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In Good Company: It's Bad Luck To Breathe Under A Bridge

...On normal school mornings I often see children drifting towards school with an ice lolly trickling down one paw and a packet of crisps in the other. To counteract travel sickness, eating on the bus is strictly forbidden.

Within half an hour withdrawal symptoms are rife. It’s amazing how quickly happily flushed expressions can evaporate, leaving that deathly glow no pill can remove...

Enid Blackburn tells of an outing to a country hall.

To enable lucky volunteer helpers to get down to some serious commando training, we usually receive our first school trip warning straight after Christmas.

Last Wednesday, mid enthusiastic cheers from the stay-at-homes, our trusty driver, Jean, swung our tropically-heated coach on to the main road. We each folded our two packed meals into the luggage rack and settled down for our first stop – Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.

On normal school mornings I often see children drifting towards school with an ice lolly trickling down one paw and a packet of crisps in the other. To counteract travel sickness, eating on the bus is strictly forbidden.

Within half an hour withdrawal symptoms are rife. It’s amazing how quickly happily flushed expressions can evaporate, leaving that deathly glow no pill can remove. The pale green were assembled nearest the bucket, while the rest continued trying out various hand signals on surprising tolerant lorry drivers.

A small brain behind was bursting with statistics. ‘There are 71 lightning conductors between here and Manchester. It’s bad luck to breathe under a bridge,’ and in the middle of the M62, ‘Please miss, Andrew wants a toilet.’

We arrived at the extremely well preserved Elizabethan mansion and the sick were quickly persuaded back to life. Built about 1460 it started out as a smaller house, but in 1559 the Moreton’s decided to extend - I know the feeling. A well-maintained and unusually glamorous female showed us around this intriguing piece of history.

The children had been previously crammed with facts by teacher and continuously buzzed about the ‘long gallery,’ a feature also added later and used as an exercise chamber for the ladies and a sort of play pen for the children. These galleries were show-off symbols only affordable by the multi-wealthy.

Our friendly guide asked a question and the genned-up were immediately struck to idiocy. Their stares were so vacant you would have thought she had lapsed into Latin. In the private chapel she told us lovely little details regarding tapestry kneelers embroidered by a local Women’s Institute. ‘You’ve all heard about Women’s Institutes,’ she encouraged. She might have been referring to an alien planet – reception was so mute. Carved initials in an upstairs chamber caused speculation until our guide explained they were 20th century workmen’s not Tudor.

Our charges looked exceptionally intelligent when someone said ‘Shop,’ and they were soon cashing pound notes like they were going out of fashion.

I indulged in some quiet meditation in the pebbled courtyard. Elizabethan ladies certainly led a workless life. Walking in the long room on wet days, sewing tapestry in the withdrawing room after dinner. The house was so spacious one could imagine ghostly voices from the past.

‘Where’s your mother – again?’ ‘Does anyone know what a guardrobe is?’ Our cheery speaker pointed to an outside wall. ‘There were 16 along here, once.’ This ignorance was embarrassing. I could almost visualise the guards hanging their armour on coat hangers in the little allotted guardrobes. ‘This was the word for Tudor toilets,’ we ignorant were informed.

In the grounds are elevated mounds where the Moretons could stand and survey all the surrounding countryside. A particular hazard for the recalcitrant swag-bellied when dynamic teacher was forming her after lunch rounders' team. Happily some of us were excused games, even without a note.

My favourite quote of the day – from a sweet little blonde who stroked my greying locks and said quite seriously: ‘You’re growing some dark hair aren’t you?’ Magic!

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