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February 2019



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Village School(s)

I think I first met Miss Read when my mother borrowed her books from the library. Years later I acquired a number of first editions but got rid of them in one of my purges. The problem was that the later books were dull and I’d forgotten how interesting the first ones are. Recently I picked up a bundle of the latest paperback reprints and just yesterday I felt like a re-read. When I first read the books, the social history aspect of them passed me by completely; they were just pleasant country stories. Now I see how uncosy they actually are: some children are ill treated, sanitation is poor, expectations low, an elderly spinster teacher faces a bleak future. Miss Read had forty children in her school, whereas I went to a school with more than forty children in each class. My late husband, though, went to a school just like the one at Fairacre. Poor little boy, he was so much cleverer than all the other children that he had to be in a special class all on his own. His mother, uncle and grandfather all attended the same school.

I don't have a date for the picture but I'm assuming before the First World War. And here's the next generation:

One of those little boys was my husband's uncle; he was killed in the Second World War, aged nineteen.

I also went to the same (town) junior school as my mother and was even taught by the same teacher. Her name was Miss Winchester and I can see her now: thin, with crisp grey hair, glasses and a very dry manner. There was no nonsense with her but she was kind to us. Every afternoon ended with a prayer (just like Fairacre!) and she would say, ‘If you wake up in the night and you think you want Mum, just say this to yourself.’ She retired as I left the school and my mother, as a parent and a former pupil, was asked to make a presentation at a leaving ceremony for her. Miss Winchester wore a rather swish dress made of that shot, shiny fabric that looks green in one light and red in another. We never gave a thought to our teachers’ lives outside school but now I wonder what she did with herself after retirement? She’s still remembered, anyway, as I’m sure ‘Miss Read’ is by those she taught.


I loved Miss Read the last time I read the books, but it was years ago. I think I only read the first two or three. I am going to ask for them at the library van.

My first head teacher was a spinster with a terrible limp (polio, I imagine) who rode her bicycle between our school and her parents' house, where she lived, and no doubt looked after them in her spare time. They were both approaching 100. She had a no-nonsense but kind way about her. Many of our teachers were misses; I suppose they came from a generation where women often stayed at home after marrying and having children.

Even the youngest of our teachers must be reaching retirement age now!
Even when I was at secondary school most of the staff were Miss something. Soon after I left, the whole generation retired and the new staff were young marrieds.
Oh, I feel for your poor husband in a class all on his own!
Isn't it sad? It didn't last for too long, though.
I do love the Miss Read books so especially enjoyed this and the photos! Free tomorrow for coffee any time?
I'm so much in the mood for Miss Read that I'm finishing one and starting the next.

Ooh, yes! Mail on its way.

Edited at 2009-04-24 06:52 pm (UTC)
I'm having a Miss Read reread ATM and listening to the audio books. For al they show rural life warts and all I find teh quiet courage in the books helpful when I need to carry on so to speak.

Who can fail to be moved by Dr Bailey's last act in filling in that crossword clue. It says it all in so few words.
Yes, I like the way everyone just gets on with it. The books are just what I want at the mo.


Miss Read

I once wrote in an article many years ago that there were times when only Miss Read would do, the literary equivalent of Horlicks, warm and comforting in winter, with a patchwork quilt over the knees and a warm fireside...
Margaret P


I'm very sorry about your husband. Maybe you have talked about this before, but I haven't happened to read it before this post when the word 'late' stopped me in my reading.
Thank you so much. The posts about it were mostly friends-locked, so you wouldn't have seen them. It's a hard word to write.