Friday, December 13, 2013

"A Cup of Tea with..." by Zohra Aly

'Cup of tea with...' is a series of guest posts from some of my favourite bloggers. I asked "If you could have a cup of tea with anyone, living or dead, real or fictitious, who would you chose and why?' - here are their answers... 

A cup of tea with Enid Blyton by Zohra Aly 



I started drinking tea when I was about 6 or 7 years old, and that was about the same time as I became immersed in the world of books. I was an only child, and the characters from the books I devoured became my siblings and friends, my daily companions.

I never had enough books to read. We couldn’t afford to buy many, but thankfully, Mum taught at a posh private school, and borrowed as many books as she could from the library. I would eagerly await to see what came out of her bag every weekend: adapted classics for children, picture books, and Enid Blyton’s. Ah, Enid Blyton. She became my childhood hero.

Growing up, I lived in countries far away from the one in her books. Fragrant, mango-filled summers in Karachi, were followed by the steamy and humid years in Dubai. That’s when Dubai wasn’t quite the ‘’all that glitters is Dubai’’ kind of city it now is. I longed for the English country village or seaside settings she painted on her pages, where children had exotic names like Bessie and Fanny and roamed all day picking wild strawberries or downing bottles of lemonade and ginger beer. They had adventures in forests with gnomes and elves, climbing up trees into cloud-filled skies, or flying in wishing chairs. I wanted to cook on tiny stoves and bake biscuits in miniature ovens with the fairies, have tea-parties on grassy meadows, and live in Noddy’s town built of colourful wooden bricks.

As I became older, I wished my school was more like Malory Towers, or that I had a twin sister I could play tricks with. I envied the mateship of the many groups of friends she created who solved mysteries and had escapades on remote islands, and isolated castles, or travelled in caravans and went camping. I wanted to be named Georgina, or Dinah, and live on Kirrin Island.

And somewhere lost in her world, I began to write my own words too. At first, the ideas and characters were shamelessly plagiarised, with only names, and hair colours changed. However, I did move on, and the stories took on the flavour of whatever genre or author I was reading at the time.

And so, to answer that question, Catherine, who would I have a cuppa with if I could? It would be Enid Blyton, of course. She knew exactly how to delight a child’s mind, and take it for a wild ride, just with the power of her words. She made my childhood magical, and ignited many dreams and passions.

I would ask her about all things writerly, like where she dreamed up her ideas, and locations, and characters from. I would ask about the mechanics of writing: when, where, and how often she wrote, and oh, did she get writer’s block ever?

As a child, I wrote fiction on the wings of my imagination. When I write now, as an adult, I find that I base my fiction on reality. So I have all the more reason to admire Ms Blyton, and her ability to retain that wonder of seeing and writing life through the eyes of a child.

The kettle’s boiling, and I hope Ms Blyton will like a cup of chai, brewed my way….

 Zohra Aly is a pharmacist and mother of four children who love to eat good food. This takes up a lot of time, energy and space on her cookbook shelves! She also moonlights as an aspiring freelance writer. Zohra doesn't have a blog yet, but I will let you know as soon as she does!

If you'd like to get involved please get in touch. You can see other posts from this series here


  1. Yet another lovely post in this series - Thanks Zohra and thanks Catherine!

    I do worry about meeting your heroes, though, and from what I've read about Enid Blyton, she might not be the nicest person to have a cuppa with...

    But maybe you wouldn't be having a cuppa with the real Enid anyway - maybe our dream cuppa's are just that - dreams - and your dream of having a cuppa with (the imaginary) Enid Blyton would be a wonderful experience as you asked her questions and exchanged ideas... that's what I'm picturing in my head right now! :)

    And start a blog Zohra! You're a good writer! :)

  2. Love this series Catherine, I grew up an only child too and loved nothing better than being taken away by books. I think Enid would be a wonderful choice, such a creative.

  3. Thanks, Catherine, I really enjoyed reminiscing whilst writing this post!
    And, yes, John James, I did find out in my teens, much to my disappointment, that Enid Blyton wasn't as wonderful as I imagined her to be....However, I never stopped admiring her as a writer.