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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Blog 29 Rectangular Jelly & Creative Karma


No gloom or ranting this week and I’m swapping satire for the respite of juvenile nonsense because that’s just the way things have gone in the last few days.

Firstly, I’m working with a school group until 28th March and it’s madly marvellous. I gigged in Bristol where, not only did I not put my best foot forward, I may have to add the second gig there to the list of things-I-should-have-done-differently-or-not-at-all, like falling on my face at an important showcase event at Northern Stage. But then something I nearly shied away from gave me a great big literary hug. One of my short stories – The Remainder - has been included in the Root short story anthology showcasing North East writers.

So, having wobbled over something I am usually comfortable with, I’ve found myself between the covers with some sizzling regional talent in a writing form that is not the first string to my bow. It feels as if there is a significant (if partly uncomfortable) lesson here.

As there were none of my contemporaries in Bristol I could have pretended everything went swimmingly. To know why I think that would be ridiculous, you’d have to have a quick read of blog post 4 Dinosaurs Cured my Performance Angst.

I’ll be reading an extract from The Remainder at one of the launch events at our local indy book shop soon and will flag that up in a blog nearer the time.

Tremendous fun and fizz is being had at the In Other Words project in Newbiggin. Recently I was invited to be Writer in Residence for a group of Yr 5&6 pupils from schools in Lynemouth, Ashington and Newbiggin based at their Grace Darling site. Although working with 39 bright, buzzy kids is exhausting it’s proving hugely enjoyable. Last week I invented a new game for the group called Persuasive Puddings. This involved a dash down to the kitchen to find out what was on the menu then setting four teams the task of persuading me, through the imaginative use of creative language, which pudding I should have with my free school meal. In the end I had the jelly and wow, when I got to the lunch hall with my young escorts, it turned out the jelly was rectangular – not jelly shaped at all.

Rectangular jelly is a totally novel experience for me but many of my writing pals were un-fazed. They got rectangular jelly when they were at school. I must therefore conclude that my early days in formal education were sadly lacking. I recall rolls of ice-cream in bits of paper that seemed to be able to get quite warm without melting, custard that was thin and white and sometimes pink. But happily, they still serve mash potato with an ice-cream scoop.

So – just for my group – here is a little piece of nonsense verse – the sort I use to like when I was a child. It’s called (unsurprisingly) Rectangular Jelly.

Rectangular Jelly!

You get rectangular jelly in Newbiggin
They make it in the school canteen
You get rectangular jelly in Newbiggin
Ruby red or emerald green

Perhaps potatoes will be star shaped
And apples will be square
You’ll get a surprise if you try to sit down
Because a table will be a chair

Will the gravy be made of chocolate
In this crazy mixed-up place
Are the children made of marmalade
Do the teachers come from outer space

Were the walls built boldly of beetroot
Do the cooks make curry flavoured honey
Are the radishes blue in triangular stew
If you ask me it’s all a bit funny

Maybe water will be custard
And bananas will be flat
You get rectangular jelly in Newbiggin
What do you think of that
                   *

Thanks Bailey for the editorial advice!

My friend Oonah – who will be performing at the Cumberland Arms in Byker this Friday – is, as I type, desperately searching the shops in Northumberland for rectangular flavoured jelly!

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