A belated happy new year….lets talk books.

Already we’re almost 2 weeks into 2020 and I’ve been very tardy about writing my first post of the year. I guess I am still in holiday mode as far as my blog is concerned….something I need to remedy rather smartly. First off though may I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – albeit a belated one.

When ever I commit myself to a rigid reading list for the year ahead, I always fail. So I decided to tackle my reading list month by month instead.

Confessions Of A Booksell
Bythell outside his shop and in cartoon form on the book’s cover.

This month I’ll be dipping into Shaun Bythell’s second book about owning a bookshop – Confessions of a Bookseller. Just like his first book Diary of a Bookseller, it’s written in the form of a daily diary and includes some of the funny, or sometimes frustrating, events that occur each day while running his shop. The good thing about a book like this is that you can pick it up for a few minutes and read a day or two’s happenings and then get back to whatever task needs to be done. It’s an easy, humorous read and gives an insight into the life of a somewhat sarcastic book shop owner – the ups and the downs. I’m already a good way through the book…..maybe three quarters through. I’ve been dipping in and out of it for several weeks but don’t want it to end.

Book Review: Around the World in 80 Trains | Travelrat's ...
Left – The author climbing aboard one of the 80 trains and the book cover on the right.

My second book is one I bought myself for Christmas with the money left over on my Wardini Book Shop voucher I got for my birthday. By Monisha Rajesh, Around the World in 80 Trains is a book I am looking forward to getting started on. As regular readers of my blog will already know, I love to travel and my favourite way to travel is by train. So this 45,000 mile adventure by rail should be a good fit. Michael Palin (one of my favourite travel writers) writes on the cover of the book – “Never too fast, never too slow, Monisha Rajesh’s journey does what trains do best. Getting to the heart of things. Prepare for a very fine ride.” I can hardly wait to get started.

Scrublands - Chris Hammer :: The Book Tree Toowoomba

The next book is one that my sister-in-law leant to my daughter-in law, who then decided that there was no room in her suitcase to take it back to the States with her. A quick look at the blurb on the cover had me interested immediately and I am now about a third of the way through Chris Hammer’s Scrublands. The blurb reads…“In an isolated country town brought to its knees by drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself. A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don’t fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can’t ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest’s deadly rampage.” It’s a wonderful yarn set in a very parched Australia and so many twists and turns are happening already. It’s going to be a great read.

Grandi fotografe per il libro di Boris Friedewald: da ...

Of course I am never content with having bookshelves full of book awaiting reading here at home, Oh no not I. We have several wonderful libraries where I live in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. In town (Hastings) is the main library and just up the road at Havelock North we have another, smaller but very well set up, library. A recent visit saw me pick up two books to bring home. The first on yet another of my passions, photography. By Boris Friedewald it is simply called Women Photographersfrom Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman – and explores the lives, careers and works of the finest women photographers in the world. Eve Arnold, the first woman photographer to be admitted into the prestigious Magnum Agency once said “I didn’t want to be a woman photographer. That would limit me. I wanted to be a photographer who was a woman, with all the world open to my camera.” And as Gisele Freund said “It is the eye that takes the picture, not the camera.” And every picture the eye sees is directly linked to the person who made it.

Insider: Zoe Daniel A Correspondent and A Mother! - 89.3 ...

The second of my library books is the memoir of Foreign Correspondent Zoe Daniel – Storyteller tells the story of how Daniel found herself thrust into the dangerous world of reporting news from some of the most inhospitable places in the world. She is one of the few women to combine the most demanding job – motherhood, with one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Storyteller is a timely reminder of the bravery and audacity of the men and women who bring us the news – the journalists, the local ‘fixers’, the cameramen (and women) – but above all it pays tribute to ordinary people who find them selves eyewitness to the extraordinary. I meant to read just the first page to give me an idea as to whether I’d enjoy reading this one or not. Suddenly I am 28 pages in and find my mouth is dry as I’ve been reading with my mouth open, completely agog!

So that’s my reading for January. I hope you’re reading something that has you spellbound. Back soon with another post. As always many thanks for reading and any comments, likes, follows and shares are greatly appreciated.

A year of blogging and several thank-you’s.

I can’t believe it, but this weekend brings up one year of blogging on WordPress. Thank you so much for the “like’s, comments and follows”. It’s especially nice when people take time out of their full and busy lives to comment on something as trivial as my blog posts and I honestly am most appreciative. This first year on WordPress has been an interesting experience, and something that I am growing into. Yes, even at almost 60 years of age I am still learning and growing….even if my hair isn’t. The most important thing is that I am enjoying the writing experience even more than I hoped I would. Being able to read and comment on other peoples blogs has also been a new and rewarding experience, and I’d like to say thank you to all the bloggers out there who’s articles I have read, liked, or commented on. I’ve been entertained, educated and in some cases amazed.

A very quick recap of the last year of blogging shows that my first ever blog post attracted a grand total of 1 like – thank you Chris from https://gnashingblog.com/ – (If anyone hasn’t come across Chris’s blog, please take a look. He has some great book and movie reviews and the occasional spectacular rant).

So you’d think from only 1 like, things could only improve. Right?…..sadly no. My 5th, 6th and 7th posts received no response at all….not even a”is that all you’ve got?” comment, only the buzz…(or is it chirp?) of crickets. BUT, I didn’t start off writing my blog in search of likes, comments or followers – I was writing because I wanted to, and I wanted to know if I had the ability to string more than a couple of sentences together in a coherent manner…..and most importantly I was doing it for the pleasure of writing. Likes, comments and followers are a wonderful by-product.

I was inspired enough by reading other bloggers poetry to have a go myself and have been pleasantly surprised at the response. A very surprised “thank you” from me for all the nice comments. However, the down side – for you – is that I will be inflicting more of said poetry on you in up coming posts. I’m enjoying the process and the peace that writing poetry brings to the soul. You have been warned!

Other well received subjects have been some, but not all, book reviews, most of my travel/photography pieces especially the ones on Paris seem to go down well, but politics and environmentalism don’t receive the same response. Perhaps the reality of the mess we find ourselves in both politically and more importantly environmentally is too distressing for many of you. I totally get that. Sometimes I’d rather hide away and hope that it’s all been a bad dream. Sadly neither problem will go away. I don’t mean to cause distress in pointing out how sadly we’ve lost our way as a species, or how bad we’ve screwed up, but sometimes I feel compelled to let it all out in a jumble of words on paper…otherwise my head may well explode.

My most successful piece so far, with regard to likes and comments, was my post about children’s writer Enid Blyton – which is kind of fitting as it was dear old Enid’s books that opened up a world of reading and wonder for me when I was about 7 or 8 years old….and I’ve been addicted to books ever since. Thank you Enid – I am for ever in your debt.

So, one year passes….101 blog posts published (this will be 102), so that’s one post on average every 3.5 days….126 followers – I know that some bloggers have thousands of followers, but frankly, hitting that hundred follower mark felt great, so thank you guys and girls. I value every one of you and I’ll do my best to keep you entertained for another year….and to keep up with reading and commenting on your blogs too.

As Woody Allen once said “70 percent of success in life is in just turning up”….so for now I’ll keep turning up approximately every 3.5 days.

The best children’s author ever?

Enid Blyton (11.8.1897 to 28.11.1968) must surely be in the running for the title best children’s author ever. A prolific writer who produced a daily average of 6,000 to 10,000 words and wrote over 750 books in her life time. During the early 1950’s she achieved her peak output, writing 50 books a year. Think about that – 50 books in one year. Even though they were books for children, that is a phenomenal amount of writing.

Enid Blyton's most famous quotes


It came at a cost though. Even though children loved her books and the characters she created, and that most of her stories were centred around happy and stable family situations, AND that she loved to entertain and teach children….she had little time for her own daughters. Prior to finding success as a writer, she was employed as a nanny and a teacher and developed a fondness for children…other peoples children. Once she became a well known author, her obsession with writing and self promotion took priority over her own children, and her husband, who were pushed into the background. Her writing occupied most of her waking hours and the children were left in the care of nannies, or when old enough, shipped off to boarding school. Photos of her with her children were posed for the press photo-ops, such as this one below. See how the older girl manages to smile for the camera but the younger daughter appears sullen….unwilling to play her mothers game of ‘happy family’.

Image result for enid blyton

Blyton is probably most famous for her stories about Noddy and Big Ears, The Secret Seven, and The Famous Five, but these were only a small selection from her vast number of story books. She also wrote poetry books, volumes of books for the teaching community, series of books based on ancient myths and legends such as the Knights of the Round Table and the adventures of Robin Hood as well as magazine articles. Such was her output that many in the literary business accused her of using ghost writers to produce such a large and constant out flowing of books. Many believed it impossible for such a volume of work to be produced by a single writer. This was strenuously denied by Blyton and in 1955 she successfully sued a librarian for spreading such rumours.

Image result for enid blyton and noddy
Blyton with ‘Noddy’ entertaining someone else’s adoring children.

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Her stories and writing style were criticised by librarians and teachers because of the limited use of language and the recycling of story lines or themes in many of her books. Schools refused to allow her books into their teaching syllabus. She was also accused of being racist and sexist in her choice of language and the actions and diction of her characters, as well as being out of touch and too middle class. Her response was that she was only interested in what people under the age of 12 thought……and those people, those children, loved everything that she wrote. Books were flying off the shelves making her and her publishers a small fortune.
Many of the stories she wrote were of strong morals and the victory (eventually) of right over wrong, good over evil. But, rumours not only in her professional life as a writer, but also in her personal life were rife.

She was a very self centred person, selfish even, who put her life as a writer above everything and everyone else, even her family. This was probably brought about by the separation of her mother and father when she was a child of 13. She worshipped her father, refused to accept that he had many flaws…including chasing anything in a skirt….and blamed her mother 100% for the breakdown of the marriage. She more or less escaped into her own mind – into an idealistic world of perfect parents and ideal family situations. This came through in her books, but not in her personal life.


She severed ties with her two younger brothers, didn’t attend the funerals of either her mother or her father, shipped her own daughters off to boarding school at the earliest chance, cheated on her husband with other men…..and it’s rumoured with at least one of her children’s nannies. Yes, rumour has it that Enid batted for both sides.

Her first husband Hugh worked for the publishing company which produced her first books. Driven to drink, presumably by being shut out of his wife’s life, although he may also have been suffering from post traumatic stress as a result of memories of his experiences in world war one being revived while working on a book with Churchill. He went away from the family home during world war 2 to serve in the British Home Guard and it was during this time that Blyton had an affair with the man who would eventually become her 2nd husband – and Hugh began an affair with a much younger female author.

After Hugh had agreed to a divorce, as long as he could have full access to his children, Blyton then contacted his publishing company and told them that under no circumstances would she continue to do business with them if they continued to employ Hugh. She would take her vast back catalogue of books and any new ones to another publisher. As a result, Hugh was fired, and indeed ruined as far as the publishing business was concerned. He sank lower into alcoholism and eventually declared bankruptcy. Blyton also went back on her word and refused to let Hugh have access to his daughters. In effect, she ruined the man she once loved.

After marrying her 2nd husband she was surprised to find herself, in late middle age, pregnant but fell (accidentally or possibly deliberately if a recent drama based on her life is to be believed) from a ladder in the garden early in the pregnancy and lost the baby. It would have been a boy. Her first son and her second husbands first ever child.
Her second husband died in 1967 by which time Blyton was deep in the grips of dementia and no longer writing. Her death in 1968 came soon after his.

She wasn’t totally selfish though. She did support several children’s charities and set up her own foundation to help children in need. Her granddaughter Sophie Smallwood has revived the Noddy character and penned a new story Noddy’s Birthday Surprise.


Even though she died in 1968, Enid Blyton was still voted “best British children’s author” in 2008 – even beating J K Rowling – the creator of Harry Potter. She is also the 4th most translated author ever….behind Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare. Her books have been turned into TV series and movies and are still popular with children in many countries.

Image result for enid blyton books


I was a huge Enid Blyton fan when I was a child, and still am. Finding out about her failings as a mother, wife and of her general selfishness has soured my memories of her somewhat, but has not detracted from the escapism and adventure I found in her books.