Friday, November 02, 2007
The Famous Five are a bunch of bastards and they ruined my life. I used to love those kids, but not any more. I read all the books about ten times over, watched the TV series avidly and worshipped Enid Blyton. They could do no wrong. But I was just a mere innocent. How was I to know the books were stealthily filling my head with unrealistic expectations of how I should behave or how life should be? I went from being a happy go lucky youngster to a bitter disenchanted individual and it's all because of Julian Dick and Ann, George and Timmy the do-o-o-o-og.
Firstly, half past eight was always, to me, quite a respectable hour of the morning to be getting up. Especially if you were on school holidays. But not for the Famous Five apparently. Oh no. They'd wake up at 8.30 and start flagellating themselves with bull-whips for being so lazy. "Oh my goodness we're such sleepy heads, look at the time!"
Eh, what?? Half eight is the middle of the night when you're seven years of age for God's sake and I'm there reading and thinking I must be some sort of festering bed-bound sloth because 8.30 was the earliest I ever got up for school.
It has stayed with me all my life. I'm 31 now and when sleeping off a hangover the spectre of saintly Julian shimmers into view and reminds me sternly that this fondness for the scratcher isn't exactly Famous Five type behaviour, all this lounging about when there's an international smuggling ring that needs accidental uncovering and the criminals brought to justice.
Every Bank Holiday Monday I have half a notion that instead of catching up on some shut-eye I should find an Aunt that doesn't mind me calling her Fanny and offer to weed her flowerbeds like a good boy. Honestly. It's never left me. Scarred for life.
What's more I can honestly say I haven't enjoyed a good meal since I welcomed these adventurers into my life. I've had plenty of good meals, I just haven't enjoyed any of them. And why? Yep. Those Famous Five fuckers again. I've been at some sumptuous spreads it must be said but they pale besides the grub put away by these kids because when they sat down to eat they practically needed planning permission. I had to make do with porridge and a cut or two of homemade brown bread with corned beef, but this crew used to regularly tuck into something way out of that league called a 'High Tea.' Yes, it does make you think of hash straight away but come on, these were innocent pre-pubescents so High Tea was basically like normal tea, except with portions that would knock a small horse. "Oh we're simply ravenous Fanny," the fivesters would chime (Timmy would woof and wag his tail) before descending on a heavily-laden and creaking table to mow their way through salad, egg, hot and cold meat, potatoes, buns, scones, cake, tea, ice cream and jelly and yes, of course, lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Bloody hell. I was far from malnourished or anything but I couldn't help thinking my parents were like total stingy bastards at tea time when compared to the bacchanalian excesses enjoyed by the Famous Five. I went off my mother's home cooking a little bit because of it. Oh and I didn't speak to my parents for about six years. These books were slowly driving a wedge between me and the people closest to me.
Then there was the simply unmatchable all-round virtuosity of the five. Julian was the leader of the pack, all politeness, charm and calm command. Every book described him as a "fine boy, tall and strong with blond hair and blue eyes that always reassured adults," which was great, and as an added bonus he also met Hitler's criteria for membership of the Aryan race. Although Blyton generally skimmed over this. Anyway, he was basically Mr. Perfect and Dick was more or less the same, just a little shorter and if possible, hungrier than the others. Ann meanwhile was every mother's dream and sought out housework and cleaning jobs with a zeal that was almost OCD-like.
George however was a bit of a rogue. Most will recall that she really wanted to be a bloke as boys got to do much cooler stuff than girls. Or to put it directly, she was a rampaging lesbian who didn't wash under her arms and even wore a prosthetic penis, with the secret intention of violating poor Ann while she bent over to get the Domestos out of the press. She had a bit of a temper on her as well - 'mutinous' it used to say in the book when she had a strop on (that's an 'o' not an 'a' you filth bags) - which was just George's inner rage at her sexual dysfunction coming out.
Nonetheless, take George out of the equation and the Famous Five, Timmy included (because he might have chased rabbits alright but he never actually killed any) were all fairly good eggs and the sort who became prefects at boarding schools and organised village fetes. By contrast, I never once solved any mysteries, had trouble learning to tie my shoelaces and regularly got kicked out of class for farting. There was also that time the headmaster caught me robbing strawberries from his back garden. So as I read and read in thrall at the simply marvellous high achievers in the Famous Five, I gradually began to feel worthless. I didn't even like ginger beer, local crime lords refused to take me seriously and I didn't have a gender-confused cousin I could call my own.
So there you have it folks. I loved the Famous Five like my brothers, sister and, um, apprentice transvestite, and all they did was hold up an ideal I could never ever aspire to and a mirror where I didn't like what I saw. Those little bastards ruined my life.