Hay, Hay, Hay! It’s been a great half term break during which we were blessed with a blissful mix of family, friends and a whole lot of sunshine to welcome us into the first official month of Summer.
We spent a few days in our homeland with our nearest and dearest visiting the world renowned Hay Festival and listening to some clever, unrivalled and downright hilarious nursery rhyme recitations from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Tony Robinson, Ruby Wax, actors Olivia Williams and Sam West, the incredible Michael Rosen, Brian Bilston, as well as Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm, to name a few.
I also got to take part during this same week in my first book shop ‘gig’ at the amazing North Books on Castle Street in Hay on Wye, where the most wonderful Jules and Amanda could not have been more welcoming, or encouraging. We sang songs, read Ivy and the Mole, did a ‘Feel Good Flowers’ activity together and also had the opportunity to sign a few copies of the book with those who were good enough to pop in to the event and say hi too.
This was on the back of having had the good fortune to hear from the amazing team at The Felin Fach Griffin before we headed up to Hay as well, who stock both Ivy and the Rock and Ivy and the Mole, to say they were just about all sold out and managed to replenish the stocks there too!
Then we hot footed it over to West Wales for some much needed ‘R&R’ to see out half term with some of our best mates in our campervan next the sea, all the while bathed in glorious, unrelenting sunshine.
All in all, it’s been a wonderful week reaping the rewards of the time and effort we all put into being with the people we love most in this world – which, as becomes more apparent to me the older I get, is never a day wasted.
The older I get, the more I think spring might just be the new season of choice for me. I don’t know what it is, but every March or April I feel a sort of magical energy settle in around me. When you’re younger, summers are endless and care free – the days last forever and, when you hit a certain age, sometimes the nights do too.
But as I settle into middle age, all it seems to take is the earliest promise of lighter nights and the first sighting of a few green shoots to give this girl a boost. It’s a funny one really because, as the month in which we very suddenly and traumatically lost my dad, I reckon I could justifiably decide to opt out of April altogether if I really wanted to.
But somehow, every springtime since the day that changed my life forever seems to have brought with it the promise of new beginnings in all kinds of ways. My husband and I viewed the first house we ever bought together almost three years to the day my dad passed away, married in spring the following year (13 years ago yesterday, as it goes!), and finally got to welcome our first child after four long years of trying in the spring of 2015.
And this year, the ‘Queen of the Seasons’ has been about learning to embrace a new life too, in many ways, as the season of school (and library) visits seems to finally be upon us.
In the past few weeks I’ve got to meet some amazing staff and children at schools and libraries in Caerphilly County and Powys and to be honest, it’s made me feel like a new me!
One of the most special visits happened this week, when I visited Ysgol Penmaes in Brecon, Powys to read my books, sing some songs and talk to the pupils there about recognising and dealing with ‘big feelings’.
I was nervous because, after all, as someone who dedicated the majority of her career to supporting students with additional learning needs, of all the times I could have done with Mum’s help, this was it. And it would be on home turf – lots of faces to recognise, and maybe a few who would recognise me. I needn’t have lost so much sleep over it, of course. They were all brilliantly welcoming, wonderfully enthusiastic about what I was doing, and at the beginning of the third group session of a series I was delivering that day, I was greeted warmly by a former colleague of Mum’s too.
It was so lovely to be able to remember her together, and feel her presence perhaps more justifiably so than I had already as I drove across the Beacons that morning. I left there at the end of a full-day session feeling more alive than I had in a long time – and I’m having a great time bringing Ivy to life in the presence of young lives, at a time when new life continues to spring forth everywhere.
Link to full article here: https://southwaleslife.com/six-of-the-best/
It’s been an odd feeling kind of a week hasn’t it? Our Queen has passed away after seven decades on the throne, and a lifetime in the role. Some are devastated and others are asking if it presents a natural turning point for change where the Royal Family is concerned.
Given the ‘grief’ the Queen’s family are seen to have caused her over the years, it’s perhaps not surprising that her passing has proved to be so controversial.
Because throughout the deaths, divorces, sex scandals, discrimination accusations and, reportedly, unhealable rifts that have come to define our modern version of the Royal Family, the Queen remained committed to the role she felt was her divine calling to carry out, and to her husband too.
And given the seismic tenure of her reign, within that time people across the country will have come to view her as a daughterly, motherly, grandmotherly or even great-grandmotherly figure depending on their own situation in life too.
And yet in reality, very, very few of us in this life can say we are grieving the Queen on a personal level. There will be seldom few in this world who are carrying that burden at present, as one of the select few to have truly infiltrated the private life of one of the globe’s most publicly acknowledged figureheads.
And therefore, the loss that is currently being felt on a mass scale is likely based on what the Queen’s presence meant to us as individuals.
To some it may be that the death of a contemporary comes as yet another reminder of their own mortality, and that one of the only remaining constants of a long distant past has now also gone with time too.
Others might be trying to adjust to the fact that the figurehead they have dedicated their entire working lives to serving on a professional level is no longer there, and the post they have only ever known as being filled by her is now set to be taken up by somebody else.
Many people have said how much the Queen reminded them of their own Mum or Nan, while others undoubtedly identified with her through her love for equine sport and the countryside. Some locals in Scotland have expressed the sense of loss they feel at knowing the Queen will no longer be spending her summers in Balmoral, as she has done since she was a child.
For others, the role of the Queen and the Royal Family no longer holds any relevance to them at all in the modern world, and the sense of loss they feel at the monarch’s passing is likely minimal, which is only to be expected too.
And for many, many more, the loss of the Queen will have simply brought back poignant memories of a time or times when we ourselves lost people that we love, and all the feelings that went with it.
And so, when it comes the UK mourning its monarch, here lies the rub.
Because, this is what grief is – it is highly personal depending on what our own relationship to the person that has passed away meant to us. It is something only we can feel in its entirety, and the extent of which only we can ever truly know within ourselves.
And so, whatever our politics may be, it seems to me that we have no choice but to try and give those experiencing a sense of bereavement the space they need to grieve, and do our best to resist making judgements on how self-indulgent we may or may not perceive such behaviour to be.
What struck me most on the day that the Queen passed away was the idea that when we lose someone, that’s all they really are – lost from our lives.
Because it’s not as if their death means that they never were in the first place. It’s not like they will never be present again in the way we continue to live life after they’ve gone. The effect that they had on this world is not diminished, just because they are no longer here.
Their impact lives on but life for those of us living beyond theirs inevitably changes as a result of them no longer physically being in this world.
For me, what the mourning of our monarch as a nation has yet again highlighted, is that the grief we feel is often as much for the life we were used to, as it is for the person who is gone.
So, Ivy and the Mole has finally broken the soil and emerged into the light of day, following its publication in June. It’s a children’s book written to help little ones with their self-esteem and believe in themselves, and their own individuality.
It is also the second title I’ve managed to get into print, and it means I really did turn the Big Issues for Little People concept into a literary series just as I (rather recklessly, in hindsight) claimed I was about to do upon the release of my first picture book, Ivy and the Rock.
At the time Ivy and the Rock, as my debut novel, was published I wrote about its release in comparison to the birthing of a first child – the joy, the pain, the anxiety, the pure elation at having created something so special and unique to you.
Now my next picture book is out there it is, indeed, very much like a second sibling has arrived. The day Ivy and Mole finally dropped on to my doorstep after what again felt like an age in the making was just as awe inspiring, just as joyous, and just as emotional as the first time it happened.
But now I’m a mother of two under two, I’m also finding it hard to divide my attentions between them both as equally as I’d like.
In the beginning I nurtured the Mole as much as I could, I gazed at it with love, and I didn’t feel half as daunted or anxious as I did the first-time round. Meanwhile, Ivy and the Rock is out there, it has established its own life and – in the beginning – it also gained all the attention one would expect of a first-born people knew you’d been waiting to meet for a very long time.
So, this time around I’ve not only got a newborn to think of, but an older sibling too – and one who has just started at school. I’ve had a run of sessions in primary schools across Caerphilly County this summer term which I’m looking forward to taking out to foundation phase kids more fully in the autumn and beyond.
But alongside this I’ve now also got the Mole to look after, who, as you would expect, hasn’t had anywhere near enough attention as its older sibling since it emerged into the world. We’ve had some great coverage and support from local press outlets, including the Caerphilly Observer, South Wales Argus, Wales247.co.uk, County Times and more, for which I am truly grateful. But there is also a lot more to do this time, and the push to get people’s attention was always going to be a harder one.
Already I can’t wait for this little seedling to start becoming its own person though. I can’t wait to find out what kind of a journey Ivy and the Mole is going to take me on, just as I had no idea Ivy and the Rock would take me to the national press, television interviews, virtual grief sessions, a reading by Fergie and Friends, and so much more.
And, I suppose, here lies the rub. Impatience is not a quality best suited to the writing/publishing world. So, I’m making lists, I’m marking the little wins, I’m learning to appreciate and admire the differences between my two babies – and I’m reminding myself of the real-world experience that tells me you can’t expect to parent the second one in exactly the same way as the first.
It’s hard though, when you’ve given over all of your earthly energies to bringing something into the world which you cannot help but feel protective of, and that you are just desperate to see fulfil itself to its fullest potential.
And, as ever, if Ivy and the Mole can make just one little reader feel better about themselves, and understand this world of ours a little more fully in the process, then already it will have done what it came here to do anyway.
Exciting news at Big Issues for Little People HQ – Ivy and the Mole is out for pre-order now. Here’s a little run down of what you can expect from the second instalment of Ivy’s adventures for your info:
What is Ivy and the Mole about?
Ivy makes a down on his luck companion as she ventures into the Wildest Wood to find ‘Pond Number One’ and together the pair end up discovering as much about their own sense of self as they do about the magical landscape that surrounds them.
Ivy and the Mole takes a beautifully illustrated look at the journey we all take as human beings towards finding and learning to love our true selves – and how identifying that one-off superpower that lies inside each one of us is the key to taking us there.
What and who is it for?
My aim with all of the children’s books I have written (this is the second I will have published in the series) is to help little people make sense of the world’s biggest issues in an honest yet child-friendly way.
Ivy And The Mole is written to help children understand that just as we are all different in life, so we all have our individual strengths. The key to contentment is to recognise and play to these strengths wherever we can. It has always been my aim to be honest with my own two girls, even when they ask me big questions.
This book is an extension of that, and takes a child-friendly look at how our self-esteem can suffer when we view ourselves in the context of the outside world, as opposed to focusing on the person within.
Where can I buy it?