November 19, 2013
Fulwell Junior School, Seaburn near Sunderland
I was so excited to be going to Fulwell Junior School. When we were here in February we met a gorgeous family, the Sayers, who have two beautiful girls, Lilly and Emma. Their mother Christine has been an ardent supporter of Alice-Miranda and she and the girls had often written to me about the books. In February we met at our hotel in Newcastle for about an hour and this time I vowed that we would make a trip to the girls’ school.
Ian and I caught the train to Seaburn – it was an easy journey from Newcastle Central. The thing that struck me most was the number of horses in the fields along the train line.
We arrived in the village and walked past the shops to the school. The head teacher Mrs Carroll was very welcoming as were all of the staff. The library teacher, Mrs Sainthouse was excited to have us there too. It was the school’s first author visit for a long time. They do have a very famous ex student who is a writer – Terry Deary of Horrible Histories fame. Sadly he declined an invitation to speak at the school (and apparently the letter is something to behold).
The first thing that struck me about the school interior were the stunning displays of student art. Mrs Carroll was telling us that they were one of only three schools in the UK to achieve an outstanding for their art program. It was amazing and they are fortunate to have a teacher who is a very accomplished artist and who has shared her skills with the other staff.
The staff and students were in casual clothes and some in pyjamas for a special fundraising day. I spotted Lilly in the corridor dressed in the Alice-Miranda t-shirt we’d given her in February. She smiled broadly and scampered off into class.
Before the first session I had the honour of cutting the ribbon on the refurbished library with a group of school councillors (students elected to represent their class). I think Mrs Sainthouse had found the largest pair of scissors ever seen. I could have done some serious damage with those babies!
The library is a sanctuary space for the children with comfortable bean bags and the most beautiful selection of books. Apparently the students were asked what books they wanted in the library and every single one of them was sourced and added to the collection. I was thrilled to see Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose there too. I saw Emma and she immediately gave me a lovely hug.
I talked to the Year 4 students first and we had a great time. The actors outdid themselves – some wonderful facial expressions and excellent snoring. Ian and I then headed across the road into the village for a bite of lunch. I had a coronation chicken sandwich – I remember having that last year in Chester and decided it had been yummy. I think it must have some curry in it.
Emma and Lilly were both in the second session, which should have been just for Year 5 but Lilly had special exemption from swimming to come along with her best friend Carrie, who had given the girls their first Alice-Miranda book.
I decided to focus more on Alice-Miranda for this talk and chose Emma as the school’s second best tantrum thrower (although apparently she’s not really). Christine came along to the talk as well – and when Emma was out the front giving me ‘the look’ Christine said, ‘Oh I’ve seen that face before’ – hilarious!
I loved meeting everyone and it was great to see Emma and Lilly and Christine again. We planned to have dinner in Newcastle so after a quick train trip back to the city, there was only an hour or so before we caught up with them again and John too. Dinner was lots of fun – and it was great getting to know everyone better. It has been a real joy meeting the Sayers. They are a gorgeous family and I know we’ll keep in touch and see them next time we’re in the UK. They’re coming to Australia for a holiday in 2015- so hopefully we’ll get to see them at home too.
We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront and marvelled at the Millennium Bridge, the Conference Centre which has the most spectacular architecture and the Tyne Bridge (mini Sydney Harbour Bridge).