My Last School Trip – 7 – Mixed Messages

Text Message sent from

Mrs Angela Oxenden’s mobile phone,

 Saturday evening.

HI MAY. YR MOMS PHONE BUST. DAZ TOOK SCRUF 2 WALES. ALL OK.

CU JASON.

Text message sent by May Hogben,

Saturday evening.

DARREN HAV U GOT SCRUFFY? I’LL KILL U. LUV U. MUM.

That night Darren slept soundly in the boys’ dormitory, with its polished floor boards and thick red curtains, matching the covers on the well-sprung, comfortable beds. Scruffy bedded down happily with Shep in his kennel next to Mrs Kipling’s hen house. I, Will Turnstone, gave careful consideration to my pupils’ welfare before saying my prayers and switching off the electric light.

Sunday: higher things.

I go to church on Sundays, so at Saturday supper I had offered to take any volunteers to Brecon Cathedral with me next morning, after a quick bowl of cereal. We would meet the rest of the group back at the centre, then go on to climb Pen-y-fan, the highest mountain in South Wales. The idea was what Bob Kipling called a pleasant Sunday stroll to get into the swing of things. I didn’t know if anyone would join me, but Darren and Dean were not a total surprise, though they usually spend their Sundays playing football or fishing. Stacey came too. Scruffy as well, of course; no-one had said he couldn’t go to Brecon, though I insisted he stayed in the minibus during the service. We parked under the trees to keep him cool.

“Sing aloud, loud, loud,” warbled Stacey, as we walked Scruffy down to the river, “why is it you don’t mind singing it here, but no-one can open their mouths in assembly?”

“Who wants to be in assembly,” I answered, “with Mrs Hooke and her fiddlers three? Did you bring your violin? You might pick up a penny or two busking in Hay.” Stacey did not know how to answer that. She certainly would never be seen busking in Cossington, and I don’t think her Dad would stand for it either.

But we were in Wales. Thankfully, Welsh Sundays are not what they used to be, so we managed to find a second breakfast in town. By the time we’d finished, Bob Kipling was fussing at me down the mobile phone.

 

Text message sent by Bob Kipling,

Sunday morning.

WILL, WHERE R U? 2 L8 2 COM BAC HERE.  MAKE 4 RENDEZVOUS

@ MNTN CAR PARK. DONT B L8 THERE.

 

Text message sent by Stacey Oxenden

for Will Turnstone (who was driving)

Sunday morning

WE’RE COMING, WE’RE COMING.

DON’T 4GET ROPES & SANDWICHES. WT

To the Mountain

The four of us were singing when we reached the car park at the foot of the mountain, but, Charlie Cockle was cross, Celia Cockle was cross, Sergeant Major (I don’t think) Kipling was cross. They’d counted on Scruffy being left behind with Shep. Darren, as ever, was riding his luck or maybe mine. I think they blamed me for Scruffy being there, but no-one had said Scruffy couldn’t go to Brecon, and Turnstone is an honourable man. Charlie wanted to leave Scruffy in the minibus, but Darren and Stacey both said that that would be cruel. The inside of the bus could get overheated which would be bad for Scruffy.  Darren went very quiet when Charlie said he should have thought of the dog’s health yesterday, before giving him the sleeping pill, but Scruffy was allowed to walk up the mountain with us.

“First sign of him running off to chase sheep, he goes on the lead, boy,” barked Mr. Kipling, “and you get on the next train home, even if you have to sleep on your Gran’s floor.”

Charlie and the Sergeant Major were soon too busy to pay much attention to Scruffy. Here at the bottom of the mountain they could take turns showing off their muscle power pushing Ollie up the track in what they called the ATW.  Was Stacey being totally serious when she said, “Sir, you must be strong?” Charlie thought she was: “You’ll see Stacey, it’ll take more than one of those unfit youths to push him.”

 

All this meant that Scruffy could peacefully walk to heel, not on his lead, right past hundreds of sheep & lambs. He seemed quite at his ease, nose and ears up, tail held high. Bob Kipling, taking a break from pushing, was a reluctant admirer.

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