15 November 2012

How the socially undesirable gain acceptance in Blytonia

Yep, I managed to disappear again. Well done me. I’m full of those damn good intentions, in that I prop my copy of Blyton on my desk (where it will shame me for not writing up the next chapter) and SWEAR that I will write it TONIGHT … then decide at 10pm that I really couldn’t do the chapter justice and I really should watch the next episode of the latest K-Drama I’m hooked on. Life is tough when there’s K-Drama about …

So anyway, I left you on something of a cliff hanger last time, what with the dreaded school meeting coming up and everything. This meeting IS the entire chapter. And I can tell you – I would never send my precious spawn (should they one day exist) within ten miles of this hell-hole.

So, it’s a school run by children – and what do they do? Adopt the trappings of their lost grown ups (three teachers sit up the back during this thrilling chapter, but “did not seem to be taking a great deal of notice of what was going on.” Of course not – why do the job you’re paid to do if you can get minions to do it for free?). Two judges (merry-eyed William and grave-looking Rita – William sounds like a bit of a smarmy git, just from that description), a bunch of monitors (we’ve met them before), and a gavel (because you can’t be an official without a wooden hammer – I like to think it’s a meat tenderizer nicked from the kitchen …). To be honest, it’s one conch shell away from a desert island.

 And they have RULES! You HAVE to obey the monitors (with no explanation as to the limits of their power and what they can order you to do), and all bad behaviour is reported and dealt with at these meetings – trial by mob. OH! But wait – reporting any person is encouraged with these words:

“Please be sure you understand the difference between a real complaint and telling tales, because telling tales is also punished”

I’m not sure I understand the difference. Given the casual acceptance of institutionalised bullying and violence, how do you suppose a whistle blower would fare in that environment? This place sends shivers down my spine – SHIVERS I tell you!

On another note – Elizabeth is an ovine-minded moron. The girl doesn’t talk, she bleats! Take this little gem, for instance: there’s a sign up for the meeting which says “Bring all the money you have” (I’ll get to this little rort in a moment), and Elizabeth does! She tells herself that she won’t hand it over, of course, but then why take it at all? The girl is just plain dumb. Seriously, you take your money somewhere where you know it’s going to be taken? Good grief, I want to send the idiot an email telling her that I‘m a Nigerian prince. Although, she might not go for that particular line … all foreigners being evil and all.

As for the rort – well here’s where we get to the fun bit – and the title
of this post. It turns out that this place is not a school, it’s an
extortion racket. All the kids are forced to put all their money into a box and it gets doled back out to them in set pocket money. A tad commie for comrade Enid there, but it’s ostensibly and egalitarian idea. Until you learn that no-one seems to be responsible for the accounting of this slush … er trust account. I bet merry-eyed William gets his grubby little paws all over the dosh and gets his ciggies and gin on these proceeds of extortion.

And you remember fat Ruth – of course you do, her main character trait is that she’s fat (remember, this is Blyton – and in this book we also have Nora, who is Irish). Anyway, it struck me as odd that Blyton would allow such an obviously undesirable person to be part of the right minded majority – Enid being supremely superficial and all. In this chapter I figured it out. She volunteers to do the dirty work. Who volunteers to prod Elizabeth when she doesn’t stand up and sit down with the other lemmings? Ruth. When someone has to shake Elizabeth down for her money, guess who jumps at the chance to do the shaking down? You guessed it. “Nice” people don’t stop to scuffling over a few shillings – it’s undignified and vulgar – they just leave it to the eager underling who yearns for nothing so much as acceptance … AND they’d have to have some horrific physical deformity such as Ruth’s to be qualified to do the job. Ruth’s overwhelming subservience to the regime is what marks her as acceptable – she knows her place and doesn’t presume to aspire to the big table … but everyone needs a flunkey …

Anyway, Elizabeth refuses to hand over her cash (until Ruth forks her purse and dumps it by the box), and states that she thinks the idea is silly and will not be complying. Well, you can almost hear the chant of “kill the pig” starting up in the mob. Elizabeth also announces that she’s going to run away home, at which point her money is placed firmly beyond her reach into the slush fund – and she’s denied pocket money for the week. With, of course, the threat of further punishment to come. Because it can always get worse in Blytonia.

So now our heroine is trapped like Jonathon Harker in Dracula’s castle (guess what I’m reading right now) and is doomed to spend at least another chapter being stood over by the Boarding school Gestapo.

To be honest, I have to say I’m glad she stands her ground in public. It’s the first actual rebellion you see from the girl, and if she could just keep it up, I’d love her forever. Alas, I feel social conditioning coming on ...

12 July 2012

First Day Disappointment

All of a sudden it’s been 6 odd months. Good work me. Seriously, I have been looking at this book on my bedside table for the past six months (no matter where I have been – I took it to Europe and the middle-east with me in January) thinking “I’ve got to do some work on that ... I’ll do it tomorrow”. But of course I never do. Such is my life.

 I'm not promising much with this chapter - it's a bit blah (filler before we get to the next chapter), but I'm back online, so one miracle at a time is all you can expect right now!

 Anyway, to recap the story thus far: Elizabeth is a pretty normal child (by which I mean self-centred and rather bratty – and don’t get up in arms over that, you know I’m right) who has been accustomed to accepting that she is some sort of devil spawn. She has become a burden to her hard-living parents who want to go on a cruise. They ingeniously decide that it’s time to indoctrinate the poor girl in the time-honoured fashion of packing her off to school and having someone else do the actual work of raising her. So she goes to school. Said school turns out to have reverted to some sort of Lord of the Flies meets 1984-esque scenario in which Elizabeth is deemed persona non grata on the first day. We left our intrepid heroine on the cusp of sleep, vowing vengeance and declaring that she’ll be home by half-term.

 We open the scene with some bell indicating that it’s time to get up. Nora the enforcer tells everyone, rather unnecessarily that it’s time to get up; Elizabeth “cheekily” decides to stay in bed (she is such a rebel!). Of course Irish Nora doesn’t like this, so she and Fat Ruth (I’m not making this up – she’s called “plump Ruth”) pick up E’s mattress and tip Elizabeth onto the floor – because that’s not at all an overreaction. When Elizabeth objects, Nora threatens to do an unnamed form of violence on the girl because “Monitors do that sometimes, you know”. I love how Whyteleafe rolls: do what we say or we’ll kneecap you! I can just picture Nora waiting in the dorm with knuckle dusters.

 Elizabeth, of course, decides that as open rebellion is not feasible, guerrilla tactics are advisable. So she decides to wear socks instead of stockings down to breakfast. Ooo-er. (just on a side note – I’m not even two pages into this chapter and already they have set times to get up, eat breakfast, rules as to appropriate footwear – what sort of child perpetuates this arrant nonsense? Seriously – you can’t wear socks???). But just when you think Elizabeth has finally given one to the man (or child), she is shamed into the stockings. Sigh.

 School-wide roll-call comes up after breakfast. In this strange event, boys and girls are segregated (why bother with a co-ed school if you're just going to split them up?) and formed up into rows before the roll is called, then the children march out to music. Yes, MARCH. I bet it's not even normal marching - I bet they have to goose step out of the hall. The school strikes me as that sort of place. I wonder whether they have to salute their glorious leader while they're at it?

 This school really gives me the heebie-jeebies: violent monitors, children doling out punishment to one another, lives lived according to a series of bells, no socks allowed, and a vaguely militaristic assembly? THIS is a progressive school? I’d hate to see what Enid thought was old-fashioned. The more I read about this school, the more I’m in E’s corner, willing her to some drastic feat of naughtiness that will release from this hell-hole!

 And it seems we may finally get the chance see such a feat, as class finally begins (and Elizabeth gets a seat in the back row, which she likes because you can be naughty there. How she knows this, having never gone to school before, puzzles me a little). At first we are disappointed, Elizabeth being high on the fresh paint fumes in the classroom to such an extent that she gets a “VERY GOOD” on her dictation. She soon comes to her senses, however, and embarks on her first deed of the mischievous variety: flicking paper at various people in the room.


 Really, I despair of the idiot. Go hard or go home, Elizabeth; if you want people to take you seriously as a delinquent, hike up your skirt and do some serious damage. Throw a child through the classroom window, get into a proper fight, trash the teachers’ lounge. Don’t flick freaking PAPER!

 I suppose, in her defence, she does talk back to the teacher, but as the chapter ends with E knuckling under AGAIN (and promising to behave), you can’t really give the girl too much credit. Another disappointing episode in Elizabeth’s school career.

 One thing to note: we learn that Elizabeth likes music in this chapter. It should be noted, as it comes up later in the book, as there is nothing the regime won’t do to ensure the loyalty of their adherents.

 This chapter feels a bit like a filler chapter, and I suppose it is. But the next chapter ... school meeting time! I shall be updating you on that little gem anon (less than 6 months this time – I promise!)

06 February 2012



quick heads up - The past couple of months have been crazy, and although my faithful Enid Book has followed me halfway round the world and back again, I've had not a moment to ponder our loved one.

I shall return anon - hopefully this week (but I'm moving house, so perhaps next week ...).