After the failure of Overscourt Farm, and with no job and no house, Dick and Myrle had to consider all sorts of ways of making a living. They even thought of becoming pub landlords!

A good friend gave them somewhere to live rent-free and other friends offered jobs that, though not entirely suitable for someone of Dick’s temperament, at least provided an income. He spent six months as a travelling salesman of aluminized asbestos fire-fighting suits, boots and helmets; and a much longer stint as a time-and-motion man in a shoe factory in Bristol. It was only when his daughter, Juliet, mentioned that she was about to start a teacher training course that the second part of Dick’s working life began. He decided to train as a primary school teacher, at the College of St Matthias in Bristol, and then, in 1975, gained a B. Ed (Hons.) from Bristol University, graduating at the same time as both his daughter and son.

During this time, Myrle and Dick bought their first house together, thanks to the generosity of yet another family friend, who loaned them the money. In 1968 they found Diamond’s Cottage in Queen Charlton, a village between Bath and Bristol, and bought it at auction. Dick described it as ‘a very old, very small cottage in a little village (no more than three miles as the crow flies from the house in which I’d been born) . . . ‘

Dick needed to find a job once he’d qualified and was lucky enough to land one at Farmborough Primary School, just five miles from the new house. He stayed there for seven years, between the ages of 53 and 60. For the first four years he taught eight-year-olds. But he was hampered by his chronic hopelessness at maths, which led the headmistress to think he’d be better in charge of infants, whose mathematical needs were not too advanced.

As a self-confessed show-off and a natural story-teller, Dick was a brilliant and eccentric teacher who enjoyed his new career, saying:

‘I love children . . . They were the nice thing about teaching. I wasn’t mad keen on some of the adults, but the children were great. I like their lack of self-consciousness and their curiosity.’

 

A Writer at Last

During the school summer holidays of 1976 Dick started writing a story for children. It took him three weeks to complete the first draft of The Fox Busters, a tale inspired by a brutal and daring daylight fox raid on some fine white cockerels Dick had had at Woodlands Farm twenty years earlier. The manuscript was rejected by the first two publishers Dick sent it to . . .

Read more