I picked up a story in today’s UK ‘Mail on Sunday’, relating to children’s author Enid Blyton. Everyone in the UK will be aware of the books she wrote, including series of them about ‘Noddy‘, the Famous Five and the Secret Seven.
Many of the tales are related to little gangs of children from privileged backgrounds, all at boarding schools and getting up to all manner of ‘larks’, and in the Secret Seven I suppose there’s almost a blueprint for ‘Scooby Too’, in that many mysteries get solved.
I don’t imagine Blyton will have too much of a reputation beyond the UK, and with the progression of time the attitudes in her books have been branded (rightly so) as both racist and sexist. Some feature a ‘golliwog’ – ‘wog’ being a historical racist term of abuse in the UK.
Of course, Blyton didn’t invent the golliwog. Credit(?) for that has to go to Florence Kate Upton, who was writing books 40-50 years prior to Blyton. How much of Blyton’s racism was real, and how much of it was the times she lived in is hard to guess, but what’s clear is that the attitudes don’t belong in the 21st century, as they shouldn’t in the 20th, 19th or prior.
An example might be in Blyton’s book Mister Meddles Muddles, with text such as “Go to the kitchen,” said his aunt, angrily. “You are not fit to be here with us. You need to be taught more manners than the little black children. I am really ashamed of you, Meddle.” or“Now, there’s a very nicely behaved nephew of yours,” everyone said to Aunt Jemima. “You must be proud of him. If only we could have the little black children in far-off countries brought up like Meddle, what a wonderful thing it would be!”
What interested me about the story reported today was her attitudes, from the plain awful -indifference towards her children- to the ‘outrageous’ (for the times…an affair with a married man, a lesbian crush) to the forward thinking -naked tennis. Yes, naked tennis.
I know it’s not much of a unique thing these days in the culture of naturism, with many clubs having their own tennis courts or miniten (a cut down version where space is at a premium in naturist grounds) and the internet is certainly awash with pictorial evidence of naked tennis being played, but back in the 1920s/30s such behaviour, particularly beyond the then growing naturist culture and lifestyle, would have been to court outrage.
Anyway, here’s a few photos of a more familiar naked tennis almost a century after Blyton, with our model Abbey even managing to do a bit of it herself in SL.