138: back on the merry-go-round

This has been one of those weeks when – by the time Friday came around – I felt as if I’d been put through the washing machine on top spin and hung out to dry. At least I can never say my job is boring…

Monday was spent catching up with the hundreds of emails that had come in over half term, having what felt like about a dozen meetings. Taking a week off always seems to result in a lot of things that need doing, and not enough hours to do them in, as there is a whole new week of things to do when you get back. On Wednesday we were interviewing for a new role in the team, which meant another day of not getting things done (but meeting some interesting people, which is always a plus), and on Thursday we had a ‘Town Square’ event in Bethnal Green in partnership with St Margaret’s House. Friday was a day on trains: six hours, altogether, on public transport. I was speaking at Brunel University in the morning, then went back to South Kensington for a meeting and then headed home which took many hours thanks to train cancellations.

The Town Square event was a gathering of creative people held at the Tramshed, a converted (yes, you guessed it) tramshed whose architecture echoes that of our own Victorian pile – high ceilings, open space, big windows and no flipping insulation. It was cold, but we did get to hear from Maraid McEwan, our recent inclusive designer in residence and also Kazuko Hohki, who enchanted us with her tales of growing up in Japan believing in The Borrowers. We ate posh biscuits, drank a lot of coffee and brought some of the objects from our growing Learning Collection along with us – echoing the new galleries, we brought Froebel’s Gifts One and Two from the Play gallery; a maquette of Joey from the play War Horse made for us by Little Angel Theatre (Joey will be on display in the new museum, and he can currently be seen in the theatre and performance galleries at the V&A) from the Imagine gallery; and from the Design gallery we brought an outfit by Petit Pli, who feature in the case study ‘Design makes things last for longer’.

The sharp-eyed among you will be saying ‘but what about Tuesday?’. Ah, Tuesday. Tuesday was great. Despite swearing off ever getting on a coach with children again after the Spotlight trip to the V&A last February, with the mash and liquor and projectile travel sickness (amazingly, the two were not connected), I brought a class of Year 5s and their associated adults to the V&A for a very special visit.

The V&A and Penguin have published a book called Jim’s Spectacular Christmas, written by Emma Thompson (and yes mum, she did write it herself!). The star of the story is Jim, who was V&A founder Henry Cole’s dog and who is buried in the museum garden. Jim was immortalised by Henry Cole himself in a set of sketches made in Broadstairs in 1864 – a scruffy terrier type, he became the inspiration for the book. Emma Thompson met all the children, and read some of the book to them (and they all had copies to take home as well as a copy for the school).

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

I had told the school that the children would be meeting Emma Thompson and would be having a ‘Jim experience’ as well as being in the photoshoot (all I can say is thank heavens for this school, as they are pretty much up for any mad schemes I suggest to them) but what I hadn’t told them is that the ‘Jim experience’ was going to be a drawing workshop with the – as it turned out – completely adorable Axel Scheffler. Probably most famous for his work with Julia Donaldson- The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Zog, Room on the Broom, Monkey Puzzle, Tabby McTat and so many more – he’s an absolute legend with those of us who spend a lot of time reading bedtime stories or doing story time with small people.

The kids loved it – he showed them how he had drawn Henry Cole and Jim, and then they drew along with him. He signed the two large pictures he’d drawn to the school, and signed the school’s copy of the book, answered questions and – as far as the children were concerned – he was a much bigger celebrity than the actual author. Oliver the teacher was literally hopping with excitement at meeting Axel. I packed them all back onto their coach and apparently it was ‘the best school trip ever’. I do love my job! Organising the trip (I was just in charge of locating and transporting the participants) had taken several months of back-and-forth with Penguin, our comms team, the learning team and the school, but it was worth it…

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Fun at Fireworks night – helping behind the bar at a local event
  • A very rainy but glorious swim at 10 degrees c this morning
  • Lunch at the Japanese Canteen with the team
  • Catching up with The Power of the Doctor
  • The flock of parakeets in the garden this week

Not making me happy is the pile of ironing in my very near future….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Fever of the World – Phil Rickman

Fairy Tale – Stephen King

Doctor Who: Twelfth Doctor Tales (Audible)

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