Travels with a bear


“You go everywhere with that bear,” a friend said. Yes, last week Inverness where Cradlehall Primary presented a musical performance based on Wojtek, War Hero Bear, from a script by Barbara Henderson, author of Fir for Luck and Punch.  It’s so exciting when words on the page come to life on the stage, especially when the actors are children, so full of enthusiasm and joy.

From Inverness to Edinburgh North. A group of Guides listened to the story, watched the slides and had a great laugh as they acted out the parts of the story.  Once again, a hugely heart-warming experience, so much joy and fun that I’m smiling as I write. Wojtek’s story belongs to everyone.

Book addict in library, not permitted to read

Invigilating today took place in the school library. Can you imagine what it was like for a book addict to be surrounded by books but not permitted to read? The thirst was huge, the cravings so bad that well, I did manage a quick browse – as well as keeping a beady eye on the students bent over their exam papers, of course, and when the exam was over I even managed to borrow a few of those enticing objects that shone like the apple in Paradise that Eve was forbidden to touch. Phew!

books for addicts

Put them in a story… I read this quote the other day: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story, or tell a story about them.” (Isak Dineson). And now I know why I am addicted to words. The quote came from The Examined Life by Stefan Grosz. He commented: if “we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us – we dream those stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand.” So, tell those stories….

Writing about writing

Words are all I have to take your heart away… but sentences matter too – and characters above all. Yet words and sentences give flesh and emotion to the characters that I’ve just finished reading Faulks on Fiction (Sebastian Faulks BBC Books 2011). In a brilliant essay on Great Expectations, Faulks shows us how Dickens makes things matter. The convict Magwitch has just climbed the stairs to Pip’s room:

I could not recall a single feature, but I knew him! If the wind and the rain had driven away the intervening years, had scattered all the intervening objects, had swept us into the churchyard where we first stood face to face on such different levels, I could not have known my convict more distinctly than I knew him now, as he sat in the chair before the fire.

Faulks, amongst other useful analysis, points out the devastating impact of that little word “my” linked as it is with “convict”, linking both Pip and the reader with that dramatic scene at the beginning of the book where the poor boy Pip, terrified out of his wits, helps a shackled criminal – and then takes the reader – and Pip – back into the cosy, domestic scene, beside the warmth and living flame of the hearth-warming, heart-warming fire.

Just such a connection is made in Wilfrid Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, but that will be made in a future blog.


Writing about writing


Words are all I have to take your heart away… so went a pop song. Words, poor words, rich words, are the colour and sound of our craft. The next blogs will show how they work in the hands of the very best. So, today – Daffodils…

Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares and take the winds of March with beauty.

It’s from Shakespeare’s Winter Tale. It’s not one of my favourite plays but that line sings. How does it work? Listen to the liquid sounds in the first phrase, the l sounds and the long slow vowels, then not that harsh, monosyllabic “take”. It draws us up, makes us gaps and prepares us for the sheer wonder of the fragile beauty of those wind-tossed flowers with the great play of vowels like the short i of winds and the longer slower sounds of March and beauty. So seemingly easy, so perfect.




Jenny Robertson’s blog

Thank you, Ewa for pointing out my typo What’s if instead of What it. Please put it down to nervousness – that was about my fourth attempt at getting it all together. The Russians say piervyi blin – the first pancake, which always goes wrong because either the dough isn’t runny enough or the pan isn’t hot enough. the same with my typo. I’ll try  to improve.