In the bottom drawer of my desk are three massive books, with leather covers and mottled edges. Embossed on their fronts are the words 'Log Book'* and they cover, between them,* the history of the school.
The third one, which is nearly filled, has been in use for the past twenty years. If anything important happens, such as a visit from an inspector, the outbreak of an epidemic, or the early closing of school through bad weather, illness or any other reason, then I make a note to that effect* in the book following in the tradition of the ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS former heads* of Fairacre school.
The log books thus form a most interesting account of a school's adventures, the early ones are particularly fascinating.
Our first entry at Fairacre School is at the latter end of 1880 when the first headmistress set down the details of her appointment and that of her sister as 'An assistant in the Babies' Class'.* It has thus been a two-teacher school since its inception.
These two ladies must have been very kindly and conscientious. Their discipline seems to have been maintained with some difficulty, and the rule, laid down by the local ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS authority and still in force, that canings must be entered in the log book, leads to several poignant entries.* The ink has faded, but there, in rather agitated handwriting, we can read:
February 2nd, 1881. Had occasion to cane* John Pratt (3) for Disobedience.
And a little later on:
April 4th, 1881. After repeated warnings which have not been heeded had occasion to punish Tom East (2), William Carter (2), and John Pratt (3) the Ringleader, for Insolence and Damage to School Property.
The figures in brackets refer to the number of strokes of the cane, usually (2) or (3) seemed to be the rule, but gentle ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS Miss Richards was evidently driven to distraction* by John Pratt, for before long we read, in a badly shaken hand:
July, 1882. Found John Pratt* standing on a Stool, putting on the hands of the Clock with the greatest Audacity, he imagining himself unobserved. For this Impudence received six (6).
During the following two years there are several entries about the sisters' ill-health and in 1885 a widow and daughter took over the school.* Their first entry reads:
April, 1885. Found conditions here in confusion. Children very backward and lacking, in some cases, the first Rudiments of Knowedge.* Behaviour, too, much to ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS be deplored.*
This is interesting because it is echoed, at every change of head,* throughout the seventy-odd years of Fairacre School's history. The new head confesses himself shocked at his predecessor's slackness, sets down his intentions of improving standards of work and conduct, runs his allotted time and goes,* only to be replaced by just such another head, and just such another entry in the log book.
After a number of changes the headmistresses were replaced by a series of headmasters. One, Mr. Hope, had his wife as assistant and their only child, Harriet, figures in ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS the log book as the star pupil* for several years.
But in 1913 came two tragic entries:
January, 20th, 1913. Have to record sad death of pupil (and only daughter) Harriet Hope,
January 25th, 1913. School closed today on the occasion of the funeral of late pupil,* Harriet Hope, aged twelve years and four months.
Mr. Hope's entries go on until 1919. He records his wife's long illness, his work throughout the First World War in the village, the return of old pupils in uniform, the deaths of some in battle, and finally:
May 18th, 1919. Have now to enter this ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS last. My resignation has been accepted. I leave Fairacre School for an appointment in Leicestershire.
Mrs. Willet filled in some of the gaps* for me when I went down there to buy some rhubarb.
'I remember him well, of course, though I was only a child at the time; Harriet was a year or two older than I was. He went all to pieces* after the child died. They both took it very hard. Mrs Hope was never well after it, and the headmaster — well, he just took to the bottle.* I can remember him now bending down to ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS mark something on my desk, his hand shaking like a leaf.'
She wrapped the rhubarb securely in two of its own great leaves and tied the bundle with a string. Then she said. 'He was asked to leave the school, you know, and took up some job up north as an ordinary teacher. They say he was never a headmaster again; which was a pity really, he being so clever.* He wrote some lovely poetry and used to read it to us. Of course some of the boys laughed about it, but us girls liked it.'
I made ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS my farewells and went up the lane with the heavy cold bundle on my bare arm. My thoughts were of the man who had lived once in my house, whose daughter had died, whose wife had ailed, whose poems had been laughed at. The log books, with their sparse entries, tell truly of 'old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago.'
Dr Ruth Curtis, who is our school doctor, is a man-hater. The men maintain with their habitual modesty that this is because she has not been lucky enough to secure one of them for a husband ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS.
Dr Curtis arrived early in the summer term to examine the new children, Joseph, Jimmy, and Linda, and the children who would be leaving at the end of the term, Cathy, Sylvia, and John Burton.
The parents of these children had been notified of the time of the appointment and had been invited to be present. Chairs had been set in the lobby and doctor had my room for examination. The chart for sight testing* was pinned up on to the partition, the scales were in the room too, and the wooden measure was fixed to the back of the door ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS to record the heights of the six children.*
Doctor was busy sorting out the cards which record each child's medical history throughout its school life. Cathy's, John's, and Sylvia's would be forwarded to their new schools* at the end of this term.
'Sorry I'm late,' growled Dr Curtis. 'My brother's staying with me and wanted me to change a dressing* on his leg before I came away.'
I asked her if she would like to see Mrs. Coggs first with Joseph, as I knew she would want to get down to the ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS pub for her scrubbing.
Joseph's eyes were wide with alarm throughout his examination. His apprehension, as he stood with his back to the door and felt the wooden measure descending on to his head, was pitiful to see. But no tears fell, even when doctor stood him on a desk to see if his feet were flat*
Dr Curtis worked conscientiously on sight, hearing, hearts, posture, throats, height, and weight.* And last she stood each child on a desk to see if his feet were flat. John Burton was the only child who had flat feet and ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS Mrs. Burton was asked to take him to the clinic at Caxley where she should be shown the exercises he would need to do; and so Doctor's visit came to a successful close.*
The lobby was empty, the chairs returned to the schoolroom and the smell of disinfectant gradually died away. Doctor Curtis waved goodbye from her little car, and I returned to the schoolroom.
On the first Wednesday of each month the Mobile film van* called at Fairacre School to the joy of all but Mrs. Pringle, the school cleaner. I could never understand the grounds for ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS Mrs. Pringle's dislike of these educational films. I think the general disorganization upset her, for we had to take back the partition and arrange the chairs in rows at the infants' end, leaving my part free for the screen to stand. The black-out curtains were drawn and very little light penetrated. The children loved this mysterious twilight, and excitement always ran high, until the purring of the projector quietened them.
The afternoon's programme consisted of a film about the building of a Norman castle, which would link up with the history lessons of this term; a second film about ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS the herring industry, which might widen the outlook* of some of these children who had only just seen the sea, although it lay less than eighty miles away; and a short film about the animals at the London Zoo. I went to welcome Mr. Pugh who was staggering in carrying heavy equipment. Behind him followed a train* of admiring children who had had strict orders to stay in the playground until called, but were drawn to Mr. Pugh's collection of tin cases, stands, the rolled-up screen,* and so on, like needles to a magnet.
Mr ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS. Pugh is a small Welshman who takes his work very seriously. His job is really to bring the films and to show them, but he takes such a passionate interest in every one of them that any sort of adverse criticism throws him into strong protestations. One would imagine that he had produced, directed, and acted in all the films* that flicker in our dark classroom, so quick is he in their defence. Luckily, he is soothed by cups of tea, and I make sure that the tray is set and the kettle filled in readiness, on the ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS first Wednesday afternoon of each month.
At last the room was ready, the children were called in and told to step carefully over the cable, and to sit still. Mr. Pugh flicked a switch, the projector purred, the pictures wavered before us, and the old magic had begun again. After each film the children clapped energetically. The most popular, of course, was the animal film. Some of the children had already been to the Zoo and I knew that the others might go there in the near future.
A satisfied sigh went up from the school as the last film ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS ended. Miss Gray and I drew back the curtains and surveyed our family, sitting in rows and blinking like little owls in the unaccustomed light.
While Mr. Pugh dismantled his equipment, Miss Gray went to switch on the kettle, and I led the children out to play, their heads buzzing with castles, herrings, and hippopotami. Tomorrow I should have to sort out these troubled images for them, as best I could, and I made a mental note* that another trip across to the church to see the Norman window there would be a good thing to do in ANCIENT HISTORY, DOCTOR, AND THE FILMS the morning.
These visits from the film unit* are of inestimable value to the country school. The choice of films is wide and gives an added fillip* to the classroom lessons which follow them.
Perhaps the welcome that the children give to Mr. Pugh and his fellows is the surest indication of their success.