“I’ve got a bucket, some water, a roll of kitchen towel and some poly bags for each coach.”
The Girl Guiding leaders are halfway to frazzled and it’s only 8:15am. You are unaffected by it because there is a happy wet dog saying hello to your shins and you have a paid-for ticket to the chocolate-scented purple foil-wrapped promised land. “We’re missing two rainbows.” Says a panicked voice at 8:30am. The coach was supposed to have left fifteen minutes ago.
“Are they still coming?”
“I see them! They’ve made it!”
You hang up your damp umbrella to dry and nestle yourself into one of the window seats at the front of the coach. You wonder how many of the brownies are going to vomit and whether you’ll be the one dealing with it.
“How long is it going to take?” One of the girls asks part-way into the journey. You’re now cruising in the slow lane of the motorway. The sky is iron-grey and descending as fog on the fields of brussels sprouts beside the road, and there is a horribly cold muggy quality to the air.
“About two hours, love.” One of the leaders replies.
“Two hours? Is Birmingham in London?”
Thankfully, the poly bags and bucket go unused. As you wait in line to begin the tour, the rehearsed spiel of a purple-jacketed assistant is blared at you through loud speakers and a little train full of strange anthropomorphic chocolate eggs on a suspended set of rails makes perpetual loops of the ceiling.
“How long do we have to wait?”
“A few more minutes.” You say.
“How long is a few more minutes?”
“Count to a thousand and then we’ll probably be at the front of the queue.”
“1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … ”
Twenty minutes later, you’re being shuffled through fake jungles and replicas of Victorian high streets and not a single bit of chocolate has yet graced your mouth. Then, after a quick look in at the packaging and manufacturing portions of the factory, you spot a fellow girl guiding leader carrying a carrier bag full of Wispas. All is not lost. Photography and video are prohibited within the factory. Slugworth, Prodnose and Ficklegruber have ruined it for everyone- though in all honesty, there isn’t much to photograph.
Much to your surprise, the chocolate in the giftshop is not extortionately expensive; in fact, it is a little cheaper than in the shops, and there is even a dedicated room full of cheap bulk sweets and bags of misshapes. You load up with bars of yet unreleased Marvellous Creations and remind some of the girls that they have only brought £5 and therefore cannot buy that £10 notepad. At the end of the tour, the rainbows and the brownies are given an hour to exhaust themselves on the climbing equipment at the back of the factory, and you decide to walk to Bournville model village.
Developed to house the large number of workers at the factory, Bournville village has since become ‘one of the nicest places to live in England’. As pioneers of good working conditions, including the implementation of one of the first pension schemes and a five and a half day working week (which the factory tour was eager to highlight), the Cadbury family built large houses with gardens for their workers and encouraged them to take up sports. Land was purchased to create cricket and football pitches, swimming baths were built and all were available free of cost. Bournville is a nice example of the quaint British country village. There are a few places to buy picnic supplies, and the carillon provides a fitting soundtrack.
The coach will depart for London at 4pm. You leave the village at 3:30pm to rejoin the group.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” You ask one of the girls. She’s playing with a personalised keychain torch. “Did you manage to find your name?”
“Did you pick one with your initial on it then?”
“I just picked my favourite name.” She says sheepishly.
You take a look. “I think Lisa is one of my favourite names too.” You say.
The sun is shining and your umbrella has dried by the time you return to London. The leader who organised the trip swoops in to give you a thank you kiss, right as your face stretches into a yawn.