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Years 7 and 8 ‘Camp Out’ - By Mr. AB

Posted: 13th November 2012 | Category: Year 7, Year 8

'Volunteering', as I have always told my pupils, is never really the best of ideas unless you actually know the exact nature of what it is you are volunteering for. So when Mr. Lewis announced in the first staff meeting he was looking for volunteers among staff for the Yr 7 and 8 'Camp Out', quite naturally I enquired further as to the nature of the said 'Camp Out'. To which the obvious reply, 'Camping Out for the night with Years 7 and 8.......for the Jersey Tour!' A noble cause but not enough information or explanation for me, I thought...not sure, true to my belief of not knowing of what I was REALLY volunteering for. But somehow I found my hand was being drawn irresistibly upwards, as if by itself, maybe by the thought that this would give me the chance to see the nature of my new charges first hand, an early chance to see what were they like or maybe by the memory of the fabulous 'Camp Outs' of time gone by. Or just the sheer adventure of it! Then without a further thought, out I blurted with 'I'll do it!'. So it was, the offer made. Back home to dig out my trusty torch from somewhere deep in the recesses of my packing boxes.

The next few days, many new parents and many introductions. 'Pleased to meet you...I'm Mr.A-B'. To which, 'Are you going camping on Friday?'. To which I replied ' Yes, and I'm looking forward to it!'. To which always, 'Good luck', said in the implicit manner of 'You'll need it!' . What do they know that I don't? What about them? Oh Lord..what have I done?

I arrived late at the camp due to me having also 'volunteered' to do Prep up at school. From the pavilion, I caught my first sight of the camp below me in the late afternoon sun, a mass of tents across the field with a full, proper Tepe in the middle. A lot of work had gone in during the afternoon on the part of the children, turning the Tepe inside out, and some parents to get us ready for the 'Injuns' of the night to come. It reminded me of Custer's Last Stand. Everyone was busy gathering dead wood from the margins and The Woods for the camp fire later when the sun had gone down. Dylan offered me a stick, smooth and straight and I must have looked confused as I accepted it. 'Marshmallows', he said. 'You'll need it for the marshmallows later'. Kind lad, I thought, and most were busy piling wood under Mr. Ritchies watchful eye. 'Plenty for a huge blaze here', I thought.

As the sun was getting low, Mr. Pollard, Mrs Stewart, Mrs Alsop and Mr & Mrs Lewis busied themselves setting up and preparing what can only be described as a 'barbecue feast' for later with more burgers and sausages on offer that I can ever remember seeing. I was getting impressed. Having seen the fine effort of the Year 7&8 Hunter/Gatherers with the camp fire, Mrs Barkworth with Mr Ritchie, the chief orchestrators, assembled the groups on the field, three that they were divided into for camp games. Grasshoppers, Crickets and Newts I think they were called but the kids seemed to know what was what. I liked the games as I remember thinking that this should exhaust them nicely....how horribly wrong I was going to be proved to be! But real games, proper games that I thought were the thing of the past; Dodgeball and Hopping Chickens i.e hopping on one leg, folded arms and blasting your oppostion to the ground. Brutal, I thought, and there were no flies on the Year 8 girls who swept/bashed all before them. No flies on them at all! I made notes not to mess with Year 8 girls in the future! But everywhere laughter and everyone joining in the the true spirit. Then 'Pass the T Shirt'. By now Mr Sun has slipped unnoticed out of the sky as had the rules of fair competition and finally the moment the kids had really been waiting for...Wizards, Goblins and Giants. The game seemed to involve them scarpering into the undergrowth in your group in various directions for hours on end, with torches with the aim of not getting caught or Fizz Fizz Fizzed or Ho Ho Hoed or Ni Ni Nied by the other groups. I liked this game due to the duration and I still do not know who won or lost.

The barbecue went down a treat in the generator-powered light of the pavilion and after, it was well dark when we went off to the camp fire which was ablaze on the field. The new lad Henry kept me plied with Marshmallows....he was definitely the 'Marshmallow King' that night. What a talent! This was my personal favorite of the evening as a young former pupil, James arrived to lead songs around the camp fire. Mr. Confidence personified, he led us through his repetoire with the crescendo of 'Father Abraham'. My abiding memory will be of all of the kids joining in the songs and the actions; for me it's the stuff childhood experiences are made of. By now a heavy dew was settling and it was time to turn in.

With teeth brushed and the staff urging all to turn in, the real game began......Spotlight! That is the staff in the pavilion with a spotlight and the troops down below like nocturnal creatures scurrying around, trying not to be caught in the headlights. Mr. Ritchie and Mr Pollard attempted to maintain a valiant watch, so I am told, picking out errant pupils and returning them to their tent. Our curfew was proving a flexible affair.  I asked the kids afterwards about the Camp Out and the favorite bit for most was the Spotlight. Henry W said ' The best bit was the spotlight but the worst bit was having to go to bed'! It reminded me of Colditz. I was tired. I needed my tent. It was cold as it was completely soaked in the autumn dew.

No surprise, I woke up first among staff, gear stick in my leg. Well, it was cold during the night!  A couple of kids milled about. Ben P knew his stuff. He was packed up soon and ready to go. Rumour had it Issy had turned in early and enjoyed a full night's sleep without coming under Mr Ritchie and Mr Pollard's radar. I made notes...smart girl, this one. As the sun rose in the sky drying the early-morning dew on the tents, the camp stirred and quickly dissembled. The girl's tent was as massive as house! 'That will need help to take down', I thought. It didn't. They did it themselves with team work that seriously impressed yet again. Stuff was ferried up top in a convoy of cars and the damp early morning soon gave into a glorious September morning. We all breakfasted before the parents arrived. One shook my hand. 'Thanks and good luck!' he said. 'Nice kids' , I thought, and home I went on my merry way. I never did find my torch.

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