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Monday, 18 July 2011

Lost youth

Some of us were surprised to learn that school teachers in the UK will “for the first time” be allowed to use common sense when in charge of pupils on school trips. New guidance from the Health & Safety Executive says, “Common sense should be used in assessing and managing the risks of any activity”.

It is good to see the return of common sense to a world gone mad. But there is nothing new about it.

These days, schoolchildren get taken on trips to Berlin and Los Angeles, with hundreds of pounds of spending money. In our day we used to go youth-hostelling somewhere cold and wet in England, with ninepence in coin and a provident cheque for emergencies.

On one such trip, potholing in Derbyshire, a friend of mine met a girl called Lucy, who hailed from Birmingham. After a few days, her school party went one way, and ours another, and later in the day my friend asked our teacher if he could break away from the party and go and see his new girlfriend who, by this time, was about twenty miles away.

The teacher stroked his chin and, pointing to a ‘v’-shaped cut in the distant hills, said, “Okay, if you head for that gap, and take Hewer with you, and if you promise to be back by bedtime, you can go”. We were back by bedtime - the next day. Hopelessly lost, we had slept out all night with nothing but The Debyshire Telegraph for cover.

I have never been lost in Derbyshire since. How lovely to think, in an age when you can’t play conkers without wearing a crash-helmet, that we were allowed such freedom to lose our way. It never did us any harm.


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