By train and plane, taxi and car
We’re travelling to Sheffield from Stroud and afar.
Like migrating wilderbeasts, salmon and toads
Although hopefully not eaten or squashed on the road.
On pizzas and parties we’ll spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
I’m producing, tomorrow, the Opening Sesh
It’s a Question Time thing, in which we will flesh
Out the bones of kids’ media policy and stuff
And probably mention Brexit but without flimflam or guff
On panellists (and poets) we spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
I’m over excited, I’m sure you can tell
Writers don’t get out much, oh you knew that as well.
Jayne World has gone all sing song with rhyme
But I’ll try to control it most of the time
On potions to pacify me, spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
“Bufo Bufo” said the lusting toad
“I want some love action, I must cross the road”
“Bufo Bufo” said the toad, full of lust,
“To get to the love pond, cross the road I must.”
You’ve heard of the Great Migration across the plains of Africa? Well this is a little closer to home but no less magnificent given the scale of the creatures involved. Every year common toads come out from under the rocks, mud and compost heaps where they’ve spent the winter and take the long march to the Ancestral Pond. It might be only up the road or across a couple of fields to you and me but then we’re not 2-3 centimetres high.
Then a motorcar sped down the road
Heart full of desire, out stepped the toad
Out stepped the toad, heart full of desire,
“Glitch” went the toad, between tarmac and tyre.
Another toad crossing said “Oh bother and f**k it”
If only someone had a big plastic bucket.
If someone had a big plastic bucket
To the pond I’d go safely, find another toad and…
Thanks to the less than wintry weather here, the toads started moving very early this spring. January. We saw the first squashed one in January. As these animals are declining in numbers, our crack team of patrollers have been out every night to lift them to safety on the pond side of the road. Some nights are just too cold and only the hardiest, lustiest toads make a move. But other nights when the conditions are just right, warm and damp, we’ve been collecting them by the bucketful.
Ever wondered what 40 toads looks like?
The collective noun is a ‘knot’.
I like that.
The sun is just setting, I am waiting for the last blackbird to shut up and go to sleep and then I’m off again, armed with bucket and torch to zigzag my way up and down the lane so that fewer toads look like this:
And more look like this:
And just so’s you know: they don’t croak – frogs croak.
Well, if your instincts promised a pond full of passion, wouldn’t you?
If you don’t know Tee and Mo, they are a delightful monkey mother and son combo who get up to all sorts of collaborative fun in the forest. They collaborate together and also with you, the preschool child/care-giver in their Bafta nominated games (also found on the Cbeebies website).
Narrated by BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Tee and Mo is the brainchild of Plug-In’s creative director Dominic Minns. I love the way he and the other clever people at Plug-in have devised the games to encourage children and their adults to play the games together, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Who Did the Footprints is my first interactive story. I want to say very clever things about extending the reading experience and kinesthetic learning but that would sound terribly dull and I’d much rather you and your Cbeebie went together and gave your Cbeebies Storytime app-watching device a good shake (You’ll understand once you’ve downloaded the story) so I’ll just say that it was enormous fun writing it and I hope that you have enormous fun reading it.
Today, Friday 28th November, and Monday 1st December, I have episodes of “Bing” screening on CBeebies. Today’s episode is called “Jingly Shoes” and goes out at 9.10am and 1.10pm. If, like me you were doing something this morning and missed it, it will also be on BBC i-player.
“Looking After Flop”, goes out at 9.10am on Monday and then repeated at 1.10pm (and then also on BBC i-player.
I loved writing for these delightful characters; each one is full of raw emotion, wonder and real love, reflecting the lives of the very special people this show is aimed at, three to six year olds and their carers. I hope you and more importantly, any little ones you know, enjoy watching them. I’d love to hear what you think.
As I watch the setting sun,
I see the shadows getting long.
Shadows are like memories of the day we’ve had.
Some shadows happy, some are sad:
The things we did, the people we met,
The ice cream van, the girl at the vet.
I’m very little and my shadow is short.
Yesterday is far away
And I don’t remember before today.
But when I climb on Grandad’s knee,
It’s funny how much more I see.
Grandad’s long shadow shows all sorts of things:
People and places,
And long ago faces.
He shows them to me in photos and books.
And in the pictures I’m surprised to see
Some of the children look like me!
Grandmas and aunties on a trip to the zoo,
And my grandad’s grandad, and his grandad too.
Grandad can tell me about long ago;
His friends, his toys and the things he did.
But Grandad is old and forgets things today,
Like his glasses and the things I say.
So I help him find the things he forgets
And he helps me meet the people he met.
He shares them in the stories he tells.
And when my shadow’s longer, I’ll share them as well.
You can hear this as well as my short story Poppy’s Day read by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston at www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
You thought Prokofiev’s famous Dance of the Knights was all about Lord Sugar and his apprentices didn’t you? No? Men in ballet tights? Or maybe if you’re a Star Trek fan, Romulans in ballet tights?
Well before you start parading round singing “Romulans and Capulets” let me put you straight because no no no. As the lovely people at CBeebies Radio, a lot of children under the age of 6, Robert the Robot and I all know, this piece of music is, in fact, all about a grumpy marmalade cat and a teeny tiny mouse… in the rain.
Did you see the CBeebies Prom on television on August 25th? (still on BBC i-player) Those lovely people have an extra special treat for you to freely download at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/prom/radio/cbeebies-prom-extra Your little ones (and you) can do-si-do and round up imaginary cattle on imaginary horses, thanks to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s special recording of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown before settling down to hear their recording of Prokofiev’s famous march and Robert The Robot’s beautiful telling of a story it inspired me to write; a thrilling tale of life and death excitement in the back garden: “Past the pond, round the rockery; round the rockery, past the pond.”
Hear the cat “Slink and prow-wl,
And pounce and grow-wl…” in the music.
And can you hear the young mouse showing off?
“I’m so fast,
The orange thing
With clawy paws
Won’t catch me!…”
While overhead a blackbird cries in alarm “Run! Run! Run! Run!”
Goodness I had fun writing this story. I hope that you and your younglings have fun listening to it.
My short story Poppy’s Day is available as a free download from CBeebies Radio today and for the next seven days. Read by Falklands War veteran, Simon Weston, and beautifully produced by John Leagas, the story marks the centenary of the First World War and introduces little listeners to bravery and the importance of remembering.
I’ve just read the BBC press release, which says “is as powerful as it is poignant, a reminder about how important it is to remember not just the events of history, but the people.” So that’s me feeling smug for the rest of the day.
Follow the link above and if you don’t see a big picture of some poppies to click on. Click on ‘Get This Week’s Podcasts’ and then again on ‘Download Radio Podcast’ and then on ‘CBeebies:Poppy’s Day’.
Because everything’s coming up lovely. Having spent the autumn digging round for writing commissions and hard pruning some ideas and dreaming over seed catalogues, things started to happen. But like all those dinky seeds, everything had to stay buried under non disclosure agreements. All I could do was walk round with a warm smile, rather like a compost heap steaming on a frosty morning: definitely good things going on.
Much is still to blossom but (Weren’t the flowers lovely this spring?) you should be able to see the first fruits later this month when CBeebies broadcast BING BUNNY. Actually this was a series that I wrote for last year and I think my scripts were all locked before Christmas. I’ve desperately wanted to talk about it because the show is so lovely. It was initially described to me as a reality show for preschool. And it is. Using a beautifully animated black bunny rabbit and his friends and family, the episodes show real time moments from a child’s life: the fun, the wonder and the mess. It’s brilliant. It’s bouncy. It’s a BING thing.
Back to my ‘gardenese’: I’m sure the series will blossom and grow in the hearts of its young audience and bear much fruit in their lives. And also prove fruitful for the lovely people that I worked with at Acamar Films Ltd.
As I said, much of what I’ve done this spring is still to blossom: still under a mulch of creative compost and non disclosure agreements. Nevertheless, things are developing nicely: I’ve been working with broadcasters and independent producers on more preschool projects and grown up features, a major international conservation project and, and, and… poetry! Can’t wait for the day I can show you those literary specimens: I’ll be as proud as a gold medal winner at Chelsea. Blooming marvelous.
I’ve just remembered a brilliant thing someone said last Saturday. Rather fascinated by bees at the moment. As is everyone apparently. Hating to follow the herd, I can smugly say that I’m not interested in keeping them because it’s trendy – my big sister inherited a hive and I like being like her.
Whatever, the lovely ancient apiarist in Stroud market, advised me to wait a few years “When there will be lots of second hand equipment for sale as the herd move on. First it was chickens…” he said.
Then he said something else, and this is why I am writing before I forget it and fill my silly head with other chattery nonsense.
He said, “My primary school teacher taught me to keep bees.”
“Oh,” I gushed, picturing an Edwardian lady filling her country diary with bee keeping notes and thinking ‘how quaint, he must have grown up with Laurie Lee’.
The elderly bee keeper clearly knew I was filling my head with bucollocks (that’s rustic nonsense) so added, “She taught me to read.”
She taught me to read.
Once upon a seabed, there lived a sponge. Giving a home to lots of tiny creatures, it felt happy and important wafting in the waters. Then along came a net, which scooped it up and dumped it onto a boat with lots of wriggling fish. Some big hairy hands had picked it out. But instead of throwing it back into the sea, the big hairy hands left it on deck in the sun. The boat sailed home and now the sponge was miles away from its home, snatched from its family and friends, all dried out and very grumpy.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” thought the grumpy sponge. “Thing’s can’t possibly get worse.” He heard some sloshing and thought, “Ah good, at least I can soak up some water.” But it wasn’t water: he suddenly found himself dunked in vinegar! Vinegar! Somebody said it was wine but it tasted horrid. All the little houses where the tiny creatures had lived filled up and the sponge felt horribly tingly, like being stung by a thousand sea anemones, which he was once, when he’d made a rude remark about their tentacles.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” hiccupped the grumpy sponge. “Things can’t possibly get worse.” But then they stuck him on a stick! He’d once been poked by an inquisitive swordfish, and been very cross about it. But at least the swordfish hadn’t hoiked him into the air and waved him about! The sponge didn’t like air at the best of times. Now he was swaying to and fro, this way and that, as he was raised higher and higher, dripping vinegar.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” swooned the grumpy sponge. “Things can’t possibly get worse.” But then he came face to face with a man nailed onto some bits of a tree. This man had been snatched from his family and friends, poked and pierced and now been hoiked into the air.
The people below pushed the sponge up to the man’s lips for him to take a drink. The man’s face was full of pain and pressure, as if he’d been stung by a hundred thousand sea anemones, poked by all the swordfishes in the sea and had the weight of all the water in the world pressing down on him. But the sponge saw that this man wasn’t angry or even grumpy, even though he was in agony. In fact this man was full of love: love for the people that had snatched him away, or had laughed at him, even the ones that had hoiked him into the air. Despite the pain and pressure, this man’s face was full of love for everyone.
As the sponge was lowered, he didn’t feel grumpy anymore. When he had touched this man’s lips, he’d been kissed by the greatest love in the world. “I don’t deserve this! Why me?”
Happy Easter everyone.