BBC Bitesize, Key Stage 1 History – Monarchs and Leaders is now available online. Commissioned by Fettle Animation, my brief was to write the potted BUT HIGHLY ACCURATE biographies of various historical figures AND MAKE THEM FUN. The characters chosen ranged from these monarchs and leaders to famous scientists, campaigners, and others that kids get to learn about at Key Stage 1.
Sharing writing duties with Rick Goodwin and produced by Kath Shackleton, high points of this project were learning about Mary Seacole, whom I only previously knew from a mural on the side of a Reading building many years ago; and that Stephen Hawking was a prankster. Oh, and knowing more about the English Reformation than an executive producer. Low points were knowing more about the English Reformation than an executive producer.
Oh how I laughed.
I’ve just listened to today’s CBeebies Radio podcast. “Oh that’s a good story today,” I thought. “Did I write that?” YES I DID. I hope that you and your little ones enjoy it too. If you do, you’ll understand why I went and changed my socks and am now wearing purple.
Oh this was fun to write! Have you seen Roy on CBBC? The cartoon boy in a real world. Well this is the prequel – Roy is five years old instead of ten. So it’s less about fitting in and more about finding out. He is a great character and the show is a lovely crossover from preschool to big kid content and I was very pleased to be involved.
This episode, Dr Roy, which involves bandages, biscuits and a ‘ba-doom ba-doom’ big hearted little boy, was broadcast a week or so back on CBeebies and of course I missed it. But hooray for catch up telly! If you would like to watch it, then here’s the web address: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08ffx89/little-roy-18-doctor-roy
The longer you put something off, the harder it is to do it, right? That’s how I felt in September when I saw that my last bit of news here was in July. I felt it again in November, even though by then I had had a book published, achieved my next canoeing qualification, got a new commission, successfully lobbied Government and I had much to tell. Then December came.
“I’ll send a Festive Newsletter!” I cried. But Christmas was just too merry to think about newsletters.
“I’ll send a New Year Newsletter!” I sang. But New Year was just too happy to think about newsletters.
Now it is January and for the life of me I can’t remember what happened last year. “Oh well done, Jayne.”
And I’m not likely to remember because where I live, it is now the Wassailing Season. Yes it can involve marching round orchards, sticking bits of toast in the trees but more than that, it’s about wishing your neighbours and friends good health for the coming year, “Waes Hael”, and sharing cakes and ale. And singing. And dancing. And, did I mention the cakes and ale? That has nothing to do with me forgetting whatever it was that happened in the latter half of 2016, nothing at all. It’s just that looking backward isn’t always the way forward. As January strokes its double beard, I will stroke mine and look to what’s ahead of me in 2017:
Having mentioned these, it would be unkind not to come back with more information so, by my January beard, I will endeavour to write more frequently and usefully. But in the meantime, Waes Hael!
My first radio interview will be broadcast tomorrow Tuesday 26th July, 1530hrs BBC Radio 4. What’s the aural equivalent of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’? Probably ‘poke your finger in your ear to scoop the wax out’. Although if your ears are fairly clean you won’t miss it all as my bit was going to be about five minutes long.
It came as a big surprise. That tremendous journalist, comic and role model Timandra Harkness got in touch to talk about how incongruous cinematic moments can throw us out of the film’s story world. We’ve all groaned at plot holes and continuity errors but what about when a filmmaker does this sort of thing deliberately? What’s going on and why? And why was the tremendous journalist, comic and role model Timandra Harkness asking me these sorts of questions?
The Human Zoo looks at current events through the lens of psychology. This episode is called News of An Atrocity, the Psychology of Rare Events and looks at why we are more attuned to the dangers of exceptional situations, such as acts of terrorism, than to more everyday threats such as a car crash.
Part of the programme looks at how we use stories to make sense of the world around us. How the patterns, rhythms and themes of a constructed world help us deal with the fears and uncertainties of real life and contribute to our well being. That was where I fitted in although I will have to listen to the programme myself to remember exactly what I said. I know there was talk about Doctor Who, and the importance of getting the right breed of cow in your costume drama and I may even have said “Verfremdungseffekt”. ‘m pretty sure I mentioned Gumball, Ned Stark’s death and David Lynch, although possibly not in that order.
And we came up with the title of my forthcoming Screenwriting manual: “Bury the Wizard.”
Thing is, I didn’t know I had a forthcoming screenwriting manual. Another example of how life is full of plot holes.
“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.
Me! I had a brilliant evening at the Sandford St Martin 2015 Awards last night. OK so I didn’t win an award, but then I wasn’t up for one: I was a juror. But I came away from Lambeth Palace feeling like a winner. The evening had celebrated some of the best, most thought provoking, meaningful and, in some cases, uplifting media content of the past year: radio and TV documentaries, sit coms, murder mysteries, period dramas, bio-pics and everything in between. Some of the programmes had flown under the mainstream radar – the winner of the children’s award for example (Fettle Animation’s ‘Children of the Holocaust’ BBC 2) had first been broadcast at 4 in the morning as a teaching aid for schools! – so there were loads of titles that I came home wanting to seek out, others that I wanted to watch again.
The best thing though was being in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people. Award ceremonies are always full of outstanding people, we’re there to celebrate the most talented after all. But this room was full of people who were not only talented and not only nice but really rather wonderful: men and women who clearly care about their work beyond personal ambition.
The winners of the Sandford Awards are can be found at http://sandfordawards.org.uk/the-awards/2015-awards/2015-award-winners/ I think you can also view the programmes there. Definitely worth it.
So why did I feel like a winner myself? Because:
But the best bit?
The best bit, the bit I enjoyed most came right at the end when fellow juror Tim Herbert and the winners of the Children’s Award, Producer Kath Shackleton and Director Zane Whittingham of Fettle Animation and I were about to leave. Standing in the hallowed hall, the home of the head of the Church of England, with its oak paneling and Tudor fireplace, surrounded by oil paintings of all the Archbishops that have gone before, surrounded by history and the host of unseen witnesses, the cry went up, “Anyone coming for a beer?”
Like I said, I was in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people.
I wish you a Christmas full of joy, love and hope,
With laughter and peace, but no time to mope.
I hope you feel loved and can share that with others,
Like strangers and friends, aunties and brothers.
But the wish I wish most while I have this one chance,
I hope you don’t get pine cones in your pants.
I’m saying nothing about needles.
I’m rather excited and very honoured today because my poem Remembering has been included in the BBC’s commemoration of the start of the first world war. If you click on the link, you will hear it included in a wonderful podcast for children on this occasion. My thanks to Falklands veteran Simon Weston for reading the poem and to Academy Award winning composer Steven Price for the music and to producer John Leagas.
I hope that you enjoy it and if you have young children, that they will too.