Tuesday, 11 December 2018

I Blame Enid Blyton

It's all her fault! My student and I were reading this book last week. We discovered many things that annoyed us about the book - like EB's assumptions that the Five  [how exactly were they 'Famous' ?] cannot go more than a page without paying two shillings to a red-faced jovial farmer's wife to make them some sandwiches, and they all carry lengths of string in their pocket at all times. Oh, and even though they are camping out, sleeping on bundles of heather under rugs [no proper sleeping bags?] and in a hurry to solve the mystery, they still have to wash properly in the mornings [the girls at the kitchen sink, the boys go for a bathe in the lake, even though it is October]
And of course, the man eldest boy has to make all the decisions and boss everybody about. The youngest, a wimpish female called Ann, is despatched to do all the menial chores. I had quite forgotten why I disliked this author so much! The quality of writing just did not compare to the Michael Morpurgo stuff I had read the week before  
But it was the regular appearance of string that kept making us chuckle. The lady in the shoeshop had recently demonstrated a way of tying the laces on new school shoes that doesn't easily come undone. So this week, our 'study theme' is going to be based around 'knots'. I fetched this book from the shelf, and on Saturday, when I'd hoped to be putting marzipan on the Christmas Cake, I was planning numeracy and literacy work around that theme. I decided I could 'tie it all together'
The book was bought years ago - simply because I saw it in a sale and it looked interesting. It has history, terminology, and the instructions for dozens of knots and their uses. It recommends a couple of lengths of coloured rope or cord for practising. I found some lengths in my stash - then followed the suggestion for 'sealing' the ends so they do not fray. Useful tip - a Cook's Blowtorch is the ideal tool for this activity!
Archaeologists have found evidence of knots going back 300,000 years! The Incas used them for counting, the Egyptians for getting right angles on their Pyramids [using a 3-4-5 Pythagorean triangle of rope] the 18th Century Hawaiian taxmen used them for accounting, with different coloured ropes for their various clients. Various faiths have used knotted ropes as prayer aids - and there are so many professions who have their own special knots - such as sailors, fisherman, cowboys, soldiers - and surgeons!
There is a whole glossary of terms too - bights and bends, hitches and ends, loops and elbows...
I don't think Ms Blyton knew much about knots. "He tied the string to his torch" is a rather dull phrase. She could have made it much more interesting. The only knots I remember from the Brownies are a reef knot [we had to tie our ties at the back of our neck with a reef, not a Granny!] and a "round turn and two half hitches" [you use that for fixing a rope to a railing] Maybe by the end of the week I shall know more.
Did you learn about knots when you were younger? and do you use knots now?


  1. My father was an advocate of "always carry a piece of string". Can't think what use it would have been on the steelworks where he worked.

    Didn't we learn a sheetbend in Brownies as well? That was for joining the two end of a broken rope. Long time since I've used it!

  2. it was counting up the exclamation marks on every page that finished me with Enid Blyton. And the discovery that boarding school in the 1970s was NOTHING like Mallory Towers.

  3. The knot work is going surprisingly well [it is amazing how much numeracy and literacy teaching you can disguise this way] And I can now tie a Highwayman's Hitch and a Strop Bend.


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