My jaw dropped as the new film adaptation of Swallows and Amazons got into its stride. It wasn’t the fact that the movie takes substantial liberties with Arthur Ransome’s much loved children’s book, such as adding in a couple of Russian spies and renaming young Titty Walker ‘Tatty’. No, it was the plot’s central premise, which stays utterly faithful to the original novel.
To the astonishment of 21st century parents everywhere, Mrs Walker cheerily waves four of her children off as they set sail by themselves to an island on a nearby lake. The island is three miles away and the children’s plan is to camp there for days on end, sleep under the stars and cook on an open fire. This being 1929, of course, John, Susan, Tatty and Roger have no way of contacting their mother if anything goes wrong, which of course it does. For one thing, little Roger isn’t a strong swimmer and for another, John and Tatty have a shock and a half when they embark on a mission to find the source of a mysterious fire on the hillside.
The whole way through the movie I kept comparing the Walker children’s independence and joie de vivre with their 21st century counterparts. As a parent, I’m as much to blame as anyone. When my two children were eight and six they pleaded to be allowed to go and post a letter by themselves. The postbox was only five minutes away but I followed them surreptitiously, then scarpered home when they were about to turn round.
My 22-year-old student son is working for Deliveroo in the evenings, delivering everything from fish and chips to posh Thai food on his fixie, and much to his chagrin I ring him at the end of his shift to check he’s OK.
Swallows and Amazon, incidentally, is a joy, and well worth seeing. It’s a simple, old-fashioned film, full of innocent charm and all the better for it. The Lake District looks stunning and steals almost every scene, although the two young actors who play Tatty and Roger (Lily Allen’s little sister, Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, and Bobby McCulloch) run the gorgeous landscape a pretty close second.
As I leaned back in my seat I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. Every location held a precious memory, from the days when my son and daughter climbed Catbells and Maiden Moor for the first time to idyllic picnics in the fields near Derwentwater. If you haven’t visited this magical part of the UK, go and see the film and then book a visit to Cumbria.