The other side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn
New on the job, Gervase several times has to ask for directions as he searches for the little primary school he is supposed to inspect in the tiny village with the delightfully tongue-twisting name. His frustration is compensated by the stupendous scenery as he winds his way through the narrow serpentine roads of the Yorkshire Dales. But he arrives too late. All the children have long since gone home. He’ll have to come back another time – at the very end of the book.
Over the next months, many another establishment waits for him to visit, staffed by colourful headteachers such as the lovely Miss Christine Bentley of Winnery Nook Nursery and Infant School. Too bad that his encounter with her rugby referee father proved less than warm.
Other women bring sparkle into his life, such as the inspectors’ super-efficient clerk Julie, his boss’ personal assistant, the savage, man-eating Mrs Savage, the rather finicky caretaker of the Staff Development Centre Connie, and Sister Brendan, the Headteacher of St Bartholomew’s Roman Catholic Infant School, who insists on him learning the words and performing the actions to the school’s favourite hymn, “I am Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus” – to teach him not to gatecrash their afternoon assembly unannounced.
But it is the many encounters with young children – their innocent frankness, their sometimes amusing mispronunciations, their rich dialect, and their masterly knowledge of local farming practices, even if their schoolwork is mediocre – that constitute the truly delightful episodes in this lively, easy-to-read book.