Sometimes I’d like to push Molesworth’s Fotherington-Thomas in a puddle, but that’s only because all that ‘hullo clouds hullo sky’ stuff is worryingly familiar. I’m never happier than when I’m prancing about smelling the roses but – hey – everyone’s got a vice. For me Devon is heaven, mostly.
My grandfather used to dismiss the countryside as ‘just scenery’. He’d spent his childhood on a dairy farm, nestled in a green valley, a victim of poverty and neglect. As soon as he could afford a motorbike he raced away, straight into the smoggy embrace of the town and never looked back.
It is very beautiful here of course, with the beaches, moors and wildlife all doing their star-turns. People come here on holiday to escape the grind of the city, just for a while. They surf in the sea instead of in Starbucks, eat icecreams, visit gift shops and then return home refreshed. Which is nice.
What isn’t nice, is the discovery that Devon school children receive on average £290 less funding per child than the national average. This is because… well, I’m not sure really. Maybe fresh, clean air and the occasional pasty are supposed to enrich the intellect in a way that books can’t.
What I am sure of, is that when schools are so strapped for cash that they have to surrender their subscription to the Schools Library Service, they are unlikely to have the funds to pay for someone like me to come and visit them (which is a real shame because I love an opportunity to show off my terrible juggling skills). We’re not exactly drowning in the Arts here; for example, we have three theatres in North Devon and two of them have just gone into administration. Again, I’m really not at all clear why our children receive £290 less but maybe I should be grateful, because until recently it was £480 less.Talk about poor country cousins.
I dived into this book-writing lark from within the Devon education system. Being a teaching assistant was a brilliant way of figuring out what children really wanted to read about. I’ve seen for myself how thrilling it is for them to be able to connect the book in their hand with the person standing in front of them. Author visits really do spark the imaginations of both students and teachers.
Contrary to public opinion, the vast majority of authors’ annual incomes are not great (yes, yes JK Rowling, I know) but this World Book day I decided to break every single one of my rules about a) being paid and b) being paid in order that I can do something I’ve wanted to do for ages.
That is to spend World Book Day visiting a school on my doorstep without having to jump through a load of frustrating funding hoops. I also needed to do something to make me feel less annoyed at the government (so you see – not entirely altruistic). Then I was enjoying myself so much, that instead of one school, I found I’d booked in six. Plus dropping into the local library. All before teatime.