Like Tamsyn Murray in her lovely post a couple of days ago, I wanted to live in the world of some books I read as a child. One such world was that of The Dark is Rising series, another was Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.
I read Ransome’s sailing books over and over again. I knew my port from my starboard, my sheets from my stays, my luff from my reach… Another all-time favourite book was Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Armourer’s House, where along with the heroine Tamsyn I got excited about topgallant sails. When I wasn’t reading about them, I drew endless pictures of sloops and square riggers and schooners, I longed to live in that world and run away to sea.
And for the last three weeks, I finally have. I have let out sheets and hauled in stays, I’ve found out that you pronounce topgallant ‘t’gallant’, I’ve been out on the bowsprit hanking on the jib and getting dunked in the salt sea. It’s been just as exciting as my childhood self could have dreamed of (and not a little terrifying, when the spinnaker sail tears free and blasts off into the distance nearly taking a crew member with it).
I’ve learned that reading books obsessively as a child and drawing pictures of sailing ships doesn’t really prepare you for the actuality of sailing. But it’s been wonderful to realise a childhood dream at long last. And quite a lot of the sailors I’ve met turn out to have been mad about those Swallows and Amazons books as children. Proof that reading really does have a scarily strong influence on who we grow up to be…?