This morning I have a new-found respect for the postman. The Hound is already quite keen on the postman. The postman brings him a biscuit everyday, which he knows that if he sits nicely for, will be all his, along with an ear scrumble. Although this makes the postman very popular with the canine residents of the village, it does render him very unpopular with colleagues covering his holidays. As soon as the red van turns up, should the house have a dog, then that dog goes nuts expecting a biscuit and an ear scrumble and pursues the unfortunate colleague enthusiastically, wondering why the human is not responding in the appropriate manner with a treat. Dog thinks that maybe the Human in the Red Van is not understanding that they are pleased to see them and becomes even more frenzied. Human in the Red Van just wants to deliver the post and then preferably slobber-free, be on their way.
Please understand that I haven’t ever disrespected the postman; neither overtly nor muttered under my breath. But doing a little bit of something akin to someone’s job can always help to educate you in what it actually involves, which is no bad thing. The Hound and I have been delivering leaflets around our village for our pre-school. And me and the Hound do not live in a big village. Oh my goodness.
First, finding some of the houses was interesting. And once the house had been uncovered and checked for squirrels, locating the letterbox was even more fun. Getting the leaflet through the letterbox proved to be a challenge on some occasions. I believe that more than one of the leaflets may have been eaten as soon as it got through the letterbox. Either that or the houseowner was sat behind door, poised to immediately snatch our delivery. Gates. They come in a wide variety of different shapes, sizes, bolts, latches and ranges of squeakiness don’t they? Steps. Giant, tiny, mossy, slippery. Residents. Friendly: “hello, are you trying to deliver something, can I help you?” (“yes, please I’m a bit confused”); not so friendly “Yes, I was watching you…” (“Were you? Yikes!”) And all with the Hound who wanted to sniff everything.
It took us over two hours. In the rain. And the Hound has been upside down on his bed with all four legs in the air ever since we got back. I’ve had a cup of tea and some chocolate and I’m still done in. I’ve heard people say that when they slow down they want to become a postie. You’re out of your minds.
So my leaflet delivery was for my pre-school, a charity of which I am a trustee and have been for nearly six years. I thought that if I volunteered to help out with my local pre-school that it would be a noble and worthy thing to do; make a few cakes and sell a few bacon sandwiches. I was right. I have made a few cakes and sold a few bacon sandwiches over the years. I have also made some friends. My baking repertoire has expanded greatly. On one occasion, I had been asked to make a pudding for a fundraising event. I turned up at what I thought was the right address with my best culinary effort, but I wasn’t quite sure. I rang the doorbell hoping to clarify that I was at the right house. The door opened, a gentleman appeared, exclaimed with delight at my offering, thanked me warmly, took my pudding and shut the door. As I hadn’t established whether it was the right house, I tried to decide whether that was how you would react if you were expecting a pudding or if you weren’t. I decided that it was probably both. When my dish was returned to me a few days later, I knew that the gentleman was in the first category on that day, but probably in the second as well.
In addition to catering, little did I know that I would also be helping to run a business and replace a building. This is a building that all things being equal, the State should be replacing. As we all know, there is no money. There has been no money. There will be no money and it’s getting worse. However, what was news to me and might well be news to you is that primary aged children are the priority for local authorities; that is not a bad thing. However, the absence of there being any kind of priority for pre-school children is the interesting point. A building that is deemed to be unacceptable for primary aged children and would have to be replaced if they were in it is not even on the radar as far as the local authority are concerned for pre-school children.; they are under no obligation to replace it. That is not to point the finger at the local authority – that is the policy that they are required to follow. I didn’t know that until I started talking to the Council about replacing this building. I can’t imagine it is something that the government want to advertise.
The building has needed replacing for years. It was being talked about when I joined six years ago. And it had been talked about long before that. We (and I mean everyone involved locally with the pre-school) has worked for years to fundraise for what has happened this week. Years. Raffle tickets sold, cakes consumed, eggs hunted in gardens, ducks chased down streams. Bunting. There has been so much bunting. And tea. So many cups of tea. This week we put a deposit down on a building. It is not a posh building. It is not an expensive building as far as buildings go. But it is all that we have, and any amount of money is a lot of money when it is all that you have.
In three weeks we are going for it. We have to build over the Summer holidays so we don’t disrupt the business. We’ve still so much to do. Not only do five people’s jobs rest on us getting it right, so do the jobs of the parents who rely on us for their childcare and the future of the children who come to us. I now know how Frodo felt carrying that damned ring when Galadriel said to him: “This task was appointed to you, if you don’t find a way, no one will.” If we don’t find a way, we will lose our pre-school; that much is certain. No one will step in to save us if we get it wrong. There is no more money, so we have to get it on time and on budget. That utterly desolate possibility, and what it would mean for the people we employ, the families who come to us and signify for the future of our children, makes me feel so sad I don’t want to think about it, even though we have to when making every single decision from whether we can afford coat pegs or a sink. Like the song says, on a worldwide scale, we are just another Winter’s Tale. But it is our Winter’s Tale, and it means a lot to all of us. As we stare at the blank, final page, anything other than a happy ending is not something that I, or my co-trustees can bare to contemplate. However, it remains, as yet, unwritten.
I’ll let you know how it ends.