JUDY KRAVIS

www.roadbooks.ie

Thursday, 9 July 2020

This is the second time I have read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. An easy read in one way, for a native in summertime mode, but, out of the naïveté of the children's adventures — they are children, they are pretending in the early twentieth century when pretending was a way to pass a summer and try out a few practical skills — out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, questions flow: where are these adventures now and the places in which to have adventures, where is the trust, where is the groundedness?

The natives these days are wrecked with doing right by their children, which doesn't include sewing them a tent out of light canvas if they want to go camping on an island in a lake, if they could think of camping, or canvas, or a lake. Natives are not natives, they are consumers.

I didn't read Swallows and Amazons as a child. I was thrown by the middle child who was called Titty; she was the one who chose Robinson Crusoe for the ship's library, and who, with her creator, Arthur Ransome, thought the only thing wrong with Robinson Crusoe was the end.
But who would wave a flag to be rescued if they had a desert island of their own? That was the thing that spoilt Robinson Crusoe. In the end he came home. There never ought to be an end.
In the end it is Titty, whose name so embarrassed me when I was twelve that I couldn't read the book, who resonates now.  Chapter XX, 'Titty Alone' was the moment when I gathered myself as reader and participant. She begins by keeping a log. Robinson Crusoe kept a log. She wrote in the style of a native, her mother.
"Twenty-five years ago this day I was wrecked on this desolate place. Wind south-west. Sea slight. Fog at dawn. Met a polite bird. I saw him flying underwater. I found a native canoe on the shore. The native was friendly. Her name was Man Friday. In her country there are kangaroos. Also bears. It was a joy to me in my lonely state to hear a human voice, though savage. Man Friday cooked our dinner. Pemmican cakes with tea. She went away in her canoe to the mainland where the natives are. She ..."
Able-seaman Titty could think of no more say. She had caught up with herself.
As a diarist I understand this. There's only so much you can say. Events will overtake. The other Swallows will come back to the island, with the Amazons and maybe Captain Flint. The weather will change. A battle will be arranged. A storm will come up. Treasure will be found. This book will be written.

No comments :

Post a comment