When I met Ellen DeGeneres and she told me off

When I met Ellen DeGeneres and she told me off

This was one of my favourite days ever: getting to meet the absolute star that is Ellen DeGeneres, and produce an interview between her and Lindsey Russell for Finding Dory.

As it’s Blue Peter, we don’t tend to go for straight, sit-down interviews, so I thought it would be fun to play a game based around Dory’s problems with short term memory loss.

Unfortunately Ellen didn’t quite understand the format, and it fell apart spectacularly. I felt gutted at the time, as these ‘press junket’ interviews are very quick and very high-pressured, so you can’t afford to mess up. But when I watched the rushes back I realised that if I packaged them in the right way (and could persuade my bosses to get on board) this could be a really popular clip.

As it turned out, it became my most successful ever clip on the bbc.co.uk platform, and did pretty well on YouTube too.

"Is this all you have...?!"
"Is this all you have...?!"

The unexpected Jesus character in Game of Thrones, or “Why I Cried Loads at Last Night’s GoT” (spoilers for S6E5)

The unexpected Jesus character in Game of Thrones, or “Why I Cried Loads at Last Night’s GoT” (spoilers for S6E5)

As a Christian, the stories that have the most impact on me are the ones that resonate with the Jesus narrative. There are lots of them – anything with themes of innocence, self-sacrifice and resurrection is probably, ultimately, based on the story of Jesus. Gandalf and Aslan are two of the most famous examples, but once you start thinking about these themes you start spotting them everywhere. As Bagheera says in The Jungle Book, “Greater love hath no one than he who lays down his life for his friend.” (Jesus also said that, by, the way, in John 15.) This explains why I bawled my eyes out at the end of last night’s episode. To be clear, this is not normal for me; I very rarely cry, ever, but when I do it’s often because of the kinds of stories mentioned above. I cried because Hodor relates directly to Jesus, and what he did echoed one of the most important moments in history. Here’s why.

Firstly, Hodor was completely innocent. He did nothing in his life, as far as we know, to deserve a death like that. The Bible compares Jesus to a lamb being led to the slaughter, which seems a very fitting description for Hodor. Ned Stark and Jon Snow also gave their lives for what they believed in, but Ned wasn’t entirely innocent and Jon didn’t go to his death deliberately, which brings me to my next point.

What really struck me about that scene was how Hodor seemed to know exactly what was coming; he knew he was about to die. Right from when Bran warged into him as a teenager, I think he was fully aware of what he was destined to do. When he breaks down at the foot of the weirwood tree and refuses to move, this isn’t just Hodor being scared of everything as per usual, this is a man justifiably terrified of what he knows is about to happen. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus pleaded with God to take the horrible task away from him. Eventually, though, he resolved to go and see it through to the bitter end. He allowed that one moment to happen that would define his life, and that his whole life had been leading to.

So Hodor suffered brutally, taking the full force of the Army of the Dead (in all their creepy scuttling nastiness) in place of his friends. His love for them and his attitude of complete servanthood was stronger than his fear, and he paid the price so his friends could be free. If it sounds familiar, then it should. This absolutely reflects the Gospel story: Jesus’ death was an extraordinary act of love and sacrifice, the fulfilment of a rescue plan designed to restore mankind’s broken relationship with God.

The parallels stop there, though. Although Hodor knew what was going to happen, we don’t know if he would still have held the door had Bran not been warging into him in that moment. Hodor is presumably not going to be resurrected, although we can never rule these things out. Also, remember that Hodor would not have done what he did for just anyone. He served the Starks wholeheartedly throughout his life, and was possibly in love with Lyanna. But Jesus gave his life for literally everyone, even people who hated him. This would be a ridiculous thing to put in a fictional story, because it simply does not make sense to us. It’s illogical, unthinkable and unreasonable. That’s why it’s called amazing grace.

Hodor.

Hodor.
Hodor.

A special send-off for a special dog

A special send-off for a special dog

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a song for Hacker the Dog to sing to Blue Peter’s Iggy, but sadly it will probably be the last. Iggy officially left the show in May 2016 to start her new job as a Guide Dog. I wrote this song (to a tune you will definitely recognise!) to give her a proper send-off, celebrating everything she’s achieved and the massive change she will make in her new owner’s life.

This was great fun to produce, especially being able to write string parts for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and enlisting the help of my acoustic function band Strings Attached.

Click here to watch the video (complete with lyrics in case you want to sing along!)

"So proud you're starting this new job, we love you no matter what so worry not, you'll always be a Blue Peter dog!"
"So proud you're starting this new job, we love you no matter what so worry not, you'll always be a Blue Peter dog!"

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John

The brief for this book cover commission was something elegant, understated and with minimal colour. The book is a side-by-side comparison of the four Gospel stories, so I wanted to capture that idea in a simple graphic way using contrasting colours and the suggestion of a cross. In effect, the cover shows four distinct blocks, each pointing to the cross.

My first ever book cover!
My first ever book cover!