Arthur Ransome’s book, published in 1930, was a childhood favourite of mine, so it was slightly disconcerting to find that the plot had been sexed-up for modern viewers. The children’s uncle, a curmudgeonly author in the novel, has become a member of the secret service – protecting a sheaf of top secret documents from a pair of dastardly Russian spies. Where once there were mock battles between child-pirates, now there are all-action chase scenes involving grown-ups and seaplanes.
And while introducing a whole swath of new action, the producers have also acknowledged the lost innocence of our time by changing the name of one of the central characters, from Able Seaman ‘Titty’, to Able Seaman ‘Tatty’. Personally, I can’t see a problem with the original name. But then I’d also have advised the publishers of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree stories to retain the names Dick and Fannie instead of re-christening them Rick and Frannie – I guess it depends on your frames of reference.
Despite the changes, Swallows and Amazons is still a good film – like many aspects of modern life, it’s different, it’s faster paced, it’s not necessarily better - but it’s not necessarily worse either. Being set in the Lake District, it’s also proved demonstrably beneficial to the tourism industry, which is why I’ve started work on writing a sequel that I hope might commence filming next year. The title given to Ransome’s own sequel, Coot Club, could prove contentious, so I’m playing it safe and I’ve given it the working title Pirates of the Cartmel Peninsula.
In the opening scene, the children will receive a telegram from their absent father reading: "Better drowned than duffers. If old enough to drown, they’re old enough to gamble." At which point the children will sell their sailing boats in order to fund a massive betting coup, at the traditional Whit Bank Holiday race-meeting, at Cartmel. The plot bears some resemblance to the real life gamble involving a gelding called Gay Future, although the horse will obviously be renamed to avoid further innuendo.
We might pick the name of another real life racehorse – like the promising young novice chaser Rolling Thunder, who happens to be our selection this weekend – in the 1.10pm at Kelso on Saturday (also at Carlisle on Monday).
The film will conclude with a dramatic court room scene - although I’ve yet to decide whether it’ll be the children in the dock for perpetrating a gambling fraud, whilst being underage for betting purposes, or the parents for wilful neglect of their children.