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 a whole other layer of skill in writing about it in a way that is enjoyable to read.
“‘Grand weather we’re having,’ [Mr Dixon] said, but did not stop for an answer.”
I’m just flagging this because if I do ever finish this book and move on to ‘Winter Holiday’, I might have a lot more to say about Mr Dixon. I can do foreshadowing, too.
Titty is dauntless, isn’t she? She’s lurking in the background a lot, but she writes her letter to her mother and she sends it, even though John basically tells her she’s being silly and mother won’t want a letter yet. I suspect Titty is right. And her imagination holds them all together – when they see the cannon on the houseboat,
“‘Titty must have been right,’ said Captain John.”
You should listen to her, John. She quite often is.
The narrative voice jumps around a lot here. There’s a lot of generic ‘you’, which I think I read – at least as a child – as a more personal ‘you’ which really helped to pull me into the text. I might have mentioned this before, but I really lived inside these books, and re-reading passages like this makes me wonder whether Ransome’s words almost had me hypnotised:
“You cannot talk about anything when you are sailing a little boat against a hard wind and you cannot listen to anyone who talks to you. You are watching the dark patches on the water that show you a harder puff is coming and you have to be ready at any moment to slacken the sheet or to luff up into the wind.”
Mother reminds them to eat peas and lettuce, otherwise they might get scurvy. I still warn my children against scurvy every few days. I do not think they understand the reference.
This chapter is beautiful in the way it describes the transition from children dreaming of camping on an island to seasoned campers visiting their ‘old’ home – and the fact that it happens so quickly rings completely true to me. I still sometimes have the feeling, coming back from holiday, that I don’t quite know what I’m going to find; and it’s always slightly strange and unreal to find everything pretty much as I left it. For now, we are on the island, and this is the only reality that matters.