‘Nothing in teaching is ever straightforward’ ... a world of truth packed into one short sentence.
Andy Seed, teacher, novelist, humorist and conjuror, is back to amuse and bemuse us with the second book in his charming and disarming trilogy recalling a 25-year teaching career in the scenic Yorkshire Dales.
Building on the success of All Teachers Great and Small, Seed really gets into his stride here as he takes us through another rollercoaster academic year full of the trials, tribulations – and unparalleled joys – of life, love and teaching in the rural community of Cragthwaite.
Funny, entertaining and imbued with wisdom and experience, Seed paints a picture of 1980s primary school life in a rural community where children were drawn from farming stock rather than inner city families but brought with them the same precocious talents, complex problems and baffling behaviour.
After two years at Cragthwaite Primary, Seed is feeling more confident and settling comfortably into home and school life. He and his wife Barbara have a young son Tom and they are delighted to learn they are expecting again.
At school, headteacher Joyce Berry has taken a new broom to the depressing cobwebs of the past and given a once cold and unfriendly school a welcoming and lively atmosphere.
But then trouble arrives in the form of new girl, nine-year-old Sheena, daughter of a single mother ‘with a few problems.’
Sheens is a hefty girl with a wild thatch of dark, unkempt hair and a stony expression and Seed soon discovers that she is also aggressive, loud, rude, a bully, argumentative and totally disruptive. Even worse, perhaps, she has informed one of the dinner ladies that her spam fritters ‘taste like puke.’
It’s going to be a challenging year for the enthusiastic new teacher ... there’s the not insignificant problem of Sheena, a visit by the school inspectors on the cards, a new event called ‘mischief night’ to endure, a school ‘clean-up’ and, to top it all, Barbara is learning to drive.
But even he didn’t anticipate exploding piggy banks, bottle-rocket missiles, an impromptu igloo, egg-throwing and toilet-roll mummies.
So who said life was simpler in the 1980s...
With affection, humour, understanding, patience and resilience to the fore, Seed paints a heart-warming and beguiling portrait of what it means, and what is needed, to be a country schoolmaster.
Seed’s love for his work, his landscape and his family, and a warm sense of community and belonging, shine through the knockabout fun and laugh-out-loud anecdotes which punctuate this nostalgic tale from the Dales.
A delightful lesson in life for ‘pupils’ young and old...
(Headline, hardback, £14.99)