'Sticky McStickstick' to star with Michael Rosen at storytelling event

Muswell Hill poet Michael Rosen returns to the Old Vic on November 27, 2021 for another Christmas Storytelling session

Muswell Hill poet Michael Rosen returns to the Old Vic on November 27, 2021 for another Christmas Storytelling session - Credit: Manuel Harlan

Muswell Hill author Michael Rosen will bring "Sticky McStickstick" along with him when he reads from his books at the Old Vic.

With the set for A Christmas Carol as a backdrop, the former children's laureate will entertain his young audience with favourite passages from his 140 books, including his latest about the walking stick he was given when he left hospital after contracting Covid.

"It's a kind of stand up, which most of which the children will know from my videos and books," says the 75-year-old.

"It's participatory, I get them to join in and never know quite where I am going. The Old Vic was the first place I saw a Shakespeare play, it was Judi Dench in Romeo and Juliet, so I might channel my Judi and ask them to join me in running about the stage saying 'Romeo, Romeo'.

"And I will bring Sticky McStickstick and order him not to upstage me. My book is about how I learned to walk again and how aiding me in that process was this wonderful NHS stick. He gets a bit peeved these days as I leave the house without him, he says 'you don't need me any more'."

Rosen also talks about being in a coma at the Whittington Hospital: "I tell the kids to guess how long I was asleep. 40 days and 40 nights like in the Bible. Imagine if when you wake up and don't know where you are, and then you try to get up and can't move. I thought a balloon was really heavy, and then I needed 6-foot Doreen supporting me from behind like a wicket keeper in case I fell backwards."

Earlier this year Rosen published Many Different Kinds of Love, a collection of poetry and words in praise of the NHS which saved his life. It includes nurses' and doctors' letters, and his wife Emma's emails to the family. The illness has affected his sight in one eye, and hearing in one ear, but his imagination remains undimmed.

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"If anything it's been generative. They said I might get delirium because they were giving me mind changing drugs to put me in the coma. I hadn't heard that since the 60s! It it sent me on internal trips, sometimes imaginative, sometimes documenting everything that happened. I've been thinking up various plots."

His new book is based on letters between a Jewish boy in London and his cousin in Poland during the war, and how one is evacuated and the other ends up in a Russian labour camp. It is based on his own father and cousin Michael, who recently passed away aged 97 in a Muswell Hill care home.

Then Rigatoni the Pasta Cat was written in Rosen's head while he was in the rehabilitation hospital.

"It's about a cat who craves pasta but his carers forget to tell the boy who comes to look after him. He turns up with Whiskas and can't explain that he's waiting for pasta so goes on a hunt and finds an Italian restaurant. I realised it was actually about me lying in hospital and yearning for hummus. Because of Covid my wife couldn't bring it in for me, but we did get the Whittington chaplain to act as a mule bringing sultanas from W Martyn of Muswell Hill to drop in my porridge." 

Entertaining his young readers once again is "heaven".

"I remember talking to the occupational health nurse saying 'I don't suppose I will perform again' and she said 'don't be so sure'. I was at The Shaw Theatre last week telling stories to children and remember thinking 'she was right and I was wrong,' and I am so glad."

Christmas Storytelling with Michael Rosen is on November 27 with a book signing in the Old Vic cafe afterwards.