

Crochet for children book

Crochet For Children

If your kids are keen to crochet, this book will get them started. Basic techniques are covered (perfect for beginner adults, too!) and there are 35 achievable projects – from simple juggling balls to more ambitious ideas, such as a scarf, rag doll and teddy bear.

By Claire Montgomerie, it costs £14.99, Cico Books(opens in a new window).

Craft book

Christmas Crafting With Kids

Ideal as a pre-Christmas gift or just as a year-round sourcebook (who says Christmas crafts have to be limited to the festive period), this book has 35 seasonal projects, beautifully photographed.

By Catherine Woram, it costs £14.99, Ryland Peters & Small(opens in a new window).

craft book

Christmas Crafting In No Time

Packed with 50 step by step Christmas projects, this book is ideal for older kids or young adults who want to have a go at sewing, stamping, decorating and even cooking. Projects include papier mache tree baubles, reindeer and mice and stockings to make.

By Clare Youngs, it costs £14.99, Cico Books(opens in a new window).

craft book

Cute Clothes For Kids

Not so much for kids as for adults who want to make clothes for kids. This book has 25 projects for 0 to five year olds, and includes full-size, pull-out patterns and templates to make over 40 items.

By Rob Merrett, it costs £12.99, Ryland Peters & Small(opens in a new window).

Felt Button Bead book

Felt Button Bead

Get ready to devote your old socks, fabric remnants and clothes they’ve grown out of to their new obsession for fabric-based crafts. This book has 40 fun projects, including sock glove puppets, hand-print tea towels, decorated jeans, and belts and badges.

By Catherine Woram, it costs £14.99, Ryland Peters & Small(opens in a new window).

How To Knit book

How To Knit

This simple introduction to knitting has step by step instructions to get them started, followed by 25 easy to achieve projects, starting with simple ideas, such as scarves, working up to knitted toys and accessories for their rooms and clothes.

It costs £12.99, Usborne Publishing(opens in a new window).

Making Cards Book

Making Cards

If they love making cards for their friends and relatives, why not give them ideas to copy. This book has 26 ideas – from simple swirly flowers to cute fabric collage animals, fold-out and pop-up cards – and there’s also instructions for making envelopes and ideas for wrapping paper.
By Fiona Watt, it costs £9.99, Usborne Publishing(opens in a new window).

Starting Needlecraft Book

Starting Needlecraft

Ideal for beginners to needlecraft, this fun book has simple instructions and easy to achieve projects to get them started. There are also internet links to help them develop their skills once they become more adept.

It costs £4.99, Usborne Publishing(opens in a new window).

Super Cute Felt

Super Cute Felt

This book has 35 simple step by step projects – from hair accessories to toy animals to snuggle with. Fun for kids to do – and adult beginners seem to love lots of the projects, such as coasters, tea cosies and brooches, too!

By Laura Howard, it costs £12.99,

Why not send in your Crafty kids Ideas to poetreecreations@yahoo.com

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Children's books: 8-12

The best children’s books: 8-12 year-olds

From the small genius of The Borrowers to the giants of children’s books, the Narnia stories, Lucy Mangan and Imogen Russell-Williams pick their must-reads for 8-12 year-olds

Stig of the Dump: Clive King

This was the first original Puffin published in 1963. The story of eight-year-old loner Barney who befriends Stig, a remnant of the Stone Age hidden in the local chalk pit, has not been out of print since. The two boys grow to appreciate each other’s eras and skills as they contrive ingenious solutions to Stig’s various problems living out of the junk that is thrown into the pit. A modern classic.

Charlotte’s Web: EB White

“‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother” is probably the most famous opening line of any children‘s book. He is going to dispatch Wilbur, the runt of the litter, until Fern pleads for clemency. With the help of Wilbur’s wise and devoted friend, Charlotte, the spider is able to live out the rest of his days in safety. You may feel like warning your child that Charlotte dies “as spiders do” at the end of the summer. You should resist. It’s a book that teaches you that characters can be made to live for ever simply by turning back to the first page and starting again.

The Family from One End Street: Eve Garnett

This episodic collection of the adventures (in the late 1930s) of the multitudinous Ruggles family (seven children, two parents) was one of the first books for this age group to take working-class life as its central theme and to depict it with charm and without condescension. They remain as fresh as the day they were penned.

The Story of Tracy Beaker: Jacqueline Wilson

One End Street was Wilson’s favourite book as a child and its influence can be seen in all her wildly popular books, which speak just as directly and unpatronisingly to and about the kind of children underrepresented in young fiction. Tracy Beaker is their totem, an irrepressibly imaginative child (though the staff in her care home say she has “behavioural problems”) who writes the story of her life while waiting for her mother to come and get her back.

Matilda: Roald Dahl

It’s almost impossible to choose between Dahls but Matilda is one of the most borrowed by children so let us pick her – especially as it helps refute the charges of misogyny occasionally aimed at Dahl. Matilda is the superbright daughter of horrible parents who helps free her schoolmates and her lovely teacher Miss Honey from the tyranny of Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress. All of Dahl’s exuberance and cartoon brutality is on display here, just the way kids like it.

Tom’s Midnight Garden: Philippa Pearce

Exquisitely written, perfectly pitched and suffused with a gentle yearning, the story of lonely Tom – who discovers that the gardenless flat in which he is staying returns at midnight to its days of Victorian splendour – is Pearce’s masterpiece. And if you don’t cry at the final scene, well, you’ll know you’re dead inside.

The Phantom Tollbooth: Norton Juster

Bored, disaffected young Milo receives a mysterious present – a purple tollbooth – and sets off on a journey through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, cities at war in the Kingdom of Wisdom which has banished the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. It dazzled, discomfited, enmeshed and then enraptured me.

The Narnia books: CS Lewis

Yes, they’re very much of their time and place, an oak-panelled room in the oak-panelled 1950s – and maybe you’ll want to drop The Last Battle, where the whole Christian allegory thing becomes crudely explicit, behind the sofa – but until then it’s a riot of fauns, talking beavers and dancing dryad in a cracking set of stories.

Harry Potter: JK Rowling

No, they’re not great literature. But, like Enid Blyton, they give new readers quick and convincing proof that reading can be fun. For that alone – although I’d argue they achieve more than that – Rowling’s boy has earned his Z-shaped stripes.

The Borrowers: Mary Norton

The Borrowers – tiny people, living secretly in the houses of “human beans” and scavenging therein – are a wonderful idea. The story of young Arrietty’s growing frustration with life under the floorboards speaks forever to children’s irritation with their own circumscribed world. If only we could all pole vault with a hatpin out of here.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror: Chris Priestly

Mesmerising, understated, and convincingly Victorian in tone, these grisly ghost stories are beautifully framed by the mysterious Uncle Montague, telling tales of his sinister knick-knacks to his nephew Edgar over tea and cake. A book for children who enjoy being frightened – and a perfect introduction to Saki and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Lionboy Trilogy: Zizou Corder

This riproaring trilogy crams in everything – dystopian oppression, passionate conservationism, villainous relatives, shipboard circuses and a boy who can speak to cats, all set in a petrol-poor, corporation-controlled future. Charlie Ashanti discovers his scientist parents have been kidnapped by the corporation because they’re on the verge of discovering a breakthrough cure for asthma. Charlie must travel to Paris, Venice, Morocco and Haiti, i

n the company of the lions he has freed from a drug-administering tamer, to set the world to rights. Joyous.

Skellig: David Almond

Michael, worried because his baby sister has been born prematurely, finds a curious creature in the garage of his family’s new home. Unethereal in its tastes – which include brown ale and Chinese takeaway – the being nevertheless seems to have wings. Skellig celebrates children’s unfiltered, Technicolor perceptions of the exciting world in which they live. A bookshelf essential.

WHAT’S YOURS

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