Driving down the N11 into Co Wicklow this morning, I passed a bus, the sort of bus that is used here for transporting school children. It was being driven by a man of around sixty and across the aisle, in the front seat, with her seat belt securely fastened, was a lady of a certain age. The bus was obviously heading off somewhere to take children on an outing, or a “tour” to use the vernacular of this part of Co Dublin. Maybe there was a school not being used as a polling station for today’s general election and the kids were getting a trip somewhere as compensation for having to be in school when all their friends were off.
There was a lady of a certain age who used to organise a school outing every year when I was in primary school in England. We had to pay for it, each week for a few weeks beforehand we would bring shillings or sixpences, or however much it took. We went on big, adventurous outings for a tiny school in the middle of nowhere. I remember going to the New Forest and to Beaulieu Motor Museum one year, and to London on another, and to Poole Pottery and to Brownsea Island on a boat.
They were magical memories, but they would not have been possible if Mrs Cullen, who was our dinner lady and playground supervisor, had not been prepared to give her time and effort for nothing. No-one ever paid her for the hours spent on the trips, I’m sure we didn’t even have proper insurance. If it had been 2007 the trips would never have taken place, the health and safety and public liability concerns would have prevented any such plans. The people who would have suffered, of course, would not have been the middle class kids, but the children from poorer homes who would never have had such opportunities without Mrs Cullen.
I was heartened to see this morning that there are still ladies of a certain age who love children and who do things not written in any contract because they know that there is more to life than pay and conditions.
I hope the children on the outing today enjoyed their trip and I hope they will remember the lady of a certain age who watched over them all with a matronly eye and I hope in four decades time they will still have memories as vivid as mine of 1970, when I had spent 9/6 of my 10/- on souvenirs and when we stopped for fish and chips on the way home I had to buy salt and vinegar crisps because a bag of chips was 9d.
Memories are made possible by such ladies of a certain age.