Taking Stock - February 17, 2014

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I do love a good book.

Not one of those new-fangled electronic reader thingies, oh no, a good old lump of paper that doubles as a doorstop or, handily right now, draught excluder.

Call me a snob but I’m not too keen on modern writers either – with a couple of 
begrudging exceptions.

If I’m seen with a book it’s normally one of those Penguin Classics types.

I’m warming to Dickens, having dismissed it as a student, I thought Gatsby was great long before Mr Di Caprio came along and have spent many a bath time (that’s where most reading gets done these days) washed away with Defoe’s marvellous castaway.

But I decided recently to go back to where my love of words first began – a real children’s classic, Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome’s tale of lakeland high jinks not only inspired me to read, but to learn to sail and I still dream of one day whisking my kids off to Wild Cat Island for a high seas adventure.

But reading it again, I can’t help but notice it’s a bit of a health and safety nightmare.

I’ve been here before, considering what the Office of the Rail Regulator might make of Thomas the Tank Engine’s many mishaps.

But if anything, this is worse. For a start the youngest of the adventurers is seven years old.

My eldest is six and she’s not allowed to the end of the garden path.

Nobody seems to have any waterproofs, or a proper warm sleeping bag, there’s nowhere to safely store perishables and the Walker children are up and down that lake meeting heaven knows how many adults who clearly haven’t been CRB checked.

There are candle lanterns in canvas tents, there’s sailing blind in the dark and fishing in National Park property without, I’ll wager, a proper permit.

The whole thing would have failed a basic safety assessment before Roger had made it half way down the field from the Peak at Darien.

Still, it’s a beautiful picture of Idyllic Britain at its very best – grog, knickerbockers and all. It doesn’t really sit well in our modern world but, you know, I love it even more for that. Swallows and Amazons forever!