The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Swansea

Odysseus and PoseidonAnother week another odyssey – this time I went to Swansea via Oxfordshire.

First Oxfordshire for Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”.  The Just So Stories may not be the most fashionable collection of short stories and are certainly overshadowed by The Jungle Book, but Kipling’s clever solutions to things that occur in nature (How the Camel gets its hump, how the Rhinoceros gets its skin and how the Elephant gets its trunk to name the few I incorporate) are little gems and great to tell.  As a child I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and they offer a wonderful and imaginative Launchpad for further learning.

As I already knew the stories from the collection I wanted to tell and I had an idea of how I wanted to tell them the preparation work was very enjoyable.  As with many of my stories, finding the right props was trickier but in the end my Mum came to the rescue as she made the most wonderful crocodile for the story of The Elephant’s Child.  I would not be exaggerating if I said that when I presented the story in East London, the crocodile’s appearance left two Reception classes speechless – he is brilliant (photos to follow)!

I’m glad to say my version of Kipling’s tales have been very well received.

HUNGRY MEAD1“We had a great time and our little ones were enthralled.” (Parent, Ebb & Flo Bookshop Session, Chorley)

“The day was absolutely fantastic and enjoyed by all! An imaginative and creative way to bring the ‘Just So Stories’ to life for younger children.” (Teacher, Wychwood Primary School, Oxfordshire)

It is always pleasing to be given the challenge of developing new material rather than simply trotting out the old favourites.  It is often good for my practice and my relationship with an organisation (the experience of working together becomes far more personal when the booker has been very specific about the day).  I particularly like to develop stories I feel will have a life beyond the intended audience.  So far my version of the “Just So Stories” has been in front of almost 350 children and I hope it will be a part of my repertoire for some time to come.

So that was Oxfordshire but what about Swansea?

I have been touring Britain for the better part of a decade.  I have been up and down England, into Scotland and even visited the Channel Islands but I had never worked in Wales.  I had heard stories of how wonderful Welsh audiences could be so I was very excited to take “The War Game” a story about football, to Swansea Central Library, situated in the heart of rugby mad Wales.  I had a very memorable day (even if the three schools I worked with all wore blue and had unpronounceable names) and it was all over much too quickly for my liking.

It wasn’t just my day or lime green hotel room that were memorable..

The War Game

Now one of the reasons why I perhaps hadn’t worked in Swansea before is the fact its 42 junctions along the M4 from London.  Don’t get me wrong, I love travel and visiting new places but motorway driving is monotonous.  Wishing I had got the train I set off for home, deciding to stop for fuel at Membury Services (not far from Swindon).  It was here that I picked up Sheffield University students Alex and Dom – my first ever hitchhikers.  It turned out that the boys were spending their Easter break hitchhiking for charity and were en route to Bucharest(!).  They had left Sheffield that morning and were attempting to get to Dover.  What they had been doing in Swindon was a little confusing but I gave them a ride to a service station on the southside of the M25 before turning for home.

As March ends so too does my busiest period of the year.  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking bookings for April thru July and firming up my summer schedule.  Highlights will include another trip to The National Football Museum, visits to libraries in Peterborough and Hull and work on a Heritage Pop Up project in Redbridge but beyond these landmarks who knows where the next few months will take me…