Fairfield Parish Council recently announced the retirement of Ann Parsons, who has been a familiar face in Fairfield Park for at least the last five years – that’s how long she has been helping children attending Fairfield Park Lower School to cross Dickens Boulevard safely. FM’s Penny Daffarn went to talk to her about her experience of the job and of Fairfield, and what’s next for her.

The last day of the Autumn term will be a sad day for so many of the Fairfield community: the children who go to Fairfield Park Lower School, their parents, school staff and indeed any resident who drives up Dickens Boulevard before school in the mornings and after school in the afternoons. Because one of the most iconic, steadfast and reliable characters of Fairfield life is retiring!

Ann Parsons became Fairfield’s lollipop lady in September 2017. Before this time the school was expanding and there were concerns about the levels, speed and responsibility of drivers at the school starting and ending times. Children and their parents crossing the road to go to school had to run the gauntlet of frustrated drivers anxious to get to work and having to negotiate the blindspots caused by thoughtlessly parked cars.

The obvious answer to this dangerous problem was to have in place a school crossing person. It took a while to find anyone, but eventually Ann was found, and Fairfield discovered they had struck gold!

Anyone who drives along Dickens Boulevard will have encountered Ann. Her bright yellow coat, cheerful wave and smile brightens up even the coldest, mistiest and wettest of days. I had a lovely chat with her one morning, sharing coffee and gossip.

PD: Ann, what is your connection to Fairfield?

AP: One of my daughters bought a new house in Fairfield, and I became grandmother carer to my grandchildren while their parents, who are both teachers, went to work. I live all week at Fairfield, going home at the weekend to Hitchin.

PD: What do you think of Fairfield?

AP: I really like it, it’s a lovely place. The people are all so friendly. It is such a great community.

PD: Tell me about yourself, Ann

AP: I’ve lived nearly all my life in Hitchin, where we brought up our daughters. I’ve always worked with children, as a childminder and later as a teaching assistant.

Listening to Ann, her evident joy and love of children shone through.

PD: How did becoming a Lollipop Lady come about?

AP: Someone suggested to me that they were looking for one and after some thinking, I decided to give it a try. It has been a great job and I have enjoyed every minute.

PD: So why are you leaving??

AP: I have agonised long and hard about it, but the grandchildren are growing up and no longer need me there all the time. It is an extremely difficult decision. But it would be nice to be free to go away and visit friends, go on holiday, not just in school holidays! The timing was also a huge issue.

Ann told me about one little boy who had his photo taken with Ann as he started school and now he has a little brother due to start in September and wants his photo taken too, should she stay on for that? But there is always something else, children have so many milestones and if she wanted to be around to share them all, she could never leave!

PD: What are the best and worst things about this job?

AP: The best thing is the children and the worst is the weather! I don’t mind the cold, the coat is warm and I can wear lots of layers, it’s the rain that isn’t so much fun! I’ve got two hats and shoes in case I get soaked in the morning. It’s not great putting on wet kit to go out again in the afternoon!

PD: What about the drivers, do you experience abuse and road rage when you hold cars up?

AP: No, never. Drivers are sometimes frustrated with the road conditions and each other! But never with me.

Must be her cheerful smile, it disarms us all!

PD: I have heard that you do some baking for the school.

AP: Yes, I’ve always enjoyed catering and before COVID I used to do some cooking with the children in school. Now I make cupcakes for the weekly citizens tea at the school.

PD: What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying?

AP: It’s such a lovely job, especially if you love children. Even the weather doesn’t matter, there are always the children and their parents to chat to, the time just flies by.

PD: Thank you Ann, it’s been a privilege to chat with you. We’re all going to miss you, but fully understand why you’re leaving. On behalf of all of us in Fairfield, may I wish you and David many happy trips and holidays, especially those during term times!

Penny Daffarn has lived in Fairfield since 2010 with her husband Gavin. She has been a parish councillor and a member of FM’s editorial team since 2013.