I knew about the day trip to the Tower of London of course, I'd signed the requisite forms, paid over a deposit, then the full amount, gave £10 to the teacher for "spending money", signed another hastily cobbled together form from the coach company (something about if the coach breaks down then we'd be responsible for collecting out children wherever it breaks down) and bought Mac a red cap. Every child has to have a red cap "on arrival at the school gate or they will not be permitted to join the outing". Mac has been conditioned since birth that red means Arsenal, Man United or Liverpool and was in a major sulk about the fact that he couldn't wear a blue one. "Or my Millwall one mummy" he said on Thursday afternoon.
I couldn't get out of it. To be honest, I didn't really want to - I love the Tower of London, the fact that you're walking where Anne Boleyn was before she got her head chopped off and that you can buy jewellery from the Jewel House. But did I really want to do visit with 24 children? Even if one was my own?
It turned out I had no option. David - handily - had the day off which I'd forgotten about so he was able to dogsit. Mac was beside himself with excitement that "mummy" was going with him and "Johnny's mummy isn't". There's a continuing rivalry between Mac and Johnny and I think it's got something to do with Megan. Blonde haired, blue eyed but unfortunately keen on Ramon. Apparently they all "do kiss chase" in the playground. When Mac told me that I had to go and inhale some chocolate.
Anyway. Bright and breezy on Friday morning I was on a coach with five other adults doing a head count. Kids are quick aren't they? I was using Michael (stunning redhead) as a starting point but he kept whizzing from one side of the coach to another. I gave up in the end and relinquished control to Mrs Wilson who terrifies me.
By the time we'd got to the Tower, we'd had stories about Henry VIII and his many wives and I was beginning to get increasingly excited myself. But could I wander round and gaze in awe and shop in peace? Could I meander round with my camera? Could I buggery. 24 children had to be taken to the toilet and I found myself channelling Joyce Grenfell's schoolteacher: "Johnny, don't do that, pull up your trousers" and "Kara, did you wash your hands? No? Why not? Go and wash them please!"
24 children then had to be restrained from galloping off in a million different directions and herded into a tight group. My own little red capped boy was beginning to look like he wished "mummy" hadn't come along. I constantly found myself addressing him even when he was doing what he should be doing. Kara decided she wanted to go and sit on the wall by the raven house yet I told Mac very loudly that he couldn't do that. Mac, who was quite happy standing there gazing open mouthed at a Beefeater, gave me a funny look.
We started off by walking round to the execution site, which is now a lovely monument with the names of those who died on the spot etched into a gorgeous glass table like....erm....thing. The Beefeater who was assigned to us held the kids enthralled with tales of executions and made us all jump when he bellowed "And then her head was chopped off!". Jessima started crying and demanded her mummy.
Mac was keen to go into the shop (he takes after me on that front) but we had to hold off for lunch which we ate sitting outside the White Tower. Three children had not brought a packed lunch and so were not allowed on the trip - oh the tears and recriminations from miffed parents. I was concentrating so hard on remember to make and take Mac's one that I hadn't done anything for myself. Yummy smells were wafting from the New Armouries restaurant but I couldn't leave my post. I consoled myself by eating Mac's crusts.
During the afternoon I spoke to Bea - she also has a great affinity with the Tudors and related buildings (we're convinced she was Anne Boleyn in a previous existence) and I texted her a picture of the execution site along with the words "The spot where you lost your head!". She responded with "OMIGOD" and rang to request some "trinkets". If she was hoping I would whip into the Jewel House and pick her up a bit of bling suitable for a beheaded Queen of England, she was sorely mistaken. As was I. I asked my fellow volunteer, I Used To Be A Career Woman You Know Mummy, if she would mind if I sloped off for ten minutes. She gave me a look, pretty much like she probably gave her minions if they cheeked her, and refused point blank. However, I did notice her in the shop flexing her credit card half an hour later.
Still. The kids enjoyed themselves, ran riot in the one shop were were allowed in (all plastic swords, tatty tiaras and pens) and learnt a fair bit. Mac behaved so well, especially in the shop - he'd spent his £10 on a polyester chain mail tabard, a pencil, eraser and sword and didn't even think of asking me for some more money when he discovered that he hadn't bought any postcards. Unlike I Used To Be A Career Woman You Know Mummy's son Jasper who threw a tantrum of epic proportions because he'd spent his money on crap sweets and pencil sharpeners and then demanded his mother give him more money to buy a crown. Horrified by Jasper's behaviour (and Mrs Wilson's scorn) she started chucking cash around like it was going out of fashion.
"I wouldn't have given into him" Mrs Wilson berated her as we made our way out to meet up with the coach "In doing that you are teaching him that he who shouts loudest, gets what he wants" she added. I Used To Be A Career Woman You Know Mummy looked puzzled at this and was heard to ask Mr Phillips "what does she mean?" Mrs Wilson had had a very trying day, she too had forgotten her lunch and was existing, she advised me, on "a box of raisins that my granddaughter had left in my coat pocket last weekend".
The coach didn't break down but Mrs Wilson was on the verge, she was first off the coach and into the staff room. I noticed that she'd bought some bramble brandy in the shop too.Oooh, and I wonder who this was? See orb at top left hand side......a different kind of spirit?