Archives for posts with tag: childhood

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!

My friend Jane recently visited a huge Victorian manor house called Berrington Hall in Herefordshire. She walked round the beautiful gardens and had a tour of the house which is full of amazing furniture, rich carpets and sparkling mirrors. Then she came to the Nursery, where the children of the house were looked after by their nanny. And look what she found!

A rocking horse very like the one she has in her front hall!

If you look closely at the picture, you can see lots of details of how Victorian children lived. This rocking horse has special baskets mounted on each side of the rockers so favourite toys could go for a ride too! His padded saddle  looks very comfortable, but I think a small child would have needed help to get all the way up there.

On the mantelpiece you can see tiny figures of birds and people, with more animals below on the wall. They seem to be in pairs, so perhaps they were part of a Noah’s Ark set? There is a cotton nightie hanging on the fire guard (where it would get nice and warm before bed.) You can also see a china doll sleeping under a table on the right. She looks very comfortable on her two gingham pillows! (I am guessing she is a girl, because in Victorian times, blue was a girl’s colour!)

There are two picture books on the rocking horse, so these Victorian children probably enjoyed reading bedtime stories with their parents. And on the left behind the rocking horse you can see a high chair, where the baby of the family would have been fed.

The rug on the floor has a lovely forest design with trees, birds and flowers. It reminds me of the illustrations from picture books of that time, so it’s perfect for a children’s room.

If you’d like to see more pictures of Berrington Hall, just click HERE. And thanks again to Jane who sent me this fantastic Nursery picture!

When I visit schools, children often ask me where my story ideas come from. Well, most of the time my stories are inspired by things that happen with my own children. For example, when my son was very small, he loved penguins but he didn’t love reading. So I wrote a little story about penguins to get him interested in books. That story became Pip Likes Snow.

Around the same time, I wrote a story about a little boy who got frightened at night and would climb into to his parents’ bed. To help him feel safe in his own bed, his mum got him a snuggly leopard hot-water-bottle, and it worked very well! After that the boy slept fine, and he and the leopard had lots of fun playing imaginary games.

Maybe you guessed that the little boy in the story was my son again! Here is the actual leopard we got for him to keep him safe and warm in his bed:

And here is the book that tells the story of that boy and his leopard friend. It’s called Jack’s Bed and it has three stories in one book. My son was so pleased to have a book written about him, and in fact the illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw look a lot like him! Wouldn’t you agree?

My friend Jane saw the wooden horses I posted here a few days ago and was reminded of her dad who used to make beautiful rocking horses for children. Here is a picture of the one he made for Jane. Her name is Melody and she stands proudly in the front hall.

Jane’s dad carved them from wood, sanded, painted and varnished them (either golden like Melody or dapple grey) and he used real horsehair for the mane and tail. He cut the leather saddle and used brass studs to hold it in place. You can see he chose to use straight runners with hinges (like my little unpainted horse). This was because he worried children might get their toes caught under big curved rockers.

If his customers had decided on a name for the rocking horse, Jane’s dad would get a little plaque engraved with the name and delivery date and attach it to the horse. He liked to deliver each one personally, and set it up in the house so he could be sure it was safe for the children and that it was going to a loving home.

Melody is very happy in her home, where every Christmas she is decorated with reindeer antlers and a toy Santa sitting proudly on her saddle. Presents are placed all around her so she feels prettier than a Christmas tree!

Thank you, Jane, for telling me all about your dad and his amazing rocking horses. He sounds like such a lovely man, and a very talented one too!

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.)