Meet the Team – Peter Stretch

Meet the Team – Peter Stretch

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

I’m so blummin’ lucky. When I had the idea to write Peter Digs A Den there was just me, sat on the front room floor with a scrap of paper and a few rhymes. I have to be honest that it didn’t take long to write the story at all because the story was already there waiting to be told, but editing, checking, rewriting, checking again, getting feedback, rewriting, thinking about giving up then cracking on with determination, those things took time. But like Helen Keller says in that quote “Alone we can do so little” I needed people to make this dream a reality.

I’m lucky that I have very talented friends and family, even luckier that they support me in what I want to do. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to introduce you properly to the people who are making Peter Digs A Den a project with wings not just a poem in a notebook.

The first person I’d like to introduce is my father Peter Stretch who very kindly read and recorded the book for our Audiobook version. Not only has he done that, he gave editing advice, continual emotional support and encouragement and not just by telling me to ‘get on with it’ but by leading by example. Pete has always done what he likes, in the best way. If he has an idea worth doing, he’ll give it a go. He’s shown me to not fear exposure, to be brave in the face of criticism and that ‘you only live once’.

Here’s his answers to the daft little questionnaire I sent out to the people I’m working with.

Name:  

Pete Stretch

 

Age:

68

 

Where you grew up:

Furness Peninsula

 

Where you live now: 

Whangamata Coromandel New Zealand

 

Describe your childhood in three words:

Bewildering, blazing, brilliant

 

Did you have a den growing up (or a secret place)? 

Yes, but I’m not telling you where.

 

What do you do for a living? 

Photography, Music, Writing, Tour Group Leader

 

How do you think your childhood experiences affected your choice of career? 

Not at all, until I moved to New Zealand, where I reinvented myself as a boy of 7.

 

What lessons from childhood do you remember the most?

How to fill an inkwell, and weigh rosehips.

 

If you could give a child advice what would it be?

Stay a child until you are least 92.

 

Pete forgot to mention he also does stand up comedy didn’t you Dad? 

In a couple of months time you might see Pete bodding about the British countryside (and indeed the towns) with a lucky load of Kiwis on tour.

For more information please visit www.thebritsjob.com

Photograph by Linda Storer (who is not only an amazing photographer but an amazing woman)

 

 

 

Walking

Walking

Why we walk

IMG_0683We tend to walk a lot in our family, in fact I get really frustrated if I haven’t been on a walk during the day and I know my youngest son feels the same. He gets grumpy and acts out, he needs that outdoor time and that exercise. It hasn’t always been that way though. When I used to live in a lovely cottage right next to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway line, surrounded by woodland, with a huge garden and public footpaths everywhere I rarely walked to the shops or to see people, it was simply too dangerous on the roads with two small children. We would occasionally go on a stroll through Haverthwaite Heights or follow the path along the railway line (out of season), but I didn’t make it something we did regularly and I regretted that as they got older.

When my third child was born I made a very conscious decision that we would walk everywhere as soon as he could. I even ditched the car completely. Even before he could walk I would pop him in the sling or the buggy (depending on how far and how long I was going) and get out of the house every single day. It changed my life and it certainly affected him in a very positive way. From the moment he could walk (aged one) we were off. We would toddle over to the park, or to the shops, down to Grandma’s or simply to see the neighbour’s chickens around the corner. Now he’s three and walks a mile or more each day with no difficulty whatsoever. He rarely complains, his road sense is way beyond his years and the benefits from spending that amount of time outside are noticeable. Walking has developed his observational skills, his gross and fine motor skills and his knowledge of the world around him. I believe walking so much is one of the reasons my youngest is so incredibly confident.

I understand everyone brings their children up the best way they know how but I do feel a little sad when I see children as old as three or four strapped into a buggy. I know it’s not feasible for everyone, what I do, and I know from experience that starting to get your kids to walk everywhere later is much harder than if you start them really young. They simply don’t have the stamina. But sometimes I wonder if some parents just really underestimate their child’s capabilities, and maybe they don’t realise (like I did) if your kid walks, they sleep.

20160320_163119806_iOS.jpg
Walking at Ennerdale aged 2 – see that Crag in the distance? He’d just climbed that… with a little help.

Of course you need snacks, and you need drinks and you need to be patient and prepared. You need to overestimate how long it will take you to get somewhere, not because of their tiny little legs but because of the other wonder of walking with children; they notice things. A child’s viewpoint of your path is a very different one to the one you’ll see. The mini-beasts and insects, the leaves, the plants in cracks in the walls. The broken tarmac, the odd things in a drain, the discarded rubbish. Everything is interesting to a toddler. Being part of their world is a wonderful way to embrace the present, it’s an act of mindfulness and therefore as beneficial to you as it is to them.

IMG_1575The other day my son and I were walking the three quarters of a mile into town, something we do together most days and he asked me, “where are the grasshoppers?” Now last summer we had been walking this path and there had been twenty or thirty grasshoppers chirruping on the pavement, we had stopped and J had watched them for five or ten minutes in absolute amazement. I couldn’t believe he could remember something from such a long time ago considering how young he was then and still is. I explained it wasn’t warm enough yet and that we would have to wait a little while before they came again. My heart melted.

Little moments like that, or the times we stop to pick up a beautifully striped snail shell, or to notice the seasonal changes of the trees, or blow a dandelion clock and watch the seeds float away on the breeze, or watch the diggers developing the new emergency centre, these are all learning moments. Moments that would fly by in a flash had we been in a car. Moments that are building his sense of the world and his place in it.

There are movements all over the country encouraging children to walk to school, not only to lower the amount of congestion outside school gates and the pollution caused by all that traffic but to promote healthier lifestyles for children. My son may not understand the benefits of his morning walk yet but I know the walk to to the bus stop and then to nursery (a good 25 minutes walking) helps him prepare for his day. He’s not rushed, he’s not stressed, he’s ready to learn. His muscles are warmed up, his brain has woken up and he’s focused.

Next week is national Walk To School Week, children all over the country will be taking part in this drive towards healthier living and you can to. Ask your child’s school if they are taking part and what you can do to get involved. And if you can’t walk to school then take a short walk after dinner, it doesn’t have to be far, it doesn’t have to be in the countryside. Let your children lead the way and just step outside.

Amy x

Interesting links

Ulverston Walks

Walking Britain

Raising kids who love to walk

Walk to school week 

Hello!

Hello!

imageOur project

Peter Digs A Den is a beautifully illustrated children’s book told in rhyme, written by me (Amy Stretch-Parker) and illustrated by Kate Brunskill. It’s the story of a small  boy with a big idea. Peter has a dream, to build a den big enough for his entire family (and all their pets) to sleep in. He works hard to get the money to buy the tools he needs and works even harder to achieve his goal.

Our book is still a work in progress but we have created the storyboard, developed the illustrative style and have researched and decided upon the best way to print, market and promote our work. The story has been edited and has received very positive feedback.

How it all began…

IMG_0811

I love where I live. The Cumbrian landscape inspires me daily, which is why I decided to embark on creating Peter Digs A Den. I wanted to tell the story of a child who grew up like I did, surrounded by beautiful countryside, unlimited by fear but in an environment full of potential risk taking opportunities. Where a simple dream can become a reality with hard work and determination and where isolation (and often boredom) fuels the imagination.

Cumbria has a rich literary heritage, especially for children’s literature. The Lake District is the place Peter Rabbit came to life and where Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons ventured into the unknown. It’s wild and rugged and the perfect setting for a children’s story.

Our Peter is real. This isn’t the story of a child with magical powers, this isn’t the story of another world.This is simply the story of a boy who has an idea, figures out what he needs to do to accomplish it and sets to work. It’s a story that all children can relate to. It’s a story that will hopefully inspire children to self-motivate; that sometimes the journey is the reward, that sometimes the simple things in life are the greatest pleasures.

My partner was homeschooled. His opportunity for self-directed play unfettered by a classroom environment. One day he decided to dig a den in the garden and so he did. This is his story. Opportunities for digging a den in a back garden are few and far between these days, but the simplicity of his decision to do something, figuring out how to buy the tools and setting to work spoke to me on many levels.  It reminded me of all the things I deemed possible when I was little; digging my way to China with a bucket and spade on the beach, flying to the moon in a cardboard rocket, winning the Eurovision song contest with mine and my sister’s song “I can stand on my own two feet”. His simple tale of digging a den inspired me to follow one of my childhood dreams. Writing a children’s book. And so I did.

The illustrator

Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting people, especially when you live in such a remote area as Cumbria. The community I live in is full of artists and reaching out to find an illustrator was an easy process. Kate Brunskill also lives in my home town of Ulverston in the South Lakes. Kate’s an incredibly talented woman whose art captures the imagination and the colours of our countryside perfectly. Her artwork brightens the windows of our town during the festival season and lends itself to storytelling well. She’s also very hard working, methodical and self-directed, talents I deem necessary for completing a project within a deadline and without external pressures.

IMG_0558

Kickstarter

We’ve recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund completion of Peter Digs A Den and we’re looking for people to back us. We need £3800 to turn our dream into reality so if you love what we’re trying to do please head over to Kickstarter and back our campaign. Self-publishing is not everyone’s route but it’s one I felt excited about trying. I love a challenge! Especially ones that use all the skills I have learned throughout my career. Kickstarter seemed like a great place to crowdfund, there were many other crowdfunding platforms but this is the one I know most people have heard of. It’s working so far! There are so many great projects on their site so after you’ve taken a look at ours why not browse around all the other amazing ideas.

For our project we have created a professional audiobook and will have an e-book, hardback and paperback version available for sale throughout the Lake District and with various online sellers. All we are looking for now are the funds to pay the illustrator, get the necessary barcodes and ISBNs, a little towards marketing and promotion, some extra editing software, professional assistance in the printing process and for an initial print run. We will be using a print on demand service to keep our costs as low as possible and have already gained interest from local newspapers, community organisations and online media.

I believe we have created reward tiers that will encourage you to back our project. Kate has created some wonderful artwork just for our backers, there’s an audiobook version up for grabs, an e-book, the book itself in either paperback or hardback, signed of course. There are invitations to our Den Day storytelling festival in Ulverston in October which promises to be an event for all the family with craft activities, storytellers, book swaps and workshops. Large pledges mean a special workshop for your child’s school or organisation and for those who pledge the highest tier, a dedication in the book itself.

Whatever you can pledge we will be truly grateful for.

Thanks!
Amy x