I didn’t include Morse code in my list of places our chapter of Winter Holiday took us because it wasn’t mentioned in the passage I quoted. But it was mentioned in the chapter, most enticingly. The book opens with the two children, Dick and Dorothea, beginning to explore the farm they’ve come to visit. There’s a big lake, and they see a boat with six children doing intriguing things around a large island in the middle of the lake. Readers of Swallows and Amazons know at once who these children are…oh, it’s so exciting. Dick and Dorothea long to make contact with them but aren’t sure how, until night falls and they figure out that the light in a distant window belongs to some of those nautical children. They signal with a flashlight, flash flash flash, until oh! The window light flashes three times in response. Contact! (With Mars, thinks astronomer Dick.) It’s terribly exciting.
And then the window light begins flashing in Morse code, but Dick and Dorothea can’t read it. Neither can we. This site is helpful, though we spent considerably more than the “minute” it boasts is necessary, and I can’t say we’re anywhere near mastery. Heh. More useful is the trick Jane remembered from Cheaper by the Dozen: words whose stresses match the dot-dash pattern for each letter of the alphabet, like “a-BOUT” for A (dot dash), “BOIS-ter-ous-ly” for B (dash dot dot dot), “CARE-less CHILD-ren” for C (dash dot dash dot), and “DAN-ger-ous” for D (dash dot dot). We began thinking up words for the rest of the alphabet—GARGOYLish for G, luGUbrious for L, and so on. I can now tap out “bad lad” in Morse code. Or “glad cad.” I’m sure this will come in useful someday.
Things we did on a Monday morning in September
Reading My Summer
Booknotes: Byatt’s The Children’s Book
Book Launch Party Today!