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The Mystery of the Missing Man was published in August, 1956, 13 years after The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage and about 13 years before I read both of these books in the Armada paperback copies that I still have and which are so handy for scanning purposes!

Enid was still living at Green Hedges, Beaconsfield, just three miles north of Bourne End. She was still living with Kenneth Darrell Waters, but her two children had grown up. Gillian would have been 25 and working in London, prior to getting married in 1958. Imogen was 21 and in the middle of her university education at St Andrews. Enough that they had been 12 and 8 when
Burnt Cottage was being written. Enough for Enid to pin them down for ever in the form of Larry, Daisy, Pip - all about 12 at the start of the series - and eight-year-old Bets. Notice I’ve left Fatty out of that list. As Imogen suggests in an article published in the Enid Blyton Society journal in 1998 called ‘Our Books are Facets of Ourselves’, Enid put a great deal of herself into Fatty.

Although
Missing Man was the 13th book in the Mystery series, I’m writing about it 2nd because it locates Fatty’s house more clearly than any other book. Indeed it is entertainingly obsessional about Fatty’s movements between his family’s house and his shed. Actually, not just his movements between his own house and shed, but his movements in and around other people’s caravans! As we’ll see. And as the cover of the Armada paperback that tops this page celebrates.

It was in the second book of the series,
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat, that Fatty’s family came back to live permanently in Peterswood. Not to stay in the inn by the burnt cottage, but in a house (called the White House), nearer the middle of the village. The positioning of the house is consistent throughout the rest of the series. For instance, Pip and Bets (on the left of the map below) have to pass Fatty’s house (near the top) in order to get to Larry and Daisy’s house (on the right). But, with one or two exceptions, there’s a vagueness about the location of the White House until this book. Why the sudden detailing? Again the cover of the Armada paperback has something to say about this. Mr Trotteville (Fatty’s father) has a friend come to stay, and this Mr Tolling brings his daughter with him. Fatty spends the book trying to protect his personal space from being annexed by Eunice! He has to fight for his right to... do what he wants to do. Goon is involved as well. Several times he cycles or walks from his police house to the White House, or vice versa. As you can see from the map below it was a pretty straightforward cycle, except when Fatty removes Goon’s bike from the garden gate and puts it by the kitchen gate leading Goon to suppose that his bike has been stolen. But I’m getting ahead of the game.

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Below is an aerial view of what I suspect Enid thought of as Fatty’s House, near the beginning of Abbey Road, marked with a yellow pin. The blue line I’ve marked is a narrow lane that still exists going past the southern flank of the property, nearly parallel to Marlow Road. In 2008, when Viking Star identified this as the most likely real life equivalent of the White House I told him I was worried that it was not possible to circumnavigate the property, as happens several times in
Missing Man. However, Viking Star went on to point out that earlier maps show that there used to be paths on both the northern flank and the eastern edge of the property. Well done that 21st Century Find-Outer!

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So let’s take a look at the evidence. In 2008, Viking Star posted the following on the relevant thread in the forums of the Enid Blyton Society:
The (not very good) image which follows is a picture I took of a map dated 1938. It covers a similar area to the first picture [aerial photo], but more importantly shows (as denoted by = = = = =) where footpaths used to run. In case it’s any help, I have inked in an ‘A’ to indicate the White House. The ‘100’ indicates a contour line, and is right in the middle of Fatty’s garden.’

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I haven’t yet seen this map for myself. The nearest I’ve got to it is the map below, from 1896. However, I don’t think the ‘100’ re the contour is in the middle of the garden of the White House as Viking Star said. The garden is fairly limited, though it seems to have added a strip to the north and a strip to the east between 1896 and 1938. I think the ‘100’ is in a big field beyond the eastern border of the property, with a footpath crossing from north to south. So there would have been no problem walking along that flank in Fatty’s day. And the northern boundary? The closest house to 2 Abbey Road nowadays was not built until relatively recently and I’d like to think Fatty could have found a way along the northern flank, perhaps even on a footpath.

Looking at Viking Star’s map above, there seems to be a shed in the south east corner of the garden that wasn’t there in 1896 and isn’t there in 2012. Could this be Fatty’s shed? Enid does describe it as being right at the bottom of the garden, with access to ‘the lane’ via a gate. Looks good to me! The next time I include an aerial shot on this page, Fatty’s shed will be tucked away in the corner.

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In this photo below, looking north up Abbey Road, you glimpse a white house through the trees. Just by the road sign (which Google has partially obscured) you also glimpse the entrance to the very atmospheric lane (marked in blue on the above aerial view). Narrow, with tall flanking fencing on both sides, it is a joy to walk along. Online I can only allude to its timeless qualities. No wonder Enid’s imagination had to give it a good going over sooner or later. No wonder Fatty was drawn to that lane!

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Before getting back to
Missing Man, I’m going to give three ground views of the ‘White House’. The viewpoints are those of the figures I’ve marked in the aerial view below, each looking towards the house in question. I should say at this point that 2 Abbey Road, which historically was called the Haven, is a real house with real occupants. Viking Star had the pleasure of talking to the owner back in 2008, a woman that knew who Fatty was and seemed delighted to learn that her house had such intriguing Blyton connections. But I don’t suppose she wants too much attention drawn to her home. We must keep a certain distance, I think. I only hope that in my enthusiasm to inhabit the text of Missing Man I don’t overstep the mark.

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Below is the view you get if you stand outside the little gate in between tall hedges just a few feet up Abbey Road and past the entrance to the lane. From here one can see the front door of the white house overhung with wisteria. The house is not conventionally structured and the front door faces the back of the lane.

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Below is the drive and what Viking Star has reported, having been shown round inside, is the kitchen side of the house. The red car is also visible in the aerial shot showing the house and lanes. This photo was taken from twenty yards or so up Abbey Road, facing east.

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Whereas the photo below was taken from the narrow lane marked in blue. Because of the tall flanking fence, and the vegetation that tops the fence, there is not much of a view. But it reveals that the house has two floors and an attic. If it wasn’t for the fence and hedge, there would be an excellent view of the front door overhung with wisteria!

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OK, let’s see if such a Bourne End background helps when engaging with the text. Eunice is living in Fatty’s house where she has her own bedroom upstairs, as does Fatty. At the beginning of chapter three, Larry and Daisy go to Pip and Bets house for tea. Fatty arrives in his running gear (Fatty’s slimming regime is an important motif in the book, allowing him to get around as much as he does). They’re all in Pip and Bets playroom upstairs when Eunice arrives on the lookout for Fatty. Fatty escapes out the window and runs to the village. When he gets back to his own house he’s worried that Eunice might be keeping an ear open for the garden door (think: wisteria). So could he slip in at the kitchen door (think: red car)?

‘He circled his house and garden, and went in at the little gate that led out from the very bottom of the garden into the lane. His shed was near there and he would make sure it was well and truly locked as he passed. It would never do to let Eunice pry into all his secrets there. Then he would slip through the garden and up to the kitchen door and get in that way.’

Unfortunately, Eunice is in the kitchen talking to two maids and Fatty is spotted. Strike one for Eunice! But Fatty’s battle to secure the peace and quiet factor that was always an issue for Enid herself, goes on for several chapters. It was in 1946 that Enid volunteered to put up several members of Dorothy Richards’ family at Green Hedges. Enid soon regretted offering such hospitality, finding that her ability to concentrate on her work was affected. It seems she let her frustration show. In any case, the family left after two days and Enid lost Dorothy’s friendship for several years. But back to the text:

Next day, Fatty is determined to avoid Eunice. He offers to post a letter for her:
‘Thanks,’ said Eunice. ‘I’ll think out something for us to do while you’re gone.’
Fatty shot out of the room and out of the garden door. He ran to the post
(there is a postbox further west on Marlow Road), and then circled the house and garden till he came to the little gate again at the very bottom.’

Once there he dresses up as a tramp and then settles down to read a book. Peace at last! Alas, Eunice, pulled along by Buster, a wise dog who knows where his master is, soon appears. She screams at the sight of the tramp in Fatty’s shed and Goon is suddenly on the scene. Fatty makes a break for it.

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Fatty runs up the garden, goes out of the front gate and runs down the road. ‘
By the time that Goon had got to the first corner, Fatty had entirely disappeared. He had run into the garden of the house here (I think Enid means the first house on the north side of Marlow Road), gone right down to the bottom, leapt over the wall and made his way back to the little lane right at the bottom of his own garden’. Fatty collects his own clothes from the shed and intends to change back into them in the house. Why not get changed in the shed? Well, for comic reasons, I suspect. Goon, Eunice, Mr and Mrs Trotteville and Mr Tolling are all in the hall. Eunice sees Fatty through the hall window and screams again. Everyone races out of the front door as Fatty neatly slips in at the side door. He shoots upstairs, goes into his bedroom and changes into his own clothes.

The shed-tramp farce is reprised later in the book. The Trottevilles and Eunice eat their evening meal in the dining room at seven o'clock. Eunice wonders if Fatty will play her at chess later. Fatty has absolutely no intention of wasting his evening in such a way and tells her he is going cross-country running. Eunice says she will change into a tweed skirt and join him. Fatty takes the opportunity of going to the shed and getting tramped up. He knows that his parents and Mr Tolling will have gone out to play bridge and Eunice will be waiting for him in the sitting room dressed in her sporty tweeds, so he lets her see him through the hall window.
‘Help!’ she cries. ‘Here’s that tramp again. Help! Frederick, where are you? That tramp's here again! Frederick!’

I picture Enid chuckling over her typewriter as she put those words into Eunice's mouth. She totally identifies with Fatty.
Of course Fatty must protect his time. And if that means sloping off to his shed at every opportunity for a spot of tramp-dressing then so be it!

Eunice rings for the police, and at first Goon doesn't want to know. He has had enough of wild tramp-chases. But eventually he relents. Goon leaves his bicycle just inside the front gate (think: view of wisteria) and goes quietly round to the garden door (think: smell of wisteria) and through it. Eunice, the house-maid and Goon search the garden for almost AN HOUR before giving it up as a trampless cause. The house-maid invites Goon into the kitchen where he drinks tea, stuffs himself with shortbread and boasts of the numberless arrests he has made. He doesn't hear the quiet footsteps of Fatty returning from wherever he escaped to. Goon is oblivious to Fatty getting out of his tramp clobber in the shed. Eventually Goon realises how late it is and blunders out of the kitchen. He goes to the garden door (wisteria) to retrieve his bike from the gate, but it's not there! He KNOWS he left it there, so it must have been stolen. Poor old Goon. He has to walk home. At home he finds the phone ringing. It's Fatty reporting the presence of a bicycle leaning by his kitchen door (red car). He doesn't know whose it is, but wonders if Goon has had one reported as stolen.

Again, I can imagine Enid's shoulders heaving as her fingers go on tirelessly typing, trying to keep up with her undermind as it goes to work, aided and abetted by the Bourne End template that is one of her most precious possessions.

Goon shouts down the phone that he knows he left the bike by the front gate and that Fatty must have hidden it until Goon left the Trotteville house, and then put it by the kitchen door. I'd say that Goon's surmise of the situation re bike movements, was excellent deduction. Anyway, poor Mr Goon has to walk back to the Trotteville house and retrieve his bicycle. That's where the chapter ends. Though I can imagine Goon having to fight very, very hard to resist the temptation to lob a brick through Fatty's bedroom window.

In between the two tramp-happy scenes, Enid gets on with the plot. The Chief tells Fatty that there is a dangerous man on the loose. One of his interests is insects, so Fatty thinks he may well turn up in disguise at the Coleopterists Conference at the Town Hall. Enid extracts much humour from the unusual word, or at least the Find-Outers do. Collie-dog breeders? Growers of cauliflowers? Colly-wobble sufferers? The day before the conference, the Find-Outers spend the afternoon at the Fair. Goon, in a stupid disguise, is on the lookout for the ‘missing man’. The Find-Outers rip the piss out of him, if I can put it like that. The fair makes for a spectacular dustcover to the first edition, but in my view misses out on the two vital locations of the book. Fatty’s home-is-his-castle and Barker’s Field.

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I want to pause at this point. This particular dustcover is the one from Gillian Baverstock’s copy which I bought together with the rest of her complete set of Find-Outers’ books at the auction of her estate in 2010. I strongly suspect this book, a first edition published in 1956, was Enid’s and that it was part of her collection held at Green Hedges until she died. After that, the book became the property of Darrell Waters Ltd and some time between 1968 and 1986 some misguided individual put stickers on the spine. When Bob Mullan was writing
The Enid Blyton Story, published in 1987, he was given access to the collection of the company, and many of the photos in his book show the dustcovers with two distinctive stickers on the spine.

At some later date another misguided soul (possibly Gillian) removed the stickers from the books in the Blyton collection without being able to avoid tearing the paper underneath. See the spine of the above book. The top sticker was a small one, its removal has left a stain on the word ‘Blyton’. The bottom sticker has been bigger and held in place by Sellotape. Again its removal has left stains and has torn the word ‘Methuen’. Gillian, as a director of Darrell Waters Ltd/Enid Blyton Ltd, had access to the collection and is reputed to have taken books for herself, perhaps thinking she was the true owner. And when she died the set she’d put together from various sources, including Green Hedges, thanks to a realistic bid, ended up with me.

I suppose it’s possible that this book was never at Green Hedges and the company realised they didn’t have a copy of
Missing Man, sourced a fine first edition and then stuck stickers on the dustcover, but I don’t believe in the likely-hood of that. I like to think that the book now on my shelf spent a few years in a bookcase in Green Hedges, and that makes it valuable in my eyes. I hope Fatty - who you can see on the spine above - is admiring this particular facet of my Missing Man detective work.

OK, back to the story. Goon thinks Mr Tolling could be the ‘missing man’ and follows the innocent insect-lover when he leaves the Fair going the wrong way - south towards Maidenhead instead of north to Bourne End. The last third of the book focuses on Barker’s Field where there are 20 caravans, including the caravan of the Fangio family, who Fatty suspects is somehow sheltering the missing man. In the map below I’ve marked the Town Hall (green marquee next to the police station) and the Fair field (green marquee bottom right), but it’s the caravan park, Barker’s Field (green marquee next to the Spade Oak), that’s significant as far as the denouement to
Missing Man is concerned.

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Let’s have a closer look at Barker’s Field. First how do I know that it’s really Spade Oak Meadows? Well, Tony Summerfield has referred to the equivalence of the places and he is not one for wild speculation. I’ve had to mark the caravans with lorries. It was either lorries or tents as Google does not have a specific caravan symbol. Six lorries equals 20 caravans? Yes, yes, it is an exact science that I am expounding here!

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After the second tramp shenanigans, Fatty makes his way from his house in the direction of the river and towards Barker’s Field. He soon gets there. Which caravan belongs to the Fangios? He has no idea. But he boldly stands on the wheel of one caravan and peeps in. Hilarious, how Enid gives her character
carte blanche to behave like this. Go on, Fatty, tell us what you see! ‘Two people sat inside, one sewing, one reading. Man and wife, probably, quite decent-looking people.

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But a neighbouring caravan is protected by dogs. He crosses the field and comes to an old caravan that badly needs repainting. It’s dark so he opens its door. It smells musty and he shuts it again quickly. It brings to my mind Hugh’s cellar in Old Thatch, which can’t be far away. Is that what Enid has in mind? I suspect that by this stage in the series her under-mind is giving the Hugh thing a rest and she’s revisiting her old stamping ground in a thoroughly playful spirit. But I’ll be mulling over the possibility.

How does Fatty make progress? Someone asks him what he’s up to and soon he’s in the caravan of two brothers, one blind. They offer him food and Fatty is touched by the kindness of the poor old couple. A cat turns up which belongs to the Fangios, so Fatty has the bright idea of suggesting that his hosts tell him where the Fangio caravan is so that he can return the cat to its home. The elderly female Fangio takes the cat from Fatty but doesn’t invite him in. Actually, in retrospect that’s a great moment when Fatty, dressed as a tramp, hands over the cat to the ‘missing man’ dressed as old Mrs Fangio. Each master of disguise oblivious to the other’s real identity!

Having not been invited in, Fatty gets up on the caravan’s big wheel (natch) but the curtains are tightly drawn and so he can see nothing. However, he is surprised to hear a conversation in which he can identify two male voices amongst the mix. He knows that there is a brother and a sister and old Mrs Fangio, but who does the second male voice belong to? Could it be the missing man? Two of the Fangios go out to play darts. Then someone else leaves the caravan, though Fatty doesn’t see him or her. That leaves one person left inside, according to Fatty’s calculations. Nosy Fatty risks opening the door. He sees two bunk beds and an old mattress rolled up below, but to his surprise there is nobody else there. Where has the fourth person gone?

Fatty gets chased out of the field by people from another caravan. Buster turns up just in time to save him from an awkward encounter. Back with the Find-Outers, a plan is hatched to keep an eye on the Fangios’ caravan. The next day Pip and Bets keep watch from 2 pm until 4. Then Larry and Daisy take over. They have nothing to report to Fatty and Eunice who are next on watch. Eunice stares at old Mrs Fangio, attracting first her attention and then her wrath.

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Old Mrs Fangio ends up throwing a punch at Fatty that lays him out, much to his surprise. Bystanders comment amusingly:

‘She gave you one all right!’ said a small boy. ‘And down you went.’
‘Plonk!’ added a small girl.


Quite right that Fatty should be mocked at this stage in the book. He that objects to folk intruding on his privacy shouldn’t go keeping watch on other people’s caravans! He who sees himself as a master of disguise should see through the disguise of an escaped convict dressed up as an old woman, especially when ‘she’ delivers a right hook that would have felled Henry Cooper in his heyday!

At half past nine that same night, Fatty slips out of bed and makes his way to Barker’s Field. (See the aerial view with the lorry/caravans again.)Unbeknown to him, Eunice follows. She sees him disappear under the Fangios’ caravan. Bad move Fatty, because Josef Fangio kicks the cat out and old Mrs Fangio emerges from the caravan to get it back. The cat goes under the caravan and Fatty’s presence is revealed. The Fangios soon have Fatty gagged and locked up in the smelly old caravan that Fatty has already explored. When the coast is clear, Eunice tells Fatty that she can’t open the caravan but that she’ll go and get help. Unfortunately, a mist has risen from the river, and she takes a wrong turn. She soon finds herself at the river instead of in Peterswood.

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Then she gets things wrong again and sets off on the long path to Marlow (that’s a real place several miles to the west on the map, a town that is explored in
Mystery of the Hidden House) where Fatty had jogged a few evenings before. She has to kip in an old boat house and its half-past seven in the morning before she wakes. Poor Eunice; poor Fatty - locked up in a smelly old caravan all night! But at least Eunice can see now and she makes her way back to Peterswood, calling in at the Hiltons’ place, which she would come to first.

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The rest of the Find-Outers free Fatty, who has a Eureka moment and exposes Mrs Fangio by grabbing her by the hair and exposing it to be a wig. Yes, ‘Mrs Fangio’ is the dangerous criminal and to prove how dangerous he is, he swings his fist again and knocks Fatty off the caravan steps. I can’t resist summarising the end of the book in this way:

‘She gave you one all right!’ said Goon. ‘And down you went.’
‘Has the penny not dropped yet, Goon?’ says the Chief. ‘’This is the dangerous criminal we’ve been looking for. And thanks to Frederick we’ve finally got our man.’

Actually, I’ve just had a Eureka moment of my own. Perhaps the old caravan that Fatty was locked in stunk of booze, and Enid’s undermind was seeing it as another of Hugh’s drinking dens. Of course, the cellar at Old Thatch was ideal for Hugh to drink in, but when the maid was in her bathroom, Hugh had no access to it. What the hell could he do? He could walk the short distance to Spade Oak Meadow and enter the caravan that he’d kitted out specially. When Fatty pulls the wig off Mrs Fangio’s head on the steps of the caravan in Barker’s Field he is revealing Hugh to be the true villain of the piece again. Yeah, that must be right. It explains why Goon is given a relatively easy ride in Missing Man, the evil essence of Hugh having migrated, Twin Peaks-style from Goon to old Mrs Fangio!. One has to hand it to Enid: an imagination, par excellence.

What else is there to say? Well, now that I’m in full fantasy mode, how about this...

It's the spring of 1955 and Enid has spent Monday to Thursday writing Three Cheers Secret Seven. As always with a piddling little Seven she has left herself with a free Friday, and instead of dashing off a Noddy story (as she was briefly tempted to do once she’d dealt with her correspondence) she has decided to visit Bourne End, her old stamping ground from the far off days with Hugh.

It's the first of May. She cycles along quiet lanes, admiring the new growth on the wayside bushes and the happy whistling of song birds, before entering the village from the north, along Chapman Lane. As she approaches Marlow Road she is very close to where she wants to be. The white house with the tranquil name of the Haven. She pushes her bicycle along the drive and leans it against the kitchen door, noting the unusual alignment of the house. Smiling to herself, she rings the bell by the door on the other side of the house - she thinks of it as the garden door, as it looks out onto so much pretty border, lawn and hedge - and is soon in conversation with the owner.

"I'm Enid Blyton."

"Are you really?"

"I live in Beaconsfield these days, but I used to live here in Bourne End."

"Yes, I recognise you now. I used to see you pushing a pram along the Marlow Road when I lived further into town.”

"That would have been Gillian. My lovely baby girl has grown up now. Or it might have been Imo. That awkward child has grown up too. Anyway, now it's just me, taking my mind for a trip down Colmoorholme Lane. Though, actually, I don't intend to go there today. I've come here instead. I hope you don't mind my interrupting your morning."

"Oh, no, not at all! I'm so pleased to see you standing in front of me. You are an amazing person and I've always wanted to meet you properly.”

"I've got a secret to tell you. Can I come in?"

Soon Enid and the woman, whom I’ll call Eunice, are drinking tea in the sitting room. Eunice offers Enid a plate of macaroons.
"I shouldn't. You see I'm slimming," says Enid, with a glint in her eye.

"Nonsense, take one."

"I suppose I can always go for a jog along the river later."

"Of course you can. And you're cycling."

"Oh, so I am. I'd better take two or I'll never get through the day."

Eunice laughs.

Enid goes on to talk about the Mystery series. She explains how once she'd finished
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage she was horrified to realise it was all about Old Thatch and her attitude towards her first marriage.

"Dear me," says Eunice. "What did your husband think about that?"

"Oh, it's sufficiently disguised for him not to realise what's going on. Besides, he won't have read the book. After all it's for children. Anyway, when I wrote my next Mystery, I broke up the Coldmoorholme (too-close-to-home) set-up and moved Fatty..."

"I know him. He's marvellous!"

"You don't mean you read these books, Eunice? They're for
children! You really must try and act your age.”

Enid tears into another macaroon and they both laugh.

Enid goes on to say that for the subsequent books in the series, Fatty has been living in the White House, which is to say in Eunice's home once removed.

"Here! - I had no idea."

"I'd liked the look of the house from my Bourne End days. I used to play bridge with the people who lived here in the early 30s. I always paid attention to it when walking into town. Gillian and I used to make sure we walked up the lane that begins so invitingly just by the corner of your house. And I loved the name of the house:
haven of peace, haven of tranquility. That was all, but it was more than enough. In one of the later books I give the house a large shed, not knowing whether or not there was a shed in your garden or not. Though I expect there is, what with the garden being so large."

"Oh, yes, we have a shed."

"Does it have a tiger-skin rug inside?”

"Not when I last looked."

"Well, look through my eyes the next time you venture down to the bottom of your property."

However, it's not the inside of Fatty's shed that's at the top of Enid's mind today. She explains: "When I was last in Bourne End, I came to have a closer look at your house and ended up having a lot of fun in those wonderful paths and lanes that go all the way around your house."

"Yes, they can be handy."

"Handy! As I walked along them, I had my Fatty, my Goon, Mrs Trotteville, at least one tramp and any number of beetles for company."

"Goodness!"

"I have a feeling I am going to use the lane in particular in my next Find-Outers book, which I will be starting on Monday morning. But what I suddenly became curious about was the layout of the house which I never explored properly during bridge parties. I know it must seem like an odd request..."

"Would you like to see around the place?”

"Oh, that would be super. Thank-you so much. Some day I will show you around all the nooks and crannies of Green Hedges, I really will.”

After the guided tour of the Haven - the highlight of which, for Eunice, was having a demonstration of how Enid could let herself out of a locked room - the women come back into the sitting room for a sit down. Suddenly there's a commotion, "Oh, my word!" cries Enid, staring out of the window. "
There's that tramp again. Help! Frederick, where are you? That horrible tramp's here again! Frederick!"

Eunice is startled. Enid reassures her that everything is all right: it's just a story popping up from her subconscious. Her under-mind has the habit of jumping the gun at times. She has a feeling she is going to have great difficulty leaving off from starting her new Find-Outers book until Monday.

At Enid's suggestion, she and Eunice look for tramps for an hour in the back garden. They don't find any. "No wonder," says Enid, pointing to what she refers to as a 'tramp-flap' in the garden fence close to the shed, leading to the lane. "The tramps go in and out of your garden at will, laughing at you, Eunice. They flit from lane to shed to house like will o' the wisps, laughing at decent housewives and good mothers like us, dear Eunice. And when they’re done laughing at us they run to Spade Oak Meadow, stand on the wheels of caravans and laugh at the half-decent housewives and fair-to-middling mothers who live inside them!”

Eunice can’t stop laughing along with the stream of wit and good humour. Then the house-maid invites Eunice and her guest into the kitchen where Enid drinks tea, stuffs herself with shortbread and is encouraged to tell of the numberless books she has written in the last year. Eventually Enid realises how late it is and her new friend shows her to the front door. Her bicycle is not there.

"Oh, you must have left it round the back," says Eunice.

"No," says Enid, gleefully. "IT MUST HAVE BEEN STOLEN! Now let me see..." Enid smiles and goes on. "Poor old Goon. He has to walk home. At home he finds the phone ringing. It's Fatty reporting the presence of a bicycle leaning by his KITCHEN door. He doesn't know whose it is, but wonders if Goon has had one reported as stolen."

"Has he?" asks Eunice, trying to keep up.

"Mr. Goon shouts down the phone that he knows he left the bike by the front gate and that Fatty must have hidden it until Goon left the Trotteville house, and then put it by the kitchen door. The fat boy..."

"Don't you mean 'toad of a boy'?"

But Enid has gone. She's mounted her bike and is cycling hard towards Beaconsfield. There is no way that the latest Find-Outers story can wait even until Saturday. Kenneth can play bridge by himself tonight and he can jolly well play golf by himself all Saturday and Sunday. Eyes down for a working weekend! She is of a mind to call the new book
The Mystery of the Missing Bicycle, but she’ll probably change that once her undermind gets into overdrive. Oh, the timeless joy of the creative faculty!

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Acknowledgements: Internal illustrations from The Mystery of the Missing Man are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the work of Tony Summerfield. Thanks to Viking Star for his invaluable work on the ground and for providing the image of the 1938 map. Thanks to all those who contributed to the thread ‘A Map of Peterswood’ on the EBS site, an online initiative led by Aurélien Arkadiusz and Fiona1986. Thanks to Google for making this literary mapping exercise not just possible but a cakewalk.

Note: If any copyright holder wishes an image to be removed from this page then they should contact me and I will do as they ask.