Well, I think all our writers have finished their first drafts now, with the exception of one or two stragglers. The quality has been just stunning, so it’s time to celebrate. And what better way of doing that than inviting Michael Rosen onto the blog. He may a best-selling author and former Children’s Laureate, but he gets the same questions as everyone else. (Must say, I do like the sound of his parents, and tip of the hat to Mr Scotney – well done, Sir)
What object are you writing about and what were your first thoughts when we told you?
I’m writing about Muffin the Mule. My first thoughts were of this as something that I could never own and never have. We didn’t have a television and I think my parents thought that television was either not worth the money, was all lies anyway, was too frivolous for serious people like them and you could get it all from the radio anyway. I used to watch Muffin the Mule round at my friends’ houses and found the whole act rather strange and a bit mournful. One day a girl brought a box to school and took out a big metal Muffin the Mule and I was torn between wanting to play with it and pretending to be like my parents and be scornful of it. Really I rather liked Muffin and wanted it.
What lost object from your own childhood would you like to own again, and why?
For a while I wanted the cane I was caned with at primary school, but when I visited the school for its 50th anniversary (I was a founder pupil), they gave it to me. I would like something from my grandparents – perhaps the ship-in-a-bottle that was on their mantlepiece. It was a liner and I would stare at it, trying to figure out how it was put in there because it seemed to be bigger than the neck of the bottle.
Hop into my time machine and it will take you back to one specific hour of your childhood – where and when do you want to go, and why?
I can remember many magic moments around being told stories or being read to, usually by my parents and my brother. But I think I would like to celebrate the fact that our headteacher, Mr Scotney came into our class every week and read us a chapter of what seemed to be the most exciting book ever written ‘Hue and Cry‘ based on the film of that name. I would like to go back to one of those sessions when he read to us, and there were no tests, no questions, we could just sit there in awe of the story and being excited by it.
Can you surprise me with one unusual fact about your childhood?
In 1956, my parents took us to East Germany which was at the time a Communist country whose real name (in English) was the German Democratic Republic. My parents were on a teachers’ delegation and all day, my brother and I had to amuse ourselves – but we got bored and bit naughty so our parents had us put with two families in the countryside. I couldn’t speak a word of German but stayed on a little farm, not far from Weimar. I’m fairly sure that no other 11 year old British boy or girl ever spent any time at all staying with an East German family between 1945 and when the wall came down.
What’s the earliest thing you can remember writing?
A poem about a train slowing down. I can only remember one line from it: “And now the train is slowing down.”