Tag Archive | Miss Read

Snow is forecast.


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There has been a lot of hoo-haa in the news about the snow storm in America and now over here in England, we are told we will be getting some snow too. For most people, this is bad news, but for some it is very exciting. I’m talking children now.

In her book ‘Village Affairs’ Miss Read is describing how her class of Infants react to snow in Fairacre…

‘Cruel weather,’ said Mr. Willet. ‘My greens look fair shrammed. What with the weather, and the pigeons, and all them other birds, I sometimes wonder why I bothers to grow them.  If I had my way I’d stick to root crops, but my old woman says we must have a bit of winter greens, so I doos my best.  ‘Tis a thankless task though, when the winter’s like this.’

‘As long as we don’t get snow,’ I said.

Mr. Willet looked surprised.  ‘You’ll get that aplenty, my dear, and afore the week’s out too.’

As usual, he was right.

It began during the dinner hour, while the children were tearing about digesting, I hoped, steak and kidney pie and pink blancmange.  Hilary was on playground duty, and I was cutting up painting paper for the afternoon sessions, when the classroom door burst open to reveal a knot of panting children, proudly displaying the spatters of snow on their clothes.

‘Snowing, miss! Ennit lovely? It’s snowing! And it’s laying too.’

They were much too excited to have understood the different uses of the verbs ‘to lie’ and ‘to lay’, and anyway I have almost given up hope of any success in that direction.

I contented myself with telling them to let Miss Norman know that they must all come in to school.

They clanged over the door scraper with enough noise for a mechanized army, and I went to the window to see the worst.

The snowflakes were coming down in great flurries, whirling and turning until the eyes of the beholder were dazzled.  The icy playground was white already and the branches of the elm trees would soon carry an edging of snow several inches deep.  Across the playground, sitting inside the window of my dining-room, I could see Tibby watching the twirling flakes as interestedly as I was doing.

The snow hissed against the glass, but that sibilant sound was soon drowned in the stamping of feet in the lobby and the excited voices of the children.  I could see we were in for a boisterous afternoon.  Wind is bad enough for raising children’s spirits to manic level.  Snow is even more potent a force.

I judged it best to give out the paints and paper as soon as the register had been called, for it was quite apparent that my voice could never compete with the drama that was going on outside the windows.

‘You can paint a snow scene,’ I said, working on the principle that if you can’t beat your rival, you join him.

‘What like?’ said Ernest.

Our Fairacre children are chary of anything involving the imagination.  If I had told them to paint the tasteful arrangement of dried flowers and leaves, concocted by Amy and kept on my desk, they would have set to without a word.  But to be asked to create a picture from nothing, as it were, filled them with dismay.’

Did that passage from Miss Read’s book stir any memories of your own childhood in snowtime?

Oma

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Tea with Miss Clare.


Village Diary - Miss Read

I am a big fan of Miss Read or, to give her her real name, Dora Marie Saint. She wrote ‘Village Diary’ in 1957 and it tells of a village school with two teachers, Miss Read and Miss Clare; Miss Clare is the older of the two and has recently retired from teaching. She returns to the school when needed. The book is beautifully illustrated by J.S. Goodall.

In this excerpt, Miss Read is going to have tea with Miss Clare. Why don’t you escape with me into the dreamy world of Fairacre, for just a few moments and read about life in a bygone age?

‘Miss Clare invited me to her cottage for the evening.  She refuses to let me fetch her or run her home in the car, but cycles, very slowly and as upright as ever, on her venerable old bicycle.

As usual, the best china, the snowiest cloth and the most delicious supper awaited me.

Miss Clare’s cottage is a model of neatness.  The roof was thatched by her father, who was the local thatcher for many years.  She has an early-flowering honeysuckle over her white trellis porch, and jasmine smothers another archway down the garden path.

In the centre of the table stood a cut-glass vase of magnificent tulips, flanked by a cold brisket of beef on a willow-pattern dish garnished with sprigs of parsley from her garden, and an enormous salad.  The freshly-plucked spring onions, were thoughtfully put separately in a little shallow dish.

‘It’s not everyone that can digest them,’ said Miss Clare, crunching one with much enjoyment, ‘bu my mother always said they were a wonderful tonic, and cleared the blood after the winter.’

Miss Clare’s silver was old and heavy and gleamed with recent cleaning.  How she finds time to keep everything so immaculate, I don’t know.  Her house puts mine to shame, and she has no one to help her at all, whereas I do have Mrs. Pringle occasionally to turn a disdainful hand to my affairs.

After we had consumed an apple and blackberry pie, the fruits of Miss Clare’s earlier bottling, we folded our yard square napkins – which were stiff with starch and exquisitely darned here and there – and washed up in the long, low kitchen, while the coffee heated on the Primus stove.’

When life gets frustrating, I pick up one of Miss Read’s excellent books. She has written two series about village life plus other stories and is always a joy to read. My favourite of the two series is Fairacre, which is written in the first person. I pretend that I am Miss Read, when I read the stories and live through all the ups and downs of village life along with her. The other books are about Thrush Green. Miss Read herself, preferred these. I suppose it is easier to write in the third person. I read them all regularly.

For those of us who live the village life, or try to! it is nice to dip into these books for inspiration. I encourage you to give them a try if you feel so inclined.

You can read more about Miss Read here.