A book review – For Miss Freeman that was.

I should declare an interest before writing this review. One of the advantages of being a Facebook junkie is that occasionally an ex-colleague will peep out from behind their protective wall and expose their lives to the scrutiny of friends from a deeper past. A few months ago I was returned to my first teaching post and the horrors of that first real world job. The school was Leon School in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, the first post was as a very naive Geography teacher and the newly found old friend was the author of this book. In the photo below Tim sits between us. He was destined to move on, eventually to be Head of a school in Kidderminster. Jane was a history teacher and fellow sixth form tutor. You should know that as a first post Leon School was a great place to look back upon. It was a seriously tough place to start. The locals were hard, the teaching was hard, the pupils challenged in more than academic ways. The staff had a collective support network and amazing things came from the place as a result of serious hard work. My recollection of Jane leans heavily on three events.

The school performance of War of the Worlds in Bletchley Leisure Centre was the first such performance by any school, any orchestra, anywhere, anytime. Among those performing were Jane and Joe. Joe Joseph was a legend of the local community. He had that Lakes Estate respect that was essential to survive a night out in the local sport centres or pubs. He did community stuff with knobs on. Jane and Joe were later to be married and are the subject of the book.

Jane sang in a pub in Eaglestone. The staff at Leon had a serious social life and when Jane said she had a gig at the Eagle then of course we would be there to listen, support and encourage. I am not totally sure but I sort of recall Joe playing drums and singing with Jane who did a passable Folk singer style job. Imagine a Phoebe from friends who could sing and sang. It was fun and Jane had serious staff cred.

Finally, and the best hint as to her character in this book, I remember vividly the teacher strikes of 1984. I was the N.U.T. union rep at a time when we had prolonged action, being, at times, forced to leave the school at lunchtimes. Jane was a determined teacher with an independence of mind that couldn’t bring her to walk out with us. I couldn’t persuade her and in some way she gained grudging respect for her dedication to the pupils. We had a different agenda with similar commitment to education, but Jane would not budge. It didn’t affect my view of her, she was a colleague and friend. We later moved on to different schools and different roles. I would never have the teaching experience to be as book worthy as that reviewed below.

leon sixth form pic

Leon Sixth Form and staff sometime in the mid-eighties

leon teachers

and in the bottom left are;-

Yours truly, Tim Gulliver and Jane Freeman (Joseph)

My review

sapodilla pic

The Eldorado Affair: A true story of Pioneers in rural Guyana, South America.

Jane Joseph

Sapodilla Press I.S.B.N. 978-0-9932409-0-4

As a way of exposing oneself to serious scrutiny Jane has gone the extra miles and written this account of her time in Guyana. It is intentionally an account of two people, their collected friends and family and a whole village community. While I read this I was only really interested in Jane, how she was managing and coping and how others impacted on that woman I knew and cared for. I wanted her to win and win again but throughout the reading she managed to successfully create an air of impending disaster and gloom. It is a tale that doesn’t hide the difficulties of what is essentially a post-colonial experience where so many have found a British past has consequences beyond any deserved reaction to that colonialism. It was written with pride in what are remarkable achievements yet dishes out exceptional criticism of those who might read it and want to exercise a modern right of reply in serious non-literary style. I sped through the final five chapters just praying for a romantic and straightforward end. I was left writing the film script in my head where the numerous baddies implode while Jane and Edwin look back in their dotage, sat  on a beach, recalling happier days.

It took some time to read because I spent so much time heading off to Google to try and reference the places mentioned in the script. I now know where Hopetown is, Jane painted the pictures of the landscape accurately enough to follow that coastal road between Georgetown and New Amsterdam and inland on their field trips. It is worth checking out her facebook page for photographs of the places described.

I wondered long and hard over why there were no photographs and have now decided that this adds to the mystery and menace that runs under the plots. One forgets sometimes that this is a real story of dishonesty, distrust and sometimes downright evil. Jane resists the temptation to sugar coat it as a love story where love conquers all. There is also an unveiling of a different, more robust Jane; of a lady who becomes a realist, who develops methods to take control. This is a story of the emancipation of a friend. Phoebe has become a determined Jane. Edwin is exposed as a now more predictable and vulnerable Tarzan despite the constant references to his heroic acts against the impending doom.

As with all self-published works the book would benefit from some editing. Some paragraphs are repeated and slow down my thirst to get to the next chapter. I would add some photos or a basic plan of the village and buildings. There are a very few typos and I know Jane will hate me for saying so, it is so frustrating to have a smart ass point that out. I would happily recommend this to friends to read, especially those who enjoy something with a new geographical bent. Jane has resisted the influence of publishers to sex it up or theme the chapters with strands that could so easily prove to be mere cotton. She asks questions in every chapter that reference to of the eventual end of the adventure. I am left hoping they are well but not entirely sure there is not more to come and wanting them to take care, wherever they might be.

Stedders

To order the book, and please do, go to:-

https://sapodillapress.wordpress.com

or if you must use Amazon then;-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993240909/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_p9DBvb0PG1KK6

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