“ Author: Gervase Phinn / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 09 June 2011 / Genre: General / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division / Title: Out of the Woods But Not Over the Hill / ISBN 13: 9781444705409 / ISBN 10: 1444705409 „
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My husband started reading books by Gervase Phinn several years ago and whenever a new one comes out it goes onto the suggestion list for birthday and Christmas presents.
Gervase - who admits it was an awful name to be saddled with when growing up in Rotherham, has been a teacher and school inspector and his books relate some wonderful stories during sixty years of family life going around schools and also public speaking.
This book opens with a poem which his son asked him to write for his wedding, little did Gervase know the effect it would have! It starts with
When I'm old and wrinkly, I shall not live alone
In a pensioner's flat or an old people's home.
Or take an apartment on some distant shore
I'll move in with my son and my daughter-in-law.
Another seven verses describe all the things his son did in his youth! Like coming home drunk and being sick in the hall, playing loud music, expecting meals to be ready, leaving dirty washing draped around, etc. Ending each verse with when I'm old and wrinkly or when I move in with my son and daughter-in-law. The result was very funny but you'll need to read it to find out what happened next! He writes about the differences for his father's generation and how they expected very little to look forward to when they were in their 60's, perhaps going to the pub for a game of dominoes and home for a snooze and a woman would resign herself to looking after the home. Today's "oldies" (myself included!) enjoy life, we may be "out of the woods" but definitely not "over the hill"!
My husband was born and brought up in Sheffield so things about Yorkshire are special to him, just as Gervase refers to Yorkshire as God's own country! But wherever you live, wherever you were born if you enjoy humour you will enjoy reading this book.
The book is divided into 9 chapters with names such as - When I was a lad: Growing up; Don't you have a Proper job? : Working Life etc.
I found myself chuckling out loud as I read the chapter about the names children have been called like Poppy Field, Hadrian Wall and Annette Curtain, unusual names are the norm now but back in 50's and 60's these names would be quite unusual. A Head teacher at a Catholic school told Gervase about a child called "Innocent", a name adopted by several Popes, Gervase remarked it must have been hard to live up to the name and the Head replied that it certainly was as the child's second name was.... "Bystander"!
We read about his childhood, life at school which wasn't always easy as he was bullied, his relationship with parents and grandparents and teachers. Stories follow about looking after pets, his first job at a Bakery before starting college and being on teaching practice. Some of the funny incidents that have happened when he has gone to carry out school inspections. Life as a school inspector isn't all fun but some of the things that have happened are really amusing. On one occasion he was at a Prize day and the Chairman of the Governors informed the parents that they had more than their share of problems over the last year, stating they were on a precipice but with a new head teacher they were moving forward with confidence!
So many funny tales of life and children, one I like is of a child walking out of school and informing the VIP's that the nativity play is off! The Virgin Mary has got nits! Another amusing tale is off Princess Diana visiting the North and a rather sad looking little boy with hair like a lavatory brush and a green runny nose, holding a wilted flower was picked out by her from amongst lots of children. She ruffled his hair and bent down to ask if he had the day off school especially to see her and he replied "No, I got sent home with nits!" Another is of a nine year old boy who informed Gervase that he knew how to make babies. He then was asked if he knew how to make babies and he said he did, and was then challenged but persuaded the boy to say first. The reply was knock of the "y" and add "ies"! So many times as I read this book I laughed at the things which reminded me of when my children were young - well not the nits!
Yorkshire people are renowned for being careful with their money, I should know I married one! In the chapter about God's own country, there are several stories about the words "How Much?" The one about an Obituary is really good! Gervase was at a country school one day and wanted to check reading standards, he showed a child a bright picture book about an old ram that went to look for a lost sheep. The child started reading about the sheep and then looked at the picture, asking what breed of sheep it was meant to be. Gervase didn't know! The child asked his teacher and then more children who suggested several breeds until eventually a little girl came from another class whose grandfather had won many awards, and she thought it was one of two French breeds which she named. The children weren't impressed with the inspector who didn't know his sheep.
In the chapter called "It's a funny old world", the topic of funerals arises and about two elderly ladies exiting the Crematorium decided to go down the ramp rather than the steps as it was icy, one slipped and nearly went her length, the other said "You'd have thought they'd have put some ashes down!"
Our copy is a hardback version with 271 pages and cost £14.99, it is worth checking out Amazon or eBay for a cheaper copy though. Looking back over the years Gervase Phinn has so many tales to tell and if you have a good sense of humour you will no doubt enjoy reading this book which had me chuckling so many times, it's another of his books that I can recommend and is very light hearted.