Thursday, 30 December 2010

Fell Running

I've had such a buzz out of running on the hills in the last three months. I love it. It's hard, especially uphill. But, once you're up there on the flat, you feel like you're flying. I like it in the mist best. Shapes looming out at you.

I want to 2011 to be the year I took part in fell races. I will need to train for months to make sure I'm not just walking most of it, arriving at the finish line when everyone else has driven home. But I'll get there. There's a fell race in May round here. That'll be my target.

I'm really missing it now. I've had this stupid calf strain for two-and-a-half weeks and it's still not 100%. But I reeeeeeeeeeeally want to go up on the fells on New Year's Day.

So... I'm going for a quick three-miler now. Nice and slow. If I come home unscathed, I'll go on the tops on 1st January.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Elizabeth Beresford

The creator of the Wombles, Elizabeth Beresford, died over Christmas.

When I was a boy I didn't read. But I did watch The Wombles on TV. I worshipped them. Especially Tomsk. My grandma made me a Tomsk and I loved him. I had the Wombles LP, including Remember You're a Womble, etc. One of the first presents my wife bought me was a Tomsk.

I loved them so much that I wrote to the author. And she wrote back. It was hand written. She was glad I liked Tomsk, she said. He was one of her favourites too. That letter meant the world to me. My dad framed it for me. It was amazing: a real author had written a special letter to me.

I get letters from my readers. Not as many as Elizabeth Beresford will have got, but I get a few. When I answer them I make sure I take my time and make it personal. I hand write it. And every time I do it I think of Elizabeth Beresford and what she did for me.

My daughter started reading the Wombles in November. She loves them too. We were planning to write a joint letter to her.

Friday, 17 December 2010

2010 THE END

This is my 100th blog of 2010. It might be the last. It might not.

I did my last school visit of the year today. A small school above the Calder Valley in Old Town. I talked about my books, but mostly encourged the children to talk about what they like to read.

I am looking forward to this holiday. Twenty-five days off without having to speak in public.

Don't get me wrong: I love school visit. And I love talking to children. But I've done four days a week for fifteen weeks this term and I'm shattered. I need a break. Like lots of us do, adults and children.

The only other reason I'll blog is after the Hot Toddy race on 27 December. I have been training for it all year. Twice a week. I did it in 52 minutes last year. My revised target for this year is 45 minutes. I wanted to do it quicker, but I did my calf in last week and am still hobbling, so have lost the last fortnight's training. Oh well.

Next year it's fell running.

Thank you to all the schools and libraries and readers and parents who have been in touch and invited me in this year. I have loved it.


Friday, 10 December 2010


This is Jordan.

Jordan sent me a letter to say he liked my books.

It was such a nice letter that I wrote back to him, saying if he wanted I could come into his school.

Then his teacher emailed me and we sorted it out.

I went to see him yesterday. And his classmates. He went in goal for the penalty shoot out thing I do. He was very good.

There was a lot I liked about Jordan. He was funny. He made his classmates laugh. He was a good keeper. And, with his school being only a mile from Elland Road, he was a huge Leeds United fan.

Thanks for a nice morning at your school Jordan!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Workshop with Reluctant Writers

I did a session with nineteen year-sevens today in Port Talbot. They had been identified as reluctant writers, boys and girls. It was great fun.

Here's what we did, having put them in teams:

One: reading

I did a quiz with them about things you can read about football (newspapers, magazines, books), as well as encouraging them to talk about what they like to read. For each correct answer they were awarded a penalty. They took penalties. I kept score.

Two: creating characters

They chose a celebrity (footballer, reality TV person, singer) and created a profile of them, finding five nice things and five not-so-nice things about them. They used books, newspapers, magazines and the internet. The idea was to create a character they could use in a story later. They presented their profile and were awarded between one and five penalties. They took penalties. I kept score.

Three: what, who, when, where, how, who, why?

They planned something unpleasant for their character. Kidnap. Murder. Etc. Then they asked the above questions. What happened? Who did it? When? Where? Then why and how? This helped them create a story. They worked up the story then presented it. They were again awarded points, equalling penalties. Then they took penalties.

By now I had a final score. The winning team won a nice price. Cash.

The librarians said they'd really enjoyed it, had produced surprisingly good work and had behaved.

It was a great day and I thank Port Talbot Libraries, especially Paul Doyle.

There are more free ideas for school and library activities on my website at

Friday, 3 December 2010


I am still loving writing this book about football and WWI.

While I was adding some pictures of the settings that George (my co-author) sent me, I was listening to a WW2 fighter pilot talking about the experience.

At the end of the interview he was asked 'How do you want to be remembered?'

He replied 'As someone who did his duty.'

And it struck me that that is what George and I have been talking about. Our character's duty during trench warfare and, after, to his football talent.

Duty. Does it sound like a good title?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Writing a New Story

I've been having a great day: I've started a new story.

The National Literacy Trust is runningPremier League Reading Stars in schools from 2011. I have been involved in designing the scheme and writing the materials for it. One of the things they have asked me to do is write a ten-part episodic cliffhanger story to be read at the end of each session.

I've decided to bring my Football Academy and Foul Play books together in the story: Danny Harte meets Jake Oldfield and together they save the world. Something like that.

And I'm loving it. It is great to be writing about Danny again. He's my favourite character.

I am just at the planning stage now. I need ten 700 word chunks, each ending with a dramatic cliffhanger. Then I'll start writing on Monday.