Friday, 25 March 2011

The big society, 1960s

As part of some long-overdue clearing out I have come accross the log book of a hike I organised, with a female colleague and her husand, in the mid-6os during a very educative spell as a primary school teacher.

We took eight girls and eleven boys aged 10 or 11 for a five day walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales during the Whitsuntide holiday (which in those days really was held at Whit and had not morphed into the Spring Bank Holiday which we're now thinking of abolishing.) We travelled by train (a first for several children) and bus, stayed at three diferent Youth Hostels, and the total cost was £3-10s-0, which included 10/- (50p) pocket money. Participants had to pay a 10/- deposit and a "bank" was opened for weekly payment towards the balance. A discount was arranged with a local shoeshop for the purchase of "stout shoes."

In all we walked 50 miles, inculding a one day 14 mile treck from Kettlewell to Stainforth which we had expected to do at least partly by bus, but everyone seemed in good heart so we walked. We had planned for a day of rest and recuperation in the middle but were enjoying walking so much that we climbed Great Whernside
(2 310 feet)instead. The children record our many "adventures" and, perhaps surprisingly, are very enthusiastic about the food. We went to church on the Sunday and outnumbered the regular congregation. We seem to have filled in our spare time and worked off surplus energy by swimming in rivers and innumeralbe games of rounders until the boy in charge left the bat left it in the middle of a forrest.

There are no photographs in the log book as none of us had cameras, never mind moblie phones, BlackBerries or other fnacy gadgets. We did have an emergency contact list for parents. Most of these were to work-places as few people had phones in their homes. Happily most families seem to have had at least one parent in a job: unemplyment was about 250 000 compared with 2 500 000 today(plus another 2.5m on disability benefits.)

Since my female colleague's husband was unable to join us until the the second or third day for part of the time there were only two adults in charge of 19 children, a ratio which would not pass muster today. None of us had any formal qualifications in mountaineering, navigation, first aid or life-saving, none of us was CRB checked as that hadn't been intrduced, and no one had invented risk assessments. There is no record of any allergies or special dietary needs. And, of course, the whole event took place in the holdiay and none of the adults was paid: fairly typical of school "adventure" events in those days.

I do not disupte the necessity of some of the regulations which have since been introduced but I do suspect they have curbed a lot of the initiative and fun. To transfer thes reflections to another context, when businesses complain about over regulation I tend to take the view that one person's "red tape" is another's health and saftey. But maybe there is a case for being a bit more relaxed, partiularly in the case of small businesses.


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