Saturday, 26 January 2013

Easily Amused

I just read a post by the MadSnapper Sandra, entitled: How to make a post out of Anything/ Everything/ NOTHING … And I wrote in my comment that I was just thinking of doing a post with the title Easily Amused. So now I have to.

Actually I was just going to do that anyway, so all that remains for me now is to try to explain. Which is the hard part, or I would already have done it by now.

The thing is, I’m still giggling on and off at a chapter in a children’s book that I read two days ago. At the age of 57, I’m not sure if that’s something one ought to admit.

But I just checked, and found that after all, Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) was 44 when she wrote it (or at least she was when it was published, in 1902). The book is Five Children and It, and the chapter that had me particularly amused was Ch 9, entitled Grown Up.

If I knew that you (dear readers) had all read the book, the explaining part might not be so difficult. Those who haven’t might need a little bit of background, though.

While playing in a gravel pit near their home, five children—two boys, two girls, and their baby brother, nicknamed “the Lamb”—uncover a rather grumpy sand-fairy known as the Psammead, who has the ability to grant wishes. (Only one per day and they only last for a day, at sunset all goes back to normal.)

Getting your wishes granted turns out more trouble than one might think,  as the Psammead tends to act on the very first “I wish” of the day that happens to come to mind for any of the children, whether they mean it as an actual wish or not.

One day, for example, one of them happens to wish that their (sometimes rather troublesome) little baby brother would “grow up”… Which, of course, he immediately does; and instead of being their baby brother, he becomes their grown up brother for a day. But as his brothers and sisters know he will suddenly turn back to a baby at sunset, they still can’t let him go off on his own. So they have to watch out for him, even though now it’s he who does not want their company.

That is not really the funny part though.
And neither is this, in itself:

The grown-up Lamb frowned. 'My dear Anthea,' he said, 'how often am I to tell you that my name is Hilary or St Maur or Devereux? - any of my baptismal names are free to my little brothers and
sisters, but NOT "Lamb" …

What set me giggling, and still does, is how the author treats that name-issue throughout the rest of the chapter (these are just some examples):

The grown-up Lamb (or Hilary, as I suppose one must now call him) fixed his pump and blew up the tyre.

Quietly but persistently the miserable four took it in turns to try to persuade the Lamb (or St Maur) to spend the rest of the day in the woods.

'He doesn't know who he is. He's something very different from what you think he is.'
'What do you mean?' asked the lady not unnaturally, while Devereux (as I must term the grown-up Lamb) tried vainly to push Anthea away.

[Anthea] caught the Lamb (I suppose I ought to say
Hilary) by the arm.

'Who are these very dirty children?' she asked the grown-up Lamb (sometimes called St Maur in these pages).

Again and again the Lamb (Devereux, I mean) had tried to stop Jane's eloquence, but…

If anyone would like to read the whole chapter you can find it here (Click on Part 3 and scroll down to Ch. 9).

And then you may shake your head at me, if you wish. (Just remember to be careful what you wish for.)




  1. what i get from this is the fact that you and I will never ever never be bored. we can read, we can snap, we can write about nothing or write about reading, or write about snapping or all of the above....

    1. Actually Sandra, I think one point Edith Nesbit tries to make in her books is that if we make use of imagination, we don't have to be bored.

  2. It sounds like a delightful book! Which also shows the consequences of getting what we want, sometimes what we want s not what we need!

    1. Although some details in the book may seem a bit antiquated 110 years later, the Wikipedia article on it tells me that it's never been out of print since it was first published.

  3. I love it, and the way to tell it extraordinary.

    1. I think the "author's voice" in the background very much contributes to making it enjoyable even to grown-ups. (Well, some of us, at least!) I never read these books in childhood so I'm sort of "catching up"...

  4. Replies
    1. Well GB, you have to remember I'm not even middle-aged yet, according to some people's way of counting...

    2. Absolutely Monica! Don't forget that I'm only just getting round to Narnia! I think the point of my comment was simply that I had read the post but had no idea what to say!

  5. Edith Nesbit is one of my favourite authors, and I love this book almost as much as I love "The Enchanted Castle" and "The Magic City"! That particular humour of hers is present in all the books I have read by her so far; I got these when I was about 10-12 years old, and have re-read them many times.
    Have you read the 2nd book with the Psammead, too?

    1. Meike, I can't recall reading any of Edith Nesbit's books in childhood. The only one I know for sure that I read before is The Enchanted Castle. But even that was later in life. Now back in the autumn I downloaded a collection of her Essential Works to my Kindle. I half-randomly started with this one, for a bit of light reading in between other books. (I did check first, with help of Wikipedia, which ones belong to the same series, as in the Kindle collection they're not sorted in that order). Since I finished this one, I've also got started on the next in this series: The Phoenix and the Carpet. I don't intend to read the whole collection in one go but will probably continue to read one now and then in between books of other kind.

  6. I've never read the book but we did see a movie made from it. Eddie Izzard played It.

    1. I saw the movie mentioned while I was looking for info on the book.


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