Posted by & filed under Continuing Conversations.

A friend has asked me to note down an anecdote I told him. It was about when I was a teacher in rural Cornwall way back in the days before the National Curriculum. I taught in a tiny three-teacher village school. My class and I were the entire infant department, and back in those days we had plenty of freedom to explore anything of interest that happened to attract our attention. (I don’t know how teachers manage to do serendipitous things now they are tied into forward planning according to the curriculum.)

One beautiful sunny day a fire engine drew up unexpectedly outside the school gates. I quickly made a few enquiries, asked if we could come to watch, and soon had my class lined up along the pavement. (That’s probably another “no, no” for teachers of today. Life was simpler in my time.)

We admired the fire engine and asked the firemen some questions. I imagine there was some trying on of hats, but I can’t be sure, it was a long time ago.

Near to the school gates was a fire hydrant, and the fireman had come to test it. They were natural teachers. They let us ask questions. They explained what they were doing and why. I confess I’d been intrigued by the big H sign of fire hydrants since I was tiny, so I was as fascinated as any of the infants. (One of the joys of being an infant teacher in those days was the freedom to spontaneously follow your curiosity.)

I remember a fire hose spread on the road, and how rough it felt and how heavy it was – so that even the strongest of infants couldn’t begin to lift it.

We watched the fire crew at work, making sure that if ever there was a fire in or near our school, there would be plenty of water for the fire crew to quickly put it out.

Once the normal testing was done, they added a special finale for us. They asked if we wanted to see a rainbow. Of course we did. So they raised the nozzle of the hose towards the sunny blue sky and it happened. “Raindrops” and sunshine. Magic! Physics! A rainbow!