The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
In an age when most parents won't let their children leave the garden without supervision, it's impossible to escape the dated idyllicism of Swallows And Amazons.
Scriptwriter Helen Edmundson and composer Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy have nonetheless adapted Arthur Ransome's book in a way that makes it more than simple nostalgia.
As the Walker family set sail to Wildcat Island and encounter Jolly Roger-loving Amazons, savage pirates and corned beef sandwiches, they tap into the timeless spirit of the imagination.
Thus Robert Innes Hopkins's set relies heavily on the power of make-believe in the way it uses simple props to convey a sense of travel and location.
Captain Flint's parrot is a feather duster and pliers, the waters of the Lake District are two strips of blue and white ribbon and empty picture frames are used to signal where the audience should focus.
Aimed at children aged six and above, there's also plenty of absurdist visual humour.
Roger (Stewart Wright) is meant to the youngest of the Walker children but, despite his shorts and braces, he's the tallest actor and requires kneepads to offer his ageing joints protection.
The butt of many of the jokes, it's a joy to watch him throwing childish tantrums and being sprayed with water when the Swallow speeds away from danger.
Despite this, there's something painfully middle-class and conformist about the Walkers. John (Richard Holt) simply wants to make his father proud and Susan (Katie Moore) dreams about being Mrs Beeton.
As such, the most fun is to be had when they come into conflict with the Amazons.
Daubed with battle paint and feather headdresses, they drop their aitches and never walk when they can stomp instead.
It's here that Hannon pens some of the musical play's most memorable tunes, with Nancy Blackett (Celia Adams) and her less aggressive sister Peggy (Sophie Waller) threatening: "We're older and we're bigger!" as drums beat a war dance.
This sense of cardigan-wearing anarchy infects the audience, with youngsters being encouraged to throw sponges at Flint (Greg Barnett) during the final battle scene.
But as models of two ships voyage into the auditorium, attention has already started turning towards the next adventure.