First Term at Malory Towers review

11 Oct

I decided to write this review to hopefully help you to see the magic that can be seen in children’s books. Not only that, but to see how an author who has been accused of being sexist can write such strong, clearly defined characters who do not need the help of men to solve their problems.

First Term at Malory Towers is the first of six books by Enid Blyton. It is the third school series written by Blyton, starting the year after she finished the St Clare’s series and was inspired by Blyton’s oldest daughter Gillian going to boarding school.

In the books we follow the heroine, Darrell Rivers, through her school life, which include her ups and downs, friends and enemies. It has to be my favourite school series and has always made me want to attend Malory Towers.


We meet an excited Darrell ready to set off to school in her brand new uniform. It’s nice to have a book start with someone being excited to go off to school and even though the idea of a brown and orange uniform sounds quite unappealing, I do think it could look very nice if matched properly.

We follow Darrell from her home to the station to catch the train for Cornwall, where Malory Towers is located. Naturally she is nervous about her new school, wondering what it will be like and if she’ll make friends. Blyton makes it very easy for the reader to relate to Darrell from the beginning, and these nerves that she experiences make her more human. The fun really begins when she is plunged into the world of Malory Towers at the station. First she is introduced to the sensible Miss Potts who is to be her form mistress and head of North Tower where Darrell is to sleep.

From the formidable Miss Potts we are then introduced to Alicia Johns, a girl in Darrell’s form who has been at Malory Towers for some time (though we are not told how long). Darrell takes an instant liking to Alicia, hoping that this older girl will be her special friend.

Alicia comes across as a hard character from the start and I’ve always wondered why Darrell so wants her as a friend when it’s easy for the reader identify her as a class clown and a bit of a bully. Alicia does get a little better, but I’ve never really warmed to Alicia or understood why you would want her as friend. She reminds me of the popular girls at school who would bully you without a thought to your feelings if you got on their wrong side.

Gwendoline Lacey is another a new girl, however she has none of the characteristics Darrell has which make her so instantly likeable. She is painted as a cry baby, spoilt and worst of all in the sporty world of Malory Towers: overweight. The girls don’t make Gwendoline’s life easy, and Alicia especially says some quite spiteful things to her over the course of the book.

The only other new girl to join them is quiet Sally Hope who seems the complete opposite to everyone else in the train carriage because she does not seem excited about going away to boarding school. She is quiet and withdrawn, which allows her to slide into the background for a short while in this book.

So on to Malory Towers, with its four towers North, South, East and West, which hold the girls’ dormitories and common rooms. Darrell, Sally and Gwendoline are all in North Tower together, with a stern matron and Miss Potts to keep an eye on them.

The term begins quite calmly with lots of fun but hard work as well. Alicia turns out to be the trickster of the form which adds a whole lot of enjoyment to lessons and Darrell wishes Alicia would be her special friend. However she soon learns that mucking around has its price as her marks for school work start to slip.

Sally’s brief illness acts as a catalyst for a complete change of character. After being a very closed off character who often fades into the background, her persona changes and she becomes a very lovely person very quickly and she becomes like an open flower instead of a closed one. The new Sally is instantly likeable. I think you see more of her personality in those last few chapters than you ever do in the rest of the books, except in the third form where Sally’s jealousy gets the better of her, but at the same time she does fade into the background a lot of the time.

I hope I haven’t given too much away from First Form at Malory Towers, but I don’t want to ruin the book for you. Personally I love this book. The ups and the downs of the term make it such a thrilling read, for instance when Darrell is nicer to Mary-Lou and the spiteful tricks Gwendoline plays.

I hope I have managed to show you what a good read this is, and how characters of their time, can break the stereotype. Enjoy this light read, and let me know what you think!

About the writer: Stef is a 22 year old graduate who has a lifelong obsession with books and reading who also loves music and live theatre. You’re most likely to find her in a book shop or out in London standing at a theatre stage door. She can be found on twitter and running The World of Blyton.


Editor’s Letter

7 Oct

Hello everyone!

Another short and sweet one for you this time; Stef gives us a review of the first book of the Malory Towers’ series, Becky looks at the evils of social networking and Daisy has been window shopping for winter coats. Variety is the spice of life, so they say!


image by Daisy

Enjoy your week and if you have something troubling or worrying, don’t forget you can email our Agony Aunt Rubyyy at

Until next time,

Becky and Daisy

Inspirational: Emily Bear

5 Oct


So this is what happens when you start composing music at three years old… This medley is amazing and give it a listen if a have a spare 6 minutes.

Until next time,


Ask Us Anything!

4 Oct

“How do I tell my boyfriend that I’m not ready to have sex?”

Rubyyy says: Ummmm Tell him you’re not ready to have sex! And to be honest, you probably are having sex, just because it doesn’t involve vaginal penetration by a penis, doesn’t mean it’s not sex honeyyy!

So here’s the thing… You should be dating, one day having sex, with the kind of person who you can say “I’m not ready, I love you, let’s make out” to and they’ll love you, respect you and that boundary with no expectation. Is your boyfriend that kinda guy?

It’s hard, we’re young and in love, we’re beautiful and horny but that doesn’t mean we’re ready and I’m pleased that you know that, that you can at least express to me. If it feels hard to communicate because you feel embarrassed or whatever that’s fair enough but you’re judging yourself there and probably applying someone else’s opinions or choices to how you feel about it.

You know how you feel. You’re not ready. Be the powerful young woman you are and stand on your own team, this is your body, your sex and your experience and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t do exactly what’s right for you. Don’t give me any: “But all my friends” or “what if he” focus on you, on communicating and standing firm in what is right for you. Love and Light xxx

Have you got a question for our Agony Aunt? Email her at

Every Cloud…

2 Oct

I was in work the other day just checking the company news homepage before I was due to start my shift and something caught my eye. It was an article informing of The Daily Mail’s Inspirational Women of the Year Awards. I had a gander to see what it was all about.

The Daily Mail is running its seventh Inspirational Women of the Year Awards in association with British Gas and the Shelter charity. The award allows us simple folk to nominate any women we think deserve to be recognised which I think is a great idea because it allows “normal” people with no fame or fortune be recognised for the good that they do in the world.

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image from here

I was reading further into it on Monday and came across an article on one of the nominees, Claire Maitland. I had a read to see why she was nominated and I came across quite a heartfelt story.

Claire received a telephone call at 1am on August 12th 2000 from her brother letting her know that her 14-year-old nephew had drowned. Needless to say she was devastated, I can’t begin to imagine her grief, having a nephew and a niece myself, it’s not a pleasant thought. Claire learnt that medics found her nephew, Sandy, unconscious in a lake in Canada. Unfortunately they were too late to save him.

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image from here

Claire recalls the months following his death “for months we just existed. I couldn’t stop thinking about Sandy’s accident – and the remoteness of the lake where he drowned. I thought what if the same thing had happened in Scotland? Who would have been the first to reach him, and would they have been able to help?” (The Daily Mail website 13th September 2013).

Following on from her thoughts, Claire discovered that even though nurses and GP’s are mostly first to reach a casualty, they aren’t actually equipped with anything that could save a patients life. This news alarmed her understandably because I imagine she kept linking it back to Sandy just thinking what if…

As the months went on this sort of became a back thought, until she received a phone call from her sister Penny saying how she was unsure what to do with the rest of her life with the absence of Sandy. Claire took that opportunity to start a trust in memory of Sandy. What a fantastic way to preserve someone’s memory, and even better, Penny and Claire decided on working towards providing vital life saving equipment to on-call doctors and nurses in the regional areas of Scotland and the offshore isles.

Her words echoed to me from the article “if we could stop one family losing a loved one, it would be worth it.” Sincerity is the first word that comes to mind. Claire had put the personal back into saving lives.  However, she couldn’t have anticipated what happened next.

The Sandpiper Trust has helped to supply life-saving equipment for 2000 emergencies a year. That’s a lot of loved ones.

Claire and Penny worked with emergency doctors to design the blue Sandpiper bag which contains 50 items of vital medical equipment, such as CPS face masks, mini tracheotomy kits, airway masks and stiff neck collars.

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image from here

The success and growth of the trust has been incredible. Over the past 18 months alone there have been 3000 call-outs and a whopping £1.5 million raised. Countless lives have been saved.

To add a personal aspect to this story, Gillian McKenzie owes her life to Claire and the life saving bag because in 2012 she suffered a cardiac arrest. Her six-year-old son called her neighbour who realised she wasn’t breathing and because of the fast arrival of the GP with the Sandpiper bag, Gillian’s life was saved and she can now watch her kids grow up because of Claire.

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image from here

What’s even more amazing is that Gillian met with Claire for tea several months later to put a face to a name and the pair just cried to each other knowing what has happened has prevented what could have happened. Every cloud does have a silver lining and Claire should be deeply proud of herself because she has turned the memory of her wonderful nephew into a life saving action.

What. A. Woman.

For more info on the charity visit

About the Writer: Melody has just finished a degree in Journalism, Film and Media with a 2:1. She aspires to work with vulnerable women and children subject to domestic, and or other forms of abuse. She is an animal lover and has a small obsession with Fearne Cotton. She is a constant joker and can be found on Twitter.

Bad seed

30 Sep

Imagine the taste of the freshly picked tomato. Or a strawberry. Or a bean. The richness, the smell! Now imagine that having them would be illegal. I’m not kidding. I wish I was talking sci-fi, but there is a company, Monsanto that is trying to make that happen. The multinational that is producing genetically modified seed (GMO) and weed killer called Roundup.

At the moment, they are trying to ban the labelling of all genetically modified food around the world. Why? Because people are aware that it’s good for nothing and prefer to eat organic. Well, the company knows the truth as much as the people who have already had the opportunity to try it.

Watch Genetic Roulette, the documentary in which mothers, paediatricians, immunologists, dieticians, farmers and scientists share their experience. None of them have anything good to say about GMO. We learn that since GMO was introduced in the US in 1996, the stomach inflammation induced illnesses have been escalating. The inflammation may cause cancer, kidney disease, digestive disorders, diabetes, thyroid disease, allergies, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disease and/or heart attacks. Since then, there have been more children born with autism than ever.

The stories of the farmers around the world are scary too. They talk about the cattle, normally docile, but after fed GMO, start to become agitated and irritated, their stomachs blow up and then they  die.

Alarming messages came from the areas sprayed with Roundup. There was 70x increase in birth defects, miscarriages and infertility in cattle as well as people.

In 0:50:56, we see the back of the seed packaging. ‘DANGER’ is followed with the list of warnings (and the list seems not to be exhausted): ‘keep out of reach of children, do not use for food, feed or oil processing purpose, treated seed exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds’ – and those are the seeds that we will eventually eat! I cannot imagine that anything wholesome can grow out of them. How can we not be alarmed? I wonder if the company dares to eat their own invention.

What’s more, the philanthropist Monsanto took their expensive patented Bt cotton to one of the poorest countries in the world, India, whose income is cotton dependant. People believed that the seed would make them rich. Sawing it with their bare hands, they developed flu-like symptoms, allergies, rashes, itching. Their cattle, for centuries grazing on the crops suddenly got sick in thousands and died. Another blow was the unreliability of the seed. Instead of doubling their yielding, they lost their income but nevertheless, they were forced to pay high interest, which they could not afford. Their solution was suicide. Three quarters of all suicide cases in India in recent years were the Bt farmers.

In South Africa, they grew GMO corn for their domestic animals. They developed problems with milk production and reproduction and their life spam was shortened. Animals suffered from diarrhoea, infertility and respiratory problems. They even became cannibalistic. And they died.

Corn is a staple food in Africa. Eating GMO corn brought the upper respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms, running noses, severe headaches, and eyes of the people didn’t track.

GMO has had the same impact in Argentina.

Monsanto’s website claims that their aspirations are purely humanitarian. They are here to feed the world when in fact, all they want is to take over the food production. Shall we talk terminator seed? ”If you control the food supply, you control the people”, said Henry Kissinger. And make millions, Monsanto adds. The fairytale as sweet as honey is their commitment to sustainable agriculture, human rights, providing support to research, funding educational projects, working with governments, when the truth is that their ‘working with governments’ is lobbying to get what they want. ‘Support to research’ means buying universities so only information supporting their case can get out. The scientists who dare to speak out against are penalised, ridiculed and sacked. From 1:00:04 of the documentary we learn what happened to the scientists like Dr. Shiv Chopra, Dr. Arpad Pusztai. Dr. Andres Carrasco, Ignacio Chapela, PhD, Irina Ermakova, PhD, Terje Traavik, PhD.

They refuse us the right to information, freedom of choice, democracy, nutritional healthy food, so any talk about human rights, honesty, ethical behaviour and respect is more than hypocritical.


They claim they want to feed the world. Yes, the world is hungry, but because food is being destroyed instead of delivered. Well, there are other factors for it, too, of course. Apparently, we can’t afford to distribute it. My reasoning is: if  we stopped putting money in advertisement, lobby and war, then we would definitely be able to feed the world.

If you feel that the activities of Monsanto don’t make sense and they should be stopped, there are petitions to sign as well as the world-wide (in several cities around the UK as well) March against Monsanto on 12th October that you are welcome to join.

About the Writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.

Is Hollywood Really Dead?

28 Sep

While tidying up the shelves in work, a song came on by Michael Buble. Not being a massive fan, I’d never really properly listened to the lyrics of any of his songs (except singing along in my very talented, beautiful voice of course) but after hearing a few of them I began to think.

The title is quite deliberating itself; Hollywood is dead. This got me thinking. Hollywood certainly isn’t what it used to be; in fact popular culture is the same but times have changed.  I’m going to take some liberty in this article and talk not just about Hollywood but also music stars and other stars of entertainment.

When The Beatles became famous, they were thought of as rebellious because they had longer hair, whereas rebellion now a days is Miley Cyrus rubbing herself with a foam finger and Lady Gaga dancing around in a thong. One could argue that these things, although they do sell the music, take the attention away from the music itself. Back in the sixties, the Beatles were rebellious initially because they played rock n’ roll music, not because of their shenanigans.

With social media and paparazzi at an all time high, the normal things discussed are who was seen together, how thin/fat someone is; basically gossip. For example, most of the press on Justin Bieber consists of him being late for concerts or of him spitting on his fans. Not that these aren’t issues and events that need to be discussed, but the focus shifts from that of their music. While you can argue that this is happening more and more in recent times, back in the 80’s the only real entertainment news I can find is Ozzy biting the head off a bat. In conclusion, any big gossip in the entertainment world is particularly difficult to find. However most of my research is done online and this got me thinking that as the Internet is a fairly recent phenomenon then this may be the reason that gossip about celebrities has gotten so high and become normal. Indeed some entertainment gossip features are seen on the news.

While watching The Big Reunion, many of the cast spoke about their depression and the pressures of fame, as well as their loss of control due to it. However this may not be a new thing – Marilyn Monroe is famous for her feelings of being trapped as seen in some of these quotes: “It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone.” and “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” Indeed the magnitude and pressure of fame have sometimes thought to have pushed some celebrities to suicide, such as Marilyn Monroe from an overdose of barbiturates or Heath Ledger from prescription drug intoxication, while both may not be suicide, the result of the medication they were taking may be from the stresses and pressures of celebrity life and from the paparazzi and gossip. Indeed the gossip and paparazzi may have gotten a lot worse in recent years but these two celebrities were many decades apart, meaning that life for celebrities was also hard back then and wasn’t always the glitz and the glamour.

Hollywood; the big sign on the side the hills of Los Angeles, California promotes the height and Godly approach that Hollywood is meant to suggest but has this all been lost now? There are still some ‘stars’ among the celebrities who have been working for many years like Johnny Depp or George Clooney but celebrities who are famous for being famous may change this. The glamour hasn’t gone from Hollywood, we still have the red carpets, awards shows and sparkly dresses but the metaphorical glamour of being a celebrity in Hollywood, or that of popular culture, may truly have disappeared.

About the writer: Becky has just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing and is very happy with her 2:1. She is friendly, bubbly and just so happens to be the co-creator of Yellow Bunting. She hopes you enjoy it and that you get involved!