Nuffin’ Like a Puffin

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Kaye Webb was a wonderful presence in my childhood, a distant benefactress, like an aunt we never saw but who always remembered to send us intriguing presents for our birthdays. The parcels from her arrived without fail and lent a kind of enchantment to the years I spent in exile when I was growing up. Of course, I never knew her. She was the Editor of the Puffin Club and I was a Founder Member.

In the summer of 1965 my family moved abroad, posted by the RAF to Liège in Belgium. I was desolate at the prospect of leaving England, not because of the umbilical pull of the motherland, although we were keenly patriotic, but because it meant the loss of the hayfield behind our house and no more Wooden Tops or Andy Pandy. There we were, my brother and sister and I, cut loose from Children’s Hour, trammelled in a little flat four floors up with chains on the windows to stop us throwing ourselves out from boredom (though they didn’t prevent us from dropping orange peel on to the hats of Belgian matrons passing underneath). By November that year my mother decided that the only way to keep herself sane was to set about reading all the books Cyril Connolly listed in his Sunday Times Guide to the Modern Movement. Reading proved such solace to her that eighteen months later, as soon as I was old enough to read myself, she signed me up for the Puffin Club.

Being a Founder Member meant you were sent a black-and-white enamel badge with silver on it, showing the famous puffin logo – what’s a club without a decent badge? I seem to remember a red plastic wallet as well and a set of gummed bookplates with the words Ex Libris, which ached with possibilities. All at once I was a girl with a library and I had labels to prove it, even if the only books I had at the time were hardback copies of E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet and Five of Us and Madeline which my M

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About the contributor

Kate Dunn worked for ten years as an actress until the birth of her son, since when she has written four books and occasional articles and made intermittent contributions to Radio 4’s Front Row. The career of the Puffin Club has also been a little chequered, but it was relaunched in 2000 and has the bonus of association with a fantastic website, www.puffin.co.uk, something that any Founder Member would look upon with envy.

 

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