The topic which my granddaughter’s class is focusing on this half term is “Extreme earth” and they have been reading Meredith Hooper’s book “Ice trap!” about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition as well as finding out about Antarctica. I had given her a copy of my Furthest South book to take in and on Monday when I went to collect the girls from school I was asked by her class teacher if I would go in and talk to the class about Antarctica. Of course I agreed and 11am on Wednesday morning was the time set for me to do this.
The next day I got an e-mail confirming the visit and saying that the main purpose would be to give the children the chance to hear from someone who has actually visited Antarctica and ask questions. They are writing all about life of the ice floes, climbing snowy peaks and storms in the icy sea so any experience that I had of any of these would be wonderful to hear about.
While I could take in one or other of my talks about Antarctica these were not quite what was needed – too long and aimed at an audience with an average age about 50 years greater than the class I would be talking to. (The other big difference was that the usual audience wouldn’t be sitting on the carpet at my feet.) My granddaughter said that I could ask the class questions so I added some questions to the slides. Fortunately I had an inkling of what they had been learning about (from a conversation with her on Monday as well as from the e-mail) so I was able to try and make the slides and questions as relevant as possible.
After putting a series of photographs together and running through them with Liz I was nearly ready. A couple of amendments first thing this morning and the firm instruction “Don’t embarrass your granddaughter” (mainly directed at my mode of dress – my third attempt was deemed acceptable) and I was off.
Usually my talks run straight through with a few questions at the end. I have occasionally had one or two questions during the talk but this is very much the exception. Possibly this was what was expected to happen this time but it didn’t. It was a much more interactive experience (as a marketing man might say). There were times when I thought “Hang on, we will never finish if you keep asking questions” being conscious that I was only supposed to be there for half an hour. In the end it was the best part of an hour
I must say that all of the questions were relevent and sensible and that the whole experience was fun. At the end I was asked by the teacher about writing my book and I explained how I had produced a first draft and then had looked at it when I had had it printed out and revised and expanded it and that it had taken a couple of years. This appeared to be the right answer so I think I got an OK mark! (I have gone into this in more detail in Genesis of a book.)
PS My headline “I survived class 5” is really rather unfair but I though it might catch your eye. It has given me a new slant on my talks so perhaps it should have been “I learned from class 5”.