Rosen is writing in his "about my family" voice, retelling a familiar situation - though from before the days of in-car entertainment – and it's one that children and parents enjoy recognising.
As you’d expect, it's about a car journey. Mum is driving and two brothers are squabbling in the back. The two bored boys say things to get her attention and get the other into trouble.
The bothered mum amuses them, threats them, takes firm action, and then - the poem implies - the voices in the back start up again.
The poem is mostly dialogue: Mum and the kid's voices from the back seat, but I've often used it as a starter for a class poem about a school event or outing.
Here’s how Rosen's poem starts:
Right you two. This is a very long car journey.
I want you two to be good.
and I can’t drive properly if you two go mad in the back.
And we say, OK mum, OK. Don’t worry.
And off we go.
And we start the Moaning . . .
Something similar – although not in this exact way - happens to me. I've decided the voices from the back seat are my occupational hazard.
Here’s how it works. Often, while reading fiction or watching tv or a film drama, I think: Right. This is a very long story and I want to relax and really enjoy it.
Then the small voice in my head starts up. Not two bothersome boys but my internal “writer” voice. "Now x could be coming next - but is it more likely y will happen? Or are we being set up for? . . . it goes. On and on.
The plot sticks a head out of the cupboard and starts murmuring “I’m going to do this. Or that. Or am I? Did you notice that bit of foreshadowing?” The plot options flip like a rolodex rotating in the brain, slowing at this twist or that turn and impossible to stop.
There are good moments and less annoying times. Suddenly a word or phrase or an image sings out from a page, an interesting object appears, an amazing fact pops into view and my mind starts chattering again. "What if? Now that would be fascinating to use. Should I scribble the words down?" I reach for the pad that's always beside me and scribble a word or two. With luck, I’ll put that fragment of an idea into the box by my desk.
So my WORDTURNING blog is really about those sparks, those moments when something pops into the head, and the writing mind, like Burglar Bill, says "I'll have that." Or, like Blind Pew, delivers the unwelcome Black Spot.
“Sure about this blog?” says that other too-knowing voice from the back seat. “You know you’re always procrastinating? Enough to be doing a Masters in it?.Will writing a blog about writing really help the situation? Remember that tome-in-progress, eh? Shouldn't we be nearly there by now?"
Live in hope, I answer. Today's an optimistic day.
It's definitely a very occasional blog and it's only just beginning.
"Hmm. Under construction more like," a glum voice mutters.
Meanwhile, welcome to WORD TURNING!
Here’s the great Michael Rosen. He has video-recorded all the poems from his collection, The Hypnotiser”, and put them online as a learning resource. Such an enjoyable idea.