I was eight when I was given this book and I remember thinking it was a bit young for me (how ungrateful) but it has stuck in my mind so it can’t have been too bad. Mr Blossom’s shop was of course not your everyday, ordinary village shop but was stocked full of the most surprising and magical things. There was the Sally Lunn bun that turned into Miss Sally Lunn, a plump little old lady with “black curranty eyes set deeply in to her shiny brown face, and she wore a stiff little bonnet, as prim and neatly goffered as though it were made out of pie-crust.” I can’t believe I knew what “goffered” means when I was eight or if I did I’ve forgotten because I had to look it up. “ To goffer” is to make wavy or to crimp, so it’s a good image for a frilled bonnet or a crimped piecrust.
There were snapdragon seeds that produced real live little dragons that eat plants and candytuft seeds that come up as tiny cherry pies with sugary crusts and “tufts and tufts of the most delicious mauve and white sugar-candy”.
One of my favourite stories is “Sand-Shoes”, which I used to call pumps when I was a child. They are canvas shoes with rubber soles (also known as plimsolls). The sand-shoes Jennifer’s god mother bought her were very special shoes, “as light as leaves” that carried her out of her garden and then she “found that she was running on air. Her shoes never touched the ground.” They carried her to the seaside. Unlike the shoes in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Red Shoes, the sand-shoes returned Jennifer home unharmed, the only signs being her sandy feet and tiny shells that fell out of the shoes. I did like The Red Shoes as a child, even though Karen is forced to dance without stopping when she puts on shoes and the ending is just horrible.
Helping Mr Blossom in his shop was Mrs Macgillicuddy who was a nice witch, complete with cauldron and broomstick. She is the source of the magic pills and potions, “the magic headache powders, and the everlasting ball of string, and the pencil that added up sums by itself, and many other strange things that only witches know the ways of.”
I enjoyed my journey into the past reading this book. I’d read on Tara’s blog of an adult book by Barbara Euphan Todd and when I found this was in the library I was lucky enough to find it on the shelves recently. So now I’ll see if I enjoy Miss Ranskill Comes Home.
Until I started to write this post I knew nothing about Barbara Euphan Todd. She was born in 1890, worked as a VAD (volunteers who ran military hospitals) during the First World War and began writing at first for magazines such as Punch and the Spectator. Her first book, Worzel Gummidge was published in 1936, followed by nine others. She died in 1976 as plans were being made to televise her Worzel Gummidge books. So, what a pity she never saw Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who) as Worzel.