‘You are representing the school’ was a familiar address from the teachers to our class before embarking on a school trip. My fellow students and I were never particularly bothered about improving the image of the school while touring local places of educational interest, so this instruction didn’t ever work. Perhaps, the threat of not stopping at the chip shop on the way home would have been more effective.
Terrible school trips are a part of my childhood and ones that particularly stick in my mind include
- A museum about the history of salt production, which has since been replaced by a butterfly sanctuary
- Trekking up a hill to an oxbow lake, which we never actually saw due to dense fog
- Looking at the chimneys of a local power station
- A reconstruction of wartime evacuation, which included us all making gas mask boxes out of brown paper and a long walk in pouring rain
- A couple of hours in a motorway service station when the bus broke down. Once it was fixed, there was no time left and we went straight back to school.
However, there was one school trip that made up for all the rest. When we were about 15 we went on a performing arts trip to Greece. Our brave teachers took us for a series of dance and drama workshops held in the town of Pireus (about an hour from Athens). We had classes in the morning and evening while the afternoons were ours to explore or sit by the pool. There were three other schools there and the idea was that we would rehearse something to present on the final morning. The weather was beautiful and being teenagers who would not be told to do anything, we all got sunburnt.
The drama classes were my favourite, we were broken into small groups and had to come up with a short play to present at the end of the week. The leaders said we were allowed to swear onstage so that is pretty much all we did. For the dance classes, we were taught a routine as a whole class. I have never been able to dance and this was quickly noticed by the tutor who instructed me to ‘step and clap’ at the back. That still didn’t go well, it was followed by the command to ‘clap quietly’.
As it turned out, our flights back were mysteriously changed meaning we couldn’t do the final presentation. The other schools were spared from my swearing and quiet clapping, which in retrospect was probably for the best, after all I was ‘representing the school’.