When you’re five years old in the 80s, your class will go on a trip to one of the following places:
– A farm
– A museum of something no 5 year old cares about, like welding
– The local park/canal
The more exciting trips, such as Alton Towers or abseiling in Derbyshire, are reserved for the older kids, because they can be trusted not to cry and shit their pants on a coach trip of more than two miles. Nevertheless, anything that doesn’t involve tens and units, using the trundle wheel, or running round in your vest and pants is a welcome distraction, so our school trips were always looked forward to like a really shit version of Christmas.
The saga begins when your teacher gives you all a letter to give to your parents. As you are five and stupid, you can’t read this letter, but you do know it’s going to involve wearing a kagoul. Your teacher will announce that you are going on a trip on Friday, but you don’t hear the location because it’s drowned out by the whole class going “Yesssssssss”. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because you know it will be to one of the places listed above.
The letter reveals the location of the trip, and gives a list of “suitable clothing”. You are always ordered to wear a waterproof coat even if you’re going to be inside all day. This is a bad thing, because it means your mother will be able to make you wear your kagoul – a crinkly neon monstrosity made from old carrier bags, which exists solely to be uncomfortable.
“Please make sure your child brings a packed lunch. A picnic area will be provided.” (All the lunchboxes will be confiscated and stored in the boot of the coach or some other mysterious place, to ensure you don’t eat all your Monster Munch on the coach.)
The rest of the week is spent ‘planning’ for the trip. This planning consists of deciding who’s going to sit with who on the coach, who is going to walk round with who, and going “Only two days til Friday! Yesssss!”.
Your carefully laid plans are hindered by the inclusion of your mother, who has decided to come along on the trip as a ‘helper’. so you must sit with her on the coach whether you like it or not. Instead of sitting on the back seat shouting “willies” at the lorry behind you, you will have to sit next to your mother and behave yourself while she wipes snot off you with a tissue. The sole purpose of being a ‘helper’ is to embarrass you, and to make sure you don’t have any fun ever.
Even when all these problems are taken into consideration, a school trip is still ace, because everyone knows it’s better than being at school. Therefore you all look forward to Friday with barely contained piss and glee.
The first interesting thing that happens on the Friday is your teacher turns up wearing civilian clothes. Their school trip outfit consists of a bigger version of your kagoul, a pair of ‘Hi-Tec’ trainers, and the bluest jeans known to man. Your mum will be wearing a sequinned jumper and gold sandals as usual, because fuck society.
Next you will have to stand outside the coach in mild drizzle, while your teacher does some mysterious admin, goes round counting people’s heads, making sure everyone has had a wee, and counting everyone’s heads again. By the time you are allowed on the coach, you look like this:
All 30 children will immediately attempt to sit on the back row, apart from you, because you have to sit next to your mother. Oh well, at least you won’t get told off and ordered to sit next to the teacher at the front, because that is a fate worse than death.
Once your teacher has finished putting the fear of God into you (“If anyone is caught messing about, they’ll be left at the side of the road”), you finally set off. You arrive at your destination after a few hearty rounds of “There were three in the bed” and seventeen toilet stops.
Just when you’re about to start running round yelling, your teacher piles you all into groups of six, and hands out the ‘worksheets’. These are designed to ensure you don’t spend the whole day having fun, because that would be unthinkable.
Sometimes you only have to fill in your name and a nice drawing of something you saw on your trip, but other worksheets demand ridiculous amounts of specialist knowledge, as well as a copy of the museum’s last tax return, in triplicate.
Most of the time, though, your teacher will accept whatever nonsense you’ve managed to scrawl on the paper while using a damp wall as a table.
In the meantime, you get to spend the day walking round somewhere vaguely interesting that isn’t school, laughing at rude exhibits, playing hide and seek, and generally messing about. Even if your mother is a ‘helper’, chances are you’ll be able to give her the slip for at least part of the day.
Everyone meets up again at the “picnic area”. This is one table and a bit of wall. 30% of the class has a wet arse by the end of lunchtime, despite the kagouls.
The afternoon is less pleasant than the morning, because you’re all tired, you’ve all had pop, and your kagouls are really bloody uncomfortable now. Plus one corner of your worksheet got soggy and fell off. Your teacher is secretly eating paracetamol and/or gin and looking at their watch. Your mum gets her emergency packet of Polos out of her handbag to keep the kids entertained. Everyone wants to go back to the coach, but no one is allowed to until they’ve finished the museum/farm/educational canal walk. The exception to this is the naughty kid, who was sent back to the coach at half past one because he threw a pencil at a cow.
Finally you reach the end of your journey. There’s only one stop left, and it’s everyone’s favourite bit so it’s fine:
The gift shop!
NB: If you’ve been to the canal, chances are there’s no gift shop, and you will instead be instructed to sit there drawing a picture of a lock gate. Sorry about that.
Upon entering the gift shop, the entire class gains a new burst of energy, and runs round yelling, arguing over rubbers, and having sword fights with those giant novelty pencils that exist in gift shops and nowhere else. The teacher is too knackered to wrangle the kids now, and will step in only in case of emergency (a loud smash is heard from the corner of the shop).
Left to your own devices, you will produce a handful of coins and exchange them for one or more of the following:
– A rubber/pencil/badge that says “I’ve been to Barometer World/Eli Stained Glass Museum/Sandwell Park Farm” (Don’t buy the rubber, as it is dyed a weird neon colour and will stain your paper every time you try to use it.)
– A coin purse shaped like a miniature rucksack
– One of these guys (apparently they’re called Weepuls):
– A pencil sharpener shaped like a book
– Miniature binoculars that magnify stuff up to 0%
Once your kagoul pockets are full to bursting with crap you’ll lose as soon as you get home, it’s time to get back on the coach. The journey back takes twice as long as the journey there, because the coach now stinks of old packed lunches and wet denim.
It’s getting dark when the coach pulls up at school, even if it’s three in the afternoon. The intrepid explorers pour out of the coach and attempt to leave with their parents, but the teacher yells that “There’s still 15 minutes until the bell rings, into the classroom and hand in your worksheets.” Everyone leaves their worksheets in a pile on the table, knowing that’s the last they’ll ever see of them, and that the worksheets will never be marked, or acknowledged ever again.
The remaining ten minutes of the school day are spent waving at your parents through the window. Unless, of course, your mum was one of the ‘helpers’, then the remaining ten minutes are spent trying to wangle a Happy Meal out of her. She answers this with “We’ll see”, which means “No”.
Still, at least you’ve got a new pencil, and if you’re really lucky you got to laugh at a cow doing a poo. And I guarantee that no matter where you went, you did a wax crayon ‘rubbing’ of something at some point during the day.