Every Christmas I have been suggesting a variety of useful, literary gifts. I love these Swallows and Amazons bookmarks available from sky.n.fern for £2.50. They stock an assortment of unique stationery, which you can see here
This year, I bought packs of these book-ish Christmas cards from the charity SchoolReaders. They have a variety here.
I’m selling a variety of T-shirts with my Swallows and Amazons map of Coniston Water on the Redbubble site where you can also find cushion covers
along with throws, duvet covers and a variety of products from phone covers to laptop sleeves if you fiddle around with the site here
There is a whole selection of socks, which I have listed here
These new 90th anniversary tea towels make a useful gift for sailors, which can be purchased here
Peter Willis is offering his book ‘A Good Little Ship’ about rescuing Nancy for £10 – a great present for fans of Arthur Ransome.
I found this spectacle chain decorated with swallows, appropriate for web-footed grandparents, available here
For someone without much space, you can find handmade dolls house miniatures of the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books here Each tiny book has tunable blank pages 1:12th the original size. I’m not sure if they are paying royalties to the Arthur Ransome Estate but what a compliment to the author. I’d be thrilled if they made miniatures of my books.
There is ‘Swallows and Amazons’ confetti, for sale on this site. Each heart is about one inch in size and can be used for a table decorations.
Jago Silver has some new ‘Never Stop Exploring’ cards, journals and notebooks, which you can find at his online shop here
Here is something for sailors, which could include a voucher to sail Swallow, the dinghy from the 1974 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, which you can find out about here.
A digitally hand drawn reproduction of StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics film poster for the original movie of ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974) is available here
You can find ‘Swallows and Amazons’ mugs and other gifts here
I woke up this morning to find an anonymous donor bid £251 for a signed first edition of my book ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’. The money raised goes directly to BBC Children in Need, where it is carefully monitored.
Nearly eight hundred amazing books had been donated to the Children in Read charity auction organised by Paddy Heron, which raised a staggering total of £24,888.
Online bidding began about seven weeks ago and was advertised by the authors themselves on social media.
Rare copies of my first edition paperback of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ are often priced highly on Amazon so, when the bidding went above £75, I promised to include a signed first edition hardback of my memoir ‘Funnily Enough’, which includes a brief section on appearing in the film.
When the bidding went above £101, I promised to add my third illustrated memoir about Swallows and Amazons style adventures in Africa, written in letter form.
However, £251 is so very generous that I am off to my archive store to see if I can find a hand-painted map to include in the package.
I drew three different maps showing our film locations in the Lake District and reproduced them in different colour-ways, using one on the cover of my original ebook entitled ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons (1974)’, which is still available on Kindle and any of the ebook outlets.
You can see a selection of my other maps on my Instagram page here
I added these ones to mugs and other useful items available to order from Redbubble They make good presents.
Everyone needs at least one pair of socks for Christmas. I have had the greatest fun designing a whole range, including a few pairs of socks featuring ‘Swallows and Amazons maps here.
The selection of Swallows and Amazons themed socks are printed with hand-painted maps of locations from my book, which you can see here
Being custom-made they cost from £12.89 a pair but please use my discount code: CYBER5
Are you looking for a special Birthday or Christmas present for someone who happens to love the original film of ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974)?
Paddy Heron of Children in Read has a huge number of amazing books listed in a charity auction being held to raise funds for BBC Children in Need. Nearly £21,000 has already been pledged, which is amazing. We have 3 days left to bid, so you have time to chat to the family!
‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)’ is listed as Lot 298, in the section ‘Film & Television’ above Nigella Lawson’s book ‘Coot, eat, repeat’.
To place a bid, click on this link: https://www.jumblebee.co.uk/childreninread2021?cid=2431
and scroll down until you see the image of the book you would like to bid on, then click on the price button and you can enter a bid when the large image pops up. You don’t pay until you win on the final day. I will pay the postage within the UK and inscribe the copy to whom you wish.
We now have another bid for £101. Copies on Amazon.UK – where is it has 47 reviews, are now listed as costing about £76. I promised that if the bidding went higher than £78 I would personally inscribe this large paperback edition and include a signed first edition hardback copy of my autobiographical book ‘Funnily Enough’, worth £15, which includes a few pages about filming ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in the Lake District.
I said that the bidding goes any higher than £101, I will include a copy of ‘Ride the Wings of Morning’, my memoir about leading a Swallows and Amazons style life camping in Africa:
To read about taking part in the same auction last year, please click here
If you need to know more about the auction, please contact Paddy Heron at Children in Read: firstname.lastname@example.org
The year 2020 began for me in Portugal. I was recovering from a broken arm and disappointed to have to cancel my annual charity ride through southern Africa. However, a lovely girl flew over from the Waterberg in South Africa to work for me and we had fun designing gifts, using the illustrations from ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’.
You can see more on Redbubble. The ‘Swallows and Amazons’ mugs are popular:
When news of the Coronavirus broke out, we launched an appeal to help families in rural South Africa, which proved a huge success.
Carefully monitored by a qualified nursing sister, and with the help of volunteers from St John’s Church, food packages are still being distributed to needy families, feeding about 150 people a month. Read the latest news here.
Tests were unavailable in March, but I might have had a light version of Covid-19 whist we were working on this fund-raising campaign. I certainly lost my sense of smell and developed a weird blister/rash on one hand and foot after spending ten days in bed with fatigue.
My talks, planned for the summer, were cancelled but I read a story for Lockdown Tales, produced by Wildbeast for BBC Radio Suffolk and made available on BBC Sounds. I took part in an online reading of ‘The Picts and the Martyrs’ by Arthur Ransome, recording a chapter at home.
As literary conferences went online, I led a workshop on photographing books for instagram, when we were joined by the award-winning author Claire Wade.
While devising exotic recipes for my next book, I began baking cakes successfully, for the first time in my life, adding cardamon and cloves.
We rolled up a circle in the lawn to make a Lockdown vegetable garden so the children could see how different plants developed. Our dancing carrots became a hit on Instagram.
I was Highly Commended for a collage made out of sea plastic I’d collected when beach cleaning, which was awarded by Emma Bridgewater. The winning entries were exhibited at the Wilson Stephens and Jones Gallery in Notting Hill. I also won a prize for taking part in a socially distanced archery match, but otherwise had a year off on the sports front.
SchoolReaders invited me to become an author supporter of their work instilling a love for books in the next generation, along with other authors including Joanna Trollop and Sophie Kinsella. We are encouraging people to make a gift in their will.
I began loading illustrations and some of my sketches onto instagram. Do follow this here.
Hailed as ‘the feel-good film of lockdown’,’Swallows and Amazons'(1974) was broadcast on BBC 2 in both April and August. It was screened in Australia in January 2021. The Radio Times used this shot of me rowing Swallow with Sten Grendon who played the Boy Roger.
I was invited to talk about the movie memorabilia in a socially isolated edition of BBC Antiques Roadshow at Windermere Jetty, which hopefully will be broadcast in March 2021.
It was wonderful to be able to spend a few days in the Lake District, where Arthur Ransome’s first draft of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is on display.
In the autumn, a signed First Edition hardback copy of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons (1974)’ was auctioned online, raising an astonishing £201 for BBC Children in Need, exceeding bids for signed copies of books by bestselling authors such as Bernard Cornwall, Jeffery Archer and Adam Kay.
Lakeland Arts organised an online event to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the publication of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, selling tickets for an evening ‘In Conversation with Sophie Neville, which you can listen to here.
Kett’s Books invited me to speak on Zoom for their ‘Books at Lunchtime’
The greatest days of this unusual year were spent on the Solent, litter picking with my extended family, who came to live with us through lockdown. Although some dreams were grounded, we had time to go for long walks and were able to explore the South Coast where we live.
We formed a pod of six, so had no visitors, but I treasured the letters that arrived. I’m collecting quotes for the 3rd edition of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’, an ebook which I plan to bring out for the 50th Anniversary in 2024. Do write in with your memories.
After Christmas, I heard that a historical novel I am currently working on was awarded a prize in the Association of Christian Writers’ novel competition and was shortlisted for the Eyeland’s Book Awards, who have offered me a writer’s residency in Crete.
As we entered Tier 3, I was recognised as ‘Beach Picker of the Year’ by Litter Pickers of the New Forest, a high accolade that marked the end of a quiet but busy year.
I’ve gained 3 pounds and haven’t been to the hairdressers for eighteen months, but we kept safe in our little bubble and are looking forward to a better future when there is no need to wear face-masks. You can find my post on finding elderly litter here
You may have already seen this set of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ mugs printed with hand-painted maps of locations featured in my book on ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)’. Redbubble, the manufacturers often have discount coupons, which you should be able to find here.
The three different designs are now available in a ‘classic’ or ‘tall’ style, as a travel mug or a water bottle. The full collection is available here.
Map of Windermere water bottle available here
and travel mug available here.
Map of Derwentwater water bottle available here
and travel mug available here.
Map of Coniston water water bottle available here
and travel mug available here.
These high-quality goods are manufactured in Australia by RedBubble who take care of all custom charges. If you are asked to pay customs, send them a picture of proof of payment of customs charges and they’ll sort it out.
Here’s a link to the help center – https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us.
The maps can be found in the paperback of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974), available from libraries, bookshops and online here.
‘Swallows and Amazons’ cakes are always special.
During Lockdown we made a ‘Swallows and Amazons’ seed cake with caraway seeds and almonds, which reminded me of being on Peel Island.
Here are some others we made earlier:
Not so long ago, Miranda Gore Brown brought her version of Mrs Dixon’s traditional fruit cake to The Arthur Ransome Society pirate feast, along with her book Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can, which has ideas on how to ice cakes. She has ideas for baking here
Miranda made this cake for her son’s birthday, described here
A huge cake was baked to celebrate the launch of Julian Lovelock’s book ‘Swallows, Amazons and Coots‘ with a forward by Sophie Neville.
This cake celebrates Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Great Northern?’ set on the Isle of Lewis where filming took place for the DVD ‘Encountering the Ransomes’ released by The Arthur Ransome Society
Does anyone have a recipe for Cook’s black cake? We would love to see your ideas for literary decorations. Here are a few more to inspire you:
~Winner of The Susan Prize~
It was my privilege to award The Susan Prize to the girls who baked this cake. It proved they must have loved Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Winter Holiday’. The Swallows, Amazons and Ds are obviously contemplating whether or not to skate on the tarn that I understand was made by melting sweets and ‘took absolutely ages.’ You can see two of the characters approaching the ice.
Dorothea, the aspiring novelist, is skating around this cake, which tasted so delicious it almost transported me to the banks of the tarn itself.
~Winner of the Crumbly Creations~
A number of crumbly creations, using biscuits and chocolate, gave us a good idea of what the igloo in ‘Winter Holiday’ must have looked like, while this birthday cake was inspired by the Puffin cover of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.
Swallowy dodgers with slices of cake claimed by Amazon pirates were on offer at Lakeland Arts to accompany their Swallows and Amazons exhibition:
“There was an enormous gooseberry tart” recipe published in Signals:
Elizabeth Rondthaler Jolley sent this photo from America:
Adam Quinan has written from Canada: ‘I made this for an Arthur Ransome Birthday party event in Toronto back in January 2004. We went skating on an outdoor rink and ate Igloo hotpot and then came inside and listened to some storytellers retelling some of ‘Old Peter’s Russian Tales’ with the ‘Winter Holiday’ cake and tea.’
I didn’t bake this lovely cake – below- I spotted it on Pinterest, but they have made bunting out of the Swallows and Amazons flags I drew:
Here is a bunloaf baked to celebrate Arthur Ransome’s Birthday in 2022