Chapter V: If not duffers won’t drown

“…the mate and the able-seaman did some washing up… The captain and the boy took the telescope and found a high place… ‘Supposing Susan and Titty were here alone, while you and I had gone fishing… we should know something was the matter, and come back to help.'”

I’m watching you, Ransome.

There are almost-bickery bits now, and I really like the way there’s so much character in so few words. Titty is an expert on telescopes, apparently, which comes as no surprise whatsoever – to the extent that I was recently pondering on possible tattoo art and had a very clear picture in my mind of Titty on the Peak of Darien with a telescope, which I can’t actually find in any of the books. And then John doesn’t want to show the harbour to mother because of Secrits, and Susan the ever-practical points out that it will actually be easier to carry stuff from the landing-place anyway.

They’re all very keen to impress their mum, and she shows admirable trust in giving them candles on the understanding that they won’t burn the tents down. I quite like that she has to check that Susan is the chief cook – she’s obviously the best qualified, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a given because these are people, not tropes.

“‘I like cooking’, said Susan.
‘If you want to go on liking it’, said the female native, ‘take my advice and make the others do the washing up.'”
Ransome, you are redeemed.

We have quite recently joined Woodcraft Folk, where there’s an informalish philosophy of letting children take risks and get their hands dirty and learn about Life. There are (in my opinion) definitely questionable parenting practices in these books, or at least between the books, but I do love the fact that Mrs Walker treats the Swallows like competent human beings. And this:

“‘I’m not going to keep on coming to bother you…’
‘You don’t bother us, mother,’ said John.”

…This is the relationship I want to have with my oldest when he’s a teenager. It makes me a bit teary.

And ooh, there is Narrative Foreshadowing. Who are these ‘Blackett girls’ who were hanging around their uncle all last summer? Well, they’re probably not all that interesting or important, really…


3 thoughts on “Chapter V: If not duffers won’t drown

      1. Learned such a lot of practical stuff from these books. I’ve even made nets (and fixed them) using the instructions in Great Northern. I shouldn’t be surprised, but until I’d actually followed the instructions, tied the knots and made a net I couldn’t really understand how what was going on.


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