The coach bumps and we lurch into each others laps, laughing. We sing songs with the lewdest words we know. The teachers yell to keep the noise down, but we’re overtired and giddy; the overnight train didn’t see much sleeping.
Eventually our teacher stands. She says we’re almost there and she reminds us not to run off, or swarm over strangers.
“You’re not the first young people to arrive here after a long journey,” she says. “But yours was much more comfortable than theirs. And unlike the boys you’re going to learn about here, you’ll get to go home tonight.”
This story isn’t a memoir, although I remember the giddiness of school trips and the contrast arriving at desolate historic sites, heavy with grief and tragedy. The lines of flower buckets reminded me of photos I’ve seen of soldiers going to war or people bumpy along dirt roads in less industrialized places. I briefly pondered having the narrator be in the history not looking at it. But I didn’t have the heart to go quite that dark today, so we ended up on a school trip.
Where to is for you to decide, perhaps a concentration camp, a military cemetery… or an historic place from more recently. Maybe it’s the site of a residential school in Canada. The destination is up to the reader.
You all said it was good to cry last week and nobody wells me up like my favourite recurring character, Melanie, so here she is again. If you enjoy her story, click here for many more snippets from her world.
Get Well Soon
You’re allowed to lie when you’re sick. Mummy always says “I’m fine” even when she hasn’t got out of bed all day. She used to tell me we had to say “Thank you, it was delicious” when we gave back casserole dishes, even when it really wasn’t. Mummy said it was delicious and I had to learn to be less picky, but that was another lie.
When she first got sick, people sent casseroles all the time. Casseroles and flowers. Once we got a balloon, like it was her birthday, but it said Get Well Soon. The balloon lied too.
In haste, this one. Half memoir, half fiction. You decide which bits are which! (Clue: It’s not the topsoil)
I never understood why Mum cried at the end of movies. The characters lived happily ever after, defeated the monster or even occasionally died… I just scoffed popcorn and ran off. Mum would sit, quietly sniffing; ashamed of the tears, but unable to stop them.
Shame’s a shitty feeling, but those other emotions – relief, happiness, sadness – that spilled from her eyes, those feelings are real and pure and nobody should need to hide them behind a handkerchief or an adjustment of the glasses. These days, I can cry at an advert for topsoil. If Mum were here, we’d cry together.
When I first climbed the ladder, I thought my arms would drop off. My guide raced up and down monkey-like, but I was excited and very slightly scared. I was soon a monkey too: ascending or descending with a speaker in one hand and a loop of cable over my shoulder; in the pitch dark or the pouring rain.
They’ve put a lift in now. And you probably don’t have to climb through a window at the top. Accessibility, they call it.
Bet they can’t beat the musos to the bar at the end of a show any more, though.
This is a rare memoir from me. As a first-term student at Cambridge, I stumbled into technical theatre at the ADC. My famous peers (Rebecca Hall, Eddie Redmayne, Dan Stevens) might mostly have been on the stage, but to me, the ADC was about a small group of technicians, each of whom ran multiple shows a term, hiding in the shadows and whispering on ‘cans’.
During the show, the only access to the lighting and sound boxes, where I spent so many evenings, was up a black ladder bolted to the outside wall. The bottom was near the bar fire escape doors, handy for last-minute dashes up from the sofa to the box, and even better for a cool sharp exit before the musos could climb out of the pit. The lift is better, of course. But it post-dates me and therefore I disapprove of it on principle.