field trips

The green dogs were still lapping at the river on my run this morning. I think one's a long-haired daschund. As strange as that sounds, and unable to shake the image as I am, I saw something even stranger this morning.

Do you remember school field trips? I do. Museums, zoos, aquariums, desperate to be educational, more often than not a disciplinary nightmare for teachers. From the age of 6 to 11 I was taught by nuns. In third grade, aged 8, they took us to Historic Plymouth, Massachusetts. It's one of these places that tries, quite successfully, to be a timewarp, to give people an idea of what it was like in the early 17th Century. A replica of the Mayflower sits docked in the harbour. I remember thinking how small it was. A single dirt road lined by log huts and cabins, livestock running about, a well in the middle of the street, this was ancient times in our minds. Maids in puritan dress plucked dead chickens and turkeys in front of us. Which, to a bunch of 8 year-olds from the city and suburbs, was about as gruesome and primitive as you can get. It also lead to disaster. There was a pile of discarded feathers next to the maid. This was just too tempting. Some of the boys grabbed handfuls of feathers and chased the girls with the bloody ends, running down the dirt road, roaring while the girls shrieked.

Courtship was simpler then.

I was dragged by the ear to the bus. When I was in Boston in May, an old friend remarked how it was always me that got caught, regardless of how many others were involved. He was right. The only homework we had after these field trips was to draw the thing we liked most about the day. I think I drew the Mayflower. My friend Joey drew me being dragged to the schoolbus by Sister Janice, a fistful of bloody feathers in my hand. He wound up in trouble, and I got in more trouble, my reputation as a bad influence proved in Crayola.

Art became a focus of field trips. During my GCSEs, museums attended dutifully with sketchbooks, searching for a great work to do no justice whatsoever. I loved soft pencils- they looked cool on the page and made a mess. 4 or 6B was the way to go. Wouldn't touch an H pencil. Far too boring.

Even when I went back to the States for High School, our field trips brought us to musuems. The Met was my favourite. I didn't have time to draw anything badly because there was too much to see. I should have gone to the Guggenheim.

So today, on my run, on the grass by the river just before you get to The Dove, was a group of about 30 kids, 7 or 8 - no more, having the best field trip ever. It was a stilt party. I ran by 30 kids on stilts, walking and running around having the best time ever. I couldn't imagine, at any point in my education, having a teacher say, "I know, let's find a company that will put all the kids in stilts and let them run around and have a great time". It's fun and wish fulfillment at the same time. What kid doesn't want to be taller? What kid doesn't want to run around in the grass, taller than their teacher, hitting eachother with baloons?

We didn't have stilts in my day. We had to make do with feathers.