'Enid Blyton was writing very much of her time,' she began, 'a time of sandwiches, fizzy drinks, English supremacy, endless summers, cranberry jelly and a firmly entrenched and highly workable class system that was the envy of the world.'
I stole a look at Phoebe, who shrugged.
'Everything was a lot simpler in those days,' continued Mrs Hilly, 'and the twisted and corrupted morals we see in modern life are but an aberration that we Blytonians aim to put right. By returning the books to their original and unsullied state before the heinous hand of political correctness trampled their true and guiding spirit, we will build a new England. One that smells of freshly baked bread and echoes with the sprightly call of rosy-cheeked farmer's wives, dispensing fresh milk from churns to children dressed in corduroy and summer dresses.'
She was in full flow by now. We had all stopped eating, and were staring at her. I think she mistook our shock as agreement, so carried on with even more gusto:
'To deny modern children the historical context of an age in which most foreigners were untrustworthy and women were useful only in the kitchen denies our children a realistic window into a bygone era that we should be promoting as an ideal to be cherish rather than a past to be improved and airbrushed.'
She stopped and smiled, then began to distribute leaflets that defined in more detail her Blyton-based political ideology.
It was true that Blyton books had been extensively revised over the years to accommodate shifting opinions, and it was also true that her books had been unfairly marked out as being a lot more offensive than they were - owing probably to a certain degree of intellectual snobbery and a fundamental misunderstanding of why they were written. The argument had raged for decades on either side, and culminated in the so-called ‘Noddy Riots’ of 1990, when the warring factions clashed on the streets of Canterbury, inflicting almost £6 million worth of damage and leaving six dead - not even the Marlowe/Shakespeare riots of 1967 had been that fierce.
'Let me get this totally straight,' I said. 'You don't want to just stop any more changes - you want to return that books to their pre-revisionist state and use them as a template for your view of a new and better England?’
'I couldn't have put it better myself,' she replied, beaming happily. 'A woman's place is definitely in the home, England functioned better when the working class knew their place, and foreigners are incorrigibly suspect. What do you think “fundamentalist” means in “Blyton fundamentalist”? In fact,' she went on, now in something of a lather, 'we aim to reinterpret and enhance the texts to more subtly export our own ultra-English worldview, and have even written a series of commentaries as to what Our Blyton truly meant when she penned her great works. It is our intention to run the nation according to this new and radicalised Word of Blyton - we will insist that England is returned to a world of perpetual summers, simplistic politics and the expulsion of anyone who looks even vaguely foreign, and make the sacred words “gosh”, “crikey” and “wizzo” a compulsory part of the English lexicon.’