Where did I get the idea for my first childrens book?

  The Runaway Schoolhouse, or the idea for it, simply didn’t appear in a light bulb moment. It sort of crept up on me. I was working as a Children’s Athletics Development Officer for 20 hours a week. I was part of a team of three. I loved the three years that we travelled the highways and byways, (some of them in circles as I frequently got lost) to promote kids to get active. The three of us were and still are passionate about the advantages of taking exercise no matter your age. Anyway, the most frequently heard comment on a Monday morning from a class of kids, was, “I wish I didn’t have to come to school.” I heard it so often that I began to play with the idea of what would happen if they arrived but all was not as it should be.

Until one day I casually asked, “what would you do if the school was not here when you arrived!”

The look of disbelief, followed by pure joy at such a possibility,  was enough to convince me it was a mad idea, but mad enough for a book.

And so it began a three-year stint of writing, editing, sending out letters searching for an agent, publisher or any passing alien to show an interest in my whacky book.  And it is a little crazy.  Here is an excerpt:

CHAPTER 4

CLEARIE was learning to make the most of every moment. He liked sitting on the smooth sand but a tiny part of him envied those with fingers and toes because he longed to experience the tickling feeling of sand and water. Still, he reasoned, this is an adventure.

He didn’t like the conversation between the adults who remained outside discussing the “problem.” They considered taking him apart and carrying his bricks back onto the hillside or getting a giant crane to move him. Both methods sounded nasty to him.
He tried to ignore them by concentrating on the sound of fish jumping in the water and birds hopping about on the sand; but he found that their loud voices carrying on the wind, made it impossible.
You would think with all their education they would question WHY I moved.
He waited to see what would happen next.
To his amusement, Mrs Brown got on her knees beside his front door to peer at the gap beneath his floor. He wondered if she were silly enough to think he had grown feet! When she stood she realised her knees were sandy and complained loudly about the horrible, gritty feeling. Clearie wondered what gritty felt like.
At breaktime, he noted that the children, unlike the teachers, were barefoot on the beach, but they put their shoes and socks back on their feet when they went back to class.
Clever children, silly teachers, he thought.

 

Advertisements

The long and the short of it.

A very short story featuring Bob and his friend Maxwell

It was looking like snow. This was a special event in Ireland.

Bob was sitting staring out the kitchen window. He suspected it might snow but more importantly the oven was humming along with the cook who was rolling out biscuits.

“Hmm, biscuits,” Bob thought and set off to tell Max who lived a short distance away.

Cold, wet weather never bothered him because his thick coat kept everything from touching his skin. The extra bonus was fleas usually died before they fought their way through his coat.

Bob arrived at Max’s door. “Where is Ellie?” Max was peering over Bob’s shoulder.

“Didn’t bring her she is on cookie guard duty.”

Max didn’t linger. His short legs worked hard to keep up with his taller stocky friend.

“What happens if we get lost in this snow,” Max asked Bob as he pushed his way through the deepening snow.

“Trust me,” said Bob, “we won’t.”

However when they passed a tree they had marked some minutes earlier they sought shelter and had a meeting. “We are lost, aren’t we?” Max nudged Bob as he spoke.

“Maybe we should have a nap?” Bob suggested.

Max objected to this and they continued on for a while until they arrived back at the tree once more. “We are lost.” Bob said.

“What can we do?”

Bob sighed. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this? How is your singing voice?”

“Superb” Max boasted.

So together they began to sing, their favourite, – who let the dogs out.

Within minutes they heard a familiar bark and Ellie trotted up to them.

She looked at both dogs covered in layers of snow and simply said, “hurry up the biscuits are cool, well not as cool as you guys” and she led them home.

Much later, Bob and Max sat beside the fire munching on lavender dog biscuits.

“Do you know Bob it was worth the trip. But perhaps we shouldn’t go out in it again. What do you think Ellie?”

“Please don’t, your singing almost knocked the tiles off the roof.” She mumbled as she rolled over for a snooze.

They simply joined her in their favourite competition; snoring.

(Future trouble lay in the fact that Bob was dreaming of digging a tunnel to Max’s house.)

Odd things you see on Irish Country Roads.

The world might be full of technology but for some people having a conversation and socialising are more important.

This thought stuck with me when I was taking the road to my dad’s house and all traffic was brought to a stop… by a family who were locked out of their farmyard home.

Oddly most of the car drivers (women) were very busy taking pictures, along with oohing and ahhing to worry about the safety of the family of hens. I smiled and tried not to give them a lecture about helping or #RAOK, as I set about returning hen family to their house.

davdav

I began to search for their owner. My first house call was  not appreciated as I woke the home owner judging by his sleepy appearance and his pj’s and slippers. Eventually the lady who owned the hens were found and peace was restored along with traffic flow, as chicks and hens were let in to their yard (through the blue door).

Since then I have noticed most people drive with care on this particular section of road.

A place to hide

Lately we have noticed that in the hotter days of Summer (yes, we do get a few here in Ireland), both dogs appear to disappear.

So I investigated. His loud snoring does have one advantage. He is easy to find.

When i did I discovered a really neat house.

The weeping willow has grown and its drooping curtain of branches forms a perfect hideaway for both dogs. Though, I did get the impression someone was not happy that I discovered their secret.

 

Bob on exercise

We took the (home made) agility gear out and Ellie did her usual, raced over jumps, through the tunnel and kept on going for a few laps until she had taken the tunnel apart.

the best way to use buckets.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to persuade the Bob to have a go. There was no treats in my pocket so the best he could manage was – a roll over!

dav

Summer Fruits

The problem with a big garden is you spend most of your time in it weeding. Sitting in it and reading are dreams of the future when life calms down.

So with June’s great burst of sunshine we were happy to discover fruit! Strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants trotted out – together. I am not complaining and neither are my two four legged friends who, as you can see, enjoy the fruits of the summer.

Bob, loves strawberries and Ellie loves raspberries, so we generally get to eat all the blackcurrants!

mde

I know she dropped one

 

dav

If I am very quiet…then…

dav

Caught!

 

What we brought to the School visit,

We brought a lot of goodies, a lot of preparation (which went straight out the window) and of course the main attraction – The Schoolhouse.

IMG_7738

Once the 2nd Class students saw him, it was question and answer time. And all of the good advice we got was spot on.

We did need plenty of water, tea and coffee afterwards.

The questions were interesting, “Did you always want to be famous?” This one had us dancing on the moon.

“Were did you get your idea from?” This was asked of both Sara and myself, along with, “How exactly do you pronounce your name?” and then out of the blue, “What is your favorite color?” & “I scored for our football team last week.”

Yes it was a fast and furious session.

We were impressed by the fact they all expected a sequel to the book, in fact many.

Colin, their teacher had set them all interesting projects to work on – for example they each had to draw one or two of the smaller characters featured in the book.

It was a terrific learning session for both of us and we enjoyed our visit. In fact we learnt as much from them as they did from us. We left feeling ten feet tall.

I would like to thank the Principal Ms. Ava Boyle and Colin Wickham, for allowing us the opportunity of meeting such a great bunch of kids. And yes I would encourage other authors and illustrators to step out from behind the pages of their books to go meet their readers.

Their review has since appeared on Amazon.co.uk

5*

Absolutely brilliant! Great novel to use for school children.
Review written by:
Second Class Navan Educate Together NS

We are a school in Navan, a town in Ireland. We read “The Runaway Schoolhouse” by Maria Matthews in May 2017. The pupils in our class are aged 7, 8 and 9 years old.
We could not be happier about the book. We found it extremely funny. There are lots of exciting adventures that the Schoolhouse Clearie, the teachers and the pupils get up to.
We all really enjoyed reading the novel and would recommend it to any child, teacher or school who wishes to use it for lessons.
“The Runaway Schoolhouse” even made some of us cry with laughter.

Would definitely recommend the book to any teacher to use it for English and Art lessons, it’s jam packed with a creative, funny and unpreditable story line and the pupils in our class were captivated by the novel.

As a teacher I will certainly be using this novel again in future classes!

Dogs are always pups

For some dogs never grow up and we have plenty of shredded evidence. I bought Bob a soft rug . It lasted two days, so I resorted to making dog duvets for him from old (washed) duvets. 

Now I don’t know what to try next, as you can see she (Ellie) shreds everything. And  Bob? He patiently waits to see if he will be left with anything to lie on.

Double Trouble for Constance Claus.

Double Trouble for Constance Claus.

Constance Claus loves Christmas as much as she loves her husband but, every year from November until December 26th a disaster happens. And at his tremendous age, Santa hated problems. Constance tried to plan ahead as, let’s be honest; most people like to have a trouble free life.

Last year it was the missing gingerbread recipe. The recipe was ancient, almost as old as the cook who had the job of baking five million perfectly formed gingerbread houses. Every inch of the North Pole was searched. This meant the elves were hungry, a lot more than usual and so Constance spent most of her days cooking and preparing meals. If, she often reasoned afterwards, if she hadn’t been busy feeding the hungry elves, then she would have solved the puzzle earlier.  She found it – under the cook’s hat. It had risen as high as his pastry and was stuck to the top of it.

This year she began her anti disaster plan in July. The first thing she did was to make certain there was a copy of the recipe on her tablet. Next, she checked there was an awesome mountain of buttons for the Minion’s dungarees,then, enough paint for the rocking horses and on and on her list went. But she with the help of chief elf Enda,  worked their way through it.

So by the second week of November she was wondering if she could finally relax.

The workshop was thundering through the long menu of toys and electrical gadgets that needed to be made. The new computer department was turning out to be a great addition as the technicians had rigged up a mechanical serving belt which brought the food straight from the kitchen to the tables at lightening speed.

“Too fast for me,” moaned Santa as yet again he was too slow to collect his dinner off the moving belt and it whizzed on to Slim who snagged it.

But dear you are looking all the trimmer for it,” Constance said.

She was sitting before a pretty log fire with Summer, her cat, snoozing on her lap, when her walls began to shake and rumble. Strange, thought Constance. However, when the rumbling increased she jumped to her feet and went to investigate. Summer slid to the ground, shook himself and went off to find a more reliable less jumpy cushion to snooze on.

Constance wondered if Santa and the elves were playing a trick on her so she was a little wary of opening her front door. This was just as well, because when she opened it a chunk of snow slid off the roof and landed on her doorstep.

“This won’t do,” Constance muttered and picked her way through the mountain of snow.

Then she stopped and stared. She giggled because she couldn’t help it. The reindeers were playing dodge the snowball. And due to their very heavy appearance they were making the ground shake and groan under their hooves.

She frowned. “This is terrible, Rudolph you are looking a little chunky tonight.” She mused and then stopped and sniffed the air. He smelt of chocolate and something else. She stared at him.

“Is that marshmallow sticking to your coat?” He backed away and looked at her with huge sad eyes.

She went back inside but instead of sitting in her comfortable chair she peeped out the window.  She noticed some of the reindeer sniff the air and stroll off towards the elves living room. Constance decided to follow.

In the  elves living room she discovered the elves were having a snack. They had taken their shoes off and were sitting before a huge fire toasting smores. “Where did you learn how to do that?” She asked Santa who was managing to toast four at a time.

“Internet.” He said, “Try some. They are delish.”

She tilted her head to one side, “how long have you been doing this?

“Oh only a week or two. It’s just that we get so hungry with the extra work. It is a nice way to relax and we tell stories then head to bed.”

She looked around the room and noticed many of the elves were already asleep in their chairs. Just then the door opened and a young reindeer entered. He walked straight to a sleeping elf and very gingerly took the uneaten smore from the elf’s hand before moving to the next elf.

Constance did not want to be a spoilsport but she was worried. The reindeer needed to be fit and Santa, she knew would eat until his suit was close to bursting.

Over the next two weeks no matter what she did, the reindeer always found a way into the elves sitting room. She wondered if they were paying the elves to leave a door open. No, that is totally silly, she decided.

It was December and the workshop was producing toys at a frantic rate.

There was a “bang” followed by a “pop” and everything stopped. There was a shocked silence. Enda shouted, “lets find the fault.” An hour later they knew the problem. The generator couldn’t produce enough electrical power.

“We need to produce more electricity.It’s knackered.” Was the final statement from their workshop maintenance team.

“Right early lunch and lets chew on it.” Santa said.

Constance went for a walk. She always thought better when left to think by herself. Rudolph accompanied her, with Summer sitting on his back.

“I know you are trying to get fit and slim Rudolph but it is not working. You need a high intensity work out. Cross fit for Reindeers, I think.”

She let the thought rattle about in her head for a while and when she returned to the workshop she called the maintenance team to her.

Three days later the workshop was breaking all production records.

Enda said, “Thank you Constance for your brilliant idea.”

Constance beamed at  him. “You are welcome. I think almost everyone is happy.”

Enda grinned. “Well if Santa insists on eating so much then he has no choice. He can’t have it all his own way, even if his name is Santa.”

They both looked over at the line of reindeer waiting their turn to get on the exercise wheel. Beyond the exercise wheel there was another line of reindeer happily munching on smore flavored hay.  Santa walked alongside the reindeer. A giant pedometer declared, “well done Santa just 5,000 more steps to earn a whole smore this evening.”

christmas 15 for blog 005

Santa wasn’t too worried as he had a date on the 25th with a dog called Bob who was currently stashing marshmallows in his Christmas stocking in exchange for jelly babies.

 

 

 

Progression report from a 50 something gym attendee

Progression report from a 50 something gym user.

I was persuaded by a friend, Moira G, to take her Kettlebell classes a couple of years ago. I did, she was a tough but great teacher and I enjoyed it. Since then things progressed.

My husband became more health conscious and started coming to T-rex classes with me, then he went on to strength and conditioning. I was persuaded to try these classes and we enjoyed the classes. We thought we were doing well, getting fit, strong and more flexible.

Then we were persuaded to try  Crossfit…. which is another realm of fitness entirely. I thought, ‘what the heck, I’ll give it a go and no doubt they will snigger at this hopeless inflexible Irish eejit, I will blush and retire gracefully.’

The first class was an eye opener, learning how to lift correctly, learn new techniques, and learn what a WOD is (basically a fifteen intense – killer- workout). We left feeling very unfit and the next morning very sore. Far from being sniggered at we were applauded by the younger generations for trying it. Yes, we decided we need more of these classes.

Since then I have seen the world from a different angle (standing on my head).  Learnt the difference between clean, clean and jerk, snatch, dead lift etc. More importantly I have learnt my limits and accepted them. I am happy to achieve a level of fitness and attempt to stay healthy and fit.

Has anyone else become a crossfit addict?

Because we have and we are not the oldest members in the gym, though we often feel it.

crossfit-ashbourne-2-jpg

 

Here is a picture of some of the younger enthusiastic members with the two coaches showing off either side of the group.