The Other Side of the Dale
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that.’ I just hope I prove him right, I thought to myself. The first school we visited on the following Tuesday morning was a small, grey, stone primary school, high on the moors. It was in a folded hollow beneath tall sheltering oak trees and set high above a vast panorama dotted with isolated farms and hillside barns. ‘And we get paid for this, Gervase,’ sighed Harold with a great in-drawing of breath. ‘It’s like being on top of the world up here, isn’t it? Beautiful, beautiful.’ When we
‘You know, I’ve never agreed with old Shakespeare: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I go along with Oscar Wilde: “Names are everything!” I think you can tell a great deal by a person’s name. Have you met Mrs Savage yet by the way?’ I had met Sidney very, very briefly in my first week. He had rushed into the office, puffing and panting, snatched his pile of letters, thrust some documents into Julie’s hands for typing, hurriedly shook my hand
she cried, sniffing and sobbing, her little body shaking in anguish. ‘No, you can’t have a big stick. It’s very dangerous.’ ‘I want a big stick!’ she cried. ‘I want a big stick!’ ‘You could hurt somebody with a big stick,’ I said. ‘But they’ve all got big sticks!’ she howled again. ‘They’ve all got ’em.’ At this point a very attractive young woman appeared from the direction of the playground. ‘Whatever is it, Maxine?’ she asked gently pulling the little body towards her like a hen might
replied, wiping away the little girl’s tears. ‘You weren’t there when I gave everybody one. You don’t think I’d leave you out, Maxine, do you? You come with me and I’ll get you one, a nice big one. How about that? I won’t be a moment, Mr Phinn.’ ‘A big stick?’ I murmured. ‘You’re giving this little girl a big stick?’ The teacher gave a great grin before replying, ‘She means a biscuit.’ The school was a delight: cheerful, optimistic and welcoming and the creative writing of very high quality.
following week, on a sunny but cold late autumn morning, I visited St Helen’s, a tiny Church of England primary school in the depths of the Dale, as part of the reading survey. The small stone building and adjacent chapel had been built in 1788 from the bequest of a wealthy landowner for the education of his estate workers. It had continued over the years to serve the Anglican community in the two villages of Kirby Crighton and Kirby Ruston and one or two children from the nearby United States