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'Could try Harder'

Friday, 5th April 2002, West Yorkshire

school reportWe owe so much to our teachers. My mum and I are delving into an old photograph album when we come across an envelope containing my old school reports. My memories are that they invariably included a chorus of;

'capable of better work . . . often spoiled by careless untidy figures and writing'.
Which they do, but further down that same report my first teacher at junior school, Mrs Andrassy, comments about my artwork;

'pencil work very good indeed. Shows originality, very promising.'
I remember that she was an accomplished amateur artist herself, so those comments were encouraging.

The same theme continues through my second and third year. By the time I had reached my final year at the junior school, in 1962, our class teacher Mr Lindley wrote in the section for history, geography and nature study;

'shows great interest and has wonderful ideas but ought to try to be neater.'
Since at least the age of seven I've had a tremor in my hand which might in part account for my lack of neatness. Whatever the reason, it didn't seem to be a problem when it came to artwork. Mr Lindley wrote;

'has a very advanced natural talent for his age.'
But my arithmetic was;

'definitely weak, the main reason being his indifference and slowness in working'

Peak Performance

geometry lesson Even at the age of eleven I was keen to be an artist and naturalist so I felt that the basic level I'd reached in arithmetic would be more than adequate for adding up any fees I was likely to earn. How right I was!

But in a one-off maths lesson The headmaster, Mr Douglas, brought geometry to life for me when he used blobs of clay to represent the Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales. A blackboard lying on the desktop represented the plateau of the carboniferous limestone.

In his final summing up in July 1962, when I was about to finish at the junior school, Mr Lindley wrote;

'Attitude towards his work has slightly improved, but has a long way to go before he shows real 'drive' and zeal in school work'
The 'drive' and zeal for school work may never have materialised by at least I'm still as motivated when it comes to artwork and nature study.


wrenI sit in the garden writing up my diary to the accompaniment of squabbling sparrows and the resident wren singing. He's still making adjustments to his nest in the ivy on the garden shed, but there's no sign of a female.

tadpoles Enjoying the sun at the edge of the pond there's a seething clump of small black tadpoles. They stay by the spawn for a while before dispersing throughout the page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; ''