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Reading the posts on ‘Which Children’s Characters Still Walk Beside Us?’ I realise that I don’t have any such fellow-travellers.

Is that a male thing, or just me?

There were books I liked (eg The Magic Pudding) but I can’t claim to remember the characters by name. In my house we had a long-playing record of Treasure Island (the audio book of yesteryear!) which meant that I only ever heard that one intonation, the characters only ever had that one voice, and I didn’t really take to them. So I didn’t have Long John Silver or even Jim Hawkins as mentors or friends as I got older.

Molesworth perhaps has stayed with me longest. I look at my old copy of Down with Skool (1953, by Geoffrey Willans, illustrated by the great Ronald Searle) which I see

“Contanes Full Lowdown on Skools, Swots, Snekes, Cads, Prigs Bulies Headmasters …” etc.   Teachers say things like “This is not going to hurt me as much as it hurts you”, “I am hoping to get a job in the colonial service somewhere”, “Unless the culprit owns up the whole school will dig the vegetable garden”, “Mr Chips? No such character ever existed”, and “I am still hoping for a job in the colonial service somewhere.” Canes (or rather “Kanes”) are omnipresent, as are Latin verbs.

But even though I myself had Latin grammar literally beaten into me (I remember being caned for making the literally schoolboy error of thinking that castra, a camp, declined like mensa, a table), I can’t say that this shared experience made Nigel Molesworth my companion through life.

Then, at around 10 or 11 I discovered Agatha Christie, John Creasey and Erle Stanley Gardner. And the rest is history …

 

 

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