Thank the fairy for wet wipes

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Operation Fairy Godmother has begun. It's the first trip for which I am ultimately responsible: Year 7 going to the pantomime. It seemed such a fantastic idea all those months ago. Now, several Nurofen later, I vow never to suggest a trip again. Ever.

Even before it began, the paperwork threw me into a frenzy. Health and safety. Insurance. Parental reply slips and consent. Medical conditions.

Risk assessment forms.

I don't want to conceptualise all the potential hazards. What if we crash? What if I lose some of them? I do two head counts and roll calls and we're not even on the coach. The head of year shames me with his bright orange laminated year lists. I clutch the green first-aid box and practise deep breathing.

On the coach I first separate two boys for headbutting one another despite their protestation that: "It's all right, Miss, we're best friends."

We enter via the fire exit to avoid the general public and the sweet counter. My plan to seat them alphabetically goes wrong as they rush for their seats while I wrestle with vertigo at being so high up and worry that they may fall over the edge.

Pantomime encourages audience participation. Ours don't need any and shout "Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is!" and "It's behind you!". But when one voice yells "Get 'em off Wanda!", even the cast are stunned into momentary silence. I pretend it's not one of us and momentarily go deaf.

In the interval they devour ice-cream and sweets.

No surprise, then, when in the second half one of them is sick all over row E. Good job I brought the wet wipes, kitchen roll and rubber gloves.

The return journey is subdued apart from when we pass a coach from a girls'

school and the boys hold up sheets of paper with their mobile phone numbers and chat-up lines on. They hold one up by my seat next to the bus driver until the sniggering and his waves alert me.

Back at school they get off to be met by waiting parents who wonder why they're so quiet. "What have you done to them?" enquires one mother anxiously.

I reach for the Rescue Remedy, smiling thinly.

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