Thursday, 26 July 2007


It's the Back in Time event from the parks dept. I arrive, Shark, Squirrel, Tiger and Ermintrude in tow, and start explaining to Ra, one of the parks organisers, the history of the passes again, and the contents of the phone call that morning, to be interrupted in seconds by Ra's dawning face and sudden exclamation, 'Oh! It's you!'

Putting a face to the name clearly explains it all. Ra says that they've gone back to search the records that very morning and discovered that I have paid, once not twice, and the passes will be hand delivered because she knows where we live.

Well, this is all good news. And now that's sorted, it's off to the real history of the day. I'm determined on some proper education now and not just mucking about in a field with the parks department.

We start off with the Stone Age and the flint knapper who's demonstrating neolithic tool-making techniques. Now, thanks to Grimes Graves and the EH bloke who works there and who imparts a great deal of insider knowledge to us everytime we go, I feel we know a thing or two about the ring or clunk on flint, so I start to show off our knowledge. I am not assisted by Squirrel who looks bored, like she's heard it all before, and who is tugging at my raincoat to get me to take her to the craft tent while she whines 'Mummy, mummy, can we go now?'

Before we get there, we get sidetracked. A time traveller is coming out of the tardis. This is very impressive. There is a tardis play tent, and inside is a six foot adult, struggling to get out. When he does get out, he's a wizard. I'm not sure which historical time wizards come from, so in the pursuit of all things educational, and preferably chronological, I tell Tiger that I think he's descended from a Celtic druid and get her to repeat the story about Queen Boudicca and the destruction of Colchester.

Then I spy a laminated A4 printout pinned to a fence post. Now I have had a worksheet on Explorers through history shoved into my hands by Ra, so I insist everyone goes off to read the printout. I say it'll give us an answer to one of the questions on the worksheet, so stop dragging your feet and moaning about the craft tent because, like it or not, we are going to find all the answers to all the questions on the worksheet, and this laminated printout will give us a start.

I dutifully read a lot of words about how Marco Polo was an explorer into China and then I look at the worksheet. There is no question on Marco Polo. There is no reference to Marco Polo at all. There is a question on Shackleton and one on Columbus. I briefly wonder if Marco Polo fell off the bottom of the page. Get out of this one, Grit. Fortunately, Shark's had enough and runs off, which means I can blame her for us not finishing the worksheet on Explorers through history. Or not even starting, actually.

Shark says she wants to go on the walk. This is the history event called go down to the ditch with Mothman and have a look at some flowers and bugs. I'm not sure which history event this is, so I shout after Shark that this must be the 20th century, so pay attention.

While Shark and Tiger are off down the field with Ermintrude I embark on helping Squirrel find selloptape so that she can make a space ship to blast us off into future history. Because I am determined to get something educational out of this, even though the coloured craft paper is flying about me lifted by the wind, and the kids are screaming all around because the first plip-plop of rain is soaking their spacecrafts, I am shouting about how space is a vacuum and how we cannot breathe in it, so you'd better think about an oxygen cylinder.

Then the rain lashes down. And lashes. Everyone aims for the craft tent, which looks dangerously like it might be lifted out the ground and become a real space ship anytime now.

But we don't give up, do we? And it's not just me, either. Here comes the tardis, pelted with rain and dragged through the downpour by two crouching parks staff draped in soaked-through waterproofs. Underneath the tardis stumbles a pair of feet, struggling with the wet grass and the fact that they are in a manhandled tardis in the driving rain and the owner of the feet cannot see where he is going.

There's a moment of tension, or relief, as the tardis is put down. Everyone waits expectantly to see who'll jump out. Just as some little kid goes up to peek inside, out leaps Edward Teach, Blackbeard, threatening to cut off everyone's ears. The little kid freezes in terror and Grit shouts 'Seventeeth century! Who wants to do a project on the seventeenth century?'


Michelle said...

The EO bloke at Grimes Graves is fab. Probably one of the most informative and patient uides I have come across. Or perhaps being stuck up there day in day out he feels a need to talk to anyone who may make the journey.

Gen and I were the only ones there when we went.

grit said...

i think we should start a 'best and worst guide award' from home educators. some guides respond very well to our non-school kids, and then others ...