On Thursday of the first week back after the Easter holidays, after quite some deliberation and discussion, the Lycée finally decided to let me go on a school trip with the class I take at the collège down the road. Unfortunately, this meant that my teacher-in-charge was in a rather grumpy mood all week as she didn't want to let me go…but the go-ahead was given anyway and so it was that I had a rather out of the ordinary week that looked something like this:
Sunday: 5am –left 'home' and took the usual two metros up to the school, where were gathered 47 13-year-olds with their parents. Ticked pupils on list, reminded that they mustn't have forgotten their ID cards (one or two had). Waited. Waited some more. Bus "delayed by an accident". Eventually left just after 7.30am. Caught the shuttle anyway. Arrived at supermarket car park, Walderslade, only a quarter of an hour later than scheduled. Met Ana, our host-family coordinator was waiting. Matched children with host families. Went home with host (and other three teachers). Marvelled at tacky decor of house. Laughed at twee water feature in garden. Ate spaghetti bolognese. Wrote emails to relevant persons saying had arrived, and in Denise's case that she'd left the alarm clock on 04:30.
Monday: 07:00 got up, had breakfast (the tea, when a pot requested, came in a cafetiere), took packed lunches, filled water bottles (at tap, to disgust of french teachers).
08.15 ticked students off list. All happy with families. Onto bus. To Brighton. Misty. Cold.
10.30 Brighton Pavilion
12.15 Picnic in the drizzle
13.00 Discover museum shut, is Monday. Go straight to Sea Life centre.
15.00 Leave Sea Life centre for The Lanes. "Free time" shopping, in my case with Olivia, who didn't want to be with the other boys and girls.
16.00 Rendez-vous and walk to the Pier. Three girls fail to report in, but later return having taken no notice of the meeting time.
17.00 Bus. Takes us round the houses. Gets lost down a country road. Takes the wrong exit off the motorway. Fails to identify "Dover" as the appropriate direction. Eventually return to car park half an hour late. Begin to wonder whether to take bus drivers seriously, given incapability with map.
21.00 Teachers and bus drivers go out to pub in Walderslade (not the world's best, but not as bad a place as hosts gave us to believe). Discover bus driver who can't read a map is actually a Boulanger-Patissier and knows all about custard…
Tuesday to London. First problems with families: two boys not only sharing a bed but also left at car park (alone) at 7.30 am. Otherwise, all fine and we're straight up the A2 so we can't get lost (also have borrowed decent, if out of date, road atlas from Steve). Hit traffic (no surprises there). 11am arrive at Natural History Museum. Fab! Not enough time to explore it properly though, picnic and out again by 13.15.
14.00 Visit Cabinet War rooms. Second girl declares she has lost her camera. One boy (a wonderful little genius nicknamed "king Arthur") is on the verge of tears because, once again, we don't have time to see everything.
15.30 Walk (via Whitehall, where they find a mouse and we almost manage to lose several students. Lots of "keep moving!" "Don't go in the road!") to Covent Garden. Free time (=tea and Ben's cookies) until 16.45
16.55 All 51 of us ready and waiting on the Strand. Coach has been parked on parallel embankment road for past two and a half hours and is due to come past here at 17.00 to collect us.
17.10 ring coach. Are at Charing Cross (c. 300 yards)
17.20 still no sign of coach. Ring again. "Can see Nelson's Column." "Lots of traffic". Begin to smell a rat.
17.30 Exasperated, ring again. "Can't get out of Trafalgar Square." Cannot believe it. Begin to wonder whether we should give up and take the train!
17.40 Coach finally turns up. No sooner have we sat down than it takes a left turn. I open the map, find where we are and am dismayed to discover they have this time chosen to head North. Twenty minutes later, we are back on the right road. *Phew*. Phone to say we will be late, again.
Wednesday to Cambridge. Bus driver tries to convince me he wants to take "the bridge not the tunnel". Explain patiently that we will be taking one in each direction. Eventually understands. Good journey. Arrive at 10.30 am, do my bit of guiding up Silver Street to market, free time until 12.15 (stop by Pa's office to dump a few bits and bobs I no longer need in France). Picnic on Launderess Green where we admire the black swan and put up with a little rain.
14.00 Guided tour with blue badge guides begins. I am with Danielle and the european class, who are having their tour in English. Mélanie forgot to take her medicine that morning and is about to be sick. By Trinity she can't go on, so we go to the warm cosiness of King's coffee shop where she recovers.
15.30 Free time again, until 16.45. Back to coach. Only then do I think I should have been pro-active and organised to take them inside a college. Never mind, they liked the place so they are bound to come back. And at least I made sure they understood what a college is, which is more than can be said for most tourists.
19.00 arrive, half an hour early. Last families don't turn up until nearly 8pm, *then* teachers want to go to supermarket to purchase English goodies. End up arriving at house rather late. Dinner has been waiting. Naughty us. (Not that the family ate with us, so no real problem).
Thursday to Greenwich. A good day, but pity about the weather and shortness of time.
10.45 Free time to explore Greenwich 'village'. Hand out punishment of 50 lines "I must not spit" to silly little boy who has already written 100 such for Danielle.
11.15 Boat from Greenwich to the Tower. Picnic in St Katharine's Dock.
12.45 Visit Tower of London.
14.00 Leave Tower, half the group is bored the other half upset that they have not nearly seen everything yet.
14.20 Boat back to Greenwich. Punishment by now has reached 150 lines.
15.00 Greenwich Maritime Museum (=teachers' tea time). An exciting museum well worth a visit another time!
16.00 Walk to the Observatory, examine the Meridian. Explain concept of meridian countless times.
17.00 Coach. Don't think about timing. Should have had extra time in Greenwich Park! Arrive back at Walderslade an hour early. Take half the group to play football in local park with local chavs.
19.45 Last families turn up to collect kids. Home for dinner
21.00 Pub with Ana (a different pub this time).
Friday journey home. A few students express particular sadness at having to leave. Onto coach at 8.30 am, supposedly with two picnics but we, and some of the kids, only have one. Boat at 11am. Bad boy steals other boy's wallet just as we get onto ferry. Waste whole trip trying to sort out this mess, and eat lunch. Very unimpressed teachers. Mark competition I had set on the journey out and hand out prizes. Is hot in France. Bus drivers are stressed, especially once they manage to go the wrong way even on a French motorway! Wallet thankfully is returned. Return exhausted students to their teachers at 23.30. End of fun but shattering week! Sad to leave students and great bunch of teachers–but will see them again before I leave– the teachers have promised they are going to introduce me to snails…