Organising the annual coach outing is one of the hardest tasks involved in my role.
Choosing a venue is not simple. It has to be within a reasonable driving distance, not have been visited in previous outings, be open on one of our closed days, and belong to our same organisation so we don't have to pay an entrance fee.
Next, I have to invite all the volunteers. I put up a poster near the kettle where they are most likely to notice it. I send each volunteer a letter with precise details - where we are going, when the coach departs and where from, and a date by which I need to know whether they are coming or not.
I will then spend the next few weeks having interchanges like the following:
"Are we having a coach trip this year?"
"Yes. Yes we are. I sent you a letter."
"So, it's half past nine at the car park then?"
"Nine. It's nine o'clock from the car park."
"Oh, why'd you have it on that day? I can't go!"
"Right, I'll order a smaller coach."
"Can I bring a friend/partner/relative?"
"Right, I'll phone the coach company and order the bigger coach again."
"Can I get picked up from a special place, convenient to me?"
"Sorry, we're leaving from the car park at nine and no other pick up points."
"I'm not coming now."
"Damn it, I could have stuck with the smaller coach."
All in all, it is a stressful experience. On the morning of this year's trip I carefully checked I had everything I needed before I left the house to drive the one and a half miles up to the estate car park, from where the coach would depart. I had my big box of sweeties to pass around the coach on the journey, my spare volunteer cards for those who might have forgotten their own, my payment for the coach and my clipboard and pen, for ensuring all those who were coming were ticked off as they got on board so no one was unwittingly left behind.
My daughter and her boyfriend were coming on the trip too, since she works as a seasonal staff member on the estate and he volunteers. I set the alarms, locked the door, bundled them into the car and set off. As we arrived in the car park I felt a glow of satisfaction. I was here, in good time, and well organised. I was cool and unflustered.
"I can't remember if I switched off my hair straighteners," my daughter suddenly announced.
"Oh, God, really?"
"I'm not sure. I think I did. I usually do. But I can't remember if I actually did."
We stared at each other with mirrored expressions of angst.
"Right. Get back in the car."
There was a swift, atmosphere laden drive back down to the house.
I pulled up outside the door with a crunch of gravel. My daughter ran into the house, thudded up the stairs and into her room. She returned, equally as swiftly.
"They were switched off."
There was a swift, atmosphere laden drive back up the coach.
I arrived for the second time a good ten minutes late and with a definite air of fluster about me.
The day itself went entirely smoothly from the point onwards, I am pleased to say, and we all had a most enjoyable day out. I have only now begun to relax though, now it's all over. And already they are asking me, "where are we going next year?"