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  • I arrived at the small village school after successfully catching the right bus and being met by a very friendly taxi driver, who was waiting for me as the bus drew up at the slipway, in good time.

    The taxi driver and I talked about poetry, (somehow he knew why I was visiting the school); Bob Dylan, rapping, the Beatles, how long I had been in Ireland and we found out that both of us had children who went to Bristol University. He was the most welcoming person that day.

    I entered the school and after peeking into the classroom alerted the headmaster that I was there; and was shown into the Staff Room by a softly spoken, self-assured teaching assistant. She left me on my own to get my act together.

    The staff room was a combination of Head Master’s office, staff kitchen and storage room.

    Thankfully I managed to cut up some fruit for the tasting activity before I was called into the classroom. The classroom was very cramped. If I had been a larger person I would not be able to move around each table which were arranged in conventional rows.

    The headmaster introduced me as a poet and one boy at the back angrily shouted out that he didn’t like someone new coming into his classroom. The headmaster reassured him that all was OK.

    I managed to put on a bright and enthusiastic manner, introducing myself and my take on writing poetry. I read out a funny poem, a poem about nature, and a ballad.

    Then whilst the children wrote down in their books what they had done before arriving at school that morning, I attempted to lay out my resources on separate tables round the room.

    There was no extra space so I had to put smells, feely items, visual items, and things to taste on the tables that the children were writing on. It is a good thing I am used to going into difficult situations.

    After we had heard what each child had written about their experiences. It was break time.

    The children stayed inside as it was raining and I was given tea in the staff room, whilst I chatted to the Irish language teacher who was moaning that Schools only wanted Irish taught until the children were twelve years old.

    I returned to the class and asked the children to go back through their stories about their morning and add the smells etc. that they encountered.

    I was rewarded by some great narratives.

    “I saw an orange sun in the sky this morning. An orange sun is a bad sign that it will rain that day.”

    “I saw a ram and three ewes skittling around the field.”

    “The sizzling sausages smelt grand.”

    “My cat curled cosily up to me in bed.”

    “Dad’s car was dirty and greasy to touch.”
    “My goats and kids were soft to stroke this morning.”

    I told them all they had done very well and I would see them next week.

    I asked the teaching assistant if I could lay out next weeks activities in the canteen.

    The taxi driver picked me up after lunch and he told me about the terrible loss of railways in Ireland from the fifties onwards; how in rural areas Catholics, got on with their Protestant neighbours because farmers had to help each other out no matter what their religion. How there was disputes between people in Belfast because they were all squeezed into slums; and how terrible it was that all religions insisted they were the only ones who were right.

    I was very tired when I returned home, but managed to make a curry, give some home time snacks to my eight year old grandson, discuss his homework and improve on my lesson plan for tomorrow’s session.
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