Kicking off with the first two short stories in ‘Anytime Tales’, I haven’t read any of these for some time, so it was interesting to compare my thoughts now to what they were when I was a young lass.
This tale originally appeared in the 10th Holiday Book. Enid bursts into action with a quick, clear definition of two brothers and their sister. George collects stamps, Ronnie likes Meccano, and both brothers while seeing the merit in their own hobbies, appear somewhat blinkered when it comes to understanding Joan’s love of jigsaws. I wonder why, they’re obviously intelligent lads. Having completed my fair share of jigsaws over the years, I know from experience the amount of patience they require: the scrutinisation, focus and attention to detail. Joan’s brothers have clearly missed a trick here, while big-upping themselves and their skills, they are very sniffish about their sister. Joan seems like a sweet girl, who doesn’t get vexed about their opinions.
Sadly for Ronnie and George, they soon prove what nits they really are. Because their birthdays are just days apart, they have a double celebration. One of their joint presents is a ten-bob note. Instead of popping this vast sum straight into their money box when Mother tells them, they leave it lying around.
The inevitable happens of course, and a gust from an open window spirits the note away to the toy cupboard, where a wee mousie nibbles the money into bits to make a nest with. ‘Aha!’ I remember thinking from first time around. Predictability. Cometh the catastrophe, cometh the Jigsaw Joan to fit the pieces of money together again, quietly and without fuss, as soon as the shocking discovery is made.
Joan has already chosen suitable birthday gifts for her brothers, and has ignored the mocking about jigsaws. We are left with two slightly humbled lads who may hopefully be a bit nicer in the future.
Jigsaw Joan is a very concise dip into the relationships of these three children. The events seem almost co-incidental as against the actual point – which is the behaviour and interaction of the characters.
Michael’s New Belt
This tale opens with a flourish. ‘Michael was very proud of his new leather belt…’ From here, we kind of know that disaster may soon befall said belt after a further elaborate description of both item, and it’s owner’s feelings towards it. The reader is left in no doubt that this is a very special and wondrous belt.
Neither are we left in any doubt that Robert Trent, the lad stuck up a tree, is of rather an oikish disposition. It’s no surprise that Michael will unselfishly use his belt to rescue Robert. What is less obvious, as this story is longer than the previous one, is that while Michael runs off for help, leaving Robert strapped safely by the belt to the tree, is that someone else rescues the boy, leaving Michael to lament the loss of his beautiful belt, especially to such an oik. He’s feeling thoroughly disagreeable to the point of wanting to fight, till Mother intervenes and sensibly reminds Michael that he’s a nice boy who shouldn’t spoil his temperament in anger. Michael calms down, and is unexpectedly re-united with both belt, and Robert a week later.
Both these tales describe how pride can come before a fall – but also in Michael’s case, that a good deed brings its own rewards – that is if you want an inseparable mate who’s an oik! One thing I did wonder at, at the end of ‘Michael’s New Belt’ was how Michael’s mother, sensible throughout, suddenly abandons all reason and lets her son disappear off to the circus with a boy and his father she doesn’t know. I was always instructed, quite explicitly, never to get into a car with strangers. Robert’s dad might be an axe murderer! Of course, it being Blyton, a super spiffing time is had by all, and that is pretty much that.