Joanna Briscoe: At the Sharp End

'I know what happened to George, Julian, Dick, Anne and Timmy the dog – what anyone else says is an indecent lie'
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The Independent Online

So, the Famous Five has been made over by Disney. What a rotten trick to play on our country by a lot of rough, low-down sorts. Doubtless criminals, smugglers, strange scientists and spies are behind this queer event, working away at the television studio with their secret documents, their binoculars and their torch signals from the top of the ruined tower. Either them, or circus folk and foreigners who haven't been sent to decent schools. Really, it's too bad.

The new 26-part cartoon series features the offspring of Enid Blyton's original Five: tomboy George allegedly travelled to the Himalayas, met an actual man, and gave birth to a girl called Jo, short for Jyoti, while Anne turned Californian art dealer and spawned a mall rat. Dick's lad, Dylan, follows the stock markets on his laptop, and Julian sired a mountain biker for a son.

This is clearly terribly wrong and unjust. As a Blyton fanatic, I force Five Go to Billycock Hill on my own children (and then finish it in the bath when they lose interest). And I can tell you exactly what happened to George, Julian, Dick, Anne and Timmy the dog.

Anne, the top-grade sap who does nothing but make up the boys' beds with dried bracken, then happily scrubs, boils and screams for her brothers, fulfilled her destiny and took on some heart-sinking kind of physiotherapist's job, married a junior doctor and had three smelly sons. By the time her kids became local chess champions, her husband was off shagging nurses.

These days, Anne's keeping herself busy dealing with Uncle Quentin's urinary infections and temper tantrums, ironing the shirts her sons bring back from their engineering courses, and masturbating a lot. The trouble is, the tall figures of Julian and Dick appear very frequently in her fantasies, striding across the bracken and calling for supper, and this worries her.

We all knew square girls like this. They fancy their cousins or brothers or hamsters because they don't know any other boys, and they usually indulge in one act of rebellion, such as a very discreet nose piercing, to prove they're not square. Anne's rebellion takes the form of blonde streaks and those fond, fond memory sessions set on Kirrin Island.

Julian, the terribly sensible, tall and athletic leader of the Five, grew up, of course, to be the secret gayer. Julian initially fulfilled his destiny. He brought down most of the criminals and foreign scientists in South-west England, passed his BA in Decency Studies with flying colours, and remained a jersey-wearing virgin, six-foot-three and strong of jaw.

Then Julian had his thigh felt by Carlos in Old Compton Street. A raging conflagration occurred in Julian's nether parts. He strode off with Carlos, and came home a changed man. The next day he met up with Carlos's unusual friends and barely saw daylight or street level again. Nowadays, Julian of Kirrin Island is known as the Soho Sultan.

Aunt Fanny is still puzzled. Uncle Quentin has a fairly good idea of what Julian's up to, having observed his handling of a telescope as a youth. Julian has never procreated. Or he's daddy to over a dozen little Hackney residents. He gave a few donations to a women's fertility clinic at the urging of his cousin, George, so there may be teams of jersey-clad little prats scuttling around the caves of Cornwall in the holidays.

By the end of the Famous Five series, when she must have been at least 25, George was the hot-tempered cross-dresser who was still pretending to be a boy – scowling, throwing punches and rowing as well as any fisherman's lad. Disney's refashioning of George as a straight mother-of-one is just perverted. She was very clearly a raving lezzer. I mean, really. Was Radclyffe Hall a secret straight? Was Oscar Wilde? Was George Kirrin? I don't think so. You can usually spot 'em young. Think back to primary school, then do a spot of Friendsreunited trawling and Googling: scratch the word "partner" and you'll detect any number of permutations.

Academically thick, George won a rowing scholarship to Cambridge, and scythed her way through Girton with her deep-voiced charms and her knee-length shorts. She never reproduced because a baby bump would spoil the line of her rugby shirt, but she and her girlfriend Myfanwy – Muffy for short – are thinking about adopting a baby for their beloved mongrel bitch Timothy Jr Jr to play with. George now rows for Stoke Newington and designs boats. She and Muffy are very happy.

Dick. Now, Dick was the boring one. He was a normal boy, with normal boy bits, yet he didn't possess the manly authority of his big brother, Julian. But Dick made good. It's those quiet ones, those dull types, the overlooked, you have to watch out for. They've dedicated their adulthood to revenge through success. Dick publishes best-selling thrillers based on his childhood adventures, largely plotted on the quiet by Aunt Fanny, and is father to Freya, Milo, Ruby, Romilly, Felix, Alfie, Rosa, Ella, Tallulah, Arthur and little Ivo.

The various younger Kirrin cousins spend their days reading The Dangerous Book for Boys, trying to burn sausages on the Smeg ring, and begging to go to Center Parcs with their nannies and au pairs and tracker tags so they can pretend it's Smuggler's Top.

Anything else anyone might claim is an indecent lie.

Joanna Briscoe's novel, Sleep With Me, is published by Bloomsbury. Andrew Davies' adaptation of the novel will be broadcast by ITV later this year