Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Borrowers

When I paid my daily visit to Cornflower today and read the post on 'borrowers', I was reminded of the time that I read Mary Norton's books to my children. They were 5 and 7 years old at the time and were captivated by the idea of tiny people creeping around the house at night to carry off pins and bits of string.

My husband and I were very cruel parents, we did not own a television and, while all their peers were absorbed in watching cartoo
ns and the like, our children were forced to play outdoors, read books, play board games and get involved in all manner of imaginative and creative activities. Oddly, ours was the most popular house for sleepovers and, at the time that The Borrowers was the book at bedtime, we had seven year old Ben staying with us. The three youngsters discovered a hole in the floorboards of Boychild's bedroom and convinced each other that the Borrowers were living down there and thus began an adventure story of their own.

At first they used to leave sma
ll items, such as paperclips and tiddlywinks by the hole, in the hope that the Borrowers would find them. When I realised what they were doing, I left a note, supposedly from the Borrowers, to thank them. A correspondence began between the children and their tiny visitors which lasted for months. I used to sit outside the bedroom door, listening to the stories the children were reading or the questions they were asking, so that I would know what to put in my ('their') notes. Sometimes I would wake in the night, realising that I had forgotten to leave a note and I would have to drag myself out of bed to find the purple crayon and scrap of paper needed for the task.

I kept the notes and pictures the children used to leave, plus the replies that I wrote and I had quite forgotten about them until this morning. Here is a small selection of them:

The strange horned symbol the children used to sign their letters was the badge of their Secret Society, the Little Witty Boo Club, devised and positively ruled by 5 year old Girlchild. Not only did she design the badge and the rules of membership, she even composed a song we all had to sing - yes, I was an honorary member!

The only Borrower who could write was called Trog. His spelling was dreadful as you may see if you click on the picture.

The children drew pictures, told stories and sang songs for the Borrowers. There were some fascinating conversations, for example Trog asked Boychild to read aloud so that they could all listen and Boy asked if he liked adventure stories; Trog wrote that he didn't know what adventures were and the reply was: "Dear borrowers, adventures are things that happen."

Of course the system was open to abuse - by me! I once got Trog to ensure that the children settled down to sleep by writing ""Plees don't friten the babis with big nois."

I've had a lovely nostalgic day going through these treasured bits of paper. I am grateful to Karen for initiating it, even though she was writing about borrowers of a different kind.


  1. Oh, how lovely! What a delightful post, M. And wonderful that you kept all the correspondence. Material for a little self-published book if ever there was. You really should consider it (think of the grandchildren!). You were certainly 'cruel in a good way'!

    When I was 7 and my sister was 3, we belonged to The Teddy Club. Secretary, editor of Teddo-Fun magazine and instigator of Teddy Club Adventure Holidays = me. Sole member = my sister (though of course there were hundreds of imaginary members from across the globe). There was a Teddy Club Song, which we sang behind the garden shed until the day that we realised the Boy Next Door was peering over the fence and joining in! Somewhere in my parents' loft is the box of Teddo-Fun magazines (and Teddo-Fun Annuals and 'Holiday Specials'). I must dig them out and show my children.

    (Sometimes, when we've had a glass or two, and nobody else is listening, my sister and I still sing the Teddy Club Song!)

  2. If your Teddy Club was like the Little Witty Boo Club, J, I expect you spent so much time explaining the rules and the new rules and then the latest rules that bedtime arrived with no games played!

    Now that I've found all this treasure again, perhaps I should do something with it.

  3. oh how absolutely lovely
    I still hang onto notes and little messages written by my girls when they were small and get all teary eyed when I read them. When I showed them not so long ago both Kathryn and Helen they were thrilled to bits to see them as well.

  4. It's lovely to come across things so full of happy memories isn't it, Elaine?


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