13 August 2014

Dinnington

Up until December of 1977, I had never even heard of Dinnington - a mining village in the South Yorkshire heartland.  It was then that I spotted an advertisement in "The Times Educational Supplement" for an English teacher to join the staff of Dinnington Comprehensive School. I was invited for interview and soon found myself  facing an interview panel of eight people. They were like The Spanish Inquisition.

The Chair of Governors was also a deputy at the local coal mine. He listened intently to my responses as I fielded questions from the rest of the panel and then at the end of the grilling the headteacher asked him if he had any questions. Half sneering at me, he growled, "Aye, I've just one question for thee lad. Are ye courtin'?"
I sensed the subtext immediately. He didn't want any of those gay pufta fellows coming into his South Yorkshire pit village to corrupt young boys. Notching my voice down a few octaves and scratching my testicles for good measure I reassured him that I was a red-blooded heterosexual but without going into graphic detail. It was only years later that I surmised he might actually have been angling for a date! However, he wasn't my type.
After my successful interview, the Head of English introduced me to a bachelor History teacher called Bob who lived on his own in the nearby village of Carlton in Lindrick. Apparently, Bob had helped several new teachers out by providing temporary accommodation and with Christmas right ahead of us, this seemed like the best option. Bob was in  his late thirties, with receding ginger hair and gold-rimmed spectacles. Little did I know at that point that rumours were rife amongst the pupil population that he was a "perv" who was far too interested in male pupils. Maybe that was why he ran one of the school football teams. And it wasn't long before they latched on to the fact that I was living with him. Perhaps I was also a "perv". Not really what you want when you're battling to establish yourself in a new school.
My "classroom" was really a secondhand hut that wouldn't have looked out of place in a refugee camp. It was situated well away from the rest of the English classrooms beyond a tarmac playground next to Throapham Woods. The window frames were rotting and there were just two small convector heaters to combat the January chill. But I didn't really mind. In those far off days there was no OFSTED and no real curriculum. I was trusted to deliver an English diet that would engage the children and there was nobody looking over my shoulder.

That autumn I took one of my classes out into Throapham Woods. Silently, we made observational notes about the trees, the birdlife, the smell of fallen leaves etc.. More notes were made in late December 1978 and yet more in the springtime and the summer. It was only then that I allowed them to begin their descriptive writing tasks - drawing inspiration and ideas from their notes. The resulting pieces of writing were fantastic - based not on vague thinking but on detailed observation. You could do things like that in those days. And by then I was living in Sheffield and Bob had been promoted to a school in Lincolnshire. 
During my weeks with him I ascertained that he probably was a bit of a "perv" - for I had to field several phone calls from boys - including one who said that he was "in love" with Bob. And two or three times, I heard Bob talking in hushed tones to these lads as I sat in the lounge marking exercise books.

I have many memories of Dinnington. Getting snogged at a Christmas party in The Lordens Hotel by two rampant members of the female PE staff who took my breath away. Visiting  the parents of a truanting boy and finding they kept rabbits in the sideboard in their living room. Mark Needham filling his pockets and school bag with pieces of waste coal from the slag heap before catching the bus home. Taking my seven Year 11 special needs lads in my Hillman Avenger to the museum in Doncaster - a town that none of them had ever visited before. Punting on the River Cam during a marvellous conference - "English for Average and Less Able Pupils". Writing and directing a musical play based on "The Gresford Disaster". Getting locked in the toilets of a nightclub in Worksop following a boozy male teachers' night out. Singing my heart out in the chorus of "The Mikado" while dressed as a Japanese courtier. That was Dinnington - once upon  a time.

And I was back in Dinnington yesterday. The coal mine and its associated slag heap have gone and so has my temporary hut  to the rear of the school campus. The Lordens Hotel is all closed up and falling into disrepair. Thirty six years have drifted by and times have changed but Dinnington remains an isolated settlement just far enough from Sheffield and Rotherham and Doncaster to be a law unto itself - discrete and separate. Another world. I am sure that there are still many people who live and die in Dinnington and hardly ever leave it and the echo of the pithead siren still haunts its avenues and alleyways.

16 comments:

  1. Nothing wrong with Dinnington. You have fond memories of it. There were so many towns like it. Langwith in Nottinghamshire and Langwith Junction a mile away. Thatcher destroyed them out of spite.
    Spite is not a word people use now but she was an evil bitch who begot evil children. Begot isn't a word one often hears either.

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    1. I bet a pound to a shilling that children were being taught to play in the band. We were posh round owre way we had silver bands. Brass bands are fine. It is great music and any child can be taught the simple ones instruments. Sneek the class idiot a trombone and the whole class was happy.

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    2. I might be wrong but I have the distinct impression that you were not fond of PM Thstcher. As regards silver bands, would I be right in thinking that you could often be found vigorously polishing your trombone when you were a lad?

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  2. Here is nothing sadder than a place that has almost died
    Believe me
    I've been to rhyl

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    1. John - I have been to Rhyl too. You are lucky that you are up the hill from that forsaken ghost town.

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  3. The boarded up hotel is a handsome enough building to be turned into a right jewel case (German expression translated 1:1 here, not sure whether it makes sense in English) if anyone who had enough money cared about it enough - but then, who would be staying there, or going there to functions?

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    1. Ambassador - No tourists ever visit Dinnington - nor business people or politicians. Perhaps you should buy it yourself and turn it into a German sausage restaurant. The waitresses would have to wear lederhosen and it would no longer be "The Lordens Hotel" - it would be "Bibliothekar"!

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  4. Yorky, so many memories in this one piece which you could expand on and write your next best seller. You have such a good memory for events and detail. Never mind taking kids on nature walks ~ no way you could take 11 kids in a car anymore either. Really, really enjoyed this read today.

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    1. When I took those boys in my car to Doncaster I didn't require parental permission and there were no risk assessment forms. I just took them. Nobody minded.... Thanks Carol.

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    2. ... and the parents were probably grateful too ??? Those were the days indeed !

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    3. You're right there Helen. None of those lads' parents had cars.

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  5. Those were the days. If you see some of these kids today they will tell you it was the "funnest" time they had or that it influenced them to carry on.

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    1. I met one of the lads by accident a year or so ago when my car broke down. He's now a tow truck man and he remembered our Doncaster trip with affection

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  6. Until today, 14th August, 2014...I'd not heard of Dinnington! Thanks for making me aware of Dinnington. :)

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    1. Why not buy The Lordens Hotel Lee? You could do it up and go and live there or manage "Bibliothekar" for The Librarian above.

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  7. There are so many little places that have lost their purpose in life. Liverpool was one of them.

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