Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Our Big Day Out.

Between showers from the cable-car.

Today I could dress-down for school. Today was the day when everyone went out on the end of year trip. My Year Group were going to Flamingo Land: eight coachloads of over-excited fourteen year olds and their teachers and support staff off to a theme park in North Yorkshire. In the rain.

I am not really a Form Tutor. My role is as acting tutor and I cover long-term absence: Mrs Kazmi left at Christmas and I have had her form for the rest of the year. "They're not my form. They're Mrs. Kazmi's. I am just looking after them until they get a replacement tutor." became my mantra, particularly in the presence of senior management just in case they got any silly ideas. I still had them for longer than Mrs. Kazmi ever did. I have grown to quite like them - well most of them anyway. Not so much that I was cut up when in some administrative error I was put on a different coach to them, however. They got the Headteacher.

I was on the same coach as Shakir which was a good omen for the day. For him too. When I am with him people are less likely to think he is a suicide bomber. Its the beard. And the brown skin, obviously. He is leaving at the end of the week and is going to teach at an international school in Saudi Arabia.

"Is it true you're going to re-hab, Sir?"


"I heard you were leaving to go to re-hab."

"No. I'm going to Riyadh."

Thanks for your unstinting service. Have a day out with your form at Flamingo Land.

"Sir, did you know that Susan Boyle has been recruited to the war against terror? Once the terrorists realise she's a virgin they'll be less likely to be suicide bombers."

"Thank you Alex. Put your seat belt on. Over your mouth."

As we left the car park we passed by the room where those who were not to be trusted on a rewards trip were under house arrest. Shakir and I just managed to conceal our glee as we espied all the usual suspects pretending that they didn't care about not going out for the day. Some of the kids in front of us on the coach were less inhibited, making "Knob-head" signs. We felt they had a point so we decided not to remonstrate with them.

"Has Mr. Brocklesby been naughty then? Only he's got to stay with them."

"It's O.K. He has a set of science weights."

Aren't teenagers a joy to travel with?

"Are we here?"

"Yes, we're definately here."

"Is it going to rain all day?"

"I don't know."

"You're a teacher. You're supposed to know. Look it up on your laptop."

"Oh silly me. I forgot to pack it with my cagool and sandwiches."

"I can look it up on my mobile phone Sir. What's the web address?"


"I can't find it."

"Read it back to me."


There is a lull. Someone decides to play music on their phone.

"Do you have anything with a tune?"

"Is that it?"

"No. That's an electricity pylon."

"I feel sick."

"Don't give her a bin bag. Put her in it and tie it up."

"Are we there yet?"


"No we aren't."

"Then why ask?"

"Is this it?"

"No. These are roadworks. We've driven for an hour to drive over bumpy ground to give you the impression of a white-knuckle ride. We're going home now."

"Is that it?"

"No. That's a grain silo."

"There aren't any buildings."

"This is called the countryside. You see those things over there?"


"They're called trees. And those black and white things standing in that field: they're beefburgers at an earlier stage."

We overtake a coachload of pensioners.

"Are they going to Flamingo Land Sir?"

"Yes. There's a new white-knuckle ride. It's called the Mobility Scooter drop."

"Is there?"

I doze for a while.

"Is this it?"


"No. stop messing about."

"No. Actually it is. The clues are the big sign that says Welcome to Flamingo Land and the car park with forty coaches in it."

Mr Delaney starts to count the pupils.

"Shouldn't you have done that before we sat out?"

"It's for the tickets numb-nut."

We stood in line as he dished out the tickets.

"Hang on. I've got one left over."

"How many did you get?"

"Thirty two."

"There are thirty one on the coach. Numb nut yourself."

"What do I do with this then?"

"See you."

We filed out and into the theme park and Shakir and I headed to the far end of the park and a nice cafe for the biggest chocolate muffin ever and a coffee, served with little enthusiasm by a young lady from Slovakia.

"Can we sit outside?"

"Eet rain."

"Not at the moment."

"I haf to whip taybel." Only she didn't so we sat inside and watched the world go by. This involved a ringside seat at the newest ride (no, not the mobility scooter drop) but the Mumbo Jumbo. (Big Fanfare.) This has "the most extreme drop in roller coaster history, followed by a host of twists, spins and turns."


Personally, I'd rather lick my own armpits but our lot seemed happy to queue for three weeks for a two minute ride.

I suppose once you've done one theme park you've done them all.

It's not exactly Disneyland.

Still we wandered around the zoo area and had a good laugh at the Meercats, found the two semi-submerged blobs that are rumoured to be Hippos deeply disappointing, were turned off by that red arse-thing that Baboons have going on, fell in love with the Giraffes, failed to see any Lions, watched the Emus steaming after the rain and had a very close encounter with a Tiger.

One wonders whether they should be quite so free-range.

Satisfied by this we decided to risk the little train thing that skirts the park. White-knuckle it was not but it got us from a-b and then we came back again on the monorail and once more on the cable car. This, we felt, would enable us to answer in the affirmative when our kids asked us if we'd been on anything.

And then one of those showers we'd been warned of hit. Actually it was the monsoon.

"I think this is now officially a disaster." Shakir said as we sheltered under an awning and I ate a portion of chips and he ate a Philadelphia cream-cheese sandwich. ("We've not been to Tescos yet") I wouldn't say it was a long shower but we both felt able to sing the irritating tune that was piped out into the Muddy Duck Farm area for the rest of the day. Indeed, I am humming it it as I type.

We took shelter in the reptile house. This was surprisingly interesting and we came across snakes, frogs, gekkos, skinks and lizards in all shapes and sizes. I was particularly impressed by the snake that some people in some foreign place keep as house pets to keep the rodent population down. The information point helpfully told us they were docile. It didn't, however, say whether or not they were poisonous. I didn't feel one could take it for granted.

It isn't a huge theme park and we soon got the measure of it bumping into groups of kids (high on adrenalin and e-numbers) and pairs of staff as we went.

All too soon the unalloyed joy came to an end and we were back on the coaches. There was much comparing of notes. "Did you go on.....?"

"Did you see that girl being sick. It was awesome!"

"Let's play a game to pass the time."

"No, please, let's not."

"I spy with my little eye something beginning with A. D'ya give in? D'ya? D'ya? Air. Hahahaha. I win. My turn again."

"How about a game of "My shopping basket?"

"If I must."

"In my shopping basket I've got..." And in turn each participant adds something to the list while remembering and reciting all the items which preceded it in order.

"In my shopping basket I have got a pair of flip flops, hair extensions, a pair of socks, a pair of shoes, a takeaway curry, a car, a private jet...."

"You missed out the lemur, the lion, the mars bar and the hamburger."

"Look. The lion ate the lemur and I ate the mars bar and the hamburger. I win. Right?"

"Mr. Laher said you were on songs of Praise." Shakir seems suddenly absorbed by something out of the window."

I smile at him. "You're going to die."

And we never saw a flamingo all day.