Travel free roaming for 47 years of my life

Picture Ann C Holland
Tomsk Main Street. Very few shops had a window and even the door was hidden

As a geographer and scientist I have spent my life viewing the scene and travelling wherever I could.

Born in Ellesmere Port, aged 4, a friend and I regularly tricycled down to the Dock Basin where the Shropshire Union Canal met the Manchester Ship Canal. Today the Boat Museum is a major tourist attraction, whilst we were there in its business days: the flour mills, the fully stocked warehouses and the Dockers with their sacks and trolleys. I loved those quays, canals, locks, warehouses and bridges. It was great. No one stopped us. Doubt if I ever mentioned it to my teacher parents.

At junior school I loved all the subjects but because my parents had taught me so much I was soon found out and was used to teach the rest of the class. At Dee House School Chester I was allowed to join although we Ellesmere Port girls were regarded as not good enough and for many years we were not welcomed. I managed to get in through exams, interviews and my piano playing! That was when I became a Labour Supporter. We had good school trips usually to a holy place but managed to persuade our form teacher to take us on to Rhyl beach. The nuns weren’t too keen on us girls going to universities. They suggested colleges of education or secretarial colleges. But I found the UCAS booklet in a cupboard under a staircase and I filled in the forms.

University of Liverpool had 6,000 men and 1,000 women. The docks still worked and The Beatles too. I studied Microbial Genetics, Ecology, Human Biology and Physical Geography. We had great field trips to the Lake District, Lleyn Peninsular and Benidorm…yes but just to sleep in. We Bio geographers were a small group of 4, dropped off from a coach with compass and map. No problems, no notes, no hassle just enjoying the scenery. Other days were coach trips to Elche, Alicante and Valencia…. (Where we revisited in 2019…hoping to see the Championship for Liverpool Football Club (LFC). We had to see the match in our hotel, where the dining room was specially rearranged for us and the entire hotel cheered LFC on – even Real Madrid fans).

Photo Ann C Holland
Tomsk: on the way to the hospital where one of our group was poorly

After graduating I was awarded a scholarship to join a Town Planning Masters but decided not to rush in. I worked in the summer holidays as I always did…Bees Nursery, Chemical Factory and working in the Co-op Drapery. Great job until my mum rang the local secondary school Chairman of Governors unknown to me. “OK, I said, I will go for the interview”. It turned out to be my first day of teaching. I was lucky as this was the last year scientists could teach without a PGCE.

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That year of rural science was bliss. I made my own curriculum, which largely involved walking miles with each class in the school. Finding the pupils who knew the routes or who recognised birdsong. I knew the plants, the trees and the rocks, largely old red sandstone. We planted seeds, took cuttings, and made plant pots out of petroleum cans. Pupils looked after the Guinea pigs. I hadn’t met the Head but 6 months later an Inspector looking like John Cleese arrived. He was amazed at our classroom which was full of plants, art work and the plethora of guinea pigs. He rang up another school and they offered me a Head of Department position! I declined and that same day my Head appeared and said “get thee to a Grammar School”. Well I did, but it was not for me. Fortunately my husband got a Ford finance job in London and I enjoyed teaching at comprehensives in Essex, Ilford, Enfield, Dorset and Gloucestershire.

Eventually I became a Local Education Authority (LEA) Deputy Head and then took another in Dorset whilst our son was young. We walked miles along the coast from Poole to Lyme Regis. We stayed in Dorset for 15 years. I was looking through the TES and noticed a Headship vacancy in the Cotswolds. Decided it would be good to visit and amazedly I got the job. After a few years we became a Specialist College for Languages, Science and Leadership. As part of the Specialism we took even more trips for students in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Australia and USA. We teachers had opportunities in Brazil, South Africa, India, China, Barbados and Budapest. I went to Siberia, Lisbon and Ancona.

After 16 years as a Head I retired and until March 23 2020 did consultation, tuition, coaching and volunteering. We always had great holidays in Europe. Sometimes I went alone or with our son, mostly when we could fit in holidays together. I counted up one rainy day that we had visited France, Spain, Portugal, Germany,Italy, Austria, Morocco, Finland, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland; some only once but Greece, France, Spain and Italy many, many times.

As a staunch EU supporter a group of us visited Leipzig and Salzburg to enjoy our last year of roaming free. How will it be in our future trips? How embarrassing about our country? How sad that so much has changed.  We join the European Movement but the heart has gone. The languages are less important. Our Government has seen to that. From 9 languages at my old school to 4 now. Erasmus has unbelievably gone. The stupidity of Government…but of course even the word EU seems to distress the PM. It is our young people who will be hurt the most. They don’t have the freedom to roam or work in the EU, nor wed in EU nor stay more than 90 days.

All that the Tory Government do is to behave in a very strange manner. I remember with horror last year watching Johnson speak to the new, weakest Cabinet in history……he shouted out words and his sad ministers repeated them….most nine year olds would have been embarrassed.       

Photo Ann C Holland
Tomsk: the Physics teacher in one of the dozen schools we visited . Each day had two shifts ..and Maria ,the teacher,started the day at 7 am and left at 5.30. The children (3-18) did just one part of the day. The books,equipment ,technology were extremely limited one atlas,one precious tiny telescope.
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