Saturday, February 23, 2013

Big Red

"So, you want to build a gingerbread cottage on the Nature Trail?"

"Yes. Just a temporary one. It's for my exciting new interactive Halloween event I have planned. I want to tell the children the story of Hansel and Gretel and have them actually discover this amazing house made of sweets and lollipops as we walk the trail. I want to inspire awe and wonder."

"I've got a shed, some off-cuts of wood and a bit of leftover paint."

"That'll do."

                                       *   *   *

A few days later saw myself, McColleague and Lovely Warden bringing these mundane entities together to create magic.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I think it looks amazing."

"Compared to the old Nursery Rhyme Trail a couple of garden gnomes and a plastic windmill would look amazing."

"True. But once we're in costume and the group are in the right frame of mind, I am quite sure this simple garden shed with painted bits of wood stuck to it will be utterly convincing as a magical gingerbread cottage in the woods. Don't look at me like that. It'll be fine."

The day of the event was a perfect October day, sunny and crisp. I planned to take three guided walks over the course of the afternoon, each one telling the tale of Hansel and Gretel.  I wanted it to be as interactive as possible, so the children were actually part of the story. So many guided walks and tours are hugely dull for adults, let alone children, and I wanted this to be anything but.

I was the story teller and guide, Big Red. I used to be Little Red Riding Hood, I informed the groups, but I grew. I had personal experience of these woods but not to worry, the big bad wolf wouldn't be bothering us today (at which point I showed them the wolf's head prop I had cunningly stashed in my wicker picnic basket.)

The picnic basket also contained a big bag of breadcrumbs which the children were encouraged to dip into so we could leave a trail just as Hansel and Gretel did and which would be obligingly eaten by ducks, sheep and, on at least one tour, a visitor's dog.

 McColleague was a part of each group, coming with us from the start, nonchalantly carrying a large shoulder bag. As we drew nearer the gingerbread shed I paused for a while in the orchard, to recreate Hansel and Gretel's fearful night in the woods. "Close your eyes," I instructed, "and listen. What sorts of noises can you hear? What sorts of noises do you think you might hear in the night?" Some of the children were entertainingly creative with their hoots, growls and comedy parps.

While all this was going on McColleague would leave the group and hurry on ahead to the shed, where she would complete an amazing transformation using only the contents of the big shoulder bag.

After sufficient time had passed I would move the group on to the next chapter of our story. Hansel and Gretel, tired and hungry, finally stumble across  a dwelling in a clearing. Hooray, they are saved! It looks like a shed, but no, it's a totally edible and completely realistic gingerbread house!

The children would eagerly gather round as I recounted the delight with which Hansel and Gretel broke off pieces of chocolate and biscuit and  gorged themselves silly. But what they didn't know was that in this house lived.....a witch!

And bang on cue McColleague would come flying out of the shed and chase the children, cackling madly. The kids never failed to shriek and run while their parents collapsed in laughter.

Eventually things would settle down again and we would finish the story, with Hansel being slowly fattened up and the short-sighted witch being fooled into thinking he was still too skinny to eat when he hands her a bone instead of his finger to squeeze through the bars of his cage. We re-enacted this with a small plastic dog bone from the pet shop as I didn't want to risk upsetting anybody with a real one.

The tale finally ended with clever Gretel tricking the witch and pushing her into her own oven. I did the pushing for this bit. Interaction is all well and good but knowing how keen over-stimulated children would be to shove a wicked witch headfirst into a painted fireplace I thought it best to cover this part of the roleplay myself so that McColleague and her pointy hat would survive to perform another day.

By 5 o'clock we were all interactived out.

"There aren't any more tours now, are there? Please tell me that was the last one. Please don't put me back in the shed."

"That was the last one, McColleague. All that remains now is to close up, cash up, put more lippy on, open the wine and partay."

I am a great believer in balancing hard work with an equally demanding level of play. Some people might say that having been on their feet all afternoon, talking non stop, having to do it all again tomorrow, they might prefer to have a quiet evening in on the sofa, resting. Those people are sensible and have probably never known the pain of having to open a visitor attraction the morning after with a head full of ball bearings. However, these people do not get to go to my after-event parties, so who's the real winner here? Answers in the comments, as per.

Big Red


cogidubnus said...

I knew you were a looker (no use trying to hide your face away, your friends have already blown the gaff internet-wise!) but I had no idea of the full glory and majesty of the "Big Red"...

Wow...even m'colleague, who is certainly not to be siffed at, doesn't even enter into it...

I think my heart just missed a beat...and with my angina that ain't safe...glory be you're gorgeous, (sorry if that's politically incorrect but it's the truth!)

All the best


cogidubnus said...

Thinking upon this further, and applying my full intelligence to the problem, Doris, if you never ever publish anything again, shit those piccies have made an old man so very, very, happy!


Doris said...

Cogi, you are as ever way too kind. You must bear in mind that there are plenty of pictures of me looking like a lumpy old deranged bag lady but those are not the pics I post online:)

You are right that McColleague is another fine looking woman and I do feel our workplace was fortunate to have such attractive staff with such a perfect blend of efficiency and fun.

Now that I have parted ways with my former employer I am at a little more liberty with my blogging but still wish to keep certain things anonymous for various reasons, so I try not to identify anyone by name and keep the pictures relatively face-free.