Tag Archives: PE Teachers

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.

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 – 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.



Text message sent by May Hogben,

Saturday evening.


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.




Text message sent by Stacey Oxenden

for Will Turnstone (who was driving)

Sunday morning



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 6 – Where there’s a Will.

Where there’s a Will there’s a way

Wearing my English teacher’s hat, may I ask you to note the ‘decoached’? Fake military usage, he did not get that from my English classes, nor the ‘bag acting suspiciously’, nor ‘it transpired’. PE teachers! You’ll have found a few more verbal infelicities, I’m sure.

There was more to our meeting than ever got written down – incident reports leave out the ‘Not fair’s, the ‘Nothing in the handout about no dogs’, or ‘Mr Turnstone said no rats, he never mentioned dogs’ .

It was true enough; Charlie had not thought to write anything about dogs in his handout. Drugging Scruffy up, of course, did not look good, but thankfully, no harm seemed to have been done. And, as I remarked pointedly, all those years before, when I’d last come, students’ dogs had been allowed. And Scruffy did not appear to want to round up sheep or chase cows.

A bell rang, a real one in the mill tower. ”Time to bring this meeting to a close,” I suggested, “with pleasing thoughts that in this moment there is life and food, as Will so neatly put it.”

“Will, Sir?”

I patted my pocket, where the book of romantic verse lay. ”Yes, Darren, Where there’s a Will there’s a way.”

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.


Robert J Kipling


My Last School Trip 3 – On and Off the Road.

So here we are, all but ready to depart. Paul and Emily provided the transcript of what was said, at least what their microphone picked up.

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 1

Loading the bus

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Mr Cockle: Get a move on Darren. That bag will have to be put in the boot, it’s too big to go inside the bus.

Darren: Sir, it’s got my things in. I need it on the journey. And Dean’s sandwiches. I’ll shove it under the seat.

Mr Cockle: In the boot.

Darren: I need it, Sir. What if I get an asthma attack?

Mr Cockle: You don’t have asthma attacks. Your mother hasn’t put it on your consent form.

Mrs Cockle: For heaven’s Charlie! We should have been moving half an hour ago. Just let him put his bloody bag under the seat. You boy, get in, get your bag in, and shut up!

Darren: Yes Miss. Thank you Miss.

Note: We did ask Mr Turnstone if we ought to bleep Mrs Cockle’s “bloody” but he said why bleep that when we couldn’t take out the rest of her rudeness?So we have left it in. PT, EM.

We didn’t think you needed a propaganda clip of how well great Elms students and staff can behave in public. But all the same, we did stop at the Reading Motorway Services.

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Passage cut from Scene 3

At the Motorway Services

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Mrs Cockle: Did you really have to bring that bag in here?

Darren: It might have got nicked off the bus, Miss.

Mrs Cockle: Well, you should have put it in the boot then, Shouldn’t you?

Darren: Yes Miss, I mean, no Miss. 1’m not hurting anyone, am I?

Man in red shirt: falls over bag. Look what you’re doing you little ________ . I’ll Knock your block off.

Darren: You look where you’re going! I don’t want my things spoiled by an ugly lump of a United supporter!

Man in red shirt: Cut it out kid.

Mr Cockle: stands up, all six foot two of him. What was it you wanted?

Man in red shirt: Nothing, sir. Shuffles off with his burger and cola.

Darren: looks in bag. Whispers to Dean: He’s all right. To Mr Cockle:  Not you Sir, I mean, you are all right Sir, thank you Sir. Thanks, Sir. Thank you sir.  Moves tables. Hi Ollie! Hey, Mr Turnstone, what’s Tintern Abbey? Miss Jackson set us homework on some poem about it while we’re away. She said the trip would help.

Mr Turnstone: We might even see it. I can ask the driver to go past. It’s a ruined abbey by the River Wye. Remember Henry VIII? And there’s a famous poem by Wordsworth – remember the Daffodils man? Its a bit long, I’m afraid, not your cup of tea at all. Did she give you the words?

Darren: No sir. She said we could find them on the internet.

Mr Turnstone: Well you could look it up when we get to the Centre. But what has it got in its pocketses, nasty teacher? Pulls out a little book, ‘Selected Romantic Verse’ and starts to read the poem:

Five years have passed: five summers,

With the length of five long winters.

Mr Cockle: Pipe down Will! You’re not in class now!

Darren: Well there would be five winters if there’s five summers, Sir. What’s he on about?

Mr Turnstone: Oh, you know, PE teachers. They like the sound of their own voices, but not anyone else’s.

Darren: Not him Sir, Wordsworth, Sir.

Mr Turnstone: Wait and see, Darren, wait and see. Some of it will make sense, but even the university professors don’t agree what he’s talking about. And he does go on a bit. Look! Pages of it!

Darren. Thanks Sir. Help! All that’s just one poem! He does go on! I can’t read all that! It’s definitely not fair, Sir.

Mr Turnstone: Come on, time to go! I’ll carry your bag and you can push Ollie.

Darren. Let me zip it up first, Sir.

I should introduce Ollie. He insisted on coming to Wales. He doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop him doing very much. How we would get him up mountains, into canoes or sailing boats and down ropes remained to be seen. But I can tell you now that he did it all. I have the video pictures to prove it – and Ollie had the bruises.

Tintern Abbey

I didn’t think the homework was fair either hut I couldn’t say that to Darren. Teachers have to stick together against the kids, PE staff included. (I mean included with the teachers, though they can be worse than the kids.) Still, Darren and Dean and Stacey and the rest of them knew I thought holidays should be a homework free zone.

The driver said he was planning to go by Tintern to avoid road works on the main road, so a couple of hours on from the services we crossed the original Severn Bridge. By then everyone had tired of pulling faces at the United supporters overtaking us on the motorway. United are the team our kids love to hate. Charlie tried to start a countdown as we crossed the border into Wales, which at least woke people up. He does like the sound of his own voice. The driver headed up the Wye Valley, following the brown signs for Tintern, a treat for Ms Jackson’s English group – who should have been mine, and who wouldn’t have had any homework if I’d been teaching them.

Charlie refused to stop and visit the Abbey because he hadn’t done a risk assessment and did not want “those Hogben idiots climbing the bloody walls.” So we drove past the ruins at 30 m.p.h. People didn’t seem impressed by what we saw from the road.

“Is that it, nothing much, is it?”

“You’d see better from up the hill, Stacey, then it looks all spread out. But we’d never get up there in this bus. Anyhow, the poem’s nothing to do with the actual Abbey, It’s called ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”

“Lines, Sir. It feels like lines, Sir, poems on holiday.”

“Well you haven’t brought Your English rough book, have you?”

“No, Sir.”

Charlie eventually called a halt a few miles up the valley instead. Time to stretch our legs. Unexpectedly, Darren was last off. No-one saw what he was doing behind the seats. I was filming with my back to the bus.

The lay-by was an arc of gravel at the foot of a wall of rock, say 30 metres high, obviously an old quarry. Trees had sprung up all around, but it looked out across the Wye valley to meadows, cliffs, and far off, the towers of the Severn Bridge. Dean was three quarters of the way up our cliff before Charlie Cockle saw him and called him down.

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 5

Dean on the rocks

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Mr Cockle: Darren Hogben!

Paul: It’s not Darren, Sir, it’s Dean!

Mr Cockle: I don’t care which one it is! Dean Hogben! Come down. You’re not safe without ropes and a helmet. That rock-face has not been risk assessed.

Ollie: Sir, do you think he’s all right Sir?

Mr Cockle: Of course he’s not all right! Not if he falls. To Dean, louder and louder: If you don’t come down at once, if I have to get up there and rescue you, if you damn well fall, I am not responsible, do you hear me?

General editor’s note: Obviously Dean was too far away to hear Mr Cockle’s best come-on-you-slackers voice, for he just kept on climbing. I would have thought no-one would dare join him with Charlie in that state, though Dean was actually in very little danger, as the cliff was like a giant staircase, but suddenly, just to his right and a few metres higher, appeared two red faces, and Mr Cockle’s turned scarlet to match. 

Mr Cockle: Stacey Oxenden and Gemma Toop! What are you doing up there with that idiot?

Dean: Silly, high-pitched voice: Hi Girlies!

Stacey: We’re not with Dean, Sir. We were only going to the loo, Sir. We came up the footpath.

Mr Cockle: Well you can just come down the footpath! And so can you Darren!

Dean: Dean, Sir! Whatever  you say Sir!


That was when we heard the dog. A tragic, bewildered yowling.

Darren: It’s all right, he’s OK.


As everyone turned to look at Darren petting a little brown dog,  we heard singing. A snatch from an old Welsh song, appropriately enough, but not sung by a male voice choir, fit to set your hair on end; no, this was Dean, triumphant at the top of the cliff, his falsetto fit to set your teeth on edge:

Dean: Gemma went behind a bush,

She was in a dreadful rush.

She came out feeling better

But the bush was feeling wetter.

Did you ever see, Did you ever see,

Did you ever see such a funny thing before?

Gemma: Shut up Dean! Think you’re so funny, don’t you! Well you can just get lost, and you’re not coming down with us, thank you very much.

Dean: So, I’d better come down by the way I came.

Mr Cockle: No you don’t! Come back down the path like I said.

Turning to Darren, who was now standing on the bus steps.

What are you doing there,Dean? Don’t move! I don’t want you chasing up there after that cousin of yours.

Darren: Darren, Sir. I wasn’t going to, Sir. I might not have a head for heights.

Mr Cockle: Well you’ll need one before the week’s up, but there’s no call to be practising now! Stay down here!

Darren: Yes, Sir.

Mr Turnstone: (trying to defuse the situation): Listen, all of you. Since you have been given it for homework, let me read a passage from Wordsworth’s poem. He wrote it near here:

— Once again

      Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,

      That on a wild secluded scene impress

      Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect

      The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

      The day is come when I again repose

      Here, under this dark sycamore,

Dean: Was that a sycamore you was reposing under, Gemma?

Mr Turnstone: Listen, Dean, Gemma, Stacey, everybody: cool it! Let’s start this holiday in the right spirit:

. . .neither evil tongues,

      Rash judgements, nor the sneers of selfish men,

      Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all        

      The dreary intercourse of daily life,

      Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb

      Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold

      Is full of blessings.


We’re away from daily life, so let’s be cheerful! Life is full of blessings, folks, even Dean could be a blessing to someone before the week is out! Just let’s forget all these greetings where no kindness is, let’s be nice to Mr Cockle, and get back on the bus.

Charlie didn’t quite get what my little speech was about, but he watched the students very quietly getting back on the bus. And off we went, deep into deepest Wales.