Val and Lesley’s influence on our junior school has been remarkable

Michael Palin visits Fakenham Junior school as the school celebrates its 100th anniversary. Michael's grandfather was a GP in the town for thirty years. Headteacher Lesley Cook ENGANL00120130522162108
Michael Palin visits Fakenham Junior school as the school celebrates its 100th anniversary. Michael's grandfather was a GP in the town for thirty years. Headteacher Lesley Cook ENGANL00120130522162108

FAREWELL: Lesley Cook has been at the town’s junior school since 1999.

Perhaps the turnover, for multiple reasons, is greater nowadays than it used to be.

From my memory of grammar school back in the 1950s and 60s, the same old faces used to return year after year with barely a newcomer to engage our curiosity. We just presumed that our teachers were in it for the long haul and stayed put until they retired. Such wonderful names to play with, almost as if conjured up by Dickens. There was a Ken Fudge, a Sam Root, a Fred Poulter. Not a female in sight unless you count the scary head cook, universally known as Ma Veasey. Those were the days, my friends....Anyway, to return to the present, I’ve written elsewhere of the retirement of two particular stalwarts of the town’s Junior school. Anyone with youngsters who’s lived here for any length of time must surely have encountered head teacher Lesley Cook and school secretary Val Griffiths in some capacity or other. Since they both slipped into their respective roles, Val back in 1990 and Lesley in 1999, their influence on the dynamic of the place has been remarkable. And whilst I’m sure they are both experiencing a sense of euphoria at the moment as they contemplate their far more relaxed futures, it’s clear to me that the school will always hold the warmest of memories for them. Our three boys all spent four years at the Juniors under different heads – the late David Stapleford, Jane Petzing and the just-retired Lesley Cook - so the walk from our house to the back entrance just off Lancaster Avenue became a regular excursion for me and them. In addition to the usual parental links with the place I got rather more involved in the day-to-day as both a supply teacher for a few years and also a governor. Not to mention reporting for this paper on some of the good news stories which inevitably cropped up fairly regularly. Being engaged on these different levels enabled me to enjoy the school from an assortment of perspectives and throughout the years I always found it to be welcoming, friendly and hard working. I’m sure it will continue in the same vein with a new head already appointed for the coming year.

If you get a chance do take a look at the locally-produced paintings on display at the Artfellows gallery on Cattle Market Street. For the past three years proprietors Alex and Linda Buller have been holding a summer exhibition with a twist. Participants pay £10 and receive a blank canvas to work on which is then framed and hung, each work being priced for sale at £75. The number of entries has hovered around fifty and I can vouch for the fact that some of this year’s crop are excellent. Paintings that don’t sell are returned to the artist for them to keep. Visitors are invited to vote for their favourite item after viewing with the winner receiving a £50 framing voucher. The exhibition continues through until August 29.