This question has recently been typed into the Google search engine. It has to be said the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is a pretty abstract title. What does it mean? Is it about South America?
The national press brewed a great storm last summer when they discovered that BBC Films and the BFI had changed the lead character’s name to Tatty. When the Daily Telegraph phoned me for comment, I asked if someone had made a spelling mistake. Titty was mistakenly referred to as Tilly in The Times a year before, along with rather an over excited headline:
I’ve received letters addressed to Titty for so long that I couldn’t understand the problem until I typed the name Titty into Twitter. You do not see my face – or anybody else’s. I am not sure if it has been defined by the Oxford Dictionary yet but it seems a titty-tatty is now the term used for a certain kind of tattoo.
Last week I found an interesting document. It is the original contract that my father was sent in April 1973 when I was offered a part in the film of ‘Swallows & Amazons’. It doesn’t refer to Titty at all:
This was the reason why my mother suggested I wrote the name Titania Walker on the front of the ship’s log which you can see if you watch the movie closely. Why Theatre Projects used the classical name I do not know. It could be argued that ‘Swallows and Amazons’ contains traces of Shakespearean influence but Arthur Ransome insisted the name Titty wasn’t short for anything.
People often ask how much I was paid for appearing in the feature film. The contact states, ‘We…
This period refereed to the seven weeks spent filming on location. I paid another £10 a day for dubbing the film and for a pick-up day when we filmed a scene in Surrey. Although publicizing the movie was more demanding than being on location we were neither licensed or paid. I did receive a book token for promoting EMI Films at the Lord Mayor’s Show.
Dubbed it was – into a number of languages including French, Czech and Norwegian:
People imagine that we receive residuals when the film is sold abroad or broadcast on television but we actors are only due a fee if our image is used to advertise a product. This is a few years old but does it count?
Or could this? I saw the image used in a TV commercial with my own eyes, so I’d love to know.
When interviewed aboard the yacht Ransome bought with his royalties, Taqui Altounyan said that on receiving a new copy of ‘The Swallows and The Amazons’, as the first edition was titled, her family were also thrown by the abstract title, wondering if it was about South America. It could be about migrating birds.
You can see Anita Singh’s article that sparked up international debate last summer by clicking here The juxtaposition of the photos is so naughty, but brilliant of course. I’m the one with the telescope.
72 thoughts on “‘…is swallows up the amazon a film?’”
It sounds disastrous. The boat is not clean, they have naff costumes, and the whole emphasis is on health and safety. Mixing it up with the Thirties is absurd, the whole point of Ransome is that he is an Edwardian character. The story has enough tension, but it is an inner tension, not an externally imposed one. John’s anger and dilemma is not coming of age at all. The coming of age thing might have been his night sailing…which, incidentally, is a tribute I now see to ‘Riddle of the Sands’. Changing the name for politically correct but stupid reasons is cowardly and ridiculous, and the result will be more ridiculous still, I guess. The great achievement of the original film is its balance; only Flint on occasion slightly under-performs (too strict to be jovial), and the scenes in the village have their period charm precisely because a third time frame (of about 1925) is invoked: the real ‘imagined action’ is set in the sixties. That subtlety is lost on modern film makers.And that brass band music made that point so poignantly. It would have made more sense to completely transmute the timeframe, possible to the Eighties. Or to have recreated the original film as a historic remake with as few differences as possible, like Monteverdi’s Vespers.
I’m looking forward to seeing the new film. If the box office makes money it could mean that more books in the S&A series will be adapted, as with the Nania Chronicals, which would be wonderful. Hopefully the film critics will encourage a good debate that will end up in more Arthur Ransome books being read.
I hope it has some new angles, but crucially, it will need to have! “Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.” Rilke. I would struggle to get Ransome rated as a really top writer, but some of his paragraphs come close to a real greatness…One remembers above all the silent witness of the Lakes, from Wordsworth and Ruskin to the subtlety of John Fowles. Struggling with the imperious demands of such timeless natural beauty – to evoke, it if not quite equal it ! – is the frequently forgotten vocation of the true artist. And it is there in Swallows and Amazons in small touches like Darien, which goes back to Keats (‘upon a peak in Darien’) and of course to South America, where the real imaginative substructure of the adventure surely lies… Without that genteel distinguishedness and verve, perhaps learned partly in Russia, Ransome might have been a Buchan, though Buchan, too, has some magical paragraphs. Both have a true sense of the beauty of the landscape whether Scottish or English. And you are right, this could lead to some further adaptations. In all, I guess, Riddle of the Sands would loom large as an exemplar. But when you see what Covent Garden are doing and plan to do, you really wonder about the capacity of the modern artist to be truly empathetic and humble enough to serve a text! I wish them luck! But first of all they need to paint that ship!
Your observations are hugely appreciated. “Without that genteel distinguishedness and verve, perhaps learned partly in Russia, Ransome might have been…”gets me thinking. He was one who was put through the mill twice but the result was well refined. What if he had never suffered?
Sorry Sophie, from the BFI article it looks and sounds as awful a many of us thought it would be when details began to become available last year.
What made ‘your’ film so good was that it only made minor adjustments to the original, and all in good faith (and financial and time constraints.) Having watched again more recently (after a gap of 10-15 years) I was surprised how good it was and well it stood the test of time.
For me, Ransome was probably the greatest children’s writer of the 20th century (www.allthingsransome.net/literary/reassessmentransome.html), and like you,I would like to see more of the books filmed – but not if they are going to be messed about with!
The fact the screen writer did not read them as a child, then refers to S & A as a ‘coming of age’ book is worrying enough, as it clearly is not (yes, the later books are.) As to spicing up the plot by dragging in the dubious claims that Ransome was a double agent during the WWI as part of the plot just makes the whole thing worse.
Ransome’s books are a snapshot of a particular part of the 20th century and should be left as that, there is no need for modernisation!
It’s really good to have your views. I watched the re-mastered Blu-ray of the 1974 film on the big screen in Kendal and it stands up pretty well. I know the Producers of the new adaptation didn’t want to simply re-make it. My inclination would have been to cut the adults out as much as possible but I was told me that they needed to ‘up’ the adult parts to obtain funding. Do let me know what you think when the movie comes out later this year.
Thank you for that. I have to say at the moment I have no inclination to see the film at all, but I will read all the reviews and see what comments are posted on TarBoard!
I understand the film has been carefully made with an excellent production team. What I’ve never asked the producer is how much market research he went into before working on the script. He met a number of enthusiasts at the Nancy Blackett Trust and the Boat Show but that is different from interviewing Ransome experts and film audiences. We have invited the producer to the last couple of TARS meetings and I am sure he will enjoy meeting TARS in the future. Your views will be important if another Ransome book is to be commissioned as a movie.
Thank you again Sophie, I can see you are in a rather unusual position over this, given the Literary Executors and TARS gave the film its blessing as it were. You have become (all for the good I hasten to add) the ambassador for Ransome’s S & A books and all that is connected to them.
It will be interesting to see what young film audiences with no knowledge of the books make of it (as opposed to the many like me with long childhood – and adulthood – memories of them!)
The trustees of the literary estate have given their approval but members of TARS have never been consulted about the new film – and I know they are feeling a bit sore about this.
The press see me as the figurehead for “Swallows and Amazons” (only since I’m ingrained in their files) but I’m sure if the producers of the new film will want to raise up their own actors. I warned them they could be in for a long-haul when I visited the set! It’s been a 43-year stint for me.
As you note, it will be very interesting seeing how children react to the new film. I am sure they will enjoy it. Some families will have grown up watch the old film on DVD.
I didn’t realise that TARS wasn’t consulted. As for your role as a ‘figurehead’ I feel it is most appropriate given not just the part you played in the original film, but your subsequent work on the Coot Club/Big Six adaptation for TV.
Thank you! I am currently president of TARS but happy to hand over Swallow’s flag to a nine year old soon.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6aqkVf-mn2nSDlFdHhqZzB1UDg/view?usp=sharing – This is a very readable account of the Arcadian roots of various masterpieces of Children’s literature…
I am continuing to meditate on what is in the great literature and what film can do to suggest it. It is a bit like the difference between Bruckner and Debussy, this contrast in the making between the Whatham film and the new one. But TMG digs deeper still. See this clip. Here is polyphony.
I’ve been away today but look forward to examining your links. thanks so much for sending.
PS Sorry Sophie there are a couple of typos in my response, and you can’t edit posts!
I didn’t notice any!
No, the 1973 (1974) version of Swallows and Amazons wasn’t shot in CinemaScope or any other anamorphic lens wide screen system, but was shot open matte, or full frame or 1.37:1 aspect ratio and this was the way it was presented on television; video and DVD for many years. However, the image was so composed at the time by the cinematographer and director that it could be cropped to anything between 1.66;1 to 1.75:1 and nothing of any importance would be cropped from the top and bottom of the frame and no one’s head would disappear. This was the way it was presented in cinemas on its initial release, as no cinema had shown films full frame since 1953 and all screens and screen masking was designed for one wide screen shape or another.
So this is the way it’s presented on the new DVD and BluRay, digitally anamorphically enhanced to fill the whole of your wide screen computer screen or television screen. The default setting for digital projectors in cinemas is wide screen, which is why, when the only DVD available of Swallows and Amazons was the open matte, 4 x 3 transfer, it got shown digitally in cinemas stretched out to 6 x 3, causing the image to be very distorted. With the introduction of the new, digitally remastered transfers on DVD and BluRay, this problem has now been eradicated.
The original CinemaScope image was very wide, 2.55:1, or over two and a half times as wide as it was high. I think that the landscapes of the Lake District would have looked even more spectacular in CinemaScope, or Panavision anamorphic as it was known by the early 1970s The problem for cinema projectionists everywhere in those days was that the Panavision camera and lens company insisted on the credit ‘ Filmed with Panavision equipment’ even on non-anamorphic films, which caused some confusion as to whether the print about to arrive was in ‘Scope or not..
I was certainly confused! Thanks so much for setting me back on the straight and narrow. The distorted screenings were horrid.
David, you’ll have to help me edit the article. Can you tell me where I refer to cinemascope? I can’t spot it!
The first and second lines of your 8:56 a.m. post today, Sophie, although you do type it as two words instead of one.
Sorry, I’m still lost: I didn’t post today – and can’t see reference to ‘cinema scope’ in the article I put up last night:
‘This question has recently been typed into the Google search engine. It has to be said the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is a pretty abstract title. What does it mean? Is it about South America?
The screenwriter Andrea Gibb wrote in the BFI magazine that as a working class woman from Scotland she wasn’t the natural choice to adapt a classic book by Arthur Ransome….’
Well, it’s there, Sophie. Here is a copy and paste of it: You were replying to Mike, who had posted 13 minutes earlier.
April 9, 2016 at 8:56 am
It’s really good to have your views. I watched the re-mastered cinema scope Blu-ray of the 1974 film on the big screen in Kendal and it does stand up pretty well. I know the Producers of the new adaptation didn’t want to simply re-make it. My inclination would have been to cut the adults out as much as possible but I was told me that they needed to up the adult parts to get investment. Do let me know what you think when the movie comes out later this year.”
You are right! What I meant was the Bluray deigned for use in cinemas. Can you help me with the correct term? Domestic Bluray versions do not seem the same. Many thanks!
As far as I know, Sophie, when a digital recording is played in a cinema these days, they don’t play the kind of DVD or BluRay disc that you use at home, but a recording that comes on a kind of hard drive known as a DCP, which stands for Digital Cinema Package. So the correct term for a high definition film transfer used in modern digital cinemas or multi-plexes is a DCP. Before the 1973 Swallows and Amazons was remastered in a version that could be shown properly and without distortion in a digital cinema, the only version available digitally was the domestic DVD in the old 4 x 3 aspect ratio, which of course, could be shown on a cinema digital projector, but would look horizontally distorted.
Thanks so much. I need to be able to advise others.
Friends, Amazons, Country(wo)men, it is worth remembering that the Septieme Art (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricciotto_Canudo) is just that. Titty’s imaginative ‘swimming’ goes back to ‘Alice’ (1865) and looks forward to Chabrol’s magnificent ‘Alice’ ou la derniere fugue’ (1977) where the heroine, in the fated but lucid cortical state which precedes death from a car crash, acts out various rites of passage to Mozart’s sublime K 491 (she has just parted from her lover and crashes as she leaves home…) I have just stumbled on a parallel example of contemporary film making of such acute perfection that I will be very surprised if you are not, like me, reduced to tears by it…
Dov Lukhovitski https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwlBXZCuBaM.
Anyone who takes up an ancient, incandescent Sibylline codex needs to do so ‘en connaissance de cause’…. It seems that this breed of film-maker, nurtured by the nouvelle vague and on rare occasions present on the British scene (Figgis, Russell, Loach…(?) but I speak from profound ignorance…) not only no longer exists; but is no longer even what film academies – let alone, of course, and for at least 25 years, the lily-livered BBC ! – seek to create …and, what is worse (as it is their artistic conscience being betrayed here) nurture…! It is my impression that Covent Garden is equally driven by a ‘smoke and mirrors’, suave, deceiving and utterly false ‘elite populism’, to coin a phrase. Why? Because people want a quick deal without the sweat of real spiritual travail, the sine qua non of all real achievement… This has to be said. The merely temporary losers are of course the Muses, but as a creator, I have it on good authority from them that they will have their revenge (and remember they are driven only by that cold standard of beauty which made Wordsworth blanch:
‘Ye Presences of Nature in the sky
And on the earth! Ye Visions of the hills!
And Souls of lonely places! can I think
A vulgar hope was yours when ye employed
Such ministry, when ye, through many a year
Haunting me thus among my boyish sports,
On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills, 470
Impressed, upon all forms, the characters
Of danger or desire; and thus did make
The surface of the universal earth,
With triumph and delight, with hope and fear,
Work like a sea?’)
Their assistance, when it comes (‘Rarely, rarely comest thou, sweet spirit of Delight’, as Elgar, quoting Shelley, wrote on his second symphony after that long famine…) is deeply unsettling; and no-one will ever enjoy their favour for very long…. But work, betimes, under their changeless celestial clouds, we must…
Sometimes it is good to go back to the local sources. We are all judged on what we create. May we at least have jogged a Goddess’s elbow once or twice in our long, relentless quest for perfection, that search for some kind of order and beauty and dignity on earth, which is what art seeks to celebrate and enshrine…and is why it exists….
You encourage me enormously! May I send you a draft of my next book?
I am looking forward to seeing the new version of Swallows and Amazons that will be released this year, but will reserve my judgment until then. However it’s been made it will have to go a long way to match the high quality and above all, the wonderful charm of your 1973 version. As for the political correctness associated with the changing of Titty to Tatty, it’s been the same with changing the name of Guy Gibson’s dog in The Dam Busters, or bleeping the name out of the soundtrack, the idea being that it may offend somebody. Well, it would have to be someone with a very narrow mind indeed to be offended by a name in a 1929 novel or the 1943 name of a Wing Commander’s black labrador. Whatever you do in this life, you are bound to offend or upset someone somewhere along the way and if we worried about that, we’d never do anything or say anything or write anything at all. I think Titty’s name should have been kept in the new version
I am looking forward to hearing your informed opinion in due course.
I agree David!
Sophie – TARS – a nine year old?
When TARS appointed me, I was handed am Admiral’s peek and bag containing an old photo-copy of a page from ‘Coot Club’. On it was Ransome’s sketch of a figurehead, along with a pertinent line of dialogue from Dorothea, indicating that was to be my role. We then marched outside to lower the TARS flag, which I ceremonially passed on to the region who were organising the next IAGM.
I don’t expect TARS will ask a nine-year-old to be president, but the little girl playing Tatty will no doubt receive a lot of mail, not to mention media attention.This can be hard for a child but she will probably find herself flying Swallow’s flag, which is fun.
Oh I see!
Yes, well I’m sure they will want to hang on to you for many years to come – and Dorothea is a good role model, I’ve always felt she is undervalued by some readers!
It occurs to me that a far more interesting film could be made about two rival film makers each trying to make an updated version. Didn’t Bergman try something like this once?
I don’t see the point in remaking a classic film, especially when the remake is set in 1939 instead of 1929. But Swallows and Amazons always was a good story, so it would take a pretty incompetent film maker to make a sow’s ear of a film out of it.
You could brilliantly remake it if you abandoned many parameters, but if you abandon only some of them, it may well not work. Like ‘pleasing some of the people some of the time’… No, to succeed, art has to take a point and make it more extreme, not less…and never settle for a premature compromise. You also have to be aware of modern film, the auteur idea, and so on…and if you reject this, do so informedly… I guess the present film makers just regard it as a children’s book, not a literary masterpiece which perhaps only Tom’s Midnight Garden comes close to in that particular genre…..I mean, Ransome was not known for his secret agent work in the Second World War but the First; and in connection with the Russian Revolution. Here would be much interesting material from which angles might have developed…Another fascinating film aspect is the nautical MS Captain Flint is working on….and the origins of the parrot. There could thus be – via this construct – an imaginative journey into many other Ransomian areas (his early life is fascinating and multi-layered) without losing the sailing plot. The Syrian connection is also most interesting, as is the Moroccan slipper, which is like Proust’s paving stone for Arthur. You could film it using young Syrian children and set it in Scotland! You could also look at the time frames in the book: there is not just one. You could also bring in Daddy – what is he supposed to contribute…? Is he marooned in Malta in the book, or just the film? The class aspect is also most fascinating: I made a close sociological analysis of the arrival scenes with the vintage cars and the various chauffeurs. I also have this dream of films spilling into one out of another: so that the unfaithful wife in Brief Encounter is exiled to Ambleside, for example, arriving by train; or having a more Wagnerian role for the charcoal burners, who are really the Norns rather than the Norms! They are the sibylls, predicting the future; and Wordsworthian characters as well.
Monet could visit, looking for the best charcoal – his resulting lakescape could be what is stolen and hidden away! The imperative of place is also not, in my view, absolute: versions of The Thirty-Nine Steps have used three different locales, even though one might have thought that the original 39 steps in Kent were crucial to the undertaking…! So there is always scope for the imagination. The main fault these days is that things are commercially driven to a degree which hampers this. And decided in a great hurry. I mean, a decision about the balance of adult and youthful characters is not one for the accountants really, is it..? I read that the ‘French Lieutenant’s Woman’ went through two TV proposals, three treatments and four possible directors, all the top names, before being made. It is out of the passionate conflicts which real creativity generates, that true art is made. People do not sacrifice the vision… Another example: Thomas Ades was able quite recently to have a success with The Tempest, as an opera, without setting a word Shakespeare wrote, but used things like this:
Five fathoms deep
Your father lies
Those are pearls
That were his eyes
We even have the original lines of this in the Real Reads schools version of the text….! And I moved some Prospero lines which had been deliberately misplaced, and added the Epilogue, which had been tampered with and cut! No need to condescend to the present film audience nor to today’s schoolchildren!
The very stuff of art is being traded, left right and centre, for simulacra, and this has been going on for at least four decades. I am so happy to have grown up in the Seventies, when art still meant something, still produced occasional miracles, and a ruthless industrialization of art, in the name of economics and a flawed idea of ‘educational outreach’ had not yet been dreamed up.
D’autres temps, d’autres moeurs. So let us not abandon the true standards of all seven arts, and drama and opera to go with them… Their turn will come again. Vita brevis, ars longa.
It is amazing that no one else has attempted to re-make ‘Swallows & Amazons’ in the last 43 years. I worked for Joe Waters, the BBC Producer who had the rights but he found filming in the Lake District too expensive so we just made Coot Club and The Big Six. Wish I’d suggested making WDMTGTS & SW
I would love to see WDMTGTS filmed. It could have all the atmosphere of Das Boot, but with fewer depth charges and more kittens.
I certainly agree. WDMTGTS is probably my favourite book, with some very dramatic moments. John nearly going overboard while reefing is the one that always sticks in my memory.
The other with some good scenes would be WH. Dick’s rescue of the cragfast sheep and of course the Ds sailing the sledge through the blizzard would raise the tension levels somewhat.
Do you think any of Ransome’s books beyond the S&A series would adapt well for TV?
It is too many years since I read it to recollect properly, but “Racundra’s First Cruise” is a possible, but then I’m a sucker for anything to do with boats. There are opportunities for flashbacks with the Ancient Mariner character to the days of sailing clippers (wasn’t he the prototype for peter Duck?). Perhaps a documentary style of programme attempting to recreate the voyage today and exploring the changes and similarities between now and then.
I am about to read Brian Hammett’s book, which Dad said is excellent. Shall I send it to Gryff Rys Jones? http://kirklandbooks.com/racundras-first-cruise-by-arthur-ransome-and-brian-hammett-b0011700.html
Two things strike me. The treasure theme is very satisfying because it satisfies the dictates of two different imaginative levels of the story at once. Only the very finest art (eg Mozart operas) tends to do this at all regularly. Second, I remember you cut the storm scene at the close of the book, when the Swallows are washed out and have to be rescued and are given warm porridge. But, I think you said, this was because you ran out of time and funds (?)This is the ‘deus ex machina’ moment which a re-make might have pointed up. It gainsays the idyllic weather and gives us another perspective on the ‘darker side of Eden’ as well as providing a natural frame (fashionably called ‘bookend’) to the action proper. Going back to school is OK, but it suits Ransome rather better than a film-maker, as he presumably was already toying with, and covertly signaling, the idea of a series of books and an evolving chronology, a bit like Wagner’s Ring does. At such moments I am convinced he is emulating Conrad.To really remake this you might need to draw out the South American themes and privilege more strongly Titty’s imaginative world; and if you wanted to parallel WDMTGTS you might usefully bring in at the end Daddy’s arrival (which never happens…he is hardly going to receive orders to sail from Malta, get to Hong Kong, return to Plymouth, and finally make it up to Ambleside/Coniston even if they rent the cottage for a whole summer….!) One’s impression is that the action is spaced out over about two weeks, on one level; although the action as depicted might be telescoped into about 5 days if you really wanted to ritually re-enact it. I remember asking about what is being done in this direction, and although what has been developed looks fun – and incorporating this in itself into a re-make would be a witty and splendid meta- textual gesture if you wanted to go really post-modernist (following John Fowles’ lead) ! – the existing initiative (themed Swallows and Amazons days) somewhat failed, I thought, to consult the true sources sufficiently closely…and thus seemed to suggest something of a parody of the classic story. You don’t want to morph the story – in spite of wanting to popularize it – too far, either, into some kind of fodder for a kind of literary theme park….although that in itself makes me think of Rheged not far away, a place which might have some synergy with the literary currents of the North-West, of which, in film history, Brief Encounter and Swallows and Amazons immediately spring to mind…the former catered for very well, I think, by Carnforth Station Heritage Centre. (cf here the Platform Gallery, Clitheroe.) Thinking back to legend and history, again, in such a children’s story there has to be an encompassing re-rentry into some mythic world and/or some quest theme, recalling Homer and Vergil, to give it a true psychological depth, I would say… Mother’s sternness somewhat ruins the atmosphere; and John in fact took a series of intelligent decisions in the main; and he coped with the crises which arose cooly. He was not to know that Mother had interfered unscriptedly by visiting Titty on the island, and thus was scarcely to blame for her sitting up and looking out for the Swallows’ return. A more modern and less obliging boy might have challenged her on that! (I don’t think that somewhat Etonian trope, ‘duffers’ gets such a second outing in the original, does it?) The only reason she didn’t want any more trouble was presumably because she had just sealed up the letter going off to Hong Kong! In truth, this errant father was hardly to expected at all on the holiday which we see depicted, although she had (on the train) let her children believe in that possibility; and he, like all the adult male characters, thus comes out of it rather poorly… Amazing writing desk though!
Do you think an adaptation of S&A without any adult characters would work?
The new adaptation is set in 1935. I did suggest they kept it in 1929 when a very interesting pair of Soviet spies were visiting England.
I’ll have to look up my research!
The undercover Russian spy Richard Storge arrived in England (newly divorced) in 1929. By November 1929 Sorge had returned to Germany where he was instructed to join the Nazi Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Sorge
Moura Budberg, Nick Clegg’s great aunt, a glamorous Russian suspected of spying for both the Soviet Union and British intelligence also travelled to England in 1929. I bet the Ransomes knew her. She had been involved with Gorky and Bruce Lockhart and knew Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt who she denounced to M15. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23417496-the-sexy-russian-spy-in-lib-dem-leader-hopeful-nick-cleggs-past.do
My proposal would be a ‘time slip’ version where the Charcoal Burners give ‘Titty’ first Magic Charcoal and then a Magic Lantern for their tent. But we would start with thoroughly modern children, book ended by yuppie parents, delivered to the Rheged centre from where they would do a themed sailing day as is, ala SA…and a trip to Carnforth and thus a day trip to Consiton, where they would sail…Due to a navigation error, they would meet the Charcoal burners and learn of the ‘Syrian and Armenian children’ who camped on the island long ago. On return to school they would link up with their cousins and the following spring end up in loco hirundinibus amazonaeque. The play would be en trio…But at school, the seer character, who need not be the middle girl, would try out the magic charcoal with astonishing results.She would get a a starred A pass in his or her GCSE art exam and be keen to return to the Lakes to tell the Charcoal Burners of this success. The night before they leave the seer character would have a dream and meet Monet. Monet would look forward to seeing them in the Lakes. Next morning over breakfast the one who has passed the art exam would look up when Monet died, which was 1926, and note this information. On return to Coniston, they would set off immediately to link up with the Ancient Charcoal Burner who would, on being quizzed allow them to calculate that the original ‘S and A’ ie Altounyans were here in 1929.. The CB would also speak of a journalist and writer who had lived in Russia, and who had a Russian wife, who had been around then. A parting gift would be the Magic Lantern, as they did not have one for their tent. At first they would use it to show old negatives the CB gave them…all old Ransomian stuff…but the seer character decides to give the Lantern a rub (under the influence of a bottle of beer they have smuggled along). There is a slight spookiness to the atmosphere, but before going to bed they notice that the mobile phone has backdated itself by one year and a day. Not remarking this at first, it becomes more crucial the next morning when – on sailing to Rio for supplies – they find that the local post office is in sync with the time slip of 366 days. After some discussion in the cake shop,where they speak knowledgeably about various children’s stories of a magical nature (not TMG! – but Hobbit, Potter Lord of Rings Narnia etc) they decide their safest course is to return to camp and set sail for the Charcoal Burners again. On arrival at camp they find an invitation to a feast from the Charcoal Burners; and on the way, using the date spooked phone, one of the children is directed by call forwarding technology to the answer machine of a firm his or her father left already six months ago. Relating to the previous calendar year. (‘3015’) Seriously worried about how they can return to their own time, they attend the feast and are encouraged, after some Cider, to try rubbing the lantern a bit more. How much do you want to rub it? They decide to rub it sufficiently to return everything to 1929. Now they meet Ransome and phantom children from 1929 who are of course the Altounyans (this is all in black and white). Triple entente against Ransome.They capture Arthur Ransome’s houseboat in a playful episode and also, after further ribbing of the lantern, meet Monet, who gives them a lakeland original charcoal watercolour. The day before they are due to return by the presumed modern calendar, they are in panic as to what to do, so one of them – who has meanwhile started reading a signed first edition of S and A given to him/her by ‘Arthur Ransome’ (this would be the literary sibling, not the artistic one; there might also be a violin playing musical one…and a non combatant rugby playing one…) suggests a trip to the ‘mainland’. Reaching the station from which they are due to return to London the following day, they discover that it persists in the fiction of being 366 days early, with a time table glitch to back this up, but an accidental rub of the Lantern being carried in a Picnic Basket causes the whole thing to morph back to about 1947 and Brief Encounter. On learning that the train is going to Carnforth, they pile in, in spite of having no tickets. They witness and impassioned love scene followed by renunciation, to Rachmaninov score. On being asked for a ticket, they say they have no money but offer in place of payment, a Monet original, which is gratefully accepted by the very intellectual ticket collector, an unemployable arts graduate type… On arriving at Carnforth, they discover everything has morphed back to +366 days and the mobile phone is OK now, as well. One of their number discovers a 50 pound note his grandmother gave for any real emergency, and they use this to take a taxi back to the Rheged Centre. Rheged staff are as per normal, and expecting their return, just a bit amazed about the taxi. Wow, well your father must earn a good salary at the Foreign Office, they say. (Allusion to Riddle of the Sands…) On cue, the parents arrive and whisk off their uncomprehending offspring uncomprehendingly. The Ransome first edition remains in their possession however, and gets read on the train. On arrival home a local cricket match is about to start, very yuppy, and the A Level syllabus for next year is on the hall mat… It includes reference to a set book, ‘Swallows and Amazons’. PS the girl cousins could be shed along the way….ie via a platform muddle at Carnforth and an accidental alighting for a hotdog at Crewe, where the cousin would meet John Cleese… (*allusion* only). Title: Amazons and Swallows.
I think we should invite comments from others!
As to the merits of this? Thanks!
I was trying to answer your question about adult characters…!
Ah, have you read any of the works of fiction inspired by S&A? I gather some speculate on what the S&As went on to do as adults.
Anyone wanting a complete original Front-of-House set of eight colour stills for Swallows and Amazons, well, there’s a set on eBay uk now and the auction ends in five days. If you’re the only bidder, you’d get it for only £3. Here is the link:
All in really nice condition too, Sophie.
Do you already have a set?
But thanks for letting us know – I’ve put in a bid!
Yes, I’ve had my set for years. Got it off eBay, otherwise I’d be bidding myself. And I’ve also got the quad poster and the crown poster, which is much bigger than the quad.
I have the huge sepia post – but am yet to find space to hang it.
Here I was interested in the scope of film to present a thought, a point of view, simultaneously with another story line motif. It is from TMG. It seems to me that if films can escape conventional narrational techniques, there is scope for much subtelty…
Well, there were three bidders for that stills set and it went for £5:70. So I hope you were the winner, Sophie.
Sadly not – I didn’t win the bidding! Do let me know if anything comes up again. It was so kind of you to alert me.
Will do, Sophie. As an experienced eBayer of over 14 years standing, I’ve got my bidding down to a fine art. I’m always there at the end of the auction and make a big bid when there is only eight seconds to go. I’ve been very successful so far doing it that way, but I really prefer Buy It Now items to auctions, because waiting for the end of an auction is a bit nerve racking,
I think the changes of name are very silly and unnecessary, and have thought so since the BBC changes ‘Titty’ to ‘Tilly’ in the early 1960s adaptation.
Titty’s name was changed to Kitty in the 1963 BBC series but Arthur Ransome seemed to accept it at the time. The point is, where do you stop? All the names have double meanings!
I’m sorry, you’re quite right about ‘Kitty’. I think I have read ‘Tilly’ somewhere either in the blog or comments and my old memory got distracted! You make a good point, though; all names do have double meanings and I think it cowardice to change a character’s name, particularly such a well-known one.
Little children love the name Titty. They like the sound. There is a Titi monkey and it is quite a common name in some countries.