Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas short story in the Scotsman 20th December 2014: Do They Know it's Christmas?

You can read the short story here written by Linda and illustrated by Cate.  
Set in Edinburgh’s Sick Kids, this heart-warming seasonal tale tells of a hospital cleaner’s interest in the Ebola crisis, a seemingly lonely young girl, and the connections his kindness enables.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Whatsits arrive for Book Week Scotland!

With Book Week Scotland from 24th to 30th November, come the first three books in our series concerning the 'Whatsits', characters you're sure to meet around Edinburgh 'Sick Kids' who have a life of their own.

There is Sparks, who gets upset in the summer months when no one seems to need him and has to ask the other Whatsits to help him stop the sun shining through the ward windows; Cathy who is very keen to make friends and be helpful, but gets overlooked because she is quiet and small (and has a reputation for scratching); and Edward who is retiring once his patient gets well to a basement storeroom which might just be a bit dark.

For the first chance to come and meet them, see the side bar on 'Workshops'. All three books are available from the 24th in the Hospital shop and there are copies in every ward playroom.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't Forget!: Write a poem or read a poem for National Poetry Day 2nd October

Since I've been writer in residence at the 'Sick Kids',we've always done some special activities for National Poetry Day which have become much more visual since Cate James joined as illustrator. Last year the theme was 'Water' (see the post here). This year, it's 'Remember'. It's a rich theme as we found when memories of the hospital inspired a poem from a member of staff just recently, see here

In preparation for next week, we thought of elephants and their long memories, and asked a few children to compose a poem with us about an elephant character who doesn't forget something. Here's one from four year old Casey about Elvis the Elephant (a good dancer by the sound of things).

Another lovely poem this week, without the memory theme, came from 8 year old Katie who created a rabbit we're hoping will inhabit some foresty decorations on ward 2. She had a lot of fun drawing her and finding some great-sounding words to describe her. Congratulations, Katie, we've made this our 'Scribble of the Month'!

If you'd like to celebrate National Poetry Day, or poetry on any day really, there's some great ideas of what to do and resources on the Scottish Poetry Library's website.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Filming the Mail Porter

A familiar sight as you come into the Hospital is mail being sorted behind the reception desk. The porter, John, then circulates the Hospital at high speed (he gets fit by hill-walking and marathon-running too!), delivering and collecting mail as he goes. His job, perhaps more than anyone else's demands a thorough knowledge of the maze-like site, its linking passages and quirky corners. Having shadowed him on his rounds, I wrote a poem about his journey, using the rhythms of WH Auden's 'Night Mail'. 

Instead of starting with: 
This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.

my poem begins:
This is the mail carried by the porter
bringing get well cards to son and daughter
letters for a doctor, letters for a nurse
letters that are long, letters that are terse.

Auden's poem was written for the film ‘Night Mail’ (1936), and so we decided we should make one ourselves! The purpose is to help create a celebration of the current Hospital site in a creative way, capturing something of the character just before it moves to a contemporary purpose-built site in 2017.
He leaves a pile, collects a pile, goes on his way,
bag dangling by his knees, gathering weight.                                       
Like a black-cab driver or a blinkered horse
distractions and chat cannot turn his course.
His route’s set in stone through secret doors,
banisters that coil between Victorian wards.

Earlier this month, film-maker Sandie Jamieson began filming and taking audio recordings. We're very excited that as she starts to put the footage together, we have Derek Williams to compose and record a score for it and a wonderful reader for the poem with a highly distinctive Edinburgh voice!

See more here

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Posting our memories

Twice a month Cate and I offer a workshop in the medical library for anyone in the hospital community. Typically it's patients, parents and volunteers who come along, but in July we ran one specifically for staff. It's not an easy proposition in a busy working day, but we were delighted to have a small number to work with.

Many adults will say they 'can't' write a poem or draw a picture because they haven't done it since they were at school. However, given the opportunity to 'play' with paper, pens, words, imagination, and given a structured task, it becomes less intimidating and self-consciousness can disappear.

Capturing memories of the Sciennes site before we move to a purpose built hospital is a current priority and staff feelings about it can be quite strong; recollections poignant. 

So how do you put those feelings into a poem? The vehicle we decided to use as a kind of template was, 'The Magic Box' by Kit Wright. We've used it before in the hospital, most notably collecting ideas from different children of their favourite things at Christmas in 2012. The idea is that you imagine a box, give it some kind of purpose, and make verses out of lists of things to put in it. 

In Kit Wright's version, there is a lot of sensory detail, lovely sounds together like 'the swish of a silk sari on a summer night,' and slightly magical images such as 'a snowman with a rumbling belly' adding up to a wonderfully vivid picture. So in the workshop we packed our boxes with outstanding memories of the hospital. 

Here is a lovely example created from our workshop from long-standing speech and language therapist Marysia Nash --- in it she clearly communicates her affection and regard for the Hospital without ever needing to mention those abstract terms. It is the detail that communicates the feeling. We are proud to make her poem our July scribble of the month.

And here is the 'posting box' Marysia refers to - used with children during therapy to allow them to post their attempts at new learning.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Jenny Solver Mysteries

As illustrator and writer, it's often difficult for Cate and me to plan activities to do with children on the wards. One of the things that we do is to stitch a simple book and help prompt an illustrated story to fill it. This can be very satisfying for everybody involved. For 10-year-old Erin who was in the Day Case Unit with an injury to her writing and drawing hand, we got her to do the creative brainwork while we did the writing and illustrating of the book on her behalf.

First of all she came up with the character -- Jenny Solver -- who really likes to help solve mysteries. When her friend Sarah loses an important ring, Jenny springs into action with her torch, special glasses that can see through things, a metal detector and a notebook and pen. Off they go to Cramond Island with a picnic and Jenny's dad who soon falls asleep.

It's a charming story that involves an overnight stay on the island when the tide comes in and a family of rats who have seized the ring. Here are some of the pages from it. 

Here's Cate hard at work illustrating an entire book in half an hour!

Friday, May 2, 2014

How to Move a Hospital part 3

Plans are now getting underway for the building of the new Sick Kids Hospital at Little France, starting this Autumn. You can watch a 'fly through' here of what it will be like. Meanwhile, a Primary 4 class at Preston Street School have contributed some ideas about the old hospital, who is feeling a bit worse for wear, and her journey to the south of the City.  

PJ Bear knew he had to do something. He stood in the car park and faced the poorly Hospital.
‘You’ve already been here for one hundred and eighteen years. Maybe you need a change,’ said PJ Bear. ‘I’ve heard about a place called Little France. We could all go there. You’ll get better.’
France?’ the Hospital muttered. ‘Is it over the sea?’
 'Let’s ask someone,’ said PJ Bear. He wandered off and found a traffic warden.
 ‘Little France is only three miles that way’, she said, pointing.
The Meadows stretched out their green lawns and sighed. ‘We’re going to miss you,’ they said.
All the windows of Sciennes Primary School next door steamed up with tears. 
The Hospital looked towards Little France. And then she began to move. 

The children, came up with some delightful illustrated stories telling what happened next. In one of my favourite episodes, PJ Bear summons millions of seagulls to the Hospital's roof.
He attached them one by one until finally he was ready. 
'Fly seagulls, fly,' said PJ Bear
The seagulls would not move. 
'I think you need to speak to them in seagull language,' said Sick Kids.
'But I do not know seagull language.'
'Let me try. Car, car, car, car,' said Sick Kids.
And they flew. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

 Realising that the Hospital would have to come right past their School, the children also told us how the school might help out. Here they are, side by side, the school on the right with its lovely tower.

In this version of the story, the Hospital launches herself into the air, but needs a bit more help with directions...

And in this one, the two buildings are sisters who haven't seen each other for a long time

By the time she arrives at Little France, the Hospital's feeling an awful lot better, and everyone, including PJ Bear, seems to be happy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mammoths on the Move!

Edinburgh folk will probably know that the National Museum of Scotland have a 'Mammoths of the Ice Age' exhibition on at the moment. It's rather exciting, not least because you can find out how small you might feel standing next to one (they could reach the same size as a Lothian Double Decker bus!).

The NMS has given the Sick Kids a Trunki of Mammoth resources for use by play staff and by Cate and me. We made a start yesterday with 11 year old Maria from Ward 3 who drew a character called MoMo (above) who operates a bus service for children from the Hospital across the Meadows to the Museum! 

Here is Maria's lovely story!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Buzzy Bee

There's a small device called a Buzzy that's used in the hospital to help with pain relief. When he's put on the skin, he vibrates and this together with cold numb the area. And when put between the source of the pain and the nerve pathway to the brain, nerves get confused and there's distraction from the pain. It's often used for young patients who have to have regular injections for example for arthritis.

He's a friendly looking wee chap already but we've made a little postcard poem for the children to take home with them to make him seem even more friendly.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to move a hospital part 2

You may remember that a while ago, Cate and I asked for ideas about how the poor old hospital would move to its new home at Little France. We got so many different ideas which you can see here. Now Cate has put them all together in this big picture which will hang on the wall next to the hospital pharmacy, just outside Ward Four. Do go and have a look.
Also if you pick up a copy of PJ News you’ll get this outline of the picture for children to colour in. Handy for waiting rooms!

The Hospital’s journey continues, and we went to ask some primary four children at Preston Street School for their ideas about how the hospital would find the way when she arrives outside their school, more or less at a crossroads. They had all sorts of wonderful ideas including what the school and hospital would say to each other. You may notice the similarity in the look of the two buildings and they were built almost exactly at the same time, so, as some of the pupils told us, perhaps they are sisters!
We are looking forward to returning to the school next week to hear the stories the children have made up about what happens next on the journey.

Monday, January 13, 2014

We are Three Camels

Rather belatedly here's myself, Noah and Hannah at the Sick Kids Carols for Christmas after performing the poem we composed together. Here's the first verse:

We are three camels               (L N H)

one-humped animals      (L N H)

looking after three wise chaps        (L)

who didn’t even bring a map   (N)

they’ve got frankincense         (L)

but no common sense                     (N)

they’ve got myrrh and gold     (L)

but I’m getting cold                  (H)

We’re wandering, wondering where we are    (L)

and why they didn’t come by car     (N)

Is it very far?                   (H)