Jackson spent two days at the British School of Milan at the end of last term, taking our hugely popular A Visit from Bookman to every pupil from Nursery to Year 6. Although Jackson’s very fond of Italy, this was his first visit to Lombardy – and here are his Top 5 Bits of Learning!
(1) One of our favourite drama activities is Bookman’s Footsteps, our twist on an old playground game that I’ve always known as Grandma’s Footsteps. I’ve also known, too, that there are a whole host of regional variations of the game, all with slightly different rules – from What’s the Time, Mr Wolf to Hot Chocolate. But I was genuinely surprised to discover the extent of the game’s reach when Year 3 told me it’s not dissimilar to one they play in Italy, Un, Due, Tres, Stella!
(2) I needed to give Bookman a reason to be in Italy, of course, and wanted it to have a tangible connection to reading. The only Italian children’s book I know is Gatto Nero, Gatta Bianca – my wife and discovered this beautiful story in Venice, about eighteen months ago, and bought it on the spot. The tiniest bit of research then resulted in the loveliest bit of serendipity – as the author, Silvia Borando, studied … at the University of Milan! So as Bookman, of course, I’d been looking for her.
(3) Cheese has long been my downfall; creamy camembert, beautiful brie, stinky stilton - you name it, I’ll go for it. So I was delighted to discover that gorgeous gorgonzola, my absolute favourite, has its historical home in a little village just outside Milan. To make things even better, the train from the airport passed through the town of Saronno – where the scrumptious saronno biscuits I love come from!
(4) Oscar Wilde was famously anything but a fan of Milan’s cathedral, the Duomo, finding it hideous. I can agree with the great man on many things – but not on this. It is simply one of the most astonishing buildings I’ve visited. There are so many statues embellishing its exterior that it’s impossible to look at them all, while, inside, its vaulted rooves seem to go up and up for ever.
(5) It’s possible that I’m distantly related to the man after whom the British School of Milan is named, Sir James Henderson! I’ve not been able to find out much about him – but he was a Scottish businessman, Henderson being, of course, a classically Scottish name. And as my maternal grandfather was the Aberdeen-born Daniel Henderson, I, like him, am entitled to wear the Gunn tartan (although I never, to date, have).
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