On Friday I accompanied the lad on an excursion with his nursery. Forty exciteable little four year olds and about twenty adults toddled off on the bus to the Te Puna Quarry Park. The most enjoyable part of any trip, if you ask the children afterwards, is often the transport and this was no exception. I must admit it was mine too. Sitting on a bus gazing out of the window I cuddled up to my son while we chatted about dinosaurs, axels (we could see one turning under a lorry as we waited at traffic lights) and his main interest at the moment - what sharks and whales eat.
We whiled away a lively morning climbing on old diggers, chasing butterflies and exploring amongst the plants and flowers at the park. As we got on the bus the headteacher announced that she thought we might drop into Tauranga art gallery on our way home to look at the Lynley Dodd exhibition. I assumed I had misunderstood. Of course no one would dream of just 'dropping in' with a bus load of tired preschoolers and their frazzled mothers on a rainy Friday morning. I was wrong. New Zealanders think nothing of throwing a quick curve ball in the organisational plans and then breezily rolling with it. My stiff, English need for a more military execution of itineraries had me beading up at the hairline.
We were welcomed by one of the gallery staff who read the children a quick story by the exhibiting author then asked them to adhere to the rules of the gallery. "Keep your voices down and don't touch anything." By now the back of my t shirt was wet with panic at the prospect of keeping the children's muddy, wet fingers away from the displays and dampening their natural urge to shout and run around when placed somewhere which demands quiet.
Fortunately we got away without adding any extra illustrations to the exhibition or testing the accoustics too vigorously. Even though I am, by nature, an extremely organised person who likes to plan in advance, I loved the lesson in playing things by ear. I was also impressed at the faith the nursery teachers had in their charges to respectfully enjoy the gallery. I wonder how much I am changing living here on the other side of the world and conforming to the local norm?