Tag Archives: William Wordsworth

Along the Thames

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It was Patrick’s funeral that brought me to Teddington, and I had time on my hands between the end of the gathering  and meeting George for dinner.  Time enough for a walk down the Thames to Richmond.

Here the river path is on the right bank, but there was a footbridge at the end of Ferry Road to see me across. A good hour’s walk down to the railway with no bridges between, though I was tempted to take the ferry across to Twickenham about halfway along. Just for the fun of a ferry, you understand, not to avoid the walk!

It was good to see so many people and dogs enjoying the fine weather, walking and cycling; there were joggers as well, but do they enjoy the scenery or just the sense of achievement when they have shorn a half-second from their pb for each kilometre, despite the presence of happy wanderers along their course? Some children were enjoying the last days of summer, but there were teenagers in town already in uniform –

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy.

William Wordsworth: Intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood

London’s not-quite countryside must remain as a blessing to local people; it is too much on the flood plain to be built upon or to go under the plough. Much of the path was shaded by mature trees and scrub. There would be no chance of a horse-drawn barge making its way along here today, as came to Mr Toad’s rescue in the  Wind in the Willows, but motor boats and kayaks were making full use of the river.

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Close to Richmond town lies a meadow, still used to graze cattle, including a few Belted Galloways and their crossbred offspring. If I had a country estate it would be Belted Galloways that would add their grace to the prospects. As well as being good looking, they also seem to tolerate people walking by.

But let’s hope and pray that  those I passed that day will not resist the ‘Intimations of immortality’ that come their way, day by day, and that school does not feel too much of a prison house, and that they are enlightened there.

MB

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 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 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.”

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.

the elusive pimpernel

Careering down a path where perhaps I  should not have been cycling, I enjoyed a Wordsworth moment. No golden daffodils, no lake, no trees to speak of, just the end of a hornbeam hedge up against a hideous galvanised steel fence. But miles from any field, between the concrete path and the base of the fence, there spread a single plant of the scarlet pimpernel, turning to face the southing sun.

Not so long ago, maybe forty years, this path was a field path, this land was part of a farm. The soil was disturbed when the new fence was put in, no doubt to protect the school children from whatever dangers might lurk on the path. Even an earthbound constellation of red dwarfs.