The Ginger Pop Shops
in Corfe Castle and Poole Quay have both now closed.
reason for the closure at Corfe Castle was the sale of the
building, following the move of the post office to the village
shop. This was compounded by the untimely death of my lovely
business partner, Mark Annis, in February 2017.
But to my regular
customers, who enjoyed supporting a small shop run by dedicated
specialist staff, A HUGE THANK-YOU.
There are many reasons why I was
too embarrassed to carry on selling Enid Blyton’s books:
In 2004 the retail price of a
Famous Five book was £3.99. In 2016 it was £6.99. In a
period of low inflation, what else had increased in price by 75%
? Meanwhile the publishers had adopted a policy of pile-it-high
and sell-it-cheap with the supermarkets and discounters, with
the retail price of a book sold by them at about £1. Children
still enjoy reading Famous Five of course, but they don’t
buy them new because charity shops and car-boots are awash with
boxed sets of Blyton books.
Recently some titles have been
released with lovely sparkly hard-covers. However the quality of
the paper inside is barely better than newsprint.
Political Correctness gone mad.
Example. In the 2016 version of
The Secret Island, Nora is no longer slapped for not doing
the housework to her awful aunt’s satisfaction, but is
yelled-at. A modern child reading this text could think to
themselves “If I get shouted-at for not doing my chores, then
that is good enough reason to run away from home.”
Example. In Malory Towers,
Darrell no longer slaps Gwen for ducking Mary-Lou in the
swimming pool but shakes her roughly. This is a key scene in the
story, and her loss of temper haunts Darrell for the rest of her
time at school.
At no point is Blyton defending
the use of violence, so why change it? If the current generation
of editor’s think that actual slapping is the same as shaking or
shouting, no wonder we are producing a generation of
Bowdlerising the books
Example The Secret of the Old
Mill. This is the very first of the Secret Seven books, and
I was pleased to recommend it until I realised that the whole of
the first chapter was missing. In it, how the Secret Seven
Society came to be formed is described. Maybe the editor found
the depiction of a boy engrossed in a book so unlikely that it
was deemed inappropriate. When I visited the publisher’s stand
at the London Book Fair I was told that modern children don’t
particularly like books that have a beginning. So that does away
with “once upon a time...”
Example Noddy goes to Toyland.
Enid Blyton’s story is 60 pages long. The new “classic
adventure” is 40 pages long. I am also embarrassed that the good
golliwogs have been replaced by monkeys, which I think is
Contempt of the
author by the owners of Enid Blyton’s Intellectual Property
Example – character
assassination. Chorion sanctioned the BBC4 film “Enid” in 2009.
It was an unkind depiction; Enid Blyton was a driven genius and
not easy to live with, but this film gave her no redeeming
features at all. It did not mention how holidays in Dorset could
be a month long. It did not talk about her passion for her
charity work. The film had an awful scene with her daughter
Imogen being shouted-at for asking about granny when she died.
My understanding is that Imogen was in her 20’s when granny
died, not about 7 as shown in this film; maybe they didn’t want
to pay for another actor. People who wanted to talk to me about
this film were unlikely to purchase anything because it had
destroyed the magic for them.
Example - Enid Blyton went
to court to uphold that only books she wrote would ever have her
name on the cover. I tried not to stock anything that was not by
Blyton if it had her trade-marked signature on the cover.
Hachette released their
books in 2008, apparently faithful to the spirit of the
original series. Titles included
The Case of the Thief Who Drinks from the Toilet, The Case
of the Plant That Could Eat Your House, and The Case of the
Guy Who Makes You Act Like a Chicken.
Example - I thought that
customers should read the book the author had intended and not
the one an editor thought that she
“revised editions” were released with a text suitable for 6
year olds. With no hard words or descriptive passages, they
read like a parody of the originals, becoming everything the
critics had said about Blyton’s writing. Maybe the editors
had deemed it inappropriate that children learn new words
Neither of these series was
successful. However, what was a success were their associated
publicity campaigns, with wide coverage in national newspapers,
and TV interviews with top executives telling the public that
children were no longer interested in reading the original Enid
Blyton texts. Some adults believed them and then stopped buying
the books for young relatives.
books in 2016. These “adult” books, with their lovely period
covers and distinctive Enid Blyton signature, would appear
to any 8 year old fan to be written by her.
The executive I met at the
London Book Fair told me “Hachette publish with pride and
Other things that pissed me
Browsers who told me that I had “a lovely shop” and that
they could buy “everything”, but ended up buying absolutely
Browsers who had no intention of buying anything, but felt
that they were entitled to sneakily photograph my stock
without asking. If you want to see if someone else would
like an item, it is good manners to ask permission of the
Browsers who would take my advice about which would be the
best book for their child, and then walk out thanking me
profusely, but intending to purchase from an on-line outfit
with curious tax arrangements.
What went wrong with Eileen
Soper’s Illustrated Worlds on Poole Quay.
I couldn’t use Enid Blyton in the name of the
attraction because I thought the contract offered to me was
unfair. They were also worried that I might damage the brand
and cause confusion in the minds of consumers. Eileen Soper
had illustrated around 150 of Blyton’s books, probably the
biggest collaboration between an artist and an author, and I
felt she should be better known.
It opened in 2009, the same year as the Great Economic Crash
The BBC had shown (several times) their award winning film
Enid, which depicted Blyton as a first-class bitch
The Managing Director of Hodders had fronted two highly
successful publicity campaigns to tell the world that
children didn’t read Enid Blyton any more
I had planned a huge event in 2012 to mark 70 years of the
Famous Five. Organisations in Dorset were being encouraged
to promote the county because the sailing Olympics were
coming to Weymouth. I wanted to use this unique opportunity
to make Dorset as synonymous with Enid Blyton as the Lake
District was with Beatrix Potter. The Famous Five
Adventure Trail had been 6 years in the planning and
took in the landscape of Poole Harbour and Purbeck. In my
schedule, all the elements were to be in place by September
2011, with lots of publicity booked ready for a launch in
May 2012. However, unknown to me, the parent company of
Blyton was deeply in debt. They put themselves up for sale,
and whilst they liked my idea in principle, no-body in the
company was prepared to make any decisions or give written
permission for my idea, lest they were sued by subsequent
buyers. I was working with 25 local and national
organisations; each had invested a lot of time and money to
what I had intended to be a world-class event and I managed
to piss-off every single one of them because I couldn’t say
what was happening. Then the new owners wanted me to totally
re-write the thing in April 2012; I refused. Eventually they
gave permission for the summer-long trail to go ahead.
Virtually no publicity was in place, and as it turned out,
the summer of 2012 was the wettest on record and people
didn’t want to set foot outside the door.
The Attraction was intended to be all weather, year-round,
and for all ages, especially baby-boomers. It included a
mystery to solve, a secret passage to find, an enchanted
forest mirror-maze, local farming films from the 1940s, a
play caravan, Dorset in wartime with extracts from the
Dorset WI war-book, a parlour full of activities and games
for all ages, story-telling and demonstrations of our 0
gauge clockwork railway. We knew that the Beatrix Potter
Attraction in the Lake District was able to attract adults,
but I failed. We had taken great care to make it suitable
for people with early onset dementia, but despite publicity
got very few takers. The very day we made the final decision
to close in November 2012, a researcher from Bournemouth
University came round to find what Poole had to offer people
My respect for Enid Blyton as
an author is undiminished.
The author, 700+ titles with 100 still in print. Maybe she
would be held in higher regard if she had written just 2
classic series, and not 20
Her wartime work. Enid Blyton at War, an activity day
in the grounds of Corfe Castle is something of which I am
very proud. (That Hachette executive didn’t believe that we
had done bomb disposal for beginners – we’d used
Her business acumen. Using her signature as a logo,
developing Noddy as a brand, and constantly keeping in touch
with her customers – famously only being interested in the
opinions of people under the age of 12.