Archives for category: going to school

This Christmas my family and I went to Canada. Along with the woolly jumpers and big mittens under the tree, we found some very special gifts this year. They came from Plan Canada and were not for us but for children and families in developing countries.

school essentials

My daughter’s gift was for one child to have school supplies, including textbooks and pencils, and funding for school meals and teacher training. These are things we take for granted in our well-equipped schools, but without them education is impossible.


My gift was funding for an anti-bullying project which provides training for children, parents and teachers about the rights of the child. It includes “Speak out boxes” into which children can post their concerns and experiences so that issues of bullying can be discussed and dealt with. This gift was chosen specially for me because of my anti-bullying story, Pink.

clean water

My husband’s gift was clean water for families. In many  parts of the world the water is not safe to drink, and this is the most essential gift of all. These three gifts all came from the same Plan Canada Gifts of Hope website, and there are lots more amazing gifts to choose from.

Apopo rat 2

The final gift for my son was a surprising one. It was a rat! Even better, a HeroRat who sniffs out landmines in fields and open spaces where war has ravaged crucial arable land. This is an initiative started by a Belgian organisation called Apopo which trains and uses rats to find land mines in former war zones in Mozambique, Cambodia, Thailand and Angola.  They can also be trained to detect tuberculosis in a lab setting, which speeds up diagnosis and saves lives.

Rats are very intelligent animals (I know because I had a pet rat as a child) and they are light enough to be able to find a land mine without setting it off. This helps prevent the terrible injuries people suffer when trying to cultivate land or collect water or herd cattle on mined fields. The Apopo rats have all got names (like Oprah, Pink and Jolie) and they look quite cute in their little harnesses. Maybe someone you know would like a HeroRat too!


It hasn’t felt much like summer with all the rain we’ve been having in the UK lately. As June ticks away, the sun has finally come out where I live, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that this year’s Sports Day will dawn bright and warm.

I have noticed on my website that lots of people are looking for Sports Day poems. It seems to be a favourite topic (or maybe one that teachers suggest) so I thought you might like to read my poem here, now that the sporting season is upon us.

When I was young I was not very good at racing, so I really dreaded Sports Day every summer. Some of my friends were excellent runners and jumpers, and they always ended the day festooned with First ribbons, while I had nothing. I secretly wished there could be an Art Day or a Story Day when I could win all the prizes!

In my poem I imagine what it’s like for both types of people, sporty and not so sporty. Which one are you?

Sports Day

Just four more days                    Four days to go!

so long to wait                             I count with dread

till egg-and-spoon                      each night

and ball-and-plate,                    as I get into bed.

till starting guns                         I’ve got to go,

and lightning starts                   there’s no way out,

and pumping legs                       find something else

and pounding hearts,                to think about

the thrilling chase                      before a nightmare

of every race,                                starts to hatch,

the cooling breeze                      with flying balls

upon my face,                              I cannot catch,

the final push                              and tripping shoes

so well rehearsed,                      with tangled laces,

the burning drive                        pointing fingers,

to come in first!                           laughing faces,

And there it is,                            hoops and beanbags

the finish line!                            zooming past,

I’m almost through –                always, always

the prize is mine!                        coming last.

To top it all,                                  No amount of

the races done,                             sporting fun

it’s time for ice cream,                will make this day

games and fun.                             a better one.

Another year                                 If only I

of work and play                          could sneak away

ends with a bang –                     and read a book –

I love Sports Day!                        I hate Sports Day!

Celebrating a winning race!

Summer is nearly over and already the children in Scotland have gone back to school! Wednesday the 17th of August was the first day of school for lots of Scottish children. I hope they enjoyed seeing their friends again, meeting their new teachers and comparing notes about the holidays. In the picture above, Patrick the pink penguin is telling his classmates all about a trip he took to Africa.

When I was at school I remember being very excited about the first day back. I loved the feel of a clean, new notebook and couldn’t wait to try out my brand new pens and coloured pencils! It was a little bit scary, too, and I hoped that my teacher would be nice and the other children would like me.

When I was very small I had to wear a scratchy wool uniform which I hated! It had a tartan pinafore (dark green and black, the Black Watch tartan), itchy green tights and a white blouse and tie. I think my mum must have tied the tie for me because I was much too little to manage! It’s hard to see in this dark photo but I’m also wearing a black cardigan.

These days uniforms are much more comfortable. Lots of schools have grey skirts or trousers and a lovely soft sweatshirt in the school colour. I wish I’d been allowed to wear that instead!

In my book, I Win, the illustrator Melanie Williamson has put the twins in purple sweatshirts for their uniform. In this picture they are doing their homework after school (with a nice healthy snack and some juice). I remember having a peanut butter and honey sandwich when I got home from school. That was my favourite thing to eat when I was small! (I grew up in Canada where peanut butter is very popular.)

I hope you all have a great time back at school, whether it’s in August or September. Good luck and have fun!

The very first thing I ever got published in a real book was a poem. Well, two poems, actually, which was even better! They were put in a collection of school poems called LOOK OUT! The Teachers are Coming and it had a great cover:

I love writing poems, and for me the best bit is getting the rhythm and the rhyme just right. Sometimes that’s very hard to do, and I can spend ages stuck on one line. If you visit my website HERE you’ll see lots of my poetry, but I think today I’m going to show you a poem that no one has ever seen before! It is called Our Lolipop Man and is based on a real person.

Our Lollipop Man
Our Lollipop man is called Donald Macdonald,
his hair is as white as the snow,
he’s quite a bright fellow
all decked out in yellow –
we cross when he says we can go, you know,
we cross when he says we can go.
Our Lollipop man plays his bagpipes at weddings
(or birthdays, if business is slow)
he really looks smart in
his pink-and-green tartan
and puts on a fabulous show, you know,
he puts on a fabulous show.
Our Lollipop man has a beautiful parrot
called Florence (her friends call her Flo)
she sits on his shoulder
and when it gets colder
she squawks if it’s going to snow, you know,
she squawks if it’s going to snow.
Our Lollipop man is a colourful character –
wouldn’t you say it was so?
And if we’re in trouble
he’s there on the double –
a wonderful person to know, you know,

a wonderful person to know.

Spring is here and Sports Day is coming soon! It’s time to practise those races and get ready to cheer for your friends.

When I was little I was terrible at running, so I didn’t get too many ribbons on Sports Day. I just trotted along happily without worrying about coming first, while all the other children whizzed past me towards the finish line!

My son Cameron is a much better runner than I was. That picture at the top is from his very first Sports Day when he was five. He was going as fast as he could in the relay race!

When he wasn’t running, Cameron had lots of fun digging in the grass for worms. You can see he found a really big one that he was very pleased with! I think the worm was his favourite part of Sports Day that year.

Are you looking forward to Sports Day? I’ve written a poem on that very subject, which you can read on my website HERE. (Just scroll down to find it.)