[A group of young people hiking in the Lake District]
“Well is that the top?”
Penny’s voice carried a note of good-humoured despair, as if she had really given up hope.
Susan, a dim grey figure against the dim grey stones above, yelled back thinly against the wind:
“Can’t see anything!”…
They went zigzagging up the grey slope in single file, first Tim with the rucksack, wearing his navy Rugger shorts, with his red-topped football stockings making the only specks of colour in the whole gloomy landscape, and then Penny in her belted school mackintosh, with the moisture glinting on her black hair.
They never turned round to ask if I was all right. Now that I had handed over the rucksack to Tim, with all the food inside, I was free to fall over a precipice, sink into a bog, or just lie down and perish of exhaustion, as soon as I liked.
On the whole I preferred to plod on.
observations: One of the joys of Twitter is the people who recommend lovely clothes in books to me: recently the YA author Lydia Syson said there were some awesome ‘tangerine slacks’ somewhere in Geoffrey Trease’s Black Banner books, so naturally I had to look for them – women in trousers is very much a continuing theme on the blog: click the label below, and see my Guardian article here.
There are five in this series - YA books before (I think) the term was invented. Trease wrote many many historical novels (and very good they were too) and then apparently his daughter asked for something with a contemporary setting, and he produced these – taking a group of young people through their teens in the Lake District in the 1950s. I loved them when I read them as a teenager myself, and I’ve loved re-reading them now. I haven’t found the tangerine slacks yet… though in this book there is a ‘weird female in cherry-coloured slacks’ – a famous artist visiting Penny’s father’s bookshop. Perhaps like this, used for an earlier entry:
At some point in my extensive early reading of Trease, I had taken in the fact that he was very left-wing in his personal politics, but I’m sure I wasn’t aware of the slightly subversive nature of these books - that was quite a surprise. They are very good examples of the home/school/adventures genre: the young people get lost in the fells and have to camp out. The school sports day looms large. Friendships are built. But the big plot here concerns a farm that has been requisitioned by the War Office during WW2, and then not returned. The young people campaign to have it released – and Trease goes into our duties as citizens, the proper ways to try to effect change, the importance of respect for democracy, and the ways some people will try to manipulate the world. It’s like the best-ever (and most subtle) citizenship lesson, and very much carried and hidden by an excellent and interesting plot, which is never boring. I thought they’d all start singing the wonderful Woody Guthrie song ‘This Land is My Land…’ at one point.
The picture shows young hikers in Yorkshire a few years earlier, and is from the Imperial War Museum.