April 2016




10th April


Delighted to buy my Wakefield Express on Friday and find this lovely big feature on the Battle of Wakefield day I did with Allison Robinson for St Michael's Academy last month - especially because it includes images of previous Frei Compagnie events at Sandal Castle (the archer in the lower right corner is me!). The children had got dressed up and waited very patiently for the photographer, so it's great that their good behaviour was rewarded with this item showcasing their project - I hope their parents are suitably pleased with the results.


We're certainly pleased with results at Beckside after putting some serious work in over the past few weeks, mowing, raking and sowing. Sadly our transplanted medlar died, but the rest of the fruit trees are coming on strong on a carpet of beautiful green orchard grass (see below centre). It looks gorgeous now that everything's

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starting to bud and the daffodils are in full flower (see below left) - and one of the nicest things about working down there is that (unlike some of Mick's other gardening jobs) we don't walk in dread of dog poo, broken glass or other nasty dangerous litter. So we've been dodging rainstorms to clear a huge area - luckily yesterday was fine enough for hubcap and our friends Richard and Liz to finish raking up the mowings and bramble roots, and you can make out a big heap of the fruits of their labour in front of the trees in the picture below right. Now much of the area that looks brown on the photo has been sown with a special 'woodland edge' mixture of grasses which like shady conditions, along with plugs of ox-eye daisies and wild primulas. I can't wait to see how pretty it looks come this time next year!


22nd April


Over the past couple of weeks, something completely unexpected and rather wonderful has happened: by dint of some clever detective work on behalf of several old pupils, Forms 1A (my form), 1B and 1C of Cleethorpes Girls Grammar School is re-forming on Facebook! My classmates and I had the sad honour of being the last intake of this proud old school, founded in 1926, before it was turned into the Lower School of Lindsey Comprehensive in September 1973. The photo above - which measures almost a metre in length! - was taken in May of that year to capture the entire school, consisting of about 500 girls plus teachers. I'm in centre front just above the word GIRLS, wearing our 'winter' unform of white polo-neck sweater and navy-blue pinafore dress, and our redoubtable headmistress Dorothy Ethel Vallins OBE (aka 'The Dev') is three rows behind in the very centre above the shield. Miss Vallins was an extraordinary character who trilled to us in our first assembly, 'Always remember, girls, you are the creme de la creme,' - which clearly I still do remember! By an odd quirk of fate, in 1946 she had gone on a teachers' exchange visit to the United States and taught French at Eastern High School in Baltimore - the same city where I spent a year working as a conservator for the Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology. During her tenure at CGGS the school achieved some of the best exam results in the country - which given the small class sizes (there were 26 of us in 1A) and the quality of teaching, I wasn't surprised to learn - but she chose to retire (well, she was 60) instead of following us into the comprehensive system, and died in 1992 at the age of 79.


Despite its conversion to a mixed school of 1500 pupils split between the Lower and Upper Schools, Lindsey continued to perform well academically until the mid-2000's, when it ran into problems and eventually closed; and now the classrooms, laboratories and halls where I spent the happiest year of my school life are being converted into a luxurious care home for the elderly - which seems a strange use, but better than demolishing such a grand old building and important piece of local heritage. Meanwhile our virtual Final First Form is rapidly growing; it's wonderful to be back in touch with so many old friends after so long - and now we're planning a big 44-year reunion for the summer of 2017 so that we can meet up again in the flesh!