Are you acquainted with Flat Stanley? If you're a parent in North America I can pretty much guarantee that you have heard of him, and you've probably met him too.
Flat Stanley is the hero of a series children's books written by Jeff Brown. Stanley Lambchop was just an ordinary boy until one night a bulletin board fell off his bedroom wall and squashed him. Stanley was unhurt, but flat - half an inch thick. After the initial understandable concern of his family, Stanley soon discovered that being flat had its advantages, and the books tell of Stanley's many adventures.
One of the benefits of Stanley's diminished size is that he can be posted to visit his friends (in a special envelope, along with a carton of milk and an egg-salad sandwich made with thin bread!), which is 'much less expensive than a train or an aeroplane ticket'.
This idea generated a huge Flat Stanley project in the USA and Canada, and it was something that caught my eye when I was living in Ontario...
So, when I was teaching in rural Oxfordshire earlier this year, I set up my own Flat Stanley project. I read the book to my class (Year 2 and 3), then gave them all pictures of Stanley to colour. I laminated them, and sent them home with covering letters as a homework project - send Stanley somewhere... anywhere... and let's see what happens.
Well, I wouldn't ever have imagined getting such an incredible response! Within weeks we were having Stanleys sent back to school from all over the UK, and all over the world - Australia, China, Hong Kong, Poland, France, to name but a few. All the Stanleys came back with postcards of where he'd been, but many of the recipients had gone above and beyond the call of duty and sent Stanley back to our class laden with gifts (the clotted cream fudge from Cornwall was particularly popular!), and often with photo albums documenting his adventures. We could just tell that everyone had had so much fun, and it was incredibly exciting (and educational) for the children (OK, and for me!)
When I left the UK to come to Brunei I gave all of my class a slip of paper with my new address on it, and told them that I would love to have Flat Stanley to stay with me. It's taken a few months, but last week Stanley arrived, courtesy of the lovely Polly.
I was so excited! I immediately started planning photo opportunities... Imagine how delighted I was to wake up on Wednesday (which was a public holiday) to hear the monkeys leaping about on our roof. "Perfect" I thought, a quintessentially Bruneian photo-shoot - Stanley with the monkeys.
This proved easier said than done, but I managed a few with the monkeys in the background.
Pretty soon one of the monkeys came to sit on the car, a place where they often like to play. Even better! This'll be a great photo... Smile Stanley!!!
Now if you know the monkeys, I'm sure you can guess what happened next...
At this point I'm shaking with laughter and trying to snap away as Stanley becomes closely acquainted with this Bruneian resident...
But then things got a little nasty...
Oh crap! Now I'm clapping my hands and shouting "NO!" at the monkey, who seemed utterly unperturbed by my distress. Every time I took a step closer, he simply took a step back, with Stanley still in his mouth. I had visions of him leaping up onto the roof with him, and poor Polly would never see Stanley again.
Suddenly I had a brainwave, the ignoring-bad-behaviour-strategy! Gritting my teeth I turned my back and began to walk away. Sure enough - and to my huge relief - the monkey dropped Stanley and leapt off into a nearby tree. Phew!
Stanley had a lucky escape, although tragically he lost a leg as a result of the incident. A quick trip to the Pendlenton ER soon had him sorted out though. I'm hoping Polly will see the funny side - after all, she probably owns the only Flat Stanley in the world to have his leg chewed off by a monkey!
We took Stanley to the Yacht Club to soothe his shattered nerves. Nothing like a sunbathe by the sea to help one recuperate.
We retreated to the shade of the palm trees when it got too hot.
We then took Stanley out for lunch. No expense spared for our special guest - we had a $1 lunch at one of the food stalls in Serasa!
It was genuinely delicious though - especially the rose-syrup/condensed milk/crushed ice ABC drink (although Stanley was less than impressed with the grass-jelly and sweetcorn at the bottom of the cup. Definitely an acquired taste).
On our return home Stanley helped me in the kitchen. We made cookies and baked bread.
Stanley got to lick the beaters.
Later that week Stanley came to school with me... but that's for another post!
I'm so pleased that Stanley survived the monkey attack with no mental scars, he seems as cheerful as ever...
To be continued.