Thursday, 24 September 2015

Who remembers those long coach journeys out to Ewell for an afternoon’s sport?

Now if like me you grew up in one of the inner London boroughs the chances are that one afternoon a week you were bused out to Ewell in Surrey during term time.

I did four years and may have done a fifth although I rather think by the time I was in year 11 we could opt out.

And it was a mammoth undertaking, involving transporting a whole year group by coach from New Cross to the leafy outer suburbs which for me also meant a Saturday morning during the winter to play in the school rugby team.

It was not for me the highlight of the week, in fact it was an ordeal brought on by my inability to travel on buses, coaches and cars without feeling ill.

It began with the smell of those green coaches which the school hired which even now brings on that same uneasy feeling.

I suppose they were the newest of models and were pretty much the workhorse of the company ferrying school children to Ewell, works parties down to the sea coast and hired out to other companies.

And then as the journey got underway the heat from the engine and the smell of the leather seats mixed with an overpowering scent was enough to set me off, made no easier by the knowledge that this was it for 40 minutes only to be repeated again later in the day.

I won’t have been alone in feeling like that and I guess it was a small price to pay to get us all out to participate in a range of sporting activities.

But it does point to that simple observation that if you went to an inner city secondary school there weren’t going to be acres of green fields surrounding the school.

Back on home base we had the asphalt playground and another on the roof of the new block and that was it.

It was another of those little things that marked secondary moderns off from grammar schools.

But in that brave post War era the LCC and the Inner London Education Authority set about offering us out at Ewell something others took for granted.

Looking back I can see the wisdom of their actions even if the experience was an ordeal.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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