Maybe it’s because I helped out at school last year and now appear on a ‘gullible parents’ list, or possibly it’s because when asked by his teacher, Luca told her I didn’t work during the week and watched football all day. Either way, this week I was roped into helping out on his school trip.
Seventy Year One pupils visiting an art gallery, what could possibly go wrong?
It didn’t start well. Apparently when it comes to other peoples children, there’s no margin of error with the number you return to school? I was only asking for a 20% leeway, which does sound a lot but in practice that’s only one child out of the six I was entrusted with, plus a couple of scarves and possibly a shoe?
Before this trip I hadn’t appreciated how difficult it is to herd that many kids just a few hundred yards, especially when they don’t respond to whistles and cries of “come-bye”. And I’m not sure we’d have made it across the busy cycle lane were it not for my years of playing Frogger. Who knew that would qualify as a life skill thirty years on? For the record, I’ve still got it.
Once safely inside I assumed my work was done, until…
“For the first two hours your group are free to look around the gallery”.
What the hell? Six-year olds? Two hours? Looking at artwork? Six-year olds? Two hours? TWO FECKIN’ HOURS?!
Sorry, that’s me shuddering at the thought, even now. I think I may have post trip stress disorder.
Do you know how long you can play a game of ‘which is your favourite painting’, from a wall of near-identical watercolours? I’ll tell you … 3 minutes.
Do you know how funny six-year olds find sketches of naked women and men with their willies hanging out, or how loud their amusement will echo around an otherwise silent gallery? Turns out not as loud, nor embarrassing, as my shouts of, ‘stop laughing at the willy!’
And do you have any idea how many times you can say, “don’t touch that” in just two hours? Nope, neither do I. I lost count when it reached triple figures.
There was a moment of respite to be had when they collectively decided they needed the toilet. Sadly, none of them needed an hour long poo.
Could it get any worse? I’ve barely even started!
You see, there was an upstairs gallery too. Oh, this was a good one. A pitch black room with a gigantic screen at one end showing images some children may find distressing, and a water feature in the middle that you’ll only know is there when you stumble into it.
This was going to play well at the school gates,
“Where’s my little Harry?”
“Sorry, he was last seen entering a black hole, presumed drowned!”
By some miracle I left the room with six children still in tow. Whether they were the same six children I entered with is debatable, but by this point I was working to numbers not names.
Thankfully the afternoon was set aside for creating our own art. Hideous in itself, but preferable over the horrors of the morning.
The first hour was creating a piece of art by sticking tape to the floor. Tape so sticky I’m assuming it came from Wendy Woo’s Waxing Salon judging by the near Brazilian inflicted on one poor child’s scalp. Have you ever tried cutting sticky tape out of a child’s hair using safety scissors with the sharpness of a marshmallow?
The second hour was for weaving ribbon through a net. Yep, that’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. I say weaving, by now my group were having ribbon fights and seeing who could roll their sticky tape the closest to what was, until now, probably a priceless piece of art in the corner of the room.
They were finally having some fun so I make no apologies for turning a blind eye.
Not surprisingly the coaches were summoned earlier than initially planned, but not before I’d been quietly informed by a member of staff that what I was sitting on was actually part of an art installation. A surprisingly comfy one, but an art installation all the same.
To be fair to the kids, they behaved impeccably throughout and were a credit to their school and teachers. As for me, well, if I’m still on the list for future trips I suspect I’ve been demoted to the ‘parents of last resort’.
I can but hope.