Noddy

Enid is not a name you hear these days, but the lady was a prolific writer of children’s books—she sold six hundred million of them. Enid Blyton wrote both the ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ series, which were translated into many languages—I read mine voraciously, in English and Portuguese, and it was my first contact with the hazards of translation.

Enid’s US counterpart for these kinds of boys and girls stories were the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. The interesting thing about both series is they were created by publishers, and the author names (Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene) were an umbrella for a series of ghost writers. No photo on the dust jacket, then. But Enid was real.

I read the Hardy Boys too, and about their father, Fenton Hardy. Sounds a bit Adams Family, and since I loved Spoonerisms from an early age, he immediately became Hendon Farty, never again to be taken seriously.

Enid grew up in South London and Kent, and has a whole society devoted to her. In her autobiography she describes how her father believed, as I do, that all children should learn to play chess.

… if they have any brains it will train them to think clearly, quickly and to plan things a long way ahead. And if they haven’t any brains it will make the best of those they have!

When political correctness appeared, and dogs became canine Americans, Enid Blyton was variously accused of bigotry and racism and heavily criticized in the media. Books were sanitized and banned.

for years, Robertson's offered gollywogs as a children's collectible on their marmalade jars.

For years, Robertson’s offered gollywogs as a children’s collectible on their marmalade jars.

In some of her wide variety of stories she made reference to ‘gollywogs’, reflecting what was common parlance at the time in Britain.

One of her better known children’s series was Noddy. The wooden boy was a resident of Toyland, which of course is Irish for Thailand. Noddy had a car to match the kiddies’ clockwork toys, and a couple of sly goblins to trick him and cause trouble.

The childlike Noddy also had constant run-ins with PC Plod, a bicycle-riding policeman who arrested villains by shouting ‘Halt in the name of Plod!’

Although Noddy cartoons have been on British TV for decades, the little car has now resurfaced at the hands of Google.

The new Google pod, a XXIst century Noddy car.

The new Google pod, a XXIst century Noddy car.

I told a London cabbie a few months ago that Google was going to put him out of business—he didn’t take me seriously.

Google’s now building a hundred noddies, but it won’t sell you one.

The internet giant is a services company, and it uses products like Google Maps to sell those services. That sale is always about making your business easier to find, whether by mapping it or contextually  advertising it. Google maps you and your interests, because there’s gold in dem dar hills!

Just as those who don’t use Facebook are in there anyhow, anyone who doesn’t use gmail has their privacy violated, as long as they send to a gmail address, because Google reads it.

So how do we use these noddies? Well, the intent is to summon the beasties with an app, and for both the business model and the know-how, Google Ventures invested heavily in Uber, a California company that connects would-be travelers with carriers.

So there you are in London on a Sunday morning, wanting to get from Harrods to the East End. Driverless noddies are buzzing around town, and at the click of an app one of them zips kerbside. PC Plod looks on benignly as both of you enter motorized toyland.

The noddy has no controls of any kind, just a screen for you to check your gmail (go on, it’s free), if you’re not already doing that on your smartphone, and another one to show where you are.

The noddy smells clean, because it was recently valeted—at 2 am some drunk kids puked on the console, and the bot’s chunder sensors automatically locked its doors.

‘Recalculating,’ a pleasant American voice says. Next up, the two boys are instructed to halt in the name of Plod, fined, and sent on their way. Noddy heads for rehab.

Your journey takes you through Sloane Street, then east on the Mall and along the river. On the way you pass many noddies, busy applying the laws of supply and demand. They sleep at noddy nodes distributed through the city, and are mobilized using the same just-in-time principles used for restocking supermarket shelves. Not a single black cab in sight.

Old-style cars can still be seen, with human drivers inside, but they’re extremely expensive to drive into the city center—noddies are exempt from congestion tax.

The actuaries have made their calculations, and cars crash into noddies much more often than the opposite. Noddy-noddy knocks are unheard of. So automobile insurance is getting really pricey.

Your trip has been pre-authorized with plastic, there are no parking charges, no rude drivers, no chit-chat, and no tips.

Welcome to Toyland.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

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