Aaron took a picture of him holding a cockerel into nursery today. It was taken at the birthday party he went to on Sunday and he’s very proud of it, though quick to tell you the bird’s talons hurt his arm.
It was a great party. The parents had booked this Ark thing, where a bunch of farmyard animals are brought in and penned in the garden for the children to stroke.
It was lovely for Aaron to get into the enclosure with the animals and have unlimited access instead of trying to reach them through a barrier, as he normally has to do at the Farm.
It was the kind of thing I would love to do as a business if I had the motivation, space, money, expertise. Letting children learn about animals and not be afraid of them. It’s hard to be afraid of a pygmy goat called Esme, in a red halter, standing on the back of a sleeping pig, then snuggling up against her to keep warm in the rain.
It was a good reminder of the intelligence of pigs, too, as the pig only woke to move under the gazebo out of the rain. It’s not hard to see why so many children’s books are written about farm animals. They have such a repertoire of personalities and a diverse range of looks and mannerisms but they all live together mostly harmoniously. They’re not trying to eat each other and only the horned ones (sheep and goats) seems to get grumpy and physical.
Seeing the dynamic between the bantam chickens that kept escaping into the flower bed, the friendly but hungry pony, the sleepy pig and snuggly goat, it was a children’s book waiting to be penned.
Picture books have fascinated me since I started reading a dozen or two a week to the kids. The difference between the awful and the great is hard to define and the opinion seems to differ between adult and child!
I’ve long wanted to have a go doing one, both the words and the illustrations. It’s on the list of projects!
If I do write a picture book about farm animals it might have to include the grumpy man in charge and his two brow-beaten, terrified-looking children. I will write them a happy ending. Something like in Farmer Duck! (One of mine and the kids’ favourite books).
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire folded her cleaned and ironed clothes and stuffed them deep into her rucksack, hoping her mother didn’t notice. I can’t believe Mum did all this for me. She hasn’t washed my stuff since I was about twelve. If the Boarding School didn’t do it, then I had to do it myself.
Looking round her old room, Claire shivered at an unexpected wave of nostalgia. It had felt like old times, with her and Robert both staying in their parents’ house for the weekend.
Claire had spent the first few days of Ruth’s hospital stay in her sister’s house, caring for Sky. Once the doctors had given the all clear for Ruth to return home, Claire had agreed to stay at her parents’ house to keep an eye on her brother and father, while their mother resumed her care of Sky and Ruth.
The idea of returning to her hostelling journey felt wrong. Promoting an outdoorsy lifestyle had been odd from the beginning, but now – with her sister fighting cancer – it felt utterly pointless.
Whatever you try and do in life, there is always something that can knock you flat. Look at Ruth: ever since she had Sky she’s been a health freak, eating broccoli and giving up the ciggies and wine. Fat lot of good it did her.
“Claire, I’m about to leave.”
Robert’s voice called up the stairs, echoing round the empty hallway. Another strange sensation twisted in Claire’s stomach. I’ve spent more time with Robert this past week than I have in a decade.
Not that there had been much chance to chat. Robert had locked himself in the dining room with his laptop, when he wasn’t visiting the hospital or speaking to the doctors. Claire had been glad of his presence for that reason alone, as he managed the intimidating people responsible for Ruth’s care much better than she felt she would have done.
An image of Josh floated into her mind. I wonder if he becomes super-scary when he dons a white coat? I can’t imagine it. Maybe doctors that care for children are more approachable.
She’d tried to talk to Robert over dinner the previous night, the first time they had eaten together all week. The nagging feeling that all wasn’t right between him and Francesca still haunted her, but – despite increasingly unsubtle questioning – Robert had refused to give anything away.
It had become a game, watching his face close up whenever the subject of marriage, family or children arose. He would either deflect the question back to Claire and her perpetually single and childless state, or he would frown and change the subject completely. Through it all their father sat silent, chewing his food and gazing at the salt pot.
Claire pulled the rucksack closed and propped it against the wall. Galloping down the stairs, she arrived just as Robert was about to call again.
“I have to go,” he said, his tone defensive despite Claire’s silence. “My flight is in a couple of hours and I have to get the hire car back to the airport.”
Biting back a retort, Claire smiled and gave her brother a brief hug. “I know. Give my love to Francesca and the boys. I really will come out for a visit.” She watched his face, trying to gauge his response. He merely nodded.
He probably knows there’s as much chance of me staying with them in Geneva as there is Mum and Dad taking up salsa. Maybe if they lived near a beach or something.
Robert shook hands with his father. “Say goodbye to Mum for me, and let me know if anything changes with Ruth.”
He raised a hand in farewell and gathered up his briefcase and wheeled bag. Claire watched him go, shirt and tie in place, clean shaven and spotless, and wondered what had happened to the brother she remembered from old. The one who came home with blood pouring from a grazed knee, or built rocket ships out of cereal boxes.
I wonder what his boys are like. Maybe I will go and visit. I do need to work at being a better Auntie. Besides, then I can suss the gossip for myself.