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Jackie Little: The School Trip

The School Trip

Jackie Little, ponders the absurdities of modern life.

One of the perks of being a stay at home mum is that you get to re-live some great childhood experiences without the scary parts - and under the guise of being a responsible adult too.

It had been a long time since I had been aboard a vehicle so fraught with social hazard as the good old school bus, but here I was, standing with my group of supervisees awaiting voyage to the Capital.and a day of exploring national treasures at the museum.

Herding my own group of little treasures aboard, I relished the atmosphere of excited babble peculiar to the school outing. And this time, I didn't have to worry about my ranking in the seat hierarchy.

Most of the boys headed for the back of the bus - but get this - two GIRLS joined them. Now in my day the only girls at the back of the bus were the real toughies, who smoked, swore and even snogged with the chaps. .

Mercifully this lot were far too young for that sort of caper even in these degenerate times, and the daring two quickly joined all the other girls on the bus in sweet clapping and chanting games.

The boys, of course, want none of this and talk among themselves, but my attempts to eavesdrop on their philosophising are thwarted by the overall pervasive din.

Everything on a school outing is exciting: who you sit next to, which mum or dad your group is attached to, what's in the lunch box. Along the coast road, an intense dolphin hunt was initiated by the girls. One swore she observed the emergence of a dorsal fin, prompting a general stampede to the windows.

Of equal thrill factor was the appearance of the second school bus bringing up the rear. "I can see room 3" squealed one lass, with as much enthusiasm as if it had been the latest boy band rather than folk she sees every day of her life.

Once or twice the teachers had to rise and quell enthusiasm as girlish laughter approached hysteria.

As we approached the big city (with the attendant enveloping gloom, I kicked myself for ignoring the pernickety school checklist advising raincoats amidst the general paraphanalia) many of the kids had moved onto intensely competitive games of "paper, scissors, rock" and "I spy."

I was immensely flattered when one sweetie, mistaking me for a grown up, came up and whispered for advice on what a W inside the bus might be. I got it right as well. Unfortunately my triumph heralded the end of the game as the furious askee rumbled our conspiracy.

Anyway, we arrive in the Capital just as the novelty of coach travel begins to wear thin and the first plaintive whines, er, appeals that is, of "are we nearly there yet?" crank up.

The increasingly shrill crescendo of excito-babble is quelled by a sharp whistle and we are subjected to a short lecture about our responsibilities as representatives of our school - I wish I'd polished my shoes this morning. Teachers never lose their power to intimidate.

The representatives of the museum meanwhile have no qualms about ordering us out onto the drizzly forecourt for consumption of morning tea. Now THIS is reminiscent of the school trips of my youth. Soggy sarnies out in the freezing cold. Halcyon days!

Anyway, back inside we are treated to a splendid formal introduction to the museum before splitting up into smaller tribes, each with a mission to locate, describe and illustrate examples of national treasures.

Later consultation with other parent volunteers confirmed that all the kids had pretty much the same priorities. Although my tribe included a very talented sketcher (she undertook a very impressive illustration of Phar Lap's bones) and the kids took a general intelligent interest in all, the biggest drawcards were indisputably the earthquake house, elevators and a grotesque exhibit named "Rock The Baby".

By lunch time it really was too miserable for al fresco dining and our small charges swarmed ant-like up the escalator for our indoor picnic. Abandoning the spirit of the enterprise somewhat, I snuck off for carry out coffee and sushi from the Café. Now there's grown up for you.

Come home time, I congratulated myself on keeping my little group of ambassadors intact and peaceable. Only at the last minute did the girls let the side down by stereotypically trooping off to the loos just as we were about to re-board the bus.

This infuriated the lads, who desperately did NOT want to be the last ones on. You forget how profoundly these things matter when you are seven years old.

And so home. How is it that tired kids could be even noisier than the fresh batch on the way out? The decibel level had my ears ringing for days afterwards.

Still it had been fun. It was great to see the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids having a day they'll probably remember when they're teachers and supervisors themselves.

And I got sweet little hand made cards from all my group thanking me for my help (and here was me thinking it was a free excursion and a guilt free day off from house serfdom).

It's fun being an adult sometimes.


Jackie Little is a Scoop staff reporter who has recently returned to the paid workforce.

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