Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles – Part Three: Wriggly Squiggles in Rescalda…

Allora, I miss summer camp. Just over a week on from last Friday’s grand finale and the ultimate Lo Spettacolo show of summer 2014 and I’m already thinking “awww, I’d like to do it all again!” I miss making an ass of myself in front of Italian children. I miss all the singing, dancing, uptempo activity and all the rest that is the remit of an English language tutor in the field (the trenches?). I miss the kids – even the ones who may be identified as ‘otherwordly, disturbed and possibly deeply evil’ – and have withdrawal symptoms. Honestly, I’ve put my red company t-shirt back on and am shouting “listen and repeat!” at the mirror. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way so solidarity shout out to all kindred spirits who get what I’m talking about and who’ve come home and are staring down the barrel of a long winter. Bereft, I’m going to deal with these difficult emotions by opening up my bag and bringing out my camp diaries for some fond reminiscence…

As per convention, my camp diaries are the lunchtime doodles I did every day at camp. The ninety-minute break bang in the middle of the madness is probably the best segment of the schedule for everyone involved. For the kids, it’s a chance to eat, not worry about speaking English for a bit and play freely doing whatever they want to do (play football, swing on swings, construct elaborate death cult grave sites, whatever). For me, it’s a chance to relax back and take a breather, get some much-needed food myself and – most importantly – draw. My sketches tend to reflect the theme and events of the day and my headspace at the time, so in effect they do stand as sorta-kinda journal chronicles. For old examples, see the June collections from Camp One and Camp Two

Alternately, see below for this fresh bunch from Camp Three which was located in the town of Rescaldina, just outside Milano (though the camp was called Rescalda, which is one of the subdivisional zones of the place). Some context before I begin and bring out the bad sketches: this camp didn’t have a special mensa/canteen area for us to eat in or any catering arrangement so we had packed lunches and ate them outside in the front yard. (Parents were the main driving force behind the camp and the school was ultimately just a location with a couple of classrooms, a hall, a front yard and a smelly toilet block for us to use. The school really didn’t want us there but that’s a rant for another time and place.)

These are not what I’d call ‘ideal lunchtime doodle’ conditions – ideal conditions would be paper placemats for drawing on, tables for resting on and seating arrangements where I’m with the children while they’re eating. I may be a Control Freak Princess who’s very precious about certain things, but I’m not going to let minor obstacles get in the way of my fun. As it was, I got some of my own paper, dragged chairs and a desk outside with me and doodled anyway because I have a reputation and a tradition to uphold. I’d then sit there for that hour-and-a-half alternating between eating, talking and laughing deliriously with my colleague Sandy while doodling. The moral to this story is either “You can make your own fun anywhere in spite of inauspicious circumstances” or “Control Freak Princesses will get always get their way”.

Anyway, that’s more than enough rambling so let’s get to self-indulgent sketch action. Here are the daily doodlings with some explanatory annotations…

Day One: Andiamo! Camp begins with getting-to-know-all-of-you type stuff and standard camp intro bits. There’s Lady LSF (the company mascot) and some individual kids from camp getting name references. The magical unicorn shows I’m feeling optimistic but note the note that expresses dissatisfaction with the day’s doodles (yeah, I agree that today’s a bit lame). The most important thing you can teach a child is how to say “Can I go to the toilet, please?” (or “May I?“) so that’s why there’s an anthropomorphic lavatory. (It’s tragicomic when you get a desperate seven-year-old running up to you to say “My name is toilet! Please?!“) Also, we quickly realised that the children at this camp – even the older ones – really liked hiding behind things for no apparent reason, so that explains the little flower. “Big and strong like King Kong” is a skit I do to get kids’ attention, so there’s King Kong again. I like drawing apes and monkeys and acting like apes and monkeys. Really, I probably enjoy camp so much ’cause it allows me to embrace my primal ancestry…

Rescalda - Day 1

Day Two: On to the second day, and it’s animal day so all the sketches are creature features. Olly Olly Octopus is the most popular game (it’s like British Bulldog, except it has a chant, cephalopod and seaweed roleplay so it’s way, way better and the kids go crazy for it) so that’s why he’s there. Bam-Bam the Bull shows that I’ve already worked out that some of the students are a bit wild and potentially hazardous. The song ‘No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed‘ gets illustrated here and I like Doctor Chimpanzee. The song ‘Bungalow‘ – honestly, the best dance-off song you’ve never heard on – also gets showcased by dancing sheep. So far, so standard. Yeah, diary doodles weren’t anything great at the beginning of this camp…

Rescalda - Day 2

Day Three: We hit Wednesday with a certain sense that “Ah yeah, there are some real hellraisers in this town” and that is explicitly outlined in this set of sketches. Sandy – symbolically represented as a Canadian moose – had already started punishing the really bad (and I mean really bad) kids by presenting them with ridiculously hard grammar worksheets for them to think on. (It’s a brutal and confusing but effective punishment.) I’m also sensing the destructive tendencies of this band of bambini and psychically channelling it into the doodles: Bombs! Fire! Shark attacks! Devil children! Other sketches encourage the educational mission of English-language summer camp (make your brain big!) and the repeated image of an animal saying “I’m hungry!” is me trying to teach kids the English way of saying “ho fame!” or “yum yum yum?” Also important is the panic sketch detailing the demise of my beloved water bottle which got hit by a rogue football, went flying and crashed to the ground. The filter snapped out and I was devastated but all was okay in the end and I managed to fix it so, phew, epic relief. That is both a testament to the outstanding design and quality of the product and the mantra “Precious Control Freak Princesses never say die…

Rescalda - Day 3

Day Four: I’m seeing a pattern here and that pattern is clearly that I like dancing sheep. With Thursday being Talent Show day and the day we look at ‘doing things’, sports and hobbies – verb action – I brought out musical animals and returned to the Sheep Disco. I like the idea of a rollerskating fish and a punk rock parrot. Elsewhere, Simone the Monkey comes from my battle trying to control an unbelievably strong little kid who gripped on to a doorframe and started to climb it in order to escape. There’s a weather update from a snake caught in a storm (we woke up to dramatic apocalyptic lightning). Altogether though, I’m still not impressed by the efforts and I can remember thinking “ah, c’mon James! Get some mojo going and go wild!” Why does Sandra the Spider like papaya? Because I asked Sandy to name a random fruit and she said papaya. Yeah, I wasn’t at my most inspired, and made a conscious effort to up the ante for the rest of camp…

Rescalda - Day 4

Day Five: Hitting the halfway point and things are getting dramatic ’cause a few of the bambini had started throwing stones and rocks (big rocks) around and that is unacceptable, hence the attempt to put the fear of the afterlife in ’em. Friday is also Family Fun Day so there’s the Lion Family and I guarantee that they’re going to have fun (they did). I’d also really amped up the ‘Around the World’ theme of the whole camp so that gets referenced but the main thing of note here is the arrival of The Pizza Song. Adapted from blank, bare lyrics Sandy found in the Camp Tutor Guidebook, we turned it into a thing with a tune and dance moves and quickly realised that it was – no hyperbole – the Best Thing Ever. We quickly worked to convince everyone else that our magnum opus was indeed the Best Thing Ever and ensure that it was at the core of our operation…

Rescalda - Day 5

Day Six: So the first week wasn’t tremendous sketch-wise so I set about making week two a bit more interesting. Re-inspired and revived after the weekend, the fact that today’s theme is food also makes for perfect material to spark some sketch ideas. I like the Mushroom Boogie, the Cherry Bombs and the Strawberry Friends. I’m also a fan of spaghetti monsters and am psyched to see ‘Cheese Fight’ be made into a real thing. The transatlantic debate over “aubergine or and eggplant?” gets articulated by some perplexed penne pasta and my determination that I will not perform trademark camp classic ‘The Banana Song‘ until ‘the kids have earned it’ – like Christmas, it’s a one-time-a-year thing only for good children – is also illustrated. Most importantly, ‘The Pizza Song‘ is turned into a singalong comic strip…

Rescalda - Day 6

Day Seven: The second Tuesday was meant to feature a treasure hunt which explains today’s sketch action. (We postponed it until the day after, for bad weather and bad children ‘Ah, we can’t effectively run a Treasure Hunt when they’re like this’ reasons.) You can get a pretty good idea of what you come to consider as most valuable during camp life when you study what I’ve sketched up: obviously pizza is essential and, for the boys, the football is the most desirable item in the world (I can still hear ’em begging and pining “my ball? My ball!?” every time we got outside. If you fancy a powertrip, making yourself the self-appointed guardian of a little boy’s ball is an easy way of suddenly acquiring an immense amount of authority). I really like the Mer-Sheep and Cecilia the Pirate Hero. The latter is a conscious feminist fist-bump because there was an uneven ratio of girls-to-boys at the camp and the females were all great kids and ace students. A lot of the boys, however, were big trouble and you can feel that in the “crazy as a coconut” and Devil-Child doodle. Still, as noted on the page, we knew how to play ’em and manipulate ’em (just withhold the football, muhahahaha). Otherwise, preparation for the Beatles-themed final show was advancing and that’s why we have ‘Here Comes the Sun‘ and John Lennon’s glasses creeping into the mix. There’s also a macabre tribute to my friend, camp roomate and Irish rock ‘n’ roll brother Denis Power in there ’cause Sandy and I missed the lovable big lug…

Rescalda - Day 7

Day Eight: Wednesday week two is all about feelings so I delved deep and sought to express some emotions. Happy trees and spiders are all fine but even more potent are the angry octopus and sad snake which speak of confusion at the bad behaviour of some of the boys (if you start kicking other kids, you ain’t gonna get to play Olly Olly Octopus!). Anyway, I seized the opportunity to pay tribute to Flight of the Conchords with Jemaine the Llama and convey a sense of my dramatic ambition for the Lo Spettacolo final show (seriously, my camp show scripts are like Shakespeare… in that they involve lots of confused Italians dressing up as other people and babbling unfathomable nonsense). Today, bizarrely enough, the boys in my class found some girls’ handbags hidden beneath some old curtains dumped at the back of the classroom and became quite fixated with them so that gets referenced. I’ve no idea where the Electro-Jellyfish and Word Wizard came from but I can roll with ’em…

Rescalda - Day 8

Day Nine: The penultimate day of camp arrives and by this point everything is hurtling into the far-beyond-weird territory. You can appreciate my sense of battling and being engaged in a challenge in the fantasy warrior pose and in the Super Mario 1-Up mushroom (I definitely feel like I’ve levelled up and achieved something by making it through this particular placement). The Polite Pig is an attempt to outline the importance of “please” and “thank you” and the Beatles’ theme is back with the Walrus and the Yellow Submarine (which we’d started building that day). The Pizza Spaceship comes from a display board in the hall inside the school. On a backdrop made to look like a UFO, children and teachers had stuck plastic plates with painted card recreations of various meals and we thought this was brilliant simply because it combined pizza and spaceships – two of the greatest concepts conceived in the entire history of all creation…

Rescalda - Day 9

 Day Ten: Last day of camp and we’ve got The Beatles, their Yellow Submarine and a shout out to the Lo Spettacolo show that closes camp. (The best one I think I’ve ever been involved in, because it had a room full of adults singing The Pizza Song and my class’ performance of ‘The Beatles’ World Tour’ was perfect. Aww, those kids rocked it and I’m very proud.) Aside from that, there’s an air of finality ’cause it’s not just the end of this camp but the summer as a whole. As the anthropomorphic guitar says, I’m going to miss singing with Sandy – and all my other friends – and doing all the doings that you do as part of the whole trip…

Rescalda - Day 10

And that’s that. Ho finito, for another summer. What I really see from these sketches and from my own memories is that this particular gig was the most difficult of the five camps I’ve done but, even so, I still had a blast and – having had a chance to rest and recover from post-camp exhaustion – I’d jump back into it right now given the chance. What I definitely know is doodling for and with kids is great fun and that engaging with Italian children on summer camp – even the ones who beat you up – is a rewarding, wonderful experience. I’m going to have to find something to fill the void. Hurm. Maybe I should start building that Pizza Spaceship…

Advertisements
Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  February 11, 2017

    yg

    Reply
  1. Summer Camp Lunchtime Doodles June 2015: Arty Tricks in Torino… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON

Say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: