Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, gives a positive description of his long and prosperous career.

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Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, gives a positive description of his long and prosperous career.

That’s a pity, because it’s a much-loved tradition for generations of Britons, and it’s a big part of the start of the traditional Christmas season.

Tony Van Bridge and Kippe Cammaerts, my parents, were both actors who met at RADA during theater school and married soon after. They travelled the country in repertory theatre as part of the same group. Maybe I should have followed their example. And I might have done so if I’d had the courage – or the talent. But I botched it the first time I appeared on stage in the Christmas show? I’m hurting my prospects of becoming a George Clooney-like celebrity in the future.

You can’t win them all, after all. I was six years old in 1949.

We lived in Earl’s Court, west London, and I attended St Cuthbert Primary School, which was just down the road from St Matthias. It’s still there, and I’ve gone back to read to the students in the same school hall since then.

I am six years old. School didn’t appeal to me because it was full of rules, spelling exams, and punishments. If you were naughty, had your socks down, or were late for class, you were given detention. It was the ruler if you were particularly mischievous, if you said anything unpleasant or cheeked one of the adults.

But, because my actor mother used to read to me and my older brother, Pieter, every bedtime, I always enjoyed the stories and poems our teacher read to us. As a result, she transformed into a pirate, a princess, a lion, or even an elephant, experiencing the story and creating music with the words right before our eyes.

Edward Lear’s renowned nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, was one of her all-time favorite stories and poems.

I adored that poem so much that every time she recited it, I would repeat the lines back to her.

Then our instructor read it to my students one day. It was probably early December, and the headteacher had decided to base the annual Christmas play on the poem, which would be performed in front of all of the parents and teachers in the hall.

My teacher (whose name has regrettably been lost to me in the mists of time) made us come up one by one a few days later. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”

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