That everlasting joy of a school trip to a theme park. I remember the days of sitting on a school bus to Alton Towers or some such place and singing along to classics such as: “Found a peanut…” or the more violent (and hilarious) lyrics of the song that begins: “I found an old stocking, so I filled it with lead and I….” And avoiding the risk of encouraging such low morals in readers, I’ll omit the rest of the words (and laugh about them in my head instead.)
School trips were great. And as a child your only worry, when visiting a theme park, was how long you’d be queuing for the big rides. Or perhaps, like me, the worry would be how to avoid the big rides without seeming like a total wuss! Trips were the memorable events of school, where even the bus ride there and back was a social event in itself.
Fast forward 30 odd years, to a 40 something, relatively sensible and level headed teacher, and it feels very different. To be a part of the group responsible for the safety and security of a group of children with a vast difference in age range and in a country so very different to Britain , evokes more feelings of panic than excitement, more a fear of someone getting lost than a fear of a roller-coaster.
Yet here we are, on the way to OCT East, with the whole bus singing of our 1980s school trips, replaced by lively chatter, and the occasional sound effect from whatever game is being played on the mobile phone. Slick mobile devices that have replaced the clunky Sony Walkman (a school trip staple and the height of sophistication to my 14 year old self – especially when upgraded to a version that would automatically play the other side of the cassette when it reached the end.)
After 45 minutes a voice rises above the rest. “Are we nearly there yet?”
Some questions span time, generations, and continent.
A further 45 minutes and the bus pulls into Knights Valley. Disappointingly, there are no fighting men adorned in armour of any kind- and as for trusty steads- none. Just buses and a smattering of kids. After a week of sunshine and 28 degrees, the weather today was a cooler 18 degrees and no sunshine was to be seen through the relentless light drizzle. It was like a spring day back in the UK. On the upside (because there’s always an upside) the weather had kept the great crowds at bay.
On this particular trip, I buddied up with my husband and a group of 6 primary school kids – and it was great way to spend the day. Being in charge of a group of young youngsters was so very different to the teenagers I am used to working with in secondary school.
They find delight in absolutely everything! And I mean, absolutely everything: a charger for a phone was met with such an exaggerated, “Whoah,” it was as though this simple technological device was in fact a strange magic box sent to bewitch all who beheld it; playing a game of bursting balloons with darts – much excitement and scrabbling around as prizes were to be had; taking a cable car through the mist to the top of the mountain heralded complete joy (and almost mass hysteria when my other half decided to wave his hand out of the tiny window at the top of the suspended glass cabin); the walk of faith on the glass pathway looking over a drop, which in fairness couldn’t be truly apreciated as the mist softened the impact; the journey down the mountain on a vernacular that went at speeds perhaps better suited to a vehicle that wasn’t quite so steep; the list goes on.
The teacups were spun with gusto, and even when some students came off clutching their stomachs – they were still back there for another go. The magic man performing miracles with his red handkerchief and multiplying miniature sponges, kept them entertained and in awe for as long as it took before he began the hard sell of his magic kits- time to move on…
And move on we did, to one of the most awesome log flumes I’ve witnessed. While this park didn’t quite live up to the splendour of Alton Towers, and the weather was a drizzle of a mizzle, and the park itself was a tad sparse and in need of some beautifying, this log flume knocked spots off many I’d seen before. The very industrial looking contraption had height, a great flume, and exactly the right depth of water to create an almighty splash! Of course, this is written from someone taking on the passive role of observing and filming the group as they had a go. Log flumes terrify me nearly as much as cable cars, and I’d had my adrenaline fix and heart palpitations for the day.
Wandering back to the checkpoint to meet with the other groups (not least the teenagers who had free reign to go where they pleased) we passed, and stopped, and shopped, at all manner of trinket stalls, and tried our hand at even more fairground games. Clutching their winnings of angry birds and minions named Kevin, our group arrived back with about 1 minute to spare. Their winnings and souvenirs of teddies and acrylic necklaces paled in comparison to the child who came back clutching a bauble filled with real live jellyfish. (Here, I am simply recording her purchase. It is not for me to judge or pass comment on how ethical it is.)
At checkpoint Starbucks, all other groups were ready and waiting. Timekeeping from all students was impeccable and getting everyone back to to bus and loading up was a smooth operation. Kudos to the house parents that organised the whole trip. We were very glad to have been a part of it.
To mark our exit from the park, a dingbat in a smaller vehicle attempted to cut in front of the queue and our coach, and he metaphorically face planted the front of his white car into the side of the bus. Cue 20 minutes of waiting around, and watching the histrionics of a short fella bemoaning the state of the car that he drove straight in to us! I believe these types of accident are a common occurrence and things were eventually sorted out between the drivers.
And finally, the 90 minute journey home – just enough time to write a blog post about the day.