It has to be said that I LOVE MY JOB……really REALLY love it, and at any given moment I’m in raptures about a recent gig, I love everything about it, the excitement at new bookings, the struggle to grasp at and find inspiration for what I’ll do, then the euphoria when the inspiration is found, the moment when I feel like a little kid as I get to rush around exploring places, counting trees, picking plants, researching history, then the thrill when it all knits together and the pieces all fit like some amazing magical blanket. THEN when I lay the blanket out in front of a new audience the overwhelming sense of joy when they understand, appreciate and enjoy what I do, I feel euphoric like a 5 year old who’s mother is proud and delighted at her drawings, I feel incredibly grateful and very honoured, and as you can probably tell a little emotional….I’m funny that way, bit of a drama queen, there I admitted it!
So one of this summer highlights was being asked to do two sessions of Scots storytelling for under 5’s and their accompanying adults for The Burns Monument centre in Kilmarnock, by reader in residence and creative writing lecturer Zoe Strachan, through The Scottish Booktrust whose live literature funding program helps schools, nurseries and other groups pay for visits from storytellers and writers (and is currently taking applications for the next season).
My first thought was turn Burn’s ‘To a mouse’ into a fairly simplistic story, keeping some of the original Scots language, using a few modern Scots variants to increase the children’s understanding, do some simple sing a long traditional Scots songs (this is a link to the fantastic Herrin’s Heid which was hugely popular on the day featured on ‘Bairns kist’ by Christina Stewart a brilliant resource recommended by my lovely singing friend Cath of mother and baby singing group Thula mama Glasgow ) with lots of actions in the middle, then finish off with a traditional Scottish folk tale like this one here of my mum telling Rashiecoats.
Zoe was enthusiastic, the bookings rushed in, it was soon fully booked….the child and I loaded ourselves into the car, a research adventure was required.
It started out just as a short trip to Kilmarnock to see the venue, it was lovely, a bright open space with huge windows and natural light, carvings dotted like hidden treasures round the outside, helpful friendly staff, temptingly fascinating old books promising tales of ancestors and family records.
Awakened by enthusiasm and the journey so far and despite the lateness of the day, we decided to venture further afield in a search for ice cream. Bidden by forces unseen we turned left at the junction and found ourselves on the road to Ayr, sometimes instincts are best followed, why not? We had no other plans, an adventure beckoned, we went to the seaside, guzzled teatime ice cream on the beach, the ploughman poet obviously had plans for us that night, we found our way by accident to ‘Burns Supper’ chip shop, who’d have thought it….chips purchased we sat watching seagulls dive provocatively close, tempting us to part with our hot food…..then meandered down to the adventure playground, social norms of childhood routines cast aside by warm sea breeze, we played past bedtime, and made our way back to the car.
Lost? Redirected? Drawn? Hard to say, another turn found us in Alloway, it was all starting to feel a bit magical, it was a bright Summer evening, we found Belladonna appropriately enough on the Brig a Doon, what was more we’d been trying to find Belladonna for the Atropa stories for weeks. We followed a trail past Burns’ cottage, and round the village, I told the child about Rabbie Burns, and ‘To a Mouse’ the children’s version kind of wrote itself.
Spellbound and full of chips we drove home, singing everyones favourite Scottish song: Scots wha hae? Auld lang syne? NAAAAH……You Cannae shove your Granny offa bus…..we invented new verses…
We stopped at the roadside and gathered armfuls of grasses to spread out to make a meadow to tell the story around….I told the child about the life of a farm labourer; the next few days saw cloths tie dyed and scented to form my ploughman’s field, and a wee mouse found, then the session came, it was lovely, everyone at The Burns monument centre was friendly, hospitable and interesting, and the parents and children were enthusiastic and great fun….and the lasting bonus….I now have a portable meadow suitable for a variety of sessions, and can break into a rousing rendition of he Herrin’s heid at the drop of a hat!