Letter-poem to my grandson (xxxviii)

Matilda Kay Haslett arrived shortly before midday today

Middle-named after her paternal great-grandmother and her maternal grandmother.

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And you have become a cousin again.

You are not quite sure it’s a good idea,

Despite assurances of an extra birthday cake.

Nana and Papa resources can get a bit stretched amongst cousins

And you don’t seem to think

Your bed at 170 is big enough for sharing (not your strong point at the best of times).

All you animal friends have clearly designated and assigned roles.

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Baby Rabbit, squigding under closed doors, Dragon, aerial transportation,

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Mrs Rabbit, magic lunch box preparation, Pig, special dispute resolution

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Hippo special dancing, Bear, brown bread and honey sharing

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So not much wriggle room there either.

You’ll probably have a few thoughts about sharing Susie as well

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And, of course, Matilda has been born the Perfect Princess

At once Prospero’s Miranda, Mr Bennett’s Lizzie and Benedick’s Beatrice.

And she has already been ushered into the world

With the adoration that only grandmothers can bestow

On the first granddaughter in five grandchildren.

And yet you….

I have images of you that would have made Caravaggio weep.

When you run across the park,

Small flights of unruly angels jostle you at every step.

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When you stand on our doorstep on Tuesday mornings with your mum

And there is an infinitesimally small, but perceptible, pause

In the tick-tock of Newton’s universe

When you smile.

Letter to my grandson (xxxvii)

Dear Winton

We have just had a wonderful weekend together. The highlight was Grasshopper Soccer with you and your dad. This is a photo that your mum took before you left.

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It’s your second season, but the first session that I have attended with you. This next photo is one your mum took a year earlier on your first day at Grasshoppers.

You will notice that in the earlier shot your soccer shirt comes down to your wrist. Now it just reaches your elbow.

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I came in my normal role as backup, provider of chocolate eggs and photographer. I posted a number of photographs of Facebook and one of your mom’s Facbook friends Wenny Thompson said “I can see little Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar & Suarez And hair like Ronaldinho but you got the look”

I often post pictures of you on your mother’s Facebook page and you have quite large and adoring following. You have made every dollar invested in my new Nikon worthwhile.

I’ve taken a number of photographs of you kicking a soccer ball and I must admit, that when I edit out the good ones you are a remarkably well balanced little athelete.

But that’s just your Papa talking.

As usual, you brought your own particular flair and creativity to soccer. There was an activity that was called “Coconuts”. It consisted of a soccer ball balanced on a cone. The idea was to kick another soccer ball and knock the first one off the cone. Now, I have to admit that that, as a concept, that is pretty difficult for a kid who has never seen a coconut shy at a fair.

You were undeterred. You knocked the ball off the cone and put the cone on your head as a hat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a photograph.

Whenever the soccer instructors wanted to give the team a new set of instructions, they would gather everybody together and sit them down on the soccer balls.

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You were very good and listened intently.

“Okay guys,” said the coach, “we have built some towers on the other side of the field. The idea is to kick..”

Well, that was all you needed to hear. You were off across the field and had kicked all the towers down pretty much before the coach had finished the sentence “to kick a soccer ball into the tower and knocked it over.”

The coaches at soccer are excellent. They never say “No, Winton, that’s wrong.” They just work with where you are up to.

 

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It works pretty well.

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This is you shooting the coconuts.

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And setting up the towers again.

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Getting ready for the action with dad.

And ready to go home.

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Letter to my grandson (xxxvi)

We had an interesting day with you yesterday.

We took you to the Museum which has just opened a new Children’s Gallery. Being the school holidays, it was packed with children, all of whom were on high octane enjoyment of the stimulation of the new gallery. There were children flying everywhere and, although you were one of the smallest there, you seem to have no difficulty navigating your way through the crush. Need I say fearlessly, you have no other way of proceeding.

The most amazing part of the area is a large climbing apparatus. It’s a frame that is about 8m high and fills about 1/3 of the large room. You access the upper levels by a series of ladders at each end of the overhead bridge.

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You can see one of the climbing frames behind the little girl in red

One end has reasonably easy access through a series of stages that are about a metre high each. Most of the bigger kids were able to climb this quite easily but it’s a bit more of haul for someone who is only about 1.2 m tall. Undeterred, of course you were.

What appeared to fill all the parents and grandparents left behind on the ground with apprehension was that once you had climbed up to the bridge, you were pretty much invisible.  No adults, just masses of children charging backwards and forwards suspended 8m above the ground.  Now the whole area is encased in protective netting and there were so many kids packed in that the chances of falling very far were not high.

It was the other end of the bridge that alarmed Nana Di and me.  The descent was a series of stages that spiralled around a pole and were connected by a series of vertical climbing frames that you could fit your hands and feet into. All of them were taller than you.

So when you stood at the top of the first one, 8m up in the air, there were frantic cries of “Down backwards, come down backwards Winton.”

We have practised this on the stairs at home, so you understand what it means. Whether by instinct or by instruction, you began to come down backwards swinging your legs over the edge of the stage. Your little feet could not find the holes in the frame so you pulled yourself up again for a brief rest before trying again.

It took a couple of tries before you worked out how to get your feet position correctly.

The trick is that you have to hang over the edge, not being able to see what you’re doing and find the footholds. It is trial and error and there are no handholds to stop you slipping off the platform. Did I say undeterred, but of course.

You just kept trying and eventually made it down to the ground and in a whole piece, much to the relief of your grandparents.

You had not seemed at all concerned about the fact that you’re up in the air, on a climbing frame  you had never seen before, with no help from Nana and Papa and not really knowing what to expect or how to get down.

So next time, and of course there was a next time, (I don’t think I have ever known you to give up on anything), you decided to tackle the steep bit first. You climbed the first frame quite easily and paused at the second. You seem quite happy to have a bit of a rest. But a much bigger kid came along and picked you up and put you on the next stage and you were off.

I think you did the trip a total of four times.

The rest of the gallery is a wonderful combination of low, medium and high tech interactive points. There is a sandpit outside and one of them has got dinosaur bones just below the surface of the sand.

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Inside, there are interactive screens where you can draw and parts of the floor that light up as you walk across.

There are magnetic blocks that stick together as you build with them.  This is a picture of you completing a house that you commandeered from some less assertive child. We are working on this bit.

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Today your mum has taken you to the Art Gallery, where you can wear headphones and listen to yourself drawing.

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I remember thinking how this was unlike anything that I experienced when I was your age in 1947, well before the word technology have been invented.  Much of this could only have been described as magic then but I remember thinking this is the world that you will grow up in and understand.

Later that afternoon, after a long sleep, Nana Di took you on one of her wonderful low-tech journeys.  The two of you built and painted a fire engine from a cardboard box and four paper plates.

It took about an hour and you worked without losing focus for a moment.

Then, after your bath and dinner, we had a series of very serious fires to put out.

I am often amazed at the extent to which you participate in this imaginative play. You locate the fires all round the house and rescue people, most particularly babies. Of course, your grandparents are willing participants in these narratives  and I think that is what binds the two parts of the day together.

So after you had left and gone home with your dad last night, I thought how fortunate we are to have a museum so close but I also thought how good it was that you can spend two hours with your Nana and Papa, a painted cardboard box and a fireman’s hat.

Letter to my grandson (xxxv)

Dear Winton,

Today, you have had your first day back at “school” for 2017. You weren’t keen to get out of bed this morning, according to your mother.   You are beginning to get fairly attached to your sleep. This is a photo that your mum took when you were woken up early.

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Teenage toddler not happy about sleep in being cut short by the cleaners

 You are emerging as a quite distinct and also quite charming personality. This is a photo that I took of you in the Fitzroy Gardens.

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 And this is a picture of you rescuing part of the tree from a fire in the bushes in the backyard.

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You have been developing your skills as a firefighter and two of us are often kept quite busy putting out fires all round the house.  This is a shot of you practising your skills on Millie who was, you thought, on fire at the time.

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The most rapid changes at the moment, however, are in the way that you are using language.

Listening to you talk makes me realise the extent that our place in the world, and the way we are able to control it, is defined by the way we use language.

 Recently you were talking to Nana and she said to you, “You will be able to do that when you’re a big boy.”

 You replied, “I a big boy already.”

 It made me realise how you are growing in your grasp of the subtle uses of language.  The adverb “already” can only be used if you have a concept of passing and continuity of time and your place in it. Clearly, you see yourself as being a big boy now.

 Recently, you were out in your pusher with Nana and she was feeding you rice crackers coated in chocolate which were disappearing at a very impressive rate. She asked, “Where have all those bickies gone?”

 You had been licking the chocolate off and discarding the crackers.

You pointed down into your pusher and said, “They’re down here, somewhere.”

You’re using an indefinite pronoun and it has a couple of very subtle meanings in this case.  It means that just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t exist somewhere. There is also the sense that you needed Nana to suspended uncertainty about the state of the biscuits.

 Your mum tells a wonderful story of when she was reading you a book called “Dear Zoo”.

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It’s a story of a boy who writes to the zoo and asks the zoo to send him a pet. Each pet arrives in its own crate and reader can open the crate to see the animal inside.  Throughout the book, the animals are rejected for various reasons: the monkey because it was too naughty, the snake because it was too scary. Your mum was getting you to provide the reasons for sending them back.

 You got the giraffe because it was too tall.  You have had a lot of experience with giraffes.

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But when the camel arrived, you were a bit lost for words. You weren’t familiar with grumpy camels so your suggestion was “Too camely”.

You didn’t know exactly why the camel was unacceptable but it was clearly too much of something about a camel.

What a brilliant improvisation.

 And perhaps this is why you didn’t get that the snake was too scary.

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Letter to my grandson (xxxiv)

I know it is a cliché, but you were growing up before our very eyes. You are growing in your confidence and your mastery of the world around you.

This is probably one of my best photographs of you so far. It sums up all the joy and confidence that you have.

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These are some photos of you in the Fitzroy Gardens a few weeks ago.  Your mum describes you as “fiercely independent” and you are undeterred by physical challenges.

You have an exuberant pleasure in open spaces which is a joy to watch.

You are also developing your relationship with dragons.

And a rather more ambivalent relationship with the cheese sandwich.

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You and your Nana take the important things in life, such as building sandcastles, very seriously.

Your swimming is getting better and better. I come to your swimming lesson each Sunday morning and join in with you and your dad when it’s over. You can now swim under water for short distances between your dad and me. You surface looking so pleased with himself and it is wonderful to see your huge confidence in the water.

But then you have your dad, a great island from which you can launch your adventures.  I fulfil the role of backup island when required but my special task is getting you out of the pool and into the shower. We’re getting quite good at it, you and I, and you know that after a shower with Papa there is always something special, chocolate eggs and Freddo Frogs are top of the list at present.

I normally get a beautiful cuddle at the end of the swimming session when you sit on my knee and have your treats. You’re exhausted after your swim and snuggle into me and chomp your way happily through your chocolate.

And for all your high-energy activities you also have moments of reflection which are particularly beautiful.

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Letter to my grandson (xxxiii)

You have been away with your mum and dad in Perth for Christmas.  We have missed you  but it is good to see you with your WA grandparents who will be getting ready to say goodbye as I am writing this.

Because you spend so much time with adults when you’re in Melbourne, you interact very well with grown-ups, particularly when they respond well to you. But having a grandson on the other side of Australia is very difficult because he grows up without you.

You have, as as usual been a great hit with the family especially with the older girls.

 

And the local fauna.

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My favourite photo of all the ones that your mum took while you were away reminded me of an illustration from A A Milne’s Now we are six.  I like to think it’s a picture of Christopher Robin with his grandpa.

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Letter to my grandson (xxxii)

My last post to you contained a rather long version of a story that I have told you. I think it tells better than it reads. However, I wanted to record because it’s one of the first stories the I have told you that is not from the traditional canon of stories, Goldilocks and the three Bears et cetera.  There are a couple of others I should probably record involving Winton Diggerman which I have told you while you’re in the bath.

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Bath time is a particularly happy time that we share together. For me, because I love watching you, engrossed and preoccupied with your toys, pouring water from one container to another, playing with the water filled balloons that Nana has given you or playing with the large plastic pipe which serves variously as a wheel, a didgeridoo or a waterslide for your animals.

I also sing you songs and nursery rhymes and sometimes tell you stories. While I’m doing this you often appear preoccupied with what you’re doing and I sometimes wonder whether you’re listening or not. But then, every now and then, you will join in a nursery rhyme, respond to a question I’m asking or begin to mime some part of the story and I realise you’ve been following all along.

We had a little contretemps a couple of nights ago. You had a large glass of water which you were pouring over the edge of the bath and onto the floor. I said, “No, don’t do that Winton, it is making a mess on the floor.”

I was pretty certain what was going to happen next and it did.  You always like to check and see if I’m serious when I tell you not to do something. You got another glassful and poured it on the floor and turned around and looked at me as if to say, “So, what are you going to do now.”

I stood up and took the glass away from you and said frowning, ” That’s naughty. Papa asked you not to do that so I’m going to take the glass away from you.” Which I did and looked at you with my most disapproving stare. You were quite mortified. It’s pretty rare for Papa to growl. I put the glass out of reach and  said, “Now, you say sorry to Papa.”

You looked down, crestfallen.

“Sorry, Papa.”

“Okay,” I said, “forgiveness kiss.”  I leant over the bath and you came scooting across and lifted your face up for us to give each other a kiss. I’m not certain if you understood who was forgiving who but there was no more water poured on the floor that night and we have remained friends.

You’re great kid to have around and I particularly enjoyed the times when you and I have the house to ourselves.

This week, your mum brought you round while she took the dogs for a walk. After we had put out a number of fires and rescued babies from burning buildings. You are developing into quite a formidable firefighter.

After this, we went upstairs to play. It’s a little ritual that we have, unloading the contents of the cupboards and playing with what is stored there.

On this particular day, you had been playing with some motorcars and blocks when you came over to me and stretched out both your hands which appeared to be holding something that you wanted to give to me. I opened my hands and mimed putting something into my hands.

Then you ran off into the bathroom and walked into the shower. I followed you and said, “I would like some tomatoes today, please.”

“Tomatoes,” you said and you looked around the shower, located the tomatoes on a shelf somewhere, reached up and brought me two handfuls of tomatoes, which I took.

“Now, I would like some blueberries please.” You looked around the shower to find blueberries and brought me two handfuls. We worked our way through the grocery list with you locating each item in a different place in the shower, until I asked for some mangoes.

You went into the shower and looked around for the mangoes and said, “No mangoes today.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll have a loaf of bread please.”

You looked around the shop and said “Got bread.” You carried a loaf out and gave it me.

“Thank you,” I said, “that’s all for today thank you.” I carried my groceries through to the bedroom, you followed me, and I put them all down on the floor.

“Now,” I said, “do you think it’s time for the animal friends to have their lunch.”

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“Yes,” you said nodding enthusiastically.

“I think we should give Mrs Rabbits some carrots.” You look around on the floor and selected one of your red blocks, picked it up and looked at me.

“I think Mrs Rabbit will love those carrots.” You trotted through to the bedroom and fed the carrots to Mrs Rabbitt.

For the next 15 minutes, we selected various items of lunch for the animals. On your suggestion, Monkey had blueberries (a small bulldozer),  Hippo had apples (a toy car), Bear had brown bread and honey (a number of blocks) and when you were a bit stumped on the Lion, I suggested a sausage and you picked a small car and took it through to the Lion.

You are particularly attentive to the Dragon and decided that the Dragon would like honey for lunch.

After you had fed all the animals I asked if you wanted some lunch now. You nodded

You have a very special way of nodding which says, “That is a very good idea papa. I agree completely.”

And trotted off to the stairs where you slid down counting, “11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 3, 4, 5,” on your way down.

I love creating stories for you particularly because you’re so good at joining in, in a way that shows you completely understand what is happening. I suppose I should not be surprised because you have been telling your own stories almost since the time you first began to talk.

You would sit playing with toys and making up a story that went with what you were doing. It was a time when you had your own special language that nobody else really shared but I’m sure you were creating a coherent narrative. Now you are beginning to develop a language that we all have in common and we are able to share the narratives as we did with the feeding of the animals.

I went into the city to do some work last week and you Nana came to meet me when I got off the tram. As we approached 170 on the way home, you said “Nana, Papa’s house. Let’s go in.”

Nana said, “This is Winton’s house too.”

You trotted across the road holding your Nana’s hand and walked through the open front door.

“Our house,” you said as you walked in.

 

 

 

 

Letter to my grandson (xxxi)

We have just started having storytelling times. It started when you dashed upstairs while I was reading I know a rhino and got into bed with all your soft toys and I told you stories. I stuck with the standards and Goldilocks and the three Bears is a favourite.

However, we were short of a couple of animals from I know a rhino,  in particular a rhino and dragon. But that can wait for Christmas.

In a stroke of pure genius your Nana bought you a dragon. He’s not your normal soft toy dragon but a real boy-sized Dragon.

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He has, naturally enough when you have grandparents who were alive in the 1960s, been christened Puff.

So Puff was added to the menagerie on your bed upstairs and we began a story that incorporated Puff and the other toys.

I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and I’ve been gifted with a grandson who is a marvellous listener.

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So here’s the story:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy called Winton Jack and he lived in a house in the forest with his mum and dad and sometimes Nana and Papa came to visit.

Winton Jack had a lot of friends, Hippo, Lion, Monkey, Pig, Mrs Rabbit and Baby Rabbit, Giraffe, Teddy Bear and now Puff the Dragon.

One morning, when Winton Jack and his friend came down for breakfast, the porridge was too hot to eat.

“Let’s go for a walk in the woods while the porridge cools,” said Winton Jack to his friends. “Everybody has to hold hands.”

Winton Jack and his friends set off along the path through the woods. Very soon they came to a big river.

“Oh no,” said Winton Jack to his friends, “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the pig, “I can’t swim.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the Mrs Rabbit, “Baby Rabbit will get his fur all wet.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the Teddy bear, “the water is too cold.”

“Well,” said Puff, “I can fly across and everybody can have a ride on my back. But you will have to hold on very tight”

So Winton Jack climbed on the Dragon’s back and then Hippo, Lion, Monkey and Pig climbed on too.

“Uh Oh,” said Winton Jack, “no more room on the broom.”

“That’s okay,”  said Puff, “I can fly across and and come back for the others. Fasten your seat belts.”

So the Dragon spread his wings and flew up into the air with Winton Jack and Hippo, Lion, Monkey and Pig all holding on very tight.  When they reach the other side, everybody climbed off  and Puff flew back to get the other friends.

“You have to hold on very tight,” said Mrs Rabbit to Baby Rabbit. So Baby Rabbit held on very tight to Puff when he said, “Fasten your seat belts.”

Soon everybody was walking off down the path through the woods again. Very soon, they came to a great big tree which had fallen down across the path and was blocking the way.

“Oh no,” said Winton Jack to his friend, “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it.”

“Well,” said Puff, “I can’t fly across because it is not enough room to spread my wings.”

“That’s okay,” said Winton Jack, ” I have got my great big fireman’s axe in my backpack and I can cut a big hole in the tree for us to walk through.”

So Winton Jack took out his big sharp fireman’s axe and went chop, chop, chop, chop until there was a big hole in the tree for all the friends to walk through.

“That was very good chopping,” said Lion, “you must have very big muscles.”

“Everybody hold hands now,” said Winton Jack, “we’re going off down the path again.” So the friends will set off down the path and very soon they came from big squishy swamp.

“Oh no,” said Winton Jack to his friend, “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the pig, “I’ll get my feet dirty.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the Mrs Rabbit, “Baby Rabbit has a runny nose.”

“I can’t go through it,” said the Teddy bear, “the water it’s too squishy for a bear.”

“Well,” said Puff, “I can fly across and everybody can have a ride on my back. But you will have to hold on very tight”

“I want to fly with Winton Jack,” said Teddy.

“So do I,” said Baby Rabbit.

“And so  do I,” said Giraffe.

So Winton Jack climbed on the Dragon’s back and then Teddy, Mrs Rabbit and Baby Rabbit and Giraffe all climbed on too.

“Uh Oh,” said Winton Jack, “no more room on the broom.”

“That’s okay,” said Puff, “I can fly across and and come back for the others. Fasten your seat belts.”

So the Dragon spread his wings and flew up into the air with Teddy, Mrs Rabbit and Baby Rabbit all holding on very tight.  When they reach the other side, everybody climbed off  and Puff flew back to get the other friends.

Soon everybody was ready to get going again so Winton Jack said, “Everybody hold hands, off we go.” It was a bit of pushing and shoving because everybody wanted to hold hands with the Dragon. So Winton Jack said “Dragon will walk at the end and make sure that everybody is holding hands and I will walk at the front.”

So they set off down the track with Winton Jack leading the way and soon it began to rain and just in time they came to  a big cave. Everybody crowded around Winton Jack.

“We can go in here and keep dry,” said Winton Jack.

“Oh,” said the Lion, “it looks very dark.”

“I don’t like the dark,” said Baby Rabbit.

“Come on,” said Winton Jack, “let’s go inside and have a look.”

“I”ve got a sore leg,” said the Monkey.

“I”ve got a sore throat,” said the Giraffe.

“I can’t see in the dark” said the Hippo.

“Neither can I,” said the Monkey.

“Well,” said the Dragon, “I’ve got a fire in my mouth and I can show the way but Winton Jack will have to come with me.”

“I can do that,” said brave Winton Jack.

So the Dragon lit the fire in his mouth to show the way and Winton Jack said, “Be brave everybody and hold hands.” So they all held hands and followed Winton Jack and the Dragon into the big dark cave.  When they were out of the rain, they all sat down.

“I’m hungry,” said Baby Rabbit, “I want my breakfast.”

“So do I,” said the Monkey.

“So do I,” said the Lion.

“So do I,” said the Hippo.

“It’s a long way back home, if you’ve got short legs,” said the Giraffe.

“I’ve got very short legs,”said Baby Rabbit, “but I wore my breakfast.” He gave a little sniffle.

Just then, there was a big noise at the back of the cave. ” Whoooo, whooo,”said a voice, “what are you doing in my cave?”

“We are waiting for the rain to stop,” said Winton Jack. “Who are you?”

” Whoooo, whooo,”said the voice, “I’m an owl.” And just in a great big owl came walking down to where Winton Jack and his friends were sitting.

“Everyone is very hungry and they want their breakfast but it’s a long way to get home,” said Winton Jack.

“I can fly some of the animal friends home on my back,” said Dragon.

“I can help too,” said the Owl, “can I stay for breakfast?”

“Yes,” said Winton Jack, “do you like porridge?”

“Porridge is my favourite breakfast,” said the Owl.

So Winton Jack and Lion, Hippo and Monkey climbed on Dragon’s back and Mrs Rabbit and Baby Rabbit, Teddy, Giraffe and Pig climbed on the Owl’s back.

“Fasten seatbelts,” said the Dragon.

“Fasten seatbelt,” said the Owl.

And they both flapped their wings and soared up into to the air and flew over the squishy swamp and the tree that had fallen down over the past and the river and soon they swooped down and landed at Winton Jack’s house.

“Let’s go in and have our porridge,” said Winton Jack.

So they all went inside and there was Winton Jack’s mum and all the porridge.

“Can we have some more porridge for Owl? asked Winton Jack.

“Of course you can,” said Winton Jack’s mum, “and who would like special brown sugar on their porridge?”

“We all would,” said Winton Jack and all the animals.

And when they had all finished their porridge, Winton Jack’s mother made them all Brown bread toast and honey.

Which made everybody especially Teddy very happy.

 

 

Letter to my grandson (xxx)

You have just returned from a visit to the Western Australian branch of the family. The visit was that was intended to be a family celebration tragically became a funeral for your uncle Adam.

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You are probably too young to remember him but that does not make the family bonds that bind the two you any the weaker.

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Adam’s death was devastating for both your mother and your grandparents.  Of course, you are too young to understand what had happened and it was somewhat bittersweet to see you and Poppy and Nana Tresham enjoying each other’s company so much.

I hope that you and your mum and dad gave your grandparents a sense that even in the darkest times, there is a sense that life goes on.

Nonetheless, it was clear that you were a ray of sunshine as you are in all our lives. By all accounts, you stuck pretty close to your dad while you were away.

And apparently you were not too happy about having to share him.

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There were, of course, tons of playmates.

And you continued to attract older women.

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But your Nana and I missed you desperately and when I met you and your mum and dad at the airport, I got a wonderful coming-home present.

You had fallen asleep just as the plane landed and your dad carried you from the plane to the baggage-pickup where I was waiting for you.  I got to hold you while your mom and dad collected the baggage and it was a wonderful cuddle. You were fast asleep and you just lay with your head on my shoulder and your arms tucked in underneath you.  It was a wonderful sense of physical reconnection with you.

You woke up on the way home but were very tired and quite subdued. Nana Di came round to your place when we arrived but you still wanted to hang on to your dad and it wasn’t until we were about to leave that you really showed signs that you recognised us.

Next day, your mum brought you round to our place while she went shopping. Nana was working so it was just you and me. It was one of the best afternoons I have spent with you.

I didn’t get a cuddle at the front door as I usually do when you arrive. You were off down the hallway shedding hats and jackets on the way. I couldn’t coax a “hello cuddle”, you are only interested in emptying boxes of your favourite toys onto the floor.

Eventually, you settled on the Lego train and I sat on the sofa and you stood between my legs and we built a train together.  What was surprising was the way you nestled into me while we were doing it. You’ve never done that before.

And that was how the afternoon developed. You went round and rediscovered all your toys but insisted that I come with you to share them. After I read “I know a rhino”,  you went upstairs as you usually do, took off your shoes and got into bed with your soft toys.

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You haven’t forgotten that you don’t yet have a rhino or a dragon and you are on a  promise from Nana and Pappa.

Then I asked you if you would like me to tell you a story and you opted for Goldilocks and the three bears. You sat up in your little bed and watch me with unbroken and unblinking concentration. I don’t think I have ever had such an attentive or appreciative audience. It was beautiful.

When we went downstairs, you were happy sit on the sofa with me and to choose some books for me to read. You were very cuddly and when we had finished reading, you just snuggled into me and looked out the window.

We have this game we play, when I’m trying to get you to go to sleep. I pretend to close my eyes and when I do you close yours as well also pretending to be asleep. Every now and then, we both have a peek to see if the other one is asleep.

Your Nana thinks you probably spend too much time with grown-ups. She is probably right. But as a result of this, you are developing a remarkable sense of how to relate to grown-ups, well, at least to your grandparents.  You know there are games to be played: but you know that there are strict rules and both sides must obey them. It’s peeping to see if the other one is asleep, it’s making sure that everybody has a bat when we play hallway cricket and that everybody has a fire hat when we set off to put out a fire.

It was a wonderful afternoon and I know that your WA grandparents will miss you desperately, but it was good to have you home.

Letter to my grandson (xxviiii)

John Keats was just 21 when he wrote his sonnet On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. Although he died at the age of 26, he is now regarded as one of the major English poets. I hope you read his work one day.

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He begins his poem:
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

He is speaking of the pleasures of reading translation of Homer by the Elizabethan playwright George Chapman.

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Chapman was a journeyman dramatist. If you’re interested in the Elizabethans, you will read a lot of Shakespeare before you get down to anyone else and then probably only Marlowe. The rest are mainly of academic interest. I digress.

You have already begun travelling in the realms of gold as would be expected for someone who has been named after one of the Australians major living authors.

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But you are two and as yet you lack Keats’ interest in the classics, being more interested in Walter the farting dog.

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But, you are  also getting an introduction to the great classics, in this case from Auntie Susie .

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Story time has always been an important part of the day.

As well you are already an independent and enthusiastic reader.

You are beginning to develop a set of favourites. There is a large set of books about diggers, trucks (particularly garbage trucks) and various forms of machinery. A lot of the books that you enjoy have sound built in, aeroplanes taking off, trains passing by or motorbike starting up. You’re fascinated by this.

But Nana and I are more interested in the imaginative content of the books you read and there is a bias towards that in the books that we buy for you.

One of your current favourites is Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House. This is Mary Elizabeth.

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The story involves Mary Elizabeth who has a problem with a group of boys who won’t believe that she has a monster at her house
The boys get their comeuppance from the monster.
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It took a little while for you to come to terms with the page with the monster on it. But Mary is clearly on good terms with the monster so you’re okay with that now.
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Bears in the Night is also a favourite.
Like Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House, Bears in the Night has its scary elements with an owl at the top of the hill.
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When I’m reading the book to you, you will often shuttle backwards and forwards between me (on the sofa) and Nana  (behind the bench preparing dinner) as the bears venture up Spook Hill.  You often carry your large yellow torch to ward off any owls that you may come across.  Later you will venture up the stairs, your own personal Spook Hill, looking for owls.
The books you enjoy most are the ones that you identify with, usually with the main character. A current favourite is I know a Rhino, the story of the little girl and her toys, one of which is a pig.
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She shares her brown bread and honey with her bear at a picnic.
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In your case, teddy is invited to the bench to share your brown bread and honey. Usually, you will help him eat it.
You’re still short of the rhino, the dragon and the panther from the book but Nana is working on that.  Last week, you went upstairs with Nana and proceeded to throw all your soft toys, two rabbits, a monkey, a lion,  a hippo, a giraffe, a pig, and a bear down the stairs. You piled them all onto the sofa.
“Would you let me to read I know a rhino?”, I asked.
 “Yes,” you nodded. Well, at least I got that bit right.
The other great favourite is A Lion in the Meadow (published over 50 years ago)
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 But Keats’ poem is about more than just a love of literature. It is about the working of the imagination. In Keats’ case this is a result of his reading and the new world that reading Homer opened up to him.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
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 I have been fascinated to watch the development of the way there you are able to imagine things.  It is most obvious with the stories that we read and the way you identify was the characters.
I have a story  that I tell you in the bath, it’s called Winton Diggerman  and is the story of you and your digger, in particular when you dig a swimming pool for the elephants at the zoo.   When you sit in the bath, you imagine you are the digger and use your arm to do the digging often loading scoop loads of water into a cup that I’m holding.
 I can’t get to the end of  telling you Goldilocks and the three Bears without you running upstairs and jumping into your bed.
 It’s fascinating that even at the age of two you are able to project beyond yourself to imagine that you are a driving a digger, being Goldilocks. It’s a huge step beyond the immediate concerns of a small child. It’s also the beginning of abstract thinking which is probably the most advanced evolutionary skill yet developed.
Eleanor Roosevelt said  amongst other things that “The greatest gift you can give a child is an imagination”
 But there is another side to the imagination beyond abstract thinking. It is a place where you go where there is no one else, just you.

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May it always be one of your best and safest places.