BOXED SET binging has hit an all-time high among my friends and family, who cannot wait to share suggestions of “absolute must-sees” during coronavirus lockdown.

“You HAVE to watch Tiger King,” advised one. “Stranger Things - you can finally get round to watching it,” said another. “What do you MEAN you have never watched Breaking Bad?” gaped another. (Just could not get into it.)

Yes, yes, fine recommendations all, but in fact, the lockdown hit for me has been CBBC series Malory Towers, the Enid Blyton girls’ school saga revived and revised (slightly) for a 21st century audience.

Blyton wrote the books in 1946, as post-war Britain tried to pull itself together after a time of crisis. The idea was to offer hope that some things, like friendship, survive despite everything. That resonates loudly today.

I loved those books. Growing up in an ordinary west of Scotland working class family, going to a decidedly ordinary secondary, a world in which you could have midnight feasts and swim in a rock pool at school in an actual CASTLE seemed wonderful.

It was unexpectedly moving, to be transported back there. The boys, aged 12 and 16, were sceptical, but one episode, and they were hooked. This adaptation is a delight, with just the right amount of updating without losing any of the joy of the original.

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I was a huge Blyton fan and devoured her adventure books but the girls of Malory Towers always held a special place in my heart. Straightforward, hot-headed Darrell, sensible Sally, sharp-tongued Alicia and even pompous Gwen felt like my friends.

Unlike the Famous Five, who could get a little irritating at times with all that roaming the countryside looking down on less middle-class children, these were girls who stuck up for each other, who planned to be doctors and teachers and musicians, who wanted to change the world. These were girls who, in the words of headteacher Miss Grayling, would become “women the world can lean on.”

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I am well aware of the criticisms levelled at Blyton. Friends raised eyebrows when I said I encouraged both my sons to read her books. But her stories are fun - and today’s children can work out for themselves that some of her characters and the attitudes they express are severely out of date.

And in Malory Towers, her message to young girls was that they could do anything and be anything they wanted. What is more progressive than that?

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