A Journey

Oh! Dear…sorry I’m late! Transport problems on the way here. Let me settle down, take off my coat, have a cup of tea and gather my thoughts…not necessarily in that order though.

What’s the time? 16:28!! Just about an hour and a half late. Well that”s what you get as a result of travelling in modern times. Something always goes wrong. Signal failure, a pile up, body on the line or just plain shortage of drivers.

I Think I’m just about ready to start.

A Journey…..

What a subject for someone who would rather stay at home than travel. Having got a home that is. It’s all very well going abroad for holidays but home is best. All that aside, Journeys do not have to involve travelling very far physically. As a child going to see my Grannie for a few days was a journey, and that was only about 20 miles, if that, at one time. At another time it was about 200 miles. A whole days travelling by train or ‘bus, never by car as we didn’t have one and I still don’t. Compare that with a freind living in the North West Territories in Canada who thought nothing of hopping into a ‘plane and flying “a couple of hundred miles for  a game of bingo” as he put it.

We talk, don’t we, about something called “The Journey of Life” , some journey that. Not very interesting really in my case. Then there is “The Journey of a Lifetime”.  “Oh. my deah! It was the journey of a laifetaime. The peasants were so charming. So Quaint with their lovely little customs.”  or “‘Blimey mate. You shoulda seen those Pyramids. Wot a labour force they musta had in them days.”

Thinking on this topic I remembered the literary journeys I have read: Gulliver’s Travels, Travels With a Donkey, Robinson Crusoe, The Eagle of the Ninth, and so on. I was reminded of the journey that Primo Levi describes in his biography, “If  This is a Man”. The journey that ends, at a beginning, when he enters those gates marked “Arbeit Macht Frei” and then the journey he made back to Italy which he describes in “The Truce”.

As a teacher I had the task, enjoyable and enviable, of reading to my young charges. I often used the old trick of reading only part of a story or book to stimulate interest, not just in the story but, ultimately, in reading. The other trick was to leave a story at a point of tension or uncertainty to be continued….”providing you work hard!”

There were two books that I would always read completely to the children. You must understand that I preferred to teach children in the age range 8 years to 11 years of age.

Both books came into my life during my first year as a teacher. One I bought as a remaindered publication. The other was a gift. One seems to have sunk into obscurity whilst the other has become a classic, studied in depth in many of our schools.

The common factor within these books was that of a journey made. A journey to a new life. A journey of discovery and learning. A journey of growth. Both books involve a boy who has to leave the world he knows to find a “better life”.

” There is a great highway in South America which clings to the side of the high Andes Mountains. It is an old, old road made of stones and gravel and it is so long that it seems to go on  for ever. This road passes through several countries, one of which is called Bolivia. Here it follows the mountain range until it drops downinto a steep valey, to the city of Potosi. Potosi is a big town and it lies at the foot of the Silver Mountain.”

“For hundreds of years past the Quechua Indians who live in the mountains have trudged along this road barefoot, carrying baskest of salt, potatoes and maize to sell in the markets of Potosi. The highlands are very stony and the soil is poor, but these indians are poorer still and they do not even own the tiny fields that the farm.”

“Along this long winding road came  a little boy. His name was Jose and he was all alone.”

(José by Gunther Feustel English translation published by Methuen 1966)

What an introduction to a story. Simple yet full of details and information and the start (one hopes) of interest in geography…oh yes, we have to find Bolivia on the map and try and find out about Potosi and the Andes mountains. And we’ve only read three short paragraphs. In the age of the internet this should be much easier of course.

The book tells of José’s adventures in Potosi,  the friends he makes and loses and his companion which he tries to lose but somehow cannot.

I’ll say no more about this book just in case you find a copy for yourself. After my original one was burned in a fire at school I eventually found one on line at Wormy Worm Books. I cannot find them on the Net but a search for  ‘ Jose ” Guther Feustal”  ‘ turns up several copies for sale.

My other Journey book is the classic by Ann Holm, “I am David”. It has been made into a film and serialised by the BBC on the radio.

The story is of David who is helped to escape from a concentration camp in Eastern Europe and who travels to find a home in Denmark. Having known no other life than the concentration camp, David has to learn to live in the real world. There are times of great joy and beauty and times of deep sadness and despair. I will say no more except READ IT if you have not already done so.

Having been disappointed with other people’s recommendations with regard to “Books you should/must read”, I rarely suggest that another person read a book that I have enjoyed. “I am David” is the exception. No-one to whom I have read or recommended has had a negative comment to make. With out exception it has been praised. And, very often, tears have been shed. Imagine a class of 30 8 and 9 year olds crying uncontrollably at the end of a book. It has happened, more than once.

So there we have it. My “take” on a Journey…Humm…A journey?

This is the latest in a series of posts as part of the Loose Bloggers’ Consortium (LBC). Each week a member of the group chooses a topic for us to write on.

May I cordially invite you to  visit the other Bloggers in  the group for their writings on this topic.

Ashok , Conrad, Gaelikaa, MariaMarianna, Ramana, Grannymar , Judy & Helen  ?


13 Responses to “A Journey”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    We always learn at your feet without ever realising the journey you are leading us on.

  2. Maria Says:

    As a teacher, it was the eight and nine year olds that I loved the most. Reading to them was one of the greatest joys unless it was right after a Burrito and Bean lunch. Then I often wished for a gas mask. 30 gassy little kids was an experience beyond words.

    Enough silliness, I have not heard of the book “I am David”, but I will look for it here in the States. Because I was teaching California History,
    I often read “The Island of the Blue Dolphin “to my students. It is about a young Indian girl inadvertently left alone on one of the Channel Islands, when Missionaries rounded up the rest of her tribe to take them to a Mission in Santa Barbara. It is based on a true story.

    Sometimes when I read to my students, I gave them small pieces of clay to make something that was in the story. They then shared their sculpted pieces with the rest of the class at the end of that day’s reading.
    It helped me to know how much they comprehended or listened.

  3. Conrad Says:

    You were born to teach. And, what I find interesting is how each of us related journeys we traveled in our bodies, while you relate those journeys taken in the mind.

    Move through the world, world moving through you! So rich.

  4. Maureen Says:

    I’ve just checked our local library online and they have a copy. I’ll be heading up this weekend to pick it up.

  5. Helen Says:

    I too will look this book up. Thanks for sharing, that was great. x

  6. Rummuser Says:

    I wish that I had had you as my English language teacher. Yes, I too have read all the travel books but I intend getting a copy of ‘I am David’ and read it soon. Great practical view of the process of journeying itself.

  7. Rummuser Says:

    I have just ordered for it online!

  8. Ursula Says:

    Magpie, to my chagrin I recently realised that there comes a time in life when you know that you can’t possibly travel that journey again and RE-read all the books that have ever meant anything to you. It’s a shame – and maybe you find it so too. My suspicion has been confirmed that the same book speaks to one so very differently at age 10, 20, 30, 40 …. I don’t often feel sad, but do so now – reflecting on the above.

    As to teaching young children: To hold their attention is easier than that of the older pupil/student. If I had gone into teaching proper I would have definitely opted for age 12 years +: The age group to be enthused.

    And yes, I too hold much store by reading aloud to each other – at any age.

    As an aside (and I couldn’t help smiling at his verdict): My son, who is so calm and laid back he is practically horizontal, announced years ago that he’d rather starve than become a teacher or, worse, a headmaster.

    In response to other points of your post:

    I am very fond of Robinson Crusoe; I’d make a perfect Girl Friday.

    “Arbeit macht frei” has been replaced by “Vorsprung durch Technik”.

    Thanks for reminding me of Levi’s ‘If this is a man’.

    We rarely travel any longer in the ambling sense of, say, Goethe’s Reise nach Italien when going by coach was leisurely if dangerous – oh, the romance of pirates , and high road robbers not standing on ceremony. Compare that with today’s metal detectors, the very annoying exaggerated threat of being blown up by terrorists and being transported to our destination in – best case scenario – zero time. Who wouldn’t prefer to stay at home and partake in arm chair travel?

    Your ‘Travels with a donkey’ – do you remember Sancho Pansa? Those were the times.

    Fighting windmills,


  9. Marianna Says:

    I know a certain young lady who will delight in receiving a copy of “I am David”.

    And, I know a certain “aging gracefully” – I hope – lady who will add to more books to her reading list – the one that expands, faster than a waste-band after a holiday meal!

  10. gaelikaa Says:

    I have seen that book but never read it. Must look out for it again. Lovely post, Magpie! I often read to my kids. I think reading aloud is a bit of a vanishing art; too many distractions nowadays!

  11. magpie11 Says:

    Well, I didn’t expect so many to take me that seriously. I hope you all enjoy the book.
    Thanks for all your kind comments.

    Must dash

  12. Rummuser Says:

    Magpie, This is to acknowledge a debt of gratitude for the recommendation of ‘I am David’. I could not put it down once I started and since it is not a very long one, it was not difficult to stay up and read it to the end. It is everything that you said it would be and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to read it. Just in case you do not get to see this comment, I shall send an email of the same too. Thank you once again for a wonderful recommendation.

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