http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/scottish-short-stories- bernard-maclaverty-a-time-to-dance/4715.html Born in Belfast in 1942, he lived there until moving to Scotland in 1975. His first novels, Lamb (1980) and Cal (1983), were produced as films, and were followed by Grace Notes (1997), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and The Anatomy School (2001). His short story collections are Secrets, A Time to Dance, The Great Profundo, Walking the Dog, and most recently in 2006 Matters of Life & Death. He has written screenplays, many radio and television dramas, and was named Scottish Writer of the Year in 1988. His other awards include the RTÉ Jacobs Award for Best Play (1981) and Evening Standard Award for Best Screenplay (1984). He has written and directed a short film Bye-Child which was nominated for Best Short Film 2003 (BAFTA) and won him Best First Director (BAFTA Scotland 2004). He lives and works in Glasgow.
Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast (14.9.42) and lived there until 1975 when he moved to Scotland with his wife, Madeline, and four children. He has been a Medical Laboratory Technician, a mature student, a teacher of English and, for two years in the mid eighties, Writer-in-Residence at the University of Aberdeen. After living for a time in Edinburgh and the Isle of Islay he now lives in Glasgow. He is a member of Aosdana in Ireland and is Visiting Writer/Professor at the University of Strathclyde. Currently he is employed as a teacher of creative writing on a postgraduate course in prose fiction run by the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. He has published five collections of short stories and four novels. He has written versions of his fiction for other media - radio plays, television plays, screenplays. Recently he wrote and directed a short film 'Bye-Child'
A Time to Dance – Close Reading practice pages 1 and 2 1.Who is Nelson Skelly? 2.Describe what you think he looks like. Find quotations on pages 1 and 2 for evidence. 3.What is his mother like? Quote evidence from pages 1 and 2. 4.Where do they live? What is the area like? 5.How do you know? Quote from page 1. 6.Where have they come from? 7.What do you know about Nelsons father?
A Time to Dance- Characters The main character – Nelson Skelly Write down what actually happens to Nelson in the story. Write down two things that tell us Nelson is clever. Why do you think he skives? Write down all the reasons why we should feel sorry for Nelson.
Nelsons mother – Mrs Skelly Give as much information about her as you can. What do you think happened to her in the past? Why might she have moved to Scotland? Why do you think she works as a stripper? Why should we feel sorry for her?
Themes / Ideas / Main Concerns Nelson - Small, undernourished, poor, going blind Why are there so many references to eyes and eye patches in the story? Why does Nelson tear off his eye patches at the end? Why do you think the story is called A Time to Dance?
Questions – your turn Ask your own questions about A Time to Dance. Think about anything you find strange, interesting, or confusing. Make up a question about it. Write your questions down in your jotter. For example, if you think its weird that Nelson does not have any friends, your question might be, Why does Nelson not have any friends?
Plot Nelson Skelly is a young boy who is about 12 or 13 years old. He is in S1 at high school. Nelson lives with his mother. They live alone in a housing scheme in Edinburgh. It is a poor area of the city. We know this because it says there are tin cans and broken glass in the street. Nelson has no friends and he has very poor eyesight. He has a squint in one eye which means that it turns sideways and does not look ahead. Because of this he has to wear an eye patch on the other eye to make the muscles in his bad eye work. He will go blind if he does not wear the patch.
Nelsons mother is just called Mrs Skelly. We never find out her other name. She is a single mother and struggles to bring Nelson up by herself. She came from Ireland to Scotland but she does not like it and wants to go back to Ireland. She was not in a permanent relationship with Nelsons father. She is always shouting at Nelson. Mrs Skelly and Nelson are poor. She finds it difficult to give Nelson enough money for school activities. She works as a stripper in a bar to get money. Nelson lies to her to get more money. In the story Nelson is caught skiving school by his mother. She takes him back to school but first has to take him to her work as a stripper or shell be late. While she is on stage, Nelson stays in a cramped little room where she changes. It is obvious what she is doing.
Mrs Skelly then takes Nelson to school. He has skived school a lot, even at primary. She is worried that she will get into trouble if he is caught skiving again. When they get to the school, she does not know what year he is in. He is in S1. They go to see his guidance teacher. He is called Mr Mac Dermot. He does not seem to know Nelson very well and has obviously never tried to help him. He sends Nelson off to class while his mother chats him up. Nelson goes into the lesson, RME. In those days, pupils had to read the Bible in RME. The teacher snaps at him and tells him to follow what she is reading. It is in tiny print and he cannot even see it. The teacher reads a bit from the Bible which says there should be a time for everything. Nelson tears the patch off his eyes. He knows this means he will go blind and that is what he wants.
Make a list of Nelsons problems. Make a list of his mothers problems. Who helps these characters? Why should we feel sorry for Nelson?
A Time to Dance by Bernard MacLaverty - Essay Task – Write an essay about Nelson, the main character in A Time to Dance, by Bernard MacLaverty. Explain who Nelson is and what happens to him in the story. Write about his problems and why you feel sorry for him.
Paragraph 1 – Introduction Nelson Skelly is the main character in A Time to Dance by Bernard MacLaverty. Now say what happens to Nelson in the story. Skiving in Edinburgh Caught by his mother Takes him to her work Back to school/ Guidance Into class Tears patch off his eye
Paragraph 2 - Nelson His eyesight Where he lives – what its like His mother Her problems How all this affects Nelson
Paragraph 3 – Nelson at School His difficulties – no help/eyesight/his guidance teacher Why he skives – why he has no friends
Paragraph 4 Why you think we should feel sorry for Nelson. Why he tears patch off at end Say what reading the story made you think about.