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Having worked in schools in various roles for a while now I do like to read these type of comedic memoir books and can see the similarities between the children and adults I have worked with and those characters in the books. Gervaise Phinn is fantastic at painting a picture in your mind whether it be the stunning Yorkshire scenery or the people he comes across, old and young on his many travels over the dales. I do enjoy particularly his description of his colleagues who are a running theme throughout the whole series (5 in total) of his school inspector memoirs. I must admit I did find this book a little tricky to get into at first, maybe because of its slow gentle pace, but after revisiting it I soon got into it and find it ones of those books that you can go di in and out of and take your time to read when you have a spare moment to relax. On a side note I recently heard Gervaise Phinn talk on his latest theatre tour and it really brought to life some of the stories from the books - highly recommended. So if you're looking for a gentle look at the life of a school inspector in times past this is for you. Though his experiences were a while ago, those who work in a school environment will see that children will always be children and the things they come out with can be priceless!
In 1970 Gervasse Phinn a high school English teacher left city life and took up the position of the County Schools Inspector in North Yorkshire, a position which saw him go quite literally over hill and dale on a daily basis. This book is the first instalment of many in a series of reminiscences which chart the many random and mostly unexpected events which he encountered on his transition from out comer to dalesman. The language used is evocative and highly descriptive, as you'd expect from an English Teacher, bringing the Dales of my youth to life in a most vivid way which left me feeling rather homesick for the bleak winter moorland and endless array of sheep from that eccentric place that I fondly call home. Mr Phinn recounts tales of his visits to local agricultural shows which even now are exactly as he describes them 30 years ago. His ability to put the raw guttural sounds of the Yorkshire dialect on paper so that they can be recreated in your head is sheer genius. Mostly the names of the places have been change to disguise their true identity resulting in such ridiculous sounding places as Backwatersthwaite which actually isn't that far fetched when you consider that places such as Slaithwaite (pronounced Slawit) and Blubberhouses do actually exist. After the first three chapters the remaining chapters are standalone and can be dipped in and out of at random. Its one of the few books you can pick up in the middle, read half a page and instantly be transported to another time and place. The whole book is a joy to read. Theres no cheesy happy ending nor page turning excitement its merely a damn good read.