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Invisible tattoos and learning curves for Zany Gran 

The doors were shut, everyone was at their station and waiting for the hoards of people outside the glass doors to surge in.

Zany Gran was not in a shop waiting for hoards of January sales shoppers, but in a church. She knew full well the invisible ‘volunteer’ tattoo on her forehead had landed her in this position yet again. She was retired now, but at one time was a cake decorating teacher and still liked to pass on her knowledge of sugary concoctions.

There was a surge of excitement as the families poured through the doors to register. There were grandmas, grandpas, aunties, uncles and children, a lot of them very small children Zany Gran spotted. She had gained a lot of experience having her own two children and latterly had had five grandchildren, but had gotten out of the habit of working with children with short attention spans. It was coming up to Christmas and Messy Church was asking families to come and enjoy being messy together. It was the first time Tenerife Family Church had ventured down this new route, hoping to bring new families into church. She had run a cub pack when her own boy was eight, and knew full well that children have to be channelled and kept busy. She knew for sure that if the cubs were left unattended she would turn her back to find a tumbling heap of 30 boys play fighting and that wasn’t to be encouraged.

She sat at her table on red alert. Her first family was coming. She had grandma, grandpa, mum and son all ready and keen to make something. She was doing sugarpaste snowmen with them all. What fun, all ages were at liberty to make a mess and all act like children together. She loved teaching again and never before had she had the chance to work with such a variety of ages all at once. She had taught people from 18 to 80 in educational classes, but never in a voluntary capacity other than with brownies, guides and cubs. It was strange and challenging, but such fun.

As one family had finished their creations, others followed in short bursts not giving her time to get nervous. The families didn’t know she was going to have her debut as a puppeteer that afternoon. She handed over to someone else to finish the snowmen and went off to find a quiet space to change and quell the butterflies and caterpillars munching away in her stomach.

She was going to share a story with the families as they sat down to watch her along with a big cuddly sad toy bee, who was bright pink and black stripey whose name was Buzzywing. Buzzywing was crying as she had crystal tears dropping down her face and these were lit by tiny l.e.d. lights, which unlike the real sort, could be turned off at the flick of a switch! Another character was introduced to help act out the story. Hissing Sid the snake, who was a long glove with a pair of google eyes worn as a ring on a finger over the glove. The story was a very simple one about love.

The snake tried hard to cheer up the bee who had just had a friend leave the country. The snake tried everything he could to cheer her up, bringing her flowers, chocolates, coins and more money. Nothing stopped the tears until in desperation a big heart was brought on, signifying love of course. That worked and the bee’s tears stopped with the love and hugs Sid brought with him. This story had been intended for an older audience originally, and so was a challenging prospect for Zany Gran to make suitable for the little children in the audience.

She decided to involve the children by talking directly to them in attempt to keep them focused. She did find it a learning curve and carved the first notch on her learning curve belt. She threw out chocolate coins to the children, but did make a mental note never to do that again, until the story was finished! There was a mad scramble for the chocolate and the ‘tinies’ were hooked on chocolate, not the story. Fortunately for her, there were older siblings in the church and mums and dads who listened avidly to the story about love conquering all. Phew the song was fading ‘You Lift Me Up’ was a wonderful song to have in the background. Zany Gran’s debut was over. The sweets eaten and her puppeteer’s career started.

The children then had a story and a Muppet video and then attacked the snacks. Zany Gran slowed down as the adrenalin faded and she realised she was exhausted, but so pleased to see all the smiling faces, who were eager to repeat the process over again in January. Would she have the stamina for another session, yes of course she would, she had become a child too that afternoon and could do that time and time again.

This is a true story recalled by Chris Hoban, after the first session at Messy Church Costa del Silencio. The next one will be held at 5 to 7pm on Saturday 1st March at Tenerife Family Church