Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Points Taken, Points Given

Right, tomorrow I need to be at that station by that time, and on Thursday I need to be at that other station by that other time...

This is more than my brain can handle. And it's why I plan many months ahead, but only think 24 hours ahead. And in turn, that is why I find that I have planned myself unthinkable things.

The last couple of weeks have been nuts with book events at schools all over the country. Too many to mention everywhere by name. (See that? That's me pretending that I could remember the name of every school I've visited in the last two weeks. You are all special, I promise you. Very special. It's just that some of you have school names that never really lodged in my head.)

I've just been up in Cheshire for a couple of days to stay with the amazing Sue and Andrew at Simply Books in Bramhall. It's more than a bookshop - it's the hub of a county-wide community of families, readers, thinkers, chatters and coffee-sippers. A wonderful place where mere rooms of shelves and books are transformed into an inspirational home-from-home by the passion of the people who work there.

It's not just me that thinks that - they have more awards than Merly Streep.

And they organise some cracking events. I'm not just talking about my own though - I was lucky enough to meet Raymond Tallis while I was up there, whose new book, 'Michaelangelo's Finger', is well worth checking out. Roughly summing it up won't do it justice, but hey, this is the internet so what do you expect: it's the Philosophy of pointing... what the act, intention and understanding of pointing tells us about being human.

Random highlights from my travels spring to mind: the lovely pianos in the halls of both schools in Cheshire (one Yamaha, one Schiller)... the students I met with names that should be a team of crime-fighting detectives (Jack Moore and Jordan Daly. They Fight Crime Daily. And More.)... the imrpov sessions I ran at both schools (and laughed my head off)... the chocolate brownies at Simply Books... the sparkle of debate between Raymond Tallis and his son...

Finally, there were the super-smart minds on two of the boys I met at Marple Hall School today. Two very different boys, but I got the impression that perhaps most people took their sharpness and creativity for granted, or mistook it for other things. I hope they won't mind me mentioning their names - I want to because I think they deserve a bit of extra credit for really standing out for me, out of the 3,500 (roughly) students I've run events for in the last two weeks.

Tristan seemed to be viewed by his teachers and peers as very academic, which perhaps he is, but I was really struck by the way he saw the world. He challenged, he removed boundaries where most people assumed them and he was creative in a quiet but very clever way.

Meanwhile, it looked to me like Jake was seen as a bit more of a handful. I wondered whether other people would say he had a short attention span where I think he actually just has a brain that craves stimulation - nuggets to chew on. He was able to think very deeply, very quickly and he connected things that nobody else thought to connect. That made him funny and restless, which I know can sometimes come across as trouble in a school, but I've seen 'funny and restless' in boys that don't combine it with sharp insight, wit, thirst for perception and the ability to grapple with incredibly odd abstract concepts and relate them to reality. Jake did all that.

I've never blogged about individual students before, and I realise this is a bit out of the ordinary, but I thought that Jake and Tristan, in their different ways, deserved a nod. Simply Books continues to shine and receives awards for it; the sorts of minds Jake and Tristan have don't often meet much positive attention in a school environment, let alone awards.

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