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.


  1. She doesn't even get a mock-teary send off at the station? Instead, it's a taxi to catch the train. A taxi to catch the train. It's like another world. My mum was still worried about me catching buses to slightly dodgy areas when I was 24, but Enid's parents are OK with small children heading off to parts unknown in the care of a taxi driver.


    I'm with you on the brown stockings - my brain broke a little at that point.

    (Thank-you for enabling name/URL commenting!)

  2. I do love the idea of forming a DOCS assessment on each of these children. Epic levels of child neglect going on. I feel like getting my textbook out and detailing possible outcomes from these clear acts of abuse. Maybe a little over the top, but Enid seems to be developing a How To Guide for Creating a Sociopath. I ponder how they were treated when they were babies, because that would highlight possibly intervention strageties... and now I'm taking this a bit too far and need to remind myself they're fictional.

    Love your blog by the way, even though I never really read any Blyton. Thanks for the update on the comment thing, I had difficulty posting a couple of times before, so didn't, and a friend of mine who I put onto this blog has a request she couldn't post. I'll let her know she might be able to do that now.

  3. I'm not sure whether it was just the period, or whether Enid's editors just didn't read her stuff very closely - but why would anyone aspire to such a uniform?

    As for Enid's guide for creating a sociopath - wait until we get to the school - it's based on a real school too ...

  4. I love this blog. I've been reading it from the start and was getting worried that you had stopped!

    I've never read this series so it is really interesting to see your observations - I agreed with all you said about MT by the way and am very excited about you starting on the Famous Five - their are issues in those books that I can't wait to see you phrase more eloquently than I can.

  5. I'm glad you've been reading!

    I go through phases of energy with this blog - work and study and changing jobs kept me overly busy for a few months, and Amelia Jane just wasn't doing it for me. I've also been playing around with how much I write, as 2000 word posts can be a challenge to get round to writing.

    Anyway, dealing with a chapter at a time seems to be working for the moment, and Enid writes such neat little segments that are easily digested ... so here's hoping I can keep it up.

  6. Just FYI, but I wore a navy uniform with yellow and pale blue highlights and brown stockings and shoes (the stockings were technically "fawn", but they were brown).

    Melbourne Girls Grammar - look it up. Should I be suing?

  7. LOL - YES! School uniforms in general tend to have a genius for picking colours that ought not go together and PUTTING THEM TOGETHER (Yes, local performing arts high school, I'm looking at you - green and purple REALLY shouldn't go together). Why do people insist on such awful colour schemes? It hurts my head (and Melbourn Girls website doesn't seem to show the horror you described - it looks to be more uniform in colour scheme these days)