Trouble at the Little Village School

BOOK: Trouble at the Little Village School
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Also by Gervase Phinn

 

THE LITTLE VILLAGE SCHOOL SERIES

The Little Village School

 

THE DALES SERIES

The Other Side of the Dale

Over Hill and Dale

Head Over Heels in the Dales

Up and Down in the Dales

The Heart of the Dales

A Wayne in a Manger

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars

A Load of Old Tripe

 

Out of the Woods But Not Over the Hill

 

POETRY

It Takes One to Know One

The Day Our Teacher Went Batty

Family Phantoms

Don’t Tell the Teacher

About the author

 

Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet,

school inspector, educational consultant, and visiting

professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a

range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for

Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to

North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school

inspector – time that has provided much source material for

his books. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an

Honorary Fellow of St John's College, York. He lives with his

family near Doncaster.

 

Visit Gervase's website,
www.gervase-phinn.com
.

Trouble at the Little Village School

 

 

Gervase Phinn

 

 

 

 

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

 

Copyright © Gervase Phinn 2012

 

The right of Gervase Phinn to be identified as the Author of the

Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any

means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be

otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that

in which it is published and without a similar condition being

imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance

to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

 

Ebook ISBN 978 1 848 94941 6

Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 70559 1

 

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

 

www.hodder.co.uk

For my sister Christine Charlesworth, with

love and tremendous gratitude

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

 

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1

‘So, what do you reckon then?’ asked the caretaker as he leaned idly against the doorframe, jangling the bunch of heavy keys in his overall pocket. He was a gangly, gaunt individual with sandy thinning hair, a hard beak of a nose and the staring eyes of a deep-sea fish.

It was the start of the spring term at Barton-in-the-Dale Primary School and he and Mrs Scrimshaw, the school secretary, were in the small office.

‘What do I reckon to what?’ she asked, peering over the top of her unfashionable horn-rimmed spectacles and brushing a stray strand of mouse-coloured hair from her forehead.

The caretaker moved into the room, perched himself on the corner of her desk and leaned closer. The school secretary caught a whiff of floor polish and disinfectant and wrinkled her nose.

‘Come on Mrs Scrimshaw,’ he chuckled. ‘You’ve got eyes in your head. You must have noticed.’

The secretary removed her glasses and placed them carefully on the desk. She looked up at the caretaker. ‘Noticed what?’ she said, feigning ignorance.

‘About our head teacher and the local GP.’

‘I really don’t know to what you are referring, Mr Gribbon,’ she said stiffly. She replaced her glasses and looked down at the letters before her.

‘Oh, come along, Mrs Scrimshaw, don’t play the innocent with me,’ said the caretaker jovially. She winced. ‘It can’t have escaped your notice. It’s as plain as a pikestaff. You know as well as I do that there’s something going on between them.’

‘Mr Gribbon,’ replied the school secretary sharply, ‘what Mrs Devine and Dr Stirling do in their own time is of no concern of mine – nor yours for that matter.’ She shuffled in her chair and picked up a paperknife. ‘As you well know, I’m not a one for gossip and rumour-mongering,’ she added.

‘Well, I reckon there’s something going on,’ he persisted, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. ‘I mean, when he’s in school she can’t take her eyes off of him and it’s clear to me that he’s got the hots for
her
. Why, when he was in last term doing that session on sex education—’

‘Mr Gribbon,’ interrupted the school secretary, ‘it is none of anyone’s business what Mrs Devine and Dr Stirling might be getting up to.’

‘So, you do think they are getting up to something then?’ He smiled conspiratorially.

‘I didn’t say that,’ she objected.

‘I mean,’ said the caretaker, sucking in his breath and blowing out noisily, ‘he couldn’t stand the sight of her when she started here and now they’re as thick as thieves.’

‘Couldn’t stand the sight of her?’ repeated Mrs Scrimshaw, placing the paperknife back down on the desk. ‘I think that’s something of an exaggeration. I admit that Dr Stirling, like a lot of other people, I might add, didn’t take to Mrs Devine when she took over as head teacher here, and some didn’t entirely see eye to eye with her, but once people in the village got to know her and saw how she started improving everything in the school, they soon changed their minds. And I for one think she’s been like a breath of fresh air since her arrival.’

The school secretary’s observations were accurate. When Elisabeth Devine had been called for interview for the post of head teacher at the small village school, dressed in startling bright red shoes with silver heels and black lacy stockings, she had caused quite a stir. She was so very different from the present incumbent of the post, the formidable Miss Hilda Sowerbutts, she of the pleated tweeds, heavy brogues, bulletproof stockings, sour face and sharp tongue.

With Elisabeth’s appointment the school had undergone a dramatic change. A moribund place under the management of Miss Sowerbutts, it had begun to flourish under Elisabeth’s firm and decisive leadership. The once dark and neglected premises had been transformed into a bright, cheerful and welcoming environment.

Of course, it had not all been plain sailing. Soon after her appointment a bombshell had been dropped on the school. Elisabeth had learned that those on the Education Committee had it in mind to close Barton-in-the-Dale. There had been a concerted and ultimately successful campaign and the future of the school now seemed assured.

‘How long is it since the doctor’s wife fell off of her horse and broke her neck?’ asked the caretaker now.

Mrs Scrimshaw pursed her lips and looked at him reproachfully. ‘You do have such a way of putting things,’ she sighed. ‘Talk about being blunt.’

‘Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?’ continued the caretaker, sliding off the desk and jangling his keys noisily.

‘She had that dreadful accident two years ago,’ Mrs Scrimshaw informed him.

Mr Gribbon sniffed noisily. ‘So the good doctor will be on the lookout for another wife,’ he observed, ‘and Mrs Devine being divorced and all, it seems to me she’ll be in the running. They make a good couple, don’t you think?’

‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ said the school secretary, looking down at the letters on her desk and picking up the paperknife again. The caretaker could sense her irritation. ‘And as for being divorced, that is sheer speculation.’ She sliced open an envelope.

‘Well, there’s no man on the scene,’ observed the caretaker.

‘She could be a widow,’ said the secretary, ‘or separated. Anyway, as I’ve said, Mrs Devine’s private life is no concern of mine – or yours for that matter.’

‘Yes, well, if you ask me—’ began the caretaker.

‘I’m not asking you, Mr Gribbon,’ interrupted Mrs Scrimshaw. ‘Now if you don’t mind, I have a great deal to do this morning and I guess you have jobs to do.’ She tapped the pile of letters on her desk. ‘Being the start of the new term there’s this little lot to deal with, for a start.’

The caretaker made no effort to move. He stretched and scratched his scalp. ‘Well, I suppose I’d better finish off buffing my floors before the hordes arrive,’ he grumbled.

‘Good idea,’ muttered the school secretary, not looking up.

‘Excuse me, Mr Gribbon, I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation but may I have a quick word with Mrs Scrimshaw?’

The caretaker turned as a small boy, about eight or nine years old, came into the office. He was a rosy-faced child with fox-coloured hair and was dressed in curiously old-fashioned clothes – white shirt and tie, long grey shorts, grey knee-length stockings, knitted cardigan, and substantial black shoes. His way of speaking was also curiously old-fashioned. He was like a throwback to the 1950s. The caretaker rolled his eyes and shook his head tetchily.

‘You’re here bright and early, Oscar,’ remarked the school secretary, looking up and peering over her glasses.

‘Oh, I like to get here early on the first day of term, Mrs Scrimshaw,’ the boy replied cheerfully. ‘Actually I’m quite keen to be back. I’ve been rather bored over the holidays.’

‘Well, what is it you want?’ she asked.

‘I was wondering, Mrs Scrimshaw, if you have managed to go through the post this morning?’

‘No, not yet. Why?’

‘Well, there may be a letter there for me,’ the child informed her, approaching the desk.

BOOK: Trouble at the Little Village School
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