Getting on to Turning Point: How I learned English…

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I grew up in Greece in the ’70s. A time when the country was going through a difficult but forward-looking transition period of re-establishing a stable and democratic political scene, after years of devastation and turmoil: monarchy, WWII, civil war, military junta… you name it, the country lived through it. And that was only the 20th century!

As usual in periods of instability, the education sector is one of the first to suffer; another – closely related, is culture but that’s altogether a different story. So while all attention was focused on leasing new life to the rusty wheels of the Hellenic government apparatus and lifting the country back to its feet after the ‘7-year itch’ nuisance of fascist rule (1967-74), it became apparent that the educational system, suffering from years of oppression, fund shortages and general ignorance, was not a priority.

Enter the private sector – opportunistic as ever – to cover the loopholes in education by employing young, enthusiastic in their newly found freedom, ready for hard work academia; private language schools sprang like mushrooms and multiplied fast. Of course, being private meant a substantial burden on the family budget but, as the country was going through a phase of economic development and the people were looking forward to a better future, a good number of families felt they could afford the extra yearly tuition fees…

If they had the will and foresight that is… Because back then, sending your kid to language classes was still very much regarded as a luxury – not a necessity. Thankfully, my parents were quite prudent so there I was, three afternoons a week after primary school, swapping Greek grammar and arithmetic books, made somewhat tedious by the occasional (very) dull public sector teacher, with the colourful, imaginative English language ones, filled with interesting stories, pictures and illustrations and backed by inspiring tutors, whose good humour and enthusiasm were contagious. And while the quality and extent of my linguistic skills is debatable and susceptible to a lot of improvement, it was my untamed childish nature that’s to blame, not those bright young tutors nor the precious books costing my parents a small fortune year in, year out.

Among them, it is the ”Access to English” series that I cherish most; ”Getting On” followed by ”Turning Point”, published by Oxford University Press. Written by Michael Coles and Basil Lord and designed & illustrated by Peter Edwards. My original copies have long been gone, victims of some spring cleaning or other, but were recently replaced, thanks to the wonders of on-line shopping. All along, I thought I loved the books because of their endearing characters: who wouldn’t sympathise with poor Arthur, his daily struggles and adventures? About to lose the love of his life, Mary, soon to be married to smart and wealthy Bruce? But now, leafing again through the pages filled with so many memories, I realize that it was all down to the beautiful illustrations by Peter Edwards, after all.

This is how I learned about New Year’s resolutions, the meaning of ”living in digs” and the health hazards of chain-smoking:

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One cant’ help feeling for Arthur and his struggles to impress Mary:

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He even goes shopping with her; but Mary is looking for a dress to impress her boyfriend Bruce:

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This is the rival: Bruce; he is a successful car dealer but appearances deceive. Sheila, the plump young lady beside Arthur is in love with him but Arthur only has eyes for Mary:

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Here, I learned about gas-fires that needed to be fed with coins to heat. I thought this was a made-up story until I first visited London in 1981; I actually stayed in a room exactly like this one, on the top floor of a row house in Acton.

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We made sure to have enough coins to keep the metre turning… no late breakfast in front of the fire and a nice cuppa waiting for us!

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Boring drills became exciting under Peter Edwards’ pen:

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Page 130 brought hope and promise… and the last chapter of ”Getting On”:

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”Turning Point” was about maturity, the dreaded domestic budget and burdens of married life:

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And dealing with life’s dilemmas:

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”Getting On” and ”Turning Point” covers:

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I looked Peter Edwards up, of course I did! Not much to be found and the fact that more illustrators share the same name doesn’t help. But I believe our Edwards is the one who created graphics for the covers of first editions (Heinemann) of Graham Greene’s novels. He must also be the same who, together with his wife Guvnor Edwards, illustrated a number of the Rev. Awdry’s Railway Series (aka Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends), now out of print and, therefore, quite rare. Gunvor also illustrated ‘Stepney the Bluebell Engine’. If I’m right, these charming pictures are their design:

Cumberland

AgnesRuthLucyJemimaBeatrice

Neil

AdaJaneMabel

Brighton Rock

A talented couple, a pair of accomplished designers that deserve more recognition than they enjoyed. Mr Edwards, a well overdue thank you for making my learning English fun!

Links about Peter Edwards:
http://www.sodor-island.net/edwards.html
http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2010/01/27/peter-edwards-times-two/
http://ttte.wikia.com/wiki/Gunvor_and_Peter_Edwards

 

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69 thoughts on “Getting on to Turning Point: How I learned English…

  1. I was digging for the textbooks I had for my English back in the 90’s in Cyprus and yes I remembered poor Arthur Newton struggling to get along with his miserable life and that made me feel sympathy for him and disliked fancy Bruce. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • So they were still being used in the ’90s… I wonder when poor Arthur’s charm started wearing off, in other words when/who decided his miseries weren’t good enough for kids’ language courses anymore.
      Thank you for your kind words, hope you find your textbooks, otherwise keep digging!

  2. Καλημέρα,
    έπεσα τυχαία στο μπλογκ, αναζητώντας πληροφορίες σχετικά με το εν λόγω βιβλίο. Μου φέρε τόσα στο μυαλό από τα παιδικά μου χρόνια!
    Ναι σαι καλά.

    Σταύρος Ε.

    • Γειά σου Σταύρο, σ’ευχαριστώ για τα καλά σου λόγια. Χαίρομαι που βοήθησα λίγο στην αναβίωση όμορφων αναμνήσεων!
      Φιλικά,
      Λία

  3. My name is Fedra and it is to wonder how magical is that a simple coincidence can lead to recall memories well hidden in time…
    Talking with a friend of greek origin but raised in Canada it happened to mention Arthur and Mary and then Mrs.Harrison came up and …evil Bruce that was unnecessarily interfering …!
    I remember how angry I was getting when Bruce was popping in ! and all the laughter in the classroom and the comments with the class mates… I am already overwhelmed by the memories…
    Born in Thessaloniki back in 1969 I am one of the lucky ones that studied English at Strategakis school and learning to love the language – God bless you Lia 

    • Hi Fedra,
      I’ve been away from this blog since I moved from Brussels to New York, but am getting back from time to time, to refresh my memory. Cos that’s what it’s all about: my diary of sorts. So it would have been an omission not to include Mr. & Mrs. Newton in my diary, wouldn’t it? Dear Arthur and Mary and Sheila and, yes even the annoying Bruce character, are such a big part of my life… They are also partly responsible for being where I am and even writing this blog post in a language other than my native! And I’m so glad to be in touch, even for a brief moment, with like-minded friends – especially those with whom our paths may have crossed in one of Strategakis corridors!
      My warmest wishes for a Better New Year to you, your family & friends,
      Lia

  4. Hi there!
    Your post brought a smile on my face!!!
    I’m from Argentina and I also learnt English with the whole course back in the late 70’s… Starting Out (light blue), Getting On (green), Turning Point (yellow) and Open Road (red).
    I wish I still had them so I could show my kids that amazing stuff!!!!
    Thx!!!!
    Laura

    • Hi Laura,
      The ARE amazing, aren’t they! This post got so much love it makes me wonder whyever did they change the books? Also, reading them again, I realize how modern they still are. Hope you can still find copies somewhere – your kids would love them, I’m sure!

      Take care,
      Lia

  5. Hello there, Congratulations for this article! You managed to wake up all my hidden memories! 40 years back in Spetseri Collage, Kolokotroni street, in Patras! Studied all four books and used their exercise textbooks as well. Now, I have just ordered the first three on the internet. The 4th is quite expensive for the time being… I want to go through them once more, “drinking” page after page like a vintage wine! Thanks again for your article!

    • Thank you too Agi, for reading and getting in touch! I wish you find the 4th book (in an affordable price) soon. I’ll join you then for a glass of vintage wine to celebrate!
      All the best,
      Lia

      • “Turning Point” for around 20EUR on Amazon. We could all chip in a few euros, and have it shipped to Lia for scanning?

  6. Εκτός από το getting on και το turning point ήταν και το starting out, το πρωτο της σειρας. Η συγκινηση απιστευτη όταν είδα τι γράφουν όλοι στα σχόλια. Τι ωραία αγγλικά που μάθαμε με τον Arthur…

    • Γειά σου Electra, ούτε που το φανταζόμουν όταν έγραφα το post, πόσο μεγάλη και όμορφη θα ήταν η παρέα των φίλων του Arthur! Όπως τα λες, το πρώτο της σειρας ήταν το starting out, για το οποίο υπάρχει αυτό το link για audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixk66tPzVwI

    • Oh, thank you for the link. After listening to a few chapters, I quite agree with you. This most definitely sounds like Tony Robinson. Bit different than I had imagined Arthur’s voice to be though.

  7. Φοβερό!
    Σήμερα έφαγα flash με τον Άρθουρ , τον έψαξα στο internet και βρήκα τη σελίδα αυτή! Και μάλιστα από Ελληνίδα. Και εγώ στο φροντιστήριο, με αυτά τα βιβλία έμαθα Αγγλικά. Ακόμα θυμάμαι τον Άρθουρ, να ονειρεύεται τη Μαίρη, να της λέει ότι είναι όμορφη. Και να ξυπνάει, με τη σπιτονοικοκυρά του να τον ρωτάει: Really, am I beautiful Arthur? 🙂

    • Yes you are Mary! 🙂
      Και η σπιτονοικοκυρά με το αιώνιο τσιγάρο στο στόμα και τα μόνιμα ρόλεϊ! Μια σωστή grumpy old lady, δεν ήταν; Ακόμα επίκαιρη, όπως και όλοι οι χαρακτήρες νομίζω. Λ.

    • Μπορούμε αν βρούμε κάπου τα δύο βιβλία που κάναμε στα Αγγλικά? Ψάχνω χρόνια να ξαναδιαβάσω τις περιπέτειες του Arthour με τον αντίζηλό του τον Bruce αν δεν κάνω λάθος.

  8. Thanks for sharing this! If you change “Greece in the ’70s” to “Brazil in the ’90s”, this is pretty much my story too! (Ok, we were not impacted that much by WWII, but we were also moving out from a Military Junta.)

    I’ve also learned English with this spectacular material, and this post has reminded me of so many things in my life! I’m leaving in Germany now, and I’m studying German, and now I realize what I’m missing in my studies: such learning material like these ones.

    Thanks again.

    • Hah! And when folks think about our respective countries today, the hardship of a junta is the last thing that comes to mind, isn’t it? I also took German and French lessons more recently, but never again has language learning been as educational, interesting and fun, as with this series. We’ve really been spoiled!

  9. Hi everyone! So apparently, the first 2 books are available for download. I will be receiving the 4th (Open Road) soon, and I am happy to post the scanned pages online.
    The question is, does anyone have the 3rd book (Turning point)?

    • Hello and thank you for getting in touch! Please keep us posted if/when/where the books can be found for download; quite a few people are looking! Meantime, I hope someone will upload ”Turning Point” soon.

      • Hello again, I am sending the link for the first 3 stories from “Open Road”. It’s great, there is a lot of Greece in it:)
        Let’s make an effor to scan the “Turning Point”, I see there are already a few pages posted on this forum, which means that someone has the actual book.
        In the meantime, I will scan and post the rest

        URL: http://bit.ly/1OzINZL

  10. Hello Lia,
    Tanks for your post.
    I also used Access to English books back at the highschool. Lovely books, indeed. I still have my copies of Starting Out and Getting On, complete with workbooks. In fact, they are the only books I keep from those days (and that was over twenty years ago). I have always wondered what would happen to Arthur and Mary aftertwards, as I never used Turning Point and Open Road.
    Looking for them online, but no luck 😦
    Regards,

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for getting in touch. My goodness, you even have your workbooks! Please treasure them always, I am amazed to discover so many people love them so much! You can find Turning Point and Open Road on line (e.g. Amazon.co.uk) – the latter much easier, the former with a heftier price tag.
      Keep looking xxx

      • Nice to have found you too.
        I really don’t know where they are hiding !
        I shall look for them next time I visit my mother’s place.
        Should be in a closet or something..

  11. Thank you for that post! Takes me 25 years back when I used to wait for English class to read about Arthur and Mary. Funny how it is through this simple English textbook I grew to love the whole culture. Thanks again from Beirut.

    • We were making up our own stories with Arthur and Mary and even some roleplaying! That’s what a good storyline and great illustrations do! Thank you so much for reading and your comment… Lovely to see our “club” growing. Cheers to you from Brussels.

  12. Aw Lia, thank you so much for posting these pictures 🙂
    My mom was Learning English with these books when I was a small kid, and by extension me too, and I was fascinated with the illustrations, I used to try and reproduce them, and I never stopped thinking of these books. These days i’m trying to get my hands on some of them, started last week with the last opus, although i want the first one very bad 🙂

    • Oh Estelle – when I was posting them I had no idea how popular these books are… here I was, thinking it’s just my partner and I. It turns out they brought a whole generation closer to English language and culture – but also art, through these magnificent illustrations! Perhaps the link kindly shared by Dimitris (see most recent comment) will be of some help.

      • I didn’t think many people remembered and loved these books either, it’s wonderful to know we didn’t forget them, these are fantastic and memorable books, since last time i found Starting Out (only part a but i trust i’ll get part b or the whole edition soon) and Getting On, so my collection will be complete soon hopefully 🙂
        Thank you again for sharing this with us !

  13. Used these when I was learning English, too – and absolutely ADORED them!

    In fact, I’ve been looking to replace them (ever since my mum took it upon herself to throw them away, during a move ages ago)… to no avail 😦

    Have looked online too, but have failed to find them. Will check again, now that you have provided me with all the (Series/Books/Author/Illustrator) details.

    Meanwhile, maybe you could also let me know where you found them? I’d highly appreciate that 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

  14. Τα ελληνικά είναι πάντα ευπρόσδεκτα (αν και χρειάζεται ν’αλλάξω πληκτρολόγιο, γι’αυτό και η καθυστερημένη απάντηση). Ευπρόσδεκτοι είναι επίσης και οι φανς του Arthur Newton – το έχω ξαναπεί, πρέπει να οργανωθεί φαν κλαμπ! Σ’ευχαριστώ για τα καλά σου λόγια και την υποστήριξη και λυπάμαι πολύ που θα σε απογοητεύσω: δυστυχώς, αν και ψάξαμε παντού, δεν μπορέσαμε να βρούμε τα βιβλία σε ηλεκτρονική μορφή. Τελικά τα αγοράσαμε (έντυπα, μεταχειρισμένα) από το Amazon. ‘Ισως στο ebay να τα έβρισκες πιο οικονομικά. Εύχομαι να μπορέσεις να τα βρεις – πράγματι οι ιστορίες αλλά και η εικονογράφηση, είναι ανεπανάληπτες!

      • Eυχαριστώ πολύ για την κοινοποίηση, πιστεύω ότι θα βοηθήσει αρκετούς που ψάχνουν απεγνωσμένα. Βλέπω ότι χρειάζεται πρωτύτερη εγγραφή, όχι δωρεάν αλλά πολύ οικονομική / Many thanks for sharing. I’m sure your link will be of great help to those looking for it everywhere. I see one needs to become member first (not totally free, but very affordable).

  15. Καλησπέρα ! (Και συγνώμη για τα ελληνικά.., αλλά μου ειναι πιο εύκολα..).Καταρχάς συγχαρητήρια για το blog σου, αλλά και το άρθρο σου ειδικότερα. Σε όλους εμάς που μεγαλώσαμε και μάθαμε αγγλικά μ’ αυτά τα βιβλία, ξυπνούν μνήμες γλυκές, νοσταλγικές.. Ξαναγινόμαστε για λίγο παιδιά με λίγα λόγια..
    Αυτό που θα ήθελα να ρωτήσω, και να ζητήσω, είναι εάν γνωρίζεις κάποιον ιστότοπο, torrent ή οτιδήποτε απ όπου θα μπορούσα να κατεβάσω αυτά τα βιβλία, και με πληρωμή εννοείται.. Πηρα το θαρρος να σε ρωτήσω γιατί είδα και θαύμασα τις υπέροχες πολύχρωμες σελίδες που ανήρτησες και αναρωτήθηκα εαν τις βρήκες απο κάπου (και θα ηθελες να μοιραστεις την πηγη) ή ειναι απλά σκαναρισμένες σελίδες δικών σου βιβλίων..
    Ευχαριστω για το χρόνο, συγνωμη εαν κούρασα..

    (Ελπίζω να μη ζητώ κάτι παράλογο.. Σκέφτηκα μετά πολλά χρόνια να “ξανασκαλίσω” τ’ αγγλικά μου, και αυτα τα βιβλία (ολη η σειρά) θα ηταν ισως ο καλυτερος τροπος και το καλυτερο κινητρο… Αφου ξετίναξα ολη την αποθηκη άπραγος..αρχισω να ψαχνω στο ιντερνετ.., ωσπου έπεσα πάνω σου..! Εισαι η τελευταια μου ελπίδα..!) 🙂

  16. How fantastic! I came to your blog because I recently illustrated a school book myself and posted about it and Maison Bentley wrote a comment telling about this post of yours. What was my surprise to discover Arthur Newton so many years later! It made me so happy to see those familiar (and great) illustrations. Poor Arthur and his “rather shabby” suit! Did he marry Mary at the end? Thanks for bringing back those memories!

    • Incredible! I’m so happy to find a fellow Arthur Newton fan, thank you so much for getting in touch! We were so thrilled to get hold of these books again; they were the favourites of both my partner and I…. and most of Greece of our generation who were learning English back then! Just drop ‘Arthur and Mary’ and everyone will know what you’re saying. It’s also great to know they were tought in Germany at the same time… who knows which other countries? Would be nice to know where else these lovely memories are shared, thanks mainly to Mr Edwards’ illustrations!

      • I loved this book very very much when i went to school here in Italy ! Arthur and Mary were my heroes ! I really would like to have these books again with their beautiful illustrations…ohhhh what lovely memories …thank you all for ever !!!

      • Hello Claudia,
        I was just replying to another comment when I noticed yours – it was hiding under other people’s words and I almost missed it! How lovely to have you here as another like-minded friend! Thank you for adding to the ever-growing Arthur & Mary ”fan club”. My warmest wishes for the New Year approaching!
        Lia

    • Good timing! The younger they start the better! I’m so envious of those lucky kids born into bilingual families, then take up a couple more at school and by the time they graduate, they are so fluent in (at least) four languages!
      I agree, fashion blogs are such a fun way to learn a language! But my favourite would be comics – I do so love a good illustration! I should be reading more in French though… xxx

    • And you assume correctly, I dare say!… OK, there may be some competition by Chinese and Spanish but English remains more or less a language one can communicate with across the globe (to the detriment of la francophonie bien sûr)… 😉

    • Thank you for your lovely words and encouragement Jackie! Fortunately I can rely on on-line dictionaries and my partner (whose level is way closer to native speaker’s than mine) to have a final look before I upload anything incomprehensible. Having said that, his level in Greek is also (a lot) better than mine 😉
      On the other hand, learning a language while living in the country is so much easier, isn’t it? Especially in Italy where natives are so expressive and outgoing… and with all those hand signals one can communicate without speaking really!…

    • So true! Especially at that time when information wasn’t flowing freely all over the Internet and cable TV, both of which were science fiction! It must have helped because when I finally travelled to England, everything was new but somehow not totally foreign!

  17. Wow, I agree — that Learning English book is amazing! In this day of being “politically correct” — the chain-smoking portion would be long gone…the illustrations are fantastic. Oh, by-the-way, your English is better than mine and I am a native English speaker…XO

    • Haha! thank you dievca, you are too kind! I remember from previous comments that we are both victims of multilingualism – the more languages we learn the bigger the confusion… English was my second, I started early on and use it daily at work which explains the fluency. But there is always (big) room for improvement. Alas, this goes for my Greek too! xxx

      • Ευχαριστώ. Θυμήθηκα και γω τα παιδικά μου χρόνια με τη δημοσίευσή σου. Μελαγχολώ βλέποντας τα σημερινά βιβλία αγγλικών των παιδιών μου που έχουν θέματα με κακοποιούς. Η ιστορία του Arthur της Mary και του Bruce ήταν πολύ διδακτική και με πολλά νοήματα για τις κοινωνικές τάξεις και διακρίσεις.

      • Εγώ ευχαριστώ για το μύνημά σου – άργησα κάπως να το βρω γιατί είχε μπλεχτεί με τα spam(!). Το σύστημα φαίνεται δεν (ανα)γνωρίζει καλά ελληνικά 🙂
        Ομολογώ ότι δεν έχω ιδέα για τα σημερινά βιβλία αγγλικών, αλλά το γεγονός ότι δεν φθάνουν αυτήν τη σειρά σε περιεχόμενο ή εικονογράφηση, δεν με εκπλήσσει καθόλου. Σημεία των καιρών…

      • Lia υπάρχει κάποιος τρόπος να βρω τα βιβλία αυτά ξανά? Αν ξέρεις κάποιο link να τα αγοράσω θα ήμουν ευγνώμων.
        Ευχαριστώ.
        Μάνος.
        manosdark@gmail.com

      • Γεια σου Μανο, ελειψα για λιγο απο το μπλογκ. Κοιταξες στο Amazon και σε καποια απο τα comments? Kατα διαστηματα τα βιβλια εμφανιζονται on line.

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