Just prior to our exciting sail to Spain on the big and beautiful Brittany Ferries ship we’ve been on an educational trip to inspire our two little boys Daniel and Darley in the infinite wonder of the English language – in the awesome form of Roald Dahl. The author was a great inspiration to both Debs and I, from his stories, but also when I was lucky enough to be part of a group of schoolboys who he told a story to as a “try-out”. We loved the story and that became another one of his published classics: Esio Trot.
So we’ve been reading Dahl’s Danny, The Champion Of The World to our own little champion Daniel. Published 40 years ago, it still has our five-year-old completely captured due to Dahl’s brilliant use of English and exceptional storytelling skills.
Stories such as this are really helping Daniel to learn reading and writing, and he’s a clever little fella, and yesterday it went like this: “Do you think you can write the entire alphabet now?”
“Yes Daddy, especially if we go in my play den to do it – because I’ll get more letters power in there.”
“And perhaps because you have a poster of the alphabet on the wall in there…”
He gave me a little smile and a wink.
So we set off a few days ago to Wendover Woods in the Chilterns to see where much of the Danny story was set, the woods where the pheasants are (and in this pic there is a pheasant, but if you can spot it… well done because I can’t and I took the pic!) and where Danny and his father go for their adventure.
It brought it to life for Daniel and we explained to him the power of imagination and how Roald Dahl had been amazing to think up his stories from perhaps a stroll in the woods one afternoon and the sight of a pheasant legging it in their amusing manner into the woods just as we had seen. (As well, his calling to write about the injustice of human greed and gluttony.)
From there we went to the late great author’s old home Gipsy House in nearby Great Missenden. We were lucky enough to bump into the gardener and have a friendly chat about the house (it’s a private residence by the way, so if you go to see it, keep that in mind).
To his sheer delight, Daniel got a glimpse of the caravan that Danny lived in with his dad, and Daniel realised the similarity between our adventures travelling around staying at the awesome campsites in our cherished Swift Escape motorhome.
It also gave the lesson we hope that being creative is a wonderful thing to do, and can be a way of making a living. This was not the case when I told our school careers master that I wanted to write for a living. “Have you considered joining the police?” he said without pausing for breath (or it seems listening). I’m sure being a police officer is very rewarding, but it was not my passion, it was not the music inside of me. We hope and wholeheartedly encourage our boys to let out their own music in their lifetimes, to fulfil their potentials – as we all should with this gift of life we’ve been given
Next it was to the garage on the high street behind which Danny lived in the caravan in the book (and drawn here for Dahl’s book Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life). Our boys loved this and it allowed for a little History lesson too as Daniel said he’d been imagining as we read the story that it was a modern-style garage.
Back home, Daniel pressed the Donate button on the screen of our Macbook (thank you Steve Jobs) for our little donation to UNICEF, something we’re doing for every place, person or thing we specifically visit as part of our Education By Astonishment adventure (and something we encourage any parents and children out there to do too if they do something similar: an act that reminds us how lucky we are to be able to make such trips, and a lesson in life of the abundant value of thinking of others and the priceless gift of giving).
We reflected that it had all been lots of fun, and Daniel asked for another chapter of Danny at bedtime. Then another…
We’d been invited as speakers on the Experts’ Theatre where we were interviewed by fellow adventurer Richard Harpham. We even did a little outdoor clothing fashion show presented by Kate Lawler, wearing such as my favourite Craghoppers fleece and praised its NosiLife insect repellent clothing, which is going to come in handy to stop those pesky bites on our new trip to Spain, Morocco and Portugal. It was all loads of fun and with our two little boys aged five and three, it was also all “authentic” as the show’s organiser Paul put it… But if we inspire just one person to travel or spend some time on an educational trip with the wow factor, then that means a lot to us.
We had a few wonderful surprises there: first was seeing ourselves on the big screen at the excellently lively Camping & Caravanning Club stand when our friend’s daughter Ella cried out: “Look, that’s you!” Then, after some faceprinting (thank you Gullivers adventure parks people!) on the stand that transformed our boys into a cat and a dog respectively that then started chasing each other, we saw some owls that captivated us all and stopped all that woofing and meowing!
The show was great and if you’re at all into camping or thinking about it we’d urge you to get to the next big show in October. And we’d urge you to get outdoors and stay on a campsite before then! The great outdoors with all that fresh air and fun is just awesome, and we think for children it has the best educational value.
We know not everyone can travel and camp out as much as we will be over the next weeks (and we are full of gratitude for being lucky enough to be doing so) – but perhaps everyone actually can, if prepared to do as we’re meeting an increasing number of people have: sell up and go for it!
Get out there and on the road, and keep in mind the wonderful words that Roald Dahl once wrote: “Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you!”