There were unidentified objects flying through the air, the heat was almost unbearable, the natives restless and noisy. This was before we even got off the coach.
A few weeks ago Olivia volunteered me as a ‘parent-in-charge’ for a school outing to an African Wildlife reserve called Sigean, about an hour from here. This is the sort of thing “good” mothers do all the time. There is one mother at the school who goes on every single outing. I met her today, and amazingly she seems quite normal .
Needless to say this was my first. Olivia must have sensed my reluctance (an hour on a coach with 60 children is probably not my idea of a great way to spend time). She clung on to my arm until we were safely on the coach and roaring down the motorway.
We arrived around 10.30 but then had to wait for half an hour due to some administrative mess-up. Once we were in the park there was an endless chorus of “I’m hungry” from almost every child. I was rather hoping some of the animals might be hungry too and bite someone so we could head off home early, but they were all very well behaved.
Of the pre-lunch animals I would say the ostriches were the most amusing; they have a very balletic walk and a rather inquisitive gaze under their super-long eye-lashes. They reminded me of funny old ladies with fake eye-lashes.
At midday exactly everyone stopped walking and we sat down to eat. We are in France after all. Once we had eaten we were off again for more animal spotting: giraffe, zebra, impala, alligators (mean looking creatures), snakes, goats, parrots, lion, even a cheetah. But the most interesting thing to the children was the sight of two male ducks both trying to mate with a female duck. “Don’t try this at home children,” I wanted to say, but thought the French teachers might not get the joke.
It was stiflingly hot; the children started filling their baseball caps with water and putting them on their heads. Olivia insisted on a friend of hers carrying her. Luckily this friend is twice the size of her. I asked Bea why. “Because she eats soup and salad every day,” she told me.
The journey home was slightly more peaceful than the one there. Well it was for Bea and me. We slept most of the way while the other 59 children fought and sang and chatted. Bea had rather sweetly insisted on washing her hair that morning because “if I don’t, no one will want to sit next to me on the coach”. I hadn’t washed my hair as it now takes me the better part of a day to do so. So it was either a trip to Sigean or wash my hair, and being a good mother I opted for greasy hair.
“It was a bit boring,” was Olivia’s verdict, but secretly I think she liked it. She certainly liked having me there and was very sweet to me all day, even letting me me off my leash now and then. So all in all it was worth it. And luckily Bea didn’t notice that I hadn’t washed my hair.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007