Friday, 25 December 2009

NEW BORN


Life’s beginning is all bodily function - milk, wind, nappies – until that precious moment when small dark searching eyes find yours, a smile flickers and love is born.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS


I remember the night before Christmas as the night of no sleep when my children were little. No one could go to bed until the stockings were retrieved and filled and it was well after midnight before the eldest finally gave up listening out for Santa. An hour later, the youngest would get it all wrong and wake up and then, at the crack of dawn, a roar of tearing wrapping paper would usher in the day.

The comfort for grannies feeling the absence of their grandchildren this Christmas is they can at least look forward to an unbroken night before Christmas and a long lie on Christmas morning.


Saturday, 19 December 2009

Finding the right words



Today’s grannies not only have to learn how modern pushchairs fold, how baby car seats strap and how bottle sterilisers work but if their grandchildren live overseas they also have to learn the right words too:
When in Canada I’ve learnt, for nappy say diaper, for cradle say bassinet, for pushchair say stroller, for pavement say side walk, for bin lorry say garbage truck, for torch say flash light, for sweetheart say buddy. And then there are those special words for the bedtime comforters; blankies, shawlies,bompies, barnims... and more in Carol Thompson's lovely book Noo-Noos.




Grannies all over the world will be able to find the right words of endearment in Carol's latest book Come to Me My Chickadee!



Here is a page of them:



Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Grannies on long haul flights




I expect there are many grannies like me on long haul flights this Christmas; worrying about the effect of emissions on the world, yet longing to be with our grandchildren.

Years ago I sat next to a great granny on a long haul flight. She told me she had made the journey every Christmas for over twenty years to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren but that this would be the last time as she had started to need wheel chair help.


Here are two picture books I've chosen for my grandsons; this one a lovely, simple, board book for the baby





and this slightly scary one, signed by Michael Rosen and with a CD of the song inside, for the toddler.



Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ghost Stories


I recently had a meeting over lunch with my very first editor, Pam Royds, in a small room at John Murray Publishers in Albemarle Road. The room was haunted.

John Murray is a descendant of Byron’s publisher and I was told Byron broke off with Mary Lamb in this very room. Was the ghost a hysterical Mary Lamb or some other rejected author?

No unhappy ghost came between Pam and me as we enjoyed our talk and sandwiches. The feeling in the room was good. So perhaps the ghost was a happy one; an author who’d received a huge book deal and wanted to return and relive the moment, again and again throughout eternity. That's what my ghost would do.My own granny had a ghost story. When she was a teenager she saw a ghost of a young woman climbing the stairs in her house. The ghost was wearing a uniform she didn’t recognise. Some years later when WW2 broke out, my granny joined the WVS and when she was given her uniform she saw it was identical to the uniform worn by the young woman climbing the stairs. The ghost had been herself.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Advent Calendars

My children never had advent calendars with chocolate inside. Instead every year, out came the old wooden advent calendars I’d made them when they were little, with hinged windows opening onto an image from a Christmas story, poem or song which was read at bedtime.
When they grew up I wondered whether they’d felt deprived of the real chocolaty advent experience. I was therefore happily surprised when my eldest son asked for his old advent calendar for his own son.
So down it came from the attic and, after a new lick of paint, was shipped to my grandson in Canada, along with all the old Christmas books.




Oh, and some chocolate money too, for now I’m a granny I’m learning to become indulgent.




Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Digestive System at the House of Commons


It was at the House of Commons that Steve Alton and Nick Sharratt won the 2009 Educational Writers’ Award; at the All Party Writers Group winter drinks reception held at on 2 December.

Their book was The Gooey Chewy Rumble Plop Book about the digestive system – I know my grandsons will love it when they’re a bit older.
There was a wonderful incongruity between the book’s long pink rubbery tongue and pop up guts and the solemn venue.


As we all sipped wine and ate canap├ęs in Dining Room A, the Digital Economy Bill was having its second reading. Outside the loos I’d seen a bit of it on the screen but there was no sound and not being a lip reader only managed to catch a ‘no’ to something from Lord Mandelson. The significance of this bill for authors and illustrators is that audio and e-books are included in Clause 44. We have our wonderful Public Lending Right Scheme to thank for that and its Registrar, Jim Parker, who has our interests so much at heart.

Here’s a photo taken at the second International PLR Conference at Copenhagen back in1997 when I served on the Advisory Committee. Jim is right in the front.



Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The 2009 SCBWI Conference


Two things have prompted me to start this blog, a beautiful new grandson and the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Winchester. The weekend was a lot of fun but nerve wracking too because I had to do some work at it; a two hour illustration workshop and a key note talk.



But I needn’t have worried. SCBWI members are wonderfully friendly and supportive. Afterwards I wanted to stay connected with them all and thought blogs, theirs and mine, might help with that. But writing and illustrating isn’t the only important strand in my life and there are others I’d like to connect with too – grannies everywhere. I hadn’t told anyone at the conference I was a granny because everyone there was young and had young children; mentioning grandchildren tends to be a bit of a conversation stopper in these situations. So I kept quiet. Oh dear. I’m very new the whole granny business and obviously have a lot to learn.


One thing I’m learning is that grandchildren can breathe new life into old. This happens in so many different ways but for the writer and illustrator, grandchildren inspire new ideas for stories. The other thing I’m learning is that I’m not alone in being a very part-time granny. There’s a new generation of grannies who don’t see their grandchildren very often. The job market and gap year travels are sending our children abroad and the chance of them meeting someone of a different nationality and settling overseas is high. This pattern has created a generation of grannies who rely on skype and weekly video calls to develop a relationship with their grandchildren.