Remembering Enid Blyton: Lemonade and Ginger Beer

With deep delight and honor, I present a guest most of you are too familiar with to need introduction.

Alka Gurha looks upon the world through a pair of enchanted, mirth-tinted spectacles before she takes up her pen to describe it for all us, lesser humans. Her pen creates a magical alchemy through which crooked are transformed into comical, wicked into witless and deceitful into droll. To establish the veracity of my claims, visit her blog- deceptively called Freebird– and be captivated for life. And yes, when you find yourself overwhelmed with gratitude, you can thank me through the dignified agency of Gandhi’s (MK… not the other mongrels) portraits, mass- produced by the RBI. Please don’t feel shy about sending them across; I shall not feel shy about accepting them.

Today, Alka writes about a topic close to the hearts of all those to whom the written word is the only proof of magic they have ever needed. Her post made me draw a deep sigh of nostalgia. I was transported to those distant days of childhood when I would sit for hours under a berry tree in my garden, dappled sunshine swirling liquidly over me as I lost myself in wonderful, simple tales of adventure. Oh, was anything ever so beautiful as those days?

Thank you for this fabulous trip down memory lane Alka. Truly, nothing is as heart- warming as revisiting happy days.

Got your bottle of chilled lemonade? Come on then, lets go!

Far away from the magical lands of Hogwart and the enticement of gadgets, I grew up reading Enid Blyton stories. If you are nearly as old as I am, you would remember that most middle class children fed on Secret Seven, Malory Towers and the Famous Five before pre-teens.

Like most, my initial memories are rooted in childhood. When parents indulged in an afternoon siesta, there were trees to climb, flower petals to be plucked (pass-fail, loves you – loves you not), butterflies to be chased and the garden to be investigated. For me, Enid Blyton novels were much more than tales of adventure. Growing up in a small town government bungalow, I was not only reading Enid Blyton stories, I was living them.

Was it a girl thing to read Enid Blyton? I don’t know. I don’t remember my brother reading them. He was more into Hardy Boys and other spooky stuff. What I know is that my collection of Enid Blyton on the book shelf was the most valuable showpiece.

The stories presented us with a sensuous texture of British country side and Welsh shores. More often than not, the setting was rural with children riding bikes, eating raspberry pops, drinking lemonade or ginger beer and meeting in abandoned light houses. I refused to believe that Georgina was actually gulping our humble ‘nimbu-paani’. Once I focused that ‘nimbu-paani’ was actually lemonade I really enjoyed it to the hilt. Like adults sip Vodka and feel they are at a private party thrown by none other than Putin himself. Yes, that way.

Unlike movies that make us believe that boarding schools are punishment abodes, the Malory Tower stories by Blyton were all about girl bonding away from home. Who didn’t want to be Darrel Rivers, the level headed protagonist? Who didn’t hate the cry baby, Gwendoline Mary? And who didn’t suffer from measles or a fracture around the annual exams?

And of course, no adventure was complete without a faithful dog. Whether it was Scamper in Secret Seven, Timothy, the mongrel in Famous Five, or Buster, the cute Scottish terrier who pestered the village policeman Mr. Goon (he called Scamper a nasty yappy little dog).

Written simply, in unadorned English, the visual appeal of Blyton stories helped me form pictures in the form of private cinema. The novels were almost like comics – easy, simple and captivating. You were unlikely to consult a dictionary in the middle of an adventure, or jerked by unexpected adjectives, or get ensnared in loopy sentences. Sometimes the author used the same plot over and over, and yet, such was the magic of her storytelling that I always wanted more. Eventually, I think it was the simplicity that made the stories memorable. Moreover, the author was never preachy in any way.

It is not difficult to understand why Enid Blyton is not relevant today. In the world of play stations and gadgets, the joy of simple things is not our idea of fun. We love to complicate things – add layers, introduce sub plots, create hype and texture conflicts. The idea of simple black or white characters does not exist anymore. We live in a world where shades of grey are closer to life. Once upon a time stories by Enid Blyton were ideal for pre-teens, but today they are too simple and too gentle to be savored.

Simple is stupid. Old-fashioned.

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82 thoughts on “Remembering Enid Blyton: Lemonade and Ginger Beer”

      1. Thank you Dagny for giving me an opportunity to write for your lovely blog. I almost fainted when I read the introduction. That’s high praise. Truly humbled and delighted.

    1. They certainly did not Soumya. Though her detractors wouldn’t agree, she championed no gender bias at all. Her character all got into equal scrapes and fought with equal ferocity when confronted with danger.
      Thank you for coming by… 🙂

  1. Alka – I could hug you for this brilliantly written, nostalgia inducing post. And Dagny, I could hug you for hosting Alka on your lovely blog. Now, that hugs have been exchanged, let’s get back to the topic. I grew up reading Enid Blyton. And to date, no other author has even come close to influencing me as much as she has. And no, I don;t think it was a Girl thing. I’ve loved reading Malory Towers along with her other works too. And I know of plenty of male bibliophiles who’ve enjoyed reading her work too. I only wish and hope that someday my son will be able to appreciate her work instead of being lost in gadgets and gizmos. No problem in getting lost there, but I’d rather he have the best of all the worlds. And in that hope, I continue to search and buy all of my favourite Enid Blyton series. Once again, thank you so much for that trip down memory lane. Totally worth it

    1. Hugs. Thank you Sid. My son grew up on them too. But I seldom see kids reading Enid Blyton today. Potter mania has eclipsed the simplicity of Enid Blyton.

  2. I could hear you talk to me, Alka. I wasn’t reading, but I was listening to you speaking to me, in my voice and with what is on my mind, exactly. You have taken me back to that cupboard in Doon where still, undisturbed, rest books upon books I shared with my kid brother so many years back. And neither of us has the heart to “allow” the other adult sibling counterpart to “borrow” from that collection, a collection my mother preserves like she would a family heirloom. Once he ties the knot, and have a little N of his own, the real ‘division of inheritance’ will begin. But until then, you flew me back to those days, as if I was on the ‘The Wishing Chair Again’. I really liked this – “Once I focused that ‘nimbu-paani’ was actually lemonade I really enjoyed it to the hilt. Like adults sip Vodka and feel they are at a private party thrown by none other than Putin himself. Yes, that way.” 🙂
    Dagny, beauty upon beauty on your beautiful blog. The bar, if you may notice, is always set here! 🙂

    1. Glad you liked it Sakshi. So most of us had our private libraries. I called mine the Halloween. Ha ha. BTW I missed mentioning Noddy. That’s where I fell in love with Enid Blyton.

    2. Sakshi, re Sid’s request for invitation when the ‘inheritance’ is being divided, I shall just remind you of a tale from Panchatantra you must surely have read. It was called ‘Bandar Baant’.
      Samajhdaar ko ishara kaafi hai.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to Enid Blyton! They say simple things from life are the most difficult to replicate in a creation. She was beautiful at that. And as you so rightly point out, simple things are where the whole magic of life lies in! Loved reading this!

  4. Ah! Confession Time: I was a boy then and I LOVED Enid Blyton (I hardly read Hardy Boys cos I was introduced to Chase and Erle Stanley Gardner too early in life). The one thing I do remember is that she invariably left me feeling hungry (for more as well as the more mundane hunger for food) with her descriptions of picnics.

    As for shades of grey and being closer to life, Alka, I think it IS a pity. A book, for me, is a doorway to a nicer, cleaner world and a description of an ideal to shoot for even if it cannot be achieved. If, in my early days of reading, books had been closer to real life, I might have abandoned reading and taken up carpentry. If, indeed, the current younger generation hankers for closer-to-life reading, it is a real pity.

    1. Yes, the cookies, the ginger bread and the scones packed by Aunt Fanny in the picnic basket.
      Perhaps I am unable to rest my finger on the pulse Suresh. Whether it is about shades of grey or something else. Why else would Rowling now want to tell us that Dumbledore is gay!

  5. Wow…such a beautiful trip down the memory lane. When I feel really really low I still go to my cupboard and from the top shelf take out either the ‘The Enchanted Book’ or ‘The naughtiest girl’ or any of those simple-magical-first-loves-of-my-life!! :),

  6. Nostalgia. I loved Enid Blyton. The Faraway Tree and so many other tales. I actually wanted to taste ginger beer for a long time. Once I did, I was disappointed.

  7. I loved, loved the Faraway Tree and all its funny characters – the woman who kept washing and throwing out the water, the grumpy goblin (or was it something else?) who threw ink in people’s faces and all those wonderful lands at the top of the tree. I so wanted to be a part of those books!! Thanks so much for reminding us about her!!

  8. I am still a boy and I used to love and still love Enid Blyton… I think I’ve hit up most of the secret seven books…always used to think seven was too huge a number!
    Thanks for the post….brought back a lot of memories!

  9. Thank you Dags & Alka…
    Yes, I was a little boy, but I devoured every Enid Blyton book I could beg, borrow or steal 🙂

  10. Lovely,lovely,lovely post!
    My journey started with ‘Noddy goes to school’ and i was hooked inseparably to Enid Blyton.
    Those were glorious days.Thanks for taking me back in time,love you !

  11. Alka you took me back to the good old days when I used to curl up in my bed and read the tales spun by Enid Blyton in a language that created an image. The power of her writing was such that the reader also became a part of the story. Me and my friend exchanged our Malory Towers series and wished that our school was as cool as Malory Towers.

    Well-worded post, beautifully expressed. Thank you Alka for the post and Dagny for hosting it.

  12. Loved Enid Blyton. The adventures and yes, the picnics packed by Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin going off to his study to get lost in his scientific world, the caves and smugglers, ole Clearorf, the dogs, Noddy, the Far away Tree. She must’ve written a book a day. Amazing author. Hats off.

  13. Alka, you took me down the memory lane with this. I have grown up on Enid Blyton and I really savor that part of my childhood. What I connected with most is the last para. Stories are complicated these days, layered and written in a complex language. But there is a beauty and comfort in simplicity. Besides Enid Blyton, I see that simplicity and Beauty in the writings of Ruskin Bond.

    1. Hey Ruch. So good to see you here. I so wanted you to read this piece. I know you are an avid reader.
      In todays world, simple is not only stupid, simple is boring. In more ways than one.
      Thank you.

  14. Enid Blyton has been my favorite too – don’t think it was a girls thingie. Even last week at Stavanger airport, I suddenly saw “scones” written somewhere and remembered reading about then in an Enid Blyton books years back. I remember how my mouth used to water at the very idea of scones without ever having no clue what scones tasted like. When I finally had them last week, I was in for a deep disappointment. Real scones tasted nothing like my imagination.

    By the way feminists pan Enid Blyton for promoting gender stereotypes. So Enid Blyton can be considered more oriented towards boys than girls. While Malory Towers and St.Clares were completely female oriented, she did create some memorable male characters such as Fatty in five find outers, Snubby and Barney in Mystery series, Jack and Philip in Adventure series, Roddy in the Cousins series to name a few.

    1. By the way one recent author who I felt had a bit of Enid Blyton magic was Cornelia Funke – but that could be because of Anthea Bell who translated it from German had also translated Enid Blyton books into German.

    2. Oh yes, lovable Fatty. He had a heart of gold, didn’t he?
      You know LF, I should write for Dagny more often. Or maybe invite her to write for me sometime. This way, I get to meet all my favorite writers.
      Hope the little LF is doing fine. 🙂

      1. Good to be called one of your favorite writers, Alka. My son’s doing fine.
        I regret to inform I visit Dagny even less than I visit you though I wish I visited you all more often. Also sometimes even when I visit I feel to lazy to comment – Don’t want to look an idiot by leaving a bland ‘nice one’.

  15. Alka, loved this post! Yes, I remember my own days with Enid Blyton. My son loved all the Famous Five books. I have an entire collection bought for him. Then he went to Hardy Boys. I loved Nancy Drew as well. No, the books have not lost their lure to the next gen. Of course, many things may seem outdated because the gadgets are missing in the tales :). How uncanny that I used to have the exact same thoughts that lemonade must be something ‘exotic’ and not our desi nimbu paani. Great to have you here, Alka! Dagny, thank you for inspiring Alka to take us all down the memory lane in this subdued, mellow post penned with a silken touch.

    1. How I love your words” mellow post with a silken touch”.
      Good to know that your boys read Enid Blyton.
      Rachna, I was surprised when my brother’s kid who lives in Chicago said he had not read Enid Blyton. Perhaps American children have weaned away from Blyton and moved to other writers. I am not sure.

  16. Alka, my collection of Enid Blyton is the single ,most treasured possession and the next generation in my house too enjoyed this series of simple pleasures of childhood. These books are unparalled even today and this beautiful post on Dagny’s blog revived the memories:)

  17. Wonderfully written Alka. After a long time, I read a personal post from your pen and it is delightful. I am a late bloomer as I started reading books for the love of reading only in college so Enid Blyton was not on my list but now I think I might grab one of her books to savour the simplicity.

      1. Today afternoon only I was reading The Magic Faraway Tree for the nth time.There is no escape from Enid Blyton’s magic not that I want to! I could identify myself with the thoughts of all the others Thanks Mona.

  18. For me it was Hardy boys, Nancy Drew and famous five as I followed my brother’s footsteps…literally. And we kids from the block would take off on our own adventure. There were a couple of hillocks near our house and every weekend was never ending fun. Thanks for this wonderful piece Alka and Dagny.

    1. Hillocks near the house sound exciting Janu. Imagine waking up to the dulcet chirping of birds, fresh air…. And what do we get to hear now? The buzz of the AC, the cooing of the pigeons and the whizz of the traffic( I am on a state highway).

  19. I was lost in the magic of the Wishing Chair, The Faraway tree and the Enchanted Woods that went wisha wisha. Oh, how I loved dear Old Mr Pink Whistle who’d help kids distressed by bullies and stolen bicycles! And then I graduated to Agatha Christie.

    So many memories of innocence lost..Sigh..Alka, your post made me so nostalgic.

  20. I virtually grew up living in the Enchanted Wood. As luck would have it, we moved to our small hometown by the time I could climb Faraway Trees. Of course, there was no Moonface at the top, but my fertile imagination quite compensated for his absence. So moved was I with the series, I saved a copy of the first book ‘for the posterity’. I was quite smitten by the five Find-outers and Buster the dog too. And like Alka, I too refused to believe that the lemonade those detectives were gulping down by jugs was just neembu-pani!

    Alka is a marvellous, delightful writer. Dagny has captured her magic with that fine turn of phrase, ‘Alka Gurha looks upon the world through a pair of enchanted, mirth-tinted spectacles’.

    1. Writing for Dagny about my favorite author has been a rewarding overwhelming experience. I was wary of guest posts, but not anymore.
      As with most memorable novels, the beauty of Blyton was that after turning the last page, there was a culmination that left you unhappy that its over.
      Thank you for the kind words Uma, means a lot.

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  22. My kids could not believe that I borrowed 2 Enid Blyton from my friend and read them last month. “Papa you are reading Enid Blyton?”
    I said “why not”

  23. Delightful read, Alka. You transported me back to the days of Enid Blyton, Famous Five, and, of course my hot favorite Tom Sawyer. The classic days of children books couldn’t be better than this and Blyton was always fav for middle class children like us:)

  24. You brought back so many memories Alka! We used to enact the Famous Five adventures at school and always dreamed of the midnight feasts from St. Clares and Malory Towers.. Oh I could go on and on and on 🙂

  25. This is a hit! You have done a fine job of relegating us into the happy chimes of our past!

    Alka,you just made me realise how beautiful our lives were when things were so ‘simple’ and ‘gentle’.I love the parallel you have drawn in the last para where you so rigtly talk about the shades of grey being closer to our lives.

    I had devoured those novels and those stories are still printed in my mind in graphic details!. I remember composing a song for Famous Five by writing a poem and stealing the music from a fmaous bollywood song :-D.

    Thanks for the memories:-)

  26. Oh Alka, I can’t tell you how much I can relate to this post. Though I read Blyton a bit later than the usual age, I still savored them…all of the secret seven and the famous five series. Exactly like you, I awed at the word ‘lemonade’. I would fantasize when I would go foreign to drink lemonade….LOL.. I literally lived in a different world..that’s her magic
    unfortunately, the sad thing is I don’t remember the names at all..I just remember they have a dog. I got the series for my son. Though he is reading Harry Potter right now, he is thoroughly enjoying the seven series too 🙂 oh I will go on and on..let me stop

  27. Yea – EB was what got me started on reading. Smuggler Ben, I recall, was my first. It never struck me that there was anything weird about kids of the age 11-13 (Julian was considered grown up at 13 / 14) could run around the countryside independently and without any adult supervision. I must confess a fondness for ginger ale, though I think it was due to the unlabelled ginger drink we got in unlabelled soda water bottles, rather than EB.

    She is included in my list here:

    I think too much is made of racism in these books. You cannot attach that charge retrospectively, because the authors work reflected the traditions and social mores of the day. And the less said about the attempt to edit those traces out of the books the better. Maybe the PeevedPunjabi will rant about that someday!

    1. You made me ponder on a lot of things. Now that you mention, strange that Julian went along without any adult supervision. But then times were simpler. Safe too. Thank you for stopping by.

  28. Hi Alka Gurha,
    As a guest blogger on Dagny’s beautiful website, you have not only written on a fascinating subject: Remembering Enid Blyton … but handled it very well indeed. It’s so nice to know that you grew up reading Enid Blyton and that your collection of her books on the book shelf was the most valuable showpiece.
    It’s also wonderful to see that four years in the twenty-first century, people are still coming forward to let the world know how much they’d enjoyed reading Enid Blyton’s stories when they were children.
    However, it may surprise you, and many of your commentators, when you learn that Enid Blyton was much more that a writer of children’s storybooks. This is why I wrote a book: Enid Blyton – The Untold Story that is now going through the publication process. To find out what the book is all about please visit my website:
    In fact, when you read the contents you’re most likely to agree with the following statement by Amrita Sinha, a lovely, devoted, and well connected blogger on “Your book might introduce the new generation to Enid Blyton.”
    Now I cannot close without mentioning a few words to your host. The banner at the top of your website is so beautiful I spend a long time contemplating it. The message in the frame: ‘Deep under the surface of your everyday life…’ is wonderful and appears to be linked esoterically to the image. That you think beautiful thoughts is reflected, not only in the Introduction to your guest’s blog, but throughout your blogging, especially in the Home page. And as you already know, beautiful thoughts sent out will inevitably come back to the sender. So it is not surprising that Sakshi Nanda, in a comment, closed it with the following marvellous words: “Dagny, beauty upon beauty on your beautiful blog.” This is also the way I now close this comment.
    Brian Carter

    1. Hi Brian,

      Indeed a pleasure to have met you here on Dagny’s lovely blog. I visited your website and read about you and your muse, Enid Blyton. Having researched about the professional life of Enid Blyton, you must be privy to so many interesting facts. The nuggets and trivia you share on the page are a treasure.
      I haven’t met Dagny, but I sense that she is a beautiful person. An invisible thread connects all like minded people via bits and bytes. True, heartfelt thoughts sent out return in so many different ways. Truly delighted that you read my piece here. Thank you Brian. Thank you Dagny. 🙂

      1. Thank you Dagny for your brief response, and Alkagurha, for reading my comments and visiting my website.Totally agree with your statement: an invisible thread connects all like minded people via bits and bytes. Looking forward to the day when I can send you both a complimentary copy of Enid Blyton – The Untold Story.
        Moreover, if you would like to review it on your website(s), when the time comes, so much the better.
        Finally, I’ll be glad if you can give a mention of my website: in any media you may be contributing to.
        With best wishes

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