bedknobi. in andre n’s general conception of our far future, there is a galactic federation coming to pieces, with a severe class system — the proper mode of address for the pampered aristo class (male) = “gentle homo
ii. in bedknob-zah and broomstick-zah — in the big-hit wake of half a sixpence, my fair lady, chitty chitty bb, and mary poppins, the weird real-disney-fake-cockney er “reimagining” of mary n’s not really-a-classic-at-all bedknob and broomstick, the following exchange occurs:
angela lansbury: “and with this bed you can wish yourself to london!”
fake cockney child: “what’s that got to do with me knob?
iii. i didn’t reread mary n’s the borrowers until now bcz of major fear-of-twee — yes yes it is abt v.small people who subsist on the stuff we big humans leave lying around, like pins and thimbles uh oh etc — and bcz in the one i remember BEST (borrowers aloft) they settle in a model village (which i admittedly found very satisfying aged 10 but latterly struck me as somehow a bit pat and smug). Anyway on rereading the first two (the borrowers and the borrowers afield) you quickly grasp that mn’s most effective technique is the amount of story-edge she leaves mysterious and untold (like what happened, or didn’t, to Arrietty’s grim-warning-of-a-dreamy-cousin Eggletina, eaten by the cat for not taking the Rules seriously).

Also that the abiding atmosphere — which i doubt i noticed back in the day — is a sense of melancholy. Loss of a way of life, in fact an entire system: Arrietty’s father, Pod, is an artisan — a tailor-shoemaker — but the social economy that kept him employed (a busy and orderly human household, complete with servants, which could sustain a substantial micro-ecology of Borrower families) has dwindled. Now it’s just one tipsy old lady, her housekeeper and gardener — otherwise the big house is deserted, which great for NOT BEING SEEN but not so great for there behing stuff to borrow. Pod and his wife Homily soldier stubbornly on, but Arrietty, 14 and never been kissed — as well as being clever, literate and emo diary-writing — is LONELY. And it’s weirdly evident — give or take that this is 1950s kidlit, so sex doesn’t officially exist — that Pod and Homily’s real terror is Arrietty will meet and SECRETLY DATE a human bean, which is of course what happens.

Which makes the underlying energy the tension between Arrietty’s utter love for her parents — who in turn adore and admire her — and her impatience with their timidity and social conservatism. By contrast, Eggletina’s parents — rather marvellously named Hendreary and Lupy — seem somehow more raffish and bohemian… and thus come to a BAD END (or do they….?) Projecting present-day obsessions onto older work for a cheap laugh — haha FRODO AND SAM = teh ghey — is often v.lame, and I wz a bit (hen)leery of pursuing this thought, but it’s germane to mn’s own project I think. Through a scrim of generational layers of retelling-the-tale (which nicely establish the element of “so are borrowers made-up?”), there’s a 50s (ie modern) examination of subtle and small aspects of class friction and semi-rural cross-class encounter from the 1890s to the 20s; more nostalgic than denunciatory, but very much saying goodbye and letting go: she’s time-travelling quietly, and commenting on what’s changed (and what hasn’t), and — given that these pristine late-50s hardback copies are of course my mum’s — I’ve a mind to also.