Jolly Times (No.130)
First edition: 1927
Publisher: Birn Brothers
Category: One-off Novels
Publisher: Birn Brothers
Category: One-off Novels
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Back Cover illustrated by J.M.M.
We're off to the sea, the jolly blue seaCast your mind back to the 1920s and recall trips to the beach with the mandatory sand-castles, picnics, pony-rides and swims together with rock-pool exploring, cave searches, sail-boat rides and perhaps there was a Punch & Judy man who thrilled you with his puppetry. There might be a few Enid Blyton Enthusiasts who don't remember back that far but it doesn't matter because it was all there in the Thirties as well, and the Forties and the Fifties — in fact it was as late as August 1980 when I was on the beach at Weston-super-Mare with some children who were enjoying donkey-rides in true English tradition. There were also visits to farms for many Townies who experienced a whole new way of life and Jolly Times encapsulates the best of both worlds because it's about a family who visit a farm situated near a beach.
And there for a month we'll stay
We'll paddle and bathe, what fun it will be
We're off to the sea, hurray!
John and Peggy who look about seven or eight, together with Mummy, Daddy, Nurse and baby are the lucky family who are off on holiday and expectations are high,
"We'll dig in the sand and bathe in the sea and find shells and seaweed and paddle through the little rock-pools ..."
Oh yes, the plans are being drawn up and when the day arrives the "privileged few" set off in a taxi. This is the 1920s and children fared for themselves a little more in those days — Daddy, Mummy, Nurse, Baby and the luggage are the "privileged few" and, as there's no room for anyone else, the two older children puff and pant their way up the hill to the station. When they arrive they each buy a "paper" to read on their journey but they're not into The Times or The Observer. "Paper" in this case means Merry Moments and Tiger Tim. Well, I don't know about Merry Moments but Tiger Tim is as famous as anything and I think that most kids of those times, and later eras, would recognize the name. At that age I rarely had two coins to rub together so I would have been envious to think that John and Peggy had the ability to produce money and buy themselves some reading matter and then go off to ask the engine-driver how long the journey is going to be. I would never have done that and if I had, I doubt that parental supervision would have been lax enough to tolerate my absence.
It's a little longer than three hours of "hedges and trees rushing by" before they arrive at their destination and are greeted by "all their friends." That part is a little confusing because there's only an Uncle Jim mentioned although there's a picture of a lady greeting a small girl who could be Peggy and one of Peggy in a cart with her uncle and three children standing in the road — one seems to be an extra girl. Anyway, the rest of them go in a waggon (that's the way it's spelt) and soon they're all settled in Uncle Jim's farm on the side of a hill overlooking the sea. Next day the kids experience the excitement of exploring new surroundings. They run down to the beach accompanied by at least one other child judging by the word-context and they build castles and make sand-pies with their buckets. Nurse comes down a little later to keep an eye on the kids and as she's brought some shrimping nets, John goes off with "another boy" to see if they can catch something and they sure do — piles of shrimps. To change into your swimsuit in those days it seemed necessary to put up a tent or two so Uncle does that — one for the boys and one for the girls and then it's a ten-minute swim for them all with Nurse's strict instruction to go in only up to their waists.
"I couldn't tell you everything the children did on their holiday for they did different things every day" so states Enid Blyton and that's about it — a collection of jolly times that take in all the pleasant things possible when on vacation in such a locale. Free donkey rides are supplied by Uncle Jim himself because he has the farm and is able to use one of his own animals and that's ideal because it would have cost about a penny a ride if they'd had to pay for them. They each have a go and nurse even gives baby a ride as well — holding onto him whilst John leads the donkey over the sand. Baby loves it so much that he laughs and crows. That "crow" word can apply to a rooster of course but another definition is — "To make a shrill cry or sound expressive of pleasure or well-being" so we can all crow.
Ginger-beer, lemonade, oranges, apples, sweets and biscuits go some way to supplying the type of feast that Enid Blyton children need and Mrs. Smiler is one of the suppliers. Sitting on the beach underneath her big red umbrella, she dispenses the goods and even asks if they'd like some hot "bulls' eyes." There are the usual untoward incidents of course — John loses a sixpence which he was hoping to spend on apples and sweets for everyone but, despite the acres and acres of sand and sea, Peggy manages to find it the next day when she scoops up some sand to fill her bucket and hears the tinkling of metal against metal so everyone benefits with a feast of biscuits and apples — courtesy of her brother.
The time goes by and we read about entertainment in the form of Pierrots which are characters whose name suggests a French connection. They paint their faces and dress up in floppy white costumes and pointed hats to entertain the masses and a couple appear on the beach to the children's delight. They sing and play a musical instrument and are very funny which means they collect quite a few pennies for themselves when they take their hats around.
Day after day of fun and games includes sailing on the sea in a hired boat, shell-collecting, a visit to the circus which appears in the town one day — and that's a thrilling experience for the kids. Mummy and Daddy take them and we're treated to an account of the performance by an author who has reported on several during her writing career and who always manages to make them interesting. There's the big circus tent with its ring of sawdust around which the audience sits and witnesses what's on offer and this particular circus has, for a start, dancing horses. Those can be expected but there's also a Human Monkey! Well, we often accuse out friends or enemies of being monkeys but this one's a man dressed in fur who can climb anything. He can run up ladders ... like a monkey? Well, no ... he runs up them like a "cat" but, be it cat or monkey, he really astonishes the crowd with his expertise. He swings up tall poles and turns so many somersaults that Peggy loses count of them. There are clowns of course and one blows his nose so hard that it comes off! The acts move on and at the end of a wonderful show the band strikes up with "God Save the King" and then it's time to go for tea at the tea-tables and after that, John and Peggy go to spend the shillings that Daddy has given them. The coconut shy and the roundabout are patronised and then they visit the Punch-and-Judy show. What marvelous entertainment for the children and they enjoy it so much that they both put twopence into the hat when it comes around. Next it's a visit to see the juggler and the conjuror — both masters of their art and this lasts to well past the children's bedtime so it's off home after that where the tired kids Hit-the-Hay.
Having dealt with the beach and the circus, the other half of the booklet explores the possibilities that their temporary home has to offer. There are always lots of lovely things to do on a farm such as apple-picking and plum-gathering. Mr. Grunter the pig is good for a visit when he's gobbling up his breakfast and making a terrible noise about it. There are a great many cows and a couple of them just HAVE to be called "Daisy" and "Buttercup" — and there are hens, ducks, geese and turkeys. Peggy has a frightening experience when a couple of geese run up to her making a loud hissing noise but John shoos them away and then there's a bout of turnip — gathering. They help the cow-boy to throw them into the cart and they get quite good at it although Peggy hits the horse once by accident. (Three guesses as to what the horse is called ... a very common horse-name of that era).
Hay-making is something the children enjoy one fine day and their Uncle Jim says they can sit in a corner of the field with the dog (three guesses as to its name — the most common dog-name in the world I think) and watch the activity until their cousins arrive. Peter, George, Mollie and Joan who are the cousins, eventually appear and proceed to bury John and Peggy in the hay then invite them to afternoon tea. Mollie wants to show them her pets — Fluffy, Brownie and Peeko. What could they be? Peter has a baby pig — appropriately called "Piglet" and Joan has a puppy dog. George is a very lucky chap because he owns a pony which he was given when he saved the barn from burning down. This book is a very old one and there's no real plot to it so the tale can be told — George surprised a tramp that was in the barn and about to have a smoke of his pipe. The man ran away but he must have dropped a lighted match because next moment there was burning straw which could have been disastrous — however George kept his cool. He rushed to get the hose which he connected up all by himself and then turned it on the flames and put them out. Reward: One pony!
John and Peggy accompany their cousins' to a picture-postcard farm-house for a splendid tea (after they've washed their hands of course) which features such delicacies as strawberry jam, cherry cake and little glasses of jelly. This is a very special tea for John and Peggy because they both feel that it's "... the nicest tea they've ever had!" Then it's time to feed the hens and chicks and Mollie introduces them to her pets. They also meet "Stamper" — George's little pony, which is black with a white star on its forehead. Peggy and John can both ride and they each have a canter around the farm. John disappears temporarily — he may have gone on a longer ride, and in the meantime Peter introduces Piggy, sorry — Peggy to "Piglet" who is beautifully clean and pink with a lovely curly tail. Peggy strokes him and then asks what else there is to see. "Would you like to see Daddy's new car?" asks George. You bet — and what a beauty it is. The latest and greatest with the number N71 at the front so perhaps it's the 71st car ever produced! The roof folds down and there are lamps on the mud-guards and if you feel like robbing a bank it features wide running boards upon which you can jump as the vehicle speeds away. George suggests that he and Peggy clean it and she agrees so they turn the hose on and set to work. The illustration shows them performing their task ... well actually George seems to be spraying a puppy-dog just as the picture was drawn but I'm sure they spring into action right after that. I notice the hood is still down so I hope they know what they're doing with the hose. Yes, it appears they do because Uncle Harry, who is George's father, is delighted with their efforts and offers to take them for a ride. Mollie joins them too as the other kids are "busy doing something else" so she sits with George in the dickey and Peggy jumps in beside Uncle Harry. He drops them off at Mrs. Brown's place to deliver some eggs and butter and in return the grateful lady allows the children to pick some plums from her tree. What more could you want in a typical Blyton portrayal of Jolly Times? Bunnies? Yes, of course. The children walk back to the farm-house via Bunny Hill and marvel at the scores of scampering rabbits which are terribly tame but not quite enough to allow physical contact.
John and Peggy are allowed to stay the night with their cousins so there's the excitement of sleeping in a different house with friends/relations but first a big supper has to be served which includes stewed plums and thick cream and afterwards they all play a game of Blind Man's Buff. How exciting — especially for those who aren't blindfolded. John's "in" and after blundering around and receiving discreet pokes from Mollie and George he finally catches someone. Who is it? The Someone is very tall so it can only be Auntie Mary. There's laughter and shouting and shrieks and calls — the children are having the time of their lives and Peggy and John feel they've never had such a lovely day.
Uncle Jim calls for them in the morning and takes them back to his farm in the cart. Baby is very pleased to see them and he shows Peggy a doll that nurse has given him. The picture depicts Baby in a dress but in those days perhaps there wasn't so much emphasis placed on a baby's gender although I thought that instead of being given a doll he might have received a toy car or something. There are two more days of British seaside entertainment which involves the building of more sand-castles, paddling in the sea, shrimping again and searching for shells and then it's time to pack up and head for home. It's "Goodbyes" and kisses all round and a picture appears which is reminiscent of one or two scenes in the TV programme "Upstairs, Downstairs" where a trunk is being lifted onto a rather stately looking vehicle (a taxi in this case) and the farm-house itself complete with wrought-iron fence could easily be mistaken for an Eaton Place, London residence. The taxi sets off for the railway station and after saying a last "Goodbye!" to three of their cousins who have accompanied them, John, Peggy and family board the train and wave madly as it pulls out of the station.
"Goodbye, goodbye ... we've had a lovely holiday and we'll be sure to come back again next year."
"Goodbye ... a happy journey home. Goodbye!"
Enid Blyton wrote many descriptions of everyday happenings and always seemed to make the accounts interesting and readable. Sometimes, in one of her Find-Outer books that ostensibly deal with mystery-solving there might be a visit on the side to a fair or a market and the interest is still maintained when a paragraph or two deals with the woman who has a dairy-produce stall or the elderly gypsy who's selling balloons. I can't think of any children's books that describe a visit to a circus with comments on all the acts and the audience reaction but that doesn't mean the Blytons are unique in that respect because there are thousands of books around so one can't account for all of them. The same goes for a visit to a farm or to the beach — everyday activities perhaps but never boring when they receive the EB treatment. We can join in and not only experience what happens but in many cases we can learn a little — especially from the books that deal with educative trips.
The pictures, as you would expect, are 1920s style and there's one on most of the 60+ pages. Note the clothing and the vehicles and the bathing tents — they may bring a few nostalgic thoughts into mind.
"Bull's-eyes" are a type of boiled lolly which might not be attractively named if you consider what a bull's eye really is. Hot bulls' eyes? Can't think what they'd taste like and I don't see how children would like hot (as in curry) sweets.
The circus band played "God Save the King." No doubt, the King at that time would be George V.
Did you guess right? The horse that pulls the turnip-cart is called "Dobbin." The dog in the hay-field is "Spot."
"Fluffy," "Brownie" and "Peeko" are Mollie's pet hens.
Uncle Harry's wife is Auntie Mary.
Can't recall seeing a name for the baby so he's just "Baby!"
EB must have rather liked the names — "Mollie" and "Peter" because there are several mentioned in her works with at least one similar duo (Adventures of the Wishing Chair).
What on earth could a "dickey be"? Whenever I watched Huey, Dewey and Louie riding in Donald Duck's car I wondered where exactly they were sitting because it looked as if they were ensconced in the boot. A dickey looks like the boot of a car but it appears to be a seat in the back although not in the car proper and it's often a feature of classic automobiles. Uncle Harry's car looks like a classic automobile if there ever was one.
The characters in the TV drama Upstairs, Downstairs lived in a select area of London namely Eaton Place.
There was a crate of hens on the station platform when the children were bound for home and Peggy showed some concern for them. In the old days a container of livestock would hardly be noticed but in these new days one might reflect on the plight of such creatures stuffed together in a small cage without a thought for their comfort. Fortunately, the porter gave them some water.
Jolly Times would be a wonderful piece of memorabilia to own for oneself. An original copy would cost a lot though because it's dated 1927. Enid Blyton books of that vintage command enormous prices which can be verified when an example comes up for auction. In 2001 the eBay auction site displayed a copy of Responsive Singing Games with a Buy-Now price of over £450! OK, that's dated 1923 and is one of the very first EB books, but Read to Us was published in 1933 and a copy of that book sold for over £160 in 2002 so, if you knew where you could get your hands on a copy of Jolly Times, which is older in vintage, how much would you consider paying? What about a mint-condition facsimile with all the script and pictures yet no fading, dog-eared pages, or cut-off corners? What a treat! The Enid Blyton Society has very limited editions of Jolly Times amongst others and I looked on their site to see what this particular reprint was priced at. I expected it to be some enormous amount but then, bearing in mind it was a facsimile, I decided on £10 — £15. I found it was an unbelievable £4-something! It had to be unbelievable and it was, to a small extent, because you need to be a member to obtain this treasure. A membership costs about a tenner so the book could be picked up for about £15 (£4 for those who are already members) and of course you'd have all the advantages of membership including the magazine which is issued every four months. Once this information gets out though, there'll probably be a run on the bank and the "Sold Out" sign will be put up but, as of writing, there is a copy or copies available.