MAY





WEEK 18 (continued)


Thursday, May 1
Wrote letters all a.m. Sent off last 3 Nelson books. Also Babette story. Wrote to Hugh all afternoon. Wrote story after tea. Hugh phoned at 6.15 & was a dear tonight. He’s had a ripping letter from a man about his Daily Mail article! Listened in & read till bed.

The three Nelson books sent off would be The Old English Tales, completed on 1st of April. The Book of Sillies, completed April 25, and Enid's poetry reader which she'd assembled on April 28. Nelson didn't publish the poems as a Reader in 1925, but as Silver and Gold in the same year. It looks exquisite.

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The story that Enid 'wrote after tea' was an adaptation of Three Blind Mice. Three princesses are kept in a tower under lock and key. Three princes have to turn themselves into mice to gain entry to the building. The situation seems to echo the one of Enid residing at 34 Oakwood Avenue without a key to the house. A story that also involved confronting an elderly authority and which had a happy ending. But I shouldn't make too much of the parallel.

Friday, May 2
Wrote synopsis of new play all a.m. & poem in afternoon. Hugh phoned at 6.30 & was a dear. I listened in & played bridge & pasted poem cuttings into book till bed.

The play is called 'King Cole Calling' and it appears in Teachers World over two weeks in November/December, 1924. It's about a group of children who discover something called 'televi-travel'. It's a boy called Hugh who finds a book of magic lore that is the key to this. This means the children can transport themselves to any exotic place that is being talked about on the radio. In fact, because the radio play is about King Cole's court, that's where they end up.

One thing motivating the writing of the play is all the listening to the radio that Enid has been doing at night. This is first mentioned in the diary entry for January 26, when the Attenboroughs had a radio installed. Until then, the diary entries often finished 'played bridge til bed. Thereafter, for a while at least, it was more often 'listened in til bed.'

I'll say more about this play when Enid writes it up in August. On this day in early May she only wrote a synopsis.

Saturday, May 3
Met Hugh at 9.40 & we went to Wembley. The exhibition is wonderful. We went to see the coal mine and we walked mostly round the exhibition. The Taj Mahal and the Burmese Pagoda are lovely. We had a topping lunch and afterwards we went on two scenic railways. One was simply terrific & I was scared stiff. Hugh loved it. Then we had tea at 6 & afterwards wandered around various places. We had a simply lovely day. Hugh saw me off at Victoria at 10 & I got home a bit tired.

Enid would write up this visit to the British Empire exhibition at Wembley for Teachers World on Monday, May 5. Normally a Sunday task, as we know, but, as we also know, when Enid spent Sunday with Hugh, her Talk had to wait until Monday.

Sunday, May 4
Phil, Felix & Hugh came in the car for me at 9.15. I sat in the [?] behind with Hugh. It was lovely. We motored down through Ashurst & Tonbridge to Rye & on to Camber Sands. There we had lunch on the dunes. It was such fun. The day was fine & the country beautiful. We stopped to pick bunches of primroses on the way back. Had tea at Tonbridge. Home at 6.15. Hugh & I stayed in drawing room till bed & Hugh stayed the night.

Here is an image of the dunes at Camber Sands. A great place to have lunch, sheltered from any wind!

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And below is a map showing where this day out (between Hastings and New Romney) was relative to Enid's Easter break with Mums and Hugh, further along the coast (between Brighton and Eastbourne). Enid's home at Beckenham is close to Croydon, as marked, and the brown circle is where Hugh and Enid had their March walk on the North Downs.


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All her life, Enid would have warm feelings for the south coast, first explored with her father.


WEEK 19


Monday, May 5
Saw Hugh off by 9.33 train. Wrote letters & weekly talk till lunch. And an article till tea. Wrote to Hugh till 6.15, when he phoned. I pasted in poems till bed.
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Quite a lot of respectful references to Hugh, though he's not named. As a piece in Teachers World it might have been more effective to have gone round the exhibition with a child. But having cut her connections with Southernhay, that may not have been an option.

The British Empire exhibition was a huge deal and most Londoners went to it more than once, as did Enid. A week after Enid's Talk on the subject appeared,
Teachers World printed a guide and this map of Wembley.

teachers world

The timing is no doubt significant. It's 1924, really quite close to the end of the First World War. Britain wants to signal - to itself and to the world - that it still boasts an Empire. Enid seems to have taken that message to heart, given the opening paragraph. Very difficult for us now, a hundred years later, to accept such an imperialist perspective.


Tuesday, May 6
Wrote all a.m. & afternoon on the zoo book. Wrote to Hugh after tea. He phoned at 6 but the phone call was spoilt because Hugh was silly about some innocent sentence in Daisy’s letter. He phoned again later, but we didn’t have a very happy talk! I listened in till bed.

Wednesday, May 7
Wrote all a.m. & afternoon. Met Hugh at 6.50 & he came back to dinner & we had a lovely evening by ourselves. He brought me some lovely daffies & he was a darling all the evening. But oh I do so wish he would get over his jealousy. It makes me afraid of marrying him.

This was the second time in two months that Hugh had got jealous for no reason. What or who was it this time? Was Hugh jealous of Enid being English! Joking aside, Hugh's first wife had left him for another man and that would seem to have created a complex.

Thursday, May 8
Wrote till 11.30. Met Hugh at 1 & we had lunch together at the Chandos Grill Room. Met Phil at 3 & we went & saw Mr Perry & he gave Phil the job of doing the Babette booklet. Then bought some lovely dresses. Then tea at Corner House. Met Hugh at 6.15. Walked in Temple Gardens for a bit & then had dinner at Chandos Grill Room again. We had a lovely time.

Phil and Enid still working as a team, I see. In all they shared over a hundred commissions.

Lunch
and dinner with Hugh at the Chandos Grill Room. I imagine that was on Chandos Place (further left of the two orange circles on the modern map below), just a little further from Hugh's office than the previously favoured Rives restaurant. The turquoise circles are reminders of where the Corner House teashops are. And the green circle on the far right indicates Temple Gardens. All within relatively easy walking distance of each other.

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Friday, May 9
Wrote all a.m. & afternoon & evening & did another chapter of the zoo book. It’s getting on. Peggy & A. Maud came round for the day. Hugh phoned at 6.15.

The Zoo Book was indeed getting on now that the Nelson commission was completed, stage one. Below is the contents page of the published Zoo Book, annotated with the information as to when Enid wrote the various chapters. Having written the cats chapter on April 14, she wrote the rest of chapters four to eleven from May 6 to May 16

zoobook

Each chapter is between 4 and 7 pages long. Each had to be researched, hence the references in the diary to buying zoo books. As Enid tells us in The Story of My Life (1952), she couldn't zoom through this kind of reference book the way she wrote an imaginative story - by simply keeping up with the private cinema reel in her mind.

Saturday, May 10
Met Hugh at 9.40 at Victoria. We went to Wembley Exhibition but as we had a stupid quarrel & it rained all day, it wasn’t particularly cheerful. We went to Australia & New Zealand & to the Battle of Zeebrugger in the afternoon. After tea we went into town again, & went to the cinema. Hugh was a darling then. We had dinner at Victoria & Hugh came home for the weekend with me.

What could the 'stupid quarrel' have been about? The innocent sentence in Daisy's letter? That Enid was rushing The Zoo Book and must slow down? The relative importance of The Zoo Book and the battle of Zeebrugge in the scheme of things?

Enid: "What was the Battle of Zeebrugge anyway?"

Hugh: "You mean you don't know?"

Enid: "Something to do with the war?"

Hugh: "583 British troops lost their lives and you haven't the faintest idea why?"

Enid: "Oh, Hugh!"

Sunday, May 11
Hugh & I went to Bromley C. Church in a.m. We sat out on verandah in afternoon & till 8 o’clock talking. He was such a darling because he was so in love with me & I love when he is. After supper we stayed in the drawing room by ourselves & Hugh was very sweet. I sat out on the roof till 12 o’clock and Hugh was so annoyed because he couldn’t get at me & he thought I would fall! Fall!!

Enid's room was at the front of the house. She will refer to this sitting on the roof business in her next 'From My Window', so I'll include a photo of the house here for ease of reference. Enid's room was just to the left of centre on the first floor, I believe. It's the roof separating the first floor and the ground floor she is referring to in her diary. It's easy to picture Enid sitting on the windowsill with her legs out of the window and her feet on the red tiles.

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WEEK 20


Monday, May 12
Saw Hugh off at 9.33. Went to Westfield Rd. & saw Flossie & Mother. Flossie is nicer than I thought she was. Slept all afternoon! Hugh phoned at 6.15. I wrote my weekly talk & listened in till bed.

Flossie is the woman that her brother, Hanley, would marry in June. Interesting that Enid had gone to meet her mother twice in a couple of months. I had got the impression from biographical material that their relationship was non-existent by this time. Of course, Enid didn't go to see her mother on her own. And perhaps it was the tension of the meeting that meant Enid had to sleep all afternoon.

It must have been a refreshing lie down though. Because when she arose, it was to write this:


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On the one hand, Enid is showing how comfortable she is in her own skin. A tiny, sentient being at the edge of the big wide world, but the centre of her own subjective universe. On the other, isn't it significant that only two nights before, she was on that very roof at midnight with Hugh 'trying to get at her'? So how about this for a metaphor for her lover: 'Last night the owl was wide awake. He is a great bird, with wide-spreading wings when he flies. He lives among the elm-trees near by. Sometimes he flies so close to me that I think he must see me, and come to greet me. His flight is as silent and as mysterious as the night itself. Last night he called from the elm-trees so quickly and suddenly that he startled me. “Tu-whit! Tu-whit!” Then with a graceful swoop he was swinging near me, so that I felt the rush of his wings near my face.'

An owl's call is normally rendered "Tu-whit! Tu-whoo!" But that may have sounded a bit too much like "Tu-whit, To-Hugh!" for Enid's liking. I mean for the liking of her conscious mind.

I think it helps to have another map here, a historic one from 1930. Enid lives on the road that runs along the south-west side of the triangular wood. There are only houses on the southern side of that road, so Enid is looking out north east, across Oakwood Avenue, into Oak Wood itself.

beckenham

Needless to say, Oak Wood doesn't exist anymore, it's all housed over. But Cuckoo Wood still exists all right. If only in the mind of anyone who has read 'May Nights'.

I’ve often re-read this particular From My Window and remain fascinated by it. In sitting on the windowsill, Enid placed herself in such a significant position. Behind her, her boyfriend and domestic life. In front of her, the wild wood that, in some ways, may have long felt like her true home.

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So the owl may not stand for Hugh at all, but an alternative to Hugh. (“Have you met my other half? He’s a night owl. In fact, that he is a she, and that she is me!”)

That would explain why on May 11, Enid thought that Hugh’s fear that she would fall was such a joke. The danger is not of Enid falling but of her flying. Flying off to lead the life of a night owl amongst the elms of Cuckoo Wood.

In summary, Enid seemed torn between the promise of married bliss and what the wild wood had to offer. What a fascinating time in her life!

Tuesday, May 13
Wrote all a.m. Went up to town with Mums in afternoon, shopping. Met Hugh at 6 & we went to the Gardens & talked. Had dinner at C. Grill Room & looked through flat advertisement answers. It was most exciting! We had a lovely evening. I did love it & I do love Hugh.

Enid wrote the chapter about giraffes for the Zoo Book. The mention of flat advertisements is further evidence that Enid and Hugh had by now decided to get married. Which is confirmed by the very next diary entry.

Wednesday, May 14
Had a terrific long thunderstorm at 2 a.m. in the night. Read & wrote zoo book till tea. Wrote to Hugh till 6.15 & then he phoned. I corrected typescript till bed. Hugh didn’t hear the storm!! He will, when we’re married anyway.

What Enid means is that when they are sharing a bed, she will communicate her excitement about a storm in the early hours of the morning to her husband. No sleep for the night owl! Or should I say night owls?

Thursday, May 15
Saw Dr. Wilson at 11. All 1st series taken without alteration! He arranged for 2nd series at increased price. Also asked me to give him a poetry book! Saw Mr. Allen at 12.15. Had lunch with Hugh. Met Phil at 3.30 & was late because I fell down moving stairs! We shopped & got some lovely undies. Had tea & then I met Hugh at 6 & we went & sat in the Gardens & talked. Then we had dinner at Chandos Grill Room, & Hugh saw me off at 10.15.

The first line refers to Dr Wilson at Nelson's. This is Enid telling us that the first six (actually five, Enid’s book of poetry would appear but not as part of the series) Nelson Readers were to be published in 1925, and that more of the original 36-book commission were now in the pipeline.

I think it must have been at this meeting with Mr Allen that Enid would have updated him, and
Teachers World, with what was going on in her life. She would have told him, if she hadn't already, that she was no longer working as a teacher. And she would have told him that it was her intention to get married to Hugh Pollock in the summer. Enid would have been looking for reassurance from tMr Allen that there would still be a place for her writing in his journal. And she got it. This is how it was put in the June 11 edition of Teachers World. First, the page as a whole. The news item concerning Enid is the second item in the first column.

teachers world

The news item itself - the small print writ large - reads:

teachers world_0001

A bit odd that last paragraph. Enid was getting married, she wasn't about to have a baby! Anyway, I'll save the cartoon for June, when it's summer holiday theme will be more appropriate.


Back to Thursday, May 15. Enid saw Dr Wilson in the morning. Then Mr Allen at 12.15. Then had lunch with Hugh. No wonder she nearly fell over on an escalator before meeting Phil at 3.30pm. One editor had told her she was brilliant. Another had echoed this and assured her she was invaluable to his operation. And she was going to marry the third editor shortly before he published her
Zoo Book! It would have been enough to turn any young writer's head!

Phil would have wanted to know how Enid was finding life without her teaching. And no doubt Enid was telling her friend that she wasn’t giving it much thought, so embroiled was she in her zoo writing. And that she was loving being a bride-to-be. And that she’d come close to being knocked off her rooftop perch by a Hugh Owl from Cuckoo Wood.

Phil: "Right. Let's go and get ourselves some new undies. Out of consideration for your owl and my pussy cat."

Enid: "Ah, the prowling Felix, how is he?"

I can’t finish that conversation as I have no knowledge of Felix Samuels and I wouldn’t want to speculate.


Friday, May 16
Wrote letter to Hugh & expressed it, as I hadn’t time to write one yesterday. Went out in village with Mums. Came home & read zoo books till lunch. Wrote all afternoon & evening & Hugh phoned at 6.30. Phyllis & Felix came to dinner. I listened in & read till bed. Had new agreement for 2nd series of books from Nelson.

Expressed it? In those days there were multiple daily postal deliveries, anyway, so she needn’t have bothered, surely. Ah, but love can’t wait to express itself.

Saturday, May 17

Sunday, May 18

What's this about blank diary entries? Was Enid getting too excited about the forthcoming wedding? Too excited to keep to her daily diary task?

These are the first blank entries since the beginning of the year. Which puts more emphasis on the From My Window pieces in order to piece together what's happening in Enid's life.




WEEK 21


Monday, May 19
Diary blank. Enid's From My Window begins by quoting the first line of a poem by the nineteenth century poet, Thomas Edward Brown. As such poems/poets are not well known these days, I'll place it here for reference.

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Ferned grot--
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not--
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
'Tis very sure God walks in mine.


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The previous 'From My Window' had majored on Cuckoo Wood. Taken together, the pieces suggest Enid saluting her solitude and her muse. Enjoying the spaces that have been home to her essential self these past years. Because it's going to end when she gets married to Hugh. Sure, she's looking forward to that. But she knows she's been happy here in the house on Oakwood Avenue on the edge of Cuckoo Wood. On her own. With Nature. And with God.

Not sure how long she strolled through Oak Wood on the afternoon of Monday, May 19, 1924, because she found time to come up with quite a lot more writing. No less than eight stories (Half-Told Tales) that the reader is challenged to complete. A challenge I hereby accept.

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They wandered round the garden for a bit until Peter heard the song of the cuckoo from Cuckoo Wood.

"Are you up for a romp round Cuckoo Wood, Spot?"

"Woof-oo" barked Spot.

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silently opened the drawer in the hall where he kept his most precious things, a ring and a key. The signet ring shone solemnly. Alan smiled, slipped it on his finger, smiled again as he slipped the loop of string to which the brass key was attached round his neck, skipped his way upstairs and went back to bed.

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Finally, after walking along the passage for what seemed like miles but was probably just a few yards, they came to a closed door. They opened it slowly and spied a woman sitting at a table writing into a notebook.

"It's Aunty Enid," said John.

"Oh, I miss her so," said Mollie.

"I think she must be writing that zoo book she told us about"

"I wish she was taking
us to the zoo instead of all her readers."

"We mustn't be selfish."

"No, that's what she taught us. We must be brave."

Together they closed the door and ran back along the secret passage to Southernhay.

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Her name was Edith and her father was dead too. And her mother was so ill that she could not go out to work. But it didn't matter because people would pay Edith to write stories.

"I'll write a story about you, Fred. A story about you singing your heart out on this street corner. And though no-one gives you any pennies it wan't matter because they'll give me plenty and I'll pass them straight on to you. How does one shilling and sixpence sound for this little story?"

"Coo!"

"Then I'll write another story called 'One-Legged JIm' and give you the money that Dr Wilson gives me for that one too!"

At that Fred started singing spontaneously. And the song that Fred sand was so happy that passers by were cheered to hear it and were only too happy to drop pennies into Fred's hat.

So Edith was able to keep the money she made from her stories for herself. Which pleased her as she was saving up to get married and to buy a house.

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"Cuckoo!" came the call into Mary's right ear. "Cuckoo!" came the call again and again from her right hand side. Mary would not throw down her bike and run across the road and into Cuckoo Wood. She would not put herself and her bike at risk like that. Not this time.

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Then Jim started to hop. He hopped this way and that, and every time he heard the call "Cuckoo!" he swerved away from it. There were a lot of calls, and they seemed to be coming from all directions. Eventually, Jim's leg turned to jelly and there he was, lying in a heap in the middle of the wood, just as helpless as when he'd been tied up with rope in a tiny hut.

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Betty was in the middle of Cuckoo Wood. Communing with God and Nature. So John never found her.

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The steps led to Cuckoo Wood. In all its weird and wonderful Glory.

Tuesday, May 20

No entry in the diary. But the work log tells us that Enid wrote a poem today. Here it is. It seems to me that it might have been written by one of the characters in her 'Half-Told Tales' of the day before. Betty or Mary or one-legged Jim, perhaps.

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Wednesday, May 21

Thursday, May 22

Friday, May 23

Saturday, May 24

Sunday, May 25


Oh those blank diary entries! But I think it can be assumed that Enid met Phil again. She always seemed to do that shortly after writing one of her poems about foreign countries, so that she could discuss the illustrations required.

And after business was concluded, Phil would have asked how things had gone since they'd last met on May 16. Would she? Well, let's see:

Phil: "What have you been up to?"

Enid: "All alone on the roof I sit
When the night comes down.
A hundred miles and more away
From village or town."

Phil:
"You mean you've been writing at home."

Enid: "I’ve humped my bluey a score of years
Down the country side;
There isn’t a job in the whole of the land
That I haven’t tried."

Phil:
"You mean you've been writing at home."

Enid: "I’ve sheared the sheep with my
Strong right hand
On a hundred farms,
And carried the bleating new born lambs
In the crook of my arms."

Phil:
"And what about you and Hugh?"

Enid: "We’ve planted wheat and we’ve reaped the corn
In sun-drenched fields;
We’ve searched for gold and for precious stones
That Cuckoo Wood yields.

"We’ve felled big trees in the forest depth
And once on a day
We dived for pearls in a cuckoo bed
Through the waters grey.

"We’ve seen the jumpity kangaroo
Go bounding by.
We’ve wished we could go at the rate they go
And jump as high.

"We’ve seen the lyre bird spread his tail
And the emu run,
We've smelt the scent of the wattle trees
As we’ve worked in the sun.

"And now alone on the roof I sit,
With my pipe alight
A lone sundowner beside a fire
Awaiting the night."

Phil: "That's a lot of writing, Enid. And a lot of Hugh action."

Enid: "Actually, it's only Thursday I spent writing this week. Five poems which I expect will end up in the book of poems that Dr Wilson is going to publish next year."

EB-02-01-05-05 Work Done 1924 02 May-20 May

All these poems except 'A Morning Bathe' are in Silver and Gold. And, for all I know, 'A Morning Bathe' may be in there under another title.


WEEK 22


Monday, May 26

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Location, location, location! This month’s From My Windows have turned into such a marking out of territory! Territory Enid is going to voluntarily vacate come August.

Where is Bracken Wood? Presumably on Bracken Hill which Enid mentions in many contexts over the years. David Chambers goes into the location of Bracken Hill in Enid Blyton Society Journal, number 50. He points out that there is a Bracken Hill Lane and a Bracken Hill Close near to Oak Wood. I've marked them on the map below, which is from 1930, close to the time Enid was exploring the area. Oak Wood is bottom left, the distinctive triangle of woodland.

Bracken Hill - Untitled Page

Unfortunately, there is not really a wood or a hill there, as the 1930 map shows. (Unless Martin's Hill to the south or Bromley Park Wood to the north?)

However, there is a more likely possibility. As David Chambers points out in his piece, in a 'From My Window' of October 1923, called 'Autumn', Enid describes going to Bracken Hill from her house in the following terms:

'As I turned down Cuckoo Lane (from whence, alas! all the cuckoos have departed) a perverse breeze shook a hawthorn branch...When I left the lane and climbed up the slope of Bracken Hill, the russet-brown fronds of the spreading bracken flung a golden glory over the countryside... At the top of the hill I turned, and looked down the way I had come. Oh, marvellous, glorious October! There lay the glittering, rain-wet country...there stretched Cuckoo Wood.'

First, the cuckoos have only departed Cuckoo Wood for their annual migration to Africa. They would be back in May 1925, though by then Enid would have to make a special trip out from her new home to hear them.

Second, I think what Enid is talking about is walking north up Scott's Lane (Cuckoo Lane) and then the northerly extension of that, - Downs Ridge Road, Down's Hill and Crab Hill - until she gets to the hill that is called Beckenham Place Park on the map below. I feel this is the place that can best bear the weight of importance that Enid places on it, time after time in her writing. Here, surely, is the bluebell-rich Bracken Wood as well as Bracken Hill itself.

Googling Summerhouse Hill Wood (the name is just barely visible in the main wooded part of the next map) tells us that the wood is the remnants of an ancient one. There are oak, sweet chestnut and silver birch trees, predominantly. The shrub layer comprises hazel and hawthorn varieties. And the ground flora? That's diverse and includes many ancient woodland indicators. A local council website states: 'Bluebells are particularly abundant, forming spectacular carpets of deep blue flowers in spring.'
So the top left of the last map is now the subject of the map below.

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The above map would have meant a lot to Enid in 1926. If one says “Bracken Hill” often enough, it seems to come out “Beckenham” (via “Brackenham?”). Equally, one can go from “Beckenham” to “Bracken Hill” (via “Becken Hill?”).

I think we need a picture of that. Just to feel that we are looking at Beckenham through Enid's eyes.

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Is that enough Blue Magic?

We will be returning to Bracken Hill in June.


Tuesday, May 27

Diary blank. Enid wrote three more poems per her work log.

Wednesday, May 28

Diary blank. A 2000-word chapter on armoured animals for the Zoo Book, per work log.

Thursday, May 29

Diary blank. A 1600-word chapter on snakes for the Zoo Book.

Friday, May 30

Diary blank. A 3000-word chapter on bird life at the zoo. So that was chapters 12, 13 and 14 of the Zoo Book completed this week. 'Getting on,' as she said before.

Saturday, May 31
To Olympia Tournament.

That constitutes a diary entry, however short. Enid would write a Talk about the trip to Olympia with Hugh at the beginning of June.

Funny thing this blank diary business. The month itself becomes another Half-Told Tale, so maybe it's a joke on Enid's part. In any case, it places more weight on the From My Windows as well as the work log. Luckily, this month the Talks have easily been able to bear the weight. Haven’t they?

I should point out that although I've fiddled with the layout of the below image, to fit in the four talks, it's Phyllis's adjustments to her own drawing that have led to the ribbons held by some of the children apparently being cut off in mid-air.

You’ll notice that all four of May's 'From My Windows' were written on Monday, whereas back in January they were all written on Sunday. That's because prior to April the 10th, Enid had school on Monday, while Sunday had been her free day. Whereas from April 10, she was with Hugh all weekend, but come Monday, when he went to work in London, she had time to write.

The good news is, early in June, Enid took up her diary again. Blue magic, indeed. But oh those May nights!

Enid May 1924 TW1234blue - Untitled Page