Tag Archives: teenagers

Health and (Robin’s) Safety

robinangel-2

Advancing age inspires caution when tackling physical tasks. I first observed this as a teenager, working in the local park. The old guys, as we thought of them, got as much and more than we did in the day with less effort. They weren’t afraid of work; most of them had been miners, but knew how to look after themselves as they worked.

So I try to plan jobs to take account of my aches and pains. Now, though, it is important to remember Robin, who takes great interest in whatever we are doing. Today it was stacking logs, just delivered from the orchard, to keep us going through the winter.

For  Robin the logs were a source of dainties. After a year or two’s seasoning they had a population of woodlice, worms and other creatures, some of which were disturbed as I moved the logs, only to be pounced on by this miniature bird of prey.

We managed to work alongside each other very successfully. I’m sure he’s as good as any young Robin can be at self-preservation.

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.

Overheard – a woman talking to her dogs

It’s an occupational hazard for those of us blessed with a grey-to-white beard! ‘Hey Santa!’ from teenagers, or a rather more awed approach from younger children. I once had a long conversation with a little lad in Gap, France, with his mother in the background, encouraging me to keep going; great fun for me as well as him.

Today was surprisingly different.

Cycling along the shared path by the river, I rang my bell to warn a lady with her two dogs that I was approaching; they were occupying the whole path. Smiling, she got out of the way, saying to the dogs, ‘There boys, it’s Father Christmas come to say hello.’

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.