Stapleford Abbotts School with a big reminder written on the road outside as to whether the Government should shut the place or not.
Back in Essex again, but this time to visit a new school I hadn't done before. The weekend before had been nice and restful and combined such diverse delights as a breakfast at Bilby's in Crewkerne, Manchester City sticking three past West Bromwich Albion and then the even more delightful news that Manchester United had been well and truly stuffed by Wolves. Ah, life is full of such little joys every now and then. Meanwhile, back to Essex. I stayed in Basildon on the Sunday night but was then up relatively early for the short trip over to Stapleford Abbotts, near Romford. Stapleford Abbotts is one of these places I have always been aware of (I was born and brought up less than 10 miles from it) but had for some reason or another, never been to. It is in that sort of no-mans land of not quite rural Essex and not quite desolate disgusting Romford drabness that for some reason is remarkably appealing to Premiership Footballers - a group of people Charlie Brooker so cleverly described as the World's thickest millionaires.
The school in the village was very easy to find and a warm welcome awaited me - and a cup of tea! The hall out the back of this school is brand spanking new and has fabulous acoustics. It was only a half day today and a smallish group of just over 30 children. They were a bit over excited a the start, so I told them some of my best jokes, and that soon quietened them down a bit I can tell you. One lad in particular was hugely knowledgeable and seemed very excited about history in general. He'll probably become a plumber. After a quick break I then had to race through the rest of the morning with embarrassing haste as a posse of dinner ladies (or lunchtime helpers or "ingesting median sojourn operative facilitators" as we probably have to call them these days) swarmed at the other end of the dining hall and cast disparaging looks my way. We still managed to get a really good jousting tournament in which ended with another win for the gentlemen! They are really coming right back into this now. Our year long score now reads:
GENTLEMEN 13 - 16 LADIES
There will be another chance for them to close the gap further tomorrow when I am up at the crack of dawn again to head back for another return visit to White Woman Lane Junior School in Norfollk.
March 25th this year sees the first of what could prove to be a regular Hoop Cricket Club reunion. I used to play for the Hoop between 1991 and 1998, so I am looking forward to getting back there and meeting such a large group of old friends, that is if everyone turns up as they say they will.