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Wee Write! 2017 – Alan Dapre

wee write 2017 alan dapre
Back in 2015, I met the organiser of Wee Write! at an event where new books from Floris were being showcased. It seemed quite surreal to be chatting about half a dozen books I had not yet written. At that time, I was working on my first title – ‘Porridge the Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes’ – and creating the style for the series.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

The six Porridge books can be read in any order, as they feature recurring characters but stand-alone plots.

Just before the first two books were launched (Feb 2017) I was invited to take part in the Wee Write! schools programme. A great idea that brings schools into the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It costs schools nothing and the children get lots from the experience. A morning – or afternoon – off school to watch authors and, in my case, engage in some silly wordplay and enjoy plenty of interaction. Yes, if you come to my event then be prepared to volunteer.

Nearly 180 pupils, teachers and helpers filled a large space inside the library, overlooked by big windows and curious office workers. Helped by Janette (an experienced  librarian) and knowledgeable technical staff, I was able to prepare my presentation and props in no time at all. The worst bit was hanging around the back of the projector while I was being introduced. As ever, I couldn’t resist a bit of silly shadow hand puppetry and that got the kids laughing.

wee write book festival 2017 Alan Dapre author

The stage was set for me to start. I was soon chatting about how my Porridge books came about. I then gave the children wee snippets about characters – aided by Yuliya Simona’s brawsome illustrations – and introduced Porridge (in soft toy form).

Porridge the tartan cat, porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, dapre, toy, plush porridge, Floris,

Plenty of noisy fun ensued with fast-paced tongue-twisters,

alan dapre tongue twister brawsome bagpipes porridge the tartan cat

and kids running about the stage sorting out muddled-up words. A lot of Porridgy goodness was somehow spooned into one hour. At one point, we created our own crazy competitions – aiming to be as daft as Gadget Grandad’s Scottish Shed Racing Championships. There was also a lively joining-in session where children danced around and mimed tapping along to a noisy tripe writer. Next we explored together facts that sound like a load of old (typed) tripe but are actually true!

floris, tripewriter, alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat,

The hour flew by and everyone was hoarse and happy by the time my event ended. A short Q & A brought out some very good questions. “What’s my favourite book?” I was asked. I replied that it’s any book that’s being read. Books are meant to be read, to stimulate and engage.

Judging from the reaction of staff and the kind comments afterward, the children went away motivated and excited. If libraries and authors can get children enthused by the written word then we are all onto a winner.

porridge, language, made up, tartan cat, alan dapre, me-wow, mewow, cat talk,

 

Wee Write! is in someways an off-shoot of Aye Write! but it has its own special atmosphere. It offers a wee glimpse of the magic of books – and writing – to any kids (young or old) lucky enough to attend.

I loved it. Good job too because I did it all again that afternoon.

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Porridge The Tartan Cat Series – launching Feb 2017

I know I really should have been blogging this year but most of my time has been spent writing an exciting new 6 book series for Floris Books, a large publisher based in Scotland.

The Series: 
Each story stars a member of the McFun family. Gadget Grandad, Groovy Gran, Mini Mum, Dino Dad, Roaring Ross and Invisible Sister. Nothing is ever what it seems in this fantastic family. Everyone has a surprising secret – and a knack of getting into trouble. Luckily, Porridge is around to lend a helping paw and save the day. All it takes is courage and a box of brain-boosting Fishy Biscuits.

The first two books come out in February 2017. Here’s the cover for:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Brawsome Bagpipes”

It’s brilliantly illustrated by Yuliya Somina, who has illustrated for Bill Bryson’s bestseller ‘A Really Short History Of Nearly Everything’.

porridge-1-cover

That’s the cover. Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Gadget Grandad does nothing on Sundays. Me-yawn. However, Porridge and the McFun twins soon discover he spends the rest of the week doing incredible things – like Walter ski-ing with a shark called Walter, or catching sneaky Scotch Pies (spies). All the while, mouldy old Fergus McFungus is stealing ingredients to cook up a secret secret recipe for disaster. Can anyone (anycat) stop him from destroying the world and volcanoes and fishy biscuits and elephants!”

***

The other book being launched is:

“Porridge The Tartan Cat and the Bash-Crash-Ding”

Here’s what it’s about:

Groovy Gran was once in a band called The Tattie Scones, but it split in mysterious circumstances many years ago. Porridge, the twins and Groovy Gran go on a mission to reunite the band members and put on a special one-off Big Gig. Unfortunately the dastardly Dug o Doom is on the prowl, trying to thwart their every move. Porridge is determined to save the day – and the show. Claws-crossed it will end with a fantastic Bash-Crash-Ding!

 

porridge-2-cover

 

I’ve seen the illustrations so far and they look very impressive. Energetic, fun and just right to capture the imagination of 6 to 8 year old readers. That said, there is enough word-play and imaginative quirkiness for grown-ups to enjoy too.

Well, I’d better crack on. More stories to write. I’ll post more thoughts and exciting news later.

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Back In The Room…

It’s good to be back!

I have taken time off from writing this blog to concentrate on writing children’s books.

It takes a while to create meaningful, exciting and engaging characters who jump off the page, climb up your nose and playfully mess about with your brain.

I shall be posting soon about some exciting new developments regarding my latest project – a series of  humorous books for six to eight year olds, with a Scottish twist.

As ever, what takes the time is getting something off the ground. Finding a publisher or agent who is willing to take a punt and develop your ideas is a slow process, with many hurdles to overcome.

A writer may know his or her characters and plot intimately but this knowledge has to be imparted to others – never easy. I have developed some clear methods that I will blog about in later posts.

I have also been busy painting in acrylics just to give me a counterpoint.

Art by Alan Dapre  Copyright Alan Dapre

Art by Alan Dapre
Copyright Alan Dapre

 

Staring at a blank computer screen day in day out is not healthy so I mix in a bit of staring at a blank canvas too. Going from one medium to another can alleviate blocks. I often come up with plot ideas while daubing on paint.

Every once in a while I will offer up tips for writers. These have come from my own experience. I will back each one with an exercise and quote or two. Hope they prove useful for you 🙂

*******

 

WHY WRITE?

Writing for yourself is a great way to begin. You will discover what subjects interest, motivate and challenge you. To write honestly you have to write from the heart, regarding the things you really care about. If you are creatively and emotionally engaged then your writing will reflect this. External critics will be kept at bay while you learn to master your internal one. Keep what you write private and you will be free to write what matters to you. Not having to impress others is a great thing.

EXERCISES:

-Write about a subject you passionately love or hate.
-Write about a personal secret that needs unburdening.
-Write boldly about a fear or hope for the future.

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self’

– Cyril Connolly

Cereal Mash-Ups – a tasty way to start the day

Youngsters today mash up their music, mixing two tracks to make a third.

Well, oldsters like me mash up their cereal. I have done since my student days when I discovered that Alpen tasted better mixed with sugar puffs. These days I push the boundaries and mix porridge oats, mini-shredded wheat and shreddies – shreddies as in extra-fresh out of the box rectangular pieces of malty goodness rather than extra-stale off the floor underpants.

Sometimes I break new territory and add AllBran to the cereal mix. Though I think things tend to go pear-shaped when five cereals are mixed together. Too much wheatiness in one bowl for my liking – a sure fire trigger for IBS – Irritable Bowl/Bowel Syndrome?

Sometimes I really do mash my cereals up (before adding milk) to recreate that bottom of the packet experience. There is nothing better than pouring on a crunchy wave of crushed Weetabix/Shredded Wheat/Bran flakes, etc., then flooding the bowl with milk. I never use skimmed milk – makes the whole thing too unappetising. I try to ensure that one of the cereals I’m using has a certain sweetness to enhance the other cereals. Though there are exceptions such as Rolled oats + Puffed Wheat + All Bran = slightly bitter, crunchy texture.

Other mighty mash ups include:

Rolled Oats, Bran Flakes, Cheerios (for extra sweetness)
Muesli, Cornflakes and Rice Crispies (for extra crunch)
Cheerios, Sugar Puffs and Frosted Flakes (for an extra trip to the dentist!)
Mini Shredded Wheat, Curiously Cinnamon, Rolled Oats (for extra spice)

Now my daughter has cottoned on to the benefits of creative cereal making. Each morning I put out five or so cereal packets and she selects her favourites du jour. This morning starred Rolled Oats, Shreddies and Cheerios. The Cheerios are actually Morrison’s own brand which lowered the goodness a little. Why are the supermarket own brand cereals always full of extra salt and sugar compared to the original brands?

I spend ages comparing the packets to see if an own brand is better. This is made harder when portions are deemed to be 30g or 45g. I have to browse the 100g column and compare from that.

As I said earlier, my preference is to have only one sweet cereal in the mix. I offer a word of warning. Never add a chocolate cereal to any others. The chocolate seeps into the milk and turns everything chocolately – not a nice chocolate taste but a sickly over sweet one – as if I’m licking a bar of cooking chocolate.

Today I noticed we had run out of Bran Flakes, the mini-shredded wheat had gone stale (thanks to our new £2 containers from ASDA that don’t shut properly) and the Honey Hoops are soft. It doesn’t bode well for tomorrow.

Scrambled egg on toast will be on tomorrow’s morning menu. With added beans and mushrooms. All mashed up. Mmmmm.

I wonder what the wee one will make of that?

 

 

 

Village Nursery Stories …

My daughter left the Village Nursery school today. Really left it. After a hectic morning of bouncing on an inflatable castle, eating party food and singing songs. (Yesterday she spent ages carefully covering her black plimsols with glitter to ensure they sparkled at the party.) Today she chose a pretty frock that matched her glasses.

Parents were welcomed in early and listened while the children riffed on a theme and sang an emotional song called, ‘We’re on this road’ – about them starting on a journey through Big School and beyond. First heard by me at the class graduation last Wednesday. By the last verse, teary-eyed Mums were quietly crying as granite faced Dads with quivering lips took a sudden interest in the rain-streaked view of the car park.

Isla began Nursery the week after her 2nd birthday. She was just a wee totie thing with a cheeky smile. The years flew by, punctuated with process reports, good natured banter with teachers and my growing appreciation of the dedication shown by all staff at the West Kilbride Village Nursery. As you may know, I’m a former Deputy Head and rather cynical about school and nursery reputations. For instance, I have been in beacon schools where fiery Head Teachers are easily put out when quizzed about actual attainment and pupil well-being. So I am not easily swayed by glossy school websites and thick folders full of a so-called Curriculum for Excellence. What matters is how the staff treat my child. How they interact and informally educate, gently building on her skills and interests.

West Kilbride Village Nursery certainly did that. My admiration for the teaching staff at the Village Nursery now runs deep, specifically Mrs England and Mrs Masson. Two outstanding professionals who deserve praise, and whopping great bonuses. Isla’s Folder of Attainment that she brought home last night was equally deep, crammed with photos and paintings, stories and, yes, interesting  statistics. She loved the topic about Vikings and enjoyed learning all about Pirates.

copyright West Kilbride Village Nursery

Pirate Ship at West Kilbride Village Nursery

What I like most about the folder’s content is that the teachers’ comments are considered, accurately reflect my child and show a real empathy. I can tell the staff have engaged well with my daughter, are interested in what makes her tick, and have really tried hard to motivate her in a range of subjects and situations. She has developed her understanding of things through active learning in partnership with the Village Nursery. I see no evidence of force feeding, rather a series of gentle nudges in various directions.

My wife and I didn’t want our child’s formal education starting early and sapping her natural creativity. We wanted her to really come into class each day buzzing with excitement. And she did. If ever there were issues they were sorted promptly.

Our daughter shed a few tears recently, being rather hesitant about going to Big School. After her latest visit there, to the local Primary school, it really did all seem BIG. Big classes, big rooms, big playgrounds, big everything.  But I got good vibes and reckon she is the type who will settle down – and, hey, be destined for big things.

The thing is, as long as she’s happy that’s what matters. I really believe that. As for my early years, I didn’t get heaps of parental support. Er, none in fact. It would have helped to have had two parents present. I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out for me if I’d been in a traditional home instead of a foster home run by a woman who looked, and acted, like Mrs Twit. A mawkish bully with a cruel streak that ran through her like blood red letters through a stick of Margate rock.

I made a point of saying farewell to Angela Pisani, who runs the Village Nursery with care and dedication. She battles daily against loads of paperwork, funding issues and educational commitments, all the while raising the bar for kids’ learning. The Village Nursery has a mission to provide high quality child care in West Kilbride. In my opinion they do just that.The indoor classrooms are bright, busy and fun places to explore. The outdoor trips children go on are entertaining and well-matched to children’s needs. On Isla’s last visit to the Glen she swung on ropes, fished in the burn, made potions, played in hammocks and ate marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate digestives. Brilliant stuff.

Now how do I match that during the lo-o-ong Summer holiday? I wonder if the teachers’ want something to do on their time off?

***

A few hours after Isla left she spotted some of the staff in a nearby car park.
‘Look Daddy. There are my old teachers.’

Bring on the new.

 

 

Arggh. Not another Dad Blog!

My we’re all at it now. Not long ago a few embarrassed Dads were lurking in the corners of Mumsnet or NetMums or whatever Mums-focussed site existed at the time. Everything on the sites was Mum-this and Mum-that, with the occasional nod to Dads.

A few years ago, when I read comments by Mums about Dads they could be broken down into the following categories;

  • Useless Dad – who wouldn’t know one end of a baby from the other, even if it pooed on him.
  • Absent Dad – who wasn’t there for the child and could therefore go to hell in a handcart.
  • Absent Dad – who was there for the child, but only on Tuesdays and Fridays, or whenever ‘the other woman’ let him out.
  • Cool Dad – who could do everything with babies apart from give birth – eliciting pangs of envy from Dads (and Mums).
  • Cocky Dad – who thought he knew everything and ended up handing back a screaming toddler before sloping off to the Pub.
  • Doppleganger Dad – who would act the same as his Dad did – resulting in a child who knows the times tables up to 12 even though everything is in decimal these days.
  • Grumpy Dad – who never seemed to enjoy the time he has with his child, preferring to be on the golf course or watching paint dry.

There were other examples that slipped my mind. Most of the Dad stereotypes centred on Dads being a) useless and b) not as good as Mums.

This was mirrored by adverts on TV where the joke was always on the hapless Dad. I can’t stand those type of adverts – mainly because they are created by all-male advertising agencies who are trying to pander to the female demographic – not realising that women are actually smarter than them – and can see through the product-pushing tosh.

Okay – so why was there such a knocking of Dads on Mum orientated sites?  I suppose the obvious point is that women have been dealt a poor hand over the years. There has been rampant sexism against females who have been repressed at home and work. Even now there is not equal pay in the workplace for qualified women – and I suspect that the ‘glass ceiling’ is still causing quite a few bruised foreheads.

Maybe it was to do with men encroaching into territory where Mums feel they have a natural superiority – borne out of everything that comes with giving birth. Mums know best is often said – probably true, but now Dads were trying to chip in too.

Or maybe it has to do with women being fed up with having to justify themselves, such as always being subjected to glossy magazines – and their depiction of what is ideal in a woman. You know, stick thin twigs with bodies – airbrushed to perfection. Images that men see and wonder why they are not borne out in reality. A woman who has just gone through child birth has enough on without having to worry if her skinny jeans still fit. Which brings me onto Barbie. Arghh!

Tonight my daughter bemoaned the fact she did not have Barbie’s long blonde hair. That hers was ‘rubbishy brown’. I pointed out that Barbie’s hair wasn’t real and felt horrid, whereas hers was soft and a beautiful natural colour.

Barbie. Where do I start?

  1. Barbie has ridiculously small feet that are unbelievably bendy, with a hole in the sole. Ouch.
  2. Barbie’s limbs look like she has been stretched on a mediaeval rack. Her weedy legs are longer than mine!
  3. She has moulded on pants to cover up her dignity. Okay, I get the idea that she has ‘rudey bits’ but such modesty is at odds with her desire to flaunt her boobs. No nipples I note – so breast-feeding is out then, eh Barbie?
  4. Barbie has a freaky wide-eyed stare that implies she is about to go off and boil a few bunnies.
  5. Barbie elicits unreal benchmarks for what is beauty.
  6. Barbie has some words stamped on her back – Ouch again.
  7. Barbie can’t hold things with her hands – she can just karate chop at things.
  8. Barbie’s head swivels 360 degrees which is something I’ve only ever seen in horror films.
  9. Barbie was launched – born – in 1959 which makes her 54. She looks like she has had tons of plastic surgery, but then again, she is plastic.
  10. Barbie is a formidable role model regarding jobs. She has done everything over her five decades. She’s been an Ambassador For World Peace, President, Astronaut, Palaeontologist, Cashier and Cow Girl – the list is endless. Amazing what you can do without any joints.
  11. Barbie is a bully who is distorting my lovely daughter’s idea of what is good in this world. My wee girl is a star!
alan dapre copyright my wee star

My Wee Star – photo (c) alan dapre 2013

Ahem. Moving on.

About two years ago, I started my Dad blog with little fanfare. In fact, I wrote a hurried little post that I hoped no one would notice. No one noticed. Seventy five posts later and I get a small but steady stream of readers. I look at other blogging Dads and envy their ability to stick to task. One writes about the practical sides of being a Dad, another about what it is like to bring up children as a widower, another about life with twins, etc.

I tend to ramble on about the funny things my daughter says, or moan about not getting enough books published. If I have nothing to say then I’ll review a book or come up with tips on Writing for children. I suppose I write what resonates with me. I try to have one eye open for the reader but as I feel that I don’t have an audience as such that I am free to witter on any way my keyboard takes me.

But one thing I am proud of is this. I’m proud to be a Dad – and delighted to show that Dads can be sensitive without being weak, kind without spoiling, nurturing without smothering, educational without dictating, and fun. Without fun then parenting is nothing. Mums and Dads should not seek to differentiate each other – we should play up our similarities – how much we love our children, wish them to grow into happy, well-rounded individuals who care for each other and the world about them.

So this is not another Dad Blog. It is my Dad Blog.

I’m the Daddy.

(And Mummy’s fab too!)

Father’s Day – life’s ups and downs…

I’m calling it Father’s Day – with the apostrophe before the ‘s’. I’m sure that there are lots of Fathers out there but my wee girl is only concerned with one – little old me. Though not so little these days.

Alan Dapre

I’m apparently smelly with a fat belly. And I’m the only Dad around here with no hair. Except on my feet and in my ears. Oh yes, my daughter takes a lot of interest in my appearance and general well being. It’s in her interest that I am in peak condition to be able to take her swimming, to gymnastics and do a lot of general ferrying about. And she wants me to be able to catch her when she is tossed in the air.

Yesterday we were at a garden centre and I ended up purchasing a see-saw. Isla and her two friends had been grumpy because there were not enough outdoor toys to play with in our garden. My desire to get three girls picking daisies or gardening met with frowns and silence. Sometimes Isla is all for exploring Nature in the raw – she recently stroked a toad that I’d found in a pile of bark, and laughed uproariously when it pooed on my shirt! Whining girls don’t usually win but I thought maybe a see-saw would be a good match for the swing.

As I paid for the see-saw, the young assistant spotted Isla sucking her thumb. We had a chat and she explained that she had been required to wear a brace for two years and now wore one each night. This would be necessary for another 5 years! Isla took note and agreed with a suggestion that if she stopped sucking a thumb in the day she could get a lolly at the weekend.

By the time we arrived at the car Isla was backtracking (and sucking her thumb) like mad.
‘I can’t get to sleep without sucking my thumb,’ she said sadly. ‘I’ll never get to sleep again.’
More discussion followed and we agreed that she could suck her thumb until seven o’clock at night.
‘So can suck my thumb when I am lying down?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘When I am lying down on the sofa watching television?’
‘No. You have to be lying in your bed after seven o’clock.’
‘That’s a rubbish plan,’ says Isla, sucking soulfully while twiddling her hair. ‘I can’t twiddle my hair without sucking my thumb.’
‘You’ll get a lolly at the weekend.’
She eyes me despondently.
‘Two lollies,’ I add, a hint of desperation in my voice.
‘Okay.’

We journeyed along in silence until Isla asked, ‘Why is it called a see-saw?’

Good question. I mumbled something about being able to see something when you are up high and  when you can’t see it down low – you just have to remember you saw it. She seemed satisfied with that.

Well, that was yesterday. Today my daughter hasn’t sucked her thumb. Yet. I am still in her good books and she talks animatedly about a secret surprise on Father’s Day. Isla is not the best at keeping secrets. When her Mum was about to open her main 40th birthday present Isla piped up, ‘It’s a watch.’ I reckon I am on track for some aftershave or a pair of Homer Simpson socks. Or a mug saying ‘World’s Grumpiest Bald Dad’.

It is a day of mixed emotions for me. My birth certificate has a blank space where my father’s name should be. Rumour has it that he was about to get married, and I was then conceived during a drunken party last minute fling. My middle name is apparently his too. So thanks to my irresponsible birth-mother’s actions I haven’t a clue who he is. Maybe he knows about me and gets a twinge of regret each year. I doubt it. He’s probably busy with his own kids.

The Child Support Agency wasn’t about in the 1960s. Too late, I suppose, to ask him for a few quid. Would be nice to be able to buy my wee one a slide too. But – in truth – I’d rather fork out the money from my own pocket. Life without a biological mum and dad alongside does have its positives. I know how to graft, to love deeply and to give freely. Once I trust someone. Life in Care and Foster homes can lead to insecurity. It’s what comes from some adults not taking their responsibilities seriously.

That said, I’m damned if I’m going to roll over and let things get to me.

Life, like a see-saw, has its ups and downs. Just remember to hold on and keep rocking.

You can quote me on that.

I know I am lucky. Lucky to be married to a great person and to have a fab wee girl. Our dog’s not too bad either. And many people have stepped in to help me on the way. People who did not have to look after, nurture and guide me as I grew up. I won’t name names but they know what they did and who they are.

So Father’s Day is special. It’s a day where my daughter shows she loves me, and I show her I truly, madly, deeply love her back.

Just like any other day of the year really.

 

Magpie plays dead – impersonates possum, etc.

Two days ago I took a photo of three magpies happily pulling out worms (or rubber bands as Isla calls them). The garden is full of birds at the moment. We also have a family of blue tits, while countless sparrows are nesting in the hedges. Plus a thrush often pops by to grab grubs and vanishes into next door’s garden – but I suppose that doesn’t count.

magpies, alan dapre

Magpies photographed by Alan Dapre

Yesterday afternoon I was out in the garden when my dog Skye came across a recently fledged magpie. The brave bird puffed up its feathers and both held their ground. After a few long sniffs Skye trotted over to me then, being a bit of a wind-up merchant, tried to go back. I sent her inside to give the bird a break not keen on it keeling over with stress, or Skye’s dodgy dog breath.

Last night, while I was packing the garden tools away I saw the same magpie lying on the grass. Actually I’d nearly trodden on the thing. Its motionless form gave me a bit of a shock. I immediately felt bad for not sending Skye away earlier. Had it died from shock? I nearly had.

As I picked the poor bird up it lay motionless in my hand – until its head flopped back. Perhaps it had only just died, still being supple. Rigor Mortis had not set in. What was I to do?  Bury it in a bird shaped coffin? I’d once buried a hamster that was cold and unmoving. It belonged to my landlady. I learned later that hamsters often go into a form of hibernation so I’ve always wondered if I’d condemned the furry lump to death by wrapping it in tissue and sealing it into a milk carton before burying it in a nearby park.

Anyway, I resolved to deposit the magpie over my back fence by the slow-moving burn that runs along at the bottom of our garden. Actually I ended up tossing it further than I had intended and it vanished from sight on the overgrown bank.

Feeling a tad sad, I explained to Isla that the fledged magpie was no longer with us. It had shuffled off its perch and gone to join the choir invisible, or something like that. She took the news well and asked if it was dead. I said yes and that was that. The buses still kept running, the Earth kept moving and everyone got on with their lives.

So it was quite a surprise the next day to see the wee fellow back on its feet and hopping around mum and dad like it was 100% alive and full of the joys of Spring. And rubber bands. Looking closer, it sported the same markings as the alleged 100% dead one. I suppose magpies look rather alike. Mainly black with white bits. Like zebras but with wings.

I  decided to call it Lazarus after such a miraculous recovery. I also decided to google the words Magpie Plays Dead. Several stories came up – including one from Australia that described a young magpie playing dead when it was feeling threatened, or fancied a lie down.

So there you have it. Another tale from the Dapre household. Nothing to do with writing. Just a bit of Nature in the raw. Phew. My dog is not about to be done for manslaughter, er, magpieslaughter. She had received a telling off from Isla for scaring the bird to death. Tomorrow Skye will no doubt get an apology and a couple of dog chews.

And I have got a big sense of relief that the magpie is safe. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl. Well, I’m already outnumbered three to one (if you include the dog) girl-wise so that’s not going to happen.

 

TOTS 100 - UK Parent Blogs

Shaggy Dog Story No 1

If you have checked out my website recently you may have come across the photo of my office. The best thing about it is my wee daughter standing there smiling sweetly, wondering why Dad is taking pictures of his office. Especially when he is fed up of the colour – a boring beige or dull magnolia, or lukewarm tea, or the colour of a scummy bath.

Long have I hesitated to decorate fearing what lay beneath the paintings and posters. I remember hurriedly putting things on the wall, and in my haste adding to the holes that were already there – the walls are riddled – scene of a Scottish St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

On my way from dropping my daughter off at Nursery I was struck by a strong and strange urge to drive straight on, rather than turn home. Almost in a trance I ended up at HomeBase and wandered around the paint aisle, thinking that Farrow & Ball paints would transform the room. Indeed they might, but at a cost. A small tin was £25, larger £38 – but of course the only large tins in the colour I wanted were noticeably absent. There was a huge stack of assorted Greys …

One of my pet hates is Dulux, due to the watery paints that take several coats and those terrible ads featuring a shaggy dog – usually set in a lighthouse, and implying that the paints will last in extreme weather. In reality, my walls in my previous house lasted as long as it took to wash the brushes. Dogs are actually quite destructive and mine would happily smear grease along one wall until it shone like a … er, lighthouse.

I came out of the store ten minutes later bearing 5 litres of light reflecting paint which I was convinced would brighten up the dull office. I had somehow bought myself a vibrant shade, a shade far removed from the heritage green I had originally sought out. The bored but friendly shop assistant had pinned the tin down before I could check what was mixed, and she only opened it up with some reluctance. The resulting glow reminded me of what was sitting in our local Power Station – a sickly radioactive green.

I drove home wondering why I had not refused to buy the damn tin on account of it not being anything like the colour I chose, and the fact it cost more than a big tin of F&B. Oh, and it was Dulux too.

Fast forward six hours and the room is three-quarters there. Unfortunately each time I smear the paint on with a pad, I end up smearing it off too. Half a packet of chocolate biscuits later and I dig out an old roller. At last the stuff begins to go on better. By the time my wife is home the walls are done – and I am done too.

At that moment, Isla walks in and glances about. ‘It’s light green,’ she says with surprise. I remind her that it is one of her favourite colours. I am also about to remind there that the paint is wet when she leans back … and I now have a little girl shape on the wall.

Eleven hours after I started, the job is done … and I sit at my desk, glad that the scuff marks and holes are no more. And now I have no distractions it is about time that I start writing again. Well, it would be but actually the hall looks terribly dingy …

Two minutes later I am in the pub –
well, it’s better than watching paint dry.