Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Reflections.

It is hard to believe Friday has come around again so quickly. This is a week that began well. We had wonderful weather at the weekend. I was out and about with my camera, enjoying a couple of quiet days after the busyness of the previous week.
The gazanias were also enjoying the sunshine.

I have been sorting through old photographs, beginning to delete the unwanted ones in an effort to save on storage space. Our theme for our photography workshop this week was portraits. This was stretching me.  Portraits are not my thing. Until my trip to Nepal last year I was better known for asking people to get out of my way, they were ruining my shot. Living on my own now it was hard to find a willing subject. Even the cats run when they see the camera. I eventually presuaded a friend, to being my guinea pig or should I say model? He was very patient but he soon tired of posing for yet another shot form a different angle.

Here are a couple of the results:

I plied him with tea to keep his spirits up

I really struggled with this lighting. I got lots of noise. In post procuction while eliminating the noise, I also lost the character lines of  his face. Any ideas anyone?
My week was going well,  I was feeling so good I couldn't think of one bad thing that had happened to me during it. It just goes to prove one should never become complacent. Wednesday it all started to go wrong. I knocked over and broke my 3TB external hard drive. It contained all my photographs collected over the years. What's worse is, this was only a new one. The last one blew up only a couple of months ago during a power surge.  This one can be rescued again, I am told, but at a cost!

So then today I sat down to write this blog post. I read the three prompts we were given and thought "Oh, oh." This is not going to be an easy one for me. 

Prompt No. 1. What was the funniest thing I saw or heard this week.?  Hmmm. My sense of humour has taken a bit of bashing over the past few days. My remote control keyboard stopped working today.  Yesterday I dropped my phone as I was coming into the house. Luckily, the phone is ok but the case is broken. I thought to myself what next? 
Well guess what? This is the second attempt at writing this post. The first seems to have disappeared into the ether. It seems that the Blogger app on the iPad hasn't got an automatic save or maybe it is because I hadn't put a title on it. Hence my second time try.

Prompt no. 2. What book or books had the greatest influence on me.....skip that one, I love books but have any really had a major influence on my life?

 Prompt No.3.  A quotation by Maya Angelou. "There is no greater agony than holding an untold story inside you"  Well, that doesn't apply. I have always been a "sharer" even if my confidants were reluctant ones.

Decisions, decisions, this week is going downhill rapidly!

It looked like No. 2 was my best option. This is where I would love to lie and say that the book that has had the greatest influence on me is some great piece of literature like James Joyce's "Ulysess" or one of Mahatama Gandhi's many works. That might make me look good. Unfortunately that is not the case. 

I read for pleasure. Almost always fiction. I read across the spectrum from light chic lit to books that are critically acclaimed, lyrically written, books that get me so involved in the story that it is a couple of days before I can start a new one. It takes me time to separate from the characters.  Some.books I have really enjoyed, just for their pure escapism, books that took me away from my daily routine to a place where I did not have to think, where I could  just relax, laugh and enjoy

So what or which books have had the most influence on me? Wait for it!  I can almost see you wincing as I say it. Enid Blytons books are the ones.  Do I hear shocked intake of breath, the exclamations, "What? Is she out of her cotton picking mind?  Now we know why she is Cilgin Kiz, Crazy Girl!

Enid Blyton has not been critically well received. She has been accused of being a second rater, her books of being elitist, racist, repetitive and totally predictable. 

Then why? Why has this author's books been so influential in my life?

 When I was eight, I moved schools. I was in second class. I found myself struggling, both with making friends and keeping up with class work. Everyone else in the class seemed to be able to read fluently. I was stumbling through. My lack of fluency affected every subject. How could I do the math when I couldn't read the question?

Dad stepped into the breach and gave me lots of extra help at home and it wasn't too long before I began to read proficiently. At the time there wasn't the great array of children's books that is available now. I still love children's books. We even read one, "The Monster Calls" in my Irish book club a couple of years back and it was probably one of the only books we all agreed we liked. I was sad when my girls grew to big for me to indulge myself by buying them beautifully illustrated picture books. 

Anyway, I started to read. A whole new world began to open up for me. I was quite a solitary child. Even though one of six, I am an only girl and and there was a three and a four year age gap on either side of me. We lived out from the centre of the village and  we were still regarded as blow ins by the "locals".

I used to read my Mum's books that she had when she was a girl. The Girls Crystal.  They were big thick books, thick pages, by that time a dull shade of brown. But the short stories inside were good. Then I discovered Enid Blyton. While  the "Secret Seven" were not my favourites I thrived on the adventures of the "Famous Five" From the comfort and safety of my couch or my place sprawled in the sunshine on the sitting room floor, I enjoyed their amazing adventures and imagined myself with them, especially with Timmy the Dog. Then there was the Adventure series, the Five Find Outers and of course the school series, St Clare's and Mallory Towers. How I longed to go to boarding school, not for the marvellous schools of course. No! I never thought about what it would be like to be sent away from home at a young age. But oh those tuck boxes and midnight feasts, how I longed to to take part.

One night, when I was ten, I was reading one of my favourites, "The Hollow Tree House" I was enrapt and couldn't put the book down. My Mum came out to the toilet around  four in the morning and saw the crack of light around my door. I had snapped off the light as soon as I heard her door open but I was too late. She came into my room but I played dead. 

In retrospect I would have been better to leave the light on and pretend to be asleep. I could have pleaded I had fallen asleep much earlier and left the light on. She said nothing and left the room.  As soon as I heard the click of her door and I knew she was safely back in her room I turned on the light again and continued to read. To be honest I don't remember much of the story now, but I do remember the tears pouring down my face as I read. I know the children ran away to live in a hollow tree and one of them got very sick.  As for reading late, I thought I had gotten away with it until the next morning. However, I was let know in no uncertain terms I had been caught. My punishment? My bedside light was taken away for a week. So for the rest of that week I had to read standing up at the end of the bed, beside the wall light, ready to put it out. I obviously hadn't learned my lesson.

I progressed from Enid Blyton to the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew mysteries. From there it was back to my Mums books, "Three Daughters of the United Kingdom" , "Honour without Reknown", then on to some of the classics, "The Swiss Family Robinson" being one of my favourites. By the age of thirteen, I was reading Walter Macken and Nicholas Monsarrat. I don't ever remember feeling lonely or bored. I always had books.

Move on a little and I was in teacher training college. One day we were discussing children's literature with our English lecturer. She was giving Enid Blyton "down the banks." Children  shouldn't be let near her books she said. The books were totally unrealistic. Children go off on an adventure, they are missing for weeks. There is no hullabaloo, no hue and cry. When they eventually arrive home, they are greeted by their mother who has prepared scones for their tea. They are never scolded or warned not to go missing again. There are so many things critically wrong with the books. But I totally disagree with children not being let read them!

I actually found my voice, something rare for me in those days. I spoke up and contradicted her. Yes I do agree with some of what she said but Enid Blyton must have done something right. She has sold over six hundred million books. Children have given their opinion by buying her books.

 I argued that it I felt it was our jobs as educators to get children reading, something, anything, that catches their interest.  I don't care if it comics or the back of the cornflakes packet. Every child is different, has different interests and tastes.  We need to cater to those tastes. How many of us, as adults finish a book we don't like or do we put it to one side?   How many teachers have given a child a book to read and told them they must finish it, they will not get another until they do?  But If we can get them reading, if we can enable them to catch the "reading bug" then it is our job as educators and/or as parents to introduce them to better quality books. If any author, any comics  non age appropriate or violent content excepted)  starts a child out on their reading journey, if they create and foster a lifelong love of reading, they hold value. 

Therefore it is Enid Blyton's books that have had the most influence one me, not for their intrinsic or literary value,  not for being thought provoking  or intellectually stimulating but because they turned a reluctant reader into a voracious one. They sparked my love of reading, a lifelong gift which I have endeavoured to pass on through my 35 year teaching career and to my four children. 


  1. Im sorry the prompts presented you with a challenge but Im so glad you wrote about Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree is my all time face, I still have my original's one of my prized possessions. I too delved into Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and beyond. It was that sense of adventure, freedom, excitement...I don't care what anyone else says. It was those books that filled my hours when I was a scared little girl, providing me with a place to escape, fantasise, dream, and write.... Like you, they also instilled in me a love for reading. I devoured books, and still do when I have time.

  2. Hi Janine. don't apologise. I think it is good to be challenged. Another week and the same prompts would be no problem. Often it is where my head is. As for Enid Blyton, you and I are not alone. Her books are still selling after all those years.

  3. I loved Enid Blyton too, but reading them back to my caught 30 years later I wondered what it was that caught me up in the stories so much.

    1. I haven't gone back to read them Annie and never will. I loved them as a child and would like that magic to remain. Now it is for the fact that these books opened up a world of books rather than the worlds contained in the books that I hold them in esteem.

  4. Firstly thank you for linking up. I too am an Enid Blyton girl from way back, and those stories still live inside me. My daughter loves the magic faraway tree series now and I love sharing this experience with her. A really great post, so well written!

    1. Thank you Mackenzie. I thinkOST children loved her. Perhaps when we grow up we become more critical. Enid is reputed to have said she would only listen to criticism from children under 12.

  5. Ahh! Enid Blyton was my gateway drug for reading.

    Also partially responsible for why, when I roped my sisters into attempting to run away from home (because our baby-sitter was annoying me), that living in a local forest seemed like perfectly feasible plan!

    1. I live that phrase "gateway drug" it sums up everything I was trying to say ☺

  6. Sorry to hear that you had a fall and almost lost your memories. Enid Blyton has been one of my favorite authors too during my growing up years. As time went, I also appreciated Nancy Drew mysteries :) I only wish and hope that my baby girl treasures and enjoys these timeless classics just as I did.

    1. it was my external hard drive that had the fall and I am still waiting to hear if my documents can be rescued but I live in hope :-) In addition to these series now there is so much waiting for your little girl, including one of my daughters favourites Roald Dahl.


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