Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Batley - Land Of Singing And Cheerfulness

It's 4am. I'm on my way to Batley, South Yorkshire. I'm not sure what to expect. All I know about Batley is that it is the birthplace of the late pop star Robert Palmer - you know, the one who sung Addicted To Love, Simply Irresistible, Every Kinda People, Bad Case Of Loving You and Some Guys Have All The Luck.

The only other knowledge I had about Batley showed a rather skewed view of the place and was undoubtedly unreliable. It was Monty Python's view of the town in their sketch about the Batley Townswomens Guild

(viewable on You Tube:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrDr4DL_A_U ).

I saw more than I bargained on of Batley when I arrived at 7am, in the dark and dank Yorkshire gloom. It was so gloomy that I went round the town centre four times before figuring out where the school was where I was meant to pick up at. I became quite intimate with the menus in the windows of the local Indian and the all day breakfast offer in the cafe called Hot Nosh.

But that was where the gloom ended. The school was one of the nicest I had been to for a long time. Having visited many schools now, I tend to get a feeling about the place before entering the front door. This seemed to be a happy school.

And sure enough it was. Welcoming staff, happy children, enthusiastic parents. It was a multicultural school, but all the children got on and the journey was cheerful all the way up the A1. The teachers never had a cross word.

The Head came onto the bus and said "God Bless You" to the children. The parents, in their enthusiasm to have one last look at their offspring came out of every side street to wave goodbye.

"Parent Alert! Parent Alert!" the teacher said loudly and the bus cheered and waved at them all.

The arm waving and raucous as they sung all the hits of JLS for the first hour.

"Oh lord," said the teacher in the front seat.

The hits from Oliver took up the second.

"Oh this cannot be happening," said the teacher, shrinking into her seat.

Abba songs from Mamma Mia completed the trip. It all too much for the teacher and she disappeared altogether. "I've told them that it is illegal to be sick on this bus. Action will be taken," she said tongue in cheek. Two corners from our destination a little voice two seats behind her cried: "Ooh, I'm not feeling too well."

"Oh no," the teacher said, grinning. "You cannot be serious. Suck your cheeks in. You'll have to 'hamster' it. 'Hamster' it!" It worked and we arrived without any sickness.

The river was swollen following the snow and rain and the children looked worried as we crossed the bridge. "It's cholera river," one child said in alarm. It's strange how children see the world sometimes. The muddy brown water obviously resembled some dirty, diseased river to them. Maybe they had been listening to the news of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. As they got off the bus, their infectious cheerfulness returned and they all started singing "Tis The Season To Be Joyful."

"Not yet it isn't," said the teacher, burying her head in her hands as she headed off into the Cumbrian cold.


  1. The Head pronounced God's Blessing before you set off - don't tell me your driving's that bad!!!!