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Memories of Hethersett Middle School by Let's Talk's Neil Haverson.

It was just after 9.30 a.m. on that Saturday morning as we pulled into the school gates. The field was already filling up with cars. It was raining - and I don’t just mean raining. Water was gushing down from the heavens as if the clouds were on a mission to see if someone by the name of Noah lived in Hethersett and was ready with his Workmate to construct another ark.

A surprising number of brave souls turned up and squelched round the cars. They even made the odd purchase - probably more out of sympathy for we stall holders than an overwhelming need for a chipped mug or a jigsaw with a piece missing.

We did three boot sales in all at the school. Although they were supposed to be family efforts I always seemed to find myself abandoned at crucial times; i.e. when I was hungry. I’d listen to Chris Watt announcing over the speaker that “Refreshments are available in the school hall. Or “Why not try a burger or a hot dog from the barbecue?”

If only I could. The younger Haversons had long since become bored and disappeared to join their mates. They returned occasionally to deposit something such as a jar of chutney they had won on the Tombola and to demand money for another go.

Mrs Haverson was helping to serve the refreshments.

Something about this always puzzled me. She would sign up to help for an hour but would be missing for anything up to two. Meanwhile my stomach would be rumbling so loudly that I am sure the punters thought it was a noise from some battery operated toy we had for sale.

Eventually she’d return with breathless apologies for being so long. Gossiping was, of course, the reason. Well, the school fete was a gathering of the village, she had to stop and have a natter with the other parents. And then there were the teachers and children.

Famished, I’d have to watch as she slipped the home made cakes she’d bought into the car. But then, bless her, she’d offer to get me a burger from the barbecue. Leaving me salivating she’d go on another royal walkabout. By the time my burger finally arrived my fellow car booters were dismantling their stands.

If we failed to part with our clutter we certainly found that the social side of the event was always a resounding success. Indeed this is an aspect of HMS that sticks out in the memory.

Apart from the fetes, we have been to craft fairs, barbecues, discos, concerts, car treasure hunts and 7 turkey suppers. Not forgetting Carols Round the Tree and The Combined Schools Carol Service at St Remigius Church. As our children passed through the school, we’d see the same gang of parents at all these events, most of which were to raise funds for the school.

I have to say that many of these events have the attraction of partaking of a sherbet or two. The summer barbecue for instance, is one to which the car does not accompany us. That noble bunch, the PTA, always lay on a local draught ale for which I have an acknowledged weakness and I can recall more than one of the volunteer barman greeting my order with: “What are you here again?”

Carols Round the Tree offers a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. I have yet to crack the challenge presented by this combination. With only two hands, just how do you liberate a mince pie from its foil container and eat it while clutching a glass of mulled wine?

They could be tense affairs if you had a child performing. And one year the singing was in the hands of our daughter. She was operating the overhead projector which displayed the words on the wall. One slide out of place and we could have been singing the words of “Away in a Manger” to the tune of “O Come all Ye Faithful.”

And then there was the Turkey Supper. Sadly this event appears to have had its day but when our daughter first went to the Middle School we were immediately informed: “You must go to the Turkey Supper!” This event had a reputation as an occasion for well and truly letting down the hair - and drinking that local ale.

And so it was. In fact, parents whose children had long since left the school would continue to support the Turkey Supper.

The one of which I have the most vivid memories was when we walked home afterwards with Mrs Farrington. Carols were sung. Mind you they may not have been instantly recognisable as such. And, as I recall, Mrs Farrington did not remain upright for all of the journey. I think she blamed the icy conditions.

I have no doubt that this sense of fun which emanates from the school filters through to the children - and they are the better for it. It wasn’t until our offspring went to the much bigger and therefore more impersonal High School that I realised just what a cosy atmosphere surrounds the Middle School.

With Mrs Haverson working at HMS as a Classroom Assistant we still attend many of the events. There is, of course, a new generation of parents, the PTA members have changed and teachers have come and gone. But the ethos remains.

I am glad to have the opportunity through my wife to maintain the links with Hethersett Middle School. Who knows, I may even be moved to do a car boot at a future fete.

Unless, of course, it rains.

Neil writes a weekly column for the Eastern Daily Press entitled Fortress H. He lives in the village