BOURNE END FOREVER

This section of the site is about Enid’s marvellous Mystery series. I thought of using the umbrella term ‘PETERSWOOD FOREVER’ for the following pages, as the name of Fatty and the Find-Outers fictional village is Peterswood. But Enid was always thinking of Bourne End as she typed and was constantly drawing on its layout, a layout that exists to this day. So on balance I’ve gone for the real place-name.

In 2008 I had a go at finding where Fatty, leader of the Find-Outers, lived in Bourne End. Once I’d established pretty well where it had to be using Google maps, Viking Star, a fellow member of the Enid Blyton Society, finished off the job on the ground, skilfully pinpointing the actual house. He took photos of what he (and I) think is the model for the White House, home of Fatty from the second Mystery onwards. Here is a glimpse.

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In pages to come, I want to retrace those footsteps, spell them out, and make it easier for the hunt to be followed by anyone, no matter where they live on planet Earth. But I also want to broaden the search somewhat. I want to learn (and perhaps teach) how Enid made evocative use of the physical geography of Bourne End as the series of books set in Peterswood developed. That is, as the series went on, so she focused on different parts of the Bourne End she knew and loved. Sometimes she simplified the geography so as not to bog down her narrative with description. Sometimes, for story purposes, she let that mental map morph into something a bit more… well, fictional. But I believe she was essentially faithful to her actual environment. Just as the painter Stanley Spencer who lived in Cookham, immediately the other side of the river, was faithful to his beloved village in such visionary paintings as Resurrection at Cookham, The Last Supper and Christ Walking into Jerusalem. Funny to think of Jesus living and dying on one side of the river (in the imagination of Stanley Spencer) and Fatty going about his Find-Outing business on the other (courtesy of the much crucified Enid Blyton). But I must leave my interest in Stanley Spencer’s ouevre for another day.

I’m doing this Blyton work now for at least two reasons. First, in 2008 I made a mistake about where Find-Outers’ Larry and Daisy lived and that threw the investigation off the rails. Second, I’ve got a new computer that can take me places I couldn’t go in 2008. It’s a bit like having a Wishing Chair in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Watch:

Wishing Chair, take me to Peterswood.

No, scrap that and try this:

Wishing Chair, it’s 1943, take Enid from where she’d lived since 1938 in Green Hedges, Beaconsfield, to where she’d lived from 1929 to 1938 in Old Thatch, Bourne End, with her husband, Hugh Pollock, and their two little girls. Bear in mind that she loved Bourne End, where she used to go in and out of other people’s houses for bridge and dinner parties, and where she used to go walking - up and down the lanes, over fields and along the river - with Gillian in particular. Bear in mind also that she was furious with Hugh for wrecking the idyllic family life they had together at Old Thatch.

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The green house with a flag marks Enid’s starting point, Green Hedges. The Wishing Chair flies south and west over the M40 (which wasn’t there in 1943) and as far as the loop on the River Thames (which was there). The Chair then descends into the grounds of the yellow house, symbol for Old Thatch, on the edge of Bourne End, having covered a distance of about three miles.

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Are you with me? I mean, are you with Enid? If so, then hopefully you will stay tuned for the next 15 pages. (15? Blimey, am I going to do them all?)