The first “long” book I ever read was “The Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton. Up I climbed at every chance I got to find another magical world and its very un-suburban characters at the top. Moonface and Silkie, Dame Washalot and the Saucepan Man were my choice for favourite dinner party guests from history. The Angry Pixie who was always throwing things at irritating people was someone I wanted as my next door neighbour.
You never knew what magical world you were going to find up there in the clouds at the top of the tree. The Land of Take-What-You-Want, the Land of Dame Slap, the Land of Topsy-Turvy, the Land of Spells, the Land of Goodies, the Land of Dreams and the Land of Birthdays all seemed like a much better way to spend the day than going to school.
My older brother and sister who are twins were precociously reading the classics by the time they were six. When I was still banging on about the Faraway Tree at eleven worried glances were exchanged. I had, after all been run over by a post office truck one Christmas. Was I simple in the head?
Today I live right beside the Faraway Tree. It looms next to my little sandstone cottage. This gigantic ancient Morton Bay Fig with its swirling necklaces of twisted strangler Tarzan vines sits at the centre of an enchanted grove. Red succulents, twisting ginger plants, huge bird nest ferns and dozens of bright green palms and tropical lilies decorate its base. Great roots stretch out like giant’s fingers. Within its trunk and branches hundreds of animals and insects make their home.
At night the flying foxes come to feed on the figs. They make a hideous screeching noise but are very cute up close. Their little furry faces look just like a fox terrier. Some locals say that the faeries ride them by the light of the moon. I don’t believe in faeries although plenty of otherwise sane people do. Arthur Conan Doyle was a believer and so is most of Ireland today.
In her entertaining book “Castles, Follies and Four-Leaf Clovers: Adventures along Ireland’s St Declan’s Way,” Rosamund Burton came across whole roadwork projects being reconfigured in the west of Eire to accommodate the gathering places of the wee folk.
So too in Iceland where a strong national belief in faeries has recently halted a major roads project near Reykjavik. The problem is the elves who live among the rocks and would be disturbed. And who could sleep in their beds at night knowing that? More than half of the country’s population it seems. The matter will be decided by the Supreme Court of Iceland in a case a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava. Their concern about disruption to both the lava and the elves has been successfully mobilizing hundreds of citizens to stop the bulldozers.
It would be like the US Supremes ruling on Bigfoot’s right to live a peaceful and wholesome life in outer Dallas.
As journalist Rose Eveleth concluded, “Perhaps if they give the elves their own tiny carpool lane, everybody will be happy.”
I like to sit and read under the big tree in the garden. Most of its inhabitants, like the possum and owl are nocturnal. Apart from the odd cane toad and visiting cockatoos I pretty much have it to myself during the day. Gazing up into its dancing foliage I see huge stag ferns clamped to its trunk and branches. It’s a perfect reading spot even in the rain.
I’ve moved on a bit now from Enid Blyton – although an opportunity to have a squiz at a “Secret Seven” novel bought for a god-child is never passed up. Even for the hardest-hearted cynic this is a magical spot. The world would be a much better place if more people could spend some time in my chair. And I can think of quite a few who could only be improved by a bucket of slop tipped onto their head by the Angry Pixie.