Tuesday 10 March 2009

Childhood Imaginings

I first read Arthur Ransome’s ‘Coot Club’ and ‘We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea’, both of which were set on the Norfolk coast, when I was about eight, and the magic of these and the other eleven 'Swallows and Amazons’ books – set in Cumbria - has never left me, and the images of a far-away England that Ransome conjured up in my childish imagination were just as evocative. If ever there were books to inspire children to make their own voyages of discovery, these are the ones. For me, they were handbooks for adventure, particularly as I grew up next to the sea and had been sailing since I was knee high to a dik-dik.

As an adult, I’ve made quite a hobby of exploring the locations where favourite novels were set so when we drove up to Norfolk last summer, I felt as though we had driven off the edge of the world and ended up in some other land where everything happens at a different pace. I was in that innocent and gentle world that Ransome had described to me so long ago.

Sky and sea and land seem to come together, and black cattle grazed in the marsh country that runs between the coast road and the beach, reminding me of the Camargue in the south of France. Wildflowers and fragile stems with rustling seedpods grew along the broads and there were hazy purple fields of lavender further inland.

There are the vast beaches that stretch to distant horizons, rolling sand dunes, little sailing harbours among the creeks and salt marshes, and, just inland, gently rolling patchwork fields edged by ancient oaks, churches and villages of pretty brick and flint cottages.

Beachside stalls sell seasonal shellfish, usually crab in an unfussy sandwich, but fresh oysters as well, served up with a slice of lemon, optional Tabasco and a side of lovely, salty samphire

In blue summer sunshine, the heat softened by a gentle salty breeze, it was an all too brief but glorious visit, so thank you Norfolk – and Arthur Ransome - for turning my childhood imaginings into reality!

The Coast: Norfolk
by Frances Cornford

As on the highway’s quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.

Across his faded back a hone,
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,
With ladies’ bedstraw everywhere,
With whitened corn, and tarry poles,
And far-off gulls like risen souls.


Rosaria Williams said...

What a lovely stroll! Thank you for the pictures and the commentaries. I never have to leave my room, my seat. I was transported.

angela recada said...

What beautiful photos! I just found your blog, and I think it's wonderful! Best wishes, Angela

Renee said...

Darling friend, I am hitching my wagon to your star.

I received a lovely package in the mail today. It was wrapped so beautifully and it had a little painting sticker on the bag which I carefully peeled away and stuck on my fridge.

To my surprise was another lovely package withing the other package and another sticker which I carefully peeled away and stuck on my fridge.

Oh my goodness what is this. It is another lovely painting and another sticker and I don't need to tell you what I did with that.

Tessa they are beautiful.

Thank you so much for the painting, you really did not have too, although I am glad that you did.

I love them.

They are so much more beautiful in person. The colours are so vibrant and the people feel real.

Thank you and please thank Guy for forgetting to mail me the first package.

Love Renee

Kathy said...

I love the 7th picture from the bottom.... the sand in grooves. I am wanting to roll up my jeans and walk alongside the shore! Thank you.

Lori ann said...

Oh Thank you Tessa!! now i have been to Norfolk too! What a thrilling trip it's been, I don't know which part I liked best so I'll just say the WHOLE thing. I also can't remember if i've read one of these books or not, but as soon as i leave here i'm off to Amazon.
Your talents are endless.
:) :) :)

karen said...

how absolutely gorgeous! I have never yet read an Arthur Ransome, despite a British friend who has told me to, several times!

that furrowed beach is stunning! thanks for the virtual walk x

Jinksy said...

Thank you for the tour, and the poem - I'd not read it before, and it's Norfolk personified...

A Cuban In London said...

Many thanks for introducing this new author to me. I was completely unaware of these books. What age are they aimed at? My question is based on the fact that my wife and I are trying to wean our son off Doctor Who's books and literature of that same genre. So, I'm always on the lookout for other options.

The photos were fantastic. I especially liked the one with the sand and the ocean close to it.

I had the chance to go Norfolk a couple of summers ago to a drum camp where they asked me to teach adn Afro-Cuban dance workshop and conduct a story-telling session for children. Unfortunately at the last minute the deal fell through as the person I was meant to replace managed to make it. However I was left with the desire to go and your pictures have re-awakened that wish. Many thanks for a most beautiful post and for the elegant poem.

Greetings from London.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I love Norfolk and bits of Suffolk too, which is where I have been far oftener than Norfolk, to be fair!

I love the pic of the Bakery - It's like we've been whisked back to the late 40's or 1950's - Thankyou!

Sarah Laurence said...

My husband absolutely adored this series growing up in England in a naval family. They took family holidays on a sailboat. Our children didn’t love the books as much, sadly.

How much fun to explore the real places from childhood novels! I often think about that when writing fiction. I like to set my novel in a real place but change some things. I would love a reader to come visit the setting.

Lovely and evocative photos! My favorite is the single beached sailboat with its blue stripe and yellow float. The beach and windmill are nice too. The poem is perfect!

Jenners said...

These photos are amazing!!!! The colors, the composition. Beautiful. And the one photo reminds me of that one Van Gogh painting with the sailboat.

And I love the idea of visiting the places where your favorite novels were set. That is such an interesting idea! If only I could get to Hogwarts! : )

Lovely wonderful post.

A Cuban In London said...

Tessa, many thanks for your comment just now. I have heard that track before (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlYptKjmAUw) but I didn't know what it was called. Radio Paradise has played it at some point. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Renee said...

I knew without a doubt that you were the one person I know that would still be jumping out of trees.

I absolutely knew it.

Love you. Renee

Renee said...

p.s. Guess what I'm looking at, two things that are beautiful.

Thanks again Tessa.


soulbrush said...

what beautiful views and post, hope you well.

Irene said...

You certainly give me a good view of England and how I imagine it to be. It's so picturesque and quaint and pretty. Who wouldn't want to walk around there with a camera and shoot one picture after another?

The seafood menu looks very tempting and I bet the food is delicious. The crab looks especially appetizing.

The pictures of the sailboats are great and so perfect, as if they were arranged there for a nice photo opportunity and some of them do look like paintings. It must be wonderful to have a little boat there and watch it come afloat again.

You sure make me long for my trip to England. Today I got to do it vicariously through your post and that was very enjoyable. An encore would be most appreciated.

Debra Keirce said...

These are gorgeous photos Tessa! Have you ever been to the Norfolk, VA coast? It's a much different beauty there. We are heading there with my daughter in June.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

What a beautiful journey (visually and mentally) you've taken me on! Not only can you paint, but your photos are wonderful. Especially love that beach shot above the windmill. And, your writing is superb. I can see you writing some sort of travelogue with photos and paintings, Tessa!


karen said...

Hi Tessa, there's an award for you on my blog today! :)

Tessa said...

Thank you all very much for your lovely comments. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the Norfolk safari!

ceecee said...

Dear Tessa,
Once again, you have transported me, not only with your descriptions and thoughts, but with your beautiful images. I have been reading your blog for some time now and it is one of my favorites. I have hopped out of bed, where I am nursing a viscious cold, to thank you so much for your comment yesterday. One of the reasons I began blogging was so that my family - who all live on the East Coast - could see what my life was like and read my thoughts too. They are not able to travel and have never been to my home or eaten at my table...so it is nice to share these things, not only with them, but to share them with new friends. I've found blogging to be a friendly place beyond my expectations. Have a beautiful weekend and Thank you again!
Warm regards,

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a delightful trip, thanks for letting me join you.

Janelle said...

oh wow wow wow!~ STUNNING. want to go there...like now. thanks for sharing...very nostalic eh? xxx j

Polly said...

It's interesting how childrens' novels are culture specific - I've never heard of those ones and I see myself as quite an expert in children literature :-)

Your photos are stunning, I love seaside, especially here in England. I actually grew up in the mountains and love them to bits (I rock climb, I ski... ) but walking along the coast is one of my favourite past times. Thanks!


Val said...

wonderful wonderful - thank you so much! a part of england i have always wanted to visit.

Exmoorjane said...

Flipping heck, girl, you getting commission from the Norfolk tourist board or something?? YOu have made me want to give up my plans of dangling my toes in the soft waters of Greece and go grab a bucket and spade and head eastwards instead...... heady stuff.
I never read the Swallows and Amazons books as a child (all Jill had Two Ponies and Island of Adventure and The Family at One End Street, and then Narnia and Alan Garner) but you have inspired me and I shall grab one off the shelf and immerse myself in boats...

Paula & Skip said...

Such beautiful pics. Thanks.

Bee said...

Tessa - Isn't it wonderful to be able to explore the places of your childhood imaginings? We are going to Norfolk this summer -- for the first time!

Your photographs are so very beautiful. They have such clarity, and you have framed them so well. I can almost smell the lavender and the salty sea!

The W.O.W. factor! said...

Oh Tessa! This is what I needed today! To tag along with you to the seashore! I've not heard of this series, but now I will have to find them!
I find myself sometimes, "wandering" through the forests, the fields and the sea of my childhood and wonder what they really are like today as an adult. I may have to go back to that island some day just to relive...and remember.
I love the picture of the boats becoming one with the land as the tide allows.
I remember walking in the soggy sands, racing it seemed against the tides.
Thank you Sweet Lady...for this 'gift' today through yesterday!

Ces Adorio said...

You are definitely the modern female version of Rudyard Kipling. Your photographs are absolutely breathtaking.