Category Archives: Uncategorized
Apples, blackberries and pumpkins… Nature’s grand autumnal finale always triggers in me a kind of elation no other season can match. Ever since childhood, it’s been my favourite time of year. The shortening days, tinged with melancholy, the smell of ploughed earth and the prospect of bonfires are definitely part of it. And I still can’t resist kicking up the leaves – especially under the horse chestnuts where the greatest treasure of all might suddenly gleam up at me: the perfect conker.
Last week saw the celebration of one of the country’s most traditional games at the World Conker Championship in Southwick, Northamptonshire. Organised by the Ashton Conker Club, the contest has been running for fifty years. It attracts thousands of visitors and teams from the around the world who fight it out like gladiators, armed only with a nut and 12 inches of string. All of which prompted me to add the following piece of fun to our creative archive. Someone once told me that it isn’t just about good hand-eye coordination and the desire to conquer. You have to psych your opponent out …
Just a game
Okay, now here’s the thing
It’s a nut on the end of a knotted string.
You hit mine, I SMASH yours …
Yes, let’s go play out of doors.
This is my favourite,
See that gleam?
It knows it’s on the winning team.
Good question; how can I possibly tell?
I partly oven-baked the shell.
Ha! Only joking.
Are you ready?
Three fat misses!
My turn, hold steady.
No, the sun wasn’t in your eyes.
That’s the rule, you had your tries.
Don’t go bonkers,
It’s just a simple game of conkers.
Poem and photo by Jenny Landor
Illustration by Julia Draper
We have decided to showcase some samples of our writing on a new page called Our Work. These samples can be anything from stories for children or Young Adults, experimental or traditional pieces, poetry…
I wrote Wolf Winter as part of my MA portfolio, when my tutor Nicola Davies, who writes fantastic books about animals and the natural world, suggested I put myself into the head of an animal and try to see things from its perspective.
My fur is grey against the gleam
Of snowdrifts in a frosted wood
And all the day I burn for food.
I rest and run.
Dusk falls cold on glittering snow.
I dig a hole, I crawl beneath,
I lie there shivering to my teeth.
I warm and sleep.
At dawn I cross a frozen lake.
I sniff the air for scent of food,
Some passed by days ago – no good.
I ache and burn.
I wonder where my brothers are.
Too long without them; different pain.
I seek the sky and howl again.
I prowl and search.
I sniff around the water’s edge
Where reeds have hardened into spikes.
My breath comes trailing spumes of white.
I wait and turn.
The doe is damaged, stumbling, slow.
I smell her long before she knows
Or even sees me, and I close.
I tear and eat.
The evening brings my brothers’ trace.
I scent their passage on the rain,
I tip my head and howl again.
I wait and wait.
I watch the deep violet sky.
A white moon rises. Now the snow
Is smooth and silvered where I go.
I pad and prowl.
Then high upon the mountain trail
Beyond the frozen waterfall,
I hear a distant answering call.
I run and run.
I’ve returned from an exhilarating weekend of stories at the international Storytelling Festival Beyond the Border, St Donat’s, South Wales. Listening to oral stories is, for me, important and enriching and makes a fine change from the written word. Some of my highlights at this year’s festival were:
Ben Haggarty keeping his audience spellbound on Sunday morning in an open- air cliff top setting. He dressed all in black and told tales of the devil, very well suited to his commanding tone and presence.
On Saturday, luscious Italian Paola Balbi wore red, her rich voice and swaying hips adding colour to her stories of medieval naughtiness. Beowulf, from The Telling Theatre of Denmark was part-theatre, part-telling: spare, virile and unmistakably Scandinavian. Eerie percussion accompanied Grendel’s passage amongst the trees, through the squelching bog, into the feasting hall and the Danish tellers Andersen and Ejsing used their words with all the precision of a singing sword.
I chatted with Dorset storyteller Martin Maudsley about sharing stories and how a storyteller can take ownership of a traditional tale. They craft and embellish it until, by twists and turns, it becomes something new and exciting, unmistakably their own, in much the same way as a writer strives to find their ‘voice’ on the page. The resulting performance/creative piece has an honesty and truthfulness which audiences can’t help but respond to. All in all, the message is: be yourself, write from the heart and find a voice that’s truly your own (we knew that anyway, but I guess it’s always good to be reminded).
The importance of authenticity was also flagged up by Melvin Burgess in the talk he gave to MA students and tutors at Bath Spa University this summer. He spoke about his process of interviewing ‘real people’ as part of his research for novels such as Junk, Nicholas Dane and Kill All Enemies. Many of the characters in these books are so powerful because the author has taken time to understand the people behind the stories, and the bittersweet voices of Gemma, Tar and Billy are some of the most authentic I’ve read.