When I secured my first teaching post in South Yorkshire, I lived with a senior teacher for four months - in the North Nottinghamshire village of Carlton in Lindrick. Yesterday, I went back there for the first time in thirty seven years and you know what, it felt as if I had never really lived there at all. Though I remember weekend drinks in "The Sherwood Ranger" public house, I didn't know there were other pubs in Carlton.
Back then I never visited the beautiful and very ancient parish church and I didn't ramble along the various paths that radiate out from the village. I didn't know there was a village pond and a lake. It is really a very nice place and yet for years I have associated it with my first year of "proper" teaching in a "proper" comprehensive school. Carlton in Lindrick meant a cold house shared with a forty something bachelor called Bob whose interest in boys was not entirely schoolmasterly. It was where I marked books and prepared lessons late at night - trying to stop the job from drowning me. They were some of the most lonesome and challenging days of my life. Every morning the alarm clock went telling me that yet another day of lessons and unadulterated hassle lay ahead. I was a hamster on a wheel that wouldn't stop. Surely that couldn't be life, could it?
Okay. I will stop digging into the dim and distant past. Yesterday I parked near the village pond and plodded off in the direction of Hodsock Priory. Onwards towards Forest Farm but the track, which mapping says leads down to the A1 (major road), was blocked off and overgrown. Access was impossible so this caused me a two mile detour, retracing my steps to Hodsock Lane. Most annoying and a very rare discovery.
To Spittal Farm then over the A1 to the village of Torworth which stands on what was once The Great North Road - the forerunner of the A1 which begins in London and finishes in Edinburgh. I bought a "99" ice cream in Torworth from a Manfredi ice cream van and then I continued along Billy Button Lane, past Beech Farm and back to the A1 which I dashed across as murderous vehicles approached at breakneck speed. Phew! It was a relief to get across safely.
Then to Bilby and onwards to Thievesdale Lane, passing several plantations and the site of an old World War II runway. Turning back to Wigthorpe then down Liquorice Lane and back to South Carlton where I briefly perused the old church. I had been walking for six solid hours by this time with only one sit-down break to guzzle a bottle of water and to chomp upon a juicy apple.
Soon I was back at the car and ready for the forty minute drive back to Sheffield for a meal of fish cakes with lemon wedges and tartare sauce, garden peas and baby potatoes.
It was on this long walk that I thought of the word "hinterland" and recalled glimpses of early 1978 - Bob and his VW Beetle, the slag heap by Dinnington Pit - which was still operational in those days, schoolboys huddling behind my terrapin classroom under a blue fog of cigarette smoke, Mr Lakeland - the Head of English with scattergraphs based on exam results that would determine a pupil's streamed class position in the next school year. The very idea of mixed ability teaching seemed like an anathema to him and I seemed to have somehow landed back in the nineteen fifties. How good it was the next summer to attend a course in Cambridge run by Her Majesty's Inspectorate - "English for Average and Less Able Pupils". It proved that Mr Lakeland - perhaps like Dinnington itself - was trapped in an educational time warp. At least, that is how it seemed at the time.
Please click on images to enlarge