“They may still be hidden somewhere under Kirrin Castle. George! George! Isn't it terribly, awfully exciting?”

My two cousins and I crouched in our tree-house, The Crow’s Nest, and plotted in whispers. Nadine, who was six, had been posted on lookout duty at the one window (which, incidentally, doubled as the door). Alex and I, both eight, went over the facts once again to be sure we had things straight.

There had been a burglary in our neighbourhood a few weeks back. The burglar had gotten away, but witnesses said the car was white or cream in colour, and the number-plate had been HLH, Something Something 5. This much, my father had told us, and we’d been on the case ever since. Throughout the summer holidays, we had posted a guard at the end of our cul-de-sac to watch the busy road for such a car. We were each armed with red berries to throw at the vehicle if we happened to see it, to slow the fleeing burglar down enough to give one of us the time to call the police.

And that morning, we’d found the burglar’s ride. Case closed. By us.

It had started like every other day. We woke at precisely 6am, got dressed, and rode our bikes to the end of the cul-de-sac in the dawn. There, we each performed exactly 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 100 jogs on the spot. On some days, Nadine would cry and say she didn’t want to, so we’d let her drop back on the numbers, slightly.

After that it was a quick breakfast, then back to the end of the cul-de-sac to look out for the on-the-run burglar in the cream car. And on this morning, there it was. Not driving past, not in any need of red berries, but parked in the driveway of the house directly across the street. We checked, we double-checked. Everything fit. This MUST be the car.

But what to do? The first thing was to prevent the burglar from getting away while we called the police. So, ingenious children that we were, we found some clay. There was a lot of clay in our area, it was that kind of soil, and we knew where to look. We dug up fistfuls of clay, quickly crossed the busy road, and crept on all fours to the burglar’s car. Silently, stealthily, we packed the criminal’s exhaust pipe with sticky clay. Really packed it in. Then in a flash we were back across the road, onto our bikes, and hidden in the tree-house, just in case we’d been seen and were being followed.

We were exultant. But we also had to figure out what to do next. In the end, we decided the best course of action would be to tell my parents, and have them call the police. Down went the rope ladder, down went three children, and we burst into the house with our news.

“Oops,” said Dad. “I just made that up to keep you quiet over the holidays. There never was a burglary.”

Now I could blame my father for the humiliating apologies that inevitably ensued, but I don’t. He was just a pawn in a bigger game. I blame The Famous Five. The Famous freaking Five. They were responsible for this mishap. In fact, they were responsible for many similar mishaps that peppered my childhood.

Those of us who grew up in Australia and the UK probably couldn’t have missed The Famous Five, even if we wanted to. And that jingle, “Julian, Dick and Anne … George and Timmy the do-o-og,” sticks in your head WAY longer than you want it to (as you are about to discover). The Five were all over our televisions in the 70s and 80s, and for those of us who were readers, they inundated our libraries and private bookshelves as well.

Now for my US readers, and any Aussie and UK friends who must have grown up under a rock, here’s a quick overview of The Famous Five. They were three siblings (Julian, Dick and Anne), their cousin George (who was actually Georgina, but wanted everyone to think she was a boy), and George’s dog Timmy. They solved mysteries.

Not only were these kids and their dog fabulous detectives who managed to foil all kinds of criminals, they also had the added benefit of ruined castles, secret passageways, caves, islands, cryptic messages and a famous inventor to make their adventures that much more exciting.

In the height of The Five’s fame, my cousins and I were too young to question a TV series that involved someone called Dick, someone called Aunt Fanny and a cross-dresser. That came later, when another series by the same author was banned during Australia’s homophobic heyday because the two male characters had regular sleepovers.

In fact, The Famous Five, their author Enid Blyton, and the many other stories she generated, have become somewhat of pop icons, not only because of the influence they had over several generations of children, but also precisely because of the racial and sexual controversy that attached itself to Blyton.

There were rumours that Blyton’s domestic life was less than the ideal she projected, and that she was annoyed by the sounds of her own children. There were the charges that certain characters were homosexual – in a time when homosexuality was rarely understood or tolerated. Then there were characters called ‘golliwogs’ who caused mischief for good friends Noddy and Big Ears. In the book Here comes Noddy Again, Golliwogs enticed Noddy into the woods under the premise of asking for help, then stole his car and clothes.

But Blyton famously said that criticism from people over the age of 12 didn’t matter. And despite (or perhaps because of) the criticism, Blyton remains popular enough for property company Trocadero to pay many millions of dollars for the intellectual property rights to the Blyton estate.

For me, my cousins and my friends, gloriously oblivious, Enid Blyton and The Famous Five inspired years of deliberately putting ourselves in the path of mischief, just in case it would lead to adventures in ruined castles. We placed sticky-tape traps in hallways, dusted furniture with talcum powder to detect fingerprints, scoured the local papers for crime (in my quiet suburb, any crime would have done), and learned to say “gosh” and “bother” when impressed and distressed.

And according to the BBC UK, “Despite best efforts of many well-meaning teachers, plenty of today’s children would rather read Enid Blyton than a worthy tale of parents divorcing on a council estate.” Of course, The Famous Five remains the best known, and best loved, of these adventure stories.

And if that’s not enough for The Famous Five to be entered in to the hall of pop culture fame, consider this: back in the 70s and 80s, punk rock band Windows from Finland made three different cover versions of the annoying Famous Five jingle. So there.

Next TV nostalgia post: Dr Who