by Ann Dixon
Jimmy West ambled into the school library and sat down next to an elderly gentleman sporting a mop of unruly grey hair. "Are you one of them inspector chappies ?" asked Jimmy. "Only Mrs Butterthwaite said I was to come and read to one of em."
"Yes, I am." replied the man. My name is Mr Knowles and I'm a HMI. That means I'm one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of schools."
Jimmy began to snigger. "What's so funny young man?" asked the bewildered inspector.
"I shouldn't really tell you," replied Jimmy. "But, Mrs Butterthwaite said we must answer all the inspectors questions as truthfully as possible."
"That's very sensible guidance," replied the inspector. "So then, what's so funny?"
"Well Mr Knowles; Mrs Butterthwaite says you lot ought be called HMNPs."
"HMNPs" replied Mr Knowles frowning. "And what exactly are HMNPs?"
Jimmy cleared his throat and gave Mr Knowles a knowing stare. "Her Majesty's Nosey Parkers." he replied.
Geoffrey Knowles coughed and tapped his lips in an attempt to disguise a smile.
"I see," he said "I think that Mrs Butterthwaite has rather a low opinion of the inspectorate."
"No she ain't Mr Knowles. Its just that she's bin teachin' sproggs like me for over twenty years, and I suspect she thinks she could actually teach you lot a thing or two."
Geoffrey Knowles bit his lip.
"Mmm, You're probably right Jimmy, but an inspector has to check that all teachers are as good as Mrs Butterthwaite. I take it that you do like Mrs Butterthwaite?"
Jimmy wiped a grubby sleeve across his nose and sniffed.
"I wouldn't say - like exactly. Bossy Beryl Butterthwaite can be a bit of an ogre, if you know what I mean." said Jimmy giving the inspector a knowing wink. "But er's fair. Mrs Bs got a sayin' Be good, kind and considerate, work hard, stay on the right side of the line and all will be well. But! Cross the line and I'll .... "
"Yes, yes Jimmy, I ... I get the message." Jimmy sat back in his chair and folded his arms in front of him.
"This is a good school Mr Knowles. All mi brothers and sisters 'ave come 'ere. Our Jack did so well in 'is exams that 'e went to college to do some extra studying and now he's a fully qualified car mechanic. Joe's a manager at Bentley and Barlows, our Evelyn's a personal secretary to some big-wig and our Cathy's training to become a librarian. That ain't bad now is it Mr Knowles?"
"Indeed that's very impressive Jimmy, but what about you? What do you want to do when you grow up?"
"That's easy," said Jimmy, as a wide grin spread across his cheeky face. "I either want to be a professional footballer or I'd like to teach little uns 'ow to read, write and do sums."
"Very laudable occupations Jimmy, but just how do you expect to achieve one of these goals?"
"By workin' 'ard an' keepin' mi nose clean - like Mrs Butterthwaite always tells us. She says anything is possible if you word 'ard enough. She also says we must kind to each other, be thoughtful, think of others and not just ourselves."
"I think I'm beginning to warm to Mrs Butterthwaite," said Mr Knowles. "I think I'll enjoy talking with her tomorrow. But to business. What book are you reading at the moment?"
"I'm readin' this ere book called A Christmas Carol by a chap called Charles Dickens."
"And do you like the book Jimmy?"
" Well at first I din't think I was going' to like it cause it was set a long time ago."
" And just how long ago was that ?" asked Mr Knowles.
"Well I don't rightly know, but mi gran got right uppity when I asked if she were alive when it was written, but If you hold on a minute Mr Knowles I'll be able to tell you."
Jimmy stood up and walked over to one of the computers in the corner of the library. He tapped the keys then turned to face Mr Knowles. " It says 'ere that he wrote the book in 1843 that's er... 174 years ago."
" Quite right." said Mr Knowles. " I can see that you're a bright lad Jimmy."
" It's not me that's bright Mr Knowles its Mr Google. He knows a thing or two does that Mr Google."
"I suppose he is a bit of a know all," said Geoffrey Knowles, stifling yet another smile.
"So what made you change your mind about the book then?"
"Well I suppose I got to enjoy the characters. Them Marley brothers were right tight fisted and Jacob Marley (the one with the chains,) reminds me of mi dad's friend George Binley. Mi dad says 'es as tight as a ducks arse. Oh! Sorry about that Mr Knowles, but I was just repeating what mi dad said.!"
"I quite understand Jimmy. So umm! Do you read at home?"
"Yes I do."
" And what are reading at the moment?"
Jimmy considered the question for a moment before replying.
"If I tell you Mr Knowles you 'ave to promise not to tell mi dad or Mrs Butterthwaite."
"I so promise, " replied a now very inquisitive Mr Knowles.
"Cross your heart and hope to die?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die," he replied, placing his hands across his chest.
"I'm readin' Lady Chatterley's Lover. I don't know what all the fuss is about though. Jack Parker said it had a lot of 'naughty bits in it' if you get mi drift. But I 'aint' found any yet."
"Well! I'm not sure you should be reading such a book Jimmy - but, a promise is a promise. Now then, I think I should be getting down to hearing you read some more of 'A Christmas Carol.' Please turn to the page you're reading at the moment and carry on."
Jimmy West dutifully did as requested.
When the inspectorate left St Peter's Primary School, they were in no doubt that the school was doing a fine good job. Thanks in part of course, to Mrs Butterthwaite and the inimitable Jimmy West.
About the author
Ann is a retired primary school teacher who enjoys writing for pleasure. She has won a few minor competitions, but her aim is mostly to entertain – both herself and others.