Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Stories,Snakes and Cimate Change

When Tony Bradman put out a new brief in 2007 for stories about climate change Britain was poised for a storm surge down the North Sea which was threatening floods worse than the great floods half a century ago. On the 31st January 1953 a wall of water, driven by winds over 100mph, swept down the North Sea and over 300 people died. It was the worse peace time disaster in Britain in the twentieth century.
But a new storm was due in November 2007 and on the news the talk was all about global warming and the rise in sea levels. We would have to expect more threats from the sea and much worse flooding than in 1953. Bangladesh which is only one metre above sea level could be submerged in the future.
I decided to write my story about climate change to explore this growing threat.
I felt very strongly it was important that my story helped children to feel empowered. I wanted to show them that they could take action to help prevent climate change, rather than just sit around worrying about it.

In 2009 my story, 'Tommo and the Bike Train' was published in the anthology, 'Under the Weather' stories about climate change, edited by Tony Bradman (Francis Lincoln)

My story about Tommo is highlighted on the back page.

Tommo is a typical 12 year old growing up in Camden, playing football in the streets with his best friend,Deep,whose family come from Bangladesh. Tommo is happy with his life, around the flats and at school. He can't imagine living anywhere else.

Tommo's flats in Camden

Then his parents announce they are moving to the east coast of England. Tommo finds himself at the end of a lane near the sea, with no other kids around and his Dad has to drive him to school everyday. He hates it. Its November and dark by four. The sea sounds like a wild beast outside his window.

In Geography they are doing global warming and floods in Bangladesh. As the world heats up the sea levels will rise and flooding will become worse. Deep tells Tommo that his grandma died in Bangladesh last time there were floods. "Drowned?" says Tommo. "Snake bite," says Deep. When there are floods in Bangldesh dozens of people die from snakebites. Losing their habitats the snakes climb onto roofs with the humans and end up in their bedding with terrible consequences.

I learnt about the danger from snakes when teaching Geography in Camden classrooms. I remember being horrified at this ultimate cruelty after everything that the flood victims have gone through.

Flood victims and the snakes

Tommo worries about saving all the grannies of the world as the sea levels rise and floods get worse. Then one morning in school the Head informs them that a storm surge is predicted down the North Sea and they will all be evacuated to the school buildings. Tommo and his family leave their home during the storm and camp out overnight in the school hall. Then Tommo gets his brilliant idea. He decides he is personally going to stop global warming over his town by persuading the other kids to bike to school, instead of driving. They meet up and form a Bike Train for safety.

Photo by Louis Berk

I love writing to a brief and this is the second short story I have had published in an anthology. The first story, 'Samir Hakkim's Healthy Eating Diary' was published in 'Give me Shelter' stories of child asylum seekers, edited by Tony Bradman, Francis Lincoln, 2007. The anthology was short-listed for the UKLA award.

The character of Samir, an unaccompanied child asylum seeker from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, appeared again in my new novel, HIDDEN, to be published in Oct 2010, Meadowside Books.
Writing short fiction, working to briefs, focuses the mind beautifully and you never know where it may lead.
Perhaps I will go on to write more about Tommo in the future.


  1. I thought it was wonderful. If it did not sound presumptuous on my part I should say “Congratulations” You write in amazingly different ways. I shall give my copy of Under the Weather to my eleven year old grandson for Channukah. Susan Loewe, Highgate
    Sent by email to me.

  2. Hi Miriam, I love the way you have illustrated the story with photographs on your blog. These pictures have bought the story alive for me. Thank you.

  3. Thanks Anita, I really enjoyed putting this post together.

  4. Tony Bradman's anthologies are always of the highest standard, so well done, Miriam, with getting Tommo's Story included. I know what you mean about writing to a brief. It concentrates the mind.


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