Let's Get A Norther In
It's a strange job we do, us Northers.
We spend vast amounts of our time all by ourselves, inventing stories and seeing no-one except the man who runs the corner shop and the postman. Then every once in a while, people called Literacy Coordinators start noticing that there's a lot of Literacy about that wants Coordinating, and they gather the other teachers around them and say, 'It's about time we got a Norther in.' And the other teachers say, 'Yay! Good idea; a morning off!'
And then comes Children's Book Week, and you're somehow meant to get all excited about some Norther coming in that you've never heard of. And the Norther will stand there and yammer on about 'I remember when I were a nipper' (they talk like that, Northers) and they'll say things like 'writing is really hard, girls and boys, but it's well brilliant, an' all!' And you're thinking, 'yeah, whatever; I wonder if there'll be sausages for lunch?' And the Norther will say, are there any questions, and you think, might as well ask something, so you stick your hand up and say 'Where'd you get your ideas from?' And then the Norther will say something or other, but you're busy thinking, chocolate pudding. I wonder if there'll be chocolate pudding?
What? It's not like that in your school? Ah, that's because you've got a really GOOD Literacy Coordinator. I met some really good literacy coordinators this week, I'm glad to say. There was Alison Oliver of Farrington's School in Chislehurst, Kent. She was completely FAB, brainy and well-read. And she was incredibly nice and tolerant while I was pacing around like a lunatic during morning break and lunchtime, trying to be a Plumber-and-Electrician Coordinator and failing dismally. The girls were great, too. Here I am with some of them:
Notice how, without knowing it, I dressed in almost the same colour as their uniform...
Then it was off to The Big Green Bookshop which, as anyone in the vicinity of Wood Green knows, is run by two beardy booksellers and literacy coordinators of almost legendary status, Tim and Simon. The shop turned into a Tardis for the morning, somehow accommodating about sixty kids plus me and Simon and several teachers (Tim wisely decamped to Stamford Hill). Here I am with a couple of the kids of Nightingale Primary:
No, their uniform does not involve vintage 1950's sequin jackets; Fifi is wearing an item I brought along for a bit of fun dress-up. Just because I thought it would be fun. And because my Silk Sisters books have a bit of a dress-up theme to them (they also have a sort of surreal futuristic dystopia thing going on, but that doesn't lend itself so readily to props). I've always loved dressing up; let's face it, everyone does. You can't really see, but young Imaani on the left is wearing a very OTT necklace of mine.
Finally, there was Jackie Harding of Cromwell Community College in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. There was a lot of cramming went on there too, but the admirable Ms Harding handled the squeezing of approximately 5,000 pupils into a library space roughly the size of a ping-pong table with humour and aplomb. Here I am with some of those pupils, after they'd somehow unpacked themselves from their confinement:
(Again, note the similarity in colour between their uniform and my sweater. Something's going on here, but I don't know exactly what...)
Some Northers I know – OK, authors – would regard three locations and six talks in a week as fairly routine, but for me that's quite a lot of getting out and about. I have since crawled back into my shell. But I did have a great time meeting the kids from all of these schools;many of them asked really thoughtful, interesting questions, and I'm glad to say that not one of them said, 'where'd you get your ideas from?' Though I can't vouch for whether any of them were thinking about sausages and chocolate pudding...