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About A Week: Joyce Worsfold

Peter Hinchliffe introduces Joyce Worsfold, a retired teacher who writes warm-hearted poetry that makes you aware of the best things in life.

To read more of Joyce’s poems type her name in the search box on this page.

Children were hopping and skipping with excitement as they were led on a guided tour of Yorkshire’s grandest country house.

“Look at me Miss,’’ yelled a seven-year-old. “This carpet’s so thick I can bounce on it.’’

“They must be rich here,’’ said one wide-eyed lass. “My mam says you’re a millionaire if you have two three-piece suites, and just look at all this stuff.’’

The house - Castle Howard.

“Miss’’ was Joyce Worsfold, who lives at Emley Moor near Huddersfield.

Castle Howard, setting for the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, is the summit of the lush lifestyle of the English aristocracy.

And the children that Joyce accompanied on that long-ago day’s adventure into splendour came from some of the poorest homes in the city of Leeds.

Joyce was then a young teacher, relishing her first job at Middleton Primary, said at that time to be the biggest school for its age group in Europe.

The children in her care lived on drab grey housing estates.

“Most of them lived in threadbare homes,’’ Joyce recalls. “They had nothing. They were so grateful for everything we did for them.’’

Joyce, now retired, has published a wonderfully funny and heart-warming book of bitter-sweet poems and monologues, Not Another Ball Pool, inspired by her teaching days.

Here is one of them entitled Can We Write Us News!

Miss! Can we do us news?
I’ve summat to write about
Can we choose?
Last night I was sick in bed
All over’t covers
There were bits of green and red.
So I went to get in with me Mam
But Uncle Bill was there,
So I slept with our Sam.

On Saturday we all watched the telly
Zorro was on and Tarzan and we’d three bowls of jelly,
Six packets of crisps and some of Dad’s beer
But he don’t know ‘cos he wasn’t there.

On Sunday me Dad said “Come for a ride’’
We went to this ‘ouse and he went inside
This lady drew’t curtains and he stayed about an ‘our
Then he gave me a quid and said “Money’s power.’’

Last night my Dad went to’t Royal Oak
And me Mam was mad ‘cos we was broke
Anyway he brought home a bird
And me Mam got madder, as mad as could be
And…
It were a pheasant and we ‘ad it for tea.

Last night me and me Dad went pinching lead
I nearly fell and me Dad he said
“Be careful lad just how you perch
Especially when we get to’t church.’’

This morning it was hawful in our house
‘Cos when we went to the toilet there was this little mouse
Then we had no toilet rolls, not even one
So me Mam had to cut up yesterday’s Sun,
She said “That’s what you do when you’re poor’’
Then she hung it on a string on a nail on the door.

On Sunday I was sad because my Grandad died
Me Mam told us and we all cried
He was my very favourite relation
But me Gran’s all right
She’s got an Alsatian.

We ‘ad spaghetti last night
It were proper stuff, not out of a tin
And when you tried to eat it, it wouldn’t go in
Me Mam said she’d had it many times
But I didn’t like it. I’d rather ‘ave Heinz.

Our budgie died this morning
Me Dad said “We’ll cremate it.’’
So he threw it on’t fire
But the cat jumped up and ate it.

Last yesterday I watched News At Ten
There was this fella reading it sat under Big Ben
You can now get babies in a test tube
I think it’s better, the other way’s rude.

Miss, Miss can we do us news
I’ve summat o tell thee
Can we choose?
Miss, can you spell it for me
Cos I don’t know and I want to tell it to thee.

Miss I ain’t got any news to tell
We never do nothing.
Life’s boring as hell.

On one of her days at Middleton Primary Joyce was presented with a chocolate Easter egg in the shape of a swan. She rushed into the teachers’ staff room to show off her gift, only to find that the other teachers had been presented with similar swans.

The chocolate birds had been stolen from a local bingo hall.

Joyce’s poems are a glowing tribute to the wonder and innocence of young children - and a brisk reminder that every child deserves the best possible start in life.

On the tour of Castle Howard all those years ago the school party were followed around by a casually-dressed chap who was obviously eavesdropping on the children’s conversations.

The man eventually approached Joyce. “I have never enjoyed visiting my own house so much as I have today,’’ he said.

Mr Howard of Castle Howard was realising that real gold is found in young children - and in those who strive to give them a firm footing in the world.


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