“Where’s Olivia?” asked her mother. I looked at Olivia’s “going home place”. She wasn’t there; neither were her coat and bag. I was already soaked to the skin from the dash between the coach and the classroom but this was nothing compared to the tsunami of icy panic which now washed over me. Surely we couldn’t have left her at the Butterfly Farm … could we? We’d counted the children incessantly, Miss Sugarsprinkles and I, at every twist and turn during our trip from Hades but had I actually count them after we’d sat on the coach for the journey back? My mind went a blank.
“She’s probably in the toilet,” I said to her mother, trying to sound calm and competent. Trying not to sound like the kind of teacher who would leave a five year old on a Butterfly Farm the other side of London. “I’ll just check.”
I got Miss Sugarsprinkles to person the classroom door and, as I nipped down to check the loos, it struck me that we’d had a pretty scatological day.
Firstly, there’d been Alexi on the trip there. No sooner had our coach ground to a halt at the first traffic jam, then Alexi’s mum, one of our parent-helpers, had come bustling up to me.
“He needs the toilet,” she hissed.
“Really? Surely he went before we left school?”
“Well, yes he did,” said his mother. “But he needs to go again.” I looked over to Alexi; a pudden-faced child at the best of times, but now also cross-eyed with desperation.
Clearly, we were going to be hours on the coach; the traffic was crawling along in the worst rain since Noah was given a Workmate. I made my way down to the driver and explained, politely, that he needed to pull in. He explained that he wouldn’t. I explained, politely, what would happen to his seats if he didn’t. He pulled in.
Alexi’s mum bundled him out of the coach but instead of a discreet little wee in the gutter, I was horrified to see him squatting down for the Full Monty at a bus-stop.
Mission accomplished, Alexia’s mum wiped him clean and they made their way back to his seat. As they passed me, Mum smiled. “Got terrible diarrhoea, he has. Up all night with it.”
“Why on earth did you bring him?” I asked.
“Well, he really wanted to come,” she said lightly.
By the time we drew into the coach park at the Butterfly Farm, two hours later, Alexi had left deposits at bus stops the width and breadth of London. Our guide greeted us enthusiastically.
“First,” he said “we’re going to meet some amazing creatures. We normally do this session sitting on the lawn – and that’s amazing – but obviously that’s not possible today. No worries: I’ve found an amazing hut we can use.”
He led the way and we galloped through the torrents to a sizeable shed; dry at least but not over-burdened with windows. Mr Guide sat us down in the gloom and pulled over a box.
“Now in here,” he whispered, “I’ve got something amazing!” He reached into the box and as the first of eight large hairy legs appeared through the gloom, even the hardest of our tribe let out a shriek. Alexi was not the only one who suddenly needed the loo.
Later we went to the butterfly enclosure. Those butterflies who’d not been put off by the weather were very pretty.
If the rain was hard as we got onto the coach to come home, it was nothing to the torrent which started as we pulled up just outside the school. As I stood helping children down the coach steps, I could barely see my hand in front of me. Somehow we’d ushered them into the classroom. Somehow, we’d got them to their going-home places. Somehow, we’d lost Olivia. Who was not in the toilets.
Miss Sugarsprinkles seemed certain that Olivia had been on the coach coming home and her friends agreed that she’d been sitting with them. So at least she’d not been left among the butterflies and spiders. But where was she now? Still on the coach perhaps?
“I’ll go and phone the coach company,” I said to Olivia’s tearful mum and was just heading for the office when one of the other parents interrupted me.
“Are you looking for Olivia? Because I saw her grandfather take her.”
It turned out that her grandfather had happened to be passing the school as the coach had drawn up. Thinking that his grand-daughter would get wet in the rain, he’d called her over to the car to get a lift home. The parent-helper who was supposed to be ushering her into the school didn’t see a problem with her going with Grandad. And didn’t think to tell us what had happened before she took her own child and scarpered. He was desperate for the loo, apparently.
My first school outing at Thrush Woods was, as you may gather, not an unqualified success. Since then, on the run-up to class trips, I’ve felt like a turkey opening the first day of its advent calendar.
We had a trip last Wednesday. As a school, we’ve been studying Seurat’s picture of The Bathers at Asniere and I’d booked a visit to National Gallery for us to see the real thing. We hoped to combine this with a bit of a walk around some of the London sights.
The omens were not good. Firstly, we discovered that the day we had booked co-incided with the State Opening of Parliament. So the place, we reckoned, would be heaving with tourists. On the run-up to Wednesday, we regularly checked the weather forecast. Sometimes it said rain. Sometimes it said heavy rain.
The class – back in one piece, praise be – wrote about the trip yesterday. (How do we teachers keep coming up with these great ideas?) I’ve a pile of books in front of me now, waiting to be marked. This is what some of the children thought, in their own words.
“We went on a train and out of the window we saw the Arsnal stadium it was very big. We went on the Victory line to Green Park. Then we walked near Bukiam Palace gates.
When we got there, there was a lot of people there to see the Queen so Mrs Jellywoman ask some people if we can stand in front of them. There were soldiers whith massave hats on their heads. I bet it was hard to balance with their hats on!
We saw the crown in a own carriage and then we saw Prince Charles and Kallmela. Prince Charles will be Queen one day. We heard lots of music with trumpits and a really big block of people on hourses that were black and white. We spotted some gardes and solders that were stamping whenever a man called out something that I could not understand but all the other soldiers could.
The Queen passed us by in her golden carriage. She wore a white dress with sparkles around it. She was doing her Queenly wave! I waved and guse what – she waved back to me!
On the train home I sat on Lily’s lap and we were talking about what a fun trip it was and even thoug it was raining it was still a fantastic day!
My favrouite bit when the horses were galloping they pooped and a cleaner machine cleaned it up.”
So, my final class trip before I retire from Thrush Woods. Ending, yet again, with some poor sod cleaning up the mess.
Bring a cure nearer by signing up for Give as You Live here. Please.