Tuesday, 28 February 2017

One Families Ups and Downs of World Book Day Costumes!

Image result for wbd




The approach to this years World Book Day is filled with the usual costume dilemmas and elation but for me it also has a tinge to sadness. The bittersweet felling is as a result of it being my youngest offspring’s last WBD in primary education, and therefore probably his last year to dress up! So after years of WBD horrors, dramas and successes this will be the last WBD as most of the upper school choose to mark it in other way: quizzes and in fact one school, (my daughters) have the teachers dress up and not the pupils as it’s ‘More fun that way’ apparently!

So, as my son deliberates whether to go as Mr Munroe from Chris Riddell’s Ottoline books, or Douglas Adam’s Marvin the paranoid android from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (but fashioned like the 2006 film played by Warwick Davis and voiced by the late great Alan Rickman) I thought I’d take a look back at the highs and lows of our families WBD costume dilemmas.

Despite WBD celebrating is 20th anniversary on the 2nd of March, I had no idea that it was even a thing, until one morning I had a panicked phone call from a friend, asking what my daughter was going to dress up as at preschool. This resulted in a whirlwind of activity, mostly emptying the dressing up box, until eventually I found an outfit my 3 year old would ware, sadly no photos exist so I shall describe it for you, she wore a silver space-suite onesie (which I think was a Thunderbirds costume), with a hat which was a green skullcap with a pink flower sicking out of the top, accessorised with a pair of wellington boots in yellow I think. I took my daughter to pre-school, where the teacher look at my daughter with pity and me with disdain and asked what books she was from, so thinking on my feet I quipped ; ‘The Times, she a genetically Modified Fruit.’


 The dreaded question; “what are you children dressing up as tomorrow, for Wold Book Day?”

After the horror, of our first WBD, we had a few years before it came back to throw us in to panicked costume making chaos, I don’t know if this is because the school did not celebrate it or if we happened to take our family holidays that week, but it wasn’t until my daughter was in year 2 and my son was in foundation class that our second almost equally unprepared WBD came around. So I was helping out in my son’s class when the teacher asked me the dreaded question; “what are your children dressing up as tomorrow, for Wold Book Day?”




Cue panic – cue scrounging a sheet of green card from the class craft draws, followed by an evening of frantic costume making. For my son, we re-used a green tunic we had made for a Robin Hood costume, and added a self-made Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake inspired Enormous Crocodile hat, and for finished it with a green tail from some silly catch the tail game. For my daughter, I borrowed a red cloak from a friend (I had a 12 mile round trip to collect it) and used it as the finishing touches to a Red Riding Hood ensemble. The extra evening of notice really made the difference between epic fail and scraping a pass.


Having had WBD sneak up on my twice I made a mental note to never allow it to happen a third time. So the next year, we started costume preparation a few weeks before. At the time both children were big into Greek Myths, my son obsessed by Lucy Coats 'Atticus' books, and my daughter by Rick Riordan’s 'Percy Jackson' series. Percy Jackson was easy, all I had to do was make wings for the shoes, and borrow a pre-crafted trident from a crafty friend. But my son wanted to be Medusa, so we went about fashioning a hat using pipe cleaners and pictures of snake heads for her hair. The costumes were fun, and the kids loved them- they also got a second outing at my daughters Greek Myth themed birthday a few weeks later.





So the next year we started to preparations way in advance or at least I did for my son, who wanted to be ‘Frankie’ from the (then) recently published ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ by Mo O’Hara. This as I’m sure you can imagine wasn’t the easiest of costumes to create, so I opted again to make a hat. The hat took planning and to my son’s joy and my relief turned out well. My daughter’s costume was a dream by comparison, because it was the first and only time she completely arranged it herself.



She and her school friends all decided to go as characters from Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch books, and sorted out their own costumes from their collective dressing up boxes – easiest WBD costume ever. And on a whole a successful year.



12 months later and our lives (due to relocation) had completely changed: new house, new school, new car, new puppies, new jobs, new EVERYTHING, and living in a tiny rental house with most of our stuff in storage. So this year we – cheated. I had been asked by the children’s school to come in and do some WBD writing sessions, so we went as a family and brought a Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2 Costumes. Despite not having made the costumes, they were a success, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 still get used for school fun runs and alike!



My Daughters last year of Primary school and therefore her last year of dressing up was back to costume panic – as both children were reading books about rodents, my daughter – ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ by Robert C. O'Brien and my son ‘River Singers’ my Tom Moorhouse, and therefore a rat and a water vole costume was requested.



As I can’t sew, and I could find no rodent costumes to buy, so I enlisted the help of my mum, who crocheted some noses and ears for some plain woolly hats I had purchased. They were to make rodent head - you guess it - hats, and once assembled and worn with colour coordinated clothes, they worked really well. The kids were pleased, I was relived, and my mum was happy to have helped. It was all looking like a successful WBD costume year until…




… The Telegraph online newspaper ran an article; ‘World Book Day costumes: A parent's 7 stages of crisis’ and I was featured under section ‘7. Smug realisation that you are heading towards playground triumph .’ Being outed as a smug parent by a national newspaper did somewhat mar the feeling of that year's WBD costumes being a success.


Last year, 2016, was the first year of only needing to produce ONE WBD costume as as I’ve mentioned my daughters big school only permit teachers to dress up – weird I know. I however was busier than ever starting a new business and working for the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, meaning my time for costume making was somewhat limited. I therefore ran with the theme from work, and my son went in a BFG costume I brought. However being my son, he was not content without improving it, so we added a cape, a self-made dream trumpet (tin foil and toilet rolls, Blue Peter style!) and a suitcase (well old fashioned brief case) full of dream jars, plus a pair of paper plate ears. I wasn’t convinced it was successful WBD costume but he was happy which the main thing is.



You know I said that we only needed one outfit for 2016 WBD, and that I was prepard, well, at work, The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, then told me the day before that also needed to dress up as a Dahl character, so cue - costume panic!



So it brings us up to date and the impending WDB 2017 which is just two sleeps away. You may be asking what did we decide, a Marvin, or a Mr Munroe? Well actually he changed his mind and he going as Gandalf from the Hobbit (which he’s currently reading). Of course it’s not without its issues, the beard we ordered was delivered and it was the wrong colour; white not grey (Gandalf is Grey in the Hobbit you know) so had to be returned, and we still have to go a whittle a branch to be a staff (although thanks to Doris finding a fallen bit of tree should be easy!) So far preparations seem to be going well. And hopefully 2017, our final year of WBD dressing up will be a success. Now where did I put that wizards hat?





Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Autopsy of a Writer’s (well my) Note-Pad




Recently I discovered that you can now buy re-usable notepads/sketchpads, that you use then ‘zap’ in the microwave and it comes out blank – cleansed- like NEW! Now this seems rather clever, but don’t think personally this would work for me. Why? well…

Firstly – I like to know that the marks I’ve made are permanent, there’s something not only self-affirming about it, but just the notion of it being permanent means it has more impact on one’s memory.

Secondly – and more to the importantly – I DON’T have a microwave. This is due to an unfortunate incident of a microwave fire costing twenty five thousand pounds worth of damage, so I suspect my family and insurance company would object to me purchasing one purely of notepad cleaning! And yes if you were wondering, I did cause the fire, please be warned wheat bags should not be put on for twenty minutes!

New note-pads grab ready!

Although I lament in not being able to participate in a evolution that could have positive effects for the environment I am actually pretty pleased to stay with the good old fashioned paper notepad. That being said, I’m somewhat envious of many of my writer friend’s relationships with their notepads, as often on my Twitter and Facebook feeds a post pops up about a writer-friend who is out on a search for the ‘perfect notepad’ for their next project. Inevitably this is followed up by a photograph of a stunning perfect pad, many linking to the theme of the author’s next project.

This is what I’m envious of: having a special notepad that is specifically and unique tor one project. I’m jealous of the ritual and the record of the creation of a project from conception to finished novel or picture books etc. DON’T GET ME WRONG, I have as much of stationary fetish as the next writer, I’m just not monogamous to my notepads.

Usually, I need a notepad in hurry as the one I’ve been working in is full, so I pick one of the pile of beautiful ones I have on the shelf (gifted to me by friends and family) and I stuff this is my bag, and carry it everywhere until it too is full. This is nowhere near as romantic as picking one for the start of a project, and also it means that I use it for everything. I mean EVERYTHING, from working on my current WIP, to excitedly scrawling new concepts, to the more mundane to-do-lists, and shopping lists.

So, as my last notepad has just had its last blank page filled with ink, I thought I’d do an autopsy.

YES an AUTOPSY. I shall dissect it and investigate what it gorged itself to death on, so here we go, let the autopsy commence.

Autopsy of Notepad- Campervan


Believe D.O.Bu - (Date of Beginning (of) use) - June 2016
D.O.Eu (Date of End (of) Use) – February 2017

On first glance, the notepad seems healthy and undamaged, but upon opening it is immediately obviously that it has been heavily used. The first page is covered in barley readable miss-spelt scrawl of something called an 'epilogue' to what it the apparent owners WIP#1 a YA Urban-fantasy sci-fi novel. 



Strangely after only a few pages we find the apparent end of the same WIP#1, which makes one wonder what happened to rest of the novel?



Next we have notes from the zoo, literally, scrawls from a trip to London Zoo for the owners other current project (lets call it) WIP#2 a MG post apocalyptic story, set in yes you guessed it a zoo!



A random photograph of the owner and owners sister at the Moon-dial circa 1990 is found between the pages along with a random pair of 3D glasses - strange!



The user of this now de-funked notepad apparently switches and changes projects at will, as the next section is back to WIP#1, with character notes, and large quantity of post-its.


Flicking over the page is more development work for the owners WIP#1 along with her 10 Year old Manga Panda, in the medium of felt-tip on paper-towel.


Delving deeper into the pages we find more indecipherable scrawls along with one child's ticket to the Purbeck Steam Railway, stamps, air-mail stickers and a pearl of wisdom from Candy Gourlay (which clearly the writer is ignoring in preference for being distracted writing a completely bonkers blog post!) 



The notepad is stuffed fill with  doodles, along side lists of blog ideas, breaking up form the monotony of the badly spelt writing.


Oh, some colour, more WIP#1 work in an array of biros.



Another photograph (clearly from the 1980's) found between the pages which show the owners pet dog Lucy along with pet pidgon Dusty, besides the longhand version of a blog post about dodo's. 


Lastly one of many to-do-lists and shopping lists of which the owners has tormented the notepad with, this time, no contented with just writing the mundane notes on the pages of the pad, there also an additional printed out to-do-list too, obliviously the owner is still not needed Candy's advise and instead likes to distract them self with making multiple to-do-lists!



To conclude, it is obvious that the cause of death of this notepad, has been over consumption of the ramblings and thoughts of a erratic and slightly deranged individual. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

A small gesture of support for J K Rowling

Whilst in the throngs of arranging my kid’s first Harry Potter Book Night Party, I became aware of the social media storm that has embroiled J K Rowling’s twitter feed. @jk_rowling

Prep for Harry Potter Book Night

I am quite frankly appalled by the aggressive reaction to Rowling’s recent tweets. Surely the author who brought us Harry Potter’s Wizarding World which shone a light on prejudice is perfectly placed to comment about the current state of the world? If not because she (like the rest of us) live on the planet so has a vested interest but also, as her books have had studies proving that reading them makes the reader more empathetic, [press here to still the full article] it seems a logical extension for Rowling to shine a light on global trend which is the stark opposite; spreading ignorance which leads to hate which turns to a very slippery and un-harmonious slope.

The reaction to Rowling’s observations have been swift, numerous and brutal [press here to read more]. The tweets are aggressive, even threatening and promising to burn her books and DVD’s. I’m shocked and saddened that people would react in such a scathing and aggressive manner; why not be tolerant and understanding about other people opinions – oh what’s that called again? – Oh empathy!


A Cornish Pixie caught in The Half Blood Prince

So I’ve decided to show my support for Rowling in a small way - by reading her books.

You see, I have never read a JK ROWLING BOOK. *Cue shocked faces and glares of disdain* Now, don’t judge, let me explain why.
  1. I was too old to be swept up in the phenomena when the first books were published.
  2. The first books were published during my decade long break from recreational reading (secondary school through to graduation from uni).
  3. I LOVED the first film, and so knowing that when I see a film after reading the book I’m always disappointed and wanting to enjoy all the films (see my previous blog post about films books), I vowed not to read them until I’d watched all the movies. Of course I had to wait a good few years for that.
  4. When I first tried to read the books – I couldn’t. whether it was due to small print and me going through a bad spout of dyslexia or that I broke my decade of not reading by reading YA novels (all first person), and I found the change to middle grade jilting, I don’t know. But please don’t get me wrong I LOVE the stories, and my kids (12 & 10) have read the books, I however just couldn’t get off the first page.

So when my husband was at work and the kids were asleep, I sat down, at 9 o clock, with my hot water bottle, a glass of wine and The Philosophers Stone and began to read. And what can I say, other than when my husband (who bearing striking resemblance to certain wizard) eventually got home at 11, I’d read half the books, (without even getting up to refill my glass) and considering that due to my dyslexia making me a very slow reader, it’s a testament to how much I’m loving it. I’m a convert you might say.





And so, to support J K Rowling, and her right to speak or tweet her mind and observations, I pledge to read all her books.