From the Author Jane Landy:
Gringer the Whinger came in to being in 1996 on a wet and dreary February evening
in London. My husband David had kindly agreed to mind the baby while Aisling, our three-year
old, and I went to a dragon-making workshop at Bethnal Green library.
The occasion was Chinese New Year and the reason was to spend a bit of time with
our older child after a busy week of work and crèche.
A magnificent creature of papier maché with long crinkly crepe paper hair was duly
created. Inevitably the artistic endeavour took its toll and on the way home, tiredness
set in and a major bout of whinging took place.
My response of “Never mind, we’ll be home soon” was a complete waste of time and
only served to amplify the whinging. Feeling somewhat weary myself, I picked up the
newly made dragon and whinged back and continued to whinge back.
It was the most annoying kind of whinging but had an instant effect on the grumpy
three-year old who fell silent and started to grin. She asked the whinging dragon what
his name was. “Gringer the Whinger” was his reply.
Having unwittingly released my inner cantankerous parent via Gringer, there was no
stopping me – and no stopping him.
The original papier maché creation disintegrated before long but it didn’t matter.
Gringer and his dreary voice lived on, following us on our move from East London
back to Ireland, to our new home in Skerries.
As our girls grew older and were joined by two brothers and a gang of cousins,
Gringer would appear at mealtimes, in traffic jams, on planes and in a host of trying
situations. He said the sorts of things that I would never have dared say to my own
mother and thankfully my children never said to me. He was unspeakably demanding
and beyond cheeky.
For years and years, he visited us on practically a daily basis and bailed me out on
many a fraught occasion, saving our children from who knows what terrible fate.
Sometimes I wondered who really got more out of Gringer – the children or me? My
husband detested him. He proclaimed many a time that he would much rather listen to
a roaring child than a whinging dragon. Such a comment of course only made Gringer
whinge even more loudly and direct pointed comments to “Daddy”, adding to the
general merriment of the whole thing for the younger family members.
Our children have grown up now and it is many a long year since Gringer last paid us
a visit but his voice and escapades remain etched in their memory.
Last year, after ten years of editing schoolbooks in my garden shed, I wondered if
Gringer might be persuaded to make a reappearance in a different guise. I dusted off two of the
the verses I had written about him years before and at the suggestion of my friend
Niamh Sharkey (author, illustrator and fellow Skerries parent), consulted the website
of Illustrators Ireland.
There I came across Sheena Dempsey’s portfolio.
Somehow, and we really don’t know how, Sheena, without ever meeting Gringer or
the rest of us, has managed to recreate him and the domestic chaos of a young family,
just perfectly. She has brought the dragon’s character to life with all his annoying but
funny whinginess, in the most amazing way.
So, thanks to Sheena and her powers of illustration, Gringer the Whinger is back in
my life once again. I can only hope that other demented parents and their fractious
offspring will find him as useful and entertaining as we did.