Monday 6th June:
Addlestone was dull & drizzly this morning when we boarded the coach on Ongar Hill and hit the road bound for the Isle of Wight. The last couple of years have robbed successive Year 6 classes of this fantastic ‘rite of passage’ experience so it felt slightly surreal to be once again heading towards The Solent. Happily for this cohort of children, the Covid pandemic has not prevented us travelling…which all went very smoothly indeed. The A3 was quieter than the end of season party at Man United and the ferry crossing was
The Isle of Wight tourism team always talk with great pride about the island having its own special micro climate and that was clearly evident today. Almost as soon as we got out of Portsmouth Harbour, the sun came out and stayed with us for the rest of the day. First stop on the island was Bembridge Lifeboat Station where a very knowledgeable guide gave a wonderful talk about the two lifeboats, the work of the RNLI and how to stay safe both on the beach and in the water. Her enthusiasm also inspired the children to display their excellent knowledge of facts, both scientific and more general, along with asking some superb questions. The lady was suitably impressed…as were the teachers. Leading the way for the Holy Family superstars at this visit were Henry, David and Grace Occomore who all excelled with their interaction.
In my humble opinion, Henry asked the most forensic question of the day after the guide explained that the Bembridge Lifeboat, built around 12 years ago, cost over £3miilion. He raised his hand and said “Does the government pay any money for it?” I saw the lady’s eyes light up like a beacon…it obviously runs deep with her that every penny earned by the RNLI comes from voluntary donations. We need to book Henry in for an interview with the bloke from Number 10…I’d definitely tune in to watch it.
Something (or someone) always makes me chuckle (frequently) on these trips and the award for the first moment of the week goes to Ollie who really made me giggle. The guide asked what the crew might take with them on the small 5 person lifeboat. Hands shot up like rockets and the great answers were reeled off beautifully…”Rope”, “Lifejackets”, “First aid kit”…and then “Surf board”. It really tickled me as I imagined the lifeboat pulling up alongside some stranded person out in The Solent, throwing a surf board to them and shouting “See you back on shore”.
The guide continued with a short quiz about different flags seen flying on beaches. Again, I was extremely impressed with the breadth of knowledge as we nailed everyone she displayed:
Red – “Danger, don’t go in the water.” Tick.
Red and Yellow: “Swimming allowed as lifeguards on duty.” Tick.
Black & White quarters: “Area suitable for surfers.” Tick. (and very useful for Ollie’s stranded man in the water to know)
Black oval with 3 horizontal black bars and a red line: “No use of lilos in the area.” Tick….although I much preferred Charlie’s answer of “I think that’s no jellyfish allowed!”
This was an impressive first trip where the children showed how interested they are in the real world – it was a great start to IOW 2022.
Once at the hotel, rooms were allocated and everyone was happy…although the 7 boys in the room next door to me really are up against it. This is not due to having yours truly as a next door neighbour but more due to the fact that it’s cosy in there...and there’s absolutely no storage. I’m consoling myself with the fact that in my previous 26 Year 6 residential visits, when storage has always been present, this has been largely invisible to Year 6 boys. I guess they have two options…live out of the suitcase or keep it shut all week! I’ll keep you posted on how they’re getting on.
After dinner, Dino Crazy Golf in Sandown served up some entertaining fare. I’m not sure we’d get a Sky Sports deal but we may get Premier Sports interested due to the many bizarre putting styles and outrageous routes from tee to hole. Starring in this activity were Harry, Oscar, Alexia and, in my group, Willow Lowden who had a wonderful time. Grace Clark was also in my group and kept me royally entertained, and very anxious all at the same time. There’s been a lot of fallout in the world of golf lately about the Saudi breakaway league with both the USPGA and European Tour getting very hot under the collar about a new direction being forged in the Middle East. If they saw Grace playing crazy golf, I reckon they’d forget about the Saudi league and focus on Sandown Dino Golf. Where Grace is concerned, she’s ripping up the rule book in fine style. There’s no stationary ball or even breaking contact between club head and ball until it’s in the hole…it was like watching an ice hockey star on grass…genius golf. Grace smiled and laughed throughout the whole 18 holes, as did the rest of us in the group. These are the moments that make the IOW trip so memorable.
Final activity of the day was general fun and games on the beach for an hour where Tegan and Maia, whilst digging in the sand, said to me “We don’t like sand.” Now, that’s what I do like to see & hear…two Year 6 children facing up to something they don’t like by digging in. Superb.
It’s now 10.20pm and we’re beginning to settle them all for a good night’s sleep (I hope). Busy day tomorrow with tree climbing in the morning and Monkey Haven in the afternoon. This is the absolute dream itinerary for our two stowaway travellers Bertie and Bertram, our twin orang-utans who travel back to the IOW every year with us. Purchased from Monkey Haven over the years, they are tonight more excited than anyone about the activities tomorrow…especially as Mrs Holt has just told the children they’ve been living in a black bin liner in the Year 6 classroom cupboard since June 2019. That cupboard is not the sort of place you want to spend any time in, let alone being in a bin bag.
Right, that’s it for today. See you all tomorrow. I’ll try to quickly post something before we leave in the morning…Wi-Fi permitting.
Lots of love from everyone here in Sandown