Friday, 26 June 2015

Running, Jumping, and Painting

If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you'll know how much I love the artistic creations made by children. The freedom, the colour, the movement, the life that's so often splashed, dashed, meticulously drawn, and applied with the sharp pencils and broad brushstrokes of uninhibited imaginations.

To round off a week of treats - success for SW and her school in an athletics competition she wasn't all that keen on taking part in, a fabulously noisy, busy, school sports day yesterday afternoon, under pale blue sky, stretched with the 'feel' of summer - today, an exhibition of artwork produced by the children.

Paint on fabric by Imogen (Twin 1)

Paint on fabric by Iris (Twin 2)

 Something Rothkoesque by SW

Also on show, some wonderful collaborative efforts. 
A fabulous fox

A killer whale

A dragonfly

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

No Bones About the Colour Purple

I’ve never been particularly pre-occupied with body image, so it’s little surprise that details of my skeleton rarely turn up in conversation. As a kid, I don’t recall when I became conscious of the complex structure that stood between me and 'wobbly blob' status. I probably saw illustrations in Look and Learn, or maybe in one of my mother’s reference books.

Pals at school would delight in telling tales of someone who’d cracked their head open (usually no more than a small cut to the scalp) or a poor unfortunate who’d cut a finger with a penknife, right through to the bone! We constantly compared lumps and bumps, and used our elbows and knees to get the better of the more tenacious playground assailants. Occasionally someone would break an arm or a leg, and we would all gather around to ogle the plaster cast trophy, duly signed by teachers and sketched on by friends and relatives.

So skeletal matters appear to have had a higher prominence in my childhood, but only at a morbidly curious/Jolly Roger kind of level. In my experience, most adults settle for getting anxious about what hangs, and essentially, how it hangs off the frame, rather than losing sleep over the frame itself.

Martin believed the squidgy bits produced the most laughs.

Yesterday I picked SW and her sisters up from school, after Science Club. As they left the classroom, Professor Chaos was handing out laminated posters with skeletons depicted in a brightly coloured composition. No.1 twin gingerly gave me hers, with the image facing away from her gaze. SW, a little braver. No.2 twin flatly refused to accept the poster. I was left juggling all three skeleton pictures (along with discarded cardigans, rucksacks and book bags) and a fleeting thought passed through my mind, about the stresses and strains on my own chassis.

In the car I tried to explain, enthusiastically, how lucky we are to have a cage to protect our hearts and delicate organs. How great it is to know that our brains are locked safe in our bony skulls. The response was stony, until SW swiftly changed the subject and became quite animated whilst telling of a film they’d watched, shot with a special camera, of what it looks like when someone breaks wind. Uncontrollable laughter ensued, as they each took it in turn to chant, “We saw a purple parmp!”

After I’d dropped them home, and I was alone in the car, I couldn’t help thinking how stoical our skeletons are. Remaining composed and largely upright, whilst the squidgy parts within, aid and abet in the production of purple parmps.  

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Over a year ago, Ciara Brehony and I thought it might be a good move to start Another Way, a Facebook group where like-minded folk could meet up and share their views and concerns about how kids are educated today. Our blurb reads, “News and views about the way our children are educated, along with possible alternatives and changes that might benefit learning in the 21st Century.”

We now have 213 members regularly contributing to the debate, sharing ideas, experiences, concerns, and best of all, a common goal to improve the system and push for a change in the way we think about teaching and learning.

While my mind has been elsewhere of late, not just focused on matters educational, Square Sunshine has been setting in a rather slow and undignified way. Withering like a once loved, but now neglected house plant. So, before all the leaves fall off I’m changing the soil, and moving the blog to a position where it will hopefully thrive and grow. The intention is to continue sharing my observations as a grandad, but also to reflect educational developments, approaches and choices, as they come to light.

Architects take note.

As a taster, do take some time to familiarise yourself with Takaharu Tezuka’s wonderful, innovative Fuji Kindergarten. It’s a project inspired by his own children. No wonder it’s so good.

A new blog, a place for my personal expression, half-baked ideas, occasional rants, and continued attempts at poetry and photography, is a work in progress. I hope to have it up and running quite soon.   

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Red is not the only colour

Thought I'd share this little story, written and illustrated by Iris, the youngest of our twin granddaughters. I love her train of thought, and the complete absence of political correctness. 

Red Indian



In the forest, a Red Indian was calling her Red Indian friend because she wanted to play. They played climbing in the trees.

She wanted to have her other friend, but she was at school. They came down the trees and went exploring, and they saw a cat. The cat was black.

The cat said, "Miaow, come and follow me." The red Indians followed the cat, and saw more Indians. But they were blue, not red!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Back from another extended break from blogging. Where have I been? What have I been up to? Well, I’ve been thinking, walking – the two aren’t mutually exclusive, are they? – reading and taking a much closer interest in politics than I have in many years. You’ll notice that writing is conspicuous by its absence.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to offload my politics here, but I will let you know what I’ve been reading of late. Francis Wheen’s excellent ‘How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World’, followed closely by Helen MacDonald’s beautifully written, and thoroughly deserved Costa prize winner, ‘H is for Hawk’.

So you see, my thinking time has largely centred around the wider world and its workings, but it’s also been sharply focused on the landscape, and specifically my immediate landscape. I’ve found myself drawn closer and closer to it, experimenting with a simple iPhone camera and free editing and effects apps, in an attempt to record my impressions. More than that, my feelings, my love affair with the terrain and how it holds and releases the seasons, absorbs and resists the weather, tolerates the footfall of man and beast.

Words are often inadequate when describing what I see. On the drive home, last Sunday, from where the road is elevated before the descent towards our village, a block of slate cloud was hanging in the western sky. Its lower edge was fusing and sparkling like a freshly lit touchpaper. That’s how I’ll remember it, but I suspect the phenomenon has been distilled into a single word. If that’s so, I feel a need to know what it is. Perhaps it’ll appear in the new Robert MacFarlane book that I’ve ordered. Landmarks promises to be a treasure.

 Mags and I have also celebrated our 41st anniversary, this week. We treated ourselves to this wonderful piece of work by local artist, Deb Boultwood. Appropriately, it’s entitled ‘Black Winter Crows’. I wrote a short verse, some weeks back. It seems to sit nicely with the artwork.

And when at last, the cloud gives way,
the rooks tilt feathers, black as night,
to mark the sleeping stars of day,
the reservoirs of long dead light.

Friday, 19 December 2014

In Theory

The older I get, the more inclined I am towards developing theories. Some of them appear to hold water, some of them, like old socks, develop uncomfortable holes. The great thing about theories is, like old socks, they can be discarded when no longer viable. Darning is not an option.

 Artwork by Imogen (AKA Thing 1)

A few nights ago, we were able to visit the school and view the children’s work, on display. It was a fun and enlightening experience to witness the progress each of our granddaughters is making. But what I found interesting, was how they all gravitated to the classrooms where they had been taught in the year previous to this one. Similarly, there were children who had left for senior school last summer, also showing an enthusiastic presence.

Take the whole revisiting thing several stages further, and you will find adults like me who have travelled back regularly to the places where their formal education began. In fact, one of my aims is to look around my first school (now a public library) to see how much I can identify. Each time I’ve attempted to gain entry, it’s been closed. Must pay more attention. Where have I heard that before?

I think this fascination is born out of a need to see how far we’ve come. Whether it’s a child in Year 1 going back to take a peep at where they completed Year R, or a grandfather like myself, who ‘touches base’ occasionally, just to see how much of the tousled-haired, carefree boy still resides in the grey-haired man who is now developing the odd theory or two.

We put down markers, and to intimately know our route to the present, we need to check back from time to time, to make sure they are still where we left them.      

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Out of the Cold

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus

In the hollow, dark wasted leaves were soft under the rime crust. I scraped at them with my boot, and they slid over the surface of one another like loosened fish scales.

The trees were mute and severe in the thin light. A small fire burned, smokeless and bright, sitting lightly on the humus, a smouldering crown. Around it, men stood waiting, waiting and whispering, their stories carrying softly into the stillness, on stuttering streams of smoky breath.

I cupped my hands and huffed into them. The short sighs pushed through my fingers and formed frail, momentary clouds around my wrists. I brought my knees up to hug them, and it was noticeable how the skin somehow mirrored the sky, with its indistinct blues and yellows surrounding the small bruised islands of boyhood. The healed wounds, the scars shrouded in secrecy and yet to shine pink and new.

The men had moved silently towards a mature ash, and at the first strike of the axe, the chill was shattered. It collapsed majestically, ringing around the woods and coming to rest at my feet. The pale and persistent head of winter was at once in the hollow with me, and amid the sparks and splinters, claimed what was rightly his.