Sporty Imogen refuses to let her asthma get in the way of her having fun in this story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/imogen-takes-the-plunge
This story draws on some of my experiences teaching kayaking to school children. There always seemed to be at least one child with an inhaler in the class and if they were not reticent about trying something that might make them out of breath and/or falling in the river, their teachers often were.
In this story, I wanted to show that, as long as the right precautions are taken, there is no reason why a child with asthma can’t do fun stuff or go on to make their dreams come true. I was greatly inspired by stories of Olympic athletes like Rebecca Adlington OBE and hope that children listening to this story will be too and will go on to do amazing things.
Oh and thanks to the great people at my local sports centre #Dursleypool for explaining why we should shower before rather than after swimming and why widdling in the pool is such a really bad idea…
I’m so glad to have written the stories for this fantastic series helping kids across the UK who have allergies, while making others aware of how they can help. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Starting from 10th Jan with a new show every Wednesday until 7th February , this cracking series about allergies is not to be sniffed at.
I’ll stop right there with the puns because allergies are only funny until you have one yourself. Then it can be tiresome, disruptive, frightening, especially when you’re not yet even six. To be the odd one out, with special food, special gloves, special medicine, when you’re feeling poorly, doesn’t feel very special at all.
This series of five audio downloads explores different chronic conditions that some children may suffer: asthma, allergies to pet dander, nuts, dairy, pollen… what’s it like to suddenly react badly to something? What’s it like when it happens to your friend? What’s it like to have to guard what you eat or drink or touch? What’s it like to not be able to eat your own birthday cake?
When you put it like that, it’s all a bit grim.
So I didn’t put it like that.
After all, these stories are for CBeebies and CBeebies is never grim. So expect fun stories with nutty detectives, cub scouts, tennis aces, guinea pigs and pigeons, all read beautifully by the wonderfully reassuring Dr Ranj.
Of course the stories answer all of those questions above: I based them on patient testimony and the expertise of a specialist nurse. You can hear some of the children talking about their conditions in each episode as well. My lovely producers were pleased with the result. I hope that you and your little ones will be too.
“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.
Earlier this spring, the Children’s Media Foundation was invited to take part in the jury for a new Children’s Broadcast Award. Having recently joined the CMF’s board, I took great pleasure in this my first official duty; as if I ever need an excuse to watch lots of children’s television programmes and discuss them over lunch.
The organisation giving the award is the Sandford St Martin Trust, an independent and non-profit organisation that seeks to promote and encourage excellence in religious programming and religious literacy amongst policy makers, journalists and individuals. To this end it has been making annual awards for the best programmes about religion, ethics and spirituality since 1978.
This year the trust has introduced a new award for children’s content. It was championed by Sandford trustee and broadcaster Roger Bolton who, like the Children’s Media Foundation, recognizes the importance of children having quality and variety in programming made especially for them: “It is critical that children and young people are exposed to imaginative works that open their eyes to the world they share and the beliefs people hold.”
There were ten programmes on the shortlist. Submissions were for radio, television and online broadcasts and came from a range of producers; from broadcasting behemoths such as the BBC to small religious charities and producers of teaching material. As a writer of fiction, I usually gravitate to drama but there were some brilliant documentaries too. There were some programmes, both fiction and non-fiction, that left me cold: a little too preachy and putting the ‘die’ into didactic. But the ones that really worked, that made me think and feel and consider in new ways, had one thing in common: people, real people’s experiences at their heart. Even the fictional ones. Their testimonies needed no explanation, no editorial interpretation. Of course there was editorial input: duh! But the programmes that worked best were constructed to let the stories, the ideas, speak for themselves.
But how can you compare a preschool radio show with a fluffy Christmas special or a hard-hitting teen documentary? That’s where children’s programming differs from the grown up stuff: it’s so much about the audience. Programmes have to be age appropriate; giving or considering a child’s perspective, and the best did just that.
Having watched the shortlist and decided which was the most fabulous and worthy winner of the award, I hied me to Westminster to meet with the other jury members: independent producer and children’s author Hilary Robinson, National Geographic Kids editor Tim Herbert and Senior Lecturer in Media Practice at Salford University Beth Hewitt.
It was a fascinating process: we each brought different perspectives and expertise and there were biscuits. We were pretty unanimous in the way we shortened the shortlist but then it got …difficult as we tried to tease out the best of the best. Like the Mole in The Wind in the Willows, we “scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then we scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped” until at last – “pop!” we had a runner up and a winner.
And the Winner is….
To be announced this evening at Lambeth Palace….
You expect me to tell you now? I’m off to get ready for tonight’s ceremony!
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.
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
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’.
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.