Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Of Mastodons, Eels, Kittens and other people


Apologies to my regular readers in Ukraine, Russia, China, Romania and Indonesia, to whom this post will mean very little.  Also to my three or four readers in this country, who might be too young or old to share my nostalgia.  I hope everyone else enjoys it.

I’ve just finished reading the two Arthur Ransome books Z gave me for Christmas.  These are ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea’ and ‘Secret Water’ (both of which are set, or in the case of WDMTGTS, start and finish in East Anglia, which presumably explains why she found them, in almost certainly the same 1950s editions that I’d read the first time around, in a local bookshop.)

My parents – my mother to be precise, because my father wasn’t a great reader; actually you can leave out the ‘great’ – dutifully supplied us kids with age-appropriate reading.  I don’t remember the full range, but it boiled down to two varieties: numerous variants on Enid Blyton’s single imaginative product; and Swallows and Amazons.

Although Z and I had shared our recollected love of these books, I was slightly nervous about returning to that world after an absence of at least sixty years – that world wouldn’t have changed, but I probably had. 

I’m not writing critical reviews of these marvellous books (oh, oops, I just did), nor will I spoil them with summaries of the plots (though I could quite easily: bunch of kids are placed in unintended peril by their remarkably self- and child-indulgent parents, survive imaginary and real threats by a combination of good luck, rapidly acquired skills and quite implausible grown-upness) or textual analysis (they do talk a bit quaint like, innit?)  Instead here’s a quick breakdown of the main characters and, most importantly, two words each on what they gave me all those years ago.

The Swallows: John (practical, anxious); Susan (elder sister); Titty (mischievous fantasist), Roger (word-playing joker).

The Amazons: Nancy (intoxicated challenger); Peggy (invisible make-weight).

Almost everything else has vanished, if it ever existed; but they haven’t changed, and nor have I.

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