Sunday, 28 February 2010

For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven (part II)

The continuing saga of my primary day out and three more stories from the enthusiastic imaginings of 5-10 year olds.

One class began its story by choosing a title: ‘The blue truck’. It was set in Hawaii and the cast consisted of:
• a blue truck and a red one, which was later changed by the girls in the class to pink because it was a girl truck and the trucks were (giggle) boy- and girl-friends;
• another couple – this time, forklift trucks;
• two fairies, who were considerably less interesting than the vehicles;
• and a single racing car, but one with long hair because the class couldn’t decide whether it was male or female, so they called it ‘he’ but gave it long hair to imply its feminine side.
The owner sold the blue truck, which had to leave Hawaii and go to Scotland, where it was miserable. The pink truck was bereft, of course, so she organised a rescue. The fork lifts hoisted the pink truck onto a boat and the fairies made the racing car magic so that it could fly. In Scotland, the fork lifts broke down the door to the garage where the blue truck was being held and they all flew back to Hawaii.

This next one I liked for its offbeat, almost cool attitude to its characters. It began, for example, with a caveman called Ugg sitting by the sea fishing. Not far away, lying on a rock, singing and combing her hair was a Goth Vampire Mermaid with red eyes. In the woods just off the beach lived a fairy whose intentions were evil. Having established all this, they shifted their attention back to Ugg and his fishing. He got a huge bite and, after much difficulty landed his catch, a shark. I asked them what Ugg said when he saw he’d caught a shark. One boy answered ‘Nothing. Cavemen can’t talk. But the shark said “Hi, I’m Steve”’.
In the end, the fairy and the shark merged and became a merman and I suppose he lived happily ever after with the Goth vampire mermaid, but we never got that far because more plot strands were still being developed when the bell went.

I’ll forego telling you of the upside down mountain in the sky, the turtles from Pluto, the alien girl called Sag, etc., and just sketch the outline of the final example. A plane is flying along, piloted by a lion and a leopard. It has only two passengers, a tiger and a spider. They’re flying from Egypt to Russia. (In the case of the spider this choice of destination is bizarre since he’s doing it to get a sun tan.) Anyway, I said we needed some conflict so the passengers started arguing about who was the stronger. When some kids said that was too obvious because tigers are obviously stronger, I suggested they think of ways a spider might possibly win. So the spider crawled up the tiger’s nose and spun a web, then did the same in his mouth.

This meant the tiger was having great difficulty breathing. But the leopard co-pilot heard the tiger choking on the cabin intercom and went back to investigate. (An aside, there was the predictable suggestion that the spider could also crawl up the tiger’s bum. This came from a gentle-voiced, sweet-faced girl but added little to the plot.) The co-pilot persuaded both passengers that they had their own particular strengths and should learn to respect one another.

But suddenly, the plane stopped and hung there in mid-air. It had run out of fuel and was only being held up by the hot air rising from a volcano. This gave the spider time to spin a huge web, which they could use as a parachute. They jumped out, began to float down into the volcano but the three big cats all blew hard together in the same direction and they floated clear and landed on a warm beach.

As I left at the end of the afternoon, I was walking past a file of kids on their way to get their coats etc. and was pleased and relieved to be invited to give several (very low) high fives. It was a great day of uninhibited creativity and another nice reminder of the privilege attaching to being someone whose trade involves words, ideas, relationships, and escape as well as understanding.


  1. Another wonderful example of children's free thinking and uninhibited creativity. Bet you learned a lot from them, Bill!

  2. Aren't they great. They put us all to shame. I loved the one about the tiger & the spider, but basically I loved them all.

  3. Rosemary, Gillian - couldn't agree more. I think it'll help me to switch off my analytical self more often and just let things flow. I'll always be able to curb the real excesses at the rewriting/editing stages.

    I agree, too, about liking them all but my favourite moment was when the shark, hook still in his mouth, ambled up the beach and said 'Hi, I'm Steve'.

  4. What wonderful, amazing kids! And I thought some TV plots were far-fetched.
    Love Steve the Shark.

    (PS found you through Gillian on FB)

  5. Welcome, Maryom. Yes, the feeling I had with most of the classes was that if we'd had unlimited time we could write the equivalent of War and Peace and still not run out of ideas. (And that Gillian has a lot to answer for.)

  6. I found it interesting that the fairy was evil but the Goth Vampire mermaid was the good girl. And such twists - I was totally surprised at the hot air from the volcano keeping them from falling. I know I was never this free thinking but they inspire me to be. Keep going to the school and reporting, Bill, pleeeeze. (Wouldn't it be fascinating to follow these children as they grow to see where life takes them.)

  7. It was a one-off visit, Marley, I'm afraid. Part of their literacy week. As for following them to see where life takes them, I remarked to one of the teachers at the end of the afternoon how strange it was to see in some kids the adults they'd become. Difficult to say precisely where the idea comes from but it's body language or something. One wee girl, for example, looked destined to be a put-upon middle-aged woman, and a boy (who contributed fully and did nothing untoward) had an aura about him that suggested he might become one of those despicable macho posturers. Maybe it's better to be content with the image of their creative enthusiasm rather than see what the world does to them.

  8. How true. We can look back at our own childhood and relate!

  9. Great stories, one and all. What a lovely way to spend your day, Bill.