Home Lost in Childhood Penny Ives for Lost in Childhood: a guestblog

Penny Ives for Lost in Childhood: a guestblog

by Louisa Klein

Lost in Childhood continues with a nostalgic and poetic, yet very lucid guest-blog by  the very gifted and talented children author and illustrator Penny Ives. I do hope you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I did, publishing pieces like these one make us proud to run this website. Have a good reading!
 
When I was nine or maybe ten, I spent hours in the wood shed at home, writing dismal songs and poems. My companion was our equally joyless dog, a barrel-chested Basset Hound who hated everyone except my father. She was there under sufferance, the gloomy mother of eight fat puppies, indifferent to both their hopeful whimpering and my hopeless verse. Encouraged by our school teacher Miss Grayson, I laboured over long descriptions of life on a desert island or the delights of sunny Spain (real imagination called for here, having only travelled as far as Wales) and the glories of an evening summer walk. But why I trusted kind Miss Grayson’s judgement, I can’t imagine.
In the purgatory of our sewing class, wasn’t it she that cooed approvingly over our crocus embroidered tray cloths speckled with blood? Sleeping Beauty had nothing on us when it came to the pricking of small fingers. And didn’t she make equally rapturous comments over my felt cat, with its blocky little body and fixed green eyes bulging dangerously from an over generous stuffing of kapok? Supposedly buoyed up by my questionable needle work skills, I applied the same technique to the weekly creative essay. Every sentence was packed with as many adjectives as my vocabulary would allow until the lines rolled over and gave up, the evening summer walk weighed down with “…in the warm, dusty air, a splendid, shimmering pheasant picked his royal way into the flaming, brilliant red of sunset.” Surely, Miss Grayson had been tempted to put a line, black as a raven’s wing, through that lot? It may come as no surprise that I moved seamlessly on from the descriptive limits of “The Famous Five” stories by Enid Blyton, where I had dreamed of being Anne (blond, with two brothers and a bicycle- I had neither) via James Bond( a paperback found in a holiday caravan), “ The Yellow Triangle”( my mother’s library book), “A Puffin Quartet of Poets( price three shillings and sixpence) to Lawrence, Laurie Lee and Orwell and anything else I could lay my hands on in our small town library. At last, I realised that language didn’t have to be as purple as a blackberry stain but could be refined and wonderful, sensuous and thrilling. So when I heard the other day that infant school children will be taught only using phonics and that the letter “Z” won’t be included until they are quite ready for its dizzy sound, regardless of whether they have already begun to recognise words and happen to like the word ”zoo”, my heart sank.
A year or two into school, my own life had been blighted by “Janet and John”, a dull pair if ever there was and here we are in 2012 with a letter z-less world , cut backs in budgets and the closure of local libraries. Without my English teachers, the library and the freedom to buy whatever I liked with birthday book tokens, how thin and flat my childhood would have been- no quirky EH Shepard drawings, no peppery voice of Mary Poppins. And now, as a writer (albeit not a very good one), I try to resist the lure of the adjective and put a line through them before either the editor does or my readers fall asleep with boredom. Copyright Penny Ives 2012.
 
To know more about the author and be stunned and impressed by her stunning and impressive illustrations,, please visit her website:  http://www.pennyives.co.uk

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