How I Write by Anthony Ridgway

‘How I Write’ click here to watch the video

Anthony Ridgway made this video to demonstrate how he writes his children’s books Wizzy the Animal Whisperer and Wizzy and the Seaside Adventure.

Because Anthony has cerebral palsy and is partially sighted he writes using a computer programme that enables him to find the keys on a large keyboard with the computer speaking out each letter, number and space when he presses the relevant key.

Using Dolphin Guide on his PC, Anthony writes for an hour or two each day. It is a laborious process … as Anthony says, Because I only write with one finger, it takes me about a year to write a book.

Although the process of writing is laborious, Anthony brings adventure and a witty freshness to his stories that will have you laughing out loud.

Books by Anthony Ridgway



 

Wizzy the Animal Whisperer audiobook CD

 

WIZZY and Slime – books by Anthony Ridgway and David Walliams

Dan, WIZZY and Nellie

The WIZZY books by Anthony Ridgway and 

Slime by David Walliams

both about a boy in a wheelchair.

 

 

 

David Walliams broadcast from home during lockdown

 

Slime started as an idea planted by 11-year-old Dante Marvin, who asked David Walliams to write a book about a boy in a wheelchair. David Walliams has dedicated the book, ‘For Dante, the coolest kid on wheels’.             .  …..  (To buy Slime go to the end of this post.)

Click on the picture to watch the video, ‘How I Write’ by Anthony Ridgway

Anthony Ridgway started writing about his own wheelchair, WIZZY, when he was himself ‘the coolest kid on wheels’.

Anthony has cerebral palsy with sight impairment. When he was a boy, his dad would transcribe his stories to paper while he dictated. But since his dad passed away, Anthony uses a special computer programme to write the stories himself. 

This was the start of Anthony’s wonderfully imaginative stories about Dan, James, Sophie and WIZZY, the irascible, funny and amazingly clever wheelchair.

Anthony’s first published story, WIZZY’s Worm, is available as an audiobook from Calibre Audio, a national charity lending free audiobooks for anyone who is print disabled. 

To buy this book click on the picture

Author Anthony Ridgway’s next published story, WIZZY the Animal Whisperer, followed as a large paperback book. The beautiful illustrations by Suzan Houching tell the story too, allowing children who can’t read or who are learning to read to enjoy all the exciting twists and turns of the plot. 

Click on the picture for video

At the book launch for WIZZY the Animal Whisperer, actor David Suchet had the guests in fits of laughter when he read a passage from the book. 

To buy the audiobook click on the picture

A few months later, David Suchet and his wife, Sheila Suchet, recorded the whole story, giving voices to all the characters and inimitable timing to Anthony’s amusing dialogue.

The audiobook of WIZZY the Animal Whisperer faithfully follows the words in the paperback books so that early readers can use the audio alongside the book when learning to read.

To buy this book click on the picture

WIZZY and the Seaside Adventure, Anthony’s second paperback book takes Dan, James, Sophie and WIZZY to the coast, along with their dog, Honey, and as you can guess, an ordinary day becomes another crime busting adventure.

 

Listen to Dante’s version of his meeting with David Walliams:

Click on picture for video

 

Artists inspired by the New Forest

Three popular books reduced in price on this website.

The New Forest Artist’s books (links below) are wonderful to browse through and read, and will tempt you to visit our beautiful New Forest.

3 artist’s books

A-Lifetime-in-Postcards

A Lifetime in Postcards by Gervase A Gregory

My-Story-in-Colour

My Story in Colour by Suzan Houching

WelgoraWELGORA by Alan Langford

 

World Book Day 2020 – Jack Hargreaves

It’s WORLD BOOK DAY today!

With the rain coming out of the sky again, I wonder how many of you will be buying a new book or re-reading a favourite book?

Jack with Ghost

Jack Hargreaves was a great lover of words and books. He read and wrote a lot, but most of us remember him in his TV programmes, Out of Town and Old Country.

Jack had an amazing ability to weave a story from the most ordinary of scenes. 

Gone Fishing

He saw and knew things about the people and workings of the countryside, and long before ‘green’ issues were highlighted, he understood the threats that modern life was bringing to the environment.

This understanding was rooted in the deep love of the countryside that he developed as a child, a love that he discovered due to the wise actions of his mother.

 

ISBN: 9780992722043

In the book Jack’s Country the author Paul Peacock writes about Jack’s troubled childhood days:

Jack – a studio portrait

‘Jack seemed unable to settle down, obey orders or even behave in a civilised manner and his father was simply unable to understand him. Toys would be thrown, windows smashed and every attempt to correct this seemed doomed to failure, resulting in yet more delinquency. The situation was exacerbated by his father’s reaction to Jack, which he misunderstood to be proof of his dislike for him. Jack’s brother, Ron, suggested there might be a medical problem. Psychiatry was often the only recourse for the middle classes to deal with unusual behaviour. This was still the age of family committals to mental institutions and something prompted Jack’s mother to see if anything medical could be done. In her desperation, she took Jack to see a psychiatrist.

The visit was of little benefit. Jack was an extremely unhappy child and he did not respond favourably to being addressed by a stuffy old psychiatrist. He would probably have remained so if his mother had dismissed an inkling of something special she saw in him. Jack frequently spent long hours, even as a very young boy, wandering the lanes and fields of what has now become known as West Yorkshire’s Last of the Summer Wine country, exploring fields and scaling hills.

It was this knowledge that brought her to believe he might enjoy a holiday on a farm. The family had a long term friendship with a south country farmer and so at length he became a guest of a friend of the family at the farm of Victor Pargeter. This man was to become one of the key influences for a character referred to as the ‘Old Man’ in Jack’s later writings.’

An Elephant Kissed My Window

An Elephant Kissed My Window

by M Ravindran and Saaz Aggarwal

ISBN: 9789383465149

Recently I came upon this book and was instantly transported back to the tea plantations of South India which I was lucky enough to visit in the 1950s and 60s when my father was a visiting doctor to some of the Nilgiris tea estates and when many planters were patients at the hospital in Mysore where he worked.

If you’ve met an elephant at close quarters, you will recognise the extraordinary gentleness described by M Ravindran in his story about a nocturnal visitor …

There in the hazy porch light, stood a massive elephant right at our doorstep, blowing kisses on the glass pane.’

Many of the stories are about encounters with wild animals; not surprising considering the isolation of plantation bungalows, surrounded by hundreds of acres of tea bushes and dense highland jungle.

There are other tales about hauntings, fire-walking, snake catching, lightning strike, and quite a few anecdotes that will have you smiling at the eccentricities of Estate staff and servants, and neighbouring planters.

Saaz Aggarwal started working on the book in 2013, interviewing, among others, M Ravindran. Six years later Ravindran told her that he had written a collection of stories … and so the book came about.

Saaz has interwoven M Ravindran’s tales with stories from other planters; Carolyn Hollis, Denis Mayne, Ravindran’s son and daughter, plus some recollections from Saaz herself and interesting extracts and advertisements from old publications such as the ‘Madras District Gazetteer’ and the ‘Planting Directory of South India’. Along with more than a hundred photos and Saaz’s line drawings, this has created a fascinating insight to the lives of planters from the start of tea planting in the Nilgiris in the early 1800s until today.

In Saaz’s words; ‘This book took me back to an idyllic childhood, its pristine air-quality, vistas of sloping valleys of smooth green from sitting room windows, brilliant night skies and a certain formal grandeur and privileged way of living compounding the fundamental isolation of plantation life.’

The paperback book is published in India, but you can buy it on Amazon –

What makes your Christmas special?

What makes your Christmas special?
Here are some Christmas stories.  Have you got your own to add?

In Letters from Manchuria Marion Young writes of a Christmas birth:

Faku, 25th December 1936

 Christmas morning – grey, dank at 10 to 5 – I shot up in bed, wakened, I was sure by running feet outside my window … Nothing more happened and I was just dozing off when I heard Fish [the cook] dash in through the back door and down to Mamie’s room. I was out before he had her door opened and heard him say, “Gow’s wife is in the well.” [Gow was the compound caretaker.] I nabbed my flash light and rope, which I had brought for skipping, and Fish disappeared. I had bought about 30ft of rope in a hank – couldn’t get less, and thought it would come in useful for roping my boxes later – thank goodness! There wasn’t as much anywhere about the 2 compounds.

Marion and Mamie

Mamie and I pulled on knickers and Chinese gowns over our nightdresses and fled across to the other compound. The rest is a muddled picture of nightmare and comic effects. She had fallen into a well – must be over 100ft deep – 40 before you reach water, and they had thrown down the bucket to her. We heard her groaning and moaning – the mother-in-law, husband and Fish were shouting encouragements to her – I suddenly realised someone would have to go down to her – the husband was too big for the well mouth – sick feeling in my middle as I decided it must be me – but it wasn’t!

‘Fish’ the cook

Thanks be – Fish was busy getting off his gown, tying a board to the rope end, sat on it, twisted it round his shoulders, between his legs, around his waist and then we started to let him down – flash failed, candle brought, went out – Mamie and I trying to hold the girl up on well rope – Fish shouted he had her and then we started to haul – what a haul! Ivy was there by that time and she, Mamie and I hauled the well rope; two men hauled Fish’s rope – wet rope, hands blistering – God’s will, make the old rope hold! – what a weight, ice slipping under our feet –hey Ivy keep back – you’ll be in on top of them! they’re up – Hey! Stop hauling! One man at the end of Fish’s rope trying to haul both through the wee hole at once – Fish shoves her up – then is nearly drowned himself when some fool empties the whole bucket full of water on top of his face. Girl into the house – back to ours in the darkness for blankets and hot bottles, knocking up the hospital for the nurses and the drawing breaths of relief sitting round a stove in one of our bedrooms trying to sort out what happened.

She – Gow’s wife – is only a youngster – 18, and got very sick in the middle of the night – the mother-in-law, a decent old soul really, got sick of her groans and moans and told Gow to hit her – he didn’t, but said he’d go over to the hospital for medicine – he started out and the mother-in-law said something crossly and the girl, hysterical between pain and bad temper, screamed she was going to kill herself, lifted up her son under her arm and made for the well – fortunately she dropped the kid at the well mouth and jumped in herself. It is quite a small hole, a round lid on the top – Gow had just got his big compound gate open, heard the yells and came racing back – she had decided she preferred to live – Gow dropped the bucket down and got her hauled up a bit, but she dropped back – the mother-in-law held the wheel so that the rope was long enough just to keep her out of the water and Gow ran for help. It must have taken him several minutes to get anyone knocked up to open our compound gates, several more to run a 4 minute walk across our compound and get Fish knocked up – think what water 40 feet down on Christmas day here must feel like! The girl must have been 15 minutes in the water in all – and she’s alive and well.

I don’t know how the ropes held – mine was only a fairly thick skipping rope, and the well rope has been three years in and out of water and lying in the sun. I won’t forget the honour of having them almost up and wondering what under the sun we could get if either rope went and they fell in again. The comic moments – I said there were some, were provided by the mother-in-law – the moment Mamie and I appeared, “The chiaoshihs are here, what are you making that noise about?” went down the well to encourage her. Then, on a fresh outburst of howls, “What! Still shouting! Look at all the trouble you’ve made, getting the chiaoshihs out of their beds on a cold winter morning.” Fish tackling the job of getting himself ready for going down as if he were used to doing it once a week at least – hat and gown off, another small bit of rope tied into mine – that was another of my horrors, I’d seen the knot tied and I couldn’t remember whether it was near his end of the rope or ours – fortunately, we got past it in the first few feet of pulling. Then when he hauled out of the well and the cold air hit him, capering like a mountain goat and asking for his own home shouting, “Ooo! Cold! Cold!” with thirty feet of rope trailing behind him. And the final reaction as I saw Gow passing my window an hour later with the water for breakfast – thank goodness it wasn’t our well she went into!

Fish’s wife and baby son

In a second Christmas Day letter addressed only to her mother, Marion added:

Thought there was no use adding the details in a letter for general family consumption – but the ‘illness’ the young wife was suffering from was a baby! Mamie had been telling me about 2 months ago that with the birth of the girl’s first child they had a terrific time – two days labour up here and then 30 hours by cart to Tiehling where Dr Brown saved both of them by some miracle. She suffered appallingly and the thought of going through it again must have been driving her crazy …

After we had hauled her out of the well and had left her in the hands of the nurses from the hospital, I again said, “Well, if the baby lives after that, it will be a wonder!” But during breakfast the cook said, “Did you know a daughter was born to Gow’s wife half an hour after you got her out of the well?” We heard afterwards the girl hadn’t even warmed up before the child was born – just over 8 months old. New way of having twilight sleep – freeze the patient stiff! Both mother and baby in excellent health thank you!!

 

Perhaps a less extraordinary Christmas Day, 43 years earlier in China, is described by Constance Douthwaite in Letters from Chefoo:

Chefoo, Sunday December 31, 1893

My dearest Papa,
I think you would be interested in hearing about our Christmas day, so I will give you a little account. We all met at the [Chefoo] Girls’ School for dinner, about 45 in number and over 20 of them children. After a grand Christmas dinner it was quite a sight to see how the little folk thoroughly enjoyed the rare treat of almonds and raisins, dates, toffee, oranges, chocolate, etc. I returned home and, wrapping our little maid well up (it was a bitter day, snowing hard and fast) her father carried her over to the school, and to please the children we all had games together till it grew dusk about four o’clock. Amah held baby on her knee and both quite enjoyed the fun. Then Arthur and I retired and I dressed him up as Father Christmas, in a long scarlet dressing gown, trimmed with white wadding, and his head covered with a great white wig and flowing beard and surmounted by a crown of mistletoe. He stuck some wadding eyebrows on and was so transformed I should not have known him.

Constance and Pearl

Meanwhile they had lit up the splendid big tree which was loaded with presents and the children were all sitting, wild with excitement, waiting for Father Christmas to appear and strip the tree. Pearl sat on my knee and was so excited and delighted with all the “pitty sings” and the “lickle boys and girls” she quite forgot to be shy and frightened. I think everyone got at least half a dozen presents each and all; I had two aprons, a capital match holder, an antimacassar, one of Anna Shipton’s works, a silk tie and numbers of cards. Pearl had a little fluffy dog on wheels which barks when pinched, three dolls, two chocolate boxes, two bibs, a harmonicon, a box of bricks and bags of sweets. She trotted quite bravely up the long room when her name ‘Pearl’ was called, and returned with beaming face, hugging her presents in her arms to shew them to Mother.

 

Christmas at sea, described in Strangers in Chaotung by Winifred and Frank Tovey

Frank & Winnie on board TSS Empire Brent

Christmas Day, 1947, on board TSS Empire Brent:

It is a Christmas Day such as one never dreams of seeing at home. The sun is shining brilliantly and the sea is quite smooth and calm, and such a deep blue. Winnie and I are sitting out in the sun in summer attire and trying to imagine what you are all doing at home. Early this afternoon we passed Malta … At 6a.m. some brave people arose and went round singing carols. At 7 o’clock we went to a Communion Service, then we had breakfast – just an ordinary breakfast as served aboard, but a wonderful one – grapefruit, cornflakes, fish if wanted, fried egg and bacon, hot cakes and syrup to follow if tummy permitted, scones and toast and marmalade. It isn’t fair on you for us to enlarge upon the wonderful meals we are having. [Food was still rationed in England.]

After dinner, we plan to have a special little party of our own when we are going to cut the wedding cake and play party games. Last night, the ‘carol party’ sang carols on deck and the crew gave a concert. At dinner, all the children (there are 200 on board) came around and sang carols as we ate.

 

A White Christmas:
In Cor Blimey! Where ‘ave you come from? Winifred Tovey describes the cold winter of 1961 when the family were on furlough in Ockbrook, Derbyshire, England.
The children only knew life in Mysore, South India, where Christmas was warm and usually dry.

Our first snowman

Winnie wrote:
Snow fell that winter, causing great excitement because it was the first time that the children had seen snow. They dashed out into the back yard with their mouths open to catch the snowflakes. As usual they forgot to close the back door and Mother called out, “Close that door, anyone would think you were born in a barn!”

 

Keeping with the India theme, Natalie Wheatley in her book Tobacco Wife writes about Christmas 1967 in Guntur, S India.
Natalie and family were staying with the Pritchards

We met up with Kamala, our borrowed ayah, in Guntur and the children soon took to her. Getting them to bed was not so easy.

“How is Father Christmas going to bring our stockings?” Susina was genuinely worried and Simon soon picked up that he might be missing out.

“I want Pa Kissmass! Pa Kissmass!” he jumped up and down on the springy bed, almost falling onto the polished terrazzo floor.

Looking quickly round the room, I said, “Air conditioner.”

“Con-dish-ner?” they chorused, “Where’s that?”

“Up in the wall, see,” and I pointed to the square box blowing out cool air and a soft hushy noise. “Father Christmas will come through that.”

Narnia the real place

Did you know Narnia is a real place in central Italy?

Very few people know that the real place, Narni, in Umbria, Italy, provided inspiration for C S Lewis’s most famous book.

How did this happen?
View the video by Dave Knowles to learn about the history of Narni and why C S Lewis chose this special hilltop town for The Chronicles of Narnia. See the tallest man-made waterfall in the world and learn why they were created by the Romans. Also find out about The Rocca, the castle overlooking Narni that was so important to the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps C S Lewis found a link to the character of Lucy from the story of St Lucia who was born in Narni and at the age of five saw the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. St Lucia’s body lies today in a glass coffin in the Cathedral St. Giovanale.

View the video

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(The link below will take you to purchase a beautifully illustrated hardback copy of The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Where disability is no bar – Maria Giulia Cotini

In the town of Narni, Italy, lives the author, Maria Giulia Cotini, who this summer was directing I Ragazzi Pon Pon (The Cheerleaders) in their performance of her play Giullarino Mingherlino (The Skinny Jester).

This was part of the children’s holiday activities, where they got together to learn more about their town’s history and link it with places around the world.

Maria Giulia Cotini directs the play, Guillarino Mingherlino

Maria Giulia is also the author of the book, Shotaro – the child who wanted to become a Samurai.

Anthony Ridgway, author of the WIZZY books

Just like Little Knoll Press author, Anthony Ridgway, Maria Giulia has been disabled from birth, but for both of them this has been no bar to imagination and achievement.

 

Shotaro is written in Italian and is available as a hardback book (ISBN: 9788804674610) and e-book.

Here is a translation of the blurb:

‘Shotaro is intelligent and stubborn, and he refuses to accept that his greatest dream (to become a Samurai like his father) is unattainable. Shotaro is disabled from birth and his father decided he would become a monk.

The rōnin, Kenya, arrives at the monastery and declares he is willing to train even him.

But when the terrible Daimyō destroy Shotaro’s home village and his father disappears, Shotaro’s life is turned upside down and everything seems lost.

In ancient Japan, a country marred by war and corruption, Shotaro is able to demonstrate, with courage and determination, that you don’t need a perfect body to make a man into a warrior.

And here is some more about Maria Giulia:

Maria Giulia Cotini was born in 1980; disabled from birth, she does not walk and has problems with her hands, sight and hearing.

Maria Giulia has been in love with the martial arts since a child, and at the age of ten she was the first child with a disability to practice karate in the gym with the able-bodied.

Working on her knees, she adapted the techniques up to competition standards, which was previously considered impossible.

Always passionate about myths and legends, Maria Giulia graduated with honours in History of Religions.

You can see Maria Giulia at a Karate event by clicking on her picture here –

How Sweetwings saved the Fleet

Sweetwings saves the Fleet

This little gunboat spotted on a recent visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard reminded me of a story in Maldwin Drummond’s children’s book

The Strange History of Seagulls

ISBN: 9780993507809

        Watercolour by Maldwin Drummond

Now Maldwin knew his boats (he was a sailor all his life and was involved in the raising of the Mary Rose, as well as a supporter of the Museum of the Royal Navy), and I thought the boat in my photo looked like the MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) in his illustration where ‘Sweetwings’, the seagull, gives the electrician early warning of a floating minefield.

However, on comparing my photo with Maldwin’s boat, the tell-tale funnel on the boat in Portsmouth led me to believe it is not an MTB, but an SGB (Steam Gun Boat) also used in WW2.

 

 

 

 

 

On page 25 of The Strange History of Seagulls we find out how Sweetwings saved the fleet.

It was lucky that he was so observant!

 

 

 

 

The Strange History of Seagulls is a fun way to learn about the history of the Solent and Waterside area. It is illustrated throughout with Maldwin Drummond’s unique watercolours.

Find the book by clicking this link

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(The links below are to two other books by Maldwin Drummond. The Riddle was released around the same time as The Strange History of Seagulls and After You, Mr Lear: In the wake of Edward Lear in Italy is packed with Maldwin’s quiet humour. )

WELGORA – Wickham Horse Fair 2019

Wickham Horse Fair

WELGORA

(WELGORA is the Romani word for Horse Fair)

By ancient charter of King Henry III, 1269

2019 and still an unmissable event!

 

WELGORA – ISBN: 9780992722067

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In his book

WELGORA

artist Alan Langford writes:

‘I have visited Wickham Horse Fair, in Hampshire, more times than I can remember.

Alan greets a friendly cob.

There has been an annual Charter Fair at Wickham since the thirteenth century, always in late spring, and always, at least in my recollection, a rewarding experience.

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Wickham Fair – large oil painting on canvas by Alan Langford.

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The square becomes a busy profusion of merry-go-rounds, bumper cars and other fairground paraphernalia. A section of the Fareham to Winchester road is closed to traffic and used as a ‘flashing lane’ by the Romani horse traders.

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If you are fascinated by skilled bareback riding then there is no other event, at least in Britain, to compare with it. They are followed by horse-drawn sulkies, their drivers often leading more horses behind them.

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The confidence with which the lads and raklis rush down the gradual slope of the flashing lane, mounted on their coloured Vanners with no saddles or hard hats and unforgiving tarmac underfoot, though dangerously reckless, is also skilfully impressive.

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They are followed by horse-drawn sulkies, their drivers often leading more horses behind them.’

 

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John – see below.

Among the characters I notice when studying the milieu of visitors, those that are of Romani extraction differ in both posture and expression from the curious clusters of the local gorgias.

Many of the Romani are possessed of weathered strong-featured countenances, suggesting a long ancestry of tough individualism.’

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Watch Alan at Wickham Romany Horse Fair (WELGORA) 2019

The 2019 Welgora at Wickham was no exception, as full of excitement and life as ever.

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Horses are brought from as far afield as Birmingham and Newcastle.

High-trotting, coloured horses with big feathered feet are favoured by the Romanies.

Mugs and caddies illustrated with paintings by Alan Langford.

John has been coming to Wickham Fair for 70 years.

A pretty driving horse.