I woke up on the morning of my first ever school trip and peered tentatively out of the window. The weather, predictably for Hemel Hempstead, was grey and looked irritatingly cold. I considered briefly putting my head under the duvet and feigning illness to get out of it, but my classmates for the day were counting on me to be there. So I got up, relieved that my normal uniform of polo shirt and trousers could be discarded in favour of a suitable smart but casual top – selected for it’ subtle yet fun appearance – and a pair of jeans. Wearing a pair of jeans to school felt so…….wrong! So unbelievably challenging to the rules that governed my school days.
I arrived rather later than I’d hoped and stood with the rest of the class awaiting instruction. I laughed nervously at the sight of teachers wearing jeans for the school trip – this seemed alien somehow because they actually didn’t look too bad. The teachers I’d seen before in jeans had thought they were super cool in jeans matched with ‘smart shoes’ or jeans that were an inch or two above the ankle. These teachers though, well, they looked like…….like……..me! I shudder as I type this because teachers are after all ancient aren’t they? Totally alien beings with whom I have nothing in common, I mean seriously!
I sat through registration, one eye on the revered Elvis clock on the wall (Mr Shepherd is ,as it happens, a huge Elvis fan). At 9am precisely the clock broke into song and entertained the class. I sat perched on a desk watching, mildly amused. The classroom seemed excited to be going on the trip, the teachers were busy with final arrangements, and yet the entire experience seemed so foreign to me. It wasn’t something I’d thought about when I put my name down but I was a bit apprehensive.
I will admit through an apologetic grimace that when they mentioned members of the class who suffered from travel sickness. I hoped I wouldn’t be seated near them. The thought of seeing someone reviewing their breakfast could in fact cut short my day out. I am what the medical profession refer to as a ‘sympathetic chucker-upper’.
The day consisted of a tour of Waddesdon Manor just outside Aylesbury. We had a walk of the grounds. A very charming lady led us round – a volunteer school tour guide. The boys typically tried to find every puddle to jump in, the girls giggled and tried to stay clean. It seemed the girls were more interested in who their partner was or holding the right person’s hand. Thankfully there was always someone holding mine. I hope they liked my company and it wasn’t the look of stricken fear on my face at so many children on one place at one time.
We saw the tower and learned about the sleeping beauty paintings created and maintained in perfect detail for over 100 years. I tried to imagine a life in the era this house was a home. There was no television, no iPad, no mobile phone. My group contemplated what people may have done in those days. Did they read, did they talk? One of my group even mentioned perhaps they played games. An image of parlour games came to mind. I remember those antiquated Christmas cards over the years with the children giggling wildly as the parents clapped and cheered. I reflected on what laughter – and yet also what sadness – this house may have seen. No panic over a computer not booting or time spent arguing over which TV show to watch. But more, the giggling of siblings, the gentle tinkle of bells to summon assistance from the staff. Or perhaps, if the sleeping beauty pictures are to be believed, fairies, witches, dragons, spinning wheels and love’s first kiss!
And so to lunch. We sat outside in what felt like minus 12 conditions, enjoying sandwiches and chit chat. I don’t remember the last time I had sandwiches and crisps for lunch. What a treat! Mr Shepherd had bought biscuits too. When did teachers become so…..so….friendly!
The afternoon was spent recreating the story of Sleeping Beauty. The volunteer steered us away from the Disney flavour we held dear. No more Malefocent, just an evil, unidentifiable witch. In the comfortable stable classrooms I sat with my table working out the main points within the story and carefully working together to form words, watching careful eyes over spelling, punctuation and grammar. Before long it was time to pack away and hand our work in before leaving the warmth of the stable classroom.
Finally we boarded our coach to return home, my love affair with days gone by ignited somewhat. But surely this was the desired effect by those who so lovingly maintain and restore such stately homes.
The coach journey back to school was an excited mix of girls portraying the Sleeping Beauty story, albeit with a slightly Disney leaning. And boys suggesting everyone ‘pull their finger’ which being female confused me. I now consider myself educated in this matter and rather wishing I wasn’t!
On arrival at school the parents were already there to take weary, yet happy, children home. I was dismissed by Mr Shepherd and headed for the car. I got in, sighed and set off for home. My day was over! I think I was a little disappointed…..
You’ll be relieved to know, there was no travel sickness. I survived my first-ever school trip. I’m not sure if I will get to go on a school trip again, but if my class organise one I may just put my hand up to go
Year 1, class rep, Berkhamsted Pre-Prep
For this was not only my first school trip but also that of my five year old, who is in year one. I was merely the volunteer mummy who helped out.