All posts by pollyspiralympics

I am an author who is passionate about bullying - especially of children, so I go into schools with Polly, one of my characters and deliver the message that bullying isn't cool, being a bully's just for the fool.

Sharing our Advent Calendar 1st-4th December

What is advent and what does it mean? Well,  Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas.  It literally means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This for Christians, therefore, means the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

So, I have decided to share a tradition from my home. Each year, we take it in turns to write the messages for our advent calendar, which consists of small boxes like houses, hung individually.

This year the task fell to me. It always takes me a bit to get going and I do not claim that all the ideas came from myself,  some were inspired by websites, however, once I did get going and into the Christmas Spirit, it became easier.

So, here are the first four days sayings, which I hope you will enjoy:

  • A PINCH OF LOVE                                                                                                    MIX IN A LARGE POT AND POUR OVER THE ONE YOU LOVE.

WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS,                                                        WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS,                                                        WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR  – THERE YOU GO, THAT’S YOUR EARWORM FOR THIS YEAR-


and an extra one for good measure;


Enjoy the build up to this special time of the year folks, and remember always those less fortunate than us.


Pop-up Book Fairs – Southern Courier

A few months ago, I decided to start Pop-up book fairs in Johannesburg. I had seen authors go to coffee shops and have book launches but I wanted more. More authors and more people.

Southern Courier reported our visit to Cafe La Plume here is what they had to say…

Promoting reading is the way to go

READING IS GREAT: The group of authors who gathered at Café La Plume recently. Front: Ashleigh Giannoccaro, Cora Groenewald and Kim Hunter. Back: Silke Kaiser, Gerry Pelser, Evadeen Brickwood and Jann Weeratunga.

JANN Weeratunga who lives in Winchester Hills began writing about 10 years ago with a few pieces of poetry. Since then she has written many children’s books, including the Polly’s Piralympics series, inspired by the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games, and is for readers aged between eight and 12 years old.

Polly’s Piralympics series of books are both unique in concept as well as content and format. They deal with disabilities, bullying and cheating. The books also have a comprehension page at the end of each chapter, where the participants can answer questions and draw their own characters etc.

“I’ve been to many primary schools with my parrots, and the children really relate to them and the stories about Polly,” said Jann.

Recently, her and other authors from around Johannesburg, including Kim Hunter, Gerry Pelser, Silke Kaiser, Cora Groenewald, Ashleigh Giannoccaro and Evadeen Brickwood, met at Café La Plume in Glenanda for a morning of poetry and reading.

“It was a fun time getting together, and we are planning on more mornings in the near future where we can promote reading among children and adults,” said Jann.

Thank you Southern Courier for the support of local Indie authors and to Cafe la Plume for once again hosting us.

How do I tell if my child is being bullied?

So, now we know what it is, how do we know if it is happening?

Beane (2008) suggests the following as indicators of possible bullying that can be observed by parents, guardians or teachers:

• Difficulty concentrating in class and easily distracted.
• Wanting to take a different route to school.
• Sudden loss of interest in school activities.
• A sudden drop in grades.
• Possessions often lost or damaged without explanation.

• Uses ‘victim’ body language – head down, shoulders hunched, avoids eye contact

• Prefers the company of adults at playtimes.
• Becomes overly aggressive and unreasonable.
• Talks about running away.
• Frequently asks for extra money.
• Carries protective devices.
• Sudden loss of respect for authority figures.

• Coming home from school, quieter than normal

• Not wanting to go to school (eg. faking a sore tummy or feeling sick)  arrives home with unexplained scratches,   bruises, damaged clothing.

• They can experience headaches, start bedwetting or have difficulty in sleeping.

Children will often not say what is happening to them directly.

As boys get older they use more avoidance strategies to try to avoid the bully, however, if this fails it can often overflow into a physical confrontation. Eg. the bully continually pokes a child in front of him in class or pulls a chair from his intended victim as they are about to sit. this may lead to the victim ‘ losing it’ and attacking the bully, regardless of consequences.

Girls will usually revert to telling a friend about what is happening to them, which often provides the extra support they need and resolves the problem.

So, now we know what to look for, what can we do?

Who is Jann Weeratunga?

As an author, I am always being asked about my life, who I am and why I started writing.

Where was I born? I was born in Perivale Maternity Hospital, Ealing in West London. (Sadly this institution which delivered thousands of babies was flattened and re-designated for housing, as births moved into mainstream hospitals.

Mum would recall how it was the coldest Winter last century and dad arrived, as did many excited fathers, to be greeted by the matron who scolded them, made them take off their overcoats and jump up and down until they had warmed themselves up, before allowing them through to wives and newborns.

I grew up happily in Ealing, went to Wood End Primary School, followed by Woodend Girls school, before someone had the bright idea of changing its name! Then we moved within Ealing to another suburb and I attended North Ealing Primary. In fact, my father and Aunt, Grandmother and Great Aunt had all attended this school, there I blossomed into a long lanky child who was nicknamed ‘Spoon,’ and became a defender of other odd-ball because I was head and shoulders taller than the bullies.

High School consisted of endless happy days. My peers caught up with me height-wise and as an ex-grammar school, (gosh I seemed to be a child whose surrounding formed change of the times,) anyway I loved high school. I played French horn and eventually went to Ealing Tech Saturday Music School, I remember my horn teacher was Lyn Morgan, a Welshman in the air force. the various choirs, orchestras, wind bands and wind ensembles I belonged to became quite good, culminating in two performances at the Albert Hall and one at the Festival Hall – the latter a competition where we came 2nd. I recall my father reading from the Times that had we had a stronger string section we would have come first. I don’t recall we even knew it was a competition, we just thought it was another concert – we performed a lot of concerts!

Anyway, at highschool, I loved sport, but with glasses that never seemed to want to stay on my face I ended up refereeing netball more than playing (actually I was quite good at it and refereed whilst at school for age groups 3 years my senior as well and 3 years my junior.)

But my love of sports and music resulted only in joining dad at the local Wasps rugby matches (I think he had secretly hope for a son first,) though I developed a passion for cricket and rugby that extend even to today.

Here with the Chief Scout at my lads CSA presentation

Life in my late teens through to my early 30’s was filled with Scouting. I devoted countless evenings and weekends to cubs and scout, ending with unarguably the best scout troops in the Greenford District for many years. I had something to prove you see, after ‘uncle Ted’ remarked, “Oh my god it’s a bl**dy woman.” as I entered the Scout HQ. It took less than 3 months for my lads to win their first trophy after I told them about it, and within the year we had won 12/13 trophies which we held for the next 7 years, – that darn swimming trophy always just alluded us, ha, ha, ha.

After marrying and moving to Sri Lanka I was widowed within four years, but determined to give back to a community who had given me so much, so, I remained in the country and helped set up new libraries and English Schools (to develop and promote spoken English.)

Whilst I was still living in Sri Lanka I became an NPO following the Tsunami in 2005. I had been on holiday in the UK visiting my mother, she woke me on the Sunday morning of 23rd December 2005.                            “Something terrible has happened in Sri Lanka.”

Mum buried under a building mountain of clothes etc

I ran to the lounge to see the results of the Tsunami in my beloved Sri Lanka. I immediately called my nephew Rukshan Jayawardene and asked what I could do? 5 days earlier we had been staying in Yala National Park. I waved to friends as they entered and we left, and that was the last time she saw them, as the wave took their lives. Determined to help, I turned my mother’s lounge and most of her house as well as a neighbour’s double garage into a Tsunami collection point. I had stayed on in the UK for a month after the Tsunami and been helped by mum’s neighbours, golfing acquaintances, sponsors and scout to collect all manner of things needy things for a people who had literally had their homes and lives torn away from them. Everything was packed into a 40ft trailer and sent to Sri Lanka, and then over the next 6 months distributed to the needy in A-bay, with the help of friends foreign and local.

I then spent the next 2 years in Aragum Bay helping villagers where I could. Sewing machine and material to set up small cottage industries. Helping to rebuild a Montessori on higher ground – a place of safety where the children will always run to should another Tsunami ever hit. Providing hundreds of books to set up a new library at the school, and helping to rebuild a small B&B. I chose ‘my Sri Lankan family,’ as they were a mixed marriage (Singhalese and Tamil.) and one in war-torn Sri Lanka that no-one else wanted to help.

I dodged mined-lined narrow roads, as I drove between Kandy in the Central Highlands of the Island, and home for nearly 10 years, to Arugam Bay on the Tamil Tiger-held East Coast. Was it dangerous? Yes, probably, but I didn’t think about that at the time. I just did it.

Sri Lanka '07 231By mid-2006 I was all but burnt out. I had achieved much, helped ‘my family’ build a business that would sustain them into the future, co-rebuild a Montisourri with my friend Tim and help bring books into the village to start a new library. But now it was time to move on.

I spent almost a year in the Middle East (UAE and Bahrain) teaching KG2 graders before moving to South Africa where I started to write, fell in love and remain to this day living in Johannesburg with my four dogs. I believe I have established myself withing the literary Indies community and regularly organise meeting and book fairs for same. But my real passion is taking Polly into schools to talk about bullying, or Toucane to talk about Stranger Danger or Keeping our world clean.

It’s what I have always been good at really – talking to children. My books and puppet are just another way to do this and get the message over. I love my life and what I do and I must be one of the luckiest people I know to be able to follow my passion in this regard.

So, there you have it. A bit about who I am. If you have any questions you would like to ask?


Snitching v’s Bullying


So, what is the difference? The main difference here is the intent.

Snitching is:

  • Trying to get someone in trouble or hurt them
  • Looking for attention
  • Done because you want to get your own way
  • Telling when it is not bullying or important and could be handled by yourself

Reporting is:

  • Telling a parent/teacher/guardian about a situation that is dangerous.
  • Looking out for your safety (both physical and emotional) of yourself and your peers when severely threatened
  • Speaking up because something is really wrong; not because you want to get someone into trouble.
  • when you can’t resolve the problem and need adult intervention

This is often difficult for kids especially as they get older. They often will NOT report something that SHOULD BE reported for fear of retribution from the bully as well as their peers.

My book How Polly Became a Pirate is being used in schools in Johannesburg, South Africa to help younger kids up to 12 years old get around the problem of ‘snitching’. At the end of each chapter, there is an interactive page where they can ‘talk to Polly,’ here they can say if they or anyone they know is being bullied and even draw a picture of what the bully looks like.

So far it has been successful in identifying bullies at schools because students don’t feel they are snitching, but rather chatting to Polly. Parents have also found this useful in identifying problems their children are having which they didn’t even know about. It is almost like writing a diary but to Polly.

The launch of Echoes From the Forest

Echoes from the forest 102018 front cover onlyWho is JE Gallery? Well, I am. It’s one of my pen names.

“Why not print your poetry?” asked Kim one day. We had been chatting and I had shown her one or two of them.

So, still not being too sure I bounced a few off some more friends.  I had been writing my poems for about 10 years and had collected a couple of hundred, so what to include for my book? It was fun re-reading them, tweaking them here and there and choosing which ones would make the cut. I hope you all will enjoy them too.

Poetry is so subjective that one never really knows how others will take your work, and as all authors know, we often suffer from low esteem are unsure of our selves and conversely our work.

By the way, it hasn’t been written under a pen because I am fearful of how it will be received, but to separate my children’s books from adult works.

Echoes From the Forest will launch at Cafe la Plume on the 31st October 2018. I will be joined by Ashleigh Giannoccero, Evadeen Brickwood, Silke Kaiser, Corne Groenewald, Gerry Pelser and my best book buddy Kim Hunter, I can’t wait, yeahhhhhh!

Join us there at 10am if you are a lover of books and meet some incredible giants in the Indie book world, chat with us, get your books signed and dedicated and just hang with the authors for a morning.


What is Bullying

What is Bullying? How do you know if your child is being bullied at school, a social club, Sunday school, a youth club or even around where you live or the kid next door?


A bully wants to hurt the other person (it’s not an accident). A bully does or says the same things over and over again. Bullying is about using power over another person. There are four main kinds of bullying.

bullying pictograms

Physical:  • hitting, shoving, kicking, spitting on, beating up on others
• damaging or stealing another person’s property
Verbal:     • name-calling, mocking or hurtful teasing
• humiliating or threatening someone
• making people do things they don’t want to do
Social:      • excluding others from the group
• spreading gossip or rumours about others
• making others look foolish
• making sure others do not spend time with a certain person
Electronic: using e-mail, cellular phone or other forms of social media and text messages to:
• threaten or hurt someone’s feelings
• single out, embarrass or make someone look bad
• spread rumours or reveal secrets about someone

So, bullying is the physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly over time. Bullying can be overt (i.e., teasing, hitting, or stealing); boys are most often overt bullies, or, Bullying can covert (i.e., spreading rumours or exclusion); girls are most often covert bullies.

So now we know what it is, how do we know if it is happening? see tip #3