Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Old King Arthur by Steve Gladwin

Among my first real experiences of King Arthur was as a teenager literally falling off a cinema seat in Grimsby. What were me and my friend laughing ourselves daft about? Why, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, of course.

Naturally I knew more about King Arthur and his knights than soldiers with outrageous fake moustaches and French accents to match, or the noise of horses gleefully provided by coconuts and a black knight who refuses to give up even when he’s had all four limbs cut off.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that, comedy aside, there was an awful lot of authenticity in the Python’s version of King Arthur and a great deal of of intellect behind it, Terry Jones himself being a medievalist.

But there was something else about the film behind all that laughter, and that was perhaps the glimmer of a far more ancient and intriguing Arthur who I hadn’t yet had chance to hear or read about. It would be nice to say that the film inspired me to begin my Arthurian studies from then on and pursue them faithfully ever since.

Unfortunately I was a teenager and certain hormones took over for a number of years. Then, when I was in my mid thirties and on the cusp of becoming a pagan, a curious thing happened. I remember reading and enjoying Roger Lancelyn Green’s version of Arthur but having this flash of insight at the same time which more or less said, ‘leave this for now, or you may never know the end of it.’

Merlin from The Camelot Oracle. Original artwork by Will Worthington

A few years later I read two books which changed my life and particularly my spiritual outlook. I bought them both, conveniently enough in Glastonbury, living in Somerset as I did at the time The first, Philip Carr-Gomm's wonderful book The Druid Way, got me into being a druid pagan for the best part of twenty years and the second – very different – was a book of stories of the sort I’d never encountered. Here was a different Arthur, that really ancient one who I’d caught only glimpses of in the ancient Welsh stories of the Mabinogion. With him were ancient versions of many of the other characters I’d come to know and put away for all these years, characters with more ancient sounding Welsh and Irish names, fierce battles, mysterious world woods and enigmatic gods and goddesses.

The book was The Song of Taliesin by John Matthews and I’m very pleased to say that John has agreed to be my interview for this blog and to talk extensively about his new children’s book about this 'older' version of Arthur, The Sword of Ice and Fire.

I first met John by fax in 1998, when he responded enthusiastically to my request to adapt The Song of Taliesin for the stage. At our first meeting in Oxford, with my director Stuart, John and I briefly moved around each other like slightly wary stags, while John’s wife Caitlin made a delicious lemon cake and served it warm with hazelnut flavoured coffee. Out of such unwonted luxuries are true alliances and enduring friendships made. John and I collaborated on the original stage show of The Song of Taliesin and he later supported the recording of the double CD version in 2009.

I’ve had many talks with John about the books that he truly wants to write and the almost impossibility of him being able to do any of it in this life time with a word load which is constantly being filled up just when that so tempting corner of space has appeared. I know, and I’m sure John will tell you here, that he, with the vast knowledge he has of the stories and myths of these lands and especially ‘a particular’ Arthur who has perhaps rather been forgotten, has a mountain of material and ideas ready to spin into literary gold.

King Arthur by Will Worthington (Camelot Oracle)

So that’s where I’d like to start, but first of all John, I really appreciate you agreeing to talk to readers of An Awfully Big Blog Adventure about your new children’s book, The Sword of Ice and Fire, and your own history and interest in this kind of material.

It's my pleasure, Steve. 
 And I have to say before we begin the interview, that I've just finished the book, which I asked for for my birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the ideas and characters you are 're-introducing' to people in particular, and as we'll find, they may not be the ones everyone expects.

So the first thing I want to do, John, is to follow up on that ‘rather been forgotten’ comment. I know you and I and a great many others share a passionate enthusiasm for the sort of material you wrote about in books like The Song of Taliesin and The Song of Arthur and you are now hoping will reach new audiences with The Sword of Ice and Fire, but we’re still quite a small percentage, aren’t we, in even knowing about the version of Arthur you’re writing about in this book? I mean why do you think that is, and do you perhaps think it’s time for a reappraisal or revival of this material?

I don’t really think that appreciation for the Arthurian legends has ever really gone away. I think if you stopped many people in the street and asked them what they knew about Arthur you might be surprised at how much. It may just be the obvious things, like the Sword in the Stone, the quest for the Grail, the love story of Lancelot and Guinevere and the magic of Merlin, but the idea of Arthur never really stopped being a matter of interest. There have been innumerable films and TV shows about Arthur, and I have no doubt that there will be more to come. Some will be really terrible, others will be not so bad, and maybe eventually there will be a really good one -perhaps as good as John Boorman’s great epic Excalibur, which inspired me enormously. The amount of fiction, short stories, poetry, plays, and an even more vast collection of books which set out to identify a real person called Arthur, seems to get more every year. I belong to the International Arthurian Society, which has members all over the world and produces a list of new publications every year – publications numbering in the hundreds. So Arthur is hardly forgotten. But I do indeed feel that it is time for a new look at the great myths behind the stories, so I’m setting out to produce something that you might think as a modern version of the Morte D’Arthur, the great medieval romance which is still probably the best book on the subject anyone’s written.

The most obvious question to ask you is how did this enthusiasm of yours for the Matter of Britain and King Arthur begin? How did you become so passionately dedicated to this over such a number of years and make it your life’s work.

I seem to have been interested by Arthur as long as I can remember. I know I had a children’s version of Malory when I was very young, but it was the discovery of T.H. White’s wonderful quartet The Once and Future King, which became the basis for the musical Camelot, that really got me started as a teenager. I knew when I’d read that book that this was the subject I wanted to write about, and I really haven’t stopped since. Most of my life I’ve explored the legends and the background to the myths in non-fiction terms, but I’ve always wanted to write a “big” Arthurian novel and that’s what I’ve been working on for the last 40 years. Unfortunately, time and having to make a living have meant that I had to put this on the back burner over the years, but I’ve never stopped tinkering with it, adding ideas and scenes, and hundreds of pages of notes exist. I’m hoping that after I finish the quartet of Red Dragon Rising I’ll be on to move on to finish the big book.

Published by Greystones Press

Now, children or adults who pick up the book with certain expectations about the figure of Arthur are in for a surprise, as well as a treat. Can you tell us - without too many spoilers of course - what sort of things to expect, perhaps especially a few of the characters we might meet who we haven’t encountered in other Arthur stories.

I’ve tried to stick with the tradition of Arthur as far as I can – but I really wanted to extend it, to open it out, to show readers just how big it really can be. There’s certainly no shortage of Arthurian legends to draw upon, but I went further into the realm of Celtic mythology, particularly the Mabinogion, that wonderful Welsh Medieval collection of tales - so you will find, for instance, in this first book, the character of Mabon, a kind of young God, who gets kidnapped and has to be rescued by Arthur, helped by some rather unusual beings, who are part animal, part bird, part human. Then there are the Nine. These are nine mysterious, otherworldly women who will in due course be shown to have a huge part to play in the whole story of Arthur’s life. So there will be one or two surprises, and some characters that people won’t know about or won’t be so familiar with.

Do you have any particular favourite authors who provided inspiration for these books and why? Maybe there are others you don’t so much care for?

I have a lot of Arthurian writers whom I love – all the way from Malory in the 15th century to present authors such as T. H. White, Kevin Crossley-Holland, A. A. Attanasio, Henry Treece, and especially the great Rosemary Sutcliff, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know years ago, and whose books remain great influences on me. Her adult novel, Sword at Sunset, is still, I think, the best novel of Arthur that anyone’s written to date; while her children’s books, retelling the story, gives a wonderful inclusiveness to the epic of Arthur. Much as I love T.H. White, who wrote the only other novel I’m aware of that deals with the childhood of Arthur, The Sword in the Stone, I found the humour with which this is written somewhat dated and perhaps occasionally seeming to trivialise the story. I wanted to tell how Merlin prepared Arthur to be the king he would become – and that’s what I set out to do in these four books.

I’m keen to ask you about the other three books, each of which involve the particular quest Arthur has to undergo for each particular hallow? Can you explain what a ‘Hallow’ is and how they weave through the books?

Sword of ice and Fire is conceived of as one of a set of four, the overall title being Red Dragon Rising. These will follow the early years of Arthur from around the age of 10 to that of young adult. Each of the four books will focus on Arthur’s quest for four magical objects. These are called Hallows, which simply means ‘sacred things’. It’s a theme that runs through all of the huge panoply of Arthurian legend and literature. The most obvious and familiar of these would be the Grail, though in this instance I’m looking more towards the ancient Celtic and pre-Celtic traditions, where the standard idea of a cup or chalice is replaced by that of a great cauldron. In the first book I knew right from the beginning that the object of Arthur’s interest in this instance had to be the Sword–because what is Arthur without a magical sword! However I didn’t just want to go for the familiar Sword in the Stone story, which has been pretty much covered by everybody from Thomas Malory to Kevin Crossley-Holland – instead I went back to the idea of a magical weapon that would combine elements of fire and ice – the fire of the earth, the ice of deep space, combined to create an object that is deeply tied into the history of the land itself. So that’s what Arthur is looking for in this first volume. In the next volume he’ll be looking for the Cauldron of Light and Shadow, and this will take him to some rather unusual places.

What characters can we look forward to seeing in future books? I’m wondering if there might be a role for a certain Primary Chief Bard?

You’ll find quite a few familiar characters in the first book: Merlin of course; Kay, Arthur’s adoptive brother; his foster father Sir Hector, and so on. There’s also an important role for a figure known as the Green Knight, though here he appears in a rather different guise to that with which most readers would be familiar from the medieval poem. What I tried to do was draw upon the whole spectrum of the Arthurian legends, which I studied for many years, and to put them into context of an entire world, here called Albion, which is the mythical name for Britain, and to use as many of the characters from those original legends as possible. This means I can put in less familiar figures such as the Nine otherworldly women who ruled over the mystical realm of Avalon, where we find Arthur at the beginning of the book, living in a rather strange castle where positively anything can happen – and does. I intend to put as many of the characters, both known and unknown, into the books, as I can and you’ll be pleased to know that there is indeed a role for a Primary Chief Bard in Book Two.

Sir Bercilak - The Green Knight by Will Worthington

John, this book isn’t your first venture into writing for children and over the years you’ve written a fair few. Would you care to talk about some of those – I know for example that the predecessor of the young Arthur series was one about a boy adventurer called Henry Hunter. Can you tell us about him?

I’ve written several children’s books in the past, including collections of folk and faerie tales, and two previous novels aimed at middle range readers and younger, featuring a character called Henry Hunter, who uses old-fashioned detective skills, reads books rather than using the Internet, and has adventures which take him into the realm of the supernatural. The first of these, Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov, is a take on the Dracula myth, and the second, Henry Hunter and the Accursed Pirates, features some undead pirates and a rather famous villain known as Blackbeard. I enjoyed writing these immensely and have several more planned, but Red Dragon Rising comes first.

Finally John, you obviously think its important for us to have these stories of King Arthur out there. What do you hope children in particular will gain by reading The Sword of Ice and Fire and the rest of the series?

I’m writing these books not just for children, but for any age group interested in myth, and the one thing I wanted them to come away with was a deeper understanding of these ancient tales which underlie so much of the culture of this country. Just about everyone has heard of King Arthur, and most people could tell you a couple of the stories - but there is so much more to them. There’s a whole world of Arthurian mystery, magic and drama, and eventually I want to cover the whole story. In fact the Red Dragon Rising sequence is really only the beginning of a much larger project. I’ve been working on a huge Arthurian novel called Broceliande (that’s the name of the Arthurian forest that features in many of the stories, as well as being a real place in Brittany) which will follow the life of Arthur from the moment when he becomes king to his vanishing into the underworld. Bits of this went into my two collections of stories, The Song of Taliesin and The Song of Arthur, the former of which became the subject of a dramatised version adapted by you - and which I love. I think anyone who becomes familiar with the stories will learn about honour, truth, the search for a better way of life, the desire to make a better world. I know these seem like huge ideas to put into a story like this, but the Arthurian legends are huge, their scope is almost beyond anything we can imagine today - as big as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the universe of Star Wars, and the mirror world of J.K. Rowling – all of which borrowed heavily from these older tales. I am very happy that Greystones Press, a small but brilliant local publisher, took these on. I look forward to completing the other three - book 2 is already on the way.

Well I'm sure I speak for all readers of this blog, when I wish you all the best with the rest of the series and hope that you finally get the chance to complete that epic of yours. Thanks, John, for talking to abba.

Thanks, Steve and I shall certainly do my best.

Details of all the books John mentioned as follows

Sword of Ice and Fire, (Greystones Press, 2018)
Henry Hunter and the Best of Snagov  (Templar Fiction, 2015)
Henry Hunter and the Cursed Pirates   (Templar Fiction, 2016)
The Song of Taliesin (Quest Books, 2001)
The Song of Arthur (Quest Books, 2002)
Song of Taliesin Audio Drama - Double CD - with Steve Gladwin, Jem Dick and Sharon Jacksties 

Plus if you liked the images from The Camelot Oracle by John and Will Worthington, there are also copies.

All the above available from  & Amazon.Com .

Steve Gladwin is a writer and screenwriter, author of The Seven and The Raven's Call and co-writer and story editor of the Fragon series. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Dedicated to the one I love..., By Dan Metcalf

Today it is the twentieth anniversary of the day my wife and I first got together. We were star-eyed teenagers at the time, just a week away from A Levels. We had known each other for a while, just to smile at and to chat to around school but May 22nd 1998 was the day we finally ended up together.
We survived A Levels, spent a summer courting and then University beckoned. She went off to Bath to read English, while I headed to Bournemouth to study Scriptwriting. Looking back it was madness; waiting for a grade to decide where you would live for the next three years. It was exciting to go off to uni, but it was hell leaving her. 
We spent our student loans on train fares to see each other and phonecards (remember those?). We even wrote letters. Imagine that!
We graduated. We moved in together. We got jobs. We got Masters degrees. We got married. We had a son. Then we had another son.
The part I am missing out in our potted history is that, through it all, I was trying to write. i got up early before work to write a book, and then I would write at lunchtimes. I wanted to be a professional and to leave my job in libraries. 
I finished the book and sent it out. No joy. 
I wrote a second book and sent it out. No joy.
Third book. No joy
Fourth... You get the idea.
Meanwhile my amazing wife would dutifully read drafts, offer comments and massage my brow when another rejection letter would drop onto the mat. It took me 13 years from starting the first book to eventually getting something published and not once did she suggest that I give up, pursue something else or even change genre. All she gave was total belief, to the point where, when my work became too much, she suggested that I go part time to focus on writing. Then, when l was laid off, she supported my crazy idea to write full time. She is, as you will no doubt agree, absolutely brilliant.
It paid off. I am now a full time writer who lives by his quill (and school visits, obviously). When aspiring writers ask what you need to write a book, I will list the usual: a notebook, pen, imagination - but also a cheerleader. Someone to believe in you and egg you on, even when you have nothing left in the tank.
So thank you, Beth. For being brilliant, for being a light in the dark. For being you.  
Dan Metcalf is the writer of Dino Wars: Rise of the Raptors, out now with Maverick Children's Books. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Twin books, non-identical stories, June 9th birth! by Anne Booth

I am the fortunate mother of non-identical twins, and on June 9th I will also have non-identical twin books!

'The Sleepy Hummingbirds'  is for 7-9 year olds and will be published by OUP on the 9th June.

This is the first of a series about The Magical Kingdom of Birds, initially of six books, and I  am loving writing them.

The series is for 7-9 year olds and is about a girl, Maya, who travels to the Magical Kingdom of Birds and rides on a magic magpie, helping a fairy Princess foil the plans of her wicked uncle, Lord Astor . It occurred to me that Maya could be a disabled heroine without the storyline being affected, and it has been fun and satisfying for me that Maya's disability has nothing to do with the plot and that disabled and able-bodied readers alike will be able to identify with her. Maya and Princess Willow defeat Lord Astor as he targets one bird species after another in his attempts  to gain control of The Kingdom of Birds, and all that can easily be done on the back of a magpie or with the help of other birds. Birds spend most of their time in the air - why can't Maya?  It has been very satisfying to put a disabled heroine in a mainstream commercial fiction series, and great to work with my friend, a sportswoman and special needs teacher and also someone who herself has a disability, to check that I am getting it right. I really wanted to describe Fairy Princess Willow as having black, curly hair and brown eyes, as a little neighbour of mine, whose dad is Nigerian and mother Scottish, said that princesses don't look like her.  The lovely illustrator Rosie Butcher has drawn her  beautifully, so I am very happy that we are involved in subverting the golden haired blue eyed Princess idea. I think that the recent Royal wedding may have more effectively changed assumptions (!), but I have to say that 'The Sleepy Hummingbirds' had Princess Willow even before Prince Harry  and Meghan announced their engagement! This series is so much fun to write - I love writing about fairies and talking birds and magical colouring books, I can let myself have fun making Lord Astor shake his fist when Maya and the fairies foil his wicked plots, and I am learning so much about real-life birds!

The second book which will be 'born' on the 9th June is 'Across The Divide', for 9-12 year olds. It is about a girl who wants to join army cadets, which causes tensions between her, her  Pacifist mother and her grandfather in the military, and problems within her friendship groups at school.  She is sent to stay on the island of Lindisfarne with a father she doesn't really know, and there is a time-slip plot and a link with World War One. I have loved writing and researching this one too, and I enjoyed visiting Lindisfarne and staying on the beautiful island and learning about the birds there too. It is contemporary and political and links with history  in the way 'Girl with a White Dog' does, and  I also hope children enjoy it the way I loved books like 'A Traveller in Time' by Alison Uttley or 'Tom's Midnight Garden' by Philippa Pearce or 'Charlotte Sometimes' by Penelope Farmer.

Both books have been copyedited too, and now they are ready.

I am really proud of them both, and now, in the nervous time before the due date, I must proudly await the delivery of my different but equally loved, bookish,  non-identical twins...

The cover of the proof of 'Across The Divide' - final cover coming soon...

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Podcasts by Writers - Joan Lennon

Back in January, Dan Metcalf gave us his Top 6 Podcasts for Us Writery Types, with links to recorded interviews with writers, artists and scriptwriters.  If you liked those, how about some from the Royal Literary Fund website?  Vox is a collection of short (3-4 minutes) podcasts by writers of all sorts (children's, YA, poets, playwrights, adult novels) on topics such as How I Write, Life-Changing Literature, Writers Who Inspire Me, Why I Write, and others.  Bite-size bits of enlightenment, inspiration and entertainment.  AND you'll come across some familiar names from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure on the site.  Happy listening! 

(If you're up for a longer podcastly commitment, why not try Writers Aloud?  There are other delights as well in the essay section Collected, and the short films found in In Focus.

Visit Joan Lennon's RLF page 
to listen to short podcasts on 
Writers Who Inspire Me
Letter to My Younger Self
and Why I Write

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Desk Worrier vs Desk Warrior - Lucy Coats

How many times have you sat at your desk, staring at a blank or partially-filled screen and worrying about words? Words that won't come, words that seem wrong, words that don't sound right, too many, too few...  Writing is not always a jolly picnic, and I'd like to bet that every writer has sat staring into the black hole of despair over words at some point. I certainly have and do, and as I suffer from depression anyway, I have to be careful not to let myself get sucked in, or to let the anxiety over any of those wordy panics grow, especially when deadlines are looming.

Sometimes I go and do something else till I've calmed down. I have some strategies that mostly work, but not always. Sometimes writing something totally different works -- a poem, maybe. Or using a random slew of word prompts from a writing friend who posts them on Facebook to write something that doesn't really matter (one recent collection was bellybutton, conquest, dark, shock, date, cool, kisser, sprawled, melt, split, wrist). Sometimes I give in and procrastinate on social media, which is not good for mental health either. Or I take a creative nap, which means lying horizontal and sleeping for a bit.

What I've never done is to take the advice of many (including my doctor and some well-meaning friends) and go for a walk, convincing myself that I couldn't do any form of physical exercise (and that I hated it). For many reasons I won't go into at length, I gave up on exercise a long time ago. Copious amounts of steroids, a myriad operations, mental and physical illness all gave me perfectly valid excuses (I thought) to just let my body do what it wanted, which was mostly to sit down and eat chocolate whenever the mood took me, with predictable results. After all, I was in my mid-50s, I told myself, it was too late and who cared if I was a size 20? Then, in March last year, I hurt my knee and it wasn't getting better, even with physiotherapy. That was when the knee surgeon came in and shocked me out of my lethargy with a diagnosis of pretty bad arthritis, and a few well-chosen words.

"It's a question of mechanics," he said politely but firmly. "The more weight on your joints, the more wear and tear. You'll be in a wheelchair by the time you're 65 if you don't do something about it now." 
 A year later, I have indeed 'done something about it', and a month ago, much to my own surprise, I took up the Couch-to-5k challenge, inspired by two other writers (you know who you are!). And that's where the Desk Warrior bit comes in. Again, much to my surprise, when I'm running, my mind kicks into creative gear. Those word worries seem to disappear, and ideas flow. It's a sort of miracle as far as I am concerned, and I get back to my desk in definite warrior mindstate. Maybe it's those exercise endorphins I never truly believed in before, maybe it's just that running (and the in-between walking bits) free my mind and put it into creative reset again. And I guess that if I, of all unlikely people, can run three times a week (sometimes in the freezing rain) in the face of all the blocks and barriers against exercise I set for myself, then a mere writing block or word worry seems much less scary. My running is still very much a work in progress, but I'd like to apologise for all the snarling I did in my head (and sometimes aloud) to all those people who told me that exercise would help more than just my depression. It really, truly does. And it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review
Lucy's Website Twitter - Facebook - Instagram
Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at The Sophie Hicks Agency

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Value of a Good Teacher - by Lu Hersey

Last week was National Teacher Appreciation Week (I only find out these things thanks to twitter) – and any writer who visits schools regularly knows what a difference the class teacher makes. Your workshop will go a lot better and you’ll feel a lot less stressed if you get help and back up from a good teacher.

 I only remember three good teachers from when I was at school. I also remember some REALLY bad ones, including two very vindictive nuns, but this is about good teachers, not the ones that should never have been allowed near children.

The first teacher to make a massive impact on my life was called Miss Morley. I was seven. Miss Morley was not only amazing, she was beautiful, and everyone was in love with her (except my mother, who swore that if she had to hear the words ‘Miss Morley says’ one more time, she was personally going to throttle the bloody woman).

Miss Morley taught us about everything from the mating rituals of animals, to the complexities of long division. And the greatest joy I can remember – she read aloud to the class, EVERY SINGLE DAY. A whole chapter of Five on a Treasure Island. It changed my life. To my mother’s horror (she was easily horrified) I read every book Enid Blyton ever wrote, by myself, after that term – and it was all thanks to Miss Morley. (Or that bloody Miss Morley’s fault, depending on your point of view)

My other two inspirational teachers were at secondary school and helped give me a lifelong interest in history and literature. Looking back, what made these teachers stand out was their obvious enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and wanting you to enjoy the subjects with them. There were lots of other teachers at my secondary school, mediocre, tired, not interested in anything much (especially children) – and some who really shouldn’t have been allowed to teach. But the ones who were brilliant really made a real difference, and are the ones I remember most.

Over the last year I’ve been teaching creative writing in various schools around Bristol, most recently for the wonderful Bristol based educational charity, Ablaze. And I’ve come to realise that teachers are incredible. How do they do this every day, week in, week out? Even the ones that don’t engage with my workshops are doing an amazing job just being there – and I realise they’ve got a lot else on their plates.

 Then sometimes you meet a truly exceptional teacher, and it’s a real joy. I’m currently holding a series of creative writing workshops for Year 5s in a school in a deprived area on the outskirts of Bristol. It’s the kind of school that gets terrible Ofsted reports, and the sort of high crime area people want to move out of as soon as they can.

But the class teacher is one of those rare, inspirational teachers, who holds the attention of the whole class and gets them to work hard because they like him and want his approval – and he cares about them. He helps to encourage the children taking part and praises all their work. Between workshops, he gets them to work on their stories and go over the ground I’ve covered – and even to prepare for the next class. (In some schools, teachers regard having you there as a great opportunity for them to do something else – which makes it so much harder.)

He could probably get a job in any school and inspire the kids, but it’s fantastic that he’s working in a school like this. I asked the kids what they want to do when they leave school, and they all want to be teachers, pilots, astronauts, writers or accountants. In the last school (in a similar area) I asked the same question and the kids wanted to work at a checkout in Tesco or behind the counter in Domino’s Pizza. (Fair enough, but the kids in both schools were equally bright and came from very similar backgrounds).

 And that’s the difference a good teacher makes. They help kids believe in themselves and their abilities. I don’t think kids forget a teacher like that. Hopefully they help make a better future.

Lu Hersey

twitter: @LuWrites