Everything in a museum tells stories of lives very different but also very similar to our own. This is the first part in a story showing a bit of what those lives were like, and demonstrating how interesting any object from the past can be if you imagine being there.
You try to hold back a yawn – unsuccessfully. Miss Sanders turns around, throwing the empty whiteboard marker into the bin as she says, ‘Oh dear. I do hope I’m not boring you.’
The class titters. Everyone likes Miss Sanders, whether she’s peppering sentences with cringy puns in English or showing videos of things blowing up in Science. But History just isn’t your cup of tea, even with Miss Sanders drawing armies on the board. It makes no difference to you who won the Battle of Wherever, or what Tudor houses were like. It’s all been and gone. It’s just random facts about people who died long before you were born.
You shake your head, trying to look extra-alert as you scribble something down. This is the last lesson of the day and you keep glancing at the clock as the long minutes wind down. When the bell finally rings you hurry to be on your way, but – ‘could I talk to you for a moment?’
You and Miss Sanders are on your own in the classroom. You can hear everyone else swarming through the corridor and out. It’s a sunny afternoon, beams of light shooting through the window, painting golden stripes on the desks.
‘I used to not like history much, too,’ she says. You’re not sure what you’re supposed to say. ‘But I came to realise that it’s all around us, and if you learn to see it, you start to understand that the past isn’t separate from us. Because time is a continuous stream, and we just happen to be at one part of it.’
‘I… don’t understand.’
‘We are going to be history to the future, aren’t we? Henry VIII didn’t see himself as historical. He was in his present, yes? And the past is hidden in the present, not separate from it.’
‘I… I guess. Um, you’re being really confusing Miss.’
She rummages in her bag, dumping keys and sweets and a toy penguin on the desk before finding what she wants. It’s something about the size and shape of a banana with loads of dials and buttons and a green light shining on one end. ‘Well, you’ll only see what crazy old Miss Sanders is banging on about if I show you, I suppose. Time for a field trip.’
‘A field trip?’ You begin to worry that she’s lost her marbles. ‘Aren’t there supposed to be permission slips and-’
‘Oh, no need for that. We won’t be going far,’ she says, fiddling with the banana. ‘Depending what you mean by “distance”, I suppose…’ she mutters as the green light flashes.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Where? We’re not going anywhere. Better to ask, “when” are we going?’
She pulls a switch on the banana, and the green light flares, pulling you into a spiralling tornado of light.