Opinion with Matthew (and Bryan) Munson: EXTREME teddy agents and cemetery history

Bryan's gang of teddies star in Sunday's story time

Cemeteries are fascinating places. Is that an odd thing to say? Well, I mean it purely as a statement of fact; they are interesting. Bryan and I live close to St Luke’s Church and cemetery in Ramsgate, and I took us there on Wednesday for a walk; it’s half-term, we’re in the middle of a lockdown, and I wanted to show Bryan that it’s perfectly possible to have interesting adventures without sitting in front of the TV.

As we strode round, it was fascinating to see some of the headstones; it helped me to have a healthy discussion with Bryan about the reasons people might die at different ages, and how long people have been buried there – history lessons came in when we found gravestones from the 19th century, and we tried to find out things that were happening in the years people were born and died.

I was taken by the world war graves; sections of the cemetery had been allocated for First and Second World War graves, and German fighters were buried alongside Allied fighters. Bryan seemed genuinely taken by this idea, and I wish I could have bottled his intense curiosity at this delicate subject.

We have been on half-term this week in Casa de Munson, and it’s been an interesting challenge to keep him entertained; being in lockdown means that the “A List activities” we might have chosen aren’t available, but that we also find joy in other moments. I’m not actually that phased by the slowness of the week; after two previous lockdowns, we are depressingly used to the routine by now, but it has given us so much quality time together (as well as time to bicker every once in a while, but there’s nothing unusual in that).

I decided to do “Wellbeing Thursday” with Bryan, having shamelessly stolen the idea from his school; we choose different activities during the day – family hour, maths hour, creative hour, English hour, etc, and Bryan was quite keen to use his gang of teddies for something. I suggested that we create a story … and I seem to have started something off now, as his twenty-one teddies have now created the Agents of EXTREME (Earth Xtra-Terrestrial Research Emergency Measures Expedition, in case you were wondering), and I found myself agreeing to creating a story every Sunday evening for him at 7.30pm in bed. I’m not quite sure how that happened, to tell the truth, but Sunday evenings are now going to be the storytime central as I desperately cast about for a series of interconnected stories – because Bryan seems to have high hopes for this series. Oh dear.

Introducing Bryan to fiction has been a huge pleasure; he was never really interested in stories that much before. He would read something if you asked him to, but it was only because you asked him – he never read fiction for pleasure. I was determined, however, to find something he enjoyed; there are people who don’t choose reading as their first or second best hobbies – I accept that, even if it pains me – but I wanted Bryan to see the endless possibilities of fiction.

I seem to have succeeded so far with science-fiction, fantasy, and adventure stories; I struck silver with Harry Potter, and have managed to strike gold and platinum with the Percy Jackson series (I wish I could remember who recommended these books to me – if you’re reading this, please come forward so I can shower you with gratitude); he loves these stories about Greek and Roman gods and demi-gods, to the point where he will sometimes ask in the middle of a day to read some together. I’m never likely to say no.

Finding fiction that works has expanded his imagination no end; he seems receptive to creating stories of his own because his mind is fired with possibilities. There are people who intensely dislike science-fiction and fantasy, but I dismiss that dislike; well-written stories in that genre can inspire, educate, and entertain. I even answered a question on a quiz the other day based on something I learnt in Star Trek.

I’m even thinking of introducing Bryan to my own books at some point; it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that they’re in his favourite genre, so that might be my next choice.

1 Comment

  1. I love looking round church yards! The saddest one I saw was of a babies name on a big headstone that was obviously going to be where the parents names were going to be when they were buried with him , but their names were not on it so they must have been buried elsewhere , I watch Lamont at large and 539 , on you Tube , the beautiful sculptures in some of the cemeteries in the USA are so wonderful

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