Tag Archives: problem parents

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 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 local 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 had he 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)

Sample images

Four Footed Friends 1

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Four Footed Friends 2

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Four Footed Friends 3

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.