BEING out of school gets boring after the first couple of days, being in bed is too hot or too cold, and feeling rotten is the last straw. I must have been a very sickly child because some of my most vivid memories are of being sick in bed and listening to BBC radio children's hour. It played from 5 to 6 every evening and you could rely on some decent talking -- adventure and comedy even. When only dull news or duller music could be found on the Home Service, then it was time for books, over and over again for Arthur Ransome's books.

Swallows and Amazons was the flagship of the fleet, but all 12 Ransome books (We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, Coot Club, Great Northern, Winter Holiday etc.) blend together into another world, where children went off alone, made their own rules, sailed boats (called The Swallow and The Amazon), obeyed their elder brothers (that always amazed) and camped on Wild Cat Island. There were four (and Baby Vicky who stayed at home) children in the Walker (Swallows) family and only two in the Blackett (Amazon), but I always identified with Titty, the third Swallow. No one expected much of her and yet she often surprised them all. That, I thought, was how it was going to be with me.

A pink comforter, carefully positioned on the knees and hooked over the bedhead, can approximate a tent. A "nourishing" lunch tasted better eaten inside the tent, in the rosy half light. The beef soup and crackers were transformed into pemmican and ship's biscuits; an adventure could begin.