Problem. The old bus keys weren’t where they should have been; in a box in the first deputy’s office which he shared with the caretaker/groundsman.Eventually as the school emptied of staff, the receptionist,tidying her desk for the day came across a bunch of keys.’Are these the ones? Sure enough, they were with note tied to them which said ‘ Do not use’ Well what’s that supposed to mean? I had it booked, and it wasn’t due for it’s MOT or anything . I went out and did a visual check of the bus. Tyres – fine, lights and indicators – fine. I started it up – no sign of any leaks, engine sounded fine. I couldn’t understand it. Well no matter, I’d got the keys – time to get a wiggle on, I went home for a quick shower and got changed. By the time I got back to school, the kids were arriving and congregating around the buses. I gave Graham the keys to the new one and we loaded up. Graham set off first.
As soon as I started to accelerate from the junction outside the school it became apparent why the keys had ‘Do Not Use’ written on them. The bloody clutch was slipping badly. Would the bus make it there? And more importantly would it make it back? I decided to press on. I didn’t mention anything to the kids.
Well we got there OK, if a little slowly, debussed and made our way into the ice rink. Some of the kids were old hands and had been many times before, so the exchanging of shoes for skates was done quickly and they were on the ice before we knew it.
Graham and I had collected our skates and were about to put them on when some of the girls came up to us all in a tizzy.
‘Sir, Emma’s hurt her hand.’ Sure enough I could see Emma being escorted by a phalanx of our kids over to where we were. We called for Ice Rink staff and their First Aider took a look. In fact it was Emma’s wrist that causing the pain. We put an ice pack on it. Nearest A and E? Wexham Park Hospital. Right! Let’s go. I used the new bus: I was not going to risk anything in the old jalopy. Luckily it was not far, and well sign-posted, I turned into the Car park and reversed into a parking space. I was concentrating on looking in my mirrors that I forgot about the little step that stands out of the back of the bus and pranged the car behind me. Which Emma thought was hilarious (I put it down to the shock)
I can think of any number of places I would rather be than a packed A and E department at Wexham Park Hospital. Our misery is compounded. After a short wait for triage we are told. that the wait for X – Ray is about three hours, and treatment (if needed) could be the early hours. The triage nurse suggested going to a hospital nearer to home. In the event we decided to ring Emm’s parents, have them pick her up here, the take her to Hillingdon hospital. So Emm and I sit down to wait. Then we had the only piece of luck all day. Suddenly there was a gap in the queue for X ray, so we jumped at it and she got it done. Thankfully it was just bad bruising. No breaks. It was a case then, of waiting for Mum and Dad to negotiate the M25 and find their way to Wexham Park. I was thinking about the rest of the party. The rink closed at 10, and it was already half past. Then Emma’s parents arrived. We explained everything and I made my excuses and left.
When I drove into the car park at the rink was greeted with an ironic cheer.
We still had to get home, we swapped buses and set off back, me nursing the clutch all the way.
We got back to school safe and sound at about 11pm to be met with the inevitable group of worried parents. Soon Graham and I were alone in the school car park.’ Fancy a pint’ he says’ ‘Sounds like a plan. How’s your triple Axel coming on?…’
Does the trip stick in your memory, Andy, because of the stress, or because you got away with it?
I once foolishly accompanied a teacher on a school visit to Hampton Court Palace, playing the role of whipper-in. His class were studying the Tudors. In room after room, Simon would stand in front of a feature and tell me to gather the kids round him. Then he would announce, “This is NOT a Tudor fireplace”, or, “This is NOT a Tudor ceiling”, etc. Then he would march on, leaving me to get the reluctant class to follow.
As I was herding everyone back onto the coach, a kid asked him, “Who were William and Mary Sir? He replied, “They were NOT Tudor royalty.”
Oh, I would say a bit of both, Rob. There was definitely a sense of relief in, as you say, getting away with it. Driving to the venue was unusual, we would take Art Trips on the tube! There was a time when we did a whole year group (180 kids ) over two days on public transport!
I must have been mad.