I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
On Monday I went to Whitchurch School, near Ross on Wye. Small groups of children had been brought along from other local primaries fro the morning. These children were all blessed with dyslexia and other similar language gifts.
Am I being over-politically correct saying that dyslexia is a blessing? I think not. Of course in a world of type and written language it can hold you back, but that is the world as perceived by language blessed people, who tend to be in the majority and tend to be the majority in the field of education.
Of course, when I were a lad, I was just called thick and stupid and sent to sit at the back of the class. I’d love to know if I needed glasses even then and couldn’t see the board properly.
If everyone could write brilliantly, what a boring world we would live in. Where would be the master chefs, the the artists, the cushion-makers, the entertainers and the carers?
It was great to talk to the children and show them the methods I’ve worked out over the years. I noticed one or two having that, “I’m like that!” moment. I’m afraid, in the end, I couldn’t offer too much other than to work methodically through the problem and to work hard at it. That is pretty much the answer to everything. But within my methodical system, I have a large chunk devoted to the creative part. And that was what these children seemed to really enjoy, full of ideas, imagination and possibilities. There always comes a time though, when you have to stop the fun, decide what to do wit h what you’ve got and do the work. That is the hard part whether you are dyslexic or not. That is about self discipline.
When I was young, we were maybe taught self-discipline a bit more. All our teachers had been through the second world war – my history teacher had been a tail gunner in a Lancaster – his nerves were shot, but we respected him all the same. I was an army brat, went to boarding school and was in the Cubs an Scouts. The education we had was basically training us for the services or some kind of colonial duty. Maybe I learned some self discipline from all of that.
I do wonder now, when we bribe children to read, with prizes and stickers, whether that might be detrimental to the cause. Reading is its own pleasure and prize. Getting a sticker at the end distorts the aim. A prize for analysis or for reading out loud maybe but the act and art of reading should be its own reward – or you are reading a rotten book!Anyway – enough of that!
We came up with a great story about the ElieFly that invaded the school at lunchtime. I won’t go into all the gross detail. Suffice to say it had a neat ending when the gym wallbars were converted into the world’s largest flyswat! and quick end with a lot of middle and a beginning that probably needs a bit more work!
Thanks for a great day.
I just had to share this. Coming back from a wedding in the New Forest this weekend, I was blinded in the gloom, by this incredible field of poppies, high up on a ridge in Compton Abbas, Wiltshire. Apparently, According the the couple I talked to there, it has been featured in the Telegraph.
I calmly asked my wife if we could stop, as we zoomed by. Luckily there was no one behind us and there was a convenient parking place for walkers.
So glad we saw it.
Yay! I suppose it’s a bit of a milestone – My online Drawing school has clocked up over 5,000 plays now. Okay, it’s not as popular as that sneezing panda on YouTube, but I’m quietly pleased. These aren’t just hits, but people watching and interacting. I’d like to do a whole lot more, but I never do seem to have the time. Here’s the latest for you.
I just came across this photo that I took on holiday in Greece, this summer. He must have very recently got away from what ever it was that nearly got him!
On Monday I had the pleasure to visit Ruardean School, up the road from me, here in the Forest of Dean. Perched on the side of a hill, the school looks out a cross to wales – a spectacular view. The weather was taking a turn, though. Autumn setting in and a distinct chill in the air. The church has an amazing, rocket-like spire that soars up into the sky, dominating the village and the countryside around.
I had a lovely day telling stories and showing the children how to draw my characters. You can see some of them at the Ruardean website here.
In the afternoon we tried to devise a story about how the Duck-billed platypus came about. My creative organisation system is meant to cut to the chase and produce something quite quickly. Eventually the magic key turned up and we had ourselves a story, but we had such a wealth of tangential ideas pouring out of years 5 and 6, that I thought we would never get to the end.
I had to keep pointing out that we only had a short time and that we would best off not having a cast of thousands with endless red-herrings in the plot. I think they got the message in the end. When you’ve not got long to write a story, keep the characters to a minimum and follow the story, not the interesting asides.
Its a hard lesson to learn – one I’m still struggling with myself. Do as I say and not as I do!
Oh! Did I mention the lovely cakes in the staff room? They were all eaten up by the time I got my camera out.
I was drawn to it not just by the bright fluorescence of the writing but also the quality of the writing too. On such an unfriendly, curved surface the letters are beautifully spaced and proportioned. Even more impressive is that they have been made freehand with an aerosol. The O, in particular, is a triumph!
Well done then man (or woman!)
On this spot William Nichol of this town was burnt at the stake for the truth. April 9th 1558. (The Noble Army of Martyrs Praise Thee)
No one ever likes to hear the truth. It is a human failing. It is always the messenger that gets shot.
There is a subtle art to telling people what they don’t want to hear. The secret is to let them think that they thought it up themselves. Not an easy task, but that’s where storytelling comes in. Don’t tell the blunt truth, tell a story that sows the seeds of truth in the listener’s mind. They will water it and let it grow until they have to accept the fact of this new idea in their heads.
If only it could be bottled and we could be sure that the contents of the bottle would work every time.
Having been seriously hacked recently, I’ve taken to checking 404s every now and then. These are files that were requested from a site but were not found in the site folder.
I used to look at 404s to see how I could improve users experience of my site. Naively, I used to think these file requests would be coming from friendly users who are looking up pages from their favourites that are no longer on my site, or that they had followed old and out of date links. This is true, to a certain extent, but closer inspection reveals a more worrying truth.
Most of the requests are trying to reach the previous insecurity, which was in the wordpress blog software implementations on my site. But now I’ve noticed pot luck requests. These requests are for files that could well exist on any website, in folders that come as standard in basic implementations of blogs or stores or contact programs that anyone can easily put on their site nowadays. Most sites come PHP enabled with MySql databases. Systems like fantasico allow any idiot to populate their web folder with powerful and sophisticated software. Sadly, understanding how to keep them secure is not so easy. Updating with security patches is time consuming and often confusing.
I sense that there are robots trawling the web for standard implementations of software by calling up files that are standard to those implementations. When they find a live website and report back, then all the known security issues with that program can be probed on that site. This is all done automatically. Many millions of attempts must be made every day, if not every hour. Someone at the moment is looking for analytics information in a multitude of languages. Is this Bing, out to get info on Google or is the a more sinister motive?
This is how the hackers find weaknesses and worm their way in to take over websites and run them for their own purposes, usually without the website owner ever knowing. This is what will bring the web down, eventually. Why bother with having a website, when website thieves and assassins are at you all the time, when there is no long arm of the law to protect you?
If hackers broke into my house and began selling drugs or running a scam to steal money, the police would be there within minutes of my call. If someone does the same on my website, it seems to be fair game. Why bother with old-fashioned crime when you can get away with cyber crime so easily?
But it is even more sophisticated than that. Hackers are probing my site, drilling down two or three folders deep, folders with uncommon names that I have chosen and often misspelt, and requesting files that might have insecurities if that is where I was hiding them, often with file extensions I’ve never heard of. Still, this is probably all automatic, but it does make one feel more paranoid, like I’m not just one of a group that they are trying to pick off, but that that they are after me personally. Paranoid? Not me – at least I wasn’t until the internet came along.
I’ve had a couple of ideas recently, for sites that I could set up, but then I think about it and can’t be bothered. It’s too much hassle – not the work putting the sites up, but the effort I’d have to put into protecting them.
It doesn’t help that it is in the middle of nowhere, and a long way to go to visit. Its not connected with a university, and so hasn’t got that academic bustle about it and, being a botanic garden, tries not to be a visitor attraction or a pretty garden or place to show off gardening equipment and systems or what you can do with your gardens. I came away confused. Not knowing what it was meant to be. It’s quite nice, but…
The walled garden was quite nice but it was filled with a jumble of things – bananas to pumpkins via the greenhouse, which was full of orchids and subtropicals. I could only compare it to the wild romance of the walled garden in Castle Kennedy near Stranraer, which I visited on Monday. No contest. Castle Kennedy knew what it was and did it superbly.
The Haverfordwest Book Fiesta was very well advertised and organised – I feel the Library would have wished for more people to come out than did. We are so comfortable in our living rooms these days, it gets harder and harder to get people out to see something live – even when it’s free! Maybe that’s an element. We get so much for free today that we take things for granted.
However what we had was a quality audience and I have a great time telling stories. It was great to see Bernard Ashley there too, who had had quite a journey getting there, following a fatality on the line.
I was also pleased to meet Illustrator, Teresa Jenellen, who had a lovely way with watercolours – very dreamy and ethereal, and storyteller, David Pitt, who goes by the name of the The Crow Man. He was mixing storytelling with mask making. The trouble with doing events like this is that I come away thinking that maybe I should do masks and making things with children too. Never satisfied! I have to keep telling myself that there are only so many things in life that you can do and do well.
Thanks to everyone in Haverfordwest for a great day.
Blundell’s Preparatory School in Tiverton, Devon on Tursday, where I had a lovely day – made even better by home-made cakes in the staff room! Coffee and walnut have always been a bit of a favourite of mine, since I had a slice in the Copper Kettle tea rooms somewhere near or in Bletchingley, Surrey, in the mid 1960s. I can still taste it when I close my eyes.I had a wonderful day, telling stories from the nursery up. I showed years 5 and 6 my haphazard methods of creative organisation. We tried to come up with a story and chose to work on How the Cobra came to be.
For a long time, I thought we would not get a story, then it all came tumbling out. I find it fascinating how stories appear in these sessions. One minute I’m in despair, the next its flowing out towards a reasonably satisfying conclusion for a pre first draft plot. In this case the cobra, unlike other snakes, had ears for gossip. The more he listened the bigger they got! I won’t tell you the end, because I think there may be a good story in there.
Children always ask me if I’m going the write the stories we come up with. It’s a tricky one. Who came up with the idea. I’m conscious that I push the children in the direction I want them to go and often have to drag it out of them when I can see the story and want them to provide the important influences on the plot. But sometimes a child will say something so left field that it turns something mundane into something quite good. Even so, it’s generally my interpretation of their comment that gets us to the end of the story, otherwise we would be discussing it for weeks!
I think I came up with the answer on Thursday, when a child asked the question again. “Its just a framework of a plot at the moment,” I said. “There is no copyright in it until someone publishes the story. So the first one to get it published is the winner.” Everyone seemed happy with that. Of course, if everyone wrote their version of the story, they would all be so different, there probably wouldn’t be a copyright issue anyway. So I’m beginning to feel more comfortable about maybe using the ideas that come up in these sessions.
Maybe the thing to do is start another blog, where I write up the stories. After a while, it may turn out that some of them would make a collection, and then a book. The act of putting them on my blog would copyright my versions of them, so I could share them as I went along, but it would also protect me and my future publishers, if I were to make a book out of them.
It’s a tricky subject. How far does copyright extend? I don’t think copyright covers ideas anyway. But at least if I did make a blog of it, those who were involved would be able to follow the stories.
So many people assume that a story is worth millions and that there is a fortune to be made from the copyright. The truth is that one story can barely support the author for the time it takes them to write it out. Sometimes authors get lucky – but that is such a rare occurrence.