|Maggie (age 4), Anna (age 11), Brian (age 7)|
Holland, Michigan, Summer 1992
In 1943 prolific journalist and novelist Arthur Ransome wrote to a young friend, Pamela Whitlock in an attempt to encourage her in her own endeavors as a writer -- even as she was pulled into work for the war effort. "The training for your own private job is going on all the time," he counseled her (Signaling from Mars, 301).
Stick to it, filling your notebooks. Nothing is odder than the way in which a big slice of life, vivid at the time, fades utterly away when you escape from it into something different. It’s like coming back from a year abroad. But notes, no matter how scrappy, are like stones dropped into a pool of still water. They stir up the whole picture and bring to life all sort of other things, including things you don’t happen to have written down at the time (Signaling from Mars, 307).
|Coniston Water, Cumbria (30 March 2004)|
Eventually, he abandoned Russia -- taking with him one of Trotsky's secretaries, Evgenia Shvelpina, whom he had to smuggle out of the country through the Mediterranean. The two later married and eventually retired to Ransome's beloved Lake District in Cumbria where between 1931 and 1947 Ransome authored a series of adventure stories with child protagonists (Ransome himself always protested that he had not set out to write children's stories, but rather wrote the stories that he himself most enjoyed). Set primarily in the Lake District -- though later volumes take the cast of characters into Scotland, south to the Broads, and into the realm of half-fantasy -- each book follows the adventures of several families of children who spend their school holidays sailing, camping, and spinning out all sorts of adventure stories that weave seamlessly between fiction and reality. As Ransome observed after completing Swallows and Amazons, the introductory tale,
I was enjoying the writing of this book more than I have ever enjoyed writing any other book in my life. And I think I can put my finger on the thing in it which gave me so much pleasure. It was just this, the way in which the children in it have no firm dividing line between make-believe and reality, but slip in and out of one and the other again and again (quoted in In Search of Swallows and Amazons, Roger Wardale, 32).