27 October 2011

Venus Fly trap

So we come to chapter three: Elizabeth makes a bad beginning.

We left our abandoned puppy spurning the affections of a teacher (that sounds sooooo dodgy) as she stared up at the kennel she was to call home. I assume it had kennel-like aspects to it, as Enid never bothers to describe the place (not like the castle of Malory towers, where you were subjected to a minute description every time Enid ran out of storyline).

Predictably, the first thing they do is eat. This is an Enid Blyton story, after all. And I have it on good authority (Enid's) that not liking rice pudding makes you a bad person:

“There was hot soup first, then beef, carrots, dumplings, onions and potatoes, then rice pudding and golden syrup. Elizabeth was so hungry that she ate everything, though at home she certainly would have pushed away the rice pudding.”

That kinda makes me wish that I didn’t throw away the rice pudding I bought the other week when I was shopping (although in my defence, it was artificially sweetened and tasted like crap – I’m not bad, honest I’m not).

So all the kids sit around eating and discussing the inappropriate and irresponsible presents that their parents gave them at Easter (what kind of moron gives a child a PUPPY, when the child lives at boarding school and can’t take the pet with them? Call the RSPCA!). Elizabeth, eating rice pudding (which makes you good) remembers that she wants to be thought of as bad, so takes the opportunity to compare a teacher to a guinea pig.

Whoa – living life on the edge, aren’t we?

Anyway, all the other kids get all pissy about that, then the fun comes. Elizabeth gets shown to her dorm. We’re given, of course, a lengthy description of polished floor boards and blue rugs and trunks that the menials have lugged up the stairs for these little brats.

And we meet Nora.

Do you want to know what Nora is like? She’s Irish. Seriously, that’s Enid’s most used adjective with Nora O’Sullivan (Irish name – check). I am not kidding. The first time there is any description of her, it’s a description of her “blue Irish eyes”. Because all blue eyes are automatically Irish, of course. Of course this sly little adjective colours the way you see Nora (later on, she’s described as “the angry Irish girl” and another time Elizabeth is frightened of her because she’s “big and strong” – so I see a rugby forward with anger management issues). She is, however, heart and mind part of the establishment.

It’s Nora who tells the new girls what form the establishment takes. The school’s co-ed, which is a rarity, Enid liking her children segregated and all.
Anyway, we learn rules like:
- Only 6 things are allowed on your dressing table
- No matter how much money your parents give you, you have to put it in a box and the school shares it out by way of set pocket money
- The sharing of extra funds is determined at school meetings,
- Bad children are fined at school meetings
- School meetings are run by students (teacher participation is sporadic and rare – they’re probably off on holidays with Elizabeth’s parents ...)

You know, I thought the indoctrination by students was bad at Malory Towers where you had strict teachers doling out punishment. But trial by (Blyton) students? No ... just, no.

The school is a progressive school, based on an actual independent school in the UK called Summerhill. Summerhill is a democratic community, governed by school meetings run by the students, and where all classes are optional. The ethos of that school is “freedom, not licence”. The whole idea is that the child is meant to know best what how to learn. Incidentally, the school still runs.

I can see how Enid would be attracted to such an idea - kids governing themselves without pesky parents. I can also see where Enid struggled with it. She is a traditionalist at heart, with her school having compulsory uniforms, compulsory classes, and a militaristic feel from the student body that is slightly alarming. It’s as though the students are inches away from starting a cult or something, there’s just this menacing feel that I can’t quite like, as though all they need is one student to come along and promise more pocket money, harsher penalties for offenders and the extermination of the Jews or something ...

You know what it is? It’s the shadow of Lord of the Flies. There is this bullying feel to the whole place that dresses up as school spirit. The children feel obliged to teach each other lessons all the time, so they’re ALWAYS on other student’s backs to conform conform conform. And then there’s public humiliation – because ALL punishment and trials take place in front of the WHOLE school, which of course is the best way to deal with adolescents ...

In real life, Summerhill School apparently runs quite well, but we are in Blytonia, where, at the end of the day, children DON’T know best unless they are parroting what their absentee parents tell them (in an effort to win their love). And Blytonia, don’t forget, has the angry Irish girl working as an enforcer. The whole thing is just an endorsement of Enid’s idea of (lazy) parenting really – it’s taken it beyond mere absenteeism to actually having the children do all the work. Quite frankly, it’s Enid’s own personal wet dream.

Anyway, we end the chapter with Elizabeth saying to the others that she isn’t going to share her food. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN .....

25 October 2011

Quick Clarification

I can't believe that I have to do this, but I am going to anyway.

It's come to my attention that there's a troll out there who decided to use the name of my blog in order to start creepy conversations with people online. They don't only use my name, they use a few aliases, but they've started a google+ account and a wordpress account in the name of Blytonly Obvious

Two things you should know:

1. I have this page and a Facebook page. One day I may get round to having a twitter feed (but I am essentially lazy and really just rely on you adding this blog to your RSS feed to find out when I post). No other site with the name Blytonly Obvious is run by me (and really, who would pick such a name? Even I think the name is bad, and it's my name).

2. I never comment anywhere using the Blytonly Obvious name. I have a life outside of this blog, and it doesn't involve creepy spruiking of this blog and starting inappropriate conversations with strangers.

If you want an idea of what I'm referring to, this blog post is where I found my explanation. (As a side note, if you do check it out, look down at the comments - I am vain enough to be flattered by someone calling my blog "reasonably well known". It's a step up from "my flatmate doesn't even read it")

Anyway, I'm off to wash my hands thoroughly. The whole thing makes me feel a bit icky, and I saw Contagion tonight, which has left me completely terrified contracting a random bat/pig virus ...

20 October 2011

Sartorial Child Abuse and Dull Train Chapters

With a visit by the establishment underway in Canberra at the moment (and Australians suddenly deciding that yes, we do like wearing hats your Majesty, this one may look like I just bought it from Myer, but I’ve had it for years – honest!), I thought I should get back to Enid’s latest establishment.

Chapter two is imaginatively called “Elizabeth goes to school”. I’m so glad Enid clears this sort of stuff up for us – I’d never understand what was going on otherwise.

We open with Elizabeth trying various things to convince her mother to let her stay at home. She tries being good, then she tries being destructive (those cushions never saw that ink coming), then she tries – well, nothing else actually. That really is the extent of Elizabeth’s repertoire. You might argue that she didn’t try very hard to stay out of boarding school, but perhaps she realised that if she was going to play games, so was her mother. You see, it seems that mumsy had really cottoned on to this kennelling idea for Elizabeth. Once it caught on, everything the poor girl did was an excuse to send her to school. She’s being good? Excellent, she’ll fit right in; she’s cutting holes in the curtains? Oh dear, she really does need school to teach her some manners ... you see how this would go on - mummy darling would just concoct more and more outlandish justifications for sending her precious angel away for other people to rear (she killed the gardener? They'll soon cure her of that at school ...).

So it comes time for Elizabeth to go away. They don’t have a travelling cage big enough for her, so they send her off in a taxi to catch the train with all the other strays. She doesn’t go quietly though. No, she promises freedom to all of the other captive animals in the house – her horse, her dog, her canary. She’s going to be so naughty she’ll be sent home and then the Revolution shall begin!! My money is nanny will be the first beheaded - don't EVER say 'nyer nyer' to a spoilt child ...

We come to an important part here on going away day. I say it’s important and I mean it. This passage is the one that nearly had me calling DOCS (even though I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t have any power over a 1940s fictional school in England – it’s just a little out of their jurisdiction). I’ll quote the whole paragraph:

The outdoor uniform was a dark blue coat with a yellow edge to the collar and cuffs, a dark blue hat with a yellow ribbon round it, and the school badge at the front. Her stockings were long and brown, and her lace shoes were brown too.

You see what they’re doing to the poor children? In the first sentence, I thought the uniform sounded not-so-brilliant, but it was tolerable in a school uniform sort of way (I mean, it’s no Malory Towers brown and orange – now THAT was a fashion statement). Then you hit the second sentence. And you stop. You go back and read it again. It still reads the same.

Brown stockings. Brown stockings with a blue and yellow uniform. That’s borderline child abuse right there. Seriously, is the woman colour blind? What sort of moron subjects their students to such an horrific combination of colours? And don’t mention that private school in Sydney that changed its uniform to aqua and pink to benefit from an old lady’s will, because I know that story.

Here’s a thought: if you’re going to have a blue uniform, why not make sure that the stockings MATCH THE REST OF THE UNIFORM. Have you ever worn brown shoes with a non-brown outfit? It is truly an uncomfortable experience. That nice dull brown that you put on when getting dressed suddenly pops out in public as brightly as hot pink would. I find it such a colour clash distressing to wear, and yet here’s Enid merrily doing it to her faithful followers. And passing it off as the height of school-yard chic. GAH!

I digress. My apologies for that. Elizabeth is in the taxi going to the station to catch a train to London to meet the school train. Jolly good. Who’s taking her? Her governess. OK ... ummm ... have her parents gone on holidays? Nope, her mum just can’t be arsed going to London to at least meet her only daughter’s new kennel masters ... (sigh) I’d rant, but I’ve been there, done that.

Next: the obligatory train ride. Of course there’s one – british rail services have nothing better to do with their time than put on chartered trains for right thinking children at isolated upper class schools. And of course Enid has to detail the trip. Nothing much really happens. There’s this fat girl called Ruth handing around sweets and Elizabeth refuses one (I would too, the chances are that the other person would think you grasping ...). So Ruth starts teasing her in front of all the other children. Up to this point the only thing Elizabeth has said is words to the effect of “I’ll be back home soon”, and refusing to take a sweet is hardly a cardinal sin, so this treatment, meant to make Elizabeth seem sulky, just makes me not guilty about calling fat Ruth “fat Ruth”.

Of course, Enid ends the chapter at the front door of the school. You have to remember that she was writing in the 40s, when rationing was in – so one mustn't give the children too much description in one go – they’ll ruin their appetite.

I'm sorry if I skipped over some stuff in this chapter, but a lot was just filler to suck you in. I can't really be bothered with it. Next time: Elizabeth and the Lord of the Flies school.

10 October 2011

who do you blame when your kid is a brat?

OK, this has been shamefully late in coming, but I have an excuse – I have been busy bettering society. Really, I have. I have a new job, and it involves dispensing JUSTICE!!! (at least, that’s what I put on my census form, I couldn’t figure out a better description of my job. It gave me this awesome feeling of power just writing it). What with all my making the streets safe to walk again, Amelia Jane got dumped in a box in my room and forgotten. So it's time for a new story.

Anyway, I was going to do a Famous Five thing, but I ran into a problem: I don’t have the first book in the series. It’s a grave oversight, one which I intend to remedy at the earliest possible moment. In the meantime, I’ll give you the gems to be found in another of Enid’s school time classics:

The naughtiest girl in school.

Chapter 1

Enid has this fault of blaming all of the behavioural traits of a child on its disposition. The title ‘the naughtiest girl in school’ conjures up images of untold horror, a right little cantankerous ... sandwich, who is attacking the other children with her lacrosse stick and trashing books in the library because she feels like it. The reality, as you will soon see, is not so grave. Remember kiddies, we're dealing with Enid-esque naughtiness here: this is upper-class naughtiness ...

So here’s the set up. Elizabeth is a spoilt little rich kid, who has had a number of governesses to look after her. What her mother has been doing, no one knows (because of course she wouldn’t be working, that’s only for nasty common mothers) but she obviously needed help to look after her one child. Anyway, governess number six is going to go, and mummy’s at her wits’ end to know what to do, because, you see, mummy and daddy are going away on a holiday, and mummy can’t possibly be expected to look after the little brat while they’re away.

The solution? Pack her off to boarding school. Not just that, don’t tell her until you’ve organised the enrolment, got all her uniforms, given the staff notice and booked your non-refundable holiday tickets ... you only tell her when there’s less than a week before term starts. Then goad her when she, quite understandably, says she doesn’t want to leave the one place she has ever lived. That will show her how much you care.

I mean seriously, her parents are abandoning her to go gallivanting off ... somewhere. (They never say where they’re going, and as they’re grown-ups, Enid doesn’t much care. That’s not important: JK Rowling may kill her parental figures off, Blyton just packs them on a boat and hopes that they drown.) AND, they’re only going for a few weeks (they’re going to be back before half-term). How do you jump from “I need someone to look after my child while I’m away for a few weeks” to “let’s send our pre-pubescent child, who has had little to no contact with other children, to boarding school”. My own theory is that the parents attacked this issue while they were looking for accommodation for the family pets: the horse gets stabled, the dog is sent to a boarding kennel, the child goes to school where she’ll be fed and watered (presumably) and the parents can pick her up if and when it suits them ...
Wow, and we wonder why the kid is messed up?

Things to note:

Elizabeth is pretty, which means she’s set for Enidificaication (or indoctrination), because Enid cannot bear to have an ugly good person. People’s characters are determined by their looks.

The things Elizabeth will miss at home: Her dog, her canary, her pony. Some people have it tough. Show some sympathy for the poor dear.

Mummy: completely helpless. Looks to others to raise her child. Primary emotion is despair: when Elizabeth shows how naughty she can be by pinning stockings to the governess’ skirt, mummy despairs – “what are we going to do with her?”.

Daddy: mentioned, but completely absent – obviously he doesn’t want to deal with the brat either. Like most of Enid’s father figures, he wouldn’t dream of getting involved in a family cat fight.