Spring is definitely on the way. The snowdrops are everywhere, primroses and the first of the daffodils. Winter, and our recent troubles and sadnesses are behind us.
I haven’t been wasting the bad times. I’ve been doing what so many writers have been doing, writing! So now the stories I’ve been scribbling during all these long months of isolation, are queuing up to come out. I think of them as my snowdrops, and primroses and daffodils, all coming out out at once.
This February, the first of my Farm Tales came out, a World Book Day story, ‘Jemima the Pig and the 127 Acorns’, illustrated by the wonderful Guy Parker-Rees. This is the first of 10 farm stories I’ve written, each one about a girl or a boy who comes down on a school trip to stay on a farm.
All these stories are inspired by the thousands of city children who have spent a week of their young lives living and working on a farm in the countryside, and inspired too by the farmers and teachers who work with them. The farms in the stories are three real farms, Wick, Nethercott and Treginnis, run by the charity Farms for City Children, which my wife Clare set up 45 years ago, and in which she and I worked with the children who came, for 25 years and more.
Out this April is ‘Barney the Horse and Other Tales from the Farm’, three stories about these farms and about these children, and in it you will find one story from each of the farms run by Farms for City Children. Every story will be raising funds for the charity to keep it going, so as to enable the children to come.
I wrote these stories during the long lockdown days when the children couldn’t come, when suddenly there were no children’s voices and laughter on the farm. We missed them so much. But now they are back and they can read all about themselves down on the farm.
Another book out soon, at the end of April, will be the paperback of ‘When Fishes Flew,’ my novel set in Greece, in ancient times and modern, a story told in part by a fish, a flying fish. You won’t find many novels told by a fish!
The theatres as we know have been shut down for over two years. Those that survived are busy bringing new productions to the stage. Just recently I saw the first night of ‘Private Peaceful’ at Nottingham Playhouse. It is a terrific adaptation by Simon Reade, and was done so powerfully. The play will be touring the country here there and everywhere until July. Look up when it will be and come along.
And tomorrow I’m off to see the rehearsals of The Mozart Question, a musical play, adapted from my book by Vicki Berwick, and being produced by The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, where it will be on for a six week, run before touring as well. I am so longing to see this. I think it will be a unique production. Do not miss it!
Meanwhile quietly beavering away, mostly in their homes, are the animators of two feature animations of Kensuke’s Kingdom, and Toto, my version of The Wizard of Oz.
And now that the world is opening up again I will be all over the place doing events at festivals, such as World Book Day, then in Bath, in Oxford, Cambridge, Chiddingstone Castle, Charleston, and Hay. So busy as a buzzing bee. I’ve made my honey and now I want you to taste it!