A Story of Mostly Not Riding A Camel
Ok, so here goes. The Camel. Or, if this were a Victorian novel:
The Camel: A Tale Of Anguish, Woe and Humiliation Concerning H And His Mother And Half Of His Elementary School And, I Think, Quite A Few Of Middle School Too.
As background it is useful for you to know that I don’t like riding animals. Apparently there was an incident on a seaside donkey at Skegness when I was very little and, since then, they bring me out in a cold sweat. Even thinking about it, as I’m typing now, my stomach is churning. I think it’s because they move once you’re on them. For some reason (I know, I know) I wasn’t expecting that. I have been on animals. I went all the way to Patagonia and I was damned if I wasn’t going to do the obligatory pony trek across the national park. However mine was very different from most as, having had a near breakdown when brought within a metre of my horse, I was put on Pinto, the slowest horse in the world and then (the ultimate humiliation) on a leading rein with a chap walking in front. Even then it took a good while before I’d open my eyes.
I’ve been on an elephant (it didn’t move very quickly either) and on a camel but only successfully when sitting behind my husband hanging on for dear life. I sat in front of him once and hated it so much I threw myself off the top halfway through the trek (the camel was about 2 metres high and still walking. It could have been running for all I cared – I was pretty single minded) and walked the rest of the way home.
So, March 21st was Pakistan Day at H’s school. It was lovely. There were these chaps:
And there was a wagon you could sit in and be pulled by oxen, and face painting, and delicious Pakistani food, and beautiful Pakistani crafts and inflatable helium guitars – pretty much everything that makes Pakistan special and wonderful for children.
And there was a camel. The idea was that you queued for the camel up a set of steps about 6 foot wide and high and the camel would be brought to you. Without it having to kneel down you could climb onto the beast from the top of the stairs, go for a quick shuftie round the garden and clamber off again. Doesn’t it sound easy? Piece of cake. Piece of b***** cake.
I have to admit that I was hoping H wouldn’t be bothered. He’s inherently cautious and there was a large part of me screaming inwardly “It’s a 2 metre high beast with bad teeth and a grumpy attitude. You don’t want to get on it. It’s got long legs. It could take off at a gallop at a moment’s notice. Why would you put yourself on top of it? Why? WHY?????”
“Please can we go on the camel?” asked H, as soon as he saw me.
“Of course, that’ll be fun!” I said.
And so we started to queue. There wasn’t really a queue when we started. However:
1. I’m British. I queue. That is what I do.
2. I’m a mother with a 3 year old in the midst of much older children.
Within, oh, about 10 seconds there was an orderly queue. It didn’t stop people attempting to push past to get to the top of the stairs. I say ‘attempting’. They didn’t do it twice.
So, having stood for 20 minutes waiting patiently for our turn, and standing in the midst of a crowd of pupils who were just waiting for me to get off before they could form their usual orderly mob, the camel arrived.
A diagram is necessary here:
I’m quite chuffed with this. Easily pleased?
We put H on top of the camel. He instantly started crying. As you can see, the top of the camel is quite pointy. It’s also rather a long way from the top of the steps. But my child is crying and needs me and I have to get on the camel. But the camel is a good metre away from the top of my steps and I’m the least agile person in the world. I try to fling a leg in the direction of the camel, but I’m shaking so hard I can barely stand up. It’s a camel. I hate camels. But my child is still crying and really needs me. I’m shouting at the man with the camel to bring it closer to the top of the steps. Have you ever tried to move a camel sideways? It doesn’t really work.
(At this point I realise that a crowd is beginning to form. Quite a few of the elementary teachers and the PE staff have arrived, as well as the drivers of the wagons and some passing students.)
I quickly calculate that the camel is closer to the top of the other set of steps, which is packed with children some of whom were standing on my set of steps and who left when my officious queueing system became too much. I don’t care. My child is still crying and has now been lifted off the camel onto the top of the other set of steps. I race down my steps and, displacing small people as I go, canter up the other set of steps.
(The crowd is getting ever bigger. People have started shouting ‘helpful’ comments and I think, somewhere, someone has started selling tickets.)
At the top of the steps is my sobbing pile of a child who has, let’s remember, spent the last 20 minutes being VERY excited about his camel ride. I asked him if he still wanted to get on, if I was on first. “Yes,” he said. “Oh no” I thought.
So now I’m shaking like a leaf but with an audience of, well, it’s no exaggeration to say it was now approaching the thousands, I had to go through with it. With shouts of encouragement from the head of PE and the headmistress of the Elementary School, I throw myself across the abyss and land, rather untidily, on top of the camel. Summoning a smile from I have absolutely no idea where, I turn to H and hold out my hands for him to climb across. As the chap at the top of the stairs lifts him, he starts to kick his legs and screams “No, no, no, no, no!”. Bad timing, H. If only you could have done that a few minutes before.
We decide that camel-riding is off for that day. H is passed down to my friend (also a teacher at the school who had brought her entire class to witness the commotion). I’m now stuck on the camel. It took a leap to get on. I hadn’t a clue how to get off. And have I mentioned that I’m wibbling like a jelly? I’ve blanked quite a lot of what happened next but I think it took 2 camel trainers, the head of PE and a healthy dose of adrenalin to transport me from up high to down low.
“I didn’t like it, Mummy,” H said, unnecessarily. “Don’t worry,” I said, “maybe another day?” (when your father is here and I can stand at the bottom holding coats and shouting encouragement, I didn’t add.)