St. Michaels School Blog
It’s almost 1:00am now and we are finished for the day. As we are packing up in the my, which will be an interesting activity for many - trying to collect all their own belonging and close the case - therefore there will be no updates. We will send a ParentMail once we pass Dartford to give you a more accurate arrival time.
Finally, the time had come that many had been looking forward to for months while others had been dreading. It was a time to ascertain which group the children belonged to… “Adrenaline Junkies”, “Brave Souls” or “Cautious Colins".
It all began with a bag check upon entry to the park and then another large lunch on the grass. A quick clear up of empty wrappers and then one teacher took the A-Team to the far side of the park to find the main ride - Triops. There were a few faces within that particular group you would not expect to see but they forged forwards and surprised everyone, including themselves. One particular girl shone above all others; she rode every single extreme ride possible. This particular girl could possibly be the quietest member of the year group but amazed all around her, adults and children alike. She cared not who she would be seated next to as long as it meant that she would be on first.
Meanwhile, the B-Team were determined not to be labelled wimps and quickly (yet nervously) followed suit. These brave few double checked their seat belts and safety bars until there was no time to check anymore and they were shot skywards. Screams could be heard across the entire park and it's a shame the prevailing wind was not in our favour otherwise you would have been able to share this pleasure with us. One young lad (wearing his brand new shoes all ready for the meal later tonight) even decided to immediately repeat the experience by rejoining the queue as soon as he was able to find his legs again.
The C-Team were very much slow burners with a couple deciding to just sit back and watch/listen to the rest of the school scream and shout their way around the park. Despite this, the majority of the team found their courage and gradually levelled up through the attractions. “That was my first ever rollercoaster ride,” one proudly declared about the caterpillar ride they had shared with some locals over half their size. This was quickly superseded by the Big Wheel, The Raft (fondly renamed the plughole) and then even Famous Jack. Unfortunately, time can play cruel tricks and before they were able to conquer the Triops it was time to head back to the coach.
No matter which group they started in, by the end they all felt like warriors.
Our cunning back-up plan involved finding a large expanse of sand and again playing. The usual child-friendly activities began without incident. Annoyingly, the sand did tend to get everywhere but fortunately one of the staff turned out to be a dab hand at polishing the feet of one chap, even getting between the toes and finishing with a flourish.
Suddenly, within quick succession one child had a run in with a vicious crab which took offence at being man-handled so fought back, sinking its pincers deep into his palm. From a tiny flesh wound, poured an endless stream of blood; well, a few drops but that doesn’t sound as dramatic.
The other incident of note was the discovery of a half-eaten, soggy football that had been hidden / lost amongst the rocks by a previous owner who probably realised it had past its best. The finders began a simple kick around but then, from across the vast wasteland of the beach, the Testosterone Boys spotted this spherical object and raced elegantly towards it like moths to a light. Within seconds, the finders were overrun by those who really know how to play but they were unfazed.
Having worked up a real appetite, after all, they had listened earlier, we felt the need for ice-cream. Despite the fact that turning right from the beach would have had us arrive within 5 minutes, for some reason we went left. On a positive, we did see the whole of the town and top up our tans but arrived a further 25 minutes later. However, the ice-creams were large and offered in a plethora of flavours.
Such delights as: candy floss (also called bubble gum by the children), violet, coconut, speculoos? as well the more popular salted caramel, mint choc chip and vanilla.
Children arrived for breakfast in a relaxed manner, being calm and considerate of the other hotel users. We had advised them to go easy on the carbs as they would be collecting a croissant and pain aux chocolat from the bakery later in the morning. Off we set, ready to split up for the first time this week into the two classes.
Unfortunately, the baker was unwell and was unable host us. It was annoying that they had failed to inform us but rather let this ruin the day, we formulated another plan.
While the cogs whirred, one child who really had looked forward to seeing the bakery had his own private visit. This simply entailed walking down the road for a quick peer into the window and couple of photos and all was well again.
From the number of comments you've made - they have all been read and most shared - you are really enjoying this. We don't want to disappoint but tonight's nearly didn't happen as the WIFI has been a nightmare today.
Before the football frenzie, we had an improved evening meal in terms of table etiquette and then things just improved from there. Four options were offered: table tennis championships, basketball, watching the game and a wonderfully intriguing scavenger hunt.
Normal rules were played by to begin with in both the basketball and table tennis, but bonus points were soon introduced as one girl decided to lean over the side of the table so became fair game. Basketball teams were set up by a fantastic French lad, who despite being a giant 15 year old, was a true gentleman and initiated teams containing our children and his own pals. This was a wonderful session, played fairly yet competitively until a few more arrived. With too many for basketball, there then developed a co-existing football match, and a rugby match and a ‘make it up as you go along’ match. Surprisingly, all these went off without too much incident and good humour. The skill of a number of girls wearing inappropriate footwear to dodge the bodies, grab a random ball and somehow compete was something to behold. The sportsmanship on both sides was spectacular and made this such a delightful evening.
Meanwhile, the scavenger hunters were busy searching high and low for: sky hooks, left-handed screwdriver, tartan paint and glass hammer. As we left many hours later, despite their best efforts, none had been found. If you find any of these, please do comment below.
With all of this going on, as well as the gripping second half of the England game, you would have thought that there was enough going on. Well, no. Some of our girls initiated conversations only to find a real connection with their compatriots. They chatted for hours, performed musical solos and swapped social media details (under the watchful eye of our staff to be shared with parents later). There was a palpable joy in these friendships from both sides and even as the penalty shoot out began, and the French naturally cheered on Columbia, the jovial spirit remained and as the team were ultimately successful, the bar manager helpfully played Queen’s “We are the champions”.
A change of focus allowed the children to show an amazing level of maturity when we arrived at the cemetery. They entered in silence and were almost reverential in their stillness. Despite the soaring temperatures, they quietly wandered around looking at the thousands of headstones and were a real credit to us. A visiting family were spotted reading our Poppies and they commented on how much they would have loved to have the time to read more.
Normally, we end the session here with a few minutes of sharing. This year however, the children were astounding in not only the number of comments made but also the depth of thinking that they had clearly had throughout the afternoon. They spoke with great emotional intelligence about how the names, dates and even locations had affected them. They had also identified the number of nationalities which were represented and this list was recalled from memory.
Our first lunch proved once again to be a gigantic affair. Half a baguette each, which were at least two-foot long, were stuffed with wonderful ham and cheese. Not only this, just in case we might feel peckish, there was also a Mars bar, Madeline, apple and packet of crisps. To wash this down, each child was also provided with a can of Sprite and bottle of water. (No sponsorship deals have been entered into in the writing of this piece)
While merrily munching through this feast the big children were entertained by a family who sported a very interesting form of locomotion. From a distance, it appeared to be a low-slung battery-powered go-cart, reminiscent of a Segway. These looked amazing fun and soon children were sent off on missions to work if the family were English or French, cue lots of furtive looks, random walk-bys and then the obligatory “Hello”. This was met with confused faces, confirming suspicions that there are actually French people here in France.
Before leaving for another venue, the children begged us to practice their Tenergy routine. A bemused crowd gathered; as the staff’s speaker system is feeble and uni-directional and therefore to everyone outside of this beam of sound, we looked like a bunch of mad people gyrating weirdly in the park. Luckily, a quick video of this silent routine was sent home to the choreographer who gave us fantastic feedback.
Our final act here, apart from picking up the litter to help the local park ranger Bob, was t inspired by some modern works of art. Cue poses of: an emu, wolf, fish and finally playing one of the world’s largest copper trumpets. One of the tallest members of 6B engaged in all of these almost willingly, photos will be shared another time.
That's it folks! Far too late now but we can blame that on the football. More to follow tomorrow at some point as the the day had lots more to share.
The smaller half of the group (yes we can do maffs) went straight to the Sand Sailing activity. Under new management, the children avoided all the previous faffing around and were soon practicing their steering through a number of drills involving cones which began the morning intact.
This then lead into a series of competitive races and time trials, league tables etc. Bravo to the staff who had next to no French and yet somehow managed to understand and translate some of the necessary skills. Then it was onto the sailing bit. Boy was that exciting but sadly all your wonderful comments about beans, siblings and other wind generation methods were ineffective. Undeterred, the children simply pushed each other around without moaning.
Throwing out all the health and safety rules, the new team decided to act when there was a lack of wind by trying all of the carts together with Bungee cords and dragging them and the accompanying children along the beach in single file behind his tractor.
When the second group arrived a couple of hours later, we were warned about a patch of sludge that we would have to walk through. To make a point of the importance of this, one of the female staff members had kindly marched through this in flip flops, kicking the foul stinking liquid all the way up her back. So awful was this that she needed to remove her top (discreetly) and head into town to purchase a new one.
We marched on undeterred; oh dear - it really was ‘raw sewage’ or so it seemed by the consistency and smell. The shoes were pretty well ruined but there was a little dry sand and the lure of the carts to distract us all.
This larger half (we still haven’t learnt) had a similar experience of limited wind although on one demonstration run, one of the boys decided to two-wheel it. He apparently misheard “relax the rope” for “pull hard and go faster”. The highlight had to be one girl who is used to, at times using a chariot, aiming for her teacher who was positioned as expected in the safety area. While he was filing another decent driver, she sneaked up behind him and rammed him before running over his toes with the wheel. Fortunately, the socks and sliders had not made an appearance and so they remain undamaged of now.
One child particularly impressed us with the ability to wear his Turkey special, pristine white Armani t-shirt throughout this mucky experience; it was still whiter than white by the end of the day despite sweat, sun cream and sand. This was no mean feat!
One group headed for the sand sailing activity before the sun had really risen while the others were tasked with looking at the restaurants for tomorrow night. As they were all closed up (of course because the hour was unreasonable), this was a fairly fruitless task so after a while wandering around the town chatting, we headed to the beach.
Here the children were given very relaxed boundaries ie. don’t get lost or drown. To this, they ran off, unaware of how far out the sea was and so many gave up long before they reached the real water, satisfying themselves with a minor inlet. Cue an impromptu ‘Tenergy’ rehearsal albeit with their feet submerged in the quicksand. They are good sports this lot.
Others took to burying one another but after a few head counts, we found enough and very soon, the two hours had disappeared and we had to go to the main activity. However, rather than waste the time as we traipsed across the beach, a few children offered some top tips which we will share with you now:
- To remove the irritating sand that gets everywhere (point of note here: the sun sprays that claim to be ‘sand repellant’ are breaking Trading Standards Laws) simply apply a layer of talcum powder
- If you happen to cover yourself in permanent marker, simply cover the affected area with Gillette shaving gel and hey presto!
- There was also some talk of reducing burn marks by applying Colgate toothpaste but we didn’t put this one to the test.
Later in the evening, while a staff member was trying to upload photos to Drive, the same child nonchalantly mentioned “Turn off Bluetooth to speed it up” and then as he walked away amazed, they then helped even more by accessing other settings such as Low Power Mode and boom! they all zoomed into Cyberspace.
We have now been to France 9 times in a row and the first breakfast is always one to behold. We sit in the central atrium prior to the children’s arrival with our own coffees and croissant waiting to see who sports the best ‘bed hair’; who comes along looking completely lost or who we almost have to drag out of bed. Well, this morning, your children astounded us as they arrived promptly and almost all perfectly attired. There were only a couple of the usual suspects for bed hair - we’ll let you guess which boys in 6CL claimed this title.
However, a special mention must go to the girl bedroom mates who arrived at 7:15am fully kitted out for a full-on camping trip. Their backpacks were so well packed, we almost asked them if they had the tent in there.
In addition to being supremely organised, the children were also very competent with serving themselves. Also, there were absolutely no spillages - another first.
That’s it for tonight, it is almost midnight here. Children have all gone to bed happy, there have been no tears or worries about missed parents and we look forward to another hot day. We will update you on tomorrow’s activities late tomorrow night. If you can do one thing for us, please pray for wind to help the sand sailing early tomorrow morning.
We had somewhat misrepresented the journey time from Rando Rail to the hotel but this was then extended as the local gendarme decided to block the final approach road. Seriously, a little bush fire… come on. We were hot, hungry and keen to know who we were sharing a room with.
Queue drum roll. The first corridor was announced and the excited girls jumped up to collect the key cards. Sadly, in their excitement, they had all forgotten the numbers. A quick fix allowed us to get indoors for a quick shower and change before heading off for more food.
Despite the speedy coach driver making great haste, we missed the opportunity to pedal uphill first. Now, this may sound ridiculous but it lead them into a false sense of security as they coasted off from the start. The carefully planned groups were immediately thrown into disarray as the helpful French owner instigated new rules and randomly removed children from a cart. He quoted something about adults being regularly placed amongst the group but we fear he somewhat miscounted. Off we shot towards the three roads which he had helpfully explained in French how to cross safely. It had something to do with bungee ropes.
Somehow, we all managed to make it over these and only a few got tangled up and shot backwards. After a pleasant freewheel, the group had the briefest of pauses. Although we were now out of the shade, it felt like a perfectly reasonable point to practise our Tenergy routine. Although there were two speakers, the great outdoors was not conducive to this but the children were undeterred and somehow managed the grapevine and other moves while in the confines of the cart.
With the fun over, the hard work began. The 5km uphill battle began. The front groups powered their way forward, barely stopping and as such, arrived with about 15 minutes to wait. Because of their power output, Team Sky bosses were waiting to sign them up to replace Chris Froome in the upcoming Tour de France. Then, as they heard the approaching squeals of their friends, they maturely decided to hide. There was great hilarity as they popped up, not once but over the arrival of the next 3 carts. How simple things amuse us.
No sooner had we made it to the bar on the ferry (the only place to find a seat), the hungry children tucked in. Never before have we seen so many pasta pots and other delicious homemade delights. Well done you nice parents. It was incredibly busy but the children were able to withstand the crowds and hold our tables until we felt it was time to head up onto deck.
While most of us were eating, one young lady decided to take the boat apart a piece at a time. She arrived at the teachers’ table with a large bolt, asking if removing this would make the ferry sink. Clearly and calmly, we confirmed that this would not be sufficient to cause a catastrophe so she went off happily, only to return within seconds with another piece....
Once out in the fresh air, with the wind in our hair - cue ruined photos and tangled locks - the children quickly recalled past adventures, grabbed the last morsels of their lunch and tossed them them skyward towards the birds. 99% of us philistines believed these to be seagulls but our resident ‘twitcher’ pointed out that it was indeed a yellow throated / footed (the wind may have obscured this slightly) gannet. We stood corrected for all of a second and threw more! This wonderful merriment was a great distraction for any that were stressed about the movement of the boat.
Thanks for helping us get started on the way at the correct time; those sweets may not have survived much longer without being opened. Heading downstairs to where the select children and adults resided, we were hit by a wall of sugar. In contrast, heading in the other direction, the aroma was far more pleasant. It took a good number of trips until one of the eagle-eyed staff to realise that they had been passing a nice plug-in air freshener.
Before we knew it we were on the M25 and making fantastic progress. Some nearly bought the idea that the Thames was actually the Channel but too many were actually aware of their surroundings. It did not bode well for the later teasing that would undoubtedly take place.
Last year’s craze of the fidget spinners made a sudden reappearance but was not to outdo the squishy toys which not only made their way up and down the coach, but also provided some individuals the opportunity to try to name every single variation that there are.
The parents had basically been forgotten by...7:45am but one caring individual was concerned for her hamster and asked for us to message back to school to pass a message on to a sibling to feed them. Other than that, the only other wildlife was an eeyore neck pillow and a hairy beast which made a later appearance.
Just before boarding the ferry, while waiting in the queue at Dover, a number of the girls invented a new sport - stairwell swinging. We’ll let them explain this as words can not do this justice.
It's that time of year again; the weekend before the annual residential trip to France. All across the Braintree area, children will be excitedly thinking of what to pack and just possibly parents are finalising their plans for the week.
This blog will be updated during the week, usually late at night, so please check back regularly and comment below.
And sadly, to the end of the trip. However, in true fashion, we do what we can to keep it exciting. Booked on the 20:50, the solo driver whizzed though check-in and passport control only to receive a call from the bus saying that they had been moved to the 20:20. Thinking quickly, he sprinted into the terminal and somehow managed to convince the clerk to issue a new ticket and without further delay he was off down the ramp to board the train. At that moment, messages from the coach begin coming in which confused the matter somewhat.
The communication continued yet one half of the bus was conveying one message while the other half a completely different one, somehow, they hadn’t thought to check with each other even though only separated by 10 rows. Depending which half was to be believed, they were on the same train / or not, were going to arrive in Braintree at 22:05 / or 22:15 and could / or could not sent ParentMails from their respective phones.
However, whether by God’s grace, good old luck or the fact that the driver just got on with the job, they announced their arrival in timely geographical locations and soon the children were all returned to their parent’s loving arms.
You would think that some of the children hadn’t eaten all week by the plate-loads they served themselves. Carb-overload. Maybe some need a bit of an education about not having chips, mash potato, rice and pasta all on the same plate.
Highlights of this meal though were the arrival of 30 or so armed officers – stunned faces all round when a table behind a group was occupied by two female officers sporting a baton and pistol each. Not that our children needed any encouragement to behave well but it was quite a sight to behold all of these officers tucking into steak hache etc nonchalantly while armed to the teeth.
The other highlight was the video screen and wall which reacted to participants. One staff member gave a great rendition of YMCA unaware that he was being filmed, some children equally oblivious, followed unseen routes around the moving floor images recreating Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk” or created their own unique moves which defy characterisation.
Having watched the children all week, we were able to award each of them with their own certificates in recognition of their special qualities. While many were serious: Best dressed for dinner, Best smile, Most thoughtful, Best language skills, Most aggressive sand-sailer or Most appreciative…some may need a little more explanation than can be provided here: Rocking the crocks & socks, Most emotive, Best conversationalist, or Best way to amuse oneself while waiting in a queue.