November 2013

green_dragon_s    From the Dragon’s Den               

Three visitors attended Little Dragons recently. All three attend school now but, in the past, have been regular members of Little Dragons.  Two of them belonged to our very first group, both being a month short of three years old when they attended and being the older members in our initial group of nine.  Now they are both ten years old and seem quite grown up, preparing to make the huge transition from primary school to secondary school.   Our third visitor is the younger brother of one of the girls.

It was good to see their delight as they examined the art and craft on offer, considered their size against the size and height of the toys and dressing-up clothes.

It was also most entertaining to view their input with the present crop of LDs.  They helped little ones with the sticking and assembling of black birds (crows if anyone asks – one needing a vivid imagination when working at this level).  It was noted that, following story time, when the art table was momentarily empty, the two girls were busy sorting and sticking in order to bear their own trophies home at the end.

The two girls helped at story time, taking the part of the puppeteers as the story unfolded of Crawford the Crow and his friend Cindy, whilst younger brother played his part in reminding me which songs or rhymes we were going to sing to fit in with the earlier activities.

It was a good morning both for the Little Dragons and the visitors, but also for the Senior Dragons who could view with joy a by-product of seven years’ work.

There are days when we all need, but don’t always get, some recognition as a boost for effort we have made, for energy used leaving us spent and exhausted.  This morning’s visitors helped to give those who have been with Dragons for a long time a huge lift; displaying in human terms a reward for effort made.  This was one of those times when, ‘Give me joy in my heart!’ became very meaningful.

Val Butterworth

October 2013

October 2013                         green_dragon_s

       From the Dragon’s Den                

All back to normal now following the summer break.  All equipment was clean and tidy ready for the onslaught.  We had a Big Clean prior to the opening day and, as ever, it is amazing what you find when you delve to the bottom of the various boxes and baskets.  Much to our disappointment we have been unable to locate a black, shiny shoe belonging to one of the dolls.  All through the past months we have constantly been discovering the shoe – in the dolls’ house, in the Lego box, in the toy train box, in the garage.  Naturally, when the time arrived to replace the shoe onto its owner’s foot – it has vanished.  I think it is all part of a bigger plan to keep us alert now that so many (well, all) Senior Dragons are getting a bit long in the tooth.

The first day back is always special.  The returnees all look round with amazement when they enter but in no time at all are busy following remembered pursuits.  It is amazing to see how much Little Dragons grow during even a short break and especially during the summer break.

I remember, as a child, the first day back at school after the summer holidays.  Everything was clean and tidy.  New pencils beckoned or, as one got older, pens with shiny, new nibs.  There was always the excitement (and this was quite a long time ago) of the possibility of becoming the ink- well monitor.  I was never lucky enough for that but always seemed to get jobs that entailed tidying the library books or keeping the teacher’s cupboard tidy.  Quite a privilege I suppose and certainly good practice for keeping the Little Dragon cupboards and equipment tidy and in good order and, perhaps, a foretaste of what was to come in my career as a teacher.

In that role I well remember the feeling when standing in a clean, tidy classroom prior to the arrival of a new class.  What would the weeks ahead hold?  Would they be an easy class?  Would they be fun?   Would they learn anything?  I will never forget the feeling of terror before welcoming my very first class – 45 four-year old Reception pupils – Would I be able to teach them anything and how would I do it?

Many weeks, months and years later I, and others with me, felt exactly the same way about our first Little Dragon meeting – seven years ago.  Would anyone turn up?  How many might there be?  What would we do with them?  The rest, as they say, is history; a good history, an enjoyed and enjoyable history.  Long may it last!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Val Butterworth

September 2013

green_dragon_s       From the Dragon’s Den                

George and Sam writing:  Val is still (hopefully) wielding a paint brush so we have decided to sneak in a quick update on the excitements of life in and around the Little Dragon cupboard.

At the end of July, we were placed, very tidily, into our basket as Little Dragons broke up for the usual summer holiday.  We settled down for a nice, quiet time, preparing to have a few chats with Idris and his friend Scooby, who have somehow managed to find their way into our basket.  This is fine except that Idris lapses into Welsh now and again and Scooby sings ‘Love is a burning thing!’ at every opportunity. He says that someone called Jonny Cash used to sing it but he could be making it up as he goes along.

A few days into our holiday we realised that our church was full of noise – singing and chattering.  We remembered that the children’s Holiday Club was taking place and we enjoyed watching all the activity through the space at the top of the door and listening to the children’s enjoyment.  They were doing something about space and learning lots about what goes on there and what scientists have found out; and they heard lots of stories about a man called Daniel and his friends who had really odd names – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Their lives changed so much that they could have been on a different planet and that’s where the connection was – or so we heard someone say.  Anyway, it all seemed to be great fun and we learned some new songs all about ‘Journeying Through Space and Time!’  and ‘Living God’s Way!’   The children all seemed to be having a wonderful time.  We noticed that we knew most of the adults who were helping.  We think that they all looked thinner by the end of the week.  We can’t imagine why – although they did seem to be doing a lot of exercising one way or another.  Anyway, they were still smiling by the time the last day came, so they must have enjoyed it as well.

We heard a rumour the other day that the Big Dragons are coming to tidy us up very shortly and get us ready for the new term.  So, we had better keep our heads down and look our usual innocent selves.

Keep smiling!   George and Sam                 green_dragon_s

August 2013

August 2013

       From the Dragon’s Den        

Dora the Explorer visited Little Dragons today.  She waited in the Dragon basket until it was story time then appeared, complete with big smile, to talk to the little people gathered there.  Dora had a problem.  She had mislaid her best friend, Boots the Monkey, and wondered if the children could help to find him.

During the search a little brown mouse with a pink, woolly tail was found to be hiding under the altar cloth; a crocodile (believe it or not) was found to be hiding under the altar table; Miss Muffet’s spider, the cat who visited the Queen, and Humpty Dumpty were all found to be lurking around the choir screen; a tiny teddy bear was leaning on the candles and he was successful in hiding Boots the Monkey from view.  Dora was so pleased to be reunited with her friend and this made for happiness all around.  As ever, at Little Dragons, when we are happy – and we know it – we clap our hands, stamp our feet, nod our heads and shout aloud.  At such times so much steam is let off that we could compete with several kettles.

One can always depend on Dora the Explorer to cheer people up.  She is always cheery, full of optimism and certain that if something can be achieved, then she will give it a jolly good go.  Her favourite sayings are, ‘We can do it!’ and ‘We did it!’

There are, no doubt, people within your own circle who possess the Dora Factor.  They are the people who try to be positive even when events conspire against them; they try to greet each day with a smile despite their worries; they look for a silver lining even when grey clouds hover.

As we travel through life, be we of tender years or being a bit ‘long in the tooth’, we encounter many challenges some of which cause us to think – ‘I can’t manage this!’ – feeling at times that this is the thing that could break the camel’s back – is a bridge too far – or any other cliché that comes to mind.  If we are able to summon Dora’s attitude, enthusiasm and courage, we will rise to the challenge and can then say, proudly, ‘I did it!

BE LIKE DORA and DO IT!       11-03

July 2013

July 2013

From the Dragon’s Den             

 Our story this week was the fable of the lion and the mouse.  Preparation for this entailed finding a piece of mesh to use as a trap for the poor long-suffering, soft-toy lion (which officially belongs to my grand-daughter).  When all else failed, time was spent in knotting together bits of string to construct netting strong enough to hold this extremely, wild animal.  Mouse offered no problem, being constructed out of a little piece of brown felt stuffed with cotton wool.

(This type of activity is good to keep those enjoying retirement busy.)     

Lion puppets constructed from bright orange, brown and yellow paper caught the eye of our little people and involved them either at the simple level of a purely sticking activity, or being more advanced as a mane was constructed out of strands of brown, yellow and fawn wool.

When I was a little girl I loved this story.  It thrilled me to imagine the tiny creature being brave enough to tackle the difficulties of the big, strong lion. As I grew older I came to understand that both creatures acquired respect for one another.

In the environs where I was brought up, one was taught that respect must be shown to one’s elders, usually meaning those who were grander, bigger or older. The message was that those in charge must be respectfully obeyed, which resulted in my case of a certain fear and awe of those apparently bigger and mightier.

As with many people I perhaps became a little disillusioned during my teenage years as I realised that being older, bigger and/or being the boss didn’t necessarily mean being better, kinder, more able or more worthy.

It later became apparent to me that respect needs to be earned – the respect of self for self, self for others and the respect of others for self.

And so it is – not one of us gains the respect of others by dint of who or what we are – but by showing those around that we are worthy of respect through our actions and manner.

Long maygreen_dragon_s it continue!                                                        Val Butterworth

26th May 2013

From the Dragon’s Den

During our Little Dragons’ session last week I observed one young gentleman who has previously moved around the floor rapidly on all fours with a kind of diagonal pincer-like moment, strangely reminiscent of a magical creature.  Suddenly, he has reached the dizzy heights of managing to stand on two feet followed by a lurch forwards in a highly technical way, worthy of an Olympic gymnast.   What a huge leap it is to gain the upright position and walk for the first time.
I was reminded of a certain Val Doonican, he of the brightly coloured cardigans. If you were around in the ‘sixties’ you may recall him and his rocking chair.  In his repertoire was a song entitled  ‘Walk Tall!’

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye.
That’s what my mother told me when I was about knee high.
She said son, be a proud man and hold your head up high.
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye.

I wonder when it is in life that we, after managing to walk tall for many, many years – as a child seeking new ventures; as a teenager blessed with total knowledge of all that life has in store; as a proud new parent pushing the future of the world in the pram for the first time; through good times, less good times, through thick and thin; that we gain the realisation that we seem  to have become less tall and that a bit of a struggle may ensue in order to keep oneself totally erect.  At this point, we may also realise the value of a strong, stable supermarket trolley.

In a book that I read recently one paragraph burned itself onto my mind.  The main character had learned through various travails and experiences that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness; that the world is made up of people simply putting one foot in front of the other. He learned that everyone is the same, yet unique.

So, wherever we happen to be on life’s journey – just finding our feet in the real sense, finding our feet in the wider world, or simply finding out each morning whether our feet are still working at the brain’s command – we should be aware of and be glad of our uniqueness – continue to look the world right in the eye ……… and know that each one of us is special.

Val Butterworth

April 2013

 

                          From the Dragons’ Den 

George and Uncle Sam writing.  We heard a rumour that Val is busy with paint brushes and rollers at the moment and so decided that we would issue a quick message from the Dragons’ Den. (The discerning will note a change in the apostrophe’s position!)

What excitement there has been in our normally quiet existence!  A short while ago we were unceremoniously gathered up and dumped – no better word to describe it – at the other side of the church due to something called work being carried out in our usual abode.  Apparently, new storage cupboards were to be built and installed and, we are glad to report, we are now reinstated back to the north aisle, but in a far grander situation than we have known previously.

Our new home is in the first of the new storage cupboards and we feel extremely fortunate to be so placed.  We had to search very hard to find a means of viewing the church building and all that happens there, but, after a bit of surreptitious shifting of paper, glue and something called glitter, we have managed to find a good foothold and balance area where, through use of our well-honed skills in this department, we are able to observe all as before.

During the building of the cupboards we were able to watch and get to know the man who spent so much time sawing and sanding here.  We didn’t find out his name but we heard someone say that he is a carpenter, a worker in wood, although the man himself says he is ‘just a joiner’.  We aren’t sure what that means but he and some others, called ‘sons’, have certainly transformed some seats called pews into our new home.  He, and they, have worked really, really hard and we heard the Senior Dragons saying that the man and his sons should be praised for all they have achieved.

Once, when we were listening, we heard someone tell a story about a simple carpenter who was the father of a very special son.  We think that our carpenter has also heard this story and has done such wonderful work as a tribute to the son who, so the story-teller said, is so important in the lives of all who know him.

We say, ‘Well done and thank you!green_dragon_s

 Best wishes, George the Little Dragon and Uncle Sam.

From the Dragon’s Den

March 2013

green_dragon_s 

Good news concerning Sam’s tail.  The tail is now injury-free and Sam is feeling pretty good about life.  His good humour is further enhanced by the fact that he has been acting ‘King’ of the basket this week and during the preceding half term week as George had gone missing.  It was not known whether George had been misplaced by a Little Dragon or whether, being very curious about the outside world, he had perhaps gone AWOL.  The mystery was solved this morning as he was found to be hiding in the trunk of one of the bicycles.  He was quite relieved to be back home in his appointed place where his every wish is attended to, his various needs addressed and where he feels safe and secure.

We can probably all understand how George’s feeling of safety and security were threatened by his little adventure.  We often go along from day to day without giving much thought to possible aberrations and upsets.  Then, often without warning, things go amiss and our lives are turned upside-down and we find ourselves having to cope with unexpected, sometimes seemingly unmanageable, events.  We can feel really isolated as we gather ourselves into coping mode.  If we are lucky we can call upon friends to support us at such times.  They aren’t always able to give practical help but we feel supported by their care and concern.

Equally, and perhaps more importantly, we can be there to support others by our care and concern for their well-being.  A smile or a quick, ‘Hello!’ may be just the thing that another person may require to brighten a bad day or lighten what seems to be an unsolvable problem.  It doesn’t take much time or effort and a side-benefit is that our own day will feel brighter.   This may be an old adage – or I may have just made it up – ‘A Smile a day can keep problems at bay.’       Corny, but true!

From the Dragon’s Den

February 2013

From the Dragon’s Den 

    green_dragon_s

Poor Sam!  Somehow he has done himself a mischief and damaged his tail.

Perhaps he was being inquisitive and caught his tail in the cupboard door as he dodged out of view.

Perhaps he met a hungry mouse which fancied a bit of dragon meat for supper.

We may never know what exactly happened but the upshot is that Sam was discovered to have a damaged tail, near to the tip, which has necessitated in surgery – involving purple thread – being performed by a Senior Dragon.  Sam, with bandaged appendage, is now on the road to recovery and has welcomed the many expressions of sympathy that he has received following his trauma.

 

There are times in all our lives when mishaps involving illnesses or misfortune affect us.  Sometimes it seems as if we are besieged by troubles and it is good if we are able to manage such times with equanimity and a sense of, ‘Oh, well, it will all be better in the morning…next week… next year…sometime!’

When the opposite appears to be the case; when we feel alone in our situation, as if no one cares and there is no way out it is good if we can find someone to talk to, in order to express our fears and our hopes.  The sharing of our burdens can be cathartic and sometimes releases a feeling of relief and new hope for the future.

It seems odd that we are able to talk to some people, sometimes strangers, about hugely worrying, personal aspects of our life and, seemingly those people are able to allay our fears and make the future look more manageable.  It sometimes appears that the recipient of our fears and troubles is a most unlikely source of comfort yet they provide us with the release that makes life seem easier and more hopeful.  Now, from where do such people obtain their gift?  It seems to me that some beings are blessed with a special god-given gift which enables them to absorb the cares and woes of others and give off a feeling of ease and harmony to the sufferer.

One doesn’t have to be a Senior Dragon to have this gift – one just needs to care and find time to take on a little of another’s burdens – and to listen!

11-03

Val Butterworth

From the Dragon’s Den!

 

January 2013

Earlier this evening I was idly watching television – something to do with the fact that Blackpool had been the show business Mecca of the North of England in times gone by.  During the annual ‘Wakes Week’ works shutdown, whole families from the northern cotton towns would flock to Blackpool to see the shows and view the illuminations.  For many it was the highlight of the year.

A singer called Alma Cogan flashed across the screen and that reminded me of a time during the 1950’s when I enrolled in a night school class in order to learn shorthand and typing. I hated shorthand but really enjoyed the typing and my memories of Alma Cogan are associated with typing   a s d f g  and the rest of the qwerty keyboard in time to a 78 rpm recording of Alma singing ‘Bell Bottom Blues’.  Some of us lead a sad life!

      During my teaching career, as all teachers do, I sought ways of motivating and assisting children to learn – through practice, through repetition, through discovery – many, many ways to stimulate learning for life.11-03

This is one of the reasons that we provide certain experiences for our Little Dragons.  Opportunities to learn and  repeat fine skills at our art and craft table; providing means of developing larger physical skills whilst using the bikes, cars, prams; time to develop listening and learning skills as we sit ‘quietly’ (hopefully) whilst  listening to  the story and joining in by saying or singing action songs and nursery rhymes.

 

You may perhaps recall someone or something in your own past which taught you or inspired you to learn a life skill which still plays a part in your life.  If, like me, these memories are easier to recall than what you did yesterday, or last week – then be assured – you are not on your own!!

          Enough said!                                                            Val B.