When my daughter’s school teacher asked if I would like to join the class on a trip to Eden Camp – a WWII POW camp turned museum – I accepted with enthusiasm. I’m interested in the era, my children’s book is set in 1941, I’d been in to talk to the class about . . .
Eden Camp is in North Yorkshire.
That’s two and a half hours. In a bus.
Packed with eleven-year-olds.
That’s when the full extent of my decision hit me. How on earth could I survive such an ordeal? I mean, I remember what school trips were like. Stodgy sandwiches and a packet of Quavers. Maybe a Penguin and a Tip-Top, if you were lucky. Someone being sick. Teachers shouting. Staring out of the window for hours on end.
But I had already agreed. There was no backing down. I had my pride to think of.
Actually, the two and a half hours there and two and half hours back were pretty uneventful. There was a moment when I thought they weren’t going to stop singing the ‘ugly song’ which goes something like this . . .
‘You’re U-G-L-Y, You ain’t got no alibi, you’re ugly. You’re ugly.’
Which is nice.
And then there was the occasional:-
‘Miss! My stomach hurts.’
Or the more troubling:-
‘Miss, I feel sick.’
Which, of course made me silently pray that when the ill child came to the front of the bus, they wouldn’t come anywhere near me. Please, Lord, don’t make me sit on this bus for hours next to a splattering of sick.
But, in the end, the bus remained vomitless and the trip was successful. I took a group around the huts and we talked about the start of the war, about women’s role, about life on the home front. We did the U-Boat thing and the blackout thing and the bombed street thing. We had lunch in the mess hut (Penguin but no Tip-Top), we saw a puppet show in the Music Hall. There was water squirting and Anderson shelters and buttons to push.
But the highlight for the children?
The gift shop, of course. What else?