Thank God It's Friday

20th August 2004 at 01:00
It's reading, rain and signing autographs for Alan Durant

Monday I land in Jakarta a day late after an enforced 24-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi, and am met by my host's driver. "Welcome, Mr Alan," he greets me with an uninhibited grin. I arrive at the British International School, where I'm guest author for its book week, just as school is ending.

The librarian, Val, gives me a quick tour ("there are 40 nationalities here," she tells me), then takes me to my luxurious accommodation. Lots of lush greenery. Plus tennis courts, swimming pools, bars - and a shop with more varieties of baked beans than I knew existed. I've arrived in expat paradise.

Tuesday School starts at 8am and the teachers like to be in early. At 7am there's a toot outside and my lift is waiting. I travel in with Year 5 teacher Miranda and make the mistake of looking at the road ahead. After the fifth near accident, I close my eyes and hope for the best. "You get used to it," she assures me.

At school, it's straight into work with a Year 9 group. I read Howl, a werewolf story, as an intro to a workshop on writing in genres. When the bell rings, I'm off to the infants, sharing Big Bad Bunny and other picture books with Year 1. Then it's Year 5 for a session on fables and Year 6 on story openings. The day ends with a torrent of rain, which no one but me seems to find remarkable.

Wednesday It's out into the humid sunshine of the nature garden for some descriptive writing. I love one small girl's description of a spotty shrub as the "chicken-pox plant". Lunch is in an open-sided cafeteria. Today it's nasi goreng (rice and vegetables). In between mouthfuls, I sign autographs, and enjoy my 15 minutes of fame.

Thursday It's Year 11 assembly and a brief talk about my teenage years (in particular, unrequited love), illustrated with some recent and not-so-recent poems. The audience claps with unexpected appreciation.

Cynicism sets in later here, it seems. I hurry to Year 4, but an emergency play rehearsal cuts the fun short and I have time to check my emails before moving on to Year 3 to discuss story points of view. Then it's lunch and more autographs.

The afternoon takes a surprising turn: a session with Year 8 on creating stories for seven-year-olds culminates in my being pressed to read the whole of my pink and sparkly novelty book Dear Tooth Fairy. I can't imagine that happening in London.

Friday The school's official book day and everyone dresses up - except me.

"Who are you dressed as?" one child asks. "An author," I say, lamely. Best of all is a boy with a shock of green hair, a stiff brown garment and a slightly embarrassed air. "Who are you?" asks the head in assembly. "The Magic Treehouse." "What book's that from?" "The Magic Treehouse," said with utter flatness. It's the perfect put-down.

I'm amazed by the efforts the whole school has gone to, until I'm told that a costume can be knocked up by local tailors for less than a fiver. I have the role of official photographer, snapping each year group in turn. At the end, the head thanks me and pushes the microphone into my hands. "Thanks," I say, lost for words. "It's been a fantastic week." And it has.

Alan Durant is a children's author. His books include the Bad Boyz football fiction series published by Walker Books

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today