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Fairytale Kingdom: The making of…

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Jane Bower, creator of the Fairytale Kingdom model, reveals the ups and downs of taking on such a huge project…

Jane Bower

Jane Bower, author and designer of the Fairytale Kingdom model

It was with a mixed reaction of caution and interest that I received an email from Mike Ward, the editor of Child Education PLUS, requesting that I should design a Fairytale Kingdom for teachers to make with their classes. Perhaps the fact that his missive was many paragraphs in length, punctuated with numerous assurances that I would be just the person for the job, and a suspicious number of repetitions that there was nothing to worry about should have made my wariness a little stronger, but, lured by the idea of making little buildings with exciting moving parts, I embraced the idea with the naive enthusiasm I all too frequently display, and set to work with a will. And I did it, it’s finished and I enjoyed it. However, I feel that readers should be aware that this project has been the cause of several major changes to my life…

Sinks once pristine, in both bathroom and kitchen, are now liberally covered with glue-filled yoghurt pots

  1. Social rejection. Following several supper parties where the question ‘So, Jane, what are you busy with at the moment?’ elicited a 45 minute detailed description of the advantages of using a Morrison’s car sponge over a Tesco’s to make part of a Gingerbread House, which I found compelling and fascinating, offers of dinner and other social engagements have steeply declined. I am now forced to eat Pringles alone watching talent contests on the TV, a level to which I hoped never to stoop. Texts to long-suffering teacher friends, once exchanging family news or light hearted banter, have sunk to ‘bring me straw’ and ‘how much modroc you got?’.
  2. Lack of personal hygiene. Sinks once pristine, in both bathroom and kitchen, are now liberally covered with glue-filled yoghurt pots, trays of mixed paint, blobs of acrylic sealant and swollen lentils. The same applies to my clothes and body. My bed resembles that of Tracey Emin except that the items on, in and around it are offcuts of card, caked glue spreaders and lumps of plaster of Paris. My first task on waking is no longer to shower but to eagerly check whether the PVA of last night has dried clear as hoped.
  3. Poor attitude to health and safety issues. Lengths of wire grace the floor, hot glue guns are thoughtlessly cast on chair seats, plaster dust is recklessly breathed in, clay is mistakenly placed among food in fridge. While photographing a particular stage of the work, I decided a higher vantage point and more daylight were necessary. With scant regard for my well-being I mounted a chair, paint-marked digital camera in one hand and edge of curtain in the other. Pulling aside the latter resulted in the entire structure parting from the wall. Worryingly, I observed that my only reaction was one of pleasure that I had obtained more light.
  4. Kleptomania. I have stolen gravel from a school garden, a fistful of drinks stirrers from a cafe and numerous items from my place of work. At the latter my boss now simply sighs wearily as I am seen stuffing split pins, air drying clay and lolly sticks into my already bulging pockets, muttering ‘portcullis’ or ‘wolf’ as I head through the office. Colleagues shake their heads and murmur that it’s such a shame about Jane. I understand that support and counselling are available.
  5. Obsessional behaviour. I have taken to shopping in supermarkets other than my nearest one for fear of being asked to leave it and not being able to shop locally again. I have been spotted in a store in Shrewsbury measuring boxes of teabags with a tape while security staff looked on, whispering into their radio mikes. On discovering that the ideal box for Grandma’s Cottage held Tena Lady incontinence pads I exhibited genuine vocal distress, as I felt that this could not feature in the photographs of an infant publication. Eating habits have now changed completely, as I consume only foodstuffs from appropriately sized boxes, some of which I actively dislike.
  6. Amnesia. This takes the form of total inability to remember that it is necessary to eat, sit, drink or visit the lavatory.

I have stolen gravel from a school garden, a fistful of drinks stirrers from a cafe and numerous items from my place of work

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But having said all that, you will be tackling the FK (as I have come to know it) from a very different angle. Just collect the things from the shopping list, follow the pictures and the instructions and then add the fairytale ingredient – your own and the children’s imaginations. By all means take my ideas – but by all means carry them further. In fact, carry them as far as you like – I’m off to therapy with a nice book of fairytales.

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