I loved Enid Blyton books as a kid. In fact, I loved all books. Luckily, the friends I grew up with in my village did too – when we hung out, we mostly re-enacted our favourite scenes and tried to come up with our own adventures. We often wrote them down, like pre-teen fan fic.
I always wanted to be Anne when we played Famous Five – luckily we had a tomboy in our mix who was happy to be George, and my friend Kim chose to be Timmy the Dog over playing Julian or Dick. (Snigger – Dick. I’m not sure we got that at the time – or if we suspected it might have naughty connotations then we chose not to dwell on it.) Katherine kinda wanted to be Anne but I got the job because I had blonde hair and she was a bit older so she was better suited to be in-charge Julian. Being a kid detective was our ultimate dream.
I still think about it to this day. Not so much the re-enacting, but why we did it. I think about 50% of the reason was because it gave us an excuse to fantasise about food we never got to eat in our everyday home lives with those oh-so-middle-class painstakingly home cooked dinners. Nope, we wanted slightly stale bread, given to us by a friendly farmer’s wife who had let us camp in the corner of her field overnight. We wanted slightly squashed cakes from our backpacks (we occasionally squashed cakes on purpose) and, of course, lashings of ginger beer. I’m not sure we really knew what ginger beer was or that we’d have liked it if we had it.
Of course, we wanted adventures. We wanted to meet circus folk, go camping on our own supposedly-deserted island, and to solve mysteries. We tried to make up mysteries – I hope none of the other village inhabitants heard the stories we made up about them, or noticed us staking them out in our fight against crime. Above all, we wanted a secret passage – instead we had the not-so-secret alleyway that went behind some houses and next to the churchyard.
These days, there are few things that satisfy that need for adventure, but here are a few of them:
1: When you walk the dog and he runs off on the trail of a rabbit. If this was the Famous Five, he’d have found the trail of a baddie – or person in need – and you can tell by the urgency in his gait that this is not the time to drag him back on the lead, berating him for chasing poor innocent bunnies. Next time, go with it. Follow him – let him channel his inner Timmy.
2: Going to festivals. Where else do you find mysterious circus folk, lukewarm fizzy drinks, endless trudging through the outdoors and a sense that you haven’t quite got a handle on what’s going on?
3: Sitting on your favourite central-Brighton bench, urban people watching with your best friend. It’s surprising what mysteries unfold. Why has that guy with the inappropriately heavy coat walked past, round the block and past you again – eight times? Why does that busker look familiar – is he a famous musician trying to make a statement? Why haven’t you seen Nick Cave? You always see Nick Cave! Is Nick Cave ok?
4: Exploring an unoccupied beach – ok, so this doesn’t happen very often but, if you find yourself in that situation, it’s your duty as grown up Famous Five-r to check for a smuggler’s cove – or a message in a bottle, natch.
5: Picnics with cold ham, slightly stale bread, and lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Forget everything else – that’s as good as all the rest.