There’s a new Blyton book

10:18am Monday 22nd July 2002

Enid Blyton, the children's author, was not the only member of her family to find fame. Cliff Watkins, who is writing a book, The Blytons of Beckenham, looks at her nephew Carey, who entertained children the world over with his music and published a book ...

Carey Blyton was born at The Drive, Beckenham, to Floss and Hanly Blyton Enid's brother in 1932.

He took up music at 16 when, housebound nine months after being struck down with polio, a neighbour suggested he learn to play the piano.

This changed Carey's life. Previously an ardent naturalist, he forwent a university place in zoology and took temporary jobs while training himself to be accepted by Trinity College of Music in London.

In 1950, 19-year-old Carey formed the Beckenham Salon with local artists and musicians, including Hugh Bean, with Sir Arthur Bliss as patron. Downtown Beckenham in the 1950s resounded to late-night sessions playing jazz/blues and new music.

Venues for Salon concerts included the Public Hall and the Grammar School, in Beckenham Road. To show his lasting influence, last October, the Grammar school marked its anniversary and played Carey's music all day.

There were plenty of recordings by the school band of his music because, like his aunt's stories, much of Carey's work was written to be enjoyed and played by young people.

Carey's most famous song, which has entertained children all over the world, is Bananas in Pyjamas (BIP). It was created by Carey as a soporific for his son Daniel on a long car journey. His wife urged Carey to write down the music and lyrics, which were published by Faber in 1972 in a collection of nonsense songs and poems.

Ten years later, BIP videos were produced by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Since then, ABC has issued licences world-wide for more than 1,000 items of BIP merchandise.

But Carey's famous aunt, Enid Blyton, who had been taken to live in Beckenham as a three-month-old baby in the late 1890s, had little to do with her Beckenham relatives after she left the family home in 1920.

In the 1940s, Enid, at the height of her fame, lived in Beaconsfield, while brother Hanly went through difficult years in Beckenham. He maintained his clothing business in the City despite being bombed out of three premises.

In 1944, the house in The Drive was made uninhabitable by a VI rocket and, in 1947, the athletic and adventurous Carey was struck down by polio.

Enid's apathy towards her relatives changed briefly in 1965 when she worked with Carey, who was at the height of his musical career and was freelancing as a composer for documentary films and drama, including three Dr Who serials, as well as working as Benjamin Britten's music editor.

Enid invited Carey to compose the music for a collection of her poems and the songs were published under the title Mixed Bag. Beckenham's two famous Blytons met twice: in a private box in the Stoll Theatre and for afternoon tea in Fortnum & Mason's.

In 1965, Carey moved to Swanley with his wife. Although it was there most of his stories and music were written, it was his years in Beckenham which developed his style and character.

He was celebrated in an exhibition marking his 70th birthday in Beckenham Library, in March this year.

His book, Summer in the Country, is an autobiographical account of his experiences as a 12-year-old in the "Doodlebug Summer" of 1944.

It is fascinating as an insight into Carey's formative experiences and life in Beckenham and the country during the war. He died, aged 70, on July 13 this year.

** Collected Short Stories and Summer in the Country normally costs £12.50 but is available to Kent readers at a special price of £9.99 from the Beckenham Bookshop. Call 020 8650 7347.

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