Lesson 96 on Self-confidence and leadership qualities.
It was not the best organised school journey in the world. Miss Deputy took the oldest class to the same guest house every year with the same local coach company. It seemed to be assumed that each year’s trip would simply follow the same pattern as the last.
The problem with our year was that the friendly old driver, who usually accompanied the journey and knew the route and the routine backwards, was in hospital having fallen off a ladder, a victim of home DIY.
The replacement was a short, sturdy woman, who had just joined the company payroll. I think she had gained her Public Service Licence during her previous career in the army. She smoked a lot. She had never been to the Isle of Wight. (Remember, this was in the days before satellite navigation.)
I didn’t notice Frankie until we reached our lunch break spot, rather late. It was a stretch of heathland populated by grazing sheep, with a couple of picnic tables. I was waiting by the bus door to help people out. Frankie was preparing to alight when he suddenly froze. He was immaculately dressed in the latest designer gear and his hair was perfectly corn-rowed in a complicated pattern. He pointed accusingly at the ground by my feet.
“There is poo everywhere!” he announced with disapproval.
“It’s only sheep droppings,” I explained.
” Poo!” said Frankie firmly. The country side was something he seldom came across and it didn’t fit his lifestyle. “I’ll stay in the bus!”
So while everybody else ate their sandwiches in the teeth of a stiff breeze and had a bit of a run around, Frankie sat in solitary splendour with a pristine napkin and a Tupperware box of goodies. He was totally unphased by being the exception. Let others do as they pleased. His trainers would remain unsullied!
When we reached the guest house, my room was next to Frankie’s. There were six boys sleeping there in bunk beds. It was my job to keep an eye on them. When I checked on them just before lights out, Frankie was sitting on the best top bunk in matching pyjamas and dressing gown. He had a hairnet over his elaborate corn rows. He was getting everyone organised. He liked his living space orderly. He might be the smallest and youngest, but there was no question that it was his room.
The following morning I was awoken at 5am by talking and movement next door. Going to investigate I found Frankie and his gang fully dressed, sitting on their beds.
“What are you doing?” I asked sleepily.
“Waiting for breakfast!” replied Frankie brightly.
“Didn’t you check the time? It’s hours yet!” But only Frankie had a watch and that was purely for personal adornment. It hadn’t occurred to them to use it for practical purposes. I gave them my alarm clock and sent them back to bed.
We all needed our sleep, because the next day was a nightmare. Sergeant Coachdriver took the wrong turning. Now taking a wrong turning in Greater London isn’t a problem. You just rectify matters at the next crossroads. It’s not so easy in winding lanes on a little island.
The longer the coach rocked and rolled its way along the country roads, the more people felt sick. And there was nowhere to stop. Mrs FirstAider and I feared we would soon run out of bags. Frankie was one of the sufferers, but he insisted on remaining on the extra bumpy back seat with his followers. He was confident he would cope.
When we finally reached our destination, Frankie was one of the last to climb down from the coach. Smiling happily he presented me with neatly fastened plastic carrier bag.
“See Miss!” he announced proudly, “I caught it all!”