The School Outing. 1962
Six years of age, year two at primary school, St. Joe’s set the date for the school outing. The outing was to Cassiobury Park, in nearby Watford. The great thing was that there was a great big paddling pool. As we talked to our friends about the pool it got bigger with each conversation.
The cost was sixpence, a tanner, the unmovable rule, no sixpence no outing. The better off kids paid the money the next day, the rest one penny a week, hard times. Three pence into my outing, we were told to bring a packed lunch. That was a real blow, my sandwich always had meat in them, a sort of beef. nobody would ever swap, as they were full of chewy gristle, dry as a bone. Biting on my sandwich, hard the meat would come out in one go, and hung out of my mouth. Like a spare tongue.
Meat hanging down your chin, two slices of empty bread in your hands a hard job swapping. Anyway my outing card six crosses on it, signed by Mrs Offord. Each day seemed long and hard, but we were happy, something to look foreward to, a day out. My father who enjoyed times in the pubs and clubs would come home drunk each evening and told me I could not go.
After a very long wait the day finally arrived, we stood outside the school and waited for the coach. We had to hold a girls hand so we just held the little finger. What fools we were.
Anyway, in the distance we could hear a screaming beast coming down Fairfield Avenue and the heady smell of diesel. As the ancient beast roared up to the gates. We had been waiting in line for some time. We had allocated seats on the bus. The naughty boys stayed with Miss Carol, the others Mrs Offord. A fat driver turned around from his front seat and he shouted a load of rules, we sat there listening hard.
The coach was an old one, as it pulled away, plumes of thick black smoke followed us on our trip. Poeple stopped in their tracks as this ancient beast made its way through the estate. Soon we were on a larger road on the way to Watford, the driver could change gear and the screams of the engine died down. We all looked out of the window pointing at anything unusual as we thundered along.
After a while we reached the park and got off the coach and ran about like exited rats. A teacher shouted and clapped her hands. loudly to tell us to come back and be counted. When it was established we were all present and correct, we ran down the park, the excitement has never left me. It is a memory of memories.
I could smell the water being pumped into the paddling pool and the chlorine was an added taster. We sat down at the pool and got out the packed lunches, chewing mine for some time, then some more. Spitting large pieces of gristle into my hand, throwing them away when nobody was watching.
Some of us were taken to the water fountain, warm fresh water. Back to the picnic area to pick up our rubbish put it in the bins provided, it did not take long.
We stripped down to our underwear for a paddle. If you could only see some of the pants. Some of the pants had been tucked and sown up as they were hand me downs from an adult part of the family. Others had marks in them, children running at full pelt, one hand holding the baggy underpants. The other hand was used was used to scoop water at others, in and out of the pool.
All of us had to stand by the edge of the pool some of the smaller kids could pull up their pants to their shoulders. Shivering as we waited to be told what to do next, we got in line and boarded the coach. I will never forget my outing, I have a lump in my throat as I write this piece. These kids are now scattered across the four corners of the world, some have past on.
One small event, can mean so much, it was my day of days, it was my past, it was how it should be.