Saturday, August 8, 2009

For we're under orders for to sail to old England...

Somewhere along the line, the 1984 film Coot Club was on the shelf at the library. Some member of my family brought it home, and I remember watching it, on what was probably a summer afternoon, my mother outside mowing the lawn. I don't remember how old I was, but I would have been in elementary school.

That was how I discovered Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome's series about children and boats and adventures. I wanted to be an English child in the 1930s so bad, and I wanted a little sailboat and some siblings to play in it with. I remember reading Eyewitness books (weren't those great?) about boats and sailing, and the little rowboat we had at my grandparents house was never quite good enough. There are a dozen of the books, with some that stand out most to me such as Winter Holiday, where they built a sort of ice and snow house, I think, or Pigeon Post, when they had homing pigeons and went mining for gold, and especially, We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, when the four Swallows were asleep in a boat in a river that slipped its moorings and took them to Holland. I spent a lot of time making maps of islands and rivers and things, drawing fancy little compass roses and whatnot. These books were an enormous part of my childhood.

I reread the first two, Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale, a few years ago, and happily they very much bore up to my more critical eye to the writing. I'd love to reread the rest, and I'm tempted to ask for a box set for Christmas. Some I have only extremely vague memories of, and one or two I'm not at all positive I actually read. When I first read them I didn't know anyone else who had, but I've since acquired a couple of friends who did and loved them as much as I did, though wouldn't it have been lovely to have been children together and maybe had a better chance of enacting numerous plans for similar nautical adventures.

Some books I read as a child I love now just for sentimental reasons, such as Little House on the Prairie, which certainly played to my interests as a child but doesn't so much any more. Swallows and Amazons, though, I still love for its content, especially its very lovable characters and its setting. I never stopped wanting a little sailboat.

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