The last thing that I had expected was to receive fan letters! They came pouring in. My mother kept them all. Because most of them were written to me by children I have cut out the names and addresses on the letters copied here, but since we are all thirty-eight years older, I am sure everyone can cope with seeing their own handwriting. This letter cames from someone who, despite living half way across the world, now happens to be a friend of mine on Facebook.
EMI sent me these photographs of myself to sign and send on. I’m afraid I didn’t like them one bit. They had been taken as publicity shots and it still shows. The staged pose was exactly what Claude Whatham had been working hard to avoid. Sadly he hadn’t been around to direct this shot. I look like a Woodetop and Spot the Dog rolled into one.
However, sending a photograph was not aways enough. I had the hard work of replying to the letters.
There were so many questions to answer.
And I felt beholden to reply immediately.
And once I replied, yet more letters arrived:
This was a good question, of course.
Fiona was 10. Everyone wanted to know if a sequel was coming out. I have a letter from Kit –
Kit Seymour, who seemed to know about Richard Pilbrow’s plans to adapt Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Great Northern?’ set in the Outer Hebrides. She must have sent me this second letter in about January 1974 – between Christmas and the premiere.
I wish we had made ‘Great Northern?’ It was my favorite Arthur Ransome book. Dramatising it would have been such fun. I don’t know why I was so negative, but I remember writing to Richard Pilbrow and telling him that Ransome was mistaken and had his facts about Great Northern Divers quite wrong. I had looked up information in an ancient bird book belonging to my father and wrote the most facetious letter about their geographical distribution. I hope it didn’t put him off. I should had used my time to persuade my fans to write enthusiastic letters to EMI Films. I’m sure this viewer would have convinced Nat Cohen.
It was clear that what children wanted was more of the same. I think it is true today. Parents tell me that even though the movie of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ has no really terrifying moments or spectacular visual effects, children tend to snuggle down peacefully and identify with the characters. The outcome, especially if they are taken to the real locations, is that they often take on our names for themselves, enjoying the fun of camping and swimming, fishing and sailing in the Lake District.