The activity of spending any amount of time living in a tent is not, it’s safe to say, a popular Jewish pastime. Even when the Jewish people left Egypt they dwelt in ready-made Channel huts with a roof of branches, donned with plastic fruit and party decorations, and a piñata in the shape of the Pharaoh’s head. So the thought of camping, and having to put up your own tent, was as appealing as a kale and marzipan milkshake. Nonetheless many Alma families embraced it, (the camping not the milkshake), and spent a wonderful weekend in a field in Essex.
We were on the edge of the Epping Forest so surroundings were tranquil, lush and green but with any event in June you can expect rain, and lots of it. So true to form it rained throughout. However the Alma spirit was not broken and a campsite built on kindness sprung up. We had all manner of tents – from the deluxe with a spa, cinema room and basement excavation to the downright pathetic.
After some furious tent erecting and settling in, Alma families enjoyed a collective Kabbalat Shabbat and Friday night dinner, sitting around a campfire reminiscing about the Moss Hall Grove days and singing about being a free people, and settled in our own school. The atmosphere was jovial and spirits high, though soon came the rain and retreat into the main marquee. A midnight walk followed in the moonlit forest was well attended, with many kids able to join parents, to help them keep up.
On Saturday morning, some enjoyed time in the adjoining heated outdoor swimming pool while others watched videos of Miss Weldon’s phonics class. Not wanting to miss Coronation Street on Friday, more families arrived on Saturday and after lunch a parents verses children football match took centre stage. Naturally the parents let the children win, it wasn’t of course that the children were better, fitter and more focused, honestly it wasn’t. A range of activities followed, including arts and crafts and various ball games which brought boys and girls from all classes together - was so refreshing to see aristocracy intermingling with the proletarians. That evening families did their own barbeques, or joined others.
The biggest downpour came on Saturday night, after most were tucked up and sleeping, but being the wandering school we took it in our stride, after all we are a close-knit community brought together after being banished from two sites.
Sunday morning, stories about the previous night’s storms could be heard over bagels and rainwater. Then came the big pack up. It was a truly superb weekend and enjoyed by all; it took us all away from the hustle and bustle and brought people together, showing what a wonderful and cohesive community we are. Of course some serious organisation and hard work came into it – a big thank you to Paul Morris, Alexis Steadman and Becca Fetterman and everyone who helped make it happen.
Until next year – we’ll be four classes with great intentions!
By Jonny Paul