Marvellous Morning at Malmesbury Abbey

What a morning!  As the sunlight poured 100 people into the radiant Abbey I felt the love and acceptance of those who had generously given up their morning to come and meet me.  Many had already read my book, and I was particularly touched by the person who asked the first question and said she now sees people with disabilities differently – this is one of the reasons I wrote the book, and the other is elicited in the nub of her question: Jesus is the most important part of my life, and he can be in yours too.

Particularly humbling, some had travelled a long way for the morning including David the CBBC My Life film producer from London and the two ladies from Wales who had spent two hours following erroneous routes on the Sat Nav!

Judging the poems which have come in following the poetry work shop has been a tricky morning’s activity, with some penning their first poem and others rediscovering a lost love.  Every one of them was a unique: an acrostic, a repeated refrain, even a limerick.  Sadly, there wasn’t space for them all, so I chose two for the children’s section, two for the adult section (one about the Abbey and one about the morning) and a wonderful review of the event from Harry, who like me is in secondary school and has cerebral palsy.

Winners of the children’s section:

I like your face, its cute.
I like your poem
And I love your heart
(by Edward aged 7)

I love this place,
and I love coming
to meet you
(by Evie age 5)

Winner of the adult section – a poem about the Abbey

Majesty, Enormity,
Symmetry, Uniformity,
Variety, Diversity,
Embracing life’s perversity.

Is the generosity of the Love of God here made manifest
Granting even my request to live the life that He has blessed?
(by Ann)

Winner of the adult section – a poem about the morning

Hurrying

Jonathan and William
Two authors, Two poets
From distant Eras
United by their teaching power

I’m hurrying, no surprise there!
Road closed, no way through
Coming to Abbey
To see, hear a beautiful intelligent mind.
A unique portal, published at 12
Not bound by his handicap
Not bound into his mind.
Oh such a beautiful, handsome young man to behold!

A hurried coffee and a yellow ripe banana
breakfast hurried
Hair wet and ready to go
Prayed for sunshine, it’s coming through
Daffodils clapping, oh Wordsworth
Would be happy
As we are to welcome this beautiful mind.
(By Michelle)

Harry’s review of the morning:

Meeting Jonathan and listening to his poems and his stories at Malmesbury was exciting because he really inspires me to do anything you want to do. When I got to the abbey, there was a beaming light shining through the colourful patterned stained glass windows coming from the sun and me and my mum then sat down. It was so exciting waiting for the show to start as I had been waiting for this trip for so long. Then it started…

From my seat, I could see Jonathan and his mum, Chantal. The show started with a lady at the front, saying thank you for coming. Then they showed us a video of Michael Morpurgo reading Jonathan’s book. At the end of the video, Michael asked some questions and cheeky Jonathan answered back with a cheeky answer!

Jonathan’s sister, Susannah, read a poem and then a friend of Jonathan’s, Andy acted out his story of Rumplestiltskin. The audience asked Jonathan some questions about his story and Andy showed us the way Jonathan plans his stories and poetry. Then the show ended and then Jonathan was going to sign our books! I went to the end of the line but it was taking a long time and so I talked to Andy for a bit. Finally I got to the front of the line, and I got a chance to talk to Jonathan and his mum. We talked about how Chantal told Jonathan about me being on the radio with Lost Voice Guy. Then he stamped my book and then I asked the all important question. “ Where do you get your ideas from?” Then he answered “ My mind”. Then we all chuckled, then we left. I left knowing that I had met one of my heroes!

Finally, the limerick made me laugh:

There is a young man called Jon,
Who uses big words with aplomb.
His unique writing board
And his love for his LORD,
Has led to the fan base he’s won!

JB and books

40 books all sold!

JB and David

Me and David

susannah reading

Susannah reading my words

 

Broadcast Award Winner!

Last night the CBBC programme about my life won Best Children’s Programme at the Broadcast Awards despite strong competition from the likes of Horrible Histories Series 7. If you missed My Life: Locked in Boy the first time round you can watch the programme via the Teach Us Too website here.

Special congratulations to David Metcalfe, the wonderful cameraman and director, who has also become a friend; and Lewis, now officially the best voiceover as well as the best friend.

You can read why the judges chose my film here

A Morning with Me at Malmesbury Abbey

Come and meet me, watch a video of Michael Morpurgo read an extract from my book and join a poetry workshop on Saturday 2nd March at 10.30am. 

What is more, the event is free, the coffee shop will be open and I will be stamping books. You can even win a stamped copy by entering your poem from the workshop into the competition. What is there not to like?

Book your free ticket on Eventbrite here to confirm your place.

Dogged Persistence

For as long as I can remember I have wanted a dog; so when I started to spell, asking for a dog was one of the first elongated conversations I had with my parents. That was four years ago! Since then Susannah has joined me in a sustained campaign for a dog, which we have worked on together with increasing intensity.

Big events in my life get celebrated in poetry, and so I needed to find a poem to fit our campaign. Below is a pantoum which is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first. Always up for a challenge, my pantoum is dedicated to my fellow campaigner, Susannah.

In the Bible, Jesus tells the story of the persistent widow who goes on and on until she gets what  she wants – dogged persistence delivers its dues.

Dogged Persistence

Dogged persistence delivers its dues, 
The pattering of tiny feet suggested,
No more babies? We need a dog – don’t refuse, 
Drip, drip, drip; slipped into conversation, requested. 

The pattering of tiny feet suggested, 
The campaign of perseverance swelling, 
Drip, drip, drip; slipped into conversation, requested; 
The reasons rehearsed: our arguments compelling. 

The campaign of perseverance swelling, 
Pitter, patter, pitter, patter: soon to be our news, 
The reasons rehearsed: our arguments compelling, 
Dogged persistence delivers its dues.


Oxford Brookes Inclusion Conference

On Friday I attended the Oxford Brookes Inclusion Conference and shared my message of literacy for all, selling a lot of my books and leading a seminar with Mummy and Sarah for Teach Us Too. Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing teachers say they will look at the education of children with PMLD in a different light.

If you know of any good ways to get my message out then please leave a comment below or email Teach Us Too via their contact page.

obuinc

Blog Tour Bonanza

What a week!  When I approached bloggers to be part of my tour, I could never have imagined what would happen because of it: 44 new Twitter followers and connections, a proposed magazine article and, most exciting of all, an invitation to lead a seminar at Oxford Brookes University’s Inclusion Conference for trainee teachers.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on the blog tour, and particularly to the bloggers for their wonderful reviews.

Book Blog Tour

Today is the start of my Book Blog Tour, and I am very excited and honoured to be featured by seven different bloggers throughout the week.  For my grandparents and anyone else who is unsure what a Book Blog Tour is:

What is a Book Blog Tour and how does it work?

Every day this week my book will be reviewed on a different blog, along with two questions I have answered about a theme from the book.  As the links to the reviews go live I will update them below so you can click on the blog name and see the review.

Monday 7th January:

Elly Chapple at: Can Do ELLA

Last year I met Elly at FestABLE, where she invited me to talk as part of the seminars she was leading.  Elly is the mother of Ella, who like me has been labelled with PMLD, but believes firmly in ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t’, and is working tirelessly to #flipthenarrative for children in special needs education.

Questions I have answered:

  • How have parents reacted to Teach Us Too?
  • What would you say to someone thinking of starting a literacy journey with a non-verbal child?

Tuesday 8th January

Tanya Marlow at: Tanyamarlow.com

Tanya is an author, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality, and is a campaigner for those with chronic illness, disability and M.E.  Through the Association of Christian Writers I came across Tanya and I also really enjoyed her article in The Guardian: Don’t tell your child not to stare at disabled people – we are already invisible enough.

Questions I have answered:

  • What is the message you would like the wider public to take from your book and campaign?
  • What can the church do better to support those with disabilities?

Wednesday 9th January

Linda Hill at: lindasbookbag.com

Linda is a self-retired ex-English teacher, educational consultant and inspector, who runs an award winning book review blog.

Questions I have answered:

  • Why do you think children are so captivated by Michael Morpurgo’s writing?
  • How has Michael Morpurgo influenced you as an author?

Thursday 10th January

Jo Swinney at: joswinney.com

Jo is a Christian writer, speaker and editor, and I am looking forward to meeting her in March.

Questions I have answered:

  • We understand the faith element has been contentious in some areas of the media. Why is it so important that you keep Jesus in your story?
  • What difference has prayer made to your journey?

Friday 11th January

Lucy Rycroft at: lucyrycroft.com

Lucy writes about Christian adoption and parenting.  Head to her blog on Friday to be entered into the draw for a free signed copy of Eye Can Write.

Questions I have answered:

  • How important has family been to your story?
  • Can you describe the relationship with your sisters?

Saturday 12th January

Shaz Goodwin at: jerasjamboree.co.uk

Shaz is a part-time Inclusion Lead at her local school and blogs about books.

Questions I have answered:

  • What have been the most effective ways that people have included you?
  • How easy is it for you to include friends in your life?

Sunday 13th January 

Wendy Jones at: wendyhjones.com

Wendy has worked as a nurse and in academia, and is a Scottish writer and runs the Association of Christian Writers.

Questions I have answered:

  • How do you answer people who say: Why do you think God gave you this condition?
  • Today is the 9th anniversary of your transplant.  What would you say to someone unsure of signing the donor register?

Happy New Year!

As one year draws to a close and another begins it gives a chance to look back and reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019.  And what a year 2018 was!  With the airing of the My Life programme in February and the publication of my book and launching of my charity in July, three big projects I had been working on came to fruition.  Each of those projects are opening new avenues and creating new opportunities as I look forward to 2019 with enthusiasm and anticipation.

The first excitement is my Book Blog Tour, which starts on Monday.  Join me and my book as we are reviewed by different bloggers every day next week.  Each blogger will also feature two questions and answers which I have written on themes covered in my book.  Do head over to the blogs to read the reviews and see what I have shared.

Lambeth Palace – Guest Carol Service

Last night I was privileged to attend the Lambeth Palace Guest Carol Service, which was a beautiful reflective Christmas celebration.  Archbishop Justin asked me to share a thought for the occasion, which my sister, Susannah, read delightfully; I was so proud of her.

Here is the piece I wrote which she read:

‘Stories have always been a large part of my life; stories I have grown up listening to, stories my imagination has inhabited, and latterly stories I have written. This year I have had the privilege of sharing my story with a wider audience, and in turn have been rewarded with hearing the stories others have shared with me.

When we share our stories, we give an insight not just to the polished outside appearance, but also a sense of the struggles and difficulties on the way.  Through them we can learn from each other, what binds our common humanity and the differences that make us all unique.

Christmas gives us a chance to look back over the year, and as I look back over my extra-ordinary year, it is not so much the big events that I look back and cherish, but the people who have shared some of their story with me. People like Anne, who wrote to me and said that although she had been very involved in church, she had lost her faith 17 years ago when her father died.  After reading my description of the Garden, Anne realised that God is there, helping and guiding her every day.  She ended her letter ‘thank you for sharing your faith and restoring mine’.  It is humbling that God uses our stories in this way.

Then there was Mya who is non-verbal and, like me a few years ago, labelled with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.  Mya communicates with a blink for yes and a stare for no.  As Mya’s mother read my story to her, she would sigh at the common misperceptions we both experience.  When her mother had finished she asked Mya if she would like to learn to read and write.  Her affirming blinks were rapid and enthusiastic. Now, Mya has started a literacy journey of her own.  Recently she spelled out ‘I can’.

And at Christmas time we celebrate the greatest story of all.  God the author also became God the character as Jesus came to join our story.  He entered the mess and complication, participating in our common humanity and demonstrating a radically different way to live – God’s loving way.

But the story didn’t end 2000 years ago, and it doesn’t end every year when the decorations come down.  When we invite Jesus to share our story, our lives become woven with the greatest story of all.’

 

 

Rising Star Award – runner up

On Tuesday evening I was honoured to attend the DSC’s Social Change Awards at the House of Lords.  In a marquee on the terrace overlooking the Christmas lights on the banks of the Thames, we talked, met and exchanged ideas about running charities.  Meeting and chatting with Beth Rowland, the winner of the Rising Star Award, was one of the highlights of the evening – a very deserving winner and beautiful person.

Below is a picture of my runner up prize: a wonderful cartoon by Grizelda, cartoonist at Private Eye.

DSC prize