It’s my birthday today. Hurray!

There have always been lots of advantages to having a birthday at this time of year, and this was especially true when I was a kid.

One reason was my birthday was often either close to or actually on the day of the annual school trip. It was like the trip was one of my presents.

As I write some of our destinations now - Poole, Brownsea Island, Bovington Tank Museum - the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.

I’m not even sure children get to go on school trips these days, but even if they do, I suspect they have lost their magic, and are not the huge treat they were for us.

It’s not as if we otherwise didn’t get out much when we were kids. As our dad was a railway worker who enjoyed free travel, including abroad, we were blessed with some unforgettable holidays.

But there was something special about the school trip and spending the whole day out with all your classmates. And the pleasure was doubled because it was on a school day, so we were, technically, skipping lessons.

In life, the journey is often better than the destination, and when I recall my old school trips, the first thing that comes to mind is being on that coach.

For weeks beforehand we wondered who would end up in the prime seats, which were either the five at the back or my preference, which were those at the front, by the driver.

In theory it was down to luck, but the teacher would often commandeer the front, much to our annoyance, or else - even worse - it would be allocated to Angela, to stop her getting travel sick.

Only later did I wonder if Angela truly did have travel sickness, or if it was her clever ploy to bag the best seat. And - if so - why didn’t we think of it?

I also vividly remember the coach stopping en route one year, so we could get out and buy some sweets and bottles of pop.

One of my mates bought some Dandelion & Burdock, and because I had never heard of it before, it seemed the most exotic drink imaginable, and it was almost as if it had been invented for the school trip. So I loved it, even though, if you gave me a bottle now, I wouldn’t know whether to drink it or rub it on my chest.

Not all school trips went smoothly.

One year we were excited to go to Bourton-on-the-Water, and I remember being extremely proud to be wearing my new watch, which I had just been given as a birthday present.

So when the teacher asked if any children had a watch, my hand shot up, eager to show it off.

What I didn’t realise was I was volunteering to lend it to her, because she had forgotten hers, so I spent the whole day watchless, worrying that she would forget to return it.

Despite this, those days out were undoubtedly the happiest of all my school days and - crucially - also the most inspiring.

It is sad to think our children and grandchildren have been born into an era when school is mostly geared towards teaching them to pass pointless exams, and some parents are actually fined for taking them out of humdrum lessons and on trips that show them the real world, as if that is a crime.

This column doesn’t give me nearly enough space to convey the full adventure and wonder of our school trips, but I can say this: they were easily the best birthday presents I will ever have.