I get asked to help the school chaperone the kids on a visit to the museum in a local town. ‘This will be a doddle’ I think ‘Just walking around with the teacher making sure we don’t lose anyone’. I am of course wrong in thinking this.
The day of the visit arrives. It is beautiful, it is sunny.
Let’s all go inside a stuffy building full of agricultural tools then. So we do.
There are another couple of parents there. ‘Oh good’ I think ‘Safety in numbers and all that’. The other parents start taking the kids off in groups. I realise that the teacher is dividing the kids up into groups of seven and eight. The implications of this are hammered home as I see eight children – my son amongst them – being herded my way.
‘Oh well’ I think ‘It won’t be that hard will it? walking round an old museum full of tools’. The teacher then starts giving out quiz sheets to myself and each child.
I look at the sheet. It is full of strange words – which is nothing new for me as all words at the moment are a bit strange (it is French after all) but these are really strange – as well as room numbers that correspond to the confusing words.
We head off into the first room. There are tools here that I have never seen before, and whose names I do not know in English. Apparently I am supposed to search in this room for the correct implement as listed by its bizarre name on the quiz sheet, and then take one of the letters from that name, and then do this in every room till we have a full set of letters which we will then have to rearrange to form the name of something else.
‘This is going to be a long morning’ I think to myself.
Coupled with this headache-inducing quiz is the fact that children – funnily enough – do not seem all that interested in looking at 200-year-old farming tools, and so have started acting up.
Have you ever shouted at a child in a museum? How about eight children? I have. I would prefer not to have to do it again. I would have preferred to not have had to do it 36 times, but that’s agricultural museums for you – they bring out the worst in kids.
Realising that this quiz is a non-starter for me and my limited grasp of ancient-agricultural-implements-French, I corner the teacher. ‘I don’t get this’ I tell her ‘I’ve never seen these things in England, let alone France – how do you win this game?’. Evidently you win this game by cheating, because she whispers the answer in my ear.
Then she looks at the expression on my face and writes it down on a piece of paper and hands it to me.
The seven kids (one of them has been removed for constantly disrupting the group, not my son by the way, he’s still stuck to me like glue) and I continue on our way, now mysteriously being able to identify each clue in each room with alarming rapidity.
We do it so quickly that we arrive in the reception room on the ground floor of the museum, where we are met by another parent and her seven wards (‘Why did I get eight?’ I think to myself ‘Teacher mustn’t like me’ I answer myself, pondering if this is the first sign of madness). She looks at me, resignation written large on her face, and then pulls out the timetable. We have finished the quiz with plenty of time to spare. In fact looking at the timetable it appears that we have another hour to wait before we have anything else to do.
I look at the 14 kids milling around a room full of glass cases with farming books inside them, thinking this is going to be a long hour. I look at the other parent, inquiring as to how she got down here so quickly. She pulls out a piece of paper, the teacher’s scrawled answer unmistakable. ‘Oh well’ I think to myself ‘At least I’m not the only one who isn’t au fait with ancient French agricultural tools’.