MAYBE Aslan still has a job to do. Maybe Narnia can save the world. The Disney version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is out in a few weeks. And not before time.

It is, of course, a children's classic, full of magic and adventure. But above all, the Chronicles of Narnia are deeply moral tales.

They are interwoven with the old ideas of chivalry, that the strong protect the weak, that one can only triumph fairly, that cheating, cruelty or discourtesy are beyond the pale, where decent people treat even their enemies with respect.

These ideas are not as outmoded as you might think. In Lincolnshire, an enterprising policeman, worried about the casual loutishness of teenagers, set up a "Knight School" for young children. They get to dress up and they learn a chivalrous code of courtesy, respect and pride.

Amazingly, the scheme has had dramatic results. Bad behaviour and petty crime have been dramatically reduced and youngsters are out helping pensioners, talking to them, even playing bowls with them, instead of making their lives a misery.

Much of what they learned is simply basic good manners, but bound up in the old romantic ideas of chivalry, which make them so much more desirable. It appeals to something in children and Sergeant Gary Brown has managed to tune into that with brilliant results. What's more, he's catching them young, so good behaviour can become ingrained. Other neighbouring towns, plus London, Manchester and cities in America are now interested in the idea of Knight Schools.

Meanwhile, the Narnia film will tap into exactly that same streak of romantic idealism and common courtesy, knights and battles and, above all, a determination to do the decent thing. If it makes our children think more of others and less of themselves, then The Chronicles of Narnia really will be magic.

The fuss about

fountain pens

NOW I am really confused. Fountain pens are now considered too dangerous for under 14-year-olds. There's a British Standard which dictates that pen caps must have a hole in them so that if a child swallows one, they will still be able to breathe. Pen makers Watermans have inserted a warning with their pens which says: "Not intended for use by anyone under the age of 14 years".

A bit fussy, you might think, a bit over protective. But, of course, we want our children to be safe, so even a fountain pen has to pass the test. Children must be protected from pens.

So how come a child who is considered unable to cope with a fountain pen is considered old and mature enough to have an abortion without the support of their parents? A school at Milton Keynes is now offering pregnancy tests to 11-year-olds. Fine, I suppose, depending on which pen they use to sign the forms.

Our attitude to young teenagers is totally muddled. Either they are children and need protecting, or they are mini adults, mature and sensible enough to make their own decisions.

And if we consider them capable of coping with sex, condoms, the morning after pill and abortion, then I think, possibly, on balance, we might just let them loose on fountain pens.

MIND you, for real danger, you can't beat learning to write in the 1950s. From the age of seven, we used steel nibs in wooden pen holders. Very Victorian and absolutely vicious - especially when used as a dagger by an eight-year-old boy angry because you wouldn't let him copy your arithmetic answers. I still have the scar to prove it.

SO mum was right all along about wrapping up well to avoid a cold, say researchers at the Cold Institute. We also now know that mum was right about fish being good for your brains and carrots helping you see in the dark. We now await the scientific proof that crusts make your hair curl and that Father Christmas never visits little girls who don't remember their manners.

Great news for


MADONNA'S new single has gone straight to the top spot. She and Kate Bush both have new albums out in time for Christmas, which will make for interesting rivalry. They are both 47 years old and have been in the music business for decades. Whatever you think of their music, it's great news for grown-ups.

BULLYING affects almost every child in Britain, according to the Government's Children's Commissioner, Al Aynsley Green. There have been a couple of particularly horrific cases recently. Childline, too, say the number of bullied children contacting its helpline has increased sharply.

But strange, isn't it, how all of us rush to school and demand action when our children are being bullied, yet none of us is as quick to admit that it might actually be our child doing the bullying. If we were as quick to react then, the problem might start getting better rather than worse.

LAST week the council tidied up a lot of the trees on our village green. They cleared most of the branches away but a number of sawn up logs were left till Monday to be collected.

All weekend there were some small children out there in the sunshine, using the logs as climbing frames, as seats, as building blocks, as tables, stepping stones and just about anything else you could think of. Blissfully happy.

Despite being bombarded with electronic messages, small children are still quite capable of playing with the simplest of toys and creating their own world in their imagination - if only we would let them.

Published: ??/??/2004