11 November 2011

Shrimp paste and bullying

Blast Enid – she’s gone and annoyed me again.

You may well be thinking well there’s a news flash, but you have to understand that even though I may rail at the old girl, even though I am fully aware that I am not going to agree with a thing she says, even though I read the books with an eye to ripping their guts out, I still open one of her books hoping that this book will not disappoint me. I’m all grown up and I still want to believe Enid when she tells me that if you do this and this and this you will be pretty and successful and everyone will like you ...

So then, when I open a book and read something as stupid as I read in this chapter, I just get annoyed.

Chapter 4 is called “Elizabeth gets in to trouble”. And it annoys me because it’s so very very stupid. The basic outline of the chapter is Elizabeth trying to break every rule that happens to come her way, or to make herself obnoxious, and coming up against the Irish bouncer Nora each time (mixed in is the obligatory oohing and ahhhing over classrooms, but classroom decor porn is more Enid’s thing than mine – seriously, only food is described in more detail). She does things like put too many items on her dressing table (apparently punishable by drawing and quartering) not sharing her food (which sends a person to food Coventry), and having messy hair. I mean, the scope of this girl’s villainy is beyond compare.

Of course, she doesn’t like doing any of these things, and she’s quite upset when she gets punished for them. When bouncer Nora takes her stuff, she instantly wants to redeem it, and she belatedly tries to share her food (but being in food Coventry, she’s turned down ...) and she’s horrified that her hair is messy. You really get the impression that she’s really not trying too hard (and, being a Blyton character, she is smitten with the classrooms – what is it with Enid and big square rooms with desks in it? They aren’t really that exciting ...), which of course gives you the SUBTLE hint that perhaps Elizabeth will stay ...

Seriously, the girl is trying to get expelled and she’s making a fuss over food sharing? If it were me, I’d be sneaking around trying to find what I could burn down. Or perhaps I would look at a fake bomb threat, or taking a classroom full of students hostage. I’d be home again in a day or two – a week, tops (you know, once the police got through with me). Problem solved.

Of course, Elizabeth's problem with disobedience may have something to do with the entirely unexpected form of discipline. I think I mentioned in an earlier post about the bullying aspect of this school. Nora the Irish does like to ‘shove’ her way past a recalcitrant student in her charge, but more insidious is the fact that the students go straight to ridicule the moment someone steps out of their pre-conceived notion of good behaviour. They mock Elizabeth over EVERYTHING she does. And remember, Elizabeth has been at the school for perhaps two hours at this point. She’s tired, her parents shipped her off to school with no notice and no proper goodbye, and ridicule is the most appropriate way to deal with her? Welcome to Blytonia people: this is where sanity comes to die.

I got to the end of the chapter thinking that there was very little that a box of matches wouldn’t solve at that school ...

I forgot to mention the food, which is the only redeeming feature of the chapter. It appears that first day is the day all the students eat the ENTIRE swag of food sent on by their parents. There is an orgy of chocolate cake, jam, shrimp paste, currant cake and other assorted fish pastes. I kept imagining that the fish pastes were contaminated with some sort of salmonella – that would have made the story soooo much more interesting.


  1. It's that title, I think - it builds you up too much. The Naughtiest Girl in School comes with expectations of an anti-hero, of someone who knows just the right way to get under everyone's skin, someone who simply doesn't want to be there.

    Instead, we get a rebel who puts too many items on her dresser.

    You should totally write your version of this book - it would be awesome topped with awesome sauce.

  2. Don't tempt me! I have way too many ideas for stories already ... but it would be fun ...

    The name does build me up, but the rest of it doesn't help. I think we all knew kids a school who were much naughtier than Elizabeth, so my reaction is "You think THAT'S bad? You should see what this kid Joseph did once ..."

  3. We has a classmate who set the school's art room on fire -- and wasn't expelled. I have no idea how his mother convinced the principal to let him stay. He did have to have counseling, though, since he had that thing about fire. Today he is a Catholic priest.

  4. I'm laughing, but wondering what your point is ...

  5. Hi there. I want to buy Malory Towers books as a gift for one of my nieces. But my aunt says that the most recent edition has neutred Darrel, stopping her from hitting people and saying that she only "scolds" them. I want to know how many edition back in history you have to go to get full-strength Blyton. Do you know? I suppose to be safe I could try to get the first edition, but I think that might be a bit pricey.

    1. Sorry for the non-reply.

      The non-violent Darrel ... I don't know how far you have to go back, but I bought my copy in the late 90's (and it was remainder stock even then) - go back as far as you can, really. Editors can't help but get their paws onto Enid. The further back you go, the greater the chance that it hasn't been tampered with.

  6. How to enjoy this book: read it as a subtle and cynical expose of Stockholm Syndrome.
    Loved the review!