Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My Visit to The British School of Tashkent

Last week I had a wonderful time with everyone at The British School of Tashkent in Uzbekistan for a school visit arranged by Authors Aloud. At over 5000 miles from home it's easily the furthest I've ever travelled and I really didn't know what to expect. Here's a little map of my journey...

At seven o'clock on Sunday morning I was already up and getting ready to start my journey. My bags were packed and in the car from the night before as I didn't want to risk forgetting anything or having to rush around on the last minute. There's was time for a cup of coffee and then I was on my way to Manchester airport feeling sure that I had forgotten something. 100 meters down the road I made a u-turn and headed back home. I'd forgotten my phone which was still charging in the kitchen. Good job I realised...

No more delays and I'm off down the road and at the airport in less than an hour. I check my case in and then it's through customs and passport control with a couple of hours left until the plane is due to depart. Time for breakfast. Full English... (sausage, bacon, egg, beans, tomato, mushroom, little fried potatoes and toast - plus a coffee) yum!

There's plenty of room on the Turkish Airways plane and I have an aisle seat and an empty seat to my left. Room to stretch my legs a bit... Nice!

This leg of my journey takes me to Istanbul, Turkey. Turkish airlines hand out pieces of Turkish Delight to all the passengers on board (delicious), and as we take off I settle down to listen to some music and read my book - Rick Wakeman's 'Grumpy Old Rock Star and Other Wondrous Stories'. It's a great read and one that I will be dipping into again.
The flight is pretty smooth and we touch down in Istanbul at 17.00 they are two hours ahead of British Summertime so it's taken about four hours to get here. Istanbul Airport is big and busy... its also very warm. I'm not here long though as my next flight leaves in just over an hour.

Another smooth flight though not quite as much room as last time as the people next to me keep wanting to get up and sit down. I listen to my Ipod (Tom Hanks and then Francesca Simon @Simon_Francesca on Desert Island discs... I also watch Jack Black playing R.L. Stein in Goosebumps (a good fun film). 

We touch down it Tashkent, Uzbekistan at 1.05 in the morning... (another two hours ahead of Great Britain so four hours ahead altogether. It takes quite a while to get through customs and passport control but I eventually meet the driver who is going to be dropping off at the hotel. A relief to know I don't have to make my own way there. By the time I get to my room, unpack and get into bed it's after three in the morning - my alarm is set for seven as I will need to get up, shower, have breakfast (cold meats, cheese, bread, olives and other delicious things) and meet the driver again... he has the unfortunate job of taking me to and from school all week. I love driving but wouldn't want to have had to drive myself this week. Drivers in Tashkent have 'an interesting' way of navigating the roads so I was glad of his expertise. 
It's been raining heavily during the night and some of the roads have huge puddles - some very deep ones too - but this doesn't slow anyone down and we plough on through busy traffic towards the school's upper campus.
As soon as I arrive in school I'm made very welcome by everyone I meet... all the children know I'm coming and everyone says hello, shakes my hand or waves... I've never had such a friendly welcome before. Right away I know that I'm going to like it here.

That day is the start of Book Week and everyone gathers in the auditorium for a fun assembly and book quiz. Almost everyone is wearing their pyjamas and carrying a cuddly toy and their favourite book. It's great to see that all of the teachers have their favourite books too (and pyjamas). The teacher's show their favourite books and tell everyone a bit about them... a great way to get children interested in reading is showing how interested in reading you are too. I have the copy of Flat Stanley with me that I had when I was in Primary School and tell everyone a bit about it.
I love the handy seats in on of the libraries...
I'm in school all week and it is a great experience. I get to share stories with everyone, talk about what I do as an author and also try and show everyone how I come up with ideas for stories. Everyone is keen, interested and eager to talk about their favourite books and to show me what they have been doing in class.

As it's Book Week, every class has decorated their classroom doors with a book theme, and they are fantastic. Here's just a few of them.

Above you can see Anthony Brown's Café door and David Walliams' Billionaire Boy and below is pre Nursery's Dear Zoo (the boxes oven up just like in the book to reveal the animal that's inside. there are lots of other great doors and I will post pictures of those later in the week.
Unfortunately, I didn't really get chance for a good look round Tashkent while I was there as I was so busy in school (and so tired afterwards) but I did go out for a nice meal one evening. One thing that strikes me about the city is how green it is, how relaxed it feels and how friendly everyone is. This view from the back of the hotel will give you an idea of how green the city is...

The buildings are a mixture of old and new which gives the city a lot of character... Here's another view from my hotel window. It was roasting out there but thankfully there was air-conditioning in my room so I could keep nice and cool.
 Even though I spend the whole week with everyone it's amazing how quickly the time flies by. On Friday morning I'm up at 5am (1 o'clock in the morning in Britain) so I can shower and head downstairs ready to be taken to Tashkent airport to start my journey home. At Istanbul airport I have an hour or so to wait for my next flight so stop off to buy some Turkish Delight to take home with me...
It's another long flight back home so I read Harlen Coben's excellent thriller 'Fool Me Once', watched Kung Fu Panda 2, listened to lots of music and more Desert Island Discs on my Ipod - Stephen King, Dawn French, Jack Dee, Stephen Fry - and listened to Rhod Gilbert and Alan Davies talk about the way they write their comedy. By the time I got home it was about 5 o'clock and I was worn out... It had been a long day.

I had a fantastic week with everyone at the British School of Tashkent - I made lots of new friends their and had lots of fun. Huge thanks to everyone for looking after me and making me feel so very welcome. Hopefully I will be able to go back again... Take care everyone - have fun reading, and keep in touch.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The British School of Tashkent

This week I'm at the British School of Tashkent in Uzbekistan.  I'm having a great time with everyone and will be writing about it all when I get back home...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

On The Road And In The Air

Tomorrow I will be up early so that I can drive the 60 miles from home to St Bartholomew's C of E Primary School in Rochdale... A BIG HELLO to everyone at St Bartholomew's - I'm really looking forward to meeting you all.

And a BIG HELLO to everyone at the British School of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A bit of a longer journey there - over 5000 miles... Really looking forward to meeting and working with everyone.

On Thursday, my latest little book - "Just Like Me!" will be published by Franklin Watts as part of their Tiddlers series for very young readers. The book only has around 50 words but it can be quite tricky coming up with a little story idea using so few words. Vicky gave me the idea for this one after we visited Chester Zoo and saw someone taking photographs of the Meerkats with their mobile phone when - oops!!! they dropped their phone into the Meerkat enclosure. One of the inquisitive creatures raced over to take a look at the phone and we imagined it taking pictures of us and other people in the zoo.  

Click here to go and visit my web page all about Just Like Me! The page isn't quite finished yet so please keep coming back for another look... I'm working on it right now.

Last weekend we went on a little drive - heading through Betws-y-Coed, past the Ugly House (Tŷ Hyll) at Capel Curig and on towards Snowdonia. I think you will agree that the little house, now a tea room, is far from being ugly. You can find out more about the Ugly House HERE.
Our journey took us along the road through the mountains and past Llyn Ogwen - despite the snow on the mountains it was quit warm.
We didn't really have long enough to go for much of a walk but we did have a little wander along the path that would have taken us up to the higher lakes. We only went as far as this iron gateway before heading back - though we will be returning soon for a good walk.
Jumping back in the car we continued our journey through the Welsh Highlands.
Time for me to get back to work now... lots of writing to do.