As a child, I used to read voraciously all the Enid Blyton books I could lay my hands on. I would scour the secondhand bookshops close to home and buy them for my little collection with what little pocket money I had. It was not unusual for me, then a 6-year old, to finish a book within a day.
I loved Enid Blyton’s books because they introduced an entirely different world to me, a little Singaporean girl with no knowledge of any other life but city living. I had never seen countryside such as she described; never experienced the freedom that her protagonists enjoyed in all those lush green fields or beaches with craggy cliffs, where were mysterious hollows and caves to be explored, and adventures to be had. Indeed, I was so taken by Enid Blyton’s stories that I read all I could lay my hands on: from The Famous Five to Malory Towers to The Magic Faraway Tree series, etc.
Thus did my concept of what constituted a rural idyll come from Enid Blyton’s books. In my mind were carefree days spent in rambling farmhouses, where good home-cooking was to be had, and where nobody would mind my disappearing for hours on end to enjoy long days of sunshine and adventure. There would be swaths of woodland and open countryside to explore, wherein I would discover tinkling streams, huge hollows in massive tree trunks that I could turn into my own little hideaways, and luscious fruit and nuts to enjoy. There would be opportunities for camping and cooking out of doors, fishing by the seaside, scrambling amongst rock pools, and finding hidden treasure in caves, nooks and crannies.
(Of course the reader must understand that my life as a Singaporean schoolgirl was much different from the above. The only times I could dispense with engaging in any form of school or extracurricular learning activities was when my parents took us all out of the country for a much needed break. Otherwise, my school holidays followed a pattern that consisted of ongoing Chinese tuition four times a week and the dreaded maths tuition three times a week, with my tutors ensuring that I would have plenty of homework to do for them between lessons. Added to this was homework from school that had been assigned for completion during our holidays. On top of this, I had violin and piano lessons once a week, where my teachers set plenty of practical and theory homework to complete before the next lesson.)
Perhaps you can now imagine why Enid Blyton’s vision of life in the country sounded so ideal to me. I knew that she wrote fiction; but I could not help hoping that I might one day enjoy the rural idylls she described. Enid Blyton’s novels were marketed at children; and I possessed then a childlike innocence which allowed me to believe that such idylls were possible.
When I moved to Scotland and began to tour the country a little, I began to see Enid Blyton’s depiction of rural scenes in some of the places I visited. Such a one was Glen Lyon, where a picturesque river flows between high mountains. Imagine the views its villagers enjoy from their homes.
Then we moved to the Lake District, and the sense of awe I feel for this beauteous countryside is possibly akin to the wonder that Enid Blyton’s books created in my 6-year old mind. When I look at the hills and valleys, the fells and lakes, the tiny hamlets with sheep trotting past on narrow windy roads, unperturbed by pedestrians or traffic, I think that perhaps one day I might even discover a secret glade, complete with that magical tree, wherein I might discover a hidden hollow to transform into a home from home.
So, what is my rural idyll? Well, my rural idyll will have to combine the following factors: tranquillity; scenic beauty; a period home with character; a pretty garden; wide skies and friendly neighbours nearby, but not too close. As I write this, my thoughts have actually flown back to rural Scotland, where Hubby and I have family. The Lake District conjures idyllic scenes of peaceful enjoyment that inspire the soul, but I think our hearts will always find their way back to family, with whom we may share our rural idyll.
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