Tag Archives: problem parents

Cora Can’t Lose [1984]

Sample Images

Cora 1Cora 2Cora 3

Published: Tammy 5 May 1984 to 23 June 1984 (should have been 30 June 1984)

Episodes: 8 published, 1 unpublished

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Cora Street is receiving trophies for all winning all the running events at an inter-school sports event, with the as-yet unwon Victory Cup as the ultimate prize for winning all the running events. Cora has her eyes on this cup, and now only the cross-country event stands between her and winning it.

The presenter, Lady Sarah, is puzzled as to why only Cora’s parents are applauding. Not even Cora’s own school is doing so. The girls mutter that it’s all such a drag because Cora always wins. Winning is all she cares about, and this has made her unpopular at school. One of the girls then says she can remember when Cora didn’t win anything and never minded it at all. She wonders why Cora has changed so much.

Cora overhears the girls and goes off into a flashback of how things used to be and the reason for the change. It turns out that her parents are to blame. They kept putting Cora down because she was not winning sports trophies as they did when they were at school. Dad is particularly cruel: “Cora couldn’t beat a team of infants in a spoon and egg race!” he snarls as he prepares to throw his prized trophies into the loft because “now they remind me of something you’ll never do – win!” Cora puts them back, begging her father to give her more time.

To stop her parents’ meanness, Cora resolves to win a trophy of her own. At least she has been told she has what it takes to be a strong sports competitor and just needs to try harder. So she begins to do so, and she makes it to the school swimming team. But does this impress her parents? It should, but Dad just says, “Team hard-up then? You might be taking part, but you won’t be winning, will you?” Evidently, only winning a trophy will win their respect.

But Cora soon finds even that’s not enough for her parents. When she wins her very first trophy, from the swimming, Dad just sneers at it because it’s not a big one. Realising she has to win something bigger, Cora joins an athletics club on top of her swimming club. There she wins an impressive cup, but Dad is still sneering: “Little and large! I can’t imagine you ever winning another cup! Ha, ha!” Cora gets so angry at her father’s nasty remarks that she goes on a full-scale crazy cup-winning binge to win any cup she can get so she will have even more cups than her parents combined.

So now winning cups and her parents’ respect is all Cora can think about now and that’s the only reason she competes in any sports event. She has no team spirit and does not care about her athletics club, swimming club or the sports team, or helping them to win any events. One girl leaves the athletics club because Cora’s cup-winning obsession is not giving others a chance. She also neglects her friends and does not care for them now, and soon her best friend Sheila is the only friend she has left. Cora grows increasingly unpopular all around, with a reputation as a selfish glory-seeker who only cares about winning trophies. Cora, who once didn’t mind losing, can’t bear the thought of doing so now. Her motto is “Cora Can’t Lose” because she genuinely believes she cannot lose. Moreover, her parents are taking such pride in Cora’s victories that they are spoiling her like never before, so Cora thinks everything’s perfect.

Or so Cora thinks. Her cup-winning obsession is reaching far more dangerous levels than unpopularity. During a sports trial she falls and takes a blow to her head. Her crazy obsession manifests itself again when she says she is upset about having lost the event, not about her injured head. She refuses to be driven down to the hospital to get it checked out, but later that evening she collapses. When she wakes up in hospital, she runs off because she is more concerned about missing out on sports practice than anything being wrong with her (which she thinks there isn’t). However, there is indeed something very wrong with Cora: her X-ray shows she damaged her skull and she is living on borrowed time until she has an operation. But the hospital can’t tell her because she’s gone and they have no clue as to her identity. They can only hope “the young idiot” will return once she gets the danger signals of noises in her head and vision problems.

However, the hospital staff do not realise just how much a “young idiot” Cora is. She is so obsessed with winning trophies that she ignores these danger signals or puts them down to minor things such as nerves. Her obsession gets even worse when she hears about the Victory Cup and how even her mother failed to win it (which can only be done by winning every running event at the inter-school event, including the cross-country event). So naturally Cora is riveted on winning the Victory Cup because it would win her the ultimate respect from her parents.

Cora’s head and vision problems grow worse and worse, although they don’t play up all the time. Even cup-obsessed Cora can’t ignore them when she suffers temporary blindness. Eventually Cora decides to go back to the hospital – but only after she wins the Victory Cup. Cora even disregards an identikit the hospital issues in order to find her. Winning the Victory Cup is all that matters to her. She does not stop to think that if the hospital is having an identikit of her being broadcast on television, there can only be a serious reason for it.

Cora’s last friend in school, Sheila, is getting suspicious and worried about these disconcerting health problems she has noticed about Cora. But when Sheila tries to tell the sports mistress, Cora has the teacher believing that Sheila is just jealous. After this, Sheila finishes with Cora too.

At first everything goes smoothly, with Cora winning running cup after running cup, although nobody but her parents cheers for her. But at the second-to-last event, Cora’s head problems act up big time, and she thinks they might have unwittingly caused her to spike her main rival. But she just carries on, as winning is all that matters to her.

As the first episode shows, Cora is not disqualified because of this. She wins all running events on the field and only has the cross country to win before she claims the Victory Cup. But this is all that is known about the resolution of the story. The final episode never got published because of an IPC strike that lasted for weeks. By the time it was settled, they did not resume Tammy. The reason was that Tammy had been due for cancellation and merge into Girl II in August, but then the strike intervened in June. After the strike was over, they decided not to complete the stories because it would have taken even longer to finish them. Everything was left unfinished.

Presumably everything comes full circle to Cora finishing the flashback that started in episode one. The final episode then carries on from there to whatever catches up with Cora first: the head injury or the Victory Cup. Or maybe they both hit at the same time e.g. Cora collapses from her injury just as she crosses the finishing line.

It can be safely assumed that Cora receives the operation in the nick of time, but it is an extremely near thing. The Street parents are humbled and ashamed at how they nearly killed their own daughter with their pride, arrogance and bullying. If Cora resumes her sporting career, it may also be assumed that the old and new Coras blend together to become a strong competitor who can take losing gracefully when the occasion arises, is fairer to fellow competitors, and patches things up with her friends.

Thoughts

Even now, former Tammy readers are still left dangling on the penultimate episode and hope the question of what happened in the missing final episode will be answered one way or other. “Cora Can’t Lose” has gained infamy because of her final episode being cut off by the strike when so many Tammy readers (including me) were on the edge of their seats, and just dying to see whether Cora would win the Victory Cup or if the head injury would finally catch up and put her back in hospital first. Currently the best hope of an answer is Rebellion, which has already recovered and published lost material from Scream!, which got cut off in a similar manner to Tammy.

If anyone can provide information about the lost final episode, please do so! We would just love to know, even after all this time.

“Winning is not everything” as the saying goes, and this story is a warning note about what can happen when you become obsessed with winning. However, the warning is not for glory-seekers like Yvonne Berridge in “Curtain of Silence” but for egoistical parents who keep driving children to win at all costs, including the children’s own welfare. There are so many real-life parents like the Street parents who are too demanding, keep pushing their children to win all the time, and are mean to them when they don’t win. It is also a lesson in hubris, and how terrible the consequences of hubris can be.

Even though Cora’s obsession with winning cups is selfish, irritating and dangerously irresponsible, she remains a sympathetic character because we know who’s responsible – those parents of hers who keep putting her down, just because she’s not winning anything like they did. They don’t even appreciate it when she does start winning. They show no consideration for Cora’s feelings or that they are hurting her with their sarcastic remarks. She just has to feed their egos more and more in order to stop their sneering once and for all. She’s not winning trophies for the sake of glory and ego but to earn respect from her parents and stop their mean criticisms. And it is their fault her life is in danger because of her cup obsession, as they are the ones who drove her into it.

Winning turns into a reckless obsession that has Cora grabbing trophies to the exclusion of all else. Cora not only loses all trace of common sense but also all sense of caring about others, sportsmanship and team spirit. She does not even care how unpopular she has become because of her conduct. For this reason she is heading for a serious fall and she does deserve one, though what started it all still makes her a sympathetic character. Cora’s fall is coming through the head injury she is neglecting in the name of the Victory Cup and her parents’ respect. Hopefully, there will still be an answer as to how Cora’s fall actually unfolds and whether or not it stops her winning the Victory Cup.

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Minnow [1980]

Sample Images

Minnow 1

Minnow 2

Minnow 3

Published: Jinty 3 May 1980 – 30 August 1980

Episodes: 12 (skipped one issue)

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Minna Purves’ class starts swimming lessons. For some reason Mum is totally against Minna going to the swimming class. She says it’s wrong for Minna, but won’t explain why. However, nobody is excused from swim class without a note, so Minna’s off to it anyway – behind Mum’s back.

Minna has no swimsuit, so she has to make do with an unflattering swimming costume from lost property (no wonder nobody claimed it!) that makes her a butt for teasing, especially from Sharon. They call her “tadpole”, but the swim coach, Miss Garrett, more kindly calls her a “minnow”, and so her nickname is born. Emma is Minna’s only friend in the class.

Surprisingly, Minna soon finds she is a natural in the water and Miss Garrett even thinks she will become a very good swimmer. But when the waves machine comes on, Minna has a strange panic attack that she can’t explain (hmm, could this be what Mum was on about?). Following this, it becomes obvious Miss Garrett will have to give Minna some special attention if she is to regain confidence and carry on swimming.

Mum finally tells Minna that her father was drowned at sea, which gave her a phobia about water and losing Minna to it (but is that all there is to it?). In Minna’s view, this is all the more reason to improve her swimming. The coach for the local swimming club, Mr Byrnes, comes scouting out the class for new members, and Minna wants to join. They do trial laps to get into the club, but the noise from the cheering has Minna going off into another panic attack. This time there is a flashback too, of clouds and seagulls. Minna is pulled out and despite the mishap, Mr Byrnes wants her to join. But there are two problems: first, Minna has to pay fees, and second, she needs the signature of a parent/guardian. Minna addresses the first with her savings, which is easy enough. As for the second, well, she has little choice but to forge Mum’s signature.

While looking for something to copy Mum’s signature from, Minna finds other surprises that deepen the mystery: old letters in a foreign language, and a photograph of her mother and father holding swimming trophies. Later, when Minna wonders why her mother never lets her handbag out of sight, not even indoors, she can’t resist opening it – and finds an Olympic gold swimming medal with her father’s name on it. When Minna tackles Mum about it, Mum says it’s best for Minna not to know why.

That evening Minna goes to the swim club. To her consternation, bully Sharon is there too, but at least Emma is there also. When trying to dive off the diving board, the faces in the water and their voices yelling for Minna to jump set off another panic and she runs off, screaming that she has got to get away or she will drown like her father. As Minna runs off she unwittingly knocks Sharon into the pool, which makes Sharon hate her even more. Minna is encouraged to return to the water later, when there are no voices or faces, and her love of water returns.

Miss Garrett gives Minna a better swimsuit so Sharon will stop teasing her over the old one. But Miss Garrett also wants to question Mum about the strange panic attacks, not realising Minna is swimming behind her mother’s back. Minna does some quick thinking and says Mum is not in – which turns out to be true, as she’s late home from work.

At the next swim session, Sharon has the girls all teasing Minna by splashing water at her – which triggers off another panic attack. Sharon is stricken with remorse when she sees she nearly caused Minna to drown and she has to be pulled out. From then on she gives Minna no more trouble. Minna remembers more from the strange flashback: this time she saw mist over the water. But it all fades again. Miss Garrett says she seems to remember a bit more each time, and Minna finally tells her not to approach Mum about the matter because of the upset it could cause.

Newspaper reporters come in to do a feature on the swim club – and they would take a photo of Minna jumping off the diving board, which makes the front page the next day! Minna tries to hide it from Mum, but of course she finds out eventually. After the initial shock and anger, Mum agrees to let Minna continue with swimming, but she says something odd: “I think the damage may already be done…” Now what can she mean by that? Mum also says that she couldn’t save Minna’s father from drowning, but then Minna wonders how this could be if Mum and Dad were champion swimmers. She realises Mum is not telling her the full story and there is more to it. Mum also seems to be getting more overprotective in her behaviour when she suddenly starts collecting Minna from the swim club. While she does so, Mr Byrnes seems to think he knows her from somewhere.

Then two suspicious-looking men take a photo of Minna and Mum outside the club and drive off in a hurry, and they are clearly not reporters. The strange men send Mum off into a real fright. She whisks Minna off home and locks the place tight. She says it’s something she’s been dreading all of Minna’s life but still won’t explain what the hell is going on.

That night, Minna has more nightmares of the strange flashbacks, and this time she dreams she is a drowning baby with yelling voices all around her. One voice yells, “Leave me. Save the baby!” But as always, it fades.

Next day, Mum goes out to withdraw all their savings and tells Minna not to let anyone in. But the sinister men return and, with the unwitting help of a neighbour, make their way in and kidnap Minna. They tie her up and take her to a ship, which has notices written in the same language as Mum’s letters. They won’t explain what the kidnapping is about because they assume Mum has done it already (which she hasn’t). And then the ship starts sailing.

However, Minna manages to break out when a man brings her food (stupid idiot left the door open while untying Minna’s hands!) and she dives off the ship. (You will find it all on the Peter Wilkes page in the panel gallery.) The swim back to shore in the cold water tests all her new swimming skills to the limit, but she makes it – just.

Minna arrives home, where Mum and Mr Byrnes are so relieved to see her. Mum says the men were using Minna as blackmail to force her to return home, which is an Iron Curtain Eastern European country. Mum met Minna’s father at the Olympic Games, where he won his gold medal (and Mr Byrnes a bronze, which is how he came to know her). When Mum’s home country would not allow her to go to England with her new husband and newborn Minna, he tried to help her escape by boat. But it all went horribly wrong when fog caused the boat to founder against some rocks. Mum managed to save baby Minna from the water, but Dad was killed. Minna realises that this disaster was what she had been recalling in her flashbacks, and now she can see it in its entirety for the first time.

Mum made it to England with Minna, but has always lived in dread of her Iron Curtain home country catching up with her and dragging her back. This was the real reason why she had been so opposed to swimming, and she even gave it up entirely. She also realised her home country would try to grab Minna once they realised what a good swimmer she was, because they never give up.

Sure enough, the men come back to try again. However, the police are waiting for them this time. The police say they will arrange for Mum to remain in England. Mr Byrnes says it would be easier if she married another Englishman (hint, hint!).

A few weeks later, Mum is back in the swim with her new husband (Mr Byrnes, of course). Minna’s panic attacks have disappeared, and she is learning more and more about swimming from her Olympic champion parents.

Thoughts

This story must have been popular, because it prompted one reader to write to Jinty on how she loved the mystery and leaving everything unexplained until the last episode so readers could keep having a go at solving it. She also asked Jinty to write more mystery stories, which was a suggestion Jinty didn’t seem to take up much for the remainder of her run.

Girls always loved mystery serials. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to guess that Minna’s strange flashbacks, Mum’s opposition to Minna learning to swim, and Dad’s death from drowning are all connected. The mystery is just how they are connected. It deepens when Minna finds evidence that both her parents were swimming champions, so what’s turned Mum off the swimming that made her a champion? It gets even more tantalising when it becomes more and more obvious that Mum is not telling the whole truth. Not even when the sinister men show up, which makes the situation cry out for her to tell Minna everything.

When the creepy men appear in the story, their introduction makes it evident that Mum is not just some problem parent who is unreasonably opposed to the swimming because she was traumatised by a tragedy associated with it, as other parents in similar stories are. It becomes even more so when Mum starts behaving that she is clearly in hiding and making preparations to run away. This not only deepens the mystery still more but also makes it even more exciting. And when Minna is kidnapped by the strange men who won’t tell her what’s going on either and have her bound for some unknown destination, it all comes to a very exciting and dramatic head.

This is the first Jinty story since “Curtain of Silence” to use the topic of the Iron Curtain. As with “Curtain of Silence”, it uses sport and kidnapping as part of the Iron Curtain oppression. Unlike “Curtain of Silence”, however, the Iron Curtain element is not revealed until the end of the story, and it’s all part of the mystery that permeates the story right up until the final episode. We don’t even know the name of the Iron Curtain country or exactly who the kidnappers are. It also raises the disturbing question of just how much people who manage to flee the Iron Curtain ever fully escaped from it. Even in a democratic country, did the shadow of the Iron Curtain continue to hang over them in one way or other?

Ping-Pong Paula [1975-1976]

Sample Images

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Published: 6 September 1975 – 17 January 1976

Episodes: 20

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Paula Pride wants to become a champion tennis player. Her father runs a garage business and enjoys a happy marriage with Mum. The Prides have always been content with living in a council house.

But then comes the day Mum visits her old school friend, Joan. Joan is married to a bank manager, which enables her to live a wealthy lifestyle in a high-income house, and says she would find a council house so “dreary”. Mum, being a proud woman, gets jealous, dreads what Joan will think if she visits and sees they live in a council house, and becomes discontented with the council house they have.

Dad loves Mum so much that he agrees to take on extra work at his garage so they can afford a mortgage for a posh home like Joan’s. He should have thought more carefully before indulging Mum’s pride in this manner, because it turns out to be a dreadful mistake. They find a house as posh as Joan’s all right, but Dad now has to work all hours to pay the mortgage, plus all the luxurious furnishings that Mum wants for the new home. He is taking on so much work that soon he has no time for his family.

Mum feels neglected because of this. She is also lonely because she has no friends in their new neighbourhood (the new neighbours are too snobby and her old friends don’t visit), and is deeply hurt when Dad forgets their wedding anniversary because he is working too hard. Dad and Mum begin to quarrel over it all. Mum is accusing Dad of being too wrapped up in cars to care for his family while not considering that Dad is doing it all to pay for what she wanted, not because he’s a workaholic. It’s her fault he took on so much work in the first place.

It gets even worse when Joan is invited over to see the Prides’ new home. Snobby Joan is not impressed to see Dad in grubby garage clothes, says she’s so pleased her husband is a white collar worker and not a blue one, and walks out.

Eventually, when Dad lets Paula down at an important table tennis match because he has to go clinch a business deal, Mum gets into such a strop that she decides to right walk out on Dad and out of the posh house she had wanted so much. And she insists on dragging Paula out with her.

They end up in a seedy flat with lumpy mattresses to sleep on after Mum meets up with Coral Bly, another old school friend of hers who is now a hippy artist. So much for living like Joan!

Mum is too huffy and proud to care about Paula’s protests that she did not want to leave Dad. Nor does she care about making Paula miss table tennis practice, just because she doesn’t want Dad to snatch Paula back. Paula’s table tennis begins to suffer, but it’s Dad to the rescue when he hears. He installs a table tennis table at their old posh house for her to practise with.

Paula falls sick because of Coral’s unhealthy accommodation, but she and Mum just get kicked out. Instead of going back to Dad as Paula hoped, Mum shacks them up in a guesthouse and gets a job in a dispensary. Paula recovers in the guesthouse, but now finds her father has fallen ill from overwork (it had to happen). She starts going back to their old house to nurse him, but has to do it behind Mum’s back because Mum would have a fit if she found out Paula was seeing Dad. Mum’s definitely not allowing Dad to have any visitation rights, and Paula’s becoming a real-life ping-pong ball between her estranged parents. Paula is also missing her table tennis practice in order to care for Dad.

Mum and Paula’s coach Miss Park find out about Paula seeing Dad instead of going to table tennis practice. When Paula explains about her sick father, Miss Park is understanding and sympathetic. However, Mum is just too far up on her high horse of pride to even care that her husband is ill, much less nurse him. At least she arranges for Auntie June to nurse Dad, but she doesn’t even go to see him while he’s ill. Meanwhile, Paula is free to get back into table-tennis shape and is making strides at it.

But a jealous rival just has to come along to make trouble for Paula on top of her other problems. It comes in the form of Myra Glegg, who is also a new boarder in the guesthouse where Mum and Paula are staying. This makes it easier for Myra to play dirty tricks on Paula, such as hiding her bats or having her switch rooms to make her lose sleep.

Paula manages to work her way through Myra’s tricks and is on the rise as inter-school champion. Both parents are delighted for her, but when they come together at a match, they don’t put aside their acrimony for her sake. Paula is hurt and embarrassed when they refuse to sit for a family photo for the press. Dad takes off and Paula poses for the photo with Mum, but the upset spoils the photo opportunity.

At the county final Paula finds out her opponent is none other than Myra Glegg! So that explains the dirty tricks. And Myra tries to pull another – stirring up trouble between the quarrelsome parents to upset Paula. It fails and Myra does not even shake hands when Paula wins. Back at the guesthouse Myra rips up Paula’s table tennis photos out of spite, but the landlady catches her in the act and throws her out of the guesthouse.

Myra’s no longer a problem for Paula now, but she’s still a ping-pong ball between her separated parents. Paula tries to use her celebratory dinner at a posh restaurant to bring them together. After a bad start it begins to show some hope, but then Mum sees Dad is still wearing garage boots with his dinner suit (oops, working too hard again!). Prideful Mum makes a real scene over it because she believes she has been shown up in front of her friends. Both Paula and Dad are furious with her for shouting about it so much – and in public – when nobody would have even noticed otherwise. At any rate, it’s back to square one.

Then the landlady falls ill, so Mum and Paula have to find new lodgings. All the other guesthouses are full and relatives won’t take them in because they’re on Dad’s side and say Mum should jolly well go back to him. But she won’t because she’s still too proud for that. She’s too proud to go into a night refuge centre for down-and-outs too, so she is utterly mortified when the police put her and Paula in one.

For Paula, this is the last straw in being shunted around in boarding houses, hotels and shabby accommodation with Mum. She leaves Mum altogether and goes back to living with Dad, much to Mum’s consternation when she finds out. And it also means that Paula has no idea where her mother will be living next.

Paula is now training for the junior all-England championships, which are in four months’ time. Then Paula finds out Dad is falling behind on the mortgage payments and then learns it’s because his garage is ailing very badly. Paula takes a café job to help make ends meet but collapses with exhaustion from juggling it with her other commitments. The recuperation period the doctor prescribes puts her table tennis on hold for a month.

Dad’s business now closes down altogether, so he cannot pay the mortgage. Paula says there’s no point now anyway; it was only Mum who wanted the house, but now she isn’t even there to live in it. Dad agrees with Paula’s suggestion that they move back to a council house, as they were quite happy with one before. Paula is not sorry to leave the house that caused nothing but trouble for her family.

At the new council house Paula puts up Mum’s photo as a gesture of hope. Dad finds a job as a chief mechanic in another garage. He’s now got more times on his hands now he doesn’t have to work so hard, but is spending it showing that he misses Mum as much as Paula does.

They both begin looking for Mum, but they come up empty. Paula’s 16th birthday comes, but this does not bring the parents together. Instead it’s separate gifts, with Mum sending Paula a ticket for the top table tennis player Gordon Simons display match – anonymously. When Paula sees Mum there (something Mum was trying to avoid) she gives Paula a parcel for Dad. It turns out to be a farewell gift for him, along with a note saying that Mum is moving to Australia. It looks like the marriage is well and truly over, and all Paula can do is throw herself into her training.

At the championship Paula is not on form because Mum is not there. Then Mum, surprisingly, shows up and sits beside Dad. Paula’s assumption that they have reconciled puts her back on form and she wins. But she is wrong; Mum just takes off afterwards. Mum is now feeling sorry for everything and realises how Paula has taken the brunt of their split. But her pesky pride still won’t let her make up with Dad, and she also stupidly assumes Dad and Paula are better off without her. Paula dashes out after Mum, which causes her to get hit by a car and she falls into a coma.

But not even this brings the parents together. At the hospital they visit Paula separately while neither succeeds in rousing Paula from the coma, and they cold-shoulder each other whenever their paths cross. Seeing how they never see their daughter together, the nurse tells them, very pointedly, that if they want their daughter to wake up they must go in together, because that is what she wants. Mum’s pride still gets in the way and she objects, but Dad tells her they must put aside their differences for Paula’s sake. They do so, and Paula responds to them both being there. Mum is so overjoyed she finally forgets her pride and says she wants to come back and live with them, which speeds up Paula’s recovery. When Paula is discharged she finds her parents are living together again, and they say she won’t be a ping-pong ball between them anymore. For Paula, having her parents together again is even more important than winning the championship.

Thoughts

They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins, so this must be one of the deadliest sin stories Jinty has ever produced. The misery the Pride family goes through is all because Mum is just too proud. That pride got badly bruised the day she visited Joan and got jealous. Joan was far higher up the social ladder and living far better than Mum was, and Mum wants to start climbing up there too.

Though the rest of the family are happy as they are, Dad feeds Mum’s pride by giving her what she wants, which turns out not to be in the family’s best interest. Mum just gets stroppy at Dad when he starts spending too much time working at the garage, although it’s all to pay for what she wanted in the first place. It’s her own fault, but she’s too proud to admit that. Instead she just walks out, although she is walking out on the very thing she wanted in the first place. So what was the point of it all?

Instead of climbing up the social ladder to join the ranks of Joan, Mum starts tumbling down, down even further than the council house that she found so inadequate after seeing Joan. And she’s dragging down Paula with her, not caring about Paula’s feelings or what she is going through because the split and being constantly shunted around. Mum is just too wrapped up in her pride for that. Her pride drives her to most despicable acts at times, such as refusing to see Dad when he falls ill, or trying to keep Paula away from him. She ruins Paula’s celebratory dinner when she throws a tantrum at what her high-class friends will think if they see Dad wearing garage boots with his dinner suit. Hmph, since when did she ever have any high-class friends? She never got far with social climbing while living in the posh house, and she has long since left the place and is resorting to cheaper and even substandard accommodation. Even when she finally begins to feel sorry for everything, her pride just won’t let her even attempt reconciliation. And in so doing she is letting her pride tear the family apart and destroy her marriage.

Dad proves to be the more caring and mature parent, in stark contrast to his wife who is behaving like a spoiled brat. For example, he tries to help Paula keep up her table tennis when Mum interferes with it. He is the more sympathetic of the two parents and the relatives are quite right to side with him. His wife is too wrapped up in herself to think about the extra demands she has put on him to get her what she wants, and they are making him suffer terribly. He is working far too hard and is under way too much stress, he falls sick because of it and can’t work, and ultimately his business fails. This is all just to get what his wife wants – and then she just turns her back on it. There’s gratitude for you. On top of that, he is deprived of Paula because of his wife and he is left with a house of loneliness that he is straining to pay the mortgage for.

At the hospital, the reactions of the parents to the nurse’s urging that they must go see Paula together best shows the vast difference between them and their attitudes. At first Mum flatly refuses to do what the nurse says because she’s just too proud to be in her estranged husband’s company, even though her daughter’s recovery depends on it. By contrast, Dad tells Mum to forget her pride and their quarrel because they must put Paula first.

And caught in the middle is poor ping-pong Paula. The title has a sadly appropriate double meaning: a girl who is both a table tennis player and a real-life ping-pong ball between divided parents. So many readers caught between separated or divorced parents or being split down the middle in custody battles would have really felt for Paula.

All the while Paula has to keep up her table tennis and strive to become a champion while her parents are splitting. At the urging from her coach, Paula has to learn to put her parent problems aside when she’s working on her table tennis. But Paula has her limits, such as when she’s in danger of losing the championship because she’s too upset over Mum not being there. She might have lost if Mum had not shown up at the last moment – only to take off again because of her pride.

As if the problem with her parents wasn’t bad enough, Paula also meets a jealous rival, Myra Glegg, who plays dirty tricks on her. Fortunately Myra doesn’t last too long, and all the other competitors are good sports.

The trouble over the parents even puts Paula in hospital – an all-too-common thing in girls’ comics. Ultimately it provides the resolution, though unlike most serials the shock of it all does not provide immediate resolution. The parents are still fighting and divided despite their unconscious, injured daughter and Mum realising Paula has taken the brunt over her split from her husband. It needs a wise outsider to step in and have a serious word with the parents before Paula’s accident can provide the resolution.

Fancy Free! (1981)

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Published: 28 March 1981 – 30 May 1981 (10 episodes)

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Fancy Cole is the most difficult pupil in her school. She is slovenly, unmanageable, uncooperative, and a bully. What Fancy wants more than anything else is freedom – which she thinks just means doing anything she likes – so she hates school authority and rebels against it in any way she can. As for bullying, well, when you’re free you make your own rules. To underline her point about freedom she turns all the school pets loose in class to give them freedom, much to the consternation of the teacher and classmates.

When we see Fancy’s home life, however, she becomes a more sympathetic character. We begin to understand why Fancy is the way she is and we suspect that what Fancy really wants is someone to care about her. Her home is a tip and neither of them clean it up. Goodness knows what the bacteria count is like. Her mother, though not downright cruel or abusive as some parents/guardians are in girls’ stories, does not show Fancy any love or caring. In fact, Mum cares far more for bingo than she does for Fancy. They just argue all the time. It seems Fancy’s home life has been that way for years; when she was younger she used to pretend she was switched by the fairies and did not really belong to that family at all. As for the father, he has been absent for twelve years for some unknown reason. Fancy yearns for him and wants to know more about him, but doesn’t even know what he looks like.

Mum steals the money Dad sent for Fancy’s birthday for her bingo. This is the last straw for Fancy. She runs away, determined to find somewhere where she can enjoy freedom. On the moor, however, she meets Ben Harrington, who cares for the wildlife on the moor and has converted an old double decker bus into a hospital for them. Fancy becomes fascinated with Ben and caring for wildlife and wants to learn all about it. They are particularly concerned with a sick purple heron, and Ben can’t quite figure out what’s wrong. Ben agrees to teach her, but there is one condition – she must stop running away from whatever she is running from. Eventually Fancy agrees to do so, figuring that what she does with Ben will make it all worthwhile.

Ben also keeps telling Fancy that her views on freedom – being able to do anything she likes – are unrealistic. Nobody, not even wildlife, is completely free, for there are always restraints and regulations in one form or other. Ben has views on his own freedom too, which seem to be a bit touchy. For example, he can’t stand the word “prison”. He doesn’t like snoopers either and initially drew a gun on Fancy because he thought she was snooping.

Fancy is now reconsidering her bullying as she does not want Ben hearing bad things about her. However, she finds herself hauled up before the headmistress for the school pets she let loose and bullying a girl out of dinner money. Fortunately the headmistress is now dealing with a more thoughtful Fancy. Fancy says her action with the school pets was not the best thing for them, which she realised during her encounter with Ben. She also promises to repay the girl’s dinner money. The girl’s mother says it must be repaid by Monday or it’s the police. The headmistress gives Fancy three Saturday detentions, which will cut into her time for seeing Ben.

When Fancy finally gets to Ben, she finds a strange man asking questions about the place, but she tells him nothing. Ben gets extremely agitated when he hears about the man snooping. Following this, Fancy realises there is more to Ben than meets the eye. However, when Ben gets all strict about conditions needing to be met if Fancy is to continue with him, Fancy leaves in a huff, saying Ben’s just one more stuffy grown up who cramps her freedom.

Fancy arrives home in such a rage that she picks a fight with her mother and starts smashing wall ornaments. When Mum tries to stop Fancy, she says she had the same thing from her father and doesn’t want it with her. At this, Fancy really demands to know just what it is about her father.

Mum explains the father was a good-for-nothing who ended up in prison. She refuses to say what the charge was, though she does say the father pleaded innocent but neither she nor the jury believed him. He then escaped from prison and has not been seen since, much less bothered with his wife or child (then how did he send birthday money for Fancy, as mentioned in part 1?). Mum says that if she knew where he was she would turn him in. Clearly, she is very bitter and angry towards him and blames him for the life she leads with Fancy.

After this, Fancy becomes less centred on herself as she wants to go back and help the birds. She cleans up the broken ornaments and then goes back to Ben to apologise (for the first time in her life, she wants to apologise to someone). She never helps around the house at home, but is really enjoying cleaning up at Ben’s. While working, Fancy mentions the story of her father, and Ben hints he may know something. However, Fancy doesn’t know enough details for them to really make a headstart and Ben still seems a bit evasive on the matter anyway. Meantime, they turn their attention back to the purple heron. Fancy is really honoured when Ben trusts it to her care. He also gives her ten pounds as a payment. So Fancy can now repay the dinner money she stole with her bullying.

Unfortunately Mum finds the money and takes it to the police, thinking Fancy stole it (though it is implied that Mum takes it to bingo instead!). It turns out Mum isn’t too far wrong, as a check of the serial numbers confirms that the money came from a bank robbery years ago – and this is what Fancy’s father was jailed for! Fancy manages to talk her way out of it with the police and shift suspicion to her mother. So while Mum is now down at the police station facing awkward questions, Fancy goes to see Ben about the money.

It was a bad miscalculation on Ben’s part – he thought it wouldn’t matter as so much time had passed since the crime. Fancy now realises that Ben is an escaped convict. Ben is getting worried that the police might come, so he takes off and leaves Fancy in charge of the birds. Fancy is honoured, because nobody has ever trusted her so much before, and nobody ever needed her so much before either. She wants to stay there forever and never go back.

However, this has made Fancy absent from school and the headmistress and Mum call the police in. Mum finds the police asking her some hard questions about how she has treated Fancy and they say they will be keeping an eye on her after that stolen money. Before long, Fancy sees a police copter flying around. The weather turns against the police chopper, but it also causes Ben to have an accident. Ben decides to struggle back to the bus, deciding his place is with the birds, and never mind the police. He makes it back but he is dying. Still, he arrives in time to see the purple heron return to the wild.

Just before Ben dies, he says the money was stolen, but not by him – it was planted to frame him after the bank robbery. They then discuss the possibility that Ben is Fancy’s father. Their surnames don’t match, but Mum could have changed her name, and everything else seems to fit. So they decide it’s feasible and Fancy says she would like it that way anyway. Ben then dies and Fancy vows to carry on his work as the bird girl.

Thoughts

One of the definite strengths of this story is how Fancy’s behaviour is rooted in realism. All too often the reason why so many kids are problem is kids stems from the parenting they have received and their home lives. In this case it is Fancy being raised by a solo mother because the father is absent, and the mother is completely uncaring. The conditions under which they live make things worse. They live in squalor and there are constant money and even food shortages because Mum squanders money on bingo and uses Fancy to get welfare. There is no evidence of Mum having a job or bothering with one.

Of course Fancy is just as much the architect of her own misfortunes with her own selfishness and bad attitudes, particularly her bullying and her naïve notions of what freedom is. She does not understand that if she wasn’t so difficult at school it would be so much better for her and she’d have some friends. But the real root of it all definitely comes from the mother. Fortunately Fancy is not beyond redemption. Once she finds her vocation in caring for the birds and deciding the moors are made for her, that’s it. She wants to change and be different in future. Of course her bad temper still erupts with Ben and Mum, but there is no going back to her bullying ways. Under all that difficult behaviour lies a heroine with a lot of courage and balls. Nobody is going to push this protagonist around – she’s going to stand up for herself and the birds. And she always wants to be free. However, she is still being unrealistic in wanting to care for the birds and never return home. By law she is still a minor and needs a guardian and has to attend school. Hopefully they came to some sort of arrangement where Fancy could still care for the birds while still a minor.

Mum is clearly consumed with bitterness towards the father and blaming him for how she and Fancy have ended up. But just how much is the father at fault? Before Mum reveals the father was jailed and then escaped, both we and Fancy get a strong impression that old trout drove him off. The story cries out to have the full story of just how the father ended up in prison so readers would be able to judge how much blame the mother and father should take for everything. We only have the mother’s side of things, but she is hardly an objective observer, and she did not give the full details on what happened. After all, suppose the father’s claims of innocence were genuine? On the other hand, it could well be that the father was indeed a less than admirable character. Or he could have just made a mistake and got mixed up in something he shouldn’t have. Or he could have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We just don’t know because we don’t have the full story.

There are a couple of oddities that need to be explained. If the father was absent and had no contact with his family, how did he manage to send Fancy birthday money in part one of the story? How did Ben come to be in possession of the money that was used to frame him after the robbery? And just who framed him with the stolen money after the robbery anyway? Was it the real criminals or the police?

Assuming the father and Ben were the same person, he definitely is a far better person than Mum gives him credit for. It could well be that he started off less so, but became a changed person when he started caring for the wild birds on the moor – just like his daughter. Or perhaps he was the kinder of the two parents who chose to use his time in hiding to care for wild birds in lieu of his family.

The Goose Girl (1977)

 

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Publication: 20/8/77-5/11/77

Artist: Keith Robson

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Plot

Ever since she can remember, Glenda Noble and her mother have been fighting over birds. Glenda just loves birds and is a born naturalist. But for some reason Glenda’s mother has a pathological hatred of birds and tries to crush Glenda’s love for them wherever she sees it. She keeps pushing Glenda into fashion design, which Glenda hates and rebels against. The war between them is further compounded by the fact that they are opposites: Mum lives for fashion, the high life, social climbing and the city, while Glenda is clearly the country girl who loves the great outdoors.

When Glenda is fifteen, she and her mother have to move out of their posh Edinburgh flat and into a country lodge left by Mr Noble in Solway Firth. This suits Glenda, who has always hated city life, and she takes to her new home immediately. But Mum hates the move as she is a city person, and it seems to strike a raw nerve with her too.

Glenda is horrified to find it is goose-hunting season. She finds an injured goose, which she names Brodie. She tries to nurse Brodie back to health, but the bird-hating mother means Glenda has to keep Brodie hidden. This causes a lot of difficulties. And when Mum finds out, she tries to stop Glenda seeing Brodie by taking Glenda out of school and giving her private lessons in order to keep her at home. It’s also part of Mum’s design to have Glenda give up her ornithology and push her into fashion design. Her ambition is to open a fashion boutique with the money Glenda inherits when she turns eighteen (but that is in three years!). She even locks Brodie in the shed to turn him over to one Colonel Graham to be disposed of. This is all part of her social climbing as well – getting in with the gentry and the high life. But Glenda finds the key and saves Brodie, so Mum faces nothing but embarrassment at the hands of the angry Colonel.

Mum reveals that the reason she hates birds (and why Glenda loves them) is because her husband, a naturalist, was shot while defending the geese against the goose hunters. And it is these same goose hunters that Mum is now supporting against Brodie and the other geese!

Glenda starts campaigning against the hunt, but meets with little success and popularity. The locals say they want the hunt because it is good for trade when the nobility comes for the shoot. She also makes an enemy out of Chrissie Milne, who is only too happy to sneak on Brodie to Mrs Noble, which she does several times. However, it’s not long before Glenda has a whole flock of wild geese following her around! And she soon has dreams of opening a nature reserve in Solway Firth for them. But her goose demo not only meets more hostility from the locals but gets Mum into more trouble with the Colonel she is trying to get in with. After this, Mum watches Glenda like a hawk and even shams illness to keep Glenda close to her.

Mum is now trying to set up a clothes shop back in Edinburgh and also move back there to get away from the “backwater” she hates. Of course she has done this without consulting Glenda and does not care for Glenda’s feelings, which are the complete opposite. Also, Glenda has her doubts about the sincerity of the couple who are putting them up. She is soon proved right – the couple soon tire of them when Mum can’t find a job in fashion selling because she is too old and they think the Nobles are presuming on their kindness. To make things more complicated, Brodie has tagged along. When he flies into the flat, the couple reach their limit and Glenda has another bust-up with her mother. Glenda and Brodie head off back to the lodge – in a snowstorm!

Mum returns (the couple have thrown her out) and tracks them down. She says she has fixed Glenda up with an interview at Edinburg Art College for fashion design. Glenda uses it as a pretext to get to Edinburgh because she has spotted a job going for a year’s contract on an African nature reserve. But the interviewer for the art college meets her off the train, thus preventing her from skipping off to her own interview. Glenda makes sure she fails the art college interview but arrives too late for her own. She leaves in tears, not realising she has dropped the photographs she took of Brodie that show the progress of his recovery and her aptitude for the job.

The interviewer, Mr Donald, sees the photographs at reception. He is far more impressed with them than with anyone he had interviewed that day. He also happens to be an old friend of Glenda’s father. Glenda’s address was written on the back of the photos, so Mr Donald tracks her down and offers her the job. But the possessive, bird-hating Mrs Noble refuses to let Glenda go. However, Mum changes her mind when Mr Donald gives them a tape recording made by Dad, which reveals that he had wanted to open a nature reserve in Solway Firth – the same dream Glenda has! Glenda is off to Africa, but first they use the money Dad left in trust to open the Solway Firth reserve. So the now-recovered Brodie and the other geese are now safe from the hunters.

Thoughts

Jinty was known for her environmental stories and we can see the environmental theme underlying this one too. In this case it is the issue of hunting and both sides of it: people who care more for profit and consumerism than nature, and the naturalists who want to protect the environment and the animals and birds who live in it. But naturalists often have a hard time being heard against hard-line attitudes towards environmentalism, as Glenda discovers when her campaign to protect the geese meets animosity and even threats of mob violence.

The environmental themes in this story are given a brilliant atmosphere with the artwork. Keith Robson’s artwork is ideal to the ruggedness of the Scottish countryside and the wildness of nature. His depiction of the grotesque looks on Mrs Noble’s face when she gets on her high horse about Glenda almost seem a well-deserved caricature of her and her unhealthy, possessive attitudes.

When we find out why Mrs Noble has such a bad attitude towards birds, we are even more outraged by it because she is doing things that would have her husband spinning in his grave: hating birds, helping bird hunters, denying injured birds care, handing birds over to be destroyed, and not respecting the things that he loved and lived his life for. As Glenda herself points out to her mother, she should hate the hunters. After all, they are the ones who fired the fatal shots and are the ones responsible for his death, not the birds. We might (grudgingly) understand Mrs Noble’s hatred of birds if, say, a bird caused her husband to fall off the roof and break his neck. But, really – Mrs Noble hating birds because her husband was shot while defending them makes about as much sense as hating victims of mugging because someone you love was killed while defending a mugging victim.

And we have to wonder why the Nobles ever got married in the first place because they were clearly polar opposites. She loves everything the city has to offer and the high life while he was a naturalist who loved the country and its isolation; we can see this in Glenda, who is obviously her father’s daughter. He loved living in the lodge while she hated it because country life was not for her. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting. But if he had lived, we wonder if the marriage would be similar to the stormy relationship Glenda has with her mother. Still, at least Glenda would have had her father on her side and encouraging her love of birds, and a much happier home life.

When we see the war between Glenda and her mother, we admire Glenda for being the rebel who refuses to bend to her possessive mother who keeps trying to crush her love of birds and push her into undesirable fashion designing. Glenda flouts her mother wherever possible. This is one girl who is not going to take things in silent resentment and we like a heroine who does not take things lying down. But Glenda doesn’t always win, such as when Mum tears up her sketches of birds in the first episode. And the odds stack up against her even when she moves to the lodge because the locals are hostile to her ideas about birds and endorse the goose hunting because it is good for business. It must have been the same for her father all those years ago. It is ironic that in the end it is Mrs Noble who saves the birds by agreeing to open a nature reserve for them with the trust money once she learns it was her husband’s wish. In so doing, she not only redeems herself but also adopts a much healthier attitude towards nature. She tells Glenda that she has finally learned to let go. This includes letting go her pathological hatred of birds, and letting Glenda go instead of being so possessive about her and forcing her into her mould.

Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75)

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Jackie’s Two Lives, Jinty 1975
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Jackie’s Two Lives, Jinty 1975
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Jackie’s Two Lives, Jinty 1975

 

 

 

 

Publication: 7/9/74-8/2/75

Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Writer: Alan Davidson

Note: writer Alan Davidson used a similar plot for his book The Bewitching of Alison Allbright

Synopsis

Jackie Lester is discontented and fed up at missing out because her family is poor. She can’t afford school trips and outings and does not invite anyone over because she is too ashamed to let them see her shabby house. As a result, her classmates get the impression she is standoffish and don’t invite her over. This does not do much for her popularity at school – or her self-confidence. And Jackie cannot afford a pony like most of the other girls although she is good with horses. This leads to constant rows with her family; the parents are distressed and say they do their best while Jackie’s sister Wendy tries to reason with her, to no avail.

One day, another row with her family has Jackie running off, and she nearly gets run over. It is the rich Mrs Mandell, who has just moved into the district. Mrs Mandell looks like she has seen a ghost when she sees Jackie and orders her chauffeur, Dowling, to track Jackie and then find out all he can about her. Dowling soon gives a full report on Jackie’s discontent.

Under pretext of making amends for the near-accident, Mrs Mandell offers to take Jackie on a school outing. Jackie is outraged when her parents decline the offer as they do not approve of gifts from strangers. She has no idea how right her parents are; Mrs Mandell hopes that the offer will be the lure to get to work on her.

And Mrs Mandell does get to work on Jackie. Being a rich lady, Mrs Mandell can offer Jackie the riches she wishes for. It starts with weekends at Mrs Mandell’s, with Jackie being groomed to be a lady. Her family comment on what a snob she is turning into because of this, which widens the rift between them. Then Mrs Mandell gives Jackie a secret name – Isabella, and during her special lessons, Jackie has to wear a wig to adopt the persona of Isabella. Jackie finds it strange, but soon likes it because it gives her confidence she never felt before. She is like an ugly duckling turning into a swan. And even better, there are riding lessons.

There seems to be a dark, insidious side to becoming Isabella. It starts when Jackie finds that Mrs Mandell starts entering her in gymkhanas under the name of Isabella Mandell – and starts telling everyone that she is her daughter! Now Jackie is living a lie as Mrs Mandell’s daughter, but she seems to be caught in a web of deceit she can’t get out of. Besides, it still gives her everything she could wish for, including trips to Paris.

Jackie is becoming confused about her own identity – is she Jackie or Isabella? Her confusion grows when Mrs Mandell starts insisting that Jackie call her Mummy. Mrs Mandell even blackmails Jackie with it – accept being her daughter without question or lose everything Mrs Mandell has given her. It looks more and more like Mrs Mandell is trying to lure Jackie away from her family and turn her into her own daughter.

Mrs Mandell’s hold over Jackie is causing more and more upsets in the Lester household. Jackie neglects Mum’s birthday and even goes off with Mrs Mandell instead of going on the birthday outing, which ruins the occasion. But the birthday is well and truly ruined when Mum sees through Jackie’s disguise at the restaurant, so Jackie has them all thrown out of the restaurant, just to silence her. The family are upset that Jackie is not appreciating the small treats they are contriving to give her to assuage her discontent. Jackie grows even more dissatisfied with her home and she calls her family “common”. Wendy tells Jackie that Mrs Mandell is breaking up the family. It reaches the point where Jackie actually slaps Wendy!

But there is a dark side to being Mrs Mandell’s daughter. Mrs Mandell has been training Jackie for gymkhanas, but when Jackie does not do well at her first event, Mrs Mandell goes completely fanatical and starts training Jackie to the point of exhaustion and beyond her limits. And it gets more frightening when Jackie discovers a portrait of Isabella. It seems there had been a real Isabella Mandell. But the riches still tempt Jackie to stay. And Jackie still wants to be Isabella, but Mrs Mandell says that in order to do so, she must turn her back on her family altogether and become Isabella on a full-time basis. Eventually Jackie does so, by faking her death.

The classmates’ mourning of Jackie has an upside – they finally see Jackie’s home, and once they do, they realise the real reason for Jackie’s seemingly standoffish conduct and regret their misjudgement.

Meanwhile, Mrs Mandell’s demands on Jackie get even worse. She becomes obsessed with Jackie winning the Princedale Trophy. This is an extremely tough event, and the training becomes even more demanding, gruelling, and merciless. Jackie grows even more terrified because she knows she does not have what it takes to win the trophy. It culminates in a nightmare that seems to be a premonition of what will happen at the Princedale event.

But Wendy suspects that Jackie is not dead and starts investigating Mrs Mandell’s past. She discovers that the daughter Isabella is dead – so the current Isabella cannot be her and therefore must be Jackie in disguise, just as she suspected. Wendy learns that Isabella was driven to her death by her mother’s obsession with her winning the Princedale Trophy. She was so terrified at the thought of failing her mother that she just rode off blindly and was killed in a road accident. Mrs Mandell was blamed and forced out of her old district. Wendy now sees how Mrs Mandell contrived to recreate Isabella in Jackie because Jackie resembled Isabella (the only difference being their hairstyles, hence the wig Jackie has to wear as Isabella) and have her make another bid at the trophy. She realises that Jackie is in terrible danger, from the same obsession that killed Isabella. She tries to talk sense into Jackie, but Jackie has her removed. Wendy finds help and they go after Jackie.

Mrs Mandell takes Jackie to the real Princedale course for a dry run. But Mrs Mandell’s demands finally get too much and Jackie “does an Isabella” – run off wildly on the horse. Wendy and help arrive in time to prevent Jackie from getting mangled by a car. But she does get knocked out, fulfilling the premonition in the dream. Mrs Mandell is horrified at the near-replay of Isabella’s death and belatedly opens her eyes to what she has done.

Mrs Mandell ends up in a nursing home. The doctors say she will recover one day. Jackie is happily reunited with her family. She now feels gratitude in her family life instead of discontent, has no shame in having friends over, and feels lucky compared to Isabella.

 

Thoughts

“Jackie’s Two Lives” was Ana Rodriguez’ second story for Jinty, starting straight after “Make-Believe Mandy”, the Rodriguez story in the very first Jinty lineup. After Jackie, Rodriguez would start straight on her third Jinty story, “Tricia’s Tragedy”. Another example of how Jinty liked to keep her artists in constant business.

Snobbery is something normally ascribed to spoiled rich girls in serials, but here Jinty turns the snob theme on its head. She shows us that snobbery can arise in the lower classes too, with a poor girl who is too ashamed to let her home be seen by her classmates because she has snobby attitudes that become even more manifest as riches come into her life and her head gets turned by the manipulations of Mrs Mandell. Her sister Wendy takes a more sensible attitude. Presumably Wendy has no problem with inviting mates over, but Jackie has clearly not learned from her example. The double life Jackie leads inflames her snobbery even more, even to the point where she hurts her family deeply. But in the end, Jackie, although still in a poor family, has changed her whole attitude towards it altogether and is much happier. She sees what she does have – a house full of love – which the unfortunate Isabella did not, for all her wealth, and Jackie is grateful for it. And once she is not ashamed to invite friends over, she finds she was making a big fuss over nothing. They don’t mind at all.

We know that Jackie is set for a sharp lesson at the beginning of the story with her disgruntled attitude. The twist is that it came through the thing Jackie wanted – riches. But it comes as little surprise to the readers. There have been so many stories on people finding that riches are not everything or bring happiness they expected, and Jackie finds this the hard way as she discovers what it means to be a poor little rich girl. She has everything she wants and then some as she becomes the new Isabella Mandell. Yet she does not have real happiness or freedom because she is sinking deeper and deeper into a web of lies and deceit while growing all the more terrified of Mrs Mandell and her relentless demands that Jackie knows she cannot meet. We can imagine it must have been the same for the real Isabella – a rich girl with everything but is miserable because she has an over-demanding mother. And for Isabella there was no escape while Jackie has a family she could go back to anytime. Yet Jackie is not pulling herself away despite all the warning signals. The temptation of riches keeps pulling her back and her mind is becoming increasingly confused in a form of brainwashing. She does not know whether she is Jackie or Isabella and then really begins to think she is Isabella who must please her mother, even though she is driving her far too hard in a way that is increasingly ruthless and terrifying. And Mrs Mandell herself is a very crafty and skilful manipulator in the tactics she uses to ensnare Jackie and deliberately drive wedges between Jackie and her family. It is all part of her plan to lure Jackie away altogether and make Jackie her own. It takes the shock of the accident to clear Jackie’s mind and restore not only her sense of identity but her sense as well.

From the moment Mrs Mandell orders her chauffeur to monitor Jackie, we know it bodes ill for Jackie. We also see Mrs Mandell in the role of the wicked witch who tries to lure a child away with treats and take advantage of her poor family situation. The thing is, we don’t yet know if Mrs Mandell is truly wicked and out to kidnap a child for some sinister purpose or if she is need of a psychiatrist. But as we begin to see it is all tied up around the mystery of Isabella, we are all eager to follow the clues and see if we can solve the mystery.

The ending may be a bit slick, with Mrs Mandell suddenly waking up after her one-tracked obsession with Isabella winning the trophy. On the other hand, the shock of seeing it happening all over again may have done what the first round did not. And there is some pity for Mrs Mandell when she ends up in the nursing home at the end and Jackie still feels Isabella haunts the place somehow (though she never actually lived there). It is understandable that Mrs Mandell was a grieving mother who wanted her daughter to live again. And she does redeem herself somewhat at the end when she finally realises what she has done. But it took a near-second time for her to do it. She did not learn from her mistake the first time.

We can see plenty of situations lessons that are all too much like real life in here. Tragedies resulting from obsessed parents driving their children too hard and making demands that are way too high. Grieving parents who want their children back in one form or another. Poor people wanting riches, but if they get them, do they get them the right way and does it really serve their best interests? And if you are poor, one thing you can do about it is your attitude towards it. Jackie should be a case story for The Secret, which says to look for the things you do have, not the things you don’t have. Every day look at the things to be grateful for, not brood on what you don’t have. Your situation will be so much better and you will be much happier. And finally, the old adage: be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

 

 

The Four-Footed Friends (1979)

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Publication:17/3/79-23/6/79

Reprint: Jinty annual 1984

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Problem parents.

You know the type – too strict, too old-fashioned, too snobby, or way too over-protective. They make you feel like a virtual prisoner, never let you have any freedom, and you feel you’re not being allowed to grow up. Or they keep forcing you to do what they want and won’t let you do what you want.

Parents like that cropped up frequently in girls’ comics. Their attitudes were what drives the story, causing untold misery that could be avoided if only they acted differently, before (with a few exceptions) the happy ending where they finally see the error of their ways. Often their attitude stems from some giant chip on their shoulder, the product of a tragic event which turned them into what they are. Such is the case of Mrs Marshall, who goes to ridiculous and unfair lengths to keep her daughter Laura and then her pet dog, Winston, away from germs and common “riff-raff” because…no, it will not be revealed yet. The reason why Mrs Marshall acts this way is meant to be a mystery that keeps readers guessing until the end of the story.

The Marshalls are a rich family who life in an upper class house in Happy-Hillcock Estate. Mrs Marshall hates “common riff-raff” and takes the silliest of precautions to protect her daughter Laura from their “germs”. Mrs Marshall drives Laura to school so she does not catch any germs from council estate houses (and nobody is living in them yet!). In class, Laura has to sit alone to avoid catching germs from “common” children, under orders from her mother. When new girl Josie from the estate is seated next to Laura, Mrs Marshall yanks Laura right out of school and hires a dragon of a home tutor for her. When the council starts moving more people to the estate houses, Mrs Marshall launches a campaign against the influx of “common riff-raff”, although the council is only doing it to liberate the people from slum areas. Poor Laura is caught in the middle, between being forced to help both her mother and Josie’s rival campaign for more estate houses.

Mrs Marshall buys a Pekinese, Winston, as a companion for Laura, because she has become even more lonely and miserable after being yanked out of school. Winston becomes inseparable with Josie’s mongrel, Riley. Unfortunately Mrs Marshall is as over-protective of Winston as she is of Laura, and makes his life just as miserable to protect him from Riley’s “germs”. She goes as far as to demand that Riley be destroyed, although Winston pines without Riley. She does not listen to concerns that the dogs love each other too much. No wonder Riley and Winston try to run away together, and get into all sorts of scrapes while trying to stay together. This provides a lot of animal humour, such as hiding in coal bins and singing doggy duets to Mrs Marshall’s piano rendition of “Danny Boy”.

When Mr Marshall returns from abroad, things start turning around. Mr Marshall knows the reason for his wife’s problem, but he does not share it. He tries to talk sense into her, telling her to let the past die, not blame all common people for what happened, and that she is fussing over Laura too much. But Mrs Marshall is not listening, and is even more furious to find her husband helping the growing estate by building a supermarket. But Mrs Marshall is forced to make concessions when Mr Marshall uses Riley as a guard dog, and even she is moved when she herself sees the slums the people are being moved from.

But Mrs Marshall still clings to her snobby, overprotective ways. Eventually Laura gets so fed up with her mother that she runs off. Running away is a common means of climaxing these types of stories and resolving them, and this one is no exception. Riley saves Laura from a nasty accident and Mrs Marshall is so moved (perhaps a bit too quickly?) that she asks Riley’s forgiveness and has a change of heart. Later, the mystery of Mrs Marshall’s problem is finally revealed. Her baby son Alan died from an illness that she believes was contracted from a dirty dummy that a grubby kid shoved into his mouth. Hence her problem with common people and germs, but now she finally realises she has been “unjust and ridiculous.” Thereafter, there is no looking back and we get the happy ending we have been waiting for.

There certainly is a lot to make this story popular with readers. It is a strong commentary (and satire?) on over-protective parents, and so many kids can identify with Laura’s situation. Readers also love mystery, and it grows increasingly apparent that there is a mystery behind Mrs Marshall’s attitude. We see it in the way she keeps staring at a photograph in her room and saying how common people have caused her heartache. What does she mean? The question goes unanswered until the last episode, presumably so readers can have a go at solving it and make it even more fun.

Readers also love a story that makes a statement against snobbery. As Mrs Marshall causes increasing trouble with her snobbish attitudes, we are just waiting to see how she has a change of heart, or failing that, her comeuppance. The story also makes a strong call for tolerance, as represented by the two dogs. Someone tells Mrs Marshall that if a pedigree and a mongrel can get along, why can’t we rich people and common people? Once Mrs Marshall gets the message, she reiterates it in a big way. She has Riley and Winston jointly open the supermarket: “They both think a mongrel’s as good as a Peke, any day!” Above all perhaps, it has dogs. Who doesn’t love an animal story? And this one is full of animal antics ranging from scrapes that give us loads of laughs, to tears when the dogs come under threat from Mrs Marshalls’ stupidity, and admiration at the dogs’ determination and courage to beat Mrs Marshall and stay together.