Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"Learning To Read With The Flopsy Bunnies"

Today I saw " Miss Potter", the new film directed by Chris Noonan, starring Renee Zellweger as the writer Beatrix Potter. Her co-star is Euan McGregor as her sweet shy publisher, Norman Warne, who eventually becomes her fiancee. It's an intriguing film, which paints a haunting picture of a private ( but rather strong) woman. The main characters: Barbara Flynn as Beatrix's snobbish mother ( "Tradespeople, Beatrix! They bring DUST in the house!") and Bill Patterson, with his gentle Scots accent and enormous sideburns, are superb, as are the settings of 1903 London and the stunning Lake District. This film may well have embroidered facts and added some too, but as a Potter fan for several decades, I found it sheer delight.


SOPORIFIC. That's quite a word for a four year old. But I learned it alright. Beatrix Potter taught me that word in her "Tale Of The Flopsy Bunnies" and I never forgot it.

That word intrigued me. I lay in bed in the dark saying "soporificsoporificsoporific" , until I really was SO soporific that I fell happily asleep.

And I dreamed about sleepy rabbits, who wore waistcoats, trousers and even clogs ( Benjamin Bunny, no less) , who talked like human beings, who gorged on too much lettuce. And I dreamed of a duck called Jemima, who wore a poke bonnet, of Mrs Tabitha Twitchett, the tabby cat who expected friends to tea, of rabbits called Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. And I shivered in my sleep as images of scary Mr Macgreggor (who had a garden of flowerpots, frames and tubs) flashed across my dreams. Potter's world was magic; it had red cotton pocket handkerchiefs, camomile tea, a scarecrow wearing a tam-o-shanter; it had Pigling Bland and Jeremy Fisher and Moppet and Mittens, kittens dressed in clean pinafores and tuckers . It had rabbits who supped bread and milk and blackberries at bedtime; it had a toad called Mr Jackson, who drank acorn cupfuls of honeydew...

And there were new words to learn in her stories and bright images to stare at in her pictures. And most of all, Potter's world opened my four year old's eyes to stories and drawings, characters and plots..


My father read to us regularly. We sat on deckchairs beside the lilac trees, we lolled on the comfy brown leather sofa by French windows overlooking the snowball tree. I remember bedtimes snuggled beneath a slippery pink satin eiderdown, clutching Edwina, Wonky and the handsome Tumpkins ( teddies, of course.)
And we listened to Potter over and over. We loved her elegant words which we learned by heart , we enjoyed her detailed delicate paintings which remain in my minds-eye for ever. And all the while, my father's gentle tones soothed us into our sleep.


Two decades later, I read them again. In fact, I was so keen to get back to Potter that I bought my eldest son " Benjamin Bunny" on his first birthday. And NOW I wouldn't be surprised if next time I'm shopping, I just might pop into a bookshop and buy my grandson " The Flopsy Bunnies" or possibly " Jemima Puddleduck" ...

10 Comments:

Anonymous Richard said...

Hello Mum - enjoyed reading this about Beatrix Potter. I hope one day I'll come to terms with breaking my Benjamin Bunny bowl on the kitchen floor!
Keep on blogging...RJB.

9:55 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Can you REALLY remember that??
Now I know WHAT to get for your next birthday....

2:47 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Thanks so much Jan for some wonderful reading - i have just finished reading all your posts i missed while being on holiday.
Your story about the girl drowning in the pond is so powerful and haunting - beautifully written. It should be published ( apart from on the internet of course.) I hope you are going to send it somewhere?
The description of Cheshire is great - i am gong to alert my sister's partner to it, as he hails from Cheshire.
And the review of the movie ( I'm definitely going to go and see it when it gets here) and other sundry Beatrix items is wonderful too. Each of our three sons has a Peter Rabbit bowl - being kept safe for them to give to their first-borns! (Whenever ...)

2:01 am  
Blogger Jan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks for your interest and enthusiasm. It is appreciated.
Also where does your sister's partner come from? Cheshire is NOT a huge area so I am curious..

10:38 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

I'll ask him ...

9:47 am  
Anonymous marly said...

While I like a great many of the stories, I am partial to Mrs. Tiggy-winkle on my china...

12:14 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Marly: Amazed at how far back you must have gone to get to this on my blog!! Hope you liked it. And good for Mrs Tiggy Winkle!!

9:55 am  
Anonymous marly said...

Yes, I like to noodle around in stray moments. I'm against progress! Why should the latest one be the only one that matters?

4:16 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks Marly. Your noodling appreciated!

4:24 pm  

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