Saturday, 15 May 2010

Dreaming of Enid

Having glued my eyeballs to non-stop Enid Blyton books at my most delicate age, I grew up convinced that no decent day out was complete without a yummy picnic in the fresh air. Hard-boiled eggs and tomato sandwiches, home-made lemonade and great slabs of cake for afters. Hoorah!

But a real-life, grown-up picnic is never quite like that, is it? By the time we decide to have one, it’s usually too late to go shopping for chicken satay and potato salad, so I peer into the cupboard and cobble together some sandwiches and crisps. If I find a packet of chocolate biscuits, that’s good. Raw carrots and a few water bottles in the bag and we’re good to go.

The time comes, and we meet our friends in the car park of our chosen scenic spot. I lug bags as the children shoot off like speeding bullets before I can ask them to carry anything. If there are picnic benches, they are splattered with bird poo or next to an overflowing bin, so we wander down to the riverbank or up a hill. Choosing a spot turns into a game of ‘find the least muddy bit’.

Out comes the food. Unless I’ve had a rare Nigella moment the night before, my friends will usually have out-lunched me. They joyfully nourish their patient, grateful offspring with delicious pasta salad and garlic rolls on smart orange plastic plates; Me, I wrestle my children to the ground and plonk squashed sandwiches and a packet of hula hoops into their grubby hands, growling “eat the sandwiches first.” We nibble our chocolate biscuits (melted) as we are attacked by wasps or menaced by dogs that look only slightly scarier than their owners.

But the dream never dies, and I will still plan picnics in the hope that they will be more romantic and delightful than they probably will be. Tonight I was reading some Enid Blyton to my daughter, and the children in the story did indeed have yet another picnic - this time it was a ham and a fruit cake from the market wrapped in a tea towel, and some ginger beer. Hoorah Hoorah Hoorah!


  1. Mmm... I was also brought up on Enid Blyton books and stories and it took me a very long time to realise life wasn't like that.

    However, I live in hope that there might be a mysterious island somewhere with lots of ginger beer and jolly cakes (or should that be japes?)

    Or even a faraway tree I could vanish into!

  2. Not to mention the black clouds that quickly scurry over and produce a downpour! Yes, Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for

  3. Everything always sounded so delicious in the Famous Five - ices from the local farm, macaroons from the farmer's wife, ginger beer. And it was all FREE.
    Today, they'd probably be grabbing some sarnies from M&S and drinking Diet Coke.

  4. I think the reason we all love Enid Blyton books is simply because they are the ultimate escape to the perfect childhood and the perfect picnic. I have often been guilty of spending hours imagining Blyton moments instead of realising how fantastic life can be when it is unpredictable and average.

  5. ps - nice to see you back on your GBS stomping ground:-)

  6. Enid certainly gave us aspirations:-)

    I too live in hope that one day we will have the perfect picnic, in perfect weather. It'll never happen but it's nice to dream:-)

  7. I am glad that you mention Enid Blyton. Yes, The Famous Five picnics seemed to be real fun, though not necessarily far-fetched as some critics have suggested, since some of those picnics in which Uncle Quentin participates in i.e. Five On A Treasure Island and Five On Kirrin Island Again, reminded us of the family picnics we used to have at home. You also mention Nigella (Lawson, I presume). Nigella was also a great fan of Enid Blyton's (I presume as a child). In fact she liked The Naughtiest Girl series a lot (type in, then in the SEARCH section, type in "Enid Blyton). I too was a childhood fan of Enid Blyton that as far as food was concerned, I sub-titled a segment, "Food in Blytonian Literature" in my book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (
    Stephen Isabirye

  8. I loved Enid Blyton books too! (Although for years I thought Enid was a man's name) Do you think that kind of world ever existed? I doubt it.

  9. i am so very glad you have returned. You and your brilliant writing were very much missed. We all need a period of soul searching - I did five years of the stuff but now I have a good direction, motivation and good solid will to see it through. Hope you stay with us - never defect again, the grass is always greener!

  10. Hey Girl -

    I've been sitting here going through back comments on older posts trying to find the comment that Mimi left me. I'm now back to October 2009 and suddenly I'm thinking she sent me an email.

    Anyway - long story short - she was doing fine at the time of her writing - just breaking in a new caregiver.

    All I ever do is leave a question for her asking how she is doing and if she could let me know.

    Give it a try - we all miss her blogging but I think it is too much of a chore for her these days.

  11. Just finished Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum wherein I learnt for the first time ever about wrapping food in hand er tea towels

  12. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  13. i love enid blyton. and how funny to read this--my plan is to spend this long weekend re-reading noel streatfeild.

  14. I had forgotten my four yr old was meant to have a picnic prepared for his sports morning last Friday, (HOW? HOW? HOW?) the coach was leaving at 10 past 9, it was four minutes to, he ended up with a squashed banana, tuna and brioche sandwiches, spaghetti bolognese flavoured crisps (they really do exist) and a bashed up water bottle. I will never read Enid Blyton again, I am too ashamed for words...