Book Shelf – Secret Seven

The Secret Seven

Enid Mary Blyton (11 August 1897 – 28 November 1968) was an English children’s writer whose books have been among the world’s best-sellers since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies. Blyton’s books are still enormously popular, and have been translated into 90 languages. She wrote on a wide range of topics including education, natural history, fantasy, mystery, and biblical narratives and is best remembered today for her Noddy, Famous Five and Secret Seven series.

In the first book in the series, the thrill of the Christmas holidays had vanished and Peter and his sister Janet decide to restart The Secret Seven. This essentially being a group of seven members who each wore a badge with S.S. and had to remember a quite often quirky password.

The five other children in the S.S. are Jack, Colin, George, Pam and Barbara. There is also a dog called Scamper, who belongs to Peter and Janet. In this book, the first of 15 in the series, the children arrange an S.S. meeting in the shed in Peter and Janet’s back garden. The shed is next to the greenhouse boiler, giving it a warm feel. It contains five boxes and two flowerpots, with sacks as rugs and a shelf where biscuits and blackcurrant tea, a mix of blackcurrant jam, sugar and boiling water sit.

During the S.S meeting, The Secret Seven agree that its members should actively search for a mystery or a good deed. The Seven then decide to build snowmen in a field. After doing this, The Seven come across a big empty house with an angry, deaf caretaker. It is after this encounter Jack realises he has lost his S.S. badge and may have left it in the field. Jack can only look for it at night as he was punished for accidentally kicking Miss Elly, his annoying sister’s nanny.

When Jack eventually sets off down the lane to the field and the empty house, he quickly finds his S.S. badge, but is soon given the shock of his life. A car pulls up near the gate and two mysterious men get out even though the lane leads to nothing and it is late at night. This was strange enough, but Jack then heard the sound of squealing and thudding in a mysterious van like carriage on the back of the car. In understandable horror, Jack runs back home and leaves a letter for Peter and Janet calling for an urgent S.S. meeting.

The Seven are all astonished by Jack’s adventure and decide to look further into the lively events of the previous night. Peter makes the orders, and it is agreed that himself, Colin and Jack would go down to the house to ask the caretaker if he had heard anything in the night, whilst Pam and George have to enquire about the owner of the big empty house. As for Janet and Barbara, they are given the task of following the tracks from the car and mysterious carriage.

The Seven are successful with all their tasks. Janet and Barbara find out that the tracks went exactly where Jack had been, whilst George and Pam find out that Mr J. Hollikoff lived in the big empty house. The three boys make the most exciting findings when they discover that the old caretaker had even heard the same squealing and thudding noise in the night.

Due to this revelation, the Seven come to the conclusion that the two men in the car and mysterious carriage went to the house and hid a prisoner. To see if their suspicions were true, they decide to dress up as snowmen on the field. Peter decides that only the four boys can go, with two staying with the snowmen the children had built in the field, and the other two boys going up to the house to find the prisoner. In their white overcoats, white skull caps and white face paint, Peter, Jack, Colin and George go to the field in the middle of the night.

The real excitement starts when Peter and Jack, the two that go off to the empty house, hear the same squealing and thudding noise, which the follow down to the cellar. Before they have a chance to look the two men come back and in their anger lock the boys in the cellar.



Dog Breed – Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a dog acknowledged for its importance to Japanese nobility. It is also known for its strabismus of the eyes. Being both a lap dog and a companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.

While most believe that the source breed for the Japanese Chin originated in China. According to one story, the dogs were given to the Japanese royalty in AD 732, as gifts from the rulers of Korea. Others maintain that they were given as gifts to the Empress of Japan as early as the middle of the sixth century or by the seventh century. Still others claim that the Chin first arrived in Japan around the year AD 1000.

In 1613, the Japanese Chin was brought to England and in 1853 was acquired by American naval officer, Matthew Calbraith Perry. From 1868 they have been lap dogs to ladies of the upper class and today are companion dogs.

Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 inches) in height at the withers. Weight can vary from a low of 1.4 kg (3 lb) to a high of 6.8 kg (15 lb), with an average of 3.2 to 4.1 kg (7 to 9 lb) being the most common. Its distinctive expression is characterized by a large rounded broad head, large wide-set dark eyes, a very short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and evenly patterned facial markings.

Common health issues in the Japanese Chin include luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), cataracts, and early-onset heart murmurs. The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when aged under six months or weighing four to five lbs or less. Some Japanese Chin have seasonal allergies.

The Japanese Chin’s flattened brachycephalic face can lead to breathing and eye problems. Temperature extremes (particularly heat) should therefore be avoided. Its oversized eyes are easily scratched and corneal scratches or more serious ulcerations can result.

Most dogs have two types of hair in their coat: an under and over coat. However, the Japanese Chin only has an over coat. An adult coat can take up to two years to completely grow in and can be either black and white, red and white, or tricolour.

This breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and independent, and it uses its paws to wash and wipe its face. Other cat-like traits include their preference for resting on high surfaces, their good sense of balance, and their tendency to hide in unexpected places. Japanese Chin are loyal to their owners and are typically a friendly breed. While Japanese Chin prefer familiar surroundings, they also do well in new situations. This, alongside their friendly demeanour, makes them good therapy dogs.

Saint of the Day – 27 September

Saint Vincent de Paul

The deathbed confession of a dying servant opened Vincent de Paul’s eyes to the crying spiritual needs of the peasantry of France. This seems to have been a crucial moment in the life of the man from a small farm in Gascony, France, who had become a priest with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life.

The Countess de Gondi—whose servant he had helped—persuaded her husband to endow and support a group of able and zealous missionaries who would work among poor tenant farmers and country people in general. Vincent was too humble to accept leadership at first, but after working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley slaves, he returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages.

Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of Saint Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity, “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.” He organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war, and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.

Most remarkably, Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person—even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross.” But he became a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others.

Pope Leo XIII made him the patron of all charitable societies. Outstanding among these, of course, is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by his admirer Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

Reflection

The Church is for all God’s children, rich and poor, peasants and scholars, the sophisticated and the simple. But obviously the greatest concern of the Church must be for those who need the most help—those made helpless by sickness, poverty, ignorance, or cruelty. Vincent de Paul is a particularly appropriate patron for all Christians today, when hunger has become starvation, and the high living of the rich stands in more and more glaring contrast to the physical and moral degradation in which many of God’s children are forced to live.