Sunday, 8 June 2008

London Wetland Centre

We home educators get about, don't we? You have to consider the alternative, which is to sulk in the kitchen and swot up on fractions. And it is summer, and we are in respite before the floods of July and the cruel storms of August.

Anyway, this is a coach trip planned so far and long away as January. Squirrel says I have no excuse to be late because I have been given enough warning.

It is all thanks to the kiddie RSPB group that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger adore. If I miss this once-a-month gathering, my children kick my shins and issue dark threats about what they will do if I ever miss it again. After it, they are filled up with wonderfully useful information for at least three days, and these sparkling jewels of knowledge will drop out at the tea-table or over breakfast. For a few minutes, or before my eyes glaze over, I can be informed about the wing length of three variety of albatross or the characteristic posture of wrens singing, as opposed to not singing.

Well I wish I had listened now, because on the coach trip, the organisers - who feel the need to keep us entertained at this point and not slumped over in a daze because it is 8.15 in the morning - hand out a quiz sheet, which is very hard indeed and one needs to be acquainted with birds and wildlife things to get through it, or even tackle question 1. Cheating under these circumstances by bribing the six-year old opposite with a pink boiled sweet I think is quite acceptable. I get to question 2 and wish I had a yellow boiled sweet as well.

Of course my grudging condition is not because I do not like birds and things wildlife; it's just that I do not share a passion for these things, or one deep enough to be joyous about being dragged from my bed on a Sunday morning, and forced to consider the wisdom of Wellington boots. One duck backside looks like any other duck backside to me. And although I might become momentarily inspired by the glory of a robin kicking around on a tree stump, I am sad to report that soon enough I sink back into my bad ways of hurling stones at magpies. Now, at 6am this morning I am packing picnics, cursing at a cloud, and wondering about those Wellingtons. This is not usually a good start for a sulky Grit who does not function well without the slow wakeup call of coffee.

I should not have worried. Not about the Wellingtons, nor about the spare changes of clothes, nor about things to amuse us on the coach, or probably about anything at all. The Gritlets are all delighted at their outing and raring to go. In fact they don't want much to do with me at all. One of the few communications Shark offers is to chastise me about forgetting the binoculars before telling me to keep three paces behind.

And I am left to wander through a day like that. It is very agreeable. I chat with Mr W. who confides in me that monkeys throw sticks at him, and I chat with Mrs B. about whether monks could wear bright yellow underpants and get away with it.

Meanwhile the children have their own, finer knowledges to pursue. They have a pond dipping session organised for them and then they are off with groups of their own choosing to wander round wetlands of the world. I don't see Shark again for some time until she eye-spies me skulking in the shade of a birdhide and demands ice cream. Then Tiger taps her wrist and say she needs fifteen minutes in the gift shop because she has a timetable to keep and must be in the Fritillary Meadow at three o'clock otherwise she will not complete the full circuit and be in the Discovery Centre for three thirty. None of this detailed planning, I can say, is the organiser's doing. They have pushed off to spend the last hours of the day photographing a duck's backside in a reedbed.

I feel relieved in some strange part of my being to have so little control over the day, the knowledges contained within it and the planning of the hours. The children have it all between the timings of the coach, and they use it wisely. I feel I do not need to wonder who is where, or worry that Shark has disappeared, or busy myself with much thought at all, because Tiger has got it all sorted. She has already charted her progress round these hot, curving paths and lapping waters so meticulously that all I need to do is tag along behind.

When the day is over and we are gratefully eating fast pasta I say I can share with them the photographs I have found of Marsh Arabs building their reed houses, like cool cathedrals rising from the water. We talk about how people need wetlands, and the children offer up all their jewels of the day: the height that reeds can grow, the blue lips of ducks, volcanic nesting sites, the peat swamp forest, the frogs that you can find, garden plants we must encourage, and the best bit of an ice cream to lick: the ending or the beginning?


sharon said...

What organised little girls you had today! Most impressive. Sounds as though you all had a lovely day out even though it did start at such an ungodly hour!

Re earlier comments:-

You must take lots of photos when you go to the King Tut Exhibition. I've always wanted to see it and never did.

Yes, you will keep those dollies forever and shed tears over them.

Our day has been a bit of a waste as it has precipitated persistently (that's the polite term for it)all day long so the shed is still leaning against the wall! Son 2 has spent most of the day eating us out of house and home. We will have to do it all again now, probably next weekend! Could you spare a bit of smoked Big Ted?

the mother of this lot said...

'I feel relieved in some strange part of my being to have so little control over the day, the knowledges contained within it and the planning of the hours'.

That's what we plebian types call school.

Glad the Gritlets had such a lovely day. And fast pasta.

Didn't you fall in love over a plate of pasta?

Grit said...

hi sharon! i'm sure a leg of smoked ted will be ready for eating soon! we're all getting hungry round here!

motl! the idea of school being a place of knowledges.

well, where should i start.

Frog in the Field said...

London has a wetland centre?
I thought it had flood barriers and things now.
I'm confused.
I think you're doing a very fab job, can't remember what else I was going to write, so tired, sorry!
Anyway, really enjoyed this post and the one need to be careful the gritlets don't grow up and be known as 'oy! you in the bushes!'

Grit said...

hi frog! i shall put in a link to the london wetlands centre. There are a lot of ducks there, but the reed beds are very nice.