Thursday, 8 October 2009

Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome

Pigeons at dawn.... (first published 1936)

I thought that, as I have been so neglecting the Bookshelf, that I would post a quick catch-up. As some of you will know, I have been in Devon looking after Aged Parents, and far too busy fetching and carrying to attend to my blog. By bedtime I was too tired for much reading, so I found an old copy of Arthur Ransome's Pigeon Post, which kept me going longer than you could imagine. It was very comforting, a story of prospecting for gold on the Cumbrian fells. The characters are familiar from Swallows and Amazons, with the addition of Dick and Dorothea Callum. Nancy is determined to find gold before Captain Flint gets home from foreign climes, although plans are initially frustrated by Mrs Blackett's refusal to let them camp on the fells because a drought means that there is no water anywhere. How the problem is overcome is too good to spoil, so I'm not going to tell it here.

Much ingenuity is exercised in devising a communication system with homing pigeons - Mrs Blackett is remarkably tolerant about the final arrangement which involves a loudly clanging bell whenever a pigeon deigns to return to its home (the dilatory and unreliable Sappho comes home at 5am). And the long-awaited arrival of the armadillo, Timothy, is delightful.

I wasn't a huge fan of Ransome's books when I was a child, but I am making up for it now, partly, I suppose, because it makes me rather nostalgic for the days when children had freedom to go off with a tent and quantities of revolting things in tins, without the feeling that adults were peering over their shoulders all day. I felt especially wistful at the idea that a group of children would amuse themselves far into the night by singing campfire songs. The sun used to shine in those days, too.

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