Lynda, RIP

This feels strange, but when I have too large feelings I write, because it helps sort them through, and reading facebook memories has helped deal with today, so I sort of think this is ok to share. Even though she’d hate it and it is full of cliches and barely touches the beginning of all there is to say. Sorry.

I’m steamrollered by the news that Lynda Patterson has passed away.

I know I’m not the only one. Lynda was the beating heart of Mansfield College for over a decade. She was that implausible being that eulogies get written about: the ones that everyone loved, a friend to all, wise and kind. Special. But she actually was. And she was 40 years old, and the thought of her being due a eulogy is almost unbearable.

She was something else to so many others: her friends in Dromore, her rebuilt life in New Zealand as Dean of Christchurch Cathedral. We never spoke much about her faith; as with all friendships, especially university ones, there are vast portions of people’s lives you never get to see. But I watched from afar: beaming at her occasional posts online, awed by the construction of that cardboard phoenix, quietly thrilled on her behalf that she had found a new home, and respectful of that choice. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. I planned to catch up, next time she was here. One day, maybe I’d be in New Zealand, and I’d pop round. One day, of course, she’d move back. In years to come, we’d be weird old ladies together.

You think you have time.

I am infuriated with how easy it is to put her into past tense. She’s that friend I knew way back when. The one I’ll see later.

But now there are memories only. They’re bloody good ones, though. Lynda was a riot, a candle to gather round. I remember meeting her for the first time – in the Mansfield foyer, perched on the table swinging her legs with a beanie cap on her head, narrowing her eyes and smiling and shouting,’Pisces?’ at me as I walked into Oxford’s scary hallowed halls for the first time. (She was right. She usually was.) Giddy anticipation, waiting to see The Phantom Menace in Belfast, trying to read each other’s minds in a pub to fill the time. Hours upon hours in Browns, the KA, that tea rooms on Holywell Street, the plodge, PL, talking bollocks the way you can at university – only it was Lynda, so it wasn’t bollocks, it was theosophy and Shakespeare’s histories and impressions of eminent High Tablers. God, she was funny. And clever. I met a lot of clever people at Oxford but she could’ve washed the floor with the lot without even trying, if she’d ever wanted to. I met a lot of clever people at Oxford but few of them were as generous with it.

She was a tutor and Junior Dean too. It was a lot, that job, doing it as whole-heartedly as she did. She was the person I went to at my moment of deepest despair. She was that for a lot of people. Sometimes we fled beloved/suffocating Mansfield together: Cromer in November with the wind knocking us off our feet, just to be away; to Cape Wrath lighthouse, so she could feel as if she was at the edge, the furthest point. She longed for mountains, escape. Eventually, she grabbed it – and, as far as I can see, became that same person to a new community. Maybe who we are is who we are, geography be damned.

I do a similar job to her Junior Dean role now in a boarding school. Today I realise how much of how I conduct myself is drawn from trying to mirror her: that compassionate authority.  She was a stupendously good mate but she taught me so much too. I’m going to cling onto that, I think.

Rest in peace, Lynda.





The PEA’S BOOK OF HOLIDAYS design-a-cover giveaway!

Facing a long drive to get to your summer holiday this year? Or staying home and in need of entertainment? Then this is the competition for you.

Pea's Book of Holidays competition

Up for grabs:

  • a COMPLETE set of unabridged Pea audiobooks, all narrated by the fantastic Claire Morgan: PEA’S BOOK OF BEST FRIENDS, PEA’S BOOK OF BIG DREAMS, PEA’S BOOK OF BIRTHDAYS, PEA’S BOOK OF HOLIDAYS
  • signed bookmarks
  • Pea badges
  • a bag of marshmallows* for you to toast over the campfire

To win – you need to design a brilliant (or brilliantly silly) book cover.

In PEA’S BOOK OF HOLIDAYS, Pea’s sister Tink gets fed up with Enid Blyton’s boring book titles.


So Pea suggests that Tink writes her own.

Tink 2

To enter the giveaway, you need to create a book cover of your own – either for one of Tink’s funny titles, or one you’ve made up yourself. Here are some I made up:

IMAG0293 copy

How to make your book cover:

  1. Pea giveaway samples 2Fold a piece of card or paper in half.
  2. Think of a title. It can be a real Enid Blyton book, one of Tink’s ideas, or an imaginary book of your own. You can make it serious or silly – that’s up to you.
  3. Design your cover! You might like to look at this amazing collection of Famous Five covers over the years for inspiration. You could draw your own artwork, use a computer, or cut words and pictures out of old magazines: just make it eye-catching!

If you like, you can add a blurb to the back cover.

blurb sample

How to enter:


  • Post your entry to Susie Day (competition), c/o Jasmine Joynson, RHCP, 61-63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA

or (if you want to keep your book cover)

  • Remember to include your name, age, email address and UK/Ireland postal address
  • If you are under 14, you must obtain permission from a parent or guardian to enter

Teachers: if you would like to use this as a KS2 class activity, you can download it as a PDF here:Design a Cover PDF

 Closing date for entries: Monday 28th July 2014

Good luck!

Pea's Book of Holidays competition

* I love marshmallows, but I know lots of people can’t eat them for various reasons. If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll have the option to pick an alternative.



Full terms and conditions:

1. Open to UK and Ireland residents who enter the competition before the closing date. 2. The prize will consist of 4 audiobooks, 3 bookmarks, 4 badges and one bag of sweets. 3. The closing date for receipt of entries is Monday 28th July 2014. The winner will be notified by email. If contact cannot be made within two weeks of the decision being made, a second draw will take place. 4. No purchase necessary to enter. 5. Only one entry per person. Schools, libraries etc may make a bulk submission of multiple entries. 6. Entries that are incomplete, illegible or fraudulent will be deemed invalid. No responsibility will be accepted for entries lost, corrupted or delayed in transmission. 7. There are no cash alternatives. 8. Entries may be displayed on this website. 9. All personal details of entrants will be deleted from our servers as required by data protection law, and will not be used for promotional purposes. 10. Entry into this competition constitutes acceptance of these Terms and Conditions.

Launching Pea’s Book of Holidays

Usually I celebrate the arrival of a new book in glamorous author style, ie in my pyjamas, crying over my laptop while I try to write the next one. But I thought Pea’s Book of Holidays deserved a party all its own.

Proud Writer face.

Dorky writer face.

Why? I’m proud of all my books. But writing this one has been a different experience: not only because I’ve drawn so much from real memories of growing up reading Enid Blyton, or actual family holidays, but also because the process was different this time. More collaboration, more research, and more fear.


Stackable Peas. Many thanks to Oxford Blackwells for hosting!

Mostly, my job is to write fun characters, a plot and daft jokes about ginger beer, but along the way I aim for all that stuff to be casually inclusive; to show a world where difference – by all definitions – is present, identifiable, acknowledged and integrated without fanfare. Mostly, I think I do OK. But reading Day Al-Mohamed’s post at Disability in Kidlit last year gave me a kick up the bum.

According to the United Nations World Health Organization, almost ten percent of the world’s population lives with a disability.  That figure is the same for the United States, ten percent.  People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority.  These disabilities run the gamut including physical, sensory, mental, neurological/cognitive, and developmental, and impact young people regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, or sexual orientation.

And these are youth who are part of a new generation.  They are youth who have not grown up in institutions and special schools.  They have been integrated into mainstream schools – some more successfully than others.  So the question for them is: “What’s next?” For many, the answer is: “I don’t know.”

Perhaps more than ever before these youth need role models. They need to see themselves out there in the world.  While having real live people to emulate is great, the next best thing is fictional characters.

Around the same time, I started following the @EverydayAbleism twitter feed, and saw a reference to hemiplegia – a condition I’d never heard of.


A quick google took me to HemiHelp, the UK’s charity for Children and Young People with Hemiplegia, where I read this:

Childhood hemiplegia is a relatively common condition, affecting up to one child in 1,000.

I thought: that’s a lot of kids for something I’d never heard of. Then I thought: I can do something about that.

1959382_10152219361453576_2547339875253662658_nThat’s when the fear kicked in. The idea for Pea’s Book of Holidays was already set: a family outdoorsy Famous-Five-ish adventure, which would gently unpick some of the murkier side of Blyton along the way. Could I take a kid with hemiplegia camping? I was already talking about race and prejudice in my book full of non-traditional families: was this going to make it feel like some sort of diversity training manual instead of a fun mystery with a dog in it?

And then the big questions. Do I have the right? What if I get my representation wrong? Is it safer not to try?

Of course it’s safer not to try. It’s safer not to write anything at all – but then we’d have no books. I have no hesitation in encouraging other writers to include LGBTQ characters in their books, while giggling about me being asked for ‘permission’ as if I’m somehow in charge. I had to give myself permission too – on the proviso that I’d do everything possible to get it ‘right’.

Susie at the Hemihelp standGetting it ‘right’ in hemiplegia’s case is an impossible task, it turned out; it’s a condition with a wide range of severity and numerous associated other conditions, and no single representation could hope to be universal. But that made it all the more important to rely not on paper research, but real individuals willing to share their experiences, and correct all my daft misconceptions. I was terrified they’d think I was overstepping some line; if they though I didn’t have the right, I really didn’t. But I was met with nothing but support and encouragement.

Neelam and Amy from HemiHelp allowed me to post in their Facebook group, giving me a wide range of experiences to draw on – and also allowing me to ask: what would you like your kids to read about, what would have helped you? And they put me in touch with two individuals who have helped so much I feel that 11-year-old gadget fan and ghost-hunter Ryan Munro belongs to them as much as me: Rosalyn Burbidge, whose whole family’s experiences, especially Tom’s, helped me create a meaningful family dynamic; and Joanna Sholem, who taught me that not only could I take a kid with hemiplegia camping, I could expect him to get up and down the steepest hill in Dorset too.

There will still be things I’ve got wrong. There’s always more for me to learn. But I plan to keep on asking for help; failing better. And with the help of all my collaborators and conspirators, family and friends old and new, and my brilliant editor Ruth Knowles, Pea’s Book of Holidays is exactly what I hoped it would be: a funny family adventure with a dog in it – and a team effort.

That’s why it needed a party – so I could say thank you to everyone who made this book happen.

(Also cake.)

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Read the first two chapters of Pea’s Book of Holidays here

Buy now from a UK independent bookshop via Hive | BlackwellAmazon | Waterstones | Foyles | free shipping worldwide: Book Depository

ebook for all ereaders | unabridged audiobook forthcoming