Remember you’re a Womble

Daughter to one of her team at work: “Remember you’re a role model”

Team member (completely mishearing): “What do you mean – Remember you’re a Womble?!”

Cue for laughter in the office – The Wombles were furry children’s TV characters in the 1970s, who went around picking up rubbish and helped keep public parks and open spaces tidy. They were also into recycling, so were way ahead of their time, and their message of taking care of the environment was seen regularly by the children who watched the show. Those children and now in their 40s, so hopefully some of the Wombles philosophy has rubbed off and stayed with them, ready to be passed on to their own children.



Fairies of the Trees



Walking through a country park last week, the air heavy with the scent of May blossom, I was reminded of a childhood book which I still have: Fairies of the Trees by Cicely Mary Barker. A short poem – my favourite in the book – begins

“White May is flowering, Red May beside;”

I can remember the rest of the poem too, but I found the book – obviously kept as one I treasured – and checked it out. The book was a Christmas gift from my godmother when I was 6 years old and is still in fairly good nick: I was encouraged to look after my possessions!


ReadingP1050685 this poem as a child, I learned to identify May, Laburnum and Lilac. Other poems taught me about Elderflowers, Sycamore seeds with wings, Ash keys and Guelder roses.

Cicely Mary Barker was an illustrator; her books on Flower and Tree Fairies were first published in the 1920s, so some of the verses she wrote may sound a tad twee to modern ears. But the messages about nature and what’s around to looked at, enjoyed and appreciated are all there in her books. Many things in childhood now are sourced differently. Much information comes directly from the internet rather than through observation of the real world of nature all around, outside the window, in the street, in the park, in the trees, even in patches of grass and rough ground.


There’s a poem on the first page of my Fairies of the Trees book, entitled Look Up! Encouraging children to check out what they learn on the web alongside what is real, tangible and observable is a valid and engaging way of “teaching” them science.

Look up, look up, at any tree!

There is so much for eyes to see:

Twigs, catkins, blossoms: and blue

Of sky, most lovely, peeping through

Between the leaves, some large, some small,

Some green, some gold before their fall:

Fruits you can pick: fruits out of reach;

And little birds with twittering speech…..


The Street Poet


On a recent trip to New Orleans I noticed something new on the ever-lively, music-filled streets of the city.

Street poets.

They sit at a small portable table with a small portable typewriter in front of them and will write a poem on the subject of your choice for a small fee, or a donation. The lure of using a quirky (or should it be qwerty?) technology of the past (a real typewriter) and the risk of asking them to write on a subject of your choosing and seeing what is created was strong. Continue reading

Back in the Zone

Spending precious family time in Houston, I like to renew my volunteer status each time we visit so I can go into 8 year old granddaughter’s school and help out in her class. As a trained teacher it’s always a delight to be back in school  and be  “back in the zone” as one of the reception staff at her school calls it when I turn up.

Today was my first day back this trip. School starts early here, at 7.35 am and it was arranged for me to go in for the morning session, 8.00-10.00 am. I’m scheduled to be doing this twice weekly, and I’m smiling.

I’ve been generally helping out today with the language/grammar work they were working on. I loved hearing that they’ve been learning about idioms and we had a few jokes about breaking a leg and having butterflies in the tummy. Today they were correcting spellings and tenses in their written work. Then, it being Valentine’s Day, their teacher asked me to read the class a story which they had to pay attention to as there were some questions to write answers to following this.

It was a heart warming story about how a miserable lonely man finds love and friendship in his community. He learns how to smile, laugh, reach out, be kind to people, and help them out. He discovers he is no longer lonely and unhappy.

What a great message, not just for Valentine’s Day but for every day.

It’s good being back in the zone.





A Chip off the Old Block

Modern day children’s toys are full of techno-gadgetry, often needing batteries or access to a power point. No such things were available when I was growing up. I had a train set when I was five years old, but the train was clockwork and had to be wound up to make it go. Most of my toys were made of wood or tin, like the train set, and were made in the UK. Imports from China were an exotic, unheard-of commodity.

There are a few toys I really liked. They gave me hours of pleasure and encouraged me to be creative, so I kept them. Maybe I hung on to them for sentimental reasons, maybe because I thought they might one day be worth something if I wanted to sell them, but mostly because I realised that they would be useful when grandchildren came to stay.

My doll’s house, built entirely of wood and made especially for me, was and is one thing I don’t intend to part with; it’s already offered creative play to granddaughter who is fascinated by its old fashioned, hand-crafted furniture. The coloured wooden shapes puzzle shown above gave me hours of enjoyment as I learned about making patterns and discovered creative possibilities by combining the  shapes in different ways. This is one of the designs granddaughter created, doing the same.

My grandchildren now enjoy this particular wooden puzzle which has lasted well, has not broken or faded, and still manages to hit the spot – as well knock spots off newer plastic gadgetry and imports.

They do say the old ones are the best….