Chapter XVII: To be a lonely lighthouse keeper

I remember studying the Battle of Hastings in history. We were told that because of weather conditions, William the Conqueror was delayed in setting off from France. Harold thought he wasn’t coming and dismissed some of his armies before William arrived, and that’s why our meat is named in French.

A quick perusal of Wikipedia suggests that there might be more to it than that – but to 14-year-old me, what the story brought home was that wars are chaotic and messy and unpredictable. Among all the planning and strategy and amassing of forces, there’s an awful lot of chance. There’s nothing clinical about it (there’s not a lot clinical about clinics, either, but that’s another story…). The grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing, either.

The balance of this chapter is beautiful. There’s high drama and suspense. There’s fantasy and emotion. There’s comedy – the clear slapstick of Roger’s outfit, and the subtle mention of his ernest foghorn.

Titty is dying to be left alone on the island. She’s really looking forward to spending some time inside her own head, with no interruptions. I love Titty.

They spend a long time hanging a lantern from a tree, and honestly, I think it’s justified. John may be a surprisingly average swimmer, but he climbs this tree with no problems. Totally redeemed.



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