Thursday 15 August 2019

Ailwee Caves

Am still editing my semi-bio novel so Here's a short extract giving you a feel for school trips with tricky students....I'm sure a lot of you have been there...on one side or the other


“Miss, where’s sir?” asks Maeve as the group lines up in the courtyard for the day’s outing.
 “Mr. MacFadden has been called away unexpectedly so I will divide you into two groups instead of three.”
 “Miss, are we going to the caves today?”
 “You are, and I want no messing, Johnny Dolan.”
 “Miss, why did Mr. Mac have to go anyway?”
 “We leave in five minutes,” says Carol Scully gesturing to Annie for a word. “I’ll take the boys and you have the girls, Annie.”
 “What? In a co-ed school? No, let’s just do it alphabetically.”
 Annie’s group turn out to be a motley crew, but with Corr gone and Madden not included Annie is hopeful that most disasters can be averted.      
They arrive at the Ailwee Caves before 10.30am where a rash of students invade the souvenir shop and several head straight for crisp and chocolate bar dispensers.
 “We can expect the adrenals to get a shock after all that wholesome vegan hostel food. Slow carbs goodbye!” says Annie.
“You can only walk one abreast, and mind the slippery pathways,” warns the guide, a second year geography student on Easter holidays from UCD. He begins his speel about stalactites and stalagmites to the usual lurid suggestions that pillars and columns look like great big dicks. Puerile humour, would they ever outgrow it? Holiday in and out, Richard Roche listens to this banter. The girls giggle, the boys mouth on, until he turns off the lights and warns of a possible failure in electrical connections and the possibility that they might have to remain silent in the cave for a few hours, as any unnecessary sound could cause rocks to loosen and walls to collapse. After a few disbelieving guffaws they usually quieten down and he treats them to a lecture on crystallization, surface erosion, grikes and clints, underground water systems and permeability. Once concluded the lights will miraculously return and he will suggest a speedy and orderly retreat while the window of opportunity lasts. He is doing them a favour, and the teachers are always grateful.
 “Miss, I’m claustrophobic,” someone screams only a few minutes after the lights fail. This is followed by a frantic scuffling and pushing that sends one student hurtling through the rope barrier. When the lights return Johnny Dolan is spotlighted hugging the massive limestone pillar. The self diagnosed victim of claustrophobia stands over him with a camera. One student is taking swipes at descending stalactites that have taken decades to grow an inch and Richard Roche has no option but to push the emergency button. Sirens wail, lights brighten and a loud speaker requests that the group proceed immediately to the nearest exit. There is a stampede; more ropes are transgressed and when Annie finally arrives back into the reception area with all bodies accounted for she is greeted by the director of the centre informing her that Seapoint High will never be admitted entrance to Ailwee caves again.
Everyone is subdued on the way back in the coach to the Bog Hostel Centre.
 “Jaysus, Miss, the place was freezin’ anyway,” Johnny Dolan attempts to console.
 “Mr. Doyle will not be impressed with this,” she quips back.
 “Besides, Johnny,” complains Maeve, “I didn’t even get to see anything.”    
 Sobbing starts and the body of students that had not had the opportunity to misbehave inside the caves make their grievances heard at the top of their lungs.
 “Would yous ever shut it!” declares one of the H.Dips. “MacDonald’s in Gort if I don’t hear another word out of yous!”
 An uneasy silence takes over the bus and Annie's thoughts roam onto the possibility of venturing out into an alternative career. Her discipline is non existent; maybe she could try map making or road surveying, anything but teaching. Tears cloud Annie’s vision now as a road sign alerts her to the proximity of Gort and the predictable ordeal of 4D creating havoc in MacDonald’s.                    

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