If I were a character in a Roald Dahl book - and I am pretty certain I'm not - then apparently I would be The Rotsome Bean. I am not at all sure whether to take this as a compliment or not.
Could it be a reflection on my somewhat mixed success on the Growing of Vegetables Front? Though, surely not, as Mr B and I only this week harvested a small crop of green beans from our vegetable trough (in which, regular readers will recall, we are
"giving vegetables a home." We ate them, too, in the company of lamb stew and Jersey Royal potatoes and Mr B ate them all, without demur. Whatever else they might have been, those beans most definitely weren't "Rotsome."
Yesterday was the first day of the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge - this year's theme is The Big Friendly Read in honour of the fact that author Roald Dahl was born a hundred years as this year. So, along with signing up dozens of 4 - 12 year olds to
the challenge of reading six books over the course of the summer holiday - an amazing 79 had registered by the time I finished my stint on the Big Friendly Read Desk - I was encouraging them to try out all manner of activities in the Children's Library.
These included the traditional SRC Treasure Hunt; an invitation to draw your own dream inside a glass jar; and an opportunity to design your own chocolate bar á la Willy Wonka. Oh, yes, and to discover your own
Roald Dahl name by taking the initial letter of your first name and the initial letter of your second name and consulting two long lists of crazy names. Hence, The Rotsome Bean.
We volunteers are well pleased
with the tablecloth which covers our desk this year - it's a proper vynil job, decorated with characters from Roald Dahl books and, even more importantly, it stays put on the table. Last year we had a flimsy dark blue cloth, covered in silver stars, which,
while beautiful, was so slippery that we spent rather too much of our time straightening it up when it threatened to slide onto the floor, taking with it the boxes of registration cards and the box of completed competition entries. These little things matter
to a volunteer, you know, as does the fact that Friendly Frances, the Children's Librarian, has stashed a jar of coffee, just for me, among the bottles of squash ready and waiting for the other (younger) volunteers when they / we need to take a break.
On our desk we have two laminated crib sheets, one for the Main Challenge, one for the Mini Challenge for littl'uns under the age of four. Each sheet reminds us exactly what we need to do on each visit. On this first
visit, we have to get registration cards filled out and explain what the challenge is all about, though most of the children queuing at our desk have heard all about it at a school assembly. Library staff have clearly done an excellent job promoting the scheme
in schools over the weeks leading up to Launch Day.
We also have wrist bands to give out to every child signing up - except that Health and Safety decrees that we can't give wrist bands to the tinies on the
Mini Challenge which causes a few mini upsets. Fortunately this year we have record cards to give out to the Mini Challengers which takes the heat out of the situation - though I am not looking forward to explaining why the under 4's won't be able to have
a medal when they complete the challenge but must content themselves with a cardboard mobile.
Lots of the children are familiar faces from previous years so it's a bit like welcoming old friends, just a little
bit older, a little more confident. Lots of them have read Roald Dahl books and are keen to tell me their favourites. Most of them have remembered that the reason we are celebrating the author of the Big Friendly Giant, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory et
al is because he was born 100 years ago this year. I tell them that there will be special celebrations in Cardiff, where my (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys live, because that's where the famous author was born.
want to know if he is still alive. I explain that he died in 1990, long before any of them were born - then remind them that Dahl's crazy characters - The Twits, Willy Wonka, Matilda and Co - are all very much alive and kicking, entertaining new generations
of young readers. They all nod solemnly, then beam at me.
I arrive home to find that Mr B, having put two eggs to boil on the stove, forgot them until they exploded - one while still in the pan, the other
in the sink when he tried to douse it in cold water. There is egg everywhere, on the ceiling, the floor, the windows. Clearing it up is Quite A Challenge, though not of the Summer Reading kind.
would doubtless write a book about it, entitled "The Rotsome Bean and the Exploding Eggs." If you will forgive me, I reckon it would appeal to his eggsquisite taste and go down eggstremely well with his more discerning readers...