Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 30 December 2011

First Class Performance

Alan’s picture prompt for the Christmas edition of Sepia Saturday was a jolly postman delivering everyone’s cards and parcels. As a student I worked for three successive Christmas holidays doing this job. It was anything but jolly, but it did give me  some extra money to buy family gifts. However, the prompt did make me think of another experience, some years later in 1994, linked to the Royal Mail.

Teaching and admin staff and midday supervisor
show off the Royal Mail sweatshirts
Headteacher in her prime? The grey hairs
came much later!

I was no longer a student, but still a young (ish) woman and into my first headship of a tiny village school in Wiltshire. In this picture some of the staff are wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the legend ‘Post Early for Christmas’. These were given to us, along with £500, when the school won that year’s Nativity Play competition, sponsored jointly by Royal Mail and the local radio station, BBC Wiltshire Sound.

The play was writen by the teaching staff (ie me, infant class teacher and the part-time teacher who came in one afternoon a week when I did my admin) and every child in the school had a part to play. Based loosely on the medieval village nativities, it was in verse form and easy for children to learn. One of the stipulations of the competition was that we had to bring The Royal Mail into the play. Here’s how this was achieved.

Posing for the newspaper
Some time later, in the town,
The people gathered near,
To hear a proclamation,
Sent to all Judea.
They heard that they must travel,
Back to their place of birth,
For Joseph, that meant Bethlehem, 
The dearest place on earth.
A letter mailed by Caesar,
Sent from the Roman camp,
Had urgent news for everyone.
And bore a First Class Stamp.
The soldiers looked important,
The stars of the show
And puffed up with their pride,
They solemnly opened up their scrolls,
And read the words inside.
Now then, you lot, listen here,
You have to go back home,
Back to the place where you were born,
The order comes from Rome.
Tell your neighbours without fail,
This news comes in by Royal Mail!

The play was broadcast live on BBC Wiltshire Sound, along with the other entries from local schools, and we heard that we had won the same night. Here you can see the recording in progress, with anxious Headteacher, script in hand, on the left ( I was also narrating). Stamp aficionados will note that the screen in front of the stage was decorated with the 1994 Christmas Stamps. It was an ‘outside broadcast’ from Salisbury’s historic market square in front of the Guildhall. The next day the radio presenter, Kevin Gover, interviewed me for local radio and that was even more nerve-racking. I stood in my office, after everyone had gone home and waited nervously for the phone to ring and hoping I wouldn’t say something silly. Listening to the recording just now made me smile, as I managed to get a plug in for the Book Fair the school was holding too, with a veiled grumble at the Local Education Authority about the funding for small schools - but nicely.

No room at the inn!

I also have a recording of the original radio broadcast of the play and listening to that bought a lump to my throat; the earnest young voices speaking out beautifully in the cold, dark Winter air, with a background soundtrack of Salisbury traffic moving down the streets near the square. Me, eighteen years ago, just as keen to impress but ever mindful of the reactions of my young pupils, who sang their carols so sweetly and looked for their mums and dads in the crowd. They’ll be grown up now and some will have children of their own, probably attending that same village school. I do hope they have happy memories of that night and that they remember that Christmas of 1994 as being just that bit more magical.

For more stories and pictures of long ago, catch the last post for Sepia Saturday.


  1. What a great story and even better that you still have the recording! Your posts are always so interesting, thanks for sharing. Happy New Year Scarlett X

  2. This sounds as though it was fun although you may not have thought so at the time.

  3. The way you worked in the Royal Mail was very clever.

  4. Super post, Little Nell. We're only a few miles from Salisbury. I had no idea about your connections to the area. Funny thing, I listened to a recording of our daughter singing her solo part for the school carol service, recently. She was five years old. I, too, had a lump in my throat.

  5. A Lovely Post Nell.Hey Lady! Have A Great New Year!

  6. Loved hearing about the school play. It gave me a lump in my throat. Happy New Year Nell.

  7. I have fond memories of those nativity plays - strictly from the audience point of view. And of the rustling up of costumes - perhaps less fondly of that.

    I did Christmas at the Royal Mail too - as a sorter though, not delivering. It did wonders for my geography.

  8. Great memories!!
    Thanx 4 sharing this with us.

  9. A neat story about making holiday traditions real and meaningful. I'm sure the kids and parents do remember this well. Best wishes for 2012

  10. Hi Nell! This is such a cool post in so many ways. At the time, it was an everyday thing, but now it is so very special and a wonderful memory of what you guys achieved.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to say hi. I'm going to be missing SS this week too, but will be back as soon as I can. Thank you so much for the tip on Blurb, I did look into it and think it would be a great way to go.

    Happy New Year!

    Kathy M.

  11. A wonderful story Nell - I thoroughly enjoyed it : but I always thoroughly enjoy your posts. A Happy New Year to you and your family.

  12. Oh what a great story, and an excellent weaving in of the relevant phrase! I remember when I was at primary school we had to come up with a words for a hymn - to fit the Eastenders theme tune. I've NO possible idea what the reason for this could have been...

    Happy New Year x


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