The world of the Swallows and Amazons, so permanently close to the hearts and the cartography of those in the Lake District, is likely to come under further scrutiny this year, the 50th anniversary of the death of Arthur Ransome, master storyteller. Continue reading Swallows, Amazons and the need for escapism
This is my favourite chapter. (Have I said that before? It’s possible I might have more than one.) It begins with a casual reference to mature, dignified Captain John turning upside down to look between his knees and the reflection in the lake. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter XIII: The slower the fire the better the charcoal.
The lengthy conversation about the relative heights of the younger crew members turns out to be more important than it first appears. Yes, it reinforces messages we have already had about Roger’s status in the family, Susan’s sense of responsibility, John’s need to plan for all of them. But it also sets the context for the declaration that Roger won’t need to reach the lantern… Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter XII: He was glad he had brought the compass
In which we learn about centre boards, pilot books (I had to look them up), and the proper way to carry a heavy barrel. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter XI: They seemed to know everything
This chapter is about making friends, and specifically, how to make friends when what you really want to do with your new friends is pretend to be enemies. It manages to illustrate this on several levels within not many pages, and it’s really quite clever. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter X: A treaty of offence and defence
No cryptically whimisical title for this chapter. This is Serious Bizniss.
Poor John wakes up all of a muddle. I can’t quite tell whether he’s wishing that his story had stayed pottersome or hoping that it will turn into a thriller, and I’m not sure that he knows, either. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter IX: ‘Swallow has gone’
The plot thickens. Thickens like a sauce that you’ve been stirring patiently for half an hour, and you turn away from it for less than a minute. So far they’ve basically been pottering about, wittily sewing on buttons. Now there’s smoke, shaking of fists, and a mysterious disappearing pirate ship. You can hardly see for the foreshadowing. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VIII: Red knitted caps, and no stockings
I’m interested in the boundaries these siblings set for each other. Titty doesn’t want John and Susan to know that she’s practicing being a cormorant, but she’s absolutely fine with telling them that she’s diving for pearls. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VII: “You’re to swim as well as splash”
From Mae Thinks Everything goes so slowly when you’re camping. A few years ago there was a thing called the ‘slow food movement’ – it seems to have quietened down a bit now. While it was (like most food ‘movements’) pretty problematic in terms of guilt trips and unchecked privileged and exoticising other cultures, I definitely think there’s something to be said for going through daily subsistence-tasks mindfully, and that is a lot of the appeal of camping for me. In this chapter, they collect the milk, visit their mum briefly, and go for another sail for no particular reason. There’s … Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VI: From an island of your own.