Wednesday 6 January 2010

Over Hill and Dale - Gervase Phinn

Over Hill and Dale is more of the same from Gervase Phinn - the second year of his job as a school inspector in the Yorkshire Dales. Once again, we meet a cast of wonderful characters, including the three other inspectors - Harold, David and Sidney; Connie, the rather draconian caretaker of the Staff Development Centre; and, of course, Miss Christine Bentley, the beautiful young headmistress that Phinn is gradually falling in love with.

The writing is eloquent and at times beautiful, as Phinn describes the awesome sights of the Yorkshire Dales that he encountours in the course of his school inspections. There is also a wonderful sense of his deep and abiding respect for the institution of teaching, and the part that teachers have to pay in the formative years of children.

The children here are the stars of the show - blunt, yet innocent Yorkshire children who are more accustomed to seeing rabbits being shot as pests than as the main characters in stories by Beatrix Potter! There are little anecdotes about each school visit, including some lovely tales of nativity plays.

The other side of the Yorkshire Dales is also explored here - the inner city schools and in some places the dire lack of basic education for children who are not expected to amount to more than factory workers and labourers.

Altogether, a delightful book.

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