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Monday 4th June


Good evening everyone and a very warm welcome from the Isle of Wight. We've arrived safely, the children have eaten dinner and the storyteller will be unleashed with her tales of island intrigue very soon. I will update you all fully on events of today once the storyteller starts. It's been a great day with some very interesting and intellectual conversations going on...none of which involved yours truly obviously. Check back very soon...

8pm - Right folks, I'm back. Please see below the main highlights of the day...

Monday morning… Isle of Wight week…the best Monday morning feeling ever for a Year 6 child. Not surprisingly, the children were in high spirits on arrival to the hall and ‘Leavers 18’ sweatshirts were proudly adorned. It didn’t take me long to spot that along with our genuine twins, we had also acquired a pair of style twins. Olivia B & Isabel were looking resplendent in matching top & leggings which they proudly informed me had been chosen on a joint shopping trip. “And are we in for this stylish co-ordination every day this week?” I enquired.

“No, only for 3 of the days” Olivia replied with a triumphant grin. “Oh, and we have got matching party outfits” Isabel added swiftly. Party night…I’m looking forward to it already.

Bella then approached me and said “When will we find out about our rooms?” “Mrs Holt will tell you when we get to the hotel” I replied. “Ok…but I will literally cry, like loads, if I don’t get to be with Olivia Frith” she added. I haven’t seen the room lists yet so I’d best check how many boxes of tissues we’ve got packed.

10am – We boarded the coach on time set for departure…before we suffered the first (and hopefully last) crisis of the week. Bertie the IOW orangutan had been left behind in the classroom. We cannot have a trip to the Isle of Wight without the orangutan. So, resembling a rather strange combination of Diane Fossey and David Attenborough, I launched my rescue mission codenamed ‘Operation Borneo’. As if the destruction of the rainforests wasn’t bad enough, Mrs Holt has subjected this poor creature to 9 months of co-ordinating & subordinating conjunctions, embedded clauses and daily arithmetic and then he’s overlooked for a seat on the coach home to see his family & friends. I’ve seen some very sad sights on BBC animal programmes but the sight of an orangutan frantically searching for the exit from Year 6 was too much. I scooped him up and we raced back to the coach. Needless to say, Bertie is none too impressed with Mrs Holt and I expect there will be repercussions. Orangutans have a fierce temper when shunned…Mrs Holt had better watch out when we get to Monkey Haven.

Somewhere on the A3 whilst busy typing, Mrs Holt handed the room lists to Mrs Capindale & Mrs O’Connor. I heard her say “The biggest problem I had was organising the girls.” A shiver went down my spine. I can’t bear the thought of ‘tears, like loads of tears’, after saving Bertie. I’m not sure my humanitarian capabilities can stretch to two rescue missions in one day.

10.45am – STOP PRESS…I’ve just been handed my official trip leaders pack and have immediately checked the room lists. Sigh of relief breathed…humanitarian crisis 2 has been averted and we’ll be saving on tissues. Happy days.

11.30am – We arrived in Portsmouth after a smooth journey and headed into the naval dockyard. A huge aircraft carrier was docked which caused great excitement particularly for Mrs Holt and for Samuel, who began to enthusiastically extol the virtues of modern naval craft. After a detailed explanation of the use of slingshots and netting for launching and landing planes he then declared “The Mary Rose is basically just a load of old wood.” Ouch…I don’t think he’ll be getting too many job offers from English Heritage. Before eating lunch we stopped for a spot of sketching. “Choose anything interesting and have a go” Mrs Holt said. A blank canvas doorway had been opened and the children walked straight through it. Antony created a fabulous sketch of the aircraft carrier, many chose to sketch the decorative stern of HMS Victory and Lukas drew a concrete bollard…although to be fair he did effectively utilise shading, perspective and a random passing seagull to great artistic effect. Oh, and Rhian’s sketch was amazing.

Following the sketching and before lunch, Olivia F spotted some jellyfish which she initially identified as ‘can lids’. Whilst watching the can lids swimming past, Leon then cheered everyone up by announcing that you are certain to be paralysed if stung by a jellyfish.

“Are they dangerous?” Anthony asked as he peered over the fence.”Well. I don’t think they can kill you…but you don’t want to be paralysed” Leon replied. Thank you Dr Spreadbury…I will sleep better this week knowing we have a medical expert in the party. The moral of this tale is please beware of any can lids swimming past you in the oceans of the world this summer.

During lunch Dr Spreadbury and his debating pal Edward were engaged in intense factual discussions about a range of historical, geographical and scientific topics, including the doctor’s assertion that the North & South Poles are connected. “You’re wrong, because that would mean that the polar bears would eat all the penguins” Edward advised. Leon looked at me for assistance. “He’s got a point” I said. Following lunch we went into Boathouse 4, home of the ‘cutter race’ game (better known as the 3rd degree burns game). After winning the last debate with his polar bears and penguins argument, Edward completed an impressive double by proving to be the king of the cutter racing (one of those games where you spin a wheel as fast as you can to move your boat across the waves)…although I did later spot him heading off for lint dressings to be applied to his lacerated hands :-)

Over in the rowing boat 10 minutes later, Edward proved he has the self-healing powers of a terminator as he was in full rowing partnership with Rhian. They looked like they were training for the varsity boat race…although Freddie firing a giant cannon from the starboard side gave it a rather surreal edge. Imagine the reaction to that from the learned fellows in the cloisters of Oxbridge…or Clare Balding’s reaction when presenting for the BBC. Bringing a sense of pseudo normality to proceedings, Callum then pitched in and showed everyone how to do the rowing thing properly. “I’m good in boats, I do canoeing” he announced confidently. Point noted. “We’ll be ok if the ferry captain doesn’t show up at 5pm” I assured everyone. Meanwhile, Geno was patrolling the room telling everyone to say ‘cheese’. I mused that he’s either part man, part mouse or he’s officially appointed himself as Mrs O’Connor’s photographic sidekick. Before we left Boathouse 4 we enjoyed a teachers ‘cutter race-off’ challenge. Sammy took on the Martin Tyler commentary role, Geno was armed with his camera and the rest cheered the competitors on. After a frantic battle, the blue boat, piloted by Mrs O’Connor, stormed home victorious. Her prize for this auspicious success?  A hand that was still shaking 45 minutes later…I’ll be amazed if she managed a single photo without blurring during that time.

Following the excitement in Boathouse 4 we made our way over to see Sammy’s ‘load of old wood’. Before going in, Mrs Holt spoke about Henry VIII’s flagship with great enthusiasm whilst facing the waters of The Solent then said “Where was The Mary Rose going when it sunk?”

“Out to sea” several children replied in unison. Nothing much gets past this lot; they’re sharp.

Inside the children were on fire with some amazing questions and plenty of interesting observations. The load of old wood was working its historical magic. Particular praise here must go to Gemma (more on her later), Jessica, Evie, Maddison & Olivia F. “Where were all the boys?” I hear you ask. Well, Lukas & Freddie were hunched alongside a glass display case  involved in an interesting conversation which ended with them asking “How much do you think a piece of Mary Rose wood would sell for on EBay?” They’ve clearly forgotten about Henry VIII’s rather volatile personality…they’d best pray that he currently hasn’t got an EBay account. Moving on I then bumped into the debating duo who were embroiled in a similar conversation about the total value, at auction, of The Mary Rose collection. According to Edward, a maximum price of £2.5 billion would have to be put on it due to the current enormity of the national debt. For the record, just in case any of you are thinking of putting in a cheeky bid to Sotheby’s, Dr Spreadbury estimates a total price of £7.5 billion.

Dragging myself away from the city’s finest financial brains, I caught up again with the girls who were talking to a tour guide about the role of the surgeon on board. Gemma was clearly well and truly engrossed in the more gruesome side of the job. Pointing at a grisly sharp thing on the table she asked “Is that for cutting off limbs?” followed by a question about the mallet…”Is that for breaking bones?” I noted the questions carefully and stored this for future information just in case I turn up at St Peter’s one day and Gemma is the doctor. The Mary Rose visit finished with some group photos before we said goodbye to the load of old wood and took the coach back to the ferry.

On board the ferry, Finlay and Dr Leon proved that SPAG and a Year 6 residential really can live harmoniously side by side when they announced “We’re now leaving the mainland of  England and entering the subordinating part because it doesn’t make sense on its own.” Reading a copy of the Isle of Wight tourist guide, I pondered that this is not an attractive promotional strap line I am likely to persuade them to use. The ferry docked on time, we drove off and made our way gently to Bertram Lodge in Sandown, arriving at 6pm. Mrs Holt allocated the rooms (plenty of approving comments from the children) then we had dinner which tonight was tomato soup, sausage chips & peas finished off with a caramel magnum ice cream bar. Those with healthy appetites were well chuffed, particularly as the chips were proper Northern chunky chips; all that was missing was a jug of gravy :-)

The storyteller kicked off her tales at 7.40pm which brings us bang up to date as I’m sitting in the corner of the lounge typing away like a man possessed. Before I copy this to the website, a quick update on the travails of Bertie the orangutan. I’m really not sure what he’s done to upset Mrs Holt but he’s clearly not in her good books. On arrival at Portsmouth dockyard I sent him off the coach with Bella only for Mrs Holt to send him straight back. He wasn’t happy but this was nothing compared to how he was feeling after being left on the coach when we boarded the ferry. I couldn’t leave him alone so close to home so he was carried triumphantly onto the boat to enjoy a little bit of fresh air. He’s currently psyching himself up to lead the tree climbing at Goodleaf tomorrow morning; he’s a real expert at the old tree climbing game.

Right, that’s enough of my inane ramblings for now. I hope this reaches you all soon. I will make a further post before bedtime tonight…which could be quite late…although I hope not. Everyone is well and in high spirits. More later…

9pm Greetings once more from the island. The storyteller has finished, packed up and gone with only her words and tall tales left to drift on the air. During the story time I had a quick reconnaissance mission into the dangerous territory of the boys' rooms. Amazingly all was ship shape and tidy in Room 3 (probably due to the fact that they haven't yet had time to unpack), a small suitcase eruption had occured in Room 4 resulting in several items strewn across the floor but the biggest trouble lay waiting behind the door of Room 1 where an anti-teacher booby trap had been planted. This was in the form of the biggest hardest shell suitcase they could find lying in the middle of the floor. As I pushed open the door, it swung back with the force of a small cannon; it was only my lightning sharp, panther-like reflexes that meant I escaped leaving my facial imprint in the wood. I've taken note and will be approaching with severe caution next time...which is in the next minute or so as I'm heading upstairs to see how the unpacking is going. More soon...

Right I'm back again. Apologies for the slight delay which was caused by minor technical gremlins along with the need to get on Amazon Prime to order a set of full breathing apparatus for my next visit to room 4. The 4 boys in room 4 appear to have used up their entire deodorant supply won't be doing much good for the IOW ozone layer. As the week unfolds it is traditional for me to gradually reveal within the blog the occupants of each room and eventually allocate a movie title to each room so I will start 4 could end up looking like a load of old wood by Friday but at least it will smell sweet :-)

Oh...this is brilliant...Edward has arrived downstairs carrying a penguin followed by debating pal Dr Leon sporting feet like a green polar bear. Clearly they have still not settled the North/South Pole debate and this could go on in room 3 overnight. Currently all the boys are in the lounge with me...which is probably due to the fact that Mrs Holt is serving out orange juice and biscuits. They're like homing pigeons as soon as the food comes out. There is no sign of any of the girls at the moment although Darcie and Alysia have just appeared from room 10. Apparently the others are absent due to the fact that 'they are doing their faces'. This, I'm reliably informed by my learned friends is hair, moisturisers, and spraying perfume...there must be some sort of party going on tonight on the island that I'm clearly not aware of. I can see I will have to loan out my Amazon breathing apparatus to Mrs Holt before the night is out.

10.10pm - Ok, Mrs Holt has just completed her first motivational pre-sleep talk of the week. It was inspirational and nostalgic stuff where we were all taken on a bus ride around Oldham in the early 1980's. To be fair, you'd probably recognise it if you took the bus ride tomorrow...not a lot has changed :-) Lights out is 10.30pm tonight and the children need to be asleep by's a very early start tomorrow with breakfast at 7.45am followed by a packed itinerary. I will post one final time tonight hopefully very soon from a blissfully silent Bertram Lodge.  Back soon...

11.15pm - Great news...the bedrooms are mostly silent although the footsteps of a rather giant mouse can occasionally be heard pattering upstairs. I expect it's the part man part mouse paparazzi person formally known as Geno scurrying about in the darkness. In the lounge Mrs Holt is celebrating a successful first day with a well earned ginger beer whilst Mrs O'Connor and Mrs Capindale are patting each other on the back for managing to stay inside the load of old wood museum for an hour and a half without too many mishaps. Miss Hodson is listening carefully and taking mental notes which is a very good strategy in my opinion. All 4 of them are currently consulting the medium of the I-Phone for tomorrow's weather forecast which appears a somewhat confused picture. We could do with a clear bright day as we've got a packed outdoor schedule at the tree climbing and Osborne House.  I hope the posts so far are helping to keep you involved in the action as it unfolds. Check back tomorrow morning for the latest information. For now, it's over and out from the leather sofa. Love and hugs from everyone in Sandown.

The Blog Bloke