Notes made while away from my desk doing a month of school visits
Feeling nervous. Have I allowed myself to be over-booked this year in the weeks before and after World Book Day? It’s so tempting to say ‘yes’ to everything. A serious risk of collapsing from exhaustion before I'm through.
Today is my first school visit since the autumn. A jolt to the system after many quiet months at my desk illustrating – suddenly I have to find smart clothes to wear and get out of the house in time for a rush hour drive. It was inevitable I’d forget something vital today - my packed lunch - and as a result was famished by break time (no biscuit tin in the staff room) and £4 wasted on a grizzly school lunch.
Done several schools now in Hampshire and Hertfordshire; have my morning departure down to a fine art – a big note reminding me to bring a packed lunch. Really enjoying working with the children. I encourage them to be illustrators and do a first character sketch. Teachers look anxious as pencils and rubbers are replaced with A3 paper and black felt tips, then are surprised at what the children can do. The key to it all is me doing a very quick messy sketch on the flip chart first. The children know they can match it. You can’t go wrong with a sketch, I tell them, and they don't.
World Book Day – a lot of fun - children and staff in costumes (no serial killers or grey suits) though hard recognizing some of the staff at the end of the day (the balding ones especially) once pirate wigs and whiskers are removed.
Done nine schools, another six to go and a nightmare journey to Bromley today on the M11 and M25 - two traffic jams and a Dartford Crossing congestion charge to remember to pay. But there were high points to the day - opening a new school library and coffee and cakes with the school governors who lingered on most of the morning.
All my journeys now are into Norfolk – much easier journeys, no congestion and delays - just tractors and country lanes. The schools in this county are mostly small rural schools and the names of the children at book signings are easy to spell. As the end of term approaches there is a relaxed atmosphere. One school last week had a bake off and the staff room was awash with chocolate cake. Another school celebrated a teacher’s wedding and there was bubbly at lunch time.
Today I had a tip off from a school librarian who ran a wonderful school library with a story boat, that the beach was only five minutes away.
As I had over an hour to kill before the dinner ladies would be finished in the hall where I was to do my afternoon workshops I went down to the shore and came back greatly revived.
Made it! The last day of term and I’m in Hunstanton. The children, here as everywhere else, have been great. What I love about this work is the way they listen to my stories and roar with laughter at the funny bits and then do inspired drawings of their own.