At the Extravaganza

The threat of rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds that had gathered for Bedford Prep School‘s Summer Extravaganza. This annual event is the time when all the pupils at the school get the chance to conceive and construct their own stands and stalls offering games, baked treats, activities and challenges, with all the proceeds going to the school’s own nominated charities that year.

Pursued by excited shouts of “It’s Squiffy!” from some of the boys who must have been paying attention during my presentation earlier in the week, I gently eased our expedition van through the mingling punters and parked her up underneath the School’s climbing wall.

Opening the van and raising the roof, I spent a very rewarding few hours explaining about the expedition to boys and their parents, answering people’s questions and demonstrating the marvels of Squiffy’s rock-and-roll bed.

squiffyattheextravaganza

Special mention must be made of ten year old George, who bounded into the van at the first opportunity and listened intently to my early guided tours. Once he had satisfied himself that he was sufficiently briefed on the details of the both the van and the expedition, he politely reassured me that I could safely chat to boys and parents outside the van while he conducted tours and expertly answered people’s questions from within. I have to pay tribute also to his sterling work with the Cancer Research UK charity tin, as I’m sure that he was personally responsible for the vast majority of the donations received that day!

Thanks to the generosity of the boys and their parents, a further 37 pounds and 73 pence was raised for Cancer Research UK which was wonderful, especially considering that the boys’ own stalls and exhibits at the Extravaganza were all raising money for the School’s own nominated charities.

Thanks to everyone who came to look at Squiffy and offered words of encouragement and support. Thanks to all the boys who climbed up to have a look inside, and to everyone who gave something for CRUK. My only regret was that due to the interest in Squiffy I didn’t manage to get a chance to have a proper look around at the Extravaganza, although I did see what looked like an ingenious hamster racing course on display which had drawn a large crowd of cheering punters. I have fond memories of the times when it was my friends and I who were painstakingly constructing and dutifully manning the stalls arranged around the school’s playing fields.

To wrap up, I just wanted to offer some words of reassurance to the lad who sat open-mouthed in Squiffy, staring all around him and asked me “How will you manage without a telly?” We’ll cope, I promise!

Back to school

Following the article about the London2Sydney expedition in Bedford’s Times & Citizen newspaper, we’ve received a number of messages from well-wishers and several donations to CRUK. It’s always nice to receive messages of support and especially nice to know that the expedition is succeeding in its aim of raising money for CRUK.

One phone call I received was certainly a pleasant surprise: the voice on the end of the phone was that of Phillip Lewis, a teacher at Bedford Preparatory School, who once upon a time had the dubious honour of teaching me history. Having read about the expedition in the paper, Mr Lewis was calling to invite me to come and address the school at their Wednesday morning assembly. I was delighted and honoured to accept and so, on Wednesday morning, armed with a slide show of images of scenes along our route, I clambered into Squiffy and made my way through Bedford back to my old school.

It is a strange experience visiting a place that has filled your head with so many memories. It is an even stranger experience drinking coffee with some of your former teachers in the once-mysterious and forbidden realm of the school staff room!

Mr Lewis and I teamed up to give an interview-style presentation, and me the opportunity to give the boys some more information about the expedition. It was a delight to see so many keen faces! Once especially keen boy even approached me afterwards to enquire about the address of the expedition website!

As chance would have it, next Saturday is the day of Bedford Prep School’s Summer Extravaganza, an annual event which sees the boys of the school, including the inevitable but eternally popular “throw a wet sponge at a teacher” stall. Mr Lewis asked me if I would like to bring Squiffy along to the event, show her to the boys and try and raise some more money for CRUK. I was delighted to accept his invitation, so next weekend, Squiffy will be performing her first public engagement!

I thoroughly enjoyed coming back to visit the school and speak to the boys, and would like to thank Phillip Lewis for giving me the opportunity of doing so. A full report on Squiffy’s trip to the Extravaganza will be up after the weekend!

Quick note: There’s more about Andy’s visit to Bedford Prep School in this news article on the School’s own website!