My Favourite childhood book
When I was around eight or nine years old I discovered Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. The story charted the adventures of two sets of siblings during their holidays in the Lake District as they sailed, camped, and discovered how resourceful and independent they could be. Oh, my goodness, I was enthralled.
Ransome managed to convey so much of the children's own excitement at their activities that I couldn’t help being drawn into their world of make-believe, and reading this book was pure joy. I was transported to a sunnier world of sailing, exploring and having fun with very minimal adult intervention. There was nothing fantastical or extraordinary about the children’s adventures; they had no magical powers and no wizards as allies, but they lived in a fantasy created by their own imaginations and with a solid grounding in reality.
Swallows and Amazons was the first book in a series of twelve, and of course, I read every one, in the right order. The children who were the Swallows and the Amazons didn’t feature beyond the first few books. In Coot Club, the fifth of the series, the boating adventures moved to the Norfolk Broads where a group of boat-mad children was dedicated to the protection of the Broads' birdlife amid concerns over their destruction through increasing tourism. The Coot Club watches over the waterbirds nesting in the Broads. Whenever I see a waterbird, especially a coot, I experience a moment of warm, fuzzy nostalgia.
Half-way through the series came the book, We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea. Doesn’t that title just say it all about the adventure the children went on – sailing out of the Broads and into the open sea? Towards the end of the series some of the plots were far less realistic, but by then I was so deeply hooked that it wouldn’t have mattered.
I haven’t re-read any of the Swallows and Amazons series and I will resist the temptation to do so. Those books had such a profound effect on me, and the memory of reading them is so special that I don’t want to risk spoiling it.
Claire Baxter is the author of Anybody But Him. You can find out more about the book and Claire on her website, Facebook or on Twitter