We watched the Enid Blyton dramatisation last night. I was desperate to watch it for two reasons. 1. My fondest childhood memories were spent with the Famous Five, the Find-Outers, the Folk of the Faraway Tree and Pip and 2. I remembered reading somewhere that this writer of children's books was a thoroughly Not Nice person and I didn't want to believe it.
Talks about hopes being dashed. I'm not sure whose memories were used for the scripting of Enid's life story but I'm pretty sure it wasn't from anyone who liked her very much. So probably one of her children then. Or one of her husbands. Or any number of her Nannys/House-staff. Because it portrayed this beloved writer of countless books (or should that be 'writer of countless beloved books'? for she certainly did not seem to be "beloved" by anyone) as a cold-hearted, egocentric, misanthropical bitch of the highest order.
If the sources supporting this dramatisation are to be relied upon, then Enid Blyton was all icing and no cake. She managed to retain her much-adored public persona by having the occasional 'teatime treat', inviting some of her fans to literally picnic on her drawing room carpet and appeared to them as the most wonderful, warm human being who made their reading books come alive. And they clearly worshipped the ground she deigned to tread.
These, and the limited amount of press coverage - where in front of the camera she would demand her girls 'look like you're interested and happy for gods sake' -kept her beloved image alive.
Her own two daughters saw more of their Nanny and their Nursery than they did of their mother and quite apart from banishing them from being present at her 'teatime gatherings' of fans and allowing them an hour of her time a day, she also sent them both off to boarding school at the earliest opportunity.
I tried. I really did, to conjure up some sympathy for this woman who had given me such treats as a child. Okay, so her father abandoned her, her 2 younger brothers and her neurotic mother when she was 12 or so. Maybe this had led to her wanting to live in a made up world where everyone and everyone's family was happy and laughing and having adventures all the time and only the Baddies got hurt. But surely for her to quite literally drown out any of the 'real' noise going on around her for the safety and seclusion of her fictional paradise, and to the detriment of her own babies - that was the part I couldn't quite forgive.
Today she'd have been treated for these schizopherenic tendencies, I'm sure, and her daughters would have had the benefit of learning more about their damaged mother. But would she have emerged as brilliantly fantastical with her ideas and writing if she'd been 'made better' by our society?
In fact some of the scenes had me cringeing slightly at the way in which my own brain screams "can't you just leave me alone whilst I'm living in my world of make-believe?!" because it does feel almost painful to be wrenched from a particularly engrossing chapter with a "Mum can I borrow a fiver?" or "Honey have you seen my socks?". I mean - per-lease! Can't they see I'm away with my very own fairies right now?!