As a child, I loved Enid Blyton’s books, and my favourite series was The Famous Five. Three siblings - Anne, Dick and Julian - had all sorts of adventures with their cousin George (Georgina actually) and her dog Timmy.
I found one of my old Famous Five books the other day and was flicking through it. It’s Five Go On A Hike Together. There are a whole heap of things about it that I never questioned as a child but amaze me now. For a start, the kids in it are aged between 10 and 12 years old, but they are allowed to go off by themselves on a hiking trip. The teacher is concerned that it will be too cold at night to camp but they tell her that it’s ok - they’ve picked out some farm houses on the map and will stay there. She’s happy to hear that. On the first night out, two of the children get caught in a storm and end up staying with a deaf old lady who is terrified about what her son will do if he finds them, and sends the girl upstairs to sleep while the boy is sent out to the barn.
In this day and age of “stranger danger”, the concept of a teacher being relieved to hear that her pupils are going to front up at various farmhouses and ask for a night’s accomodation is unimaginable. What’s more, I can’t think of a single parent that would allow their 10-12 year old children to go camping by themselves, especially for days on end. Has the world changed that much since these books were written, or did Enid Blyton write about a world that never really existed?
Another thing that surprised me was that the boarding school the girls attend allows pets. I don’t really know much about boarding schools but that detail surprised me. Creative licence or fact?
It’s so weird to find how different my experience of these books is now. As a child, I longed to be one of the Famous Five, now I just shake my head and wonder what their parents were thinking.