Wild things, I think they love you

13th July 2007 at 01:00
Well, well. The summer term is finally drawing to a close. Another academic year, another dollar (yeah, right). Time to hang up the mortarboard and crack open the Pimm's.

There is just one more hurdle to get over before my class and I go our separate ways. One more adventure, before I stuff their bags with folders of ragged artwork that has been hanging round the classroom all year, and send them off on their merry way. Eek. The end of year class trip.

Some weeks ago we put it to the vote. A gentle Victorian toy museum? A lovely forest walk? Alas, my suggestions were bamboozled by a chorus of little voices, all chanting: "The wildlife park. The wildlife park."

A fun day stalwart for local youth clubs, Brownie troops, and families alike surely they've had enough of that place by now? Not my class, unfortunately. This year, however, I sense that their excitement is tinged with recently discovered irony: "Yeah, let's go and see that stupid farting donkey." And who am I to quash their burgeoning teenage ways?

Off we roll, singing our way through the entire repertoire of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The pupils are in good spirits. The weather looks set to hold just. And once I recover from the shock of how much this little day trip will cost, I too am looking forward to a jolly time.

Oh to see the world through a child's eyes. Once they are inside the park gates, they somehow lose their ironic edge, and run around in teams of four with wide-eyed enthusiasm. To them, the limp and slightly creepy miniature railway is, I quote, "better than Butlins". And the tired reptile habitats manage to cause genuine anxiety including the empty ones.

The highlight of the day has to be the camel that licks people's heads. The strange mix of delight and disgust is truly entertaining to watch. A few of the girls are brave enough to get close to some big(ish) cats, yet squeal in horror when a common otter scampers towards them: "It's trying to kill us, Miss." Better add "marauding otter" to the risk assessment, then.

Ultimately, I'll admit that the pupils made the right choice. Even I feel a little less cynical about the world of second-rate local attractions by the end of the day.

After all, I suppose we have something in common the wildlife park has a building where little monkeys behave like humans and the school has a building where humans behave (every now and then) like little monkeys

Louisa Leaman is a London teacher

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