Saturday, 25 June 2005

Pigeon Post

Listening to:

Schubert, sonata for arpeggione in A minor, D.821.

Just read:

Arthur Ransome, Pigeon Post.

Along with Winter holiday, this is definitely one of my all-time favourite Ransome books. It doesn’t feature any sailing, but it does feature all the Swallows, Amazons and the two D’s. The story is set in the Lake District, but instead of being on the lake of the previous stories, it’s centred on the hills that overlook it.

The adventure this time is based on the search for gold, and features all the technical accoutrements of mining, along with a grown-up rival (memorably called Squashy Hat), and environmental challenges in the form of drought conditions.

The book’s title comes from the neat way the children communicate with their “friendly natives”: they use three homing pigeons to carry messages. The coolness of this device is somehow typical of the whole story; there’s just so much neat stuff that happens.

The story also features a “neat” logical fallacy. Dick reads that

x. x = gold ⇒ D(x)

where D is an important property of gold that comes up in the story.

But Dick converts what he reads into the false

x. D(x)x = gold

and thinks that he has a good test with which to identify gold. This is not really that central to the story, and the error is brushed off quickly when it’s recognised (more important things are afoot). Nonetheless it somehow seems typical that the adventure should require straight thinking.

An absolute children’s classic.