Tag Archives: Brecon Beacons

My Last School Trip 11: Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Ellis knew what he was doing, being one of the local mountain rescue team. He took control, clearing most of the students away, giving Dean his satellite phone to call for an ambulance, cutting the guy’s shoe laces and taking off his trainer to ease the swelling, sending Gemma for a wet towel to wrap the foot and relieve the pain. Once the patient was reasonably comfortable, Ellis and Nerys lifted him into the collapsible stretcher, wrapped him in foil, carried him down to the Land Rover and drove to meet the ambulance at the car park. We followed on foot, in time to see the paramedics closing the ambulance doors.

“Well done, you guys,” said the driver. “Is this the rescue dog? Scruffy is it? Good Boy! You’ve saved a life this afternoon, you have. A night on the mountain would have seen this fellow off, and no mistake. Thank God you people had the dog with you. Well. We’d best get our patient to hospital. We’ll be seeing you.”

After that we sat down to eat our sandwiches. Everyone was tired, muted by the thought of what might have happened. The geeks were too exhausted to film after the ambulance left, Suddenly Gemma got to her feet and stumbled away from the rest of us. We could hear her being very sick.

I was sitting with the other staff a little apart from the students. “I’ll go”, said Mrs Cockle, and she started telling Gemma to pull herself together and stop being a baby. Not the wisest thing to say. Stacey was on her feet and how I wish I’d had this speech on video. Top marks for speaking and listening here! Stacey knows how to insult politely. Mrs Cockle got both barrels: my brother-in-law won’t let me quote her exactly, so I précis: no-one was left in any doubt that the exertions of climbing the mountain and the humiliation of falling in the cold river had really shaken Gemma up, let alone that she’d helped the guy who was nearly dead; and she was away from home for the first time without her mother, having saved her Saturday job money to pay for the trip. Mrs Cockle was complacent, uncaring for either the poor man in the ambulance or for Gemma, but then she only ever had a good word for the girls who did well at sport, according to Stacey’s friends at Mrs Cockle’s school. That said, Stacey burst into tears, to be comforted by Gemma, while Nerys wrapped a foil blanket around the two of them.

Mrs Cockle said nothing. I had nothing to say except, “Stop whistling Darren, do you want it to rain?” At which point we all finished our sandwiches in silence, those of us who could eat. After a few minutes we returned to the minibuses and drove solemnly back to the Mill. It was once again too late to put Darren and Scruffy on the train at Abergavenny, but since neither Mr Cockle nor Mr Kipling mentioned the idea, I was not about to.

Hot showers helped restore aching bones and feelings and appetites, and everyone was ready to settle down in front of the wide screen television to watch the United game, which they lost 3-2. Cheers all round. There followed the BBC Wales News, with a report on how a man with a broken ankle was rescued on Pen-y-fan. There was another big cheer from everyone when the newsreader mentioned that the patient remembered how a dog called Scruffy had found him and brought help. His wife told the nation how grateful she was, and how Scruffy had surely saved a man’s life. “What a wonderful, intelligent dog he must be!” she said.

Advertisements

My Last School Trip 10: The Crossing of the Red Stream

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 15

The Crossing of the Red Stream

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Scene: half way down the mountain, by a stream. Mr Kipling on the far side, everyone else on the near side.

Mr K: Right then, listen all of you. You want sandwiches and hot drinks? You’ll have to cross this stream to get back to the car park. Just take a running jump, one at a time. It’s only two metres across, you won’t get your feet wet. You show them, Mr Cockle.

Mr Cockle: runs, jumps, slides down the bank on all fours.

All: Ragged cheers.

Mr K: Darren! Darren jumps, lands well up the bank; Scruffy runs through the stream, then shakes water all over Mr Cockle, who is not amused.

 

Mr Cockle: * bleep *.

 

Mr Turnstone: walks carefully across on boulders. I’d better keep the camera dry.

Mr K: continues calling students until all are over, bar Ollie and Gemma.

Mr K: Gemma, come on now, no holding back. You do want some lunch?

 

Gemma:  I don’t want to jump this stream. I can’t jump to save my life. Oh hell!

Gemma lands with a splash then falls backwards, and is wet to her waist.

Mr K: Up you get, Gemma, just get on with it. If you’d jumped properly, that wouldn’t have happened. Now this time you can pole vault back to the other side! Groans.

 

Gemma: That’s not fair! I could have stayed over here!

Mr K: Not if you want your lunch! Here we go! Dean!

Dean: Yes, Sir.

Mr K. You run up, plant your pole just there, by that red stone, and jump. Got it?

Dean: That red stone Sir, or that one, or that one? There’s more red stones than by the Red Sea, Sir.

Mr K: grabs the pole: Mr Cockle! How do you put up with this idiot? Give me that pole! That red stone, this red stone, any red stone, look, like this! Vaults over, commando style. Ragged applause. Returns same way. Got that Dean?

Dean: Yes sir. You did say that red stone, didn’t you Sir? Jumps quickly, punches air, pirouettes, tosses pole to Darren. Scruffy runs through the stream after Dean, then back to Darren, shakes himself dry over Mr K.

 

Mr K: Will someone control this * bleep * mongrel!

The rest of the students vault over without mishap.  Meanwhile Ellis and Nerys are busy with ropes and poles. They are constructing a zip rope bridge.

Mr K: Ollie! Thought we’d forgotten you? This is how you get across. You’ve got strong arms!  We put you in the harness and you pull yourself across. We’ll let Nerys go first.

 We admired Nerys’s first trip across the stream and back, then watched as Ollie was hoisted into the harness and shown how to haul himself over. We need not have worried.

 

Ellis: Right Ollie, that should be you balanced nicely. Comfortable? I’ve got the safety rope, but you won’t need it. You pull yourself along with this one. Ready?

Ollie: Here goes!  Wahay!

Ollie swung gleefully across the stream, then turned around to come back to us.

How was that, Nerys?

Nerys: Excellent! Trouble is, we need you on the other side now! Ellis has carried your chair over, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Ollie: panting Right, let me get my breath; ready, and off!

We eventually got everyone across by zip wire, and I had action shots from either side of the river, from the boulders in the middle of the river, from the base of the bridge, and facing the oncoming traffic. Whatever the Highway Code may say, this was not the best place to be when Dean was coming across. I was watching the viewfinder, not the view.

Dean: Oh Sir, Sorry. Is the camera all right?

Mr T: Don’t you mean, “Are you all right?”? Well, no broken bones, thankfully Dean, but the lens is pretty muddy.

Mr C: If you’ve messed my camera up, Dean, I’ll send you home with that dog. Come to think of it, where is the darned mongrel, Darren? If he’s chasing sheep!

Darren: I left him asleep by that tree. Scruffy! Scruffy! Come here! Oh, he never runs off like this! Scruffy!

Mr C: I’ll send you both home with him! I mean it.

Stacey: Shut up, Sir. Here he comes now, look!

Scruffy runs up to Darren, runs round, whining, then makes short dashes back the way he came.

 

Mr C: Get that animal on its lead! Now!

Darren: Something’s wrong! Scruffy, what is it? Show me.

Everyone ignores Mr C, as the students follow Scruffy.

 

Mr C: Where are you lot going? Come back here now, all of you!

The students continue to ignore him. Mr T and Ellis look at each other, then follow the students. Scruffy leads them to what looks like a bundle of clothes beside the stream. It is a man with a broken ankle, almost unconscious and very cold.

 

Darren: Well done, Scruffy! Good boy!

My Last School Trip – 9 – Tommy’s Chocolate

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 14

Coming down the mountain

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: Emily Miles

Scene: Near the top of the mountain, by a granite column. Enter Mr Kipling pushing Ollie with help from the Hogbens.

Mr T: Anyone for more chocolate? Come on, Ladies first! Stacey? Nothing coarse about this stuff. Rich and dark, like a good brown ale. Gemma! Are you not speaking to me?

Gemma: I was just reading this inscription. How did a five year old boy get all the way up here by himself? I bet he never had any chocolate with him, he might not have died. I’m going to bury a square for him here, just so he knows. Little Tommy. Do you think he will know, Sir?

Mr T: Of course he will, though I don’t suppose he ever have tasted chocolate in his lifetime. I wonder if anyone else has ever left chocolate for Tommy, poor brave little thing! Well, I hope we’ve all got our strength back to push Ollie down again, or we might as well leave him up here with the rest of the chocolate.

Ollie: Is that what they call chocolate heaven? Thanks but no thanks, I’m coming with you.

My Last School Trip – 8 – Climb Every Mountain

 

Climb Every Mountain by Oliver Cheeseman

Part of me never thought I would get to the top of a real mountain, but I did! It was all down, or up, to team work and modern wheelchair technology.

I was a bit unsure about getting into the ATW, or All Terrain Wheelchair, that Mr Kipling produced at the Mountain Centre. It had fat tyres, a balloon wheel bogey at the front, rear suspension, a low seat and extending push bars. Mr Kipling said it was very stable. I hoped he was right.

It was hard work with those tyres and I needed plenty of help. Mr Cockle pushed me first, but not for long. He went rather fast and I was quite shaken, even with the suspension. I think he was showing off a bit in front of the girls.

Nerys took over, helping me on the rough parts of the track. We passed a lot of sheep and lambs. l’d never seen them so close before. The mothers took great care and called to their babies when we went by. Nerys called them woolly maggots, because they ruined the countryside. She showed me what looked like abandoned gardens or fields, with low walls and thorn bushes scattered among them. ‘Ruined by sheep,’ she said. ‘No hedges left hardly. ‘

Mr Turnstone began reciting poetry again as we came to a closed up cottage:

Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

Then it began to get steeper and rockier. The ATW had lashing points so people could pull with ropes or hang on to stop me from rolling away downhill.  It got really tough once we got above the trees. I was glad to see that Ellis had big chocks slung round his neck, which he whipped under my wheels, whenever we stopped. Brakes don’t always work so well when wheels get muddy, and some of the slopes were steep; I began to worry about the chair tipping over backwards, even though it had a very low centre of gravity.

The path got narrower and narrower and harder to get along. Sometimes I was pulled up backwards. Sometimes I was carried high on people’s shoulders, using the poles. The views were terrific but the views of my face on Mr Turnstone’s video are terrified!

Then we turned onto a rocky ridge that seemed to go on for ever, with a long drop to either side. The going was not so bad on the grass. I had the Hogbens pushing and pulling and Scruffy taking a rest on my knees. Then, as it got steeper, everyone seemed to be helping to push, pull, or balance the ATW, using ropes, bars and any corner they could lay hands on.  Everyone but Mr Cockle, who was shouting orders and advice from the rear. Stacey got filthy, turning one wheel with her bare hands. I ruined two pairs of gloves.

At the top everyone was exhausted, including me. “Even though you’ve been sitting down for the last few hours,” said Mr Turnstone. But next thing everyone was standing, jumping, dancing, with their arms round each other.

“Come on Dazza, let’s get him up,” said Dean, and the next I knew the two of them  were lifting me out of the chair and I was standing on top of the world with Scruffy round  my neck.

You get a lovely view from the top of Penyfan, or as Mr Turnstone says, at least when it’s not raining or misty. The lake looked tiny, and the people beside it were like ants. The hills and mountains around us were all colours of green and brown.

On the way down we stopped at a granite column to have a drink. Mr Turnstone said he wanted us to look all around and listen. He said it would make sense of the awful homework Miss Treacy had set. “Don’t spoil it, Sir,” said Gemma.

I don’t think he did. This is what he read:

. . .  here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all. – I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.

Mr T gets carried away sometimes. I’ve known the head slam his classroom door when he was reading Shakespeare to us, along with the rest of the corridor, but there were no doors up here, and no-one to complain, except the PE teachers.

I wasn’t the only one who had an appetite. Gemma said she had one and Mr Turnstone laughed and said she should enjoy the coarser pleasures of her girlish days while she could and Gemma blushed and said he was horrible. We all had chocolate and juice. “Don’t leave your paper about”, shouted Mr Cockle, and at that moment the wind grabbed Mrs Cockle’s empty carrier bag and lifted it over our heads. Nothing to be done about it, but Dean raised a cheer from us all.

Help! On the way down Mr Turnstone said he was tempted to let me roll but he’d best hang on for dear life. “Thanks!” I said. “It’s not your life I’m worried about,” he said, “it’s mine. I promised your dad I’d bring you back in one piece. He might get cross if I don’t. And think of all the paperwork! Anyway, I believe Mr Cockle has a date with a sounding cataract.”

I think the climb was worth it, even if we were all exhausted at the top, except Mr Cockle. He told us he had to do a running risk assessment and scout the best route for the last stretch to the summit, which is why he had plenty of breath to shout at everyone else. Now he dashed off ready to drive the Land Rover up to the stream crossing point.

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.

My Last School Trip 5 – Incident Report on Darren Hogben by Mr Kipling

Wickenden Mountain Centre

Incident Report

Student name/school:                                       Date:

Darren Hogben,  Gt Elms                                                       Saturday

What went before:

Darren & other students decoached. Darren’s bag was acting suspiciously.

What happened:

Darren was requested to open his bag. It transpired that he was smuggling his dog into the centre.

Staff action:

Darren sent to exercise the dog before sending Darren home with him.

Parents informed?

Mr Kipling attempted  to ring Darren’s mother whom it transpired was out of the country. A ‘text message’ was left on her mobile phone. Next of Kin, Darren’s grandmother, Mrs Hogben, did not answer her phone. Mr Turnstone felt that to send Darren home unaccompanied and across London could be deemed irresponsible if there was no-one expecting him. Mrs Hogben Snr was not expecting Darren and was unable to accommodate him. As Darren’s form tutor in loco parentis he could not agree to such a course of action. Darren had to stay the first night at least as no contact had been made with Mrs Hogben Snr before the last possible train had departed Abergavenny.

Outside Agencies:

Unable to contact Mrs Hogben Snr.

Signed:

Robert J Kipling

 

My Last School Trip 4 – Darren in Hot Water

Doss in the Mill

The Cossington Outdoor Centre is in an old watermill, two miles from Llanfair. A skinflint farmer ripped out the wheels and stones in 1929 to use it as a barn. Gradually it crumbled to ruin till twenty years ago, when Jack Wickenden (of Wickenden’s Wicked Lemonade, our local millionaire) had it restored “for the benefit of the young folk of Cossington in perpetuity”. Where bullocks and sheep once sheltered from cold Welsh rain, there are dormitories and showers, heated these days, thank God. The old mill house holds the staff quarters and office; kitchens, classrooms, games rooms and stores are in the outbuildings on three sides of a courtyard. Even the newer buildings are clad in red sandstone, under a black slate roof, all to fit in with the national park. Beautiful. Quiet, till we got there.

The centre has its own staff, led by Bob Kipling, a cheery outdoor type, widely believed to have served in the SAS, a reputation he says nothing to dispel. I remember his last two years in school – they were my first two there. We had enough on each other for me not to let on that he’d only been a part-time sergeant in the West Kent Territorials. His assistants were local youngsters Ellis and Nerys, who could handle a rope on a cliff or a boat on a river, and eat any of our lot for breakfast. Bob and his wife Maggie live on the job, Nerys and Ellis come in daily.

I had allowed myself to be persuaded to drive one of the centre’s minibuses. You may feel this was against my principles, but I’d left my car behind – I hope they aren’t painting that green too – and thought I might need an escape from the Cockles or the students occasionally.

There was a welcoming committee in the courtyard when we arrived at the Centre. They had heard us at the top of the drive half a mile off. Bob soon had the boys lined up with their bags at their feet, while the girls stood in a bunch at the front of the bus, waiting for a word from Maggie and Mrs Cockle. I had the camera rolling.

 

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Passage cut from Scene 6

Unloading the bus at the centre

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

 

Scene: main courtyard at Wickenden Mill. Present: GES staff and students, Wickenden Mill staff.

Enter Shep, a collie, sniffing the air.

Stacey bends down to pet him.

Shep ignores her, wanders over to the boys, tail held high, sniffs at Darren’s bag. Darren’s bag wriggles, nearly topples over, whimpers.

Mr Kipling, unable to pull his dog away: What’s in the bag, what’s-your-name?

Darren: Darren, Sir, Darren Hogben. Clothes, Sir. Boots, Sir. Towel, toothpaste, stuff like that… Er, Everything on the list, Sir.

Mr Kipling: Does ANYTHING on the list make a noise like that, Darren Hogben?

Darren: I don’t know, Sir. They are new boots, Sir. Mum said they might be squeaky, Sir.

Mr Kipling: Open the bag.

Darren opens the bag, to reveal the dog he had been seen with by the cliff.

Mr Kipling: I thought so. Well, Sir, your Mum can soon find out if your boots are squeaky, Sir, because you, Sir, are going straight back home in that bus. I will NOT have unauthorised, untrained, mongrel curs chasing round the place.

Darren: But, Sir!

Mr Kipling: If me no buts boy, there are no buts!

Stacey: It’s Scruffy, come here, boy!

Coach Driver: He’s not coming back on my coach. I was paid to bring you people here; not to take you back again. My company has done its risk assessments. I don’t carry no unaccompanied dogs, and I don’t carry no unaccompanied minors. As far as I’m concerned, he stays here till I comes to take you home at the end of the week. Meanwhile, I want to be back across the bridge before my break, so if some kind person will come along to open the gates, I’ll be seeing you on Friday.

Emily: I’ll go! Climbs into coach and leaves to open field gates for driver.

Mr Kipling: Right then, Darren Hogben, let me get this mob sorted, then it’s straight into Abergavenny and I’ll put you on the train home. Now, let that creature have half an hour on the lead while I make some arrangements. We should be able to have you back in Cossington for eleven o’clock tonight.

Darren: Did you say have Scruffy on the lead?

Mr Kipling: On the lead!

Darren: He doesn’t need no lead. He’s well trained. Scruffy! Sit! Lie down!

Scruffy: lies down.

Shep: goes to Scruffy, who rolls over while Shep licks him all over.

Mr Kipling: Shep, come here!

Shep: ignores him.

Mr Kipling: Shep! Heel! Come on boy. Shep! Here!

Shep:ignores him.

Mr Kipling: Stop them, can’t you?

Darren: I wouldn’t do that. It’s just Scruffy telling Shep he knows who’s boss, and Shep making friends. That’s dogs, Sir. It’s what happened with Scruffy and my Nan’s old dog. If you stop them now we could have them fighting all week.

Stacey: Your Nan! Oh help! Runs to Gemma and whispers excitedly.


Text Message sent by Stacey Oxenden,

Saturday afternoon

HI MUM. ARRVD OK. QIK. GET OLD MRS HOGBEN 2 CUM 2 T. NOW. V IMPRTNT. NOW. THIS MIN. LUV U. STACEY. NOW. X.

Second Text Message sent by Stacey Oxenden,

Saturday afternoon

HI JASON. B NICE 2 OLD MRS HOGBEN. KEEP HER TALKIN. PULL HER FONE WIRE OUT WEN U TAKE HER HOME. JUS DO IT OR ELSE. 4 ME + DAZ. STACE. LOOK AFTER RATS.

Text Message sent by Mrs Angela Oxenden,

Saturday afternoon

STACEY. R U IN TROUBLE? IS DARREN IN TROUBLE? WOT R U UP 2?

Third Text Message sent by Stacey Oxenden,

Saturday afternoon

DONT ASK QS MUM. JUST GET HER ROUND. NOW & KEEP HER. FEED HER, MEGA IMPORTNT. LUV U. S

Second Text Message sent by Mrs Angela Oxenden,

Saturday afternoon

STACEY. I DONT TRUST U. BUT NO HARM IN GIVIN HER A CUPPA. U SURE U NOT IN TROUBLE?


Darren on the Rocks.

Darren was in a mess and I was his ex-form tutor, in loco parentis.  I had to do something, but just what could I do? The first thing was to talk to the boy himself.

“Come on, Darren, let’s give Scruffy a run for his money. If you don’t mind a field full of Herefords, I’ll show you the way to the river. I hear these waters rolling from their mountain springs with a sweet inland murmur.”

We kept Scruffy on the lead across the centre grounds but as Darren said, he was well trained and trotted at heel once he was released, ignoring the big red-and-white cows and the bull in the midst of them. I had to congratulate Darren on Scruffy’s behaviour.

“Thanks, Sir, it’s been hard work, but he’s really obedient now. And very intelligent. I couldn’t leave him behind.”

“Wouldn’t your Mum look after him?”

“She’s gone on holiday with Aunty May, to Ibiza. They should be landing there at six o’clock.”

“So she let you bring Scruffy?”

“Not exactly. I was meant to take him round to Nan’s this morning. But she’s terrible; she feeds him sweets. He’ll put on weight and I’ll have to stop him begging all over again. So I gave him half one of Nan’s sleeping pills and put him in my bag.”

“Wasn’t that a bit dangerous? What if you’d overdosed him?”

“Well, Nan’s only little, so I thought a half would be OK. He looks OK now, doesn’t he, Sir?”

I had to admit he did. Scruffy had a great time chasing sticks in and out of the river, while I was glad to see the sand martins on the far bank and a buzzard circling high above us. Twenty minutes of breathing space, before we had to go back and face the music.

Another question I wanted cleared up before that, “What happened to Dean’s rat? He hasn’t brought that has he? Not after I specifically told him not to?”

“No. She’s gone off to get pregnant at Stacey’s. Her brother Jason lost his female and Dean said he could have half the babies if he had her for the week.”

“That should make life a bit easier, if no-one’s actually disobeyed orders. Still, if we were to send you home … I don’t think your Nan has a spare room in her flat, has she?’

“Er …”

“She hasn’t, has she?”

“No, not if you say so, Sir.”

”Whatever you say, Darren. At least there’s a bed for you here, and we are in loco parentis.”

“Yes, Sir, if you say so, Sir.”

“Have you been here before then, Sir?” asked Darren on the way back to the centre.

“Years ago, when it first opened. I cannot paint what then I was. Mr Kipling was in his fifth year at school. I was a new teacher. Your mother … well, a lot has changed since then. Reliable hot water in the showers for a start, and no doubt the cooking’s improved; this path down to the river and all the wheelchair access. We couldn’t have brought Ollie in those days. I expect Bob Kipling’s a bit more safety conscious as well.”

“Yes Sir. What do you mean Sir, more safety conscious?”

“Hmm, nothing, Darren. Let’s concentrate on the here and now. You’re in enough hot water even without taking an early shower. I take it you do want to stay?”

“Yes, Sir. But will he let me? I mean, even if he does, he’ll be on at me all the time won’t he?”

“I can pretty well promise you that he won’t. Be on at you I mean. Though of ample power to chasten and subdue he’ll have other things to worry about. And I can’t see you being chastened or subdued for too long. If Scruffy doesn’t disgrace himself, we should manage it. Now, here we are at the gate. Get him back on the lead.”