I still remember the excitement of going to the newsagent’s with 25p in my pocket, and coming home with a brand new Famous Five book. Each one utterly captured my imagination: the boundless independence and capability of the children, their victories over all things evil, and their happy return to safety after danger. And above all, I loved George – the girl who was ‘just as good as any boy’. Brave, angry, resourceful George. I wanted to be her.
When I became a writer, I knew I had to create more Georges – girls who seized hold of life, found their inner strength and took on the world. Recently, I listened to an archive interview with Blyton, and was stunned to hear how closely my own life has mirrored hers.
♦Enid Blyton♦ Enid Blyton grew up telling her younger brothers stories, and always wanted to be a writer. But her aunt was a professional pianist, and her family expected her to be a musician. From the age of six, Blyton learned the piano, and talked of how she had to ‘practice, practice, practice’ until the age of eighteen, when she won a place at the Guildhall School of Music. (photo: source unknown)
♥Fiona Beddow♥ For me, writing was a solitary escape. I loved creating worlds that were more exciting than my own, timid existence. I played the recorder at seven and the violin at nine. I swapped to the flute at eleven, and was soon encouraged to make it my career. Music – and music practice – came first. I went on to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire, emerging four years later as a professional flautist and flute teacher.
♦EB♦ At the age of eighteen, whilst working as a Sunday School teacher, Enid Blyton realised that she had a real love of working with children – and particularly relished telling them stories. Off the back of this revelation, she persuaded her father that she should abandon her place at the Guildhall School, and train as a teacher instead. During her training, her talent for story-telling flourished.
♥FB♥ After eight years in the music profession, I was working at holiday and after school clubs to supplement my musician’s income. One day, it struck me how much I loved working with young children. Shortly after this I made the huge decision to leave music behind and retrain as a primary school teacher. During my training, I rediscovered my love of playing with words.
♦EB♦ Blyton worked as a governess to several children for nearly five years, and during that time wrote countless stories, poems and songs to use in the lessons. She is quoted as saying these were the ‘happiest five years I could have wished for.’ Soon after this she became a full-time writer, and continued to communicate with children through her books. The rest, as they say, is history!
(Enid Blyton photo: source unknown)
♥FB♥ As a full-time primary school teacher, I was always writing stories, poems and songs to use in class. As a teacher, I felt I was in my element at last. Many years later, when I was working as a home tutor, I found the time to write at length. Finally the idea for my first adventure book pinged into my head! I still tutor, because helping children find confidence as writers is too rewarding to give up.
♦EB♦ Enid Blyton’s favourite character in all her books was George. ‘She had a strong personality, and was kind, good, generous and brave …’ said Blyton. In her books she often interjects in her own voice on the subject of gender equality: ‘She’s just as brave as one of the boys!’ Blyton often talked about how she felt a moral responsibility to guide children to be ‘good and kind’ in her books.
♥FB♥ Have I mentioned that George was my favourite, too?! When I was young I was obsessed with being ‘as good as the boys’. When I started writing my books, it was hugely important to me that I created a heroine who transcended gender stereotyping and was a brave and accomplished person in her own right. And my books definitely have a moral thread running through them: as a teacher I feel a duty to my readers to create characters who have integrity. I don’t write about underage sex, alcohol abuse or drug-taking. My heroines always eat well, they are loyal, they stand up for what is right … and they ALWAYS ask questions.
Looking back at my life as a musician, teacher and writer, I’m not sure I ever became as brave as George. But, albeit in a much-less-famousy way, I did become like her creator, Enid Blyton. I wonder what the 9-year-old me would have thought of that?
YOU CAN HEAR THE INTERVIEW WITH ENID BLYTON FROM THE BBC ARCHIVES HERE
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ENID BLYTON AND ALL HER BOOKS ON THE ENID BLYTON SOCIETY WEBSITE