Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Bedtime Story (30/8/2017)

As I write this, I'm struggling to stay awake, following a couple of late nights and poor sleep (guess who seems to have caught some kind of cough/throat infection combo?!).  They say write about what you know, so...

Unfortunately, this week's story can't be listened to as a podcast, as I've been losing my voice, lately!  Sorry!

Pearl Stays Up

Pearl was so excited:
Her dad was coming home!
For the last three months it had just been
Pearl and her mum on their own.
Dad had been working away, 
But tonight, he'd be back at last.
And every time Pearl spoke to Mum,
There was just one question she'd ask:

"Can I stay up to see Daddy?
I know he's getting home very late,
But I won't sleep until I've seen him.
You know I really can't wait!"
And with all Pearl's constant badgering,
Her mum gave her head a shake.
"Fine, you can stay up to see him,
Providing you can stay awake!"

So, Pearl played only quiet games,
To be sure that she wasn't worn out.
She didn't run round the garden.
She didn't sing, scream or shout.
And her plan seemed to be working,
For she didn't feel sleepy at all.
But it was still the middle of the afternoon,
According to the clock on the wall...

So, Pearl tried to have an afternoon nap,
To get her sleep out of the way.
Then, she reckoned she could stay up all night,
Right through to the very next day!
But the sun outside was shining,
And her room was far too bright for sleep.
Poor Pearl tried all she could think of;
She even tried counting sheep!

But it was no use and she got back up,
Deciding she'd just stay awake.
Besides, the time she'd been trying to sleep,
Surely counted as a rest, or a break?
Pearl was determined to be up,
When her beloved Dad walked through the door.
"I won't even let myself yawn,"
An excited and earnest Pearl swore.

By the time Pearl ate her dinner,
She'd usually be feeling quite tired.
But today she'd come up with a plan,
Which she felt was truly inspired:
She'd make a welcome home card,
At the time when she'd usually sleep.
It would help to ensure she stayed awake,
And give her Dad something special to keep.

So, once her dinner was finished,
Pearl grabbed card, pens and glitter.
By this point her eyes felt quite heavy,
But brave, young Pearl was no quitter!
She worked hard on her creation,
Blinking fast to stay awake.
She decided she needed another project:
What else could she make?!

Before she could think of anything,
Mum hurried Pearl up the stairs.
"You still need to have your bath,"
She said.  "And I need to wash your hair."
The bath water was lovely and warm,
And Pearl felt so very relaxed,
That by the time she got into her pyjamas,
She felt like she might just collapse...

But bed was the last thing on Pearl's mind,
And each time her eyes threatened to close,
She'd say to herself "no!" in a very cross voice,
And bop herself right on the nose!
Daddy was getting home ever so late,
But Pearl so wanted to be up when he did,
That she refused to let herself go to sleep:
There really was no stopping this kid!

She climbed up on the sofa with Mum,
And watched a little bit of TV.
"Do you want to snuggle up?" Mum asked.
"You could come and sit on my knee?"
But Pearl shook her head. "No!
If I cuddle up, I'll go to sleep!
And I have to be up when Daddy comes home.
I've got a promise to keep."

The sofa was ever so cosy, though.
It felt soft and warm, like a bed.
And Pearl was so tired, she could barely think;
As though there was fog in her head.
She couldn't focus on the TV, anymore.
The pictures kept going all blurry.
But no, Pearl couldn't fall asleep now;
It was still very much too early!

Pearl thrashed her arms and her legs,
To stop them from lying too still.
"I said I'd stay up until Daddy got home,"
Pearl said.  "And I will!"
But her eyes were longing to close, now.
She shut them, just for a while.
She could stay awake with her eyes closed,
Pearl told herself, with a smile.

She tried to think of noisy thoughts,
To keep her mind wide awake.
She even thought of things she was scared of,
Like spiders and needles, or snakes.
Anything to stop her from drifting,
Into a peaceful, dreamy state.
Daddy would be home soon,
Pearl just had to wait...

She thought of Daddy's cuddles,
That felt so warm and snug.
She could surely stay up a little longer,
To give him a welcome home hug?!
"I'll open my eyes again now,"
Pearl thought to herself, as she dozed.
But no matter how hard she tried,
Her eyes stayed stubbornly closed.

Pearl sank against the cushions.
She'd really tried her best!
But she was fast asleep now;
And she needed her rest.
Mum placed a blanket over Pearl,
So that she wouldn't get cold.
She fetched the teddy from Pearl's bed,
And slipped it into her hand, to hold.

Pearl didn't hear the soft click of the door,
Or see her daddy come walking through.
She thought she dreamed him whisper
A very soft "I love you."
Her eyes didn't even flicker, 
As he gently kissed her head.
Dad scooped his little girl up in his arms,
And carried her off to bed.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Bedtime Story (23/8/2017)

I've been thinking a lot, recently, about how we sometimes get so used to certain sights, that we need to take a step back, change our perspective and see them again as though for the first time, to stop us from taking them for granted.  I wrote this story with that idea in mind.

This story is, as always, also available as a podcast.

"Open Your Eyes!"

Toby's face crumpled into a frown, as Mum and Nan settled into their deckchairs.   "Are you serious?!"  He pouted.  "We're really not going out for the day?!"

Mum rolled her eyes.  "I've told you a hundred times; Grandad has the car, so the furthest we could go is the park, anyway.  And last time we went, you said you were getting too old to play there, anymore."

Toby folded his arms.  "But that doesn't mean I don't want to go anywhere," he insisted.  "We could get a bus and go into town!  We could go to the cinema, or the swimming pool, or..."

Nan motioned to Toby's little sister, Mabel.  "Why don't you help her build castles in the sandpit?"  She suggested.  "She's perfectly happy staying at home, today.  It's a nice day, so we thought we'd sit in the sunshine and have lunch in the garden, later."

Toby groaned to himself.  "There's nothing to do, here.  It's all boring."

Mabel sat, quietly playing in the sand.  She wrinkled her nose at her brother, unable to understand what all the fuss was about.  "I'm going to make a really huge castle," she told him.  "Why don't you look for pebbles and stones to decorate it?"

Toby plonked himself down in the grass and shook his head.  "I may as well do nothing," he huffed.

Mum sighed.  "Don't be like that, Toby.  I'm sure you can think of something fun to do, in the garden."

"How?!"  Toby exclaimed.  "I've been in this garden a million times.  I know everything you can do in it.  I've seen everything there is to see in it.  It's dull."

"Okay then, smarty pants," Nan replied.  "What are those scratches on the fence post, over there?"  She pointed to a wooden post, with deep grooves cut into it.  It looked like someone had tried to carve writing next to the grooves, too, but from where he was sitting, Toby couldn't see what it said.  He turned to Nan and shrugged.  Nan smiled.  "It's where your grandad used to measure how tall your mum and uncle Jack were getting, each year on their birthdays.  If you look closely, you'll see her initials and the number 7 next to one of the lines, and you can see how tall your mum was when she was your age."

Toby strode across to the fence post and squinted at the carvings in the wood.  He found the one he was looking for and put a hand to it, laughing to himself.  "Look, I'm taller than you were when you were seven, Mum!"

Mum grinned.  "That's because your dad was much taller than me," she reminded him.

Toby bit his lip.  "Do you think we could measure me?"

"I don't see why not," Mum said.  "I'll go in and get the tape measure."  She got up and wandered back into the house, whilst Toby carried on looking at the fence.  

"There's a big dent, here," he told Nan.  "Like something has hit the wood."

Nan chuckled to herself.  "Oh, your dad did that, years ago!  Grandad keeps saying he'll fix it, but he's never gotten around to it.  I think your mum likes it like that, to be honest."

"How did it happen?"  Toby asked.

"You were a toddler," Nan explained.  "And your dad was showing off to you, flying this remote-control helicopter around the garden.  He tripped over one of your toys and the helicopter flew straight into the fence!"

Toby giggled.  It was nice hearing funny stories about Dad.  He shuffled his feet and blew out a puff of air.  It was going to be cool to be measured and mark his height on the fence, but once that was over, he was still going to have nothing to do.  He glanced around at the plants and flowers.  "Can I water the garden?"

Nan nodded.  "The watering can's in the shed," she told him.  "And you can use the outside tap to fill it up."

Toby headed for the shed, then paused, realising there was something he had never asked Nan.  "Why is your shed concrete, not made out of wood or plastic?"  He patted the outside wall with his hand.  "And why does it have that curved roof?"

Nan smiled.  "It used to be an Anderson shelter," she explained.  They were used in the second World War, to hide in when the bombs fell.  Usually, they were made of metal and covered with earth and mud, but whoever lived in this house before us, decided to cover theirs with concrete and add a proper window and door, probably after the war was over.  When we moved in, we decided to keep it, because it's a little bit of history."

Toby opened the door to the shed.  "So... People hid in here, during the war?"

"Oh, yes," Nan said.  There would have been beds and tins of food and drinks stashed away in there, and the whole family would have to huddle together.  It was safer than staying in the house, you see."

Toby gazed at the inside of the shed.  It was full of gardening things now, but in his mind's eye, Toby was picturing beds and blankets and wondering what it must have been like to hide in there.  It gave him an idea for a game to play, later...

Toby grabbed the watering can and headed over to the outside tap, close to where Nan was sitting.  "Why is the tap covered in little chips of red paint?"

Nan giggled.  "Oh, your uncle Jack used to turn it on all the time, when he was little," she grinned.  "He'd flood the patio over and over and then he and your mum would splash around.  Your grandad got so fed up with them doing it, he painted it red, to mean "stop."  But it didn't really work and the paint's almost all gone, now."

Toby smiled.  He liked imagining his mum and uncle being silly kids, once upon a time.

Mum arrived with the tape measure.  "Ready to see how tall you are?"  

Toby nodded.  "Mum, did you know the shed used to be a shelter, during the war?"

Mum glanced over.  "I did," she said.  "But did Nan tell you that your uncle Jack and I used to climb onto the roof when we were kids?  There used to be an apple tree next to it and we used to climb the tree and then sit on the roof of the shed!"

Toby gasped, wishing there was still a tree, so he could try climbing up there, too!  He wandered over to the fence post, ready to be measured.  As Mum unfurled the tape measure, Toby smiled at her.  "I never noticed the shed being different to other people's," he said.  "Or the red paint on the tap, or the marks on the fence post, here."  He giggled to himself, adding: "Or the dent in the fence, from Dad's remote control helicopter..."

"Oh, he was so funny with that thing," Mum sighed, fondly.  

"Can I have a remote control helicopter?!"  Toby asked.

Mum smiled.  "Maybe for your birthday."

Toby grinned for a moment, then frowned again.  "Mum, why didn't I notice any of those things?!"

From over in her deckchair, Toby heard Nan laugh.  "Because you're always too busy, searching for the next fun and exciting thing," she called.  "You never stop long enough to open your eyes and really look around you.  And you'll be surprised how much you learn, when you do."

Toby stood back and admired the groove Mum was making in the fence post, with a little stone.  "Can I carve my initials on there?"

"Go on, then," Mum stepped back.  She passed him the stone.  "So, are you still bored?"

Toby shook his head.  "No, I'm going to water the plants, then I'm going to pretend I'm hiding in a shelter, from the bad guys outside."

And with that, Toby rushed off to start his new game, in the same old surroundings he'd always known, but with his eyes wide open, as if seeing them for the very first time.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Bedtime Story (16/8/2017)

As we go on through the Summer holidays, I hope your little ones are continuing to have fun! This story came to me as I reminisced about the games I played with friends as a child.  I hope you enjoy it! Don't forget, a new, free bedtime story goes live here every Wednesday at 6pm.

If you'd like to hear this story as a podcast, you can do so by clicking here.

Ted's Den

Ted was feeling hot and a little grumpy, too.
He didn't want to moan, but what else could he do?
His big brother's music was too loud,
His little sister was too clingy.
There was no doubt about it: Ted needed something new!

So, Ted went out to play, in the field behind their home.
He needed somewhere quiet, where he could be alone.
And there, he found an open bush,
With lots of space to play inside.
A perfect den to sneak away to, when family made him groan!

Ted moved twigs and leaves to clear more space,
Then ran home to grab things for the place.
He found a blanket to sit on,
Snacks and drinks to take there, too,
Then back to his new den, Ted excitedly raced.

Ted loved his new den; it gave him peace at last!
He could no longer hear his brother's music at full blast.
And if he ever got bored,
Of sitting, hidden in the bush,
He could run freely around the field so very vast.

But it wasn't long before Ted's newfound peace was shattered;
When into the field, his little sister and her friends all clattered.
They spotted him straight away,
And came rushing over to play,
Leaving Ted's dream of solitude well and truly battered.

"Is this your new den?" His little sister cried.
"Wow! This is an amazing place for us to hide!"
Ted's face began to droop a little.
His den didn't feel so peaceful,
With his sister and all her friends chattering inside.

"We'll decorate it with flowers," his little sister said,
As Ted stared wide-eyed at her and vainly shook his head.
The girls all started rushing,
Bringing flowers from the field,
Changing the den that had been so right for Ted.

"We could have a picnic," the little friends cried out,
Spying Ted's snacks and drinks, scattered all about.
And they'd opened the packets,
Before Ted could say a word.
All he could do was sadly watch and give a little pout.

The girls were being noisy, with their loud chat and their games.
Ted longed to be alone again - that had been his aim!
"So much for peace and quiet!"
Ted thought, with a long sigh.
His perfect place was overrun - Ted thought it was a shame.

But more noise was already heading to the den,
In the form of an mp3 player, and Ted's big brother, Ben!
"You can't have a den party,
Without some cool music,"
Ben announced, breaking Ted's quiet plans all over again...

Before Ted could even say a word, the den party was in full swing,
With party food, party games, music and everything!
Ted wanted to be cross,
At all the havoc and the noise,
But then his favourite song came on and he suddenly wanted to sing...

His little sister and her friends just wanted to have fun,
And Ted really didn't blame them, as they played out in the sun.
Suddenly, he realised,
He might have got things wrong;
His quiet den was much more fun when it was shared with everyone!

Their little party lasted hours; they ate and drank and danced.
Ted saw how cool his siblings were and he watched them both, entranced!
He hadn't wanted them in his den,
He was cross when they came in.
But now Ted felt so glad he'd given everyone a chance.

In fact, Ted felt rather lucky to have so many friends around.
And he no longer felt so cross about all their noisy sounds.
They were just having fun,
And that really wasn't so bad.
Ted smiled a happy smile; turning his frown upside down! 

Eventually, the time came for Ted's sister's friends to go home.
They all thanked Ted very much for the party he had thrown.
Ted's brother and sister left the den,
But before Ted followed them to their house,
He finally enjoyed some peace and quiet in his den, all on his own.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Why What's Happening in Charlottesville TERRIFIES Me...

Photo via Getty Images.

I'll be honest.  I hadn't heard of Charlottesville, before this morning.  The small college city had never entered my radar; I'm thousands of miles away, down in Cornwall, England, after all.

But by now, it's becoming a name that many recognise.  They recognise it from the news.  From the horrific photos of so-called "alt-right" activists, beating those who don't share their twisted views, with the torches they carried as they marched.  From the images of these racist thugs (many of whom claim to balk at being called Nazis) performing Nazi salutes.

So, why were so many "disaffected young white men" marching through Charlottesville, last night?  

Well, it was all part of something called Unite The Right.  This is a gathering of groups whose members all claim that white history is being erased in the United States and that they are persecuted simply for the colour of their skin.

Yes.  America, which has become disturbingly notorious for police killings of black people, is apparently persecuting its white folk.

Now, I'm a white person (1/4 Greek Cypriot, 3/4 very pale white British).  I can tell you, with my hand on my heart, that I have never, ever thought: "Good God, I am so persecuted.  I have no rights.  I have no voice.  And it's all because I'm white."

That's because I know history.  It's because I experience white privilege enough to realise that my skin colour, more often than not, protects me rather than leaves me at risk of persecution.  The need for "White Lives Matter" (as these goons in Charlottesville were chanting) is akin to "Straight Pride," in as much as history has given us a whole heap of reasons why it's just not necessary, whereas the reverse very much is.

But since when have racists listened to reason?

White men, in their 20s and 30s (and some who onlookers suggested may have only been in their teens), therefore swarmed through the University of Virginia campus last night, chanting slogans such as "jews will never replace us!" and claiming to be standing up for the poor, voiceless white man.

Because, you know, white men are the least privileged in society.  They get paid less, they never get top jobs, predominantly white neighbourhoods are often referred to as "no-go areas" and woe betide a white man if he's stopped by the police...

Oh, wait.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm sure there are people in America who feel they've never been listened to, just as there are plenty of folk here in the UK who say their voices aren't heard.  And when they're talking about important social issues, such as crime, housing or welfare etc, they have just as much right to be listened to as you or I.  That's what a democracy is; everyone is supposed to be able to have their say.

The trouble is, what a lot of these people want to say, are things that we literally fought two wars against.  It's inciting hatred against a race or religion.  It's claiming white superiority and treating anyone of any other ethnicity as somehow "other" or wrong.  It's talking about those important social issues, but pinning the blame for all social problems on immigration, or "political correctness gone mad."

But here's the thing: political correctness and humanity are two different things.  Over the last few years in particular, the lines between the two have become blurred so that they bleed into one another.  For example, if you say "hang on, don't call all Mexicans rapists," you're told by these alt-right morons that you're "being politically correct,"whilst they praise Donald Trump for "telling it like it is," as though he's being somehow brave by inaccurately labelling every single Mexican a sexual abuser (which is rich coming from him, let's face it).  It's not political correctness to say "no, that's not true," it's simply stating a fact, whilst respecting our fellow humans enough to understand that judging an entire group based on the actions of a few is just as unhelpful as wielding torches and claiming that white people are somehow the ones who are being maligned.  

And I'm not going to sit here and say there aren't problems when people move too far to the political left, either.  Because of course any form of extremism - whatever side you lean towards - causes problems.  But far-right extremism has a long and dangerous history and as I watched the news flooding onto Twitter this morning - far-right, torch-wielding racists, encircling protestors against their hateful rhetoric and using those torches as weapons - I realised why this feels so frightening.

Because it's so brazen, now.  Because these people, who once hid beneath ridiculous white hoods, now show their faces quite happily.  Because their abhorrent views are becoming so commonplace, they no longer feel they have to whisper them, but instead flood social media with them, yell them at rallies and take pride in their hatred.

The use of the Internet and social media has no doubt helped these formerly underground, almost cultish groups to come out into the open.  And, as they reach a wider audience, their language and imagery has been emboldened.  A recent Daily Stormer (an alt-right website) article, even ended with the sickening words:

"We will eventually win this struggle and secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.   It is our destiny.   Next stop: Charlottesville.  Final stop: Auschwitz."


Where so many Jews were gassed to death during the Holocaust.  These vultures are taking their "fight" to a place that has come to stand as a permanent reminder that we must never allow fascism or hatred to take us to such a dark place ever again.  And they are going there out of hatred, themselves.  Embodying all that the Nazis stood for, yet speaking as though they are the victims.

What is this world they speak of?  Do you live in it?  Because I sure as hell don't.  I know - because my brain cells function correctly - that white people are not about to be erased from history.  I know that we are not being treated like second class citizens on a global scale, the way that so many other cultures have been.  I can see that we are not being demonised or blanket-labelled terrorists (despite the fact that these white scumbags, who are still parading through Charlottesville spouting their nasty crap as I type this, deserve that label entirely).

These mindless, hateful idiots are fighting a war that does not exist.  White people are not being marginalised, enslaved or persecuted.  We are merely living in a multicultural world and the vast majority of people accept the differences among us.  We do not cast hate at those who don't share our skin colour.   We don't tar every member of a community with the same brush when someone from that community commits an atrocity.  The world has - on the whole - moved forwards.

But these people cannot move forwards, because to do so would be to leave their hateful ideology in the past, where it belongs.  And they are emboldened by a President, whose campaign was run amid racial slurs, misogyny and "anti politically-correct" statements.  A president who, at the time of writing, has yet to condemn the white supremacists and their bullying behaviour.

And why would he, when live footage from Charlottesville just now showed David Duke (notorious white supremacist) saying to the camera: "We're determined to take our country back, to fulfil the promises made by Donald Trump.  That's why we voted for him."

Quick question, David:


It's the bit in red, see??!!

It's always the same script.  We need to "take our country back."  Just as American racists have been buoyed by the success of Donald Trump, so the British far-right, boosted by the Brexit result, have been spouting this nonsense.

Our country is our country.  It's just a more multicultural place than it was thirty, forty years ago.  Same goes for America.  Society is mixed to a greater degree than ever before and we have made enormous strides in the fight for equality for all, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion.  That these are good things never seem to enter the heads of these thickies with their banners and torches.  In fact, earlier today, I actually saw some white guy on Twitter (I blocked him, so I can't quote directly)say something along the lines of:

"White culture is being erased, when it's white culture that gave us everything good.  Black culture has given society nothing."

Remember that, next time you're listening to... I don't know, most music ever.  

And it's the brazenness of these trolls (because I refuse to call them anything else, when I encounter them online) that I find so disturbing.  The hoodless racists marching through Charlottesville are just a more visual reminder that these people no longer believe that they have to hide their despicable views from the public gaze.  Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism is just casually spoken now, and I find that terrifying.

I also think it is of paramount importance that we, as fellow white people, speak up against this horror.  Lord knows, too many of us (those marching in Charlottesville, for sure) expect Muslims to condemn the actions of terrorists, rather than appreciate that a violent minority group do not represent Islam as a whole.  Just as ISIS falsely claim to be representing Islam, these racism scumbags claim to be defending white people.

Well, I'm white.  And I don't need your defence.  I will never need your defence, because I will never stand alongside you.  I abhor all that you stand for.  You claim to represent me, but I will shout back against you as long as there is still air in my lungs.

We are people.  We are all people, no matter what colour skin we have, or what religion we do or not ascribe to.  Regardless of gender, sexuality or anything else that may separate us, we are all people.  There is no superior race.  How can anyone claim white people are superior, when there's a vile white man in the White House, who openly mocked the disabled and bragged about sexually assaulting women during his presidential campaign?!  Get stuffed.  White people are not superior to anyone.  No race is superior to any other.

Thankfully, if you go onto Twitter and look at the news as it rolls in from Charlottesville right now, the vast majority of people - of all ethnicities - are condemning the racists chanting hateful rhetoric.  But in amongst them, are those who praise their actions.  Those who are proud to describe themselves as "far-right," both in America and over here.  Those who literally carry Swastika flags and wear Adolf Hitler quotes on their clothing.

They are brazen in their hatred.  They no longer need to hide it.

And that should horrify us all enough to ensure that we act to condemn them, once and for all.  To silence them, if possible, or - at the very least - to ensure we push them back into the shadows.  Back into their cowardly hoods.

Because hatred and intolerance have no place in our world.  To see it displayed so brazenly is utterly shameful.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Bedtime Story (9/8/2017)

I recently took a trip to my local library and it was really lovely to see several children there, exploring books!  It put me in mind to write a story about it. :-)

To hear the story as a podcast, just click here!

Lola At The Library

"Where are we going?"  Lola frowned, as she and her mum walked past the park.  "You said we were going somewhere fun, but the swings and slide are over there!"

Mum chuckled to herself.  "There are other fun things to do in town, besides playing on the swings and slide," she told Lola.  "You'll see!"

Together, they walked past the bakery, the doctor's surgery and the bank.  Finally, they stopped outside a building Lola had never been in, before.  There were bright posters all over the double doors.  Lola shrugged at her baby brother, as he sat, oblivious, in his pram.  

"Come on," Mum said, pressing a button on the wall.  The double doors swung open and Lola found herself inside what looked like a massive room, full of shelves.  There weren't just shelves against the walls, either.  There were shelves everywhere.  And each shelf was crammed full of books.  "This is a library," Mum explained.  "We're going to get you a library card, today.  Then, you can borrow any of these books you like and take them home for a while."

Lola blinked at the shelves.  She liked stories - every bedtime, she had to have at least three.  But there were far more than three stories, here!  "Any book?!"  She gasped.

"Any book," Mum replied, with a smile.  

"So, a library is just a place that lets you take books home, then?"  Lola asked.  "And we're here to get some brand new stories?"

"We're here to get some brand new stories," Mum agreed.  "But there's lots more to a library than just being a place to borrow books.  Have a look around," she told her.  "I'll go and speak to the lady at the desk, whilst you explore."

Lola stared around the library, with wide eyes.  She began walking along an aisle, with bookshelves either side.  The books were big, thick and old-looking; not like her story books at home.  She wanted to take one down and have a look at it, but she wasn't sure she'd be able to lift it!

"Are you alright, there?"  A smiling man asked.  "My name's Tim and I work here," he added, pointing to a name badge he wore.  "Did you want to see one of the encyclopaedias?"

"An encyclo-what?!" 

Tim laughed.  "An encyclopaedia," he repeated.  "They're special books that teach you about all sorts of things.  They've got so much information inside, that these ones are split into alphabetical order."  He took one from the shelf.  "This one goes from A-D," he explained.  "So, you can find out about everything from aardvarks to Dutch pancakes!"

"I like pancakes," Lola grinned.  "But I can't really read, yet.  These big books might be a bit long for my mum or dad to read to me at bedtime, too..."

Tim nodded his head.  "Shall I show you the children's section?"

Lola followed him to a brightly decorated corner.  There were lots of story books and even cardboard picture books, like the ones Lola's baby brother had at home!  Not only that, but there were little sofas for children to sit on, a table with colouring pens and paper and a small toy chest.  "This is awesome!"  Lola pointed to some drawings stuck up on the wall.  "Who drew those?"

"All kinds of different children," Tim replied.  "Some of the children who come to the library like to take their pictures home with them, but some of them like to have them stuck up on the wall, so they can see them next time they visit."  He smiled at Lola.  "We change them every month, so new pictures can go up.  You could even draw one for us, if you like?"

Lola beamed at him.  "I'm good at drawing!"  She picked up a pen.  "I think I'd like to draw an elephant.  But I might need a picture to copy..."

Tim gestured to the shelves.  "Well, we could find a book with a picture of an elephant in," he suggested.  "Or, we could go on the computer and print one off?"

Lola hadn't even noticed the row of computers against the far wall.  She gazed with wide eyes.  "Am I allowed on those?!"

"With a grown up," Tim replied.  "And you can print off pictures and take them home with you."

"What about those machines next to them?"  Lola asked, pointing.

"The first one is for looking at old newspapers," Tim explained.  "You can find out things that happened right here in town, hundreds of years ago!"  He pointed at the second machine.  "That's a photocopier," he told her.  "If you like a picture in a book so much that you want to keep it, you can make a copy of the page."

Lola could hardly believe it; she had wanted to go to the park, but here she was in a place where she could choose any story she liked to take home, or do a drawing, or play with toys, print pictures off the computer, or even learn about things that had happened years before she was born!  

Just as Lola was about to follow Tim to the computer, the doors opened and lots of boys and girls her age began piling into the library.  She stopped in her tracks.  "What's happening?!"

"It's almost time for our weekly songs and stories session," Tim explained.  All the children began rushing to sit on a big, round carpet in the children's section.  A kind looking lady sat on a chair in front of them and began handing out instruments to everyone.  "Would you like to join in?"  Tim asked.

"Yes, please!"  Lola grinned, scurrying over to sit with them.  Before long, she was chatting to some of the children who'd be starting school with her in September!

Mum waited until the end of the session, to tell Lola that her library card was all sorted and ready to use.  By that time, Lola was a fully fledged library fan!

"Mum, did you know that I can find out anything, here at the library?"  She gushed.  "I could pick any subject in the world and there's bound to be a book here that explains it.  And I've made some new friends here as well!  And did you know that I can play the tambourine?  That lady said I was really good at it!"

Mum smiled back at her.  "I'm glad you like it, here.  Would you like to choose a couple of books to take home, now?"

Lola nodded and rushed off to scan the shelves.  Mum followed.  "We'll go home and get some lunch, once you've checked out your books," she said.  "And maybe this afternoon, we'll go to the park?"

Lola shrugged.  "If you like, Mum," she replied.  "Just as long as we can come back to the library, another day!"

Mum laughed.  "You're turning into a proper little bookworm," she said.

"A bookworm?"  Lola frowned.  "What does that mean?"  She held up her hand.  "Never mind," she told her.  "There's bound to be a book in here that'll help me find out."

And with that, she hurried back to the shelves, with a big smile on her face.


Monday, 7 August 2017

I'm SO Excited For Jodie!

Yes, yes, I know.  It wasn't all that long ago that I wrote a blog about us finally getting a female Doctor and in that blog, I did the whole "it's about time" and "here's why you're wrong to instantly judge this as a bad idea" thing, so I'm not going to do it again, don't fret.

But today, Jodie Whittaker - the incredible actor chosen to portray the first ever female Doctor - gave her first two major interviews since the news of her casting was made public (you can find them here) and I wanted to talk to you all about how it made me feel.

Because guys.  Guys.  I felt things.

This basically sums it up.

Much has been said about whether or not we should have a female Doctor (and the number of sad-cases who still use the "angry" reaction to every Doctor Who post on Facebook, shows we have a way to go before that argument dies down completely), but Jodie has - rather sensibly - avoided too much nastiness, thanks to the fact that she doesn't have any social media accounts.  This means that she hasn't been dragged down by anyone saying she's "ruined the show," and her enthusiasm for the role remains utterly undimmed, despite the efforts of some of the Internet's narrowest-minded idiots.

In fact, she put it rather beautifully this morning, when she responded - calmly and rationally - to those critics by saying: "The people that are in this role, that we're excited by and passionate about, that we look up to, don't always have to tick the same box.  And that's what's really incredible about it."  She went on to add: "We can celebrate differences."

She is, of course, spot on.  

The whole ethos of Doctor Who is that we embrace change and we welcome diversity in all its forms.  The "fans" who either can't or won't see that, are missing a vital part of the show they claim to love.

I planned to shorten this gif so it didn't look like Andrew Buchan hates the idea of a female Doctor, but then I decided it was kind of hilarious uncut, so it stayed.  

But even beyond Jodie's discussion of breaking down barriers to become the first female Doctor (she spoke about how, when asked what roles she'd love to play, she'd feel an urge to respond that she wanted the roles that nobody thought she could play), what got to me most of all was her excitement.

The fact that she admitted that she'd cried when she found out she'd gotten the part.  

The fact that she talked with such enthusiasm about the show and the idea of playing a role that would take her on adventures.

The fact that she marvelled at "the scale of the storylines" and"the freedoms and fun."

The fact that she described Whovians as "the most kind and creative and enthusiastic people" and spoke about her joy at being a part of that community.

This wasn't your run-of-the-mill press interview, with an actor plugging their latest TV show.  Jodie came across as someone exceptionally down-to-Earth, very warm, funny and genuinely, genuinely thrilled to bits to be going on this new journey.

It was her infectious enthusiasm that affected me so much.  Because I am excited to see Jodie as the Doctor, but knowing how excited she is just made me even more so.

I basically just did this for an hour or so after listening to the interview.

This is a woman who knows the extraordinary turning of the tide that her casting in this role has created.  She knows that there being a female Doctor after well over 50 years of it being an exclusively male character is a big thing and you could sense throughout the interview that she's both honoured and overjoyed that she's the very first woman to be handed the TARDIS keys.

"As you grow up, watching adventure films and TV shows and anything that caters to that belief that anything is possible, this is the job to do and I get to do it and that was not in the realm of possibility, ever, growing up."

Sure, there will still be people bitching about a female Doctor being wrong and awful.  There's bound to be those folk who insist that the Doctor presenting as female sounds the death knell for the show and it's all downhill from here.

You know what?  Let them.  

Let them keep their bitterness and their inability to accept change.

I for one am even more excited than I was before, having listened to Jodie speaking about her new role.  She's 100% up for the job.  She's massively enthusiastic.  She's just so excited.

And so am I.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Bedtime Story (2/8/2017)

Sometimes, I think back on my childhood Summer holidays, whilst I had what felt like forever off school, and they already seem like a million years ago.  I know how quickly children get bored, these days, so I decided a trip down memory lane was in order; I may not be a granny, but there are certainly times when I feel like one!

As always, this story is also available as a podcast.

"My Granny's Summer Holidays"

We're on Summer holidays
And that means there's no school!
I don't go to school 'til September,
But having my big brother home is cool.

The trouble is, my big brother
Is already feeling bored.
He wants to go out every day,
To places we can't afford.

His computer game is broken
And there's nothing on TV.
He says he has nothing else to do at all,
Which doesn't seem right, to me.

But our Granny has come to stay,
And last night over tea,
She told us the things she did in the Summer
- and all of it was free!

She told us about going berry picking,
Filling bowls with juicy fruit.
Then she'd go home and bake a pie,
Filled with her freshly picked loot.

She told us about building secret dens,
In bushes and woodland nearby.
She'd take snacks and sit, hidden from view,
Pretending to be a spy!

She said that she'd play hopscotch,
Or hide and seek, outside.
She said these fun, outdoor games,
Were still the best she's ever tried.

She remembered making treasure hunts,
For she and her friends to complete.
She'd write lots of little clues,
That led to a biscuit or sweet.

She told us about making models,
Made from things she found in the house.
Or dressing up in her parents clothes;
Her dad's hat or her mum's blouse.

She said she used to paint pictures,
Or sometimes even climb trees!
She said she had no computer,
And she rarely watched the TV.

She told us she'd rather make up her own games,
Or spend her time running about.
She said: "Why would I just sit inside,
When it's much more fun to play out?"

She used to do jobs for her mum and dad,
That made her feel really grown up.
She'd sometimes do jobs for her neighbours as well,
Like walking next door's little pup.

She told us the holidays would fly by,
They'd be over before we knew.
And really, we were very lucky
To have so much that we could do.

"You've got lots of ideas now, I'm sure,"
Our Granny confidently assured.
So, whatever my brother and I do this Summer,
We certainly won't be bored!