Not only pigs may fly
AT LAST, at last! I have been back in to a school, performing stories for children who are sitting at desks in front of me instead of in individual muted boxes on my screen. After such a long, enforced absence, it felt wonderful to experience the familiar mixture of adrenaline, joy, and sheer vocation which comes with doing this particular part of my job. I had almost forgotten the added richness that comes when immediate interaction is possible.
I told a collection of folk tales which I call “The Council of Birds”. In the first story, the birds conclude that, if they have wings, they are surely made to fly. At this point, I asked the children whether there might have been any exceptions — which is how I discovered that a large number of younger children are convinced that ducks can’t fly.
I can remember my own son, at the same age, thinking that I was joking when I tried to persuade him that not only do ducks fly, but that he had seen them doing so on our many boat trips. He simply wouldn’t believe either me or the evidence of his own eyes. Now that I know that so many other five-year-olds share this conviction, I wonder whether it’s a universal part of growing up to discover that such waterlogged creatures really can make it into the sky.
ONE of my first outings as lockdown lifted was to a garden tea party, for which I was asked to bring a cake. My baking tends to be eager but chaotic, and this was no exception.
Having decided on a ginger traybake recipe, I calculated that I had enough ingredients for the smaller option; it was only having mixed them all together that I realised that I didn’t have a smaller tin to match. I opted for the nearest circular tin, which meant that the middle took much longer than the outside to cook. When I turned it out, the whole thing fell apart.
In a panic by this stage, I glued it back together by covering it with icing; then attempted to decorate the whole sad mess. Alas, the icing hardened even as I crossed the kitchen to the cupboard, and the most tragi-comical moment of the adventure came when the hundreds and thousands all just rolled straight off the top.
“What with care and toil she baketh, cake and crumble fall to dust,” as I mused sadly on Twitter. Or, as Samuel Beckett didn’t say: try again, fail ever more spectacularly.
Go out with joy
ANXIOUS discussions about how to attract young families to church should start with the acknowledgement that church is always a showcase for the worst parenting moments of the week. After 11 years of weekly attendance with children, every Sunday I only know this to be more true.
Take last Sunday, for example, when I made the mistake of letting my guard down after proudly observing both my offspring sitting at the front and getting all the answers right (just as we’d practised) for my talk on King David. Because we were still following regulations, we went outside to sing the final hymn.
The problem with this ritual is that the end is in sight — and so is the exit. As the final, reverential notes died away into the sunshine, my son gave a loud and joyful whoop of “Let’s go!” and, without giving his father the chance to pronounce a more formal ending to the service, made a charge for the car park.
I couldn’t even beat a hasty and embarrassed retreat after him, because my daughter, absorbed in her colouring, was refusing to leave the building at all.
I STILL have a handful of Bible books left over from my childhood: the Palm Tree Press series, whose illustrations of a friendly, big-nosed Jesus are still my first mental image on hearing some Gospel stories. In the front of the books is printed the address of Kevin Mayhew publishers, in the village where we now live.
This felt like a happy circle closure when we first moved in; even more so when I published my own children’s books with the newly reopened Palm Tree Press.
A few weeks ago, however, when I sat in the Kevin Mayhew offices (which have now moved back to that familiar address) in my first team meeting as a children’s commissioning editor, the whole experience took on a rather surreal glow. As we discussed ideas for new projects, I caught myself thinking, “This is who I’d like to be when I grow up.”
THIS column will appear, serendipitously, on our 16th wedding anniversary. Our first marital argument occurred just before the wedding reception, when I discovered that my new husband had left our careful seating plan behind, and we had to work it all out again. I was a couple of hours too late to call the whole thing off; so I have had to stick with him ever since.
Sixteen years, four house moves, two children, and one brace of ordinations later, I couldn’t be more pleased that I did. From the outside, we may look chaotic, disorganised, and a bit frayed around the edges, and it’s true that some days we’re all waddle and quack, but from time to time we stretch out our wings and remind ourselves that we really are made to fly.
Amy Scott Robinson is a writer, performance storyteller, and ventriloquist.