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Beatrix Potter Official 150th Anniversary Celebrations

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In a slight detour from my usual delightfully raucous Storytelling work, 2016 saw me working in partnership with Penguin Random House appearing as their official Beatrix Potter.  This year saw the 150th anniversary of her birth and I toured an interactive family show around major literary festivals, music festivals, bookshops and story centres up and down the country. Quite often Peter Rabbit himself would join me on stage to help tell his story and to lead us in song and dance. Every single child left with bunny ears, stickers and a limited edition writing book which encouraged the themes of creative literacy explored in the show.

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The casting came as a surprise to me. No to dreadlocks, no to tattoos, no to fantastical, multicoloured, flying, fairytale coat and bad monkey impressions.  Yes to starched cuffs, yes to high neck blouses, yes to pocket watches, yes to sensible, boots and cut-glass annunciation. However, through honestly fascinating research I found that we had more in common than I first expected. A deep love of the countryside and an appreciative eye for beauty in the small really rang true for me. Her love of fungi (a study of which she put into a hitherto unpublished scientific paper) and no small amount of absurdity fuelled her days in her beloved Lake District.  Any woman that can put a waistcoat on a frog or mop cap on a hedgehog clearly has a mischievous heart and as such I painted my Beatrix with these colours. Deliciously silly, delightfully mad and thoroughly serious about both endeavours.

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The celebrations are now over and my Beatrix has been retired, but we had a blast together, as did the 1000s of children (the young and old ones) who came and listened with their hearts as well as ears.

 

 

 

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A tasty taste of juicy newness!!

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I’m so excited to be able to share a glimpse of some of my work with schools. The wonderful staff and children at Bentfield Primary School allowed me to spend the day spinning tales with them and film the whole shebang.

Vast, sprawling thanks to Smoke No Pony who filmed, edited and animated (yep!) this visual feast.

Here is a tale I call Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Grimm Reading

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I am, amongst other things, a storyteller.

Me, the mouth where my stories come from and the mirror that tells me I AM the fairest of them all, most of the time.

This year sees the 200th anniversary of the first edition of  Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.  Their monumental tomb of tales, some of which lay ingrained within the fibre of our childhoods.   As with whispers and gossip, tales told time and time over often end up not really resembling their true form.  Today saw a story in the Telegraph which made me feel all shades of opinion.  You can read the full article here .

The headline reads “Fairytales too scary for modern children, say parents.”  It is the result of an American TV channel’s survey who’s results, issued as a press release, gives their new ultra-adult retelling of classic Grimm tales heaps of promotion.  I realise I am playing into their hands, but I could not lessen my grip on this.

2000 parents were surveyed; 50% refused to read their children Rumplstiltskin or Rapunzel because of  unsavory issues raised such as the threat of kidnap and execution.   A third of parents report that the eating of the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood by the wolf left their children in tears.   52% feel Cinderella is outdated as it sees a young girl left carrying out household chores all day.

Oh my…… where to begin?

Yes, if you tell the original version of Cinderella it will be outdated, the story is over 200 years old.  However,  you will also learn that the two step-sisters are punished for their wickedness with blindness by having their eyes pecked out by two pigeons.

It is a moralistic tale; if you chose to do bad things to good people, that badness will eventually return to you.  It is a simple and exceptionally relevant lesson.  Surely it is the parent’s responsibility to unpack this moral to those little ones too small to understand themselves and not just leave them reeling and in tears??

Secondly, children like to be scared …as long as it’s within a safe environment.  That’s why theme parks are so successful, why playing peek-a-boo is so hilarious.  It’s positively beneficial for their health and well-being, if we do not let children explore the boundaries of their emotions, how on earth do we expect them to become grounded, level-headed adults?  If we wrap them in cotton wool, we run the very real risk of creating a generation of adults who are risk adverse, overly cautious and full, full of fear.  The very thing we are trying to protect them from.

The world is a place of undefinable beauty, inexplicable wonders but there is also darkness beyond the very depths of our imaginings, there has to be, as one cannot exist without the other.   For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newtons Third Law of Motion physics fans) (For fellow Brian Cox fans, here’s a pic of our Bri looking like a sexy physics angel, .. any excuse)

It may be that the survey was weighted towards providing a negative outcome for our friend Fairytale, you can prove almost anything with the right statistic.

I really could go on, but I feel I’ve ranted enough.  Before I go though, I’d just like to ponder where the notion has come from that stories are just for children?

The utterly fantastic Rachel Rose Reid is a flying example of a contemporary adult storyteller.  We all have a heart, we all have a soul, those souls need sustenance and watering so they can grow.  So here we are, have a nibble on some soul food…


Not a kerfuffle over nothing.

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I am a fairly calm soul.

I do not get whipped up into the frenetic dizzyness over the latest musthave.

Hype around anything generally makes me sceptical because it causes me wonder who’s benefiting from all that shouting.

The sensationalism created by the Daily ffffflipping Mail two weeks ago truly made my bones boil.  Apparently, four horsemen had been seen stalking the south-eastern corner of our Isle.  Had they the Apocalypse with them in their evil rucksack?  No, a fear far greater rode with them, a terror so immense it’s name could only be whispered in darkened, underground corridors.  That name?…

snow.

Oooooooooohhhhhh it was coming, it was heading this way, it was going to be the most terrible of  terrors,  the entire  nation would cease to function and Waitrose would surely run out of brie. How would we possibly survive?

I gave the clouded night sky a cursory  glance as I pulled the curtains tight against Saturday evening.  “You’re not going to give us any snow are you?  Fuss over nothing as usual.”

Then Sunday arrived…

There WAS snow, it was real, it really was real snow and it was HERE!!!!

I honestly felt like a five year old on Christmas morning.

Moog and Noggin were less excited.

For a Norwegian Forest cat, Moog got quite upset at the snow.

So I tucked them up inside with warm radiators and blankets and resigned myself with not going anywhere for two days.  The only thing I could do was immerse myself in the deep joy of this already beautiful world suddenly made more wonderous.

Billions of flakes, each and every one different to it’s neighbour, made the mundane shine.

I’ve never photographed a postbox before, but this is beautiful isn’t it?

A daydream along the road and I stumbled across the scariest shack I’ve ever witnessed. Neither Spring, Summer or Autumn had pointed this out to me.  Had Winter placed it here for just this very moment?

I imagined I was in a film and surveyed the peeling shack through a tangle of scratchy branches while a piano plinked sparsely in the background.

At this point in the film you’d be telling the lone girl to turn back but secretly willing her on.

Your curiosity is mine too.

I moved closer.

Surely no-one could live here could they?  I peered through the eeriest window that ever there was.

No, just stacked chairs, papers, pots of crayons, children’s pictures pinned to the wall and books,… books

Bibles and the tattered remains of The Ladybird Book of Prayers Through the Year,…. ahhh this was the church’s Sunday School Hut.  A place for children.

I left before I was seen and made my way to the river where Leaf had proposed to me, to wash the shiver from my spine.

Here I took his hand as he gave me his heart.

Sadly, economy dictates that my love travels to where the money is.  His time at this time was being spent in Birmingham.  And it was his birthday too.  Rubbish!

So with his smile in my head, I fashioned him a snowman, a peaceful snowman on the bench by our house.

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

Indeed.

Shiny new!!

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Hello!!

look! here's a picture of a web on a post and I've put a post on the web!!.... I know.

ok, first blog post ever in a year laid-out bare before us,… fresh, still wet,   like the sand on Bembridge beach when the thin tide runs back to it’s deep, watery home.   I’ve sat for a while not wanting to plonk my heavy size 7s all over it’s perfect smoothness, but then the five year old inside me squeeled loud as she often does.  So here I am stomping about the internet with my coat of extended metaphore and wonder-goggles on.

I want to create a corner in which to share the frankly ridiculous amounts of joy I get from the natural world and the stories that arise from it.

I hope you find a cosy spot here and are able to pad around a bit, fluff up some saggy old cushions and settle down into a place of purring happiness.

I really wish I could purr.