It only took us 3 years – planning permission, a neighbour who took us to the Court of Sessions, getting a drain connection, all the little things that can consume your life if you’re not careful – but now it is done. It sits at the bottom of the garden where I used to grow weeds and the occasional manky beetroot and it smiles at me. ‘Michael,’ it says, ‘you did a good job. You can be proud that your worthless life has at least yielded this.’ And, you know what, I agree. I go down there at every opportunity, give its Scots larch cladding a comradely pat on the back, poke my head inside, nod approvingly and return to whatever worthless task I have set myself for the day – like thinking about what I should be writing.
I’m the janni. I bring down the milk when the teachers run out, check that no pigeons are building a nest on the roof, try to get money out of the government for our heat pump; the work of the janni is greatly underestimated (and underpaid.) The high heejuns are Natasha, my wife, and Judith. They run the place and do it beautifully. Occasionally, they even remark how much better this place is than the Church Hall where they used to be. Who needs wages when you get rewards like that?
The school is a Montessori Children’s House, a nursery to the uninitiated, but not like any nursery you might normally come across. The kids don’t just run around; they work. And not only on the stuff that feeds their absorbent minds, but manual labour too. Before the Easter break, I suggested to Natasha that the children might like to remove some of the stones in the new grass. That afternoon I found a wheelbarrow full. Hmm. Could be potential here.
I hear stories over supper. It’s interesting stuff, how children develop themselves. And how the school changes lives. Here’s a link if you’re interested. Montessori Children’s House