The Exciting Birthday (No. 2)
First edition: 1927
Publisher: Birn Brothers
Category: Birns 1927 Series
Type: Short Story Series Books
Publisher: Birn Brothers
Category: Birns 1927 Series
Type: Short Story Series Books
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The first present Mollie opens is certainly worth coming down for because it's a great big doll with eyes that open and shut and a key to turn so that it can walk. What a delight to see it tottering along the table and almost colliding with a dish. Mollie immediately christens the doll Margaret Rose, because she's "as beautiful as a princess."
The other gifts yield a book of fairy tales, a work basket full of sewing items, a brooch with Mollie's name on and then Jack tells her to cut the string round a large parcel because it contains something he's made all by himself for the new doll. The boy's obviously pretty good with his hands because a lovely little rocking chair with red cushions appears when Mollie cuts the string and tears away the paper. A crafted gift like that is a wonderful present to receive, and Mollie immediately places Margaret Rose on her very own "throne." The next gift is quite tiny but the excited little girl is thrilled because she's just becomes the owner of a beautiful silver watch to wear on her wrist, and it's now official,
"I shall never be late for school."
Breakfast commences and it seems that Mummy must have bought her present separately because a question arises - why hasn't Daddy given his daughter a gift? Don't worry he hasn't forgotten but what he's bought for her is too big to bring inside so after breakfast all will be revealed. When the meal is over and everyone's ready, Mollie is taken out into the garden and told to close her eyes. When she opens them we learn that Daddy must be quite rich because there in front of the girl is a little grey donkey harnessed to a cart that can carry four people! What a fantastic surprise and the very next thing that happens is predictable – after Mollie has christened her animal Scamper, she gets into the cart with Jack, yells out, "Gee-up," and guess who holds the reins as they drive down the path and back? Scamper performs very well indeed going clipper-clopper with his heels as they move along and Jack, who's about as excited as Mollie, receives a very kind offer from his sister – he can share her present.
What a magnificent birthday it is because the fun's not over yet; they're now off for a picnic in the woods. Cook supplies the sandwiches and Mummy packs up cakes and apples. Daddy disappears to buy some lemonade (note that) and even Jack forks out for some chocolate so they're not going to starve. Margaret Rose has to accompany them of course as they climb into the cart and set off with Scamper pulling them along towards the wood. I don't think a driver's licence is required for a donkey and cart but while they're on the road Daddy's in charge and he hands the reins to Mollie only when they reach a path that runs through the trees.
When they find a suitable spot, Mollie yells "woa-back!" and Scamper stops for them to alight. The first thing to do is to unharness the donkey so that he can wander about and now the scene can be easily imagined – Mollie, Jack and Mummy picking bunches of bluebells while Daddy sits in a sunny spot reading the paper. Finally it's time to eat and the lunch-basket is unpacked with the goodies spread out on a white cloth for the family to have their fill. What an array of wholesome food there is – sandwiches, cakes, apples, chocolate and ginger-beer. Excellent fare to consume whilst the cuckoo calls and bees hum in a sunny blue sky. Scamper ambles over to be given a lump of sugar by his mistress but he's definitely not a "one lump" donkey so he begs another from Jack, and another from Daddy, and a fourth lump from Mummy thus conveying the idea that he's going to be a spoilt little critter. There's no doubt about it, this birthday is a classic because the fun's not over yet ... the party proper is yet to come!
Breakfast was served earlier on and possibly morning tea, and they've also downed a pile of picnic food, but now it's time for the real meal of the day and as soon as they get home, plans are set in motion. Cook's been hard at work turning out lots of cakes and coloured jellies and fruit salad - as well as a beautiful birthday cake with pink roses all over and seven candles placed in the middle. The excitement is mounting and the children rush off to dress in their finery – Mollie dons a pink frock with forget-me-nots around the edge plus a blue sash, and Jack has a new tunic and blouse so they both come down looking and feeling very grand. The first guests arrive – Peggy, Ruth, Peter and John, who go straight upstairs to "take of their things," and then Mabel, Mary, Hugh, Eric and Leslie roll up and the games commence beginning with Here we come gathering nuts in May.
Eventually, the feast is heralded by the tea-bell and the children sit down and tuck into chocolate buns, cherry cakes, sugar biscuits, jam sandwich, jellies and fruit salad – it's all "so exciting" we are told. Last of all is the birthday cake and after Daddy has lit the candles Mollie is allowed to cut it because, after all, it's her cake. "Seven years old!" says Daddy and everyone cries, "Many happy returns of the day!" What a delicious cake it is and every child gets one of the pink roses on his or her piece and now more pleasure is in store because when the children have had their fill they're led out into the garden for turns in the donkey-cart. They're also allowed rides on Scamper's back, which is an added bonus, and as the animal is so obliging, he's presented with a piece of Mollie's birthday cake.
But wait! There's more!
Everyone troops back inside for the final thrill of the day – a conjuror. Yes, Daddy has arranged some chairs in a row and now the kids are sitting down and waiting expectantly with their eyes on a curtain that has appeared across one end of the room. It's swung back and a man of magic steps out to amaze and baffle children and grown-ups alike. He changes a glass full of tea into one of water with a goldfish swimming about in it and then plucks half a crown out of Jack's pocket and a shilling out of Peggy's ear! He also performs another trick that's everyone's probably seen at one time or another – yards and yards of ribbon are pulled from out of his mouth and then, as a finale, he borrows a hat, blows on it, and pops it onto Daddy's head. When he lifts it up what do you think is underneath? An inanimate object of some kind? No! There's a real live rabbit sitting on a very surprised-looking gentleman! I think Mollie's cup of joy would be overflowing when the conjuror hands her one more birthday present – the rabbit! Mollie is so happy because she's "always wanted a bunny," especially a magic one!
It's time for the party to end and as the guests leave they're all in complete agreement – never have they been to such a lovely birthday celebration before and Mollie echoes their sentiments when Mummy kisses her goodnight.
"Isn't it a pity that birthdays don't come every day?"
Many English children would probably have understood the Margaret Rose connection with Mollie's doll. Margaret Rose was of course one of the Queen's daughters (Princess Margaret) who would have been about three years old when Mollie borrowed her name.
"It's exactly what I wanted!" is a time-honoured phrase that everyone must have used on his or her birthday at some stage, or at Christmas. In Mollie's case it could be gauged as a genuine comment when she received a silver watch. What child wouldn't have "always wanted" a watch and a silver one sounds very classy. I think that many of Mollie's contemporaries, when there were no such things as throwaways in that particular line of goods, would have felt extra special wearing such an item to school and, no doubt, being the recipients of envious glances from their classmates.
EBS Forum comment has brought up the subject of Enid Blyton books that print exclamation marks one space away from the end of a sentence. It occurs in this booklet.
I wonder if "Gee-up!" and "woa-back" are still yelled to horses these days - there doesn't seem much information available as to origins. "Woa" may be known as whoa but that doesn't explain much.
Yes, I think it can be confirmed; Mollie and her brother are of reasonably affluent parentage because cooks don't come cheap.
We might have known it, the lemonade miraculously changed to ginger-beer when they began their picnic which is just as well because how could there be an Enid Blyton meal without it?
A hamper was originally on the cart but that also changed ... into a lunch-basket.
Jack's tunic seems to be a kind of smock-like skivvy thing that boys wore in those days.
Peggy, Ruth, Peter, and John on their arrival, went upstairs to "take off their things." I'm sure they didn't come down bare because that'd be a little unseemly but I can't imagine what "things" they took off seeing it was four o'clock on a sunny day, so they wouldn't have needed coats. What else is there to doff?
A tea-bell is rung when it's refreshment time for Mollie and Jack because Enid Blyton families often had a gong or a bell for when supper was ready. The only tea-bell I heard regularly was years ago when a neighbour used to summon her children for meals by tinkling at the front door.
The jam sandwich included in the party fare may have been either a sponge cake with jam between the layers, or else plain jam sandwiches.
The conjurer's trick with the half-crown must have been genuine because Jack would hardly have one of those in his pocket – especially after forking out for the materials he'd used to construct the rocking chair. Half a crown was quite a nice little sum for a child of the 1920's to own but, mind you, he was probably a rich kid.
The conjuror had no doubt arranged things with the parents earlier on and as Daddy wouldn't be wearing his hat at the time it had probably been placed on a convenient table with the rabbit carefully enclosed. Daddy's surprise was probably faked.
Mollie's seventh birthday party celebration would be an excellent example to copy if a parent was short of ideas. The gift opening ceremony takes place in the early morning followed by breakfast and then an extra big surprise. If the family in question is not so well off, perhaps the surprise could be a rocking horse or something reasonably inexpensive. The trip to the picnic venue would be taken in the family car with the birthday boy or girl allowed to sit up front because that's where children always want to be for some reason or another. The party spread comes after the picnic and that's followed by an extra treat such as a magic show or some other performer to round everything off. The trade section of the telephone directory should contain a few links to children's entertainers.
The Exciting Birthday is dated late 1920's yet the copy I used is in mint condition and that's because it's a facsimile! A flawless copy of the original booklet could be worth quite a lot and you never know, in the near or far future, even a facsimile might go for a very high price so it's an advantage to be aware of the Enid Blyton Society, because that's where it originated.