See my guest feature on Patricia’s Pen this week
‘Nice way to spend a Monday afternoon xx’
These were the last words I heard from my little brother. Thirty-six hours later he was dead. Peter posted this message on my Facebook page one year ago in response to a video I shared, looking out across Fowey estuary to Ferryside, Daphne du Maurier’s house. I was in Fowey in May 2019, attending the Daphne du Maurier Literary Festival.
How the world has changed since then.
Daphne du Maurier was born on 13th May 1907, so today is her birthday. What would she have made of Covid 19 and our lives in self-isolation? If her novel Rule Britannia (which appears to predict Brexit) and her sci fi short stories The Breakthrough and The Blue Lenses are anything to go by, I think she might have exploited any creative opportunities shamelessly.
My grandmother introduced me to Daphne du Maurier while we were on holiday in Cornwall. Grandma was palpably excited by the prospect of visiting Jamaica Inn and, judging me ‘too old for toys and too young for boys’, suggested I should read Rebecca. I recall how closely I identified with the naïve narrator playing the role of new mistress of Manderley. As a geeky twelve-year-old, I too was invisible and out of my depth among the cool girls at my large secondary modern school.
Rebecca was the book that inspired me to write. Each teenage summer I equipped myself with a new writing notebook. But then life got in the way – boyfriend, marriage, children, teaching qualification, career. Yet, like Daphne’s character Janet in The Loving Spirit, ‘it seemed that there were two sides…’ Although I’d made my life choices, the yearning to write, my shadow self, remained strong.
My life sometimes mirrors Daphne’s. Like me she was a ‘daddy’s girl’, finding social roles hard to play and selfishly pursuing her own interests whilst relishing moments to be alone. She read Wuthering Heights aged twelve, becoming as obsessed with the Bronte’s as I have become with her. We’re both intrigued by things strange, unexplained and macabre and we both play at imagining – I was ‘dreaming true’ before I knew of its existence.
In her autobiography Growing Pains, Daphne says, ‘the child destined to be a writer is vulnerable to every wind that blows’. We’re shaped by the books we read and experiences we live. Daphne haunts me, permeating my creative writing like some sort of spirit or muse. Her Cornish novels inspired the location for my first novel, ‘The Changeling’. The House on the Strand piqued a life-long interest in time travel, leading to my current work in progress, ‘The Travelling Philanthropist’, and The Parasites and The Scapegoat fed my fascination with siblings and doubles and influenced my psychological thriller, ‘Three Faced Doll’.
Daphne du Maurier is my ‘shape maker’. She inspires me to write. Elements of the uncanny and macabre, so familiar to her stories, filter through in my own work. I continually explore overlaps and links between Daphne’s life and my own in a personal quest to come to know us both better as writers.
Happy Birthday Daphne.
Suitable for key stages one and two
Focuses on sea turtles and links to literacy activities – letter writing and story writing
Nursery or reception age – discuss the turtle facts (with props) and read Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau, Deborough Hopkinson and Meilo So
- Turtles are reptiles. They are cold blooded.
- Turtles have a hard shell that protects them like a shield.
- Many turtles can hide their heads inside their shells.
- Turtles have existed for around 215 million years.
- The largest turtle is the leatherback sea turtle.
- Turtles lay eggs. Some turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own. The young turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators.
- Many turtle species are endangered.
Suitable for key stage 2
Focues on the life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
After viewing and discussing the powerpoint, Josh and I got all inspired and we’re creating a Conan Doyle board game.
Facts about Conan Doyle:
- In his early life he trained as a surgeon. His first job was medic on-board a whaling ship to the Artic Circle. This unlocked a sense of adventure that stayed with him throughout his entire life.
- He was a professional cricketer and he played soccer in goal for Portsmouth FC.
- He created the famous character Sherlock Holmes.
- Without Doyle there would be no Jurassic Park. When he wrote The Lost World, the term dinosaur hadn’t been around for two centuries. The book was hugely influential in bringing dinosaurs into fiction and inspired loads of novels and films, including Jurassic Park and King Kong.
- He had a friendship with the famous magician Houdini.
- He was an amateur detective. He took on a number of mysterious cases including the infamous hunt in Whitechapel for Jack the Ripper.
- He believed in fairies. When a photograph emerged showing a young girl surrounded by fairies, Doyle hailed its authenticity, believing it was clear evidence of psychic phenomena. He wrote a book called The Coming of the Fairies and spent a million dollars promoting their validity. It wasn’t until long after Doyle’s death that the girl eventually admitted it was a hoax.
Suitable for key stages one and two with adaption for nursery or reception (see below)
Focuses on the fossil hunter Mary Anning
- Mary Anning has been virtually erased from the history of science, despite the fact that she made a fundamentally important contribution to the developing field of paleontology in the 19th century. She was responsible for uncovering some of the most significant finds of the era, yet received little recognition in her own lifetime.
For nursery or reception you could have some fun painting dinosaur footprints or creating fossils from playdoh – see simplified powerpoint
Suitable for key stage one or two
Focuses on hill forts and round houses with other activities
So the WHO are holding a meeting to determine whether the general public should be wearing face masks. Up until now the advice has been that face masks don’t do much to protect the wearer, but are useful to avoid a contagious person from spreading the virus.
Perhaps the reason they’ve been discouraging the public from wearing masks is that there’s already a shortage of PPE for the wonderful health workers risking their lives for us all.
There is an alternative. Why not make your own?
If you are going to make your own, just make sure you wash it after every use as a contaminated face mask is worse than no face mask. There are numerous instructions on line. Some simply require a handkerchief folded up with elastic bands or hairbands to secure – no sewing involved.
For those of you like me who doesn’t mind some simple stitching, there are numerous templates out there. Choose some tight weave fabric and have a go.
Here are some I made earlier:
fly away home.
Your house is on fire,
And your children are gone.
All except one, and her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan.
Facts about Ladybirds
Nearly all ladybirds have six legs and an oval shape body
Many ladybirds have seven spots, but the number of spots varies depending on the species
Ladybirds eat scale insects and aphids
In America they call them ladybugs.
Some people say if a ladybird lands on you, it will bring you luck.
Read the story – ‘The Bad-Tempered Ladybird’
(Give out the word-map for the story)
If you don’t have the book, you can find the story on YouTube
Read the story – ‘What the Ladybird Heard’
The story can be found on YouTube
Can you make a play-doh ladybird?
Give out lady bird colouring template. Colour for next time.
Sorting bugs and bottle tops. If you have some plastic insects (you can buy them on Amazon) you can play this sorting game:
Will need – bugs, bottle tops, tweezers or tongs
- Use the tweezers to pick up the bugs and place them into the bottle top.
- Turn the bottle tops over and place the different bugs sitting on top rather than inside the bottle top.
- Have a variety of bottle top and plastic lids sizes.
- Sort and match the bugs to the same colour bottle tops.
- Introduce other items that children can place the bugs onto such as blocks.
- Problem solving – what can we do with the bugs that are too big to fit into the bottle tops?
So we’ve survived one week. There will be plenty more to come I fear. This week I’ve had to content myself with speaking to my kids and grandkids on Skype – although I’ve become more proficient using FaceTime and Houseparty. I’ve been in touch with friends I don’t speak to nearly enough and I’ve exchanged more words with my lovely neighbours over Whatsapp, than I have in eighteen years of living in close proximity. Where did my writing time go?
We’ve rearranged all the furniture and my house has never been so clean. I’ve topped up my freezer with tomato and vegetable pasta sauce from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Keep Cooking and Carry On’. Hoping he’ll be carrying on with these brilliant sessions over coming weeks.
I’m craving bananas, but I’ve still got sufficient wine, chocolate, gin and, for now, loo rolls.
We’ve stood at the end of our drive to ‘Clap the Carers’ and we’ve joined neighbours – each at the end of our own drives with our own glasses of wine – to wish a couple two doors down a ‘Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary’. Their special party was of course cancelled.
This morning, for my daily exercise, I went out early for a walk – still allowed at the moment. As I pass dog walkers and fellow exercisers, I notice how social distance is interpreted differently. To be fair, most keep the prescribed distance. Some do it with a laugh and a little courtesy dance – ‘you go’, ‘no, you’, as we negotiate chess moves to determine who will step off the pavement and walk in the road. If we pass on opposite sides of the road there’s often a ‘hello’, a ‘good morning’ or a smile and wave. Others keep their eyes firmly fixed forward or even down on the ground. They seem to think social distancing means you can no longer greet or even acknowledge a stranger.
Yesterday someone on the TV said, perhaps it should be called ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’. We humans are social beings and we need contact with others, even if it is from two metres away. Please don’t think I’m going to infect you with my wave or a cheery ‘hello’ as we pass.
Look out for me tomorrow morning. I’ll be the one putting my hands together and trying a respectful ‘Namaste’..
Ages 3-5 years
Prior to the session, send your toddler out to do a spring scavenger hunt in the garden.
Start with a ‘show and tell’ session talking about what they found – and what you found in your own garden.
Read the story – My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell.
If you don’t have the book, you can find versions on YouTube.
Read or play again, acting out the story using soft toys or handmade puppets.
Here are some of mine gathered from around my house (or put together using odds and ends)
Read these rhymes/poems and act out using toys:
Little Robin Redbreast
Little Robin Redbreast sat upon a tree,
Up went pussycat and down went he,
Down came pussycat, away Robin ran,
Says little Robin Redbreast, “Catch me if you can.”
Little Robin Redbreast jumped upon a wall,
Pussycat jumped after him, and almost had a fall.
Little Robin chirped and sang and what did pussy say?
Pussycat said “Meow”, and Robin flew away.
There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden
And his name is Wiggly Woo
There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden
And all that he can do
Is wiggle all night
And wiggle all day
Whatever else the people do say
There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden
And his name is Wiggly Woo.
Play the rhymes on YouTube and join in with some actions: