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from Five Find-Outers and Dog

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By Philippa

A photo of Phillippa Cowley-Thwaites with a black dog

I’ve always wanted to be a detective; not a spy because I talk too much, and probably wouldn’t respond well to torture. Sleuthing is much more my thing.

It all started when I was a kid, growing up in the totally un-pc era of Enid Blyton. There was nothing I liked better than curling up in bed at night while my Dad read from Blyton’s Five Find Outers and dog.

They were brilliant; not as precious, or as posh, as the Famous Five. Their dog, Buster the Scottie, was cool – not thick like Timmy.

Published between 1943 and 1961 (incidentally the year of my birth), the Five Find-outers Mystery Series was totally TOP. The Mystery of the Strange Messages; the Mystery of Banshee Towers (guaranteed to put a chill up many a nine-year-old’s spine), The Mystery of the Missing Man (strangely prophetic for me) were all read in Dad’s mysterious, South-London tones.

We were only allowed one chapter a night; two on a Saturday (he was a great spinner-outer of mystery, my Dad); unless of course Dad was so into the story that he just had to read on.

Right at the heart of it all was the arrogant, but likeable, Frederick Algernon Trotteville;  or Fatty as he was affectionately known (a far cry from today’s ‘Borderline Obese’ or ‘Weight-challenged’) on account of his ‘stout build’, as well as his initials.

“With his wide grin, his twinkling eyes, his mad jokes – and his extraordinary habit of finding himself in the middle of peculiar mysteries”  Fatty was my absolute favourite detective,  and has had a profound influence on my choice of boyfriends.

A master of disguise, with a brain sharper than Sherlock’s, Fatty is a force to be reckoned with – especially when being attacked by gypsy women or hiding in cupboards.  His talent for ventriloquism has got him out of many a scrape, with said gypsies and cupboards. He puts Keith Harris in the shade.

I spent weeks talking out of the side of my mouth, or from behind a very stiff grin, but I never did acquire his skills; and staking out the neighbours whilst trying to get our Yorkshire Terrier to alert me when the police were coming didn’t quite work. Fatty was, and is still, a role model of cunning and eminently resourceful:-

“Yes, it smelt of oranges, and that could only mean one thing……….Fatty had written another letter on the same sheet, in orange juice for secret ink”.

Modern policing could learn a lot from Fatty and so could the marketing people at Sunny D.

In 2009 Egmont Press gave the Five Find-outers a contemporary make-over, following a survey of parents and children by Chorion, owner of Blyton’s literary estate.  The right-looking kids were carefully selected for their photo shoot – and there was Fatty, bang in the middle, looking decidedly thin.

A thin Fatty is like Holmes without the Deer stalker; Potter without the glasses; Scooby without the Doo.

He’ll always be Fatty to me – and that’s why I love him.

The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.

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