When I was a kid, I scorned Noddy, although I lapped up almost everything else Enid Blyton wrote. Maybe not Mallory Towers. And as a teenager, I had much fun scoffing at the apparently comic and even suspect sub-text of the Noddy books, what with him telling Gilbert Golly he would wash his nasty black face, his penchant for sleeping with Big Ears, and the callous disregard of Mr. Plod for the simplest niceties of habeas corpus and probably Magna Carta, too. The episode in which Noddy ties a goblin to a tree and threatens to drive his taxi (that’s what it was) at the suspect – well, perhaps that was a bit rough, too. But when they went in for banning Noddy from the libraries, I started a Voltaire-like position on the wee chap with the bell at the end of his hat. (Earlier versions of this blog said ‘Rousseau’, not ‘Voltaire’. Where was my brain? However, even Voltaire is probably wrong – the ‘I will defend your right to say it’ line is a quote from a writer called Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing about Voltaire.)
Blyton herself was a strange figure, and divided her two daughters (the elder of whom has since died). The elder was the loyalist. The younger one, when interviewed, gave a completely different picture from the elder, and said she hadn’t even realised Blyton was her mother for many years, so little attention did she receive. Presumably the fact that she dismissed her first husband, their father (who was prevented ever from seeing them again) played its part in the bad blood. She meanwhile had herself filmed with the new ‘Mr. Blyton’ as if they were the model family.
Noddy survives, however (like Sooty – who is my age, whereas Noddy, being first created in 1949, is a bit older, and is therefore sixty this year), and has had a makeover, which has provided him with a robot, a monster truck, a helicopter, and, incredibly, a submarine. Apparently he is going to visit previously unheard-of parts of Toytown. This was a complete gift for my weekly poem, which you can read here.
However, I confess that this is not the first time I’ve used Noddy in a poem. Exactly ten years ago in my weekly New Statesman slot, I realised that there was a strange and almost astonishing resemblance between Noddy, then 50 of course, and Jeffrey Archer – nine years older, but not acting it – and since poems of a certain age tend to get lost in the archives, I thought I’d dig it out. At the time, Archer had just been forced to resign from the London mayoral race.
Toytown: A Statement
I regret that Big Ears
has sold, for a crooked sixpence,
my little fib. When Mr. Plod
suggested that Sally Skittle and I
were scoffing buns, I was in fiction
with Mrs Tessie Bear, and not,
as I implied, wolfing wobbly jelly
with Big Ears. Now I have cried
and wiped my face with a hanky,
I will not stand as mayor
of Toytown, so as not to upset
Bumpy Dog, or my little yellow
car. My cap goes Jingle. Sometimes
I have been naughty (and even
VERY naughty), but mostly good
as a gumdrop. Jumbo will beat
Sly and Dobbo and Glenda,
the goblins. Parp Parp. Look
for the next Noddy book.