Saturday, April 28, 2012
"Five thousand pounds!" murmured Susan in a happy dream.
"Divided by four, remember," said Midge.
Bill had gone up the ladder and was pushing sharply against the trap-door." Susie," he said, "did you shut this trap-door?"
"Yes," said Susan, "I didn't fancy people looking in the windows and seeing it open--"
"Well, give us the keys," said Bill. "Where are they?"
Susan came out of her happy dreams. "They're on the floor of the shop," she whispered.
From SUSAN'S HELPING HAND, Chapter 10, Susan Makes a Mistake.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
|This photo is a link to Crackington Manor, which was expanded and slightly relocated in The Moochers to become Pendragon Manor, where Fiona and Katherine spent their last two years of schooling. Today it is a guest house. You can visit the website by clicking here. It seems to be very comfortable and lavish and I would love to visit it on my next trip to the UK. The site also has many photographs of the region, which helped the books come more alive for me.|
So we rolled back to the Chalet du Lac in style and thanked Dr. Maclaren again and dashed upstairs to look for the others. Thomas was in bed.
"What's the matter with Thomas?" I asked. Usually Thomas has to be dragged to bed by the ear if there's anything exciting going on.
Clarissa grinned. "Thomas has had a tiring day," she said. "But he wouldn't tell me about it till you came."
"Some people," said Thomas, "go about in taxis doing their detecting. But others have to walk--"
From THE TALL MAN, Chapter 7, We Make Our Reports.
Monday, April 23, 2012
In the Moochers stories, Percie was a co-educational school on the east coast of Scotland. It was founded in 1940 and went bankrupt in 1950. It was run on fairly liberal grounds with very little in the way of hierarchy. The school was the opposite of the public school system in Britain at the time. There were no head students or prefects and everyone had an equal say. The pupils were given the freedom not to attend lessons and there was none of the strictness usually associated with British schools. On one occasion, a boy locked up the headmaster for a whole day and ran the school himself, apparently with no disciplinary consequences. The headmaster is not named, but the pupils referred to him as the Old Man. The only teacher to be named in the stories was a maths teacher known as old Williams. Mr. Williams is described as having a “lashing tongue” although the pupils seem to have been undaunted by him. One aspect of the school that pupils evidently enjoyed was the debating society, where all were free to speak their minds. The closure of the school caught all the parents and pupils on the hop as there appeared to be no lack of students and fees were incredibly high. Fiona Auchenvole’s mother repeatedly expresses incredulity at the bankruptcy of the school considering the astronomical cost of its tuition. The closure of Percie resulted in a scramble by desperate parents to find alternative schools for their children. Fiona and her cousin Katherine Morton were able to find last-minute places at Pendragon Manor in Cornwall because Katherine’s mother was at school with Pendragon’s head mistress. The fate of the other Percie pupils following the school’s closure is not recorded. The teaching methods at Percie were clearly approved of by its pupils but were held in contempt by traditional public school pupils. The headmaster’s liberal ways were ahead of their time and were what attracted Katherine’s free-thinking father to enrol his daughter at the school. However, it is obvious that the headmaster had little in the way of managerial skills and this led to Percie’s financial ruin.
Published in 1950 by Lutterworth Press, The Moochers is the first of three stories involving cousins Fiona Auchenvole and Katherine Morton. The tale begins with Fiona and Katherine, both aged sixteen, getting ready to move to Cornwall to attend their new school Pendragon Manor. Hitherto, they had been educated at Percie, a modern co-educational school on the east coast of Scotland. However, following the school’s bankruptcy, the only place their parents can find that will take them at a late date is Pendragon. Fiona, who lives in Scotland, will travel to Bath, where she will be met by Katherine. However, during the journey, she is very ill and collapses at the train station in Bath and is forced to take to bed for two weeks. During her recovery, she reads an old diary penned in 1794 by another Katherine Morton, chronicling her journey to Cornwall and her only day at Pendragon Manor. Great-aunt Katherine’s description of the school fills Fiona with foreboding and she and Katherine finally make their way there determined not to like it. Upon arrival, they, with their co-educational schooling, scorn the house system and traditions of Pendragon, with its Head Girl and strict timetables. They flaunt the school rules, walk out of classes and show no respect for Head Girl Betty Hill, who nicknames them The Moochers because they always “mooch around”. However, the girls inevitably grow to like Pendragon, make friends and take part in school activities such as the drama club and hockey team. And just as they are getting to love the place, they find that it is threatened with closure. The school doesn’t have the money to buy the land and all seems lost. But there is the legendary long-lost treasure, the Pendragon Hoard, and Great-aunt Katherine’s ancient journal yields interesting information about a secret passage.
This is the author’s fifth novel and it is classic Jane Shaw material. On the first reading, what you have is a straightforward well told story, but one so rich in detail that you just have to read it again. Then the nuances become more evident. The characterization is excellent. Katherine is fearless and enjoys challenging the school authorities, i.e. mistresses and head girl. Fiona has a healthy appetite for both food and adventure. The minor characters are also interesting. The cousins befriend Isobel Gurney, a shy, quiet girl that everyone deems to be of little consequence but who has a hidden talent for hockey. Mr. and Mrs. Pengelly, the school’s closest neighbours, live in a cottage called Little Nance that becomes a haven for the Moochers, especially Fiona, who adores Mrs. Pengelly’s abundant supply of Cornish delicacies. Even the “enemies” come across as sympathetic in their own way. Miss Perry, the maths teacher, is quite unpleasant, but when she falls for a crooked councilor who is only using her to get dirt on the school to force it to close, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Even Betty Hill, the Head Girl, comes across as not such a bad egg in the end, although the girls do not all become fast friends. There are more fine shades in the characters in this story than in the Susan series, for instance, where the “bad” people such as the Gascoignes, Major Banks and Sir Arthur Symes were all bad all the time, although the overall tone of the Susan series is much more lighthearted and it may not be fair to draw comparisons. One character that really gives depth to the story is Pendragon Manor itself. It is an old house with a deep sense of history behind it that is skillfully used to provide a real historical background. The only slightly disappointing character is Great-aunt Katherine. In her diary she recounts that during her first night at Pendragon she sees a man in her room. Next morning she leaves the school believing that it is haunted. This was the only weak link in the whole story in my opinion. Up to this point, the girls, especially Fiona, had been greatly impressed by their ancestor, her endurance and strength and avant garde views. To have her flee the school because of a “ghost” makes her sound a bit weak and childish. Furthermore, at the end of the story her diary is preserved as a historical treasure, which is strange since her opinions of the school were overwhelmingly negative. The ghost story in one way was a clever plot device. The secret passage had to be worked into Great-aunt Katherine’s journal and so she awakes during the night to see a man disappearing into a wall. However, this could have been contrived differently, with Katherine staying on at the school and finishing her time there still wondering about what had happened. To have her running scared put a bit of a damper on her character. Having said that, on the whole the character is used with great skill to forge a bond over the generations and also to show some enduring family traits. The fathers of both Katherines are very keen on getting their daughters educated in the most modern ways possible. In 1794, Katherine Morton notes that among her friends she is the only one to go to school at all. The Katherine of 1950 was sent to a co-educational school by her father, who believed that the more modern methods of teaching would be of great benefit to his daughter.
The Moochers is in many ways a typical Jane Shaw story. The main characters are two cousins at a boarding school in the south of England where the most unpleasant teacher is a maths teacher and there is a buried treasure to be found that will handily save the school in a time of crisis. However, the sense of history in the form of Pendragon Manor, its revered founder Mrs. Trevelyan and Great-aunt Katherine’s diary set it apart from anything else the author ever produced. The Moochers is also one of the few stories set in Cornwall and her descriptions of the scenery, local village and local characters give it a sense of uniqueness.
The Moochers was followed by a sequel, The Moochers Abroad, in 1951. A third story, Moochers and Prefects, was forwarded to West Regional TV for consideration and was mislaid and never recovered. As the author had no back-up copy, the story was lost forever. But as far as the first book is concerned, I would rate it 9 out of 10. A real gem.
"I like the notice, 'Five O'clock Tea,'" said Katherine.
"It rather fancies itself as an English tea-shop," said Celia.
"Thank goodness the cakes aren't English," said Fiona.
"Neither is the tea, believe me," said Celia, "it's the usual dishwater. But the chocolate is wonderful."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" said Fiona. "Come on."
From THE MOOCHERS ABROAD, Chapter 5, Brittany.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
|The Onion Man is a story for very young children. Here we can see the fairy fisherman begging William not to return him to the Onion Man, of whom he is mortally afraid. Instead, he wants to go back to Brittany.|
Mrs. Pengelly is a resident of Pendragon Haven in Cornwall and features in The Moochers and The Moochers Abroad. When Fiona and Katherine move to Pendragon Manor, one of the first people to befriend them is Mrs. Pengelly, the Glaswegian wife of the taxi driver who brings the girls to the school. The Pengellys live just down the road from the school in a cottage called Little Nance. When Mrs. Pengelly first moved to Cornwall, she was a laundry-maid at Pendragon Manor. She enjoys the company of the girls, especially Fiona, who is also Scottish. Mrs. Pengelly is an excellent cook and her speciality is Cornish splits and cream. Both girls enjoy her cooking, especially Fiona, who uses any excuse she can think of to suggest dropping in on their neighbour. Despite her many years in Cornwall, Mrs. Pengelly still speaks with a Glasgow accent. She decorates her house with geraniums and is a cat lover.
In New House at Northmead, the unspeakable Dr. Partridge claims to be the curator of an art gallery. Where does he say his gallery is located?
The answer to Quiz 44: In 1937, Jane Shaw published an article in The Park Chronicle under her maiden name, Jean Patrick, entitled Builders of Books.
To have restored his picture to a delighted Lord Claire was some consolation. There weren't many others; for in the end-of-term results New House came bottom in every House competition with unfailing regularity.
"Gosh, it's bad," said Nicky. "Bottom in everything."
"Never mind," said Kay, joyfully throwing clothes, shoes, books into her trunk, "next term we'll fix it."
From NEW HOUSE AT NORTHMEAD, Chapter 15, Rough Girls.
Monday, April 16, 2012
What was the title of the essay that Jane Shaw, writing as Jean Patrick, publish in her school magazine in 1937?
The answer to Quiz 43: The head mistress at Pendragon Manor is Miss Richardson, known to the girls as Dicky.
And so the Moochers entered Pendragon....
Not that Pendragon called them the Moochers then, of course: that came later. That first day they were only two new girls called Fiona Something-or-other and Katherine Morton, of whom Pendragon was taking rather a dim view. The Manor House Seniors were gathered in the Seniors' sitting-room discussing them. To begin with, it was against all precedent for any girl, far less two, to come to Pendragon at the advanced age of sixteen - and a week late at that; then, it was well known that they had come from one of those crank co-educational schools, and everybody knew what they, and their products, were like.
From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 3, The Moochers Arrive.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
It is settled. I am to go to Mrs. Trevelyan's Boarding Establishment on the 22nd of September. Mamma, I know, hoped that some School nearer home - even in Bath - might be fixed on, but Papa has heard such prodigious good reports of Mrs. Trevelyan that he is determined that I should go to her. Sometimes I could wish that dear Papa were not so eager to have his Daughter educated. It is so droll in him. Not one of my Friends has been to School, and now I must go to a Boarding School! I am sorry for it beyond measure, but it is settled.
From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 2, The Journal. Fiona is reading Great-aunt Katherine's diary that chronicles the journey to and her one day at Pendragon Manor in 1794. It is interesting to note that, like his descendants, Great-aunt Katherine's father is very keen on giving his daughter an alternative education. In the 1940s, over 150 years later, Katherine and Fiona's parents are all keen on sending the girls to progressive schools.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Isobel Gurney is an upper fifth pupil at Manor House in Pendragon Manor. She is one of the main characters in The Moochers and makes a brief appearance in The Moochers Abroad. It is also likely that she featured in the lost manuscript of Moochers and Prefects. She is sixteen years old and described as slight and fair in appearance and speaks in a quiet voice. When Fiona and Katherine (the Moochers) first arrive at Pendragon, it is Isobel who shows them around the school and shares a room with them, and the three girls quickly become friends. Katherine and Fiona take a liking to this shy girl and take her under their wing. Isobel is keen on history, and she is also a talented hockey goalie but is not given the chance to play in goal by bossy Head Girl and hockey captain Betty Hill. Betty makes Isobel play as a winger and is scornful of her, describing her as so bad that a “third-former with her legs tied together” could beat her. Isobel is constantly in awe of Betty, but Katherine thinks that Betty treats her “like a beast” and is determined to improve her new friend’s status at the school. Fiona and Katherine help Isobel to train and are surprised that despite her small stature she turns out to be brilliant in goal. When a flu epidemic breaks out and sidelines the house's goalie, they suggest Isobel’s name. In desperation, Betty gives her a try and everyone is amazed at how talented she is. Isobel goes on to help Manor win the House Cup for the first time in years in a dramatic victory over the Dragons. She also comes second in the Hope Burdon historical essay with her piece on the Industrial Revolution and ultimately helps Manor to win the coveted House Shield. She is also present at the finding of the legendary Pendragon Hoard treasure trove. In one term, Isobel goes from being a humble shy girl to a major player at Pendragon Manor. However, her character remains unchanged and she continues to be very considerate and anxious not to hurt or offend people. Isobel is called Bella by the Moochers. Little is said about her life outside of Pendragon except that she has three brothers who are keen hockey players and study at Sanford, and that training with them made her such a good goalie.
In The Moochers, what is Percie?
The answer to Quiz 41: The most frequently used location in Jane Shaw's stories is Kent. More stories are set there than any other location, including the Northmead novels, Jumble Sale, Willow Green Mystery, Susan's Helping Hand and all the St. Ronan's stories.
Fiona didn't think that Katherine's neck was likely to be any stronger than her own, so she declined this offer. She shone her torch down the steps. "They look perfect," she said. "Very stout, really, but I'll go carefully." She went very carefully and, followed by the others, reached the bottom - a sort of small landing. On the right was a wooden panel; before them more steps descended.
From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 10, The Hoard Again.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Susan bounced out of bed next morning at a shockingly early hour. The stamp was safe; with any luck there would be news of her parents from their prison-ship that day... how could anyone sleep on such a wonderful, happy morning?
Well, Midge could, for one. She hunched the blankets round her shoulders, closed her eyes firmly and turned her back on Susan.
"Och, Midge," wailed Susan. "I want to talk!"
"Later," mumbled Midge. "About two hours later."
From WHERE IS SUSAN? Chapter 15, V.I.P. Treatment. Another example of a theme that permeates the series: Susan, the early riser, hauling Midge out of a deep sleep. This type of running gag provides the answer to a frequently asked question: why are so many of Jane Shaw's characters cousins? Caroline and Sara, Susan, Midge and Charlotte, Fiona and Katherine, Dizzy and Alison, and Jennifer and Eleanor are all cousins. The answer would seem to be that by making them cousins you can have contrasting characters relating to one another when they otherwise would not. It's hard to imagine Midge wanting to be friends with a girl like Susan if they weren't related. The same goes for the practical Alison and the eccentric Dizzy. But unlike friends, you have to take your family as they are; you can't choose them. It's a convenient plot device.
Monday, April 9, 2012
What nickname does John give his car in Bernese Adventure?
The answer to Quiz 39: Selina's unpleasant surprise at the end of Susan Muddles Through is her announcement that Gabrielle will be joining Susan and Midge at St. Ronan's.
It was indeed a sorry sight. Leaving the Alpenrose, the girls had had some qualms at the condition of Sara's poor father's beautiful hogskin bag, all stained and discoloured with dirt; so, in a panic, they had decided to wrap newspaper round it each morning. So newspaper, tossed and torn by the wind, festooned the already unsightly pile of soiled bag and haversacks, and Sara was just suggesting that a towel wrapped round and hanging down would obscure the number plate better when John emerged, and ordered them back into the car in a hurry.
From BERNESE ADVENTURE, Chapter 13.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
What very unpleasant surprise does Selina Gascoigne spring on Susan and Midge at the end of Susan Muddles Through?
The answer to Quiz 38: Miss Elliot, known as Ellie to her pupils, is Ricky, Julie and Fay's French teacher, as well as their form-mistress.
"The south of France would be lovely," said Mrs. Eliot, "if your father could earn a living there. But unfortunately he hasn't a brother there, and a ready-made practice waiting for him to share, as he has in Johannesburg!"
Jennifer let out a wail. "Susan! What about Susan?"
"Really, Jenny," said her mother. "You must not scream like that. I nearly jumped out of my skin. And it's all right, Susan can come with us. I telephoned South Africa House, and there's no quarantine for dogs going from England--"
From VENTURE TO SOUTH AFRICA, Chapter 1, The Journey Begins. The Susan in question here is not Jane Shaw's best known character Susan Lyle, but the Eliots' Airedale!
Saturday, April 7, 2012
The Law unbent even further over his tea. He was a Macfarlane himself, he confessed, from Crianlarich, and Luss was a bonny wee spot, but promotion was slow. He brooded on this for a little. Then he said, "You had the bad luck yoursel's recently, with the five-pound notes."
So that's it, thought Lilias. Fanny, who, the more innocent she was the guiltier she looked, went a deep pink, and had difficulty in swallowing the bit of bun she had in her mouth. That cat in the post-office, thought Pips.
From THE CREW OF THE BELINDA, Chapter 13, Enter the Law.
Friday, April 6, 2012
What name is given to the thief who steals important documents all over Kent in Susan's Helping Hand?
The answer to Quiz 36: When Susan moves to London she is fourteen years old. Three years later in A Job for Susan, she is fifteen!
Dizzy looked around rather wildly and shrugged. She pointed to the corner furthest from Madame Bertholet's windows. I nodded.
But first we had to get past the windows. As I may or may not have mentioned, I was wearing my second-best suit, the skirt of which is rather tight, also my best stockings. To go crawling along under Madame Bertholet's windows was extremely difficult, undignified, uncomfortable and ruinous on the stockings. Honestly, I thought, the things that Dizzy gets me into!
From ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, Chapter 8, The Eavesdroppers.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
|A family of baboons take an interest in Tina, forcing her to climb so far up a rock that she can't find her way down and needs to be rescued. From the only short story of Jane Shaw's set in South Africa, The Matchmakers.|
"I don't understand," said Belle, and now she didn't look so pale or so defiant, she only looked bewildered. "Our Aunt Evelyn met us in London and we lived with her for two months - she wasn't what I expected Mummy's sister to be, yet I recognised her, too, from photos that Mummy had before - before Daddy made her put them all away---"
Midge whispered to Susan, "This is a fine way to clear up a mystery. You've landed us in another!"
From SUSAN'S HELPING HAND, Chapter 13, Long-Lost Nieces - and Nephew.
Monday, April 2, 2012
In Venture to South Africa, on which ship do the Eliots travel to South Africa?
The answer to Quiz 33: A Brother Where Art Thou is the name the pupils at St. Ronan's give to the currant buns served at tea due to the scarcity of the currants to be found in the snack.
"Nobody seems to be worrying about me," complained Katherine.
"Oh, you!" said Fiona. "You'll be scoring goals all over the place."
"Oh, do," cried Isobel, "and then I'll have nothing to do----"
From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 8, Rise - and Fall - of the Moochers.