Sunday, July 4, 2010

A sponsored walk ...with added teenagers.


So, sponsored walk day ...and on one of the hottest and sunniest days of the year. Our Yr 11s and 13s having left that leaves us with something in the region of 850 pupils to organise on a circular walk of ten miles through some very nice countryside starting and ending at the school.

One of my friends has had some "Walk for Steph" badges made in memory of our colleague who died a few months ago. We all think this is highly amusing as Steph was not known voluntarily to have walked anywhere but hopefully Oxfam will benefit from the sale of badges and sponsor money.

As the kids begin to trickle into school I am somewhat perturbed by the fine array of totally unsuitable footwear: we have flip-flops, gladiator sandals and Ugg boots among the selection. It's always good to know that the kids have thought things through.

I will not be walking myself - it's my war wound don't you know? I will be manning (can you say that these days?) the final checkpoint on the edge of Tesco's car park with Will, Rob and Ellie. In fairness I have walked the route on a number of former occasions and have even run it twice, so to be on a checkpoint this year seems only fair.

Having seen them off from the sport's hall at 9.15, we make our way to our checkpoint. Rob has brought some garden chairs so, much to the amusement of members of the public we set up our camp under a large yellow board bearing the legend "10". Our task, at the end of a designated country walk, is to stamp their cards and stop them going through the car park and in to the supermarket and then off home. The walk is not over until they have checked back in at school, a further half a mile on from where we are.

We sit in the sun and chill. It is very pleasant and this part of the walk is popular with cyclists and dog walkers and a fair few pensioners on their morning constitutionals. We ponder what they will make of the tide of humanity meeting them from the opposite direction.

At 10.15 the first of the runners hoves into view and for a short time there is a steady stream of youngsters who are taking their run very seriously. At 10.20 the 15th runner arrives, noteworthy for being the first Yr 7 boy. I hold out my hand to take his card for stamping and he instinctively shakes it. I am quite charmed by this sudden display of old world courtesy and sportsmanship. At 10.25 a group of boys appears walking. There have been no girls yet. They see us and burst into a flurry of running.

"Sir, we've run all this way. Honestly. We've only just started walking."

"How do you think me and Miss got here ahead of you?"

They look speculatively at Ellie. "Did you Miss? Did you run?"

"And never broke sweat James."

At 10.35 the first - and as it turns out the only - staff runners pass us. Will adjusts his position in one of the garden chairs and continues to direct operations.

"I'm like Wellington." he announces.

I look at Ellie and Rob. "What are we then? Foot soldiers?"

Ellie and Rob are both historians. "Actually," Rob says "Wellington called them the scum of the earth."

"Cheers Will."

10.50: the first girl passes.

11.45: the tally so far. 63 boys, 2 girls and two members of staff.

"Sir, Sir, my dad's a taxi driver. His rank is over there at Tesco's. Can he give us a lift back?" Will slopes off for a smoke.

12.15: Eddie, the first Yr 8 arrives. I have a soft spot for Eddie: school life is not easy for him and I make a big fuss of how well he has done.

12.17: the 3rd girl passes.

Will returns and takes up his lolling position in one of the chairs. "I'm back now. Carry on."

"Cheers Will."

"Blimey." (yawn) "It's hard work this!"

12.27: the first year 7 girl, Pagan, arrives. She is a tiny slip of a girl and has clearly been running most of the way.

12.30 sees the first staff walkers, all from the IT Dept.

12.40: the tally is 93 boys, 7 girls and five staff.

"Well done Sweetheart. You're in the top ten girls."

"What about me?"

"You're in the top 140 boys."

12.45: there is now a steady stream of Kids. Will is seen to get off his seat to help.

"Blimey, I need a sit down."

12.55: the first obese child makes it.

1.00: six chavvy boys in track suit bottoms and stripped to the waist arrive smelling of contaminated pond water. One, foolishly I felt, tries to hug Ellie.

"Where have you been swimming?" she demands, fighting him off with a parasol.

"Swimming?"

"Can we go home now Sir."

"You've got to go back to school first."

"Oh no!!"

"You've not enjoyed it then?"

"No! Why did we have to walk ten miles in the sun?"

"It's a sponsored walk."

"Well, I'd rather have been in Maths!"

"Are you mad, child?"

From 1.15 everyone, EVERYONE is moaning - and limping. Several have either just the one shoe or no shoes at all.

I see two pensioners with shopping trolleys hemmed in by about 25 moaning, sweaty teenagers.

"What's the betting they've been trapped there for the last six miles and wanted to get off at Robertown?"

"Can I get a bus?"

"I'm in pain."

A group of girls pass by with mobile phones glued to their ears. "...so I told him: I'm not taking that from someone with acne."

"To be frank with you, I think we've had the hardest job."

"Cheers Will."

"I need a wee."

"Sir, you said we'd be done by 12.00 and it's 1.20."

"Could you have walked faster?"

"How would that have helped? It's still 10 miles."

There seem to be quite a few grazed knees and bramble scratches on show now.

1.40: here come the girls. They are wearing sunglasses, floaty summer dresses, carrying designer bags and wearing statement jewellery. They think it's Cannes.

"Couldn't my mum have driven me?"

"I'm, like, really dying here."

"Sir. Mr. Bennet's sending people the wrong way."

"You've not got a stamp for station 7."

"There wasn't a station 7"

I ask Ellie which station Mr. Bennet is on.

"Six."

A man on a mobility scooter ploughs through the next group like Boudica. "Bloody kids everywhere. Shouldn't be allowed. Shouldn't they be in school or something?"

It's nice to see people entering into the spirit of things.

"Never again. Never, ever again!!"

"Sponsored walk? You'd be better calling it a sponsored amble." Ellie notes. "None of my P.E. group have come through yet."

"What P.E. do you do with them?"

"Aerobics. Their favourite is step 'n smoke."

"We're calling childline. We're holding you personally responsible."

"Ah, Mr. Loxam. You're by far the sweatiest person we've had through so far."

"Sir, Sir, I feel sick."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Is that it?"

"Sadly that's life. A lesson best learnt early I feel."

"But I've got a headache and my left foot hurts. Miss, Miss. Have you got any wheelchairs?"

He could, one feels, write a book on hypochondria.

2.30: the Head Teacher arrives and Will jumps into sudden action. "Let's call it a day." the Boss advises.

Will and I drive back passing the last few stragglers on their last half mile to school and hundreds streaming away having checked in. Later I pass Mr. Bennet on the corridor.

"Some kids complained that you'd sent them the wrong way."

"Only the ones I didn't like."