SAY what you like about Enid Blyton - and it’s pretty well documented that she wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins - but she has a place in my heart for kickstarting my lifelong love of reading.

It never entered my head, devouring her Famous Five books as a child, that she was racist or homophobic. Why would it? I was lost in a world of boarding school, midnight feasts and ginger beer picnics on Kirrin Island.

Even for a child of the 1970s, as I was, this was an old-fashioned Home Counties world far removed from my childhood in West Yorkshire, where I went to school on a council estate and never owned a hockey stick - and that was the appeal.

Like millions of other children, I was enchanted by Blyton’s stories. She sold more books than any other children’s writer, and got countless youngsters into reading.

Yet it has emerged that the Royal Mint’s advisory committee blocked a move for a commemorative coin in the author’s honour, because someone branded her as a“racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”. The 50p coin was to have commemorated 50 years since the best-selling author’s death.

Regardless of how Blyton is now judged, it seems very mean-spirited to deny this honour to someone who was a significant 20th century figure literary figure; a hugely prolific writer who sold around 600 million books worldwide, translated into 100 or so languages, and whose books continue to sell in hundreds of thousands.

I wasn’t a total Blyton fan - I didn’t care for Noddy, the Faraway Tree tales or the Secret Seven - but I adored the Famous Five, and ploughing my way through their adventures gave me an appetite for books and reading. And that is no bad thing.

I don’t feel guilty for reading this stuff, or defending Blyton, because I don’t view the past through a prism of the present. We live in such a puritanical age; it seems anything and anyone that came before us that doesn’t sit well with our 21st century sensibilities must be erased from history, or whitewashed. We might as well walk around in pointy Pilgrim hats sentencing anyone we don’t approve of to witch trials and eternal hell.

By all accounts, Enid Blyton wasn’t a pleasant woman. It is said that she exploited her own children for publicity; portraying herself as a devoted mother to promote her brand while, according to her daughter’s biography, she had no trace of a maternal instinct and was often spiteful. And, say the haters, she was racist and homophobic, even by the mores of the pre and post-war period of her writing.

None of that mattered to me, reading Upper Fourth at Malory Towers, Summer Term at St Clare’s and Five on Finniston Farm. The author was just a trademark signature on the book covers. I just enjoyed reading boarding school adventures, which I’d say is far less harmful than the violent, creepy, mysogynistic rubbish children are often exposed to today.

If we’re so easily offended by the past, how far are we prepared to go to pretend it didn’t happen? Do we end up burning books and artworks created by people over the centuries who are now in some way offensive to somebody? Who gets to decide what we’re allowed to look at?

History wasn’t pretty, people were flawed. It’s all there to learn from. Judging the past from a present day perspective displays a blinkered arrogance and sneering contempt that is potentially as dangerous and chilling as any book-burning campaign from history.

* FAREWELL to Valerie Harper, actress and feminist campaigner, beloved to many as feisty New Yorker Rhoda Morgenstern.

In 1970s sitcom Rhoda, Harper (who died this week) inspired young women to be independent career girls, at a time when the dutiful housewife was very much the norm on TV.

I loved watching Rhoda as a child; I loved her apartment, her independence, her pot plants, her bohemian headscarves, her one-liners. I didn't know what feminism was back then, but I knew I wanted to grow up to be like Rhoda.

* THERE'S nothing like a soak in a hot tub for soothing aches, pains and the stresses of life.

But unless you have one in your back garden (which is a bit naff and must soon lose its appeal when you're cleaning out the leaves, dead flies and everything else that hot tubs become filled with), good luck with getting one to yourself.

On a recent trip to a spa, my sister and I relaxed in an outdoor hot tub which filled up with four other people. Two of them were a couple, who seemed to think a communal pool full of strangers was the ideal place for a rather full-on display of affection. Awks! I daren't move my legs in case they became interwound with theirs, so I was frozen to the spot, feeling anything but relaxed, before plucking up courage to step over them. Get a room, people!