After the School Trip

“Not again!” screamed his mum, “Get to your room, now! I’m going to ‘phone the head teacher.”

Danny trudged up the stairs and a tear formed in the corner of his eye as he slumped onto his bed.

“Mrs. Hardson,” said Danny’s mother. “So sorry to trouble you, but my son, Daniel, has lost his new coat on the school trip today. This will be the second one he’s lost this half term!”

A few moments later Danny heard footsteps on the stairs. His mother opened the door. “Right,” she declared, “Get your shoes on – we’ll have to go and look for it. I can’t afford to get you yet another new one.”

“But mum…” Danny began.

“Don’t you dare ‘but’ me Daniel Banks. Just put your shoes on and get to the car this instant.”

On the long drive to Southwell, Danny sat very quietly. He could not remember his mother being this cross with him ever before. The coat must have been the last straw. And it had been such a great day. The “Time Travelling” visit with his class to Southwell Minster had been wonderful. The magnificent old building decorated with fragments of coloured light shining through the beautiful stained-glass windows had filled him with awe and wonder. The fantastic carvings of plants and animals on the choir stalls, the huge stone screen and the power of the organ were experiences which would stay with him for ever…And now this!

When they arrived at Southwell, things went from bad to worse. There was no-where, absolutely no-where to park. They looked for almost half an hour and it was becoming rapidly darker. Finally, his mother reached a decision. “Right!” she announced, “I’ll have to stay here with the car – you will have to go and find your coat yourself, Danny…And get a move on!”

“Mum, please don’t make me go all alone!” Danny pleaded. But to no avail. As was pointed out to him, he had lost it himself – he would have to find it himself – his mother was not going to risk a parking fine on top of everything else.

As Danny jogged down the long stone path towards the Minster building, a few spots of rain began to fall. The first two doors he tried seemed securely locked and, with gathering gloom to match the skies above, he began to think that there would be no way in. Had everyone gone home? Was everywhere locked? Just as he was about to give up, Danny found another small oak door in a Norman arch with carvings almost as crisp as the day they were created almost 1000 years before. The latch lifted with a solid clank which seemed to echo across the surrounding graveyard. Glancing over his shoulder, Danny entered.

Everything looked so different now. There was no glow from the warm spotlights, no speckles of coloured light illuminating the floor, no cheery chattering from crowds of excited children. Silence lay like a blanket on the empty nave of the Minster which seemed ten times as big as it had earlier in the day.

Danny made his way to the choir stalls. During the car journey, he had been wracking his brain to try to remember where he had been when he had worn his coat last. He was sure that he had taken it off to try on a surplus when all the children in his group had dressed up as choir boys. But it was not where he had stood that morning. He frantically checked the other pews. As every passing minute flew by, Danny felt his heart beat more rapidly in his chest. The coat was not there. What was he going to do? He dare not return to his mother without it.

Suddenly, the Minster was filled with a flash of light and the whole building seem to be shaken by the loudest clap of thunder that Danny had ever heard. The rain began to beat on the windows sounding like impatient footsteps in the gloom which had quickly returned to the building.

Danny desperately looked around him. He wanted to be far away from here as quickly as possible. Where else could he look? Then it came to him. Lunch time. What about lunch time? Could he have left his coat in the upstairs hall? As quickly as he could, Danny mounted the narrow stone steps of the spiral staircase leading to the Great Hall. He paused at the huge oak door, studded with iron nails before opening it a crack. A sudden sound made Danny hold his breath. What was that? Footsteps? Or was it the rain again? Danny listened, squeezing his eyes tight shut as he tried to pick up the faintest clue. Someone was coming. Someone or something… And it was coming up the stairs!

Quick as a flash, Danny dodged into the Great Hall. His heart was racing and a cold shiver ran down his spine. Then he heard his name – his own name – spoken softly in a long drawn out tone echoing up to him through the stairwell. “Dan‑i‑el! Dan‑i‑el?”

Panicking, Danny turned and leaned his back to the closed door. This was just the room for ghosts. And he was trapped – there was no way out. If he ever got out of this, he would never lose his coat again in his whole life, he promised himself.

The footsteps sounded again. And they were coming really close. The clank of the latch being lifted was like a starting pistol which sent Danny sprinting to the far end of the hall. Creaking menacingly, the door slowly opened. A tall dark figure in a long black gown glided in. Danny’s face was covered in sweat. His eyes, wide and bulging with fear, were fixed on the approaching figure.

“There you are, Danny!” came a familiar voice. Then, from behind the mysterious figure, his mother appeared. “The vicar thought he saw someone come up here.”

“We’ve got your coat in ‘Lost Property’,” reported the man who, Danny could now see, was wearing a vicar’s gown.

“All’s well that ends well,” sighed Danny’s mother as she drove them both home. “I’m glad I found a parking space in the end, otherwise we’d have been there all night!” she muttered. At that thought, Danny shivered again and tears came to his eyes once again. This time though, they were tears of relief!