Do you remember? Yes, I remember it well!
July 16, 2010

Today was the last day of the school year at Naunton Park Primary School, (seen here back in the early days!)

Back in December I left after nearly eleven years there as headteacher. When I had moved on from my previous schools, six in total with two as headteacher, I had always followed my own golden rule. It was simple, always look forward and never go back!  Forget the difficulties and the dark days and take the good times and the sunshine with you, in your memories and in your heart.

Leaving Naunton Park was a little different. I wasn’t moving to another school but retiring from the trials and tribulations of the English education system and about to embark upon voluntary work overseas, in Africa.

This had captured the imagination of the children, indeed the whole school community, and they were extremely generous in supporting my first project, four weeks on the Book Bus in Zambia. I owed it to the kids to visit them on my return and promised I would do so.

It did feel rather strange when, six months later, I returned as a visitor to the school where once I’d been head. I was given a wonderful reception and they showed a genuine interest in my presentation, engrossed by the images of the schools and children I had worked with in Zambia.

Many of them were keen to know what I was doing next and I outlined my forthcoming plans for working in Rwanda as an educational adviser with VSO.

As I pulled out of the school car park, and headed out of Cheltenham that day, I thought to myself that this really was the last time and I would never be going back. But never say never!  A week or so later I received a kind email from my successor inviting me to return today, the last day of term, for the Y6 leavers’ play.

He went on to explain that Y6 would really like me to be there and that since I had visited last some of the girls had organised a cake stall, after school one day, to raise money for VSO. They had taken over £70.00. I was amazed and I am extremely grateful to them. Thank you!

I had known most of these children from when they had first started school as 4 or 5 year olds. They were now eleven and about to leave Naunton Park for the exciting new challenges that lay ahead at secondary school. This was their big day and the time had come for moving on up and moving on out. The leavers’ play was to be their swan song, performed in front of their parents and the rest of the school and yet they wanted me there as well. I was very touched.  

These same children had put on a memorable final assembly for me on my last day as headteacher and here they were again, having some how  found the time from within the hectic summer schedule of SATs, a  residential visit, school sports, cycling proficiency, visits to their new secondary schools  etc. about to mount another spectacular performance.      

It was called, ‘Do You Remember?’ a humorous musical play, affectionately recalling some of those things  from primary school that live in the memory forever: the first day, learning to tell the time, the egg and spoon race, and of course being sent to see the head!      

As I watched and listened from the back of the hall, every word as clear as a bell by the way, I thought how proud I was of everything that had been achieved at Naunton Park School over the last ten years, epitomised by these enthusiastic and talented children on the stage in front of me, and how privileged I was to have been invited back one more time.

After the performance it was really nice to catch up, over coffee, with so many parents and staff before stepping out on to the playground for one last time and being inundated by Y6 leavers wanting me to sign their autograph books and school shirts! I felt quite a celebrity.

I wish them all the very best at secondary school and in their future lives, and hope that like me they will always carry a little bit of Naunton Park in their hearts.

And to everyone left at Naunton Park, School’s out for Summer – enjoy it!

This really was the last time and I won’t be back again, but I’ve got those good times and sunshiny days firmly in my head. Yes, I remember it well! 

Take care and all the very best to you all.

The Spirit of ’66
June 14, 2010

This weekend was a rare event – all four of the ‘A Team’ meeting up in the Shire! It had been on the calendar for some time, an opportunity to catch up following my return from Africa and neatly wedged between my birthday, the previous Sunday, and Fathers’ Day, next week of course.

We had a great time. The house echoed to music and laughter. We ate and drank too much and generally put the world to rights! Saturday of course centred on the England v USA match. I’m pleased to say ‘the girls’ enjoy the big games and as the kick off approached, the neighbours were treated (several times) to Badiel and Skinner’s ‘Three Lions’, still the best football anthem by a country mile!

Of course “30 years of hurt”  might all too soon become 44 but, ‘we still believe, we still believe!’       

1966 and all that  is forever etched into the minds of English football fans old enough to remember. As a 13-year-old schoolboy I’d followed the tournament, in flickering black and white of course, from the inauspicious goalless opener v Uruguay through to the thrilling 2-1 semi final victory over Eusebio’s Portugal. Sandwiched in-between had been Bobby Charlton’s  thunderbolt against Mexico, which galvanised our campaign, and the infamous quarter-final brawl against an Argentina side, later labelled ‘animals’ by Sir Alf!

Come Saturday July 30th, with the whole nation focussed on Wembley Stadium, I was on my way to the coast, Great Yarmouth to be precise, and never saw the final live! Some months before, I had been invited to go on holiday with a friend and his family and had been looking forward to it until the realisation dawned that we would be missing out on the greatest day in England’s football history.   

I remember my friend’s Dad had a transistor radio so we were able to keep tabs on the score. We were staying at a guest house, four of us in a single room with a communal bathroom facility on the landing. On our arrival, having hurriedly unpacked, the gong summoned us to the dining room for our evening meal, just as extra time was about to get under way and my friend’s Dad had to ask permission for us to take the ‘tranny’ in with us!

Of course, I’ve seen the match highlights and goals so many times since that I feel as if I was there. One family member, my late uncle, was! I’ve always loved sporting memorabilia (ask Chris!) and he kindly passed on to me the ticket stubs for every game played at Wembley and his tournament programme. These are still a prized possessions. In the back of the programme, on the ‘notes’ page, he had carefully written the teams and goal scorers together with a brief summary of the game, which concludes, “The final whistle blew and Wembley erupted!”    

England’s hat trick hero that day, the legendary Geoff Hurst, now lives in the Cheltenham area. Just before I retired from Naunton Park School, it was brought to my attention that one of his grandchildren had started at the local playgroup. The playgroup leader very kindly asked Sir Geoff’s daughter if her Dad might provide me with a signed photograph, which I’m pleased to say he did!

44 years on, here’s to the spirit of ’66. “We still believe, we still believe!”