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Monday 5th June

All news will be posted here


Greetings everyone from a very sunny Sandown in the Isle of Wight. We’ve arrived safely at The Wighthill Hotel and everyone is in fine spirits. The children are sitting here in the lounge playing cards and chilling out before we enjoy our first dinner together. It’s been a successful day so far which means…the inane ramblings of Blog Bloke 2023 are now officially up and running, so here we go. Hold on as it may well be a rollercoaster of a journey as I meander from here to there and everywhere as I follow what I see, hear and sense…if I can indeed make any sense of some of the many strange goings-on of a Year 6 residential. Hopefully, if you can make any sense it at all, the blog may help you feel part of the trip from afar.

First thing to report is that the trip took its first dramatic turn as we approached the bottom of Hare Hill. Mrs Holt suffered a spontaneous draining of facial colour as a dreadful realisation struck her. “Oh no, I’ve forgotten the monkeys” she spluttered. This was not a good start. Those monkeys (or orangutans to be precise) have been regular travellers on the IOW trip since joining Holy Family many years ago from Monkey Haven. After living all year cooped up in the black hole of Mrs Holt’s cupboard and enduring the pain of sharing the cupboard with endless practice SAT’s papers, they have now missed out on the trip. It’s terribly sad…some may say tragic for poor Bertie and Bertram. The trip will not be the same without them. I got on the internet to seek a crisis line number for abandoned homeless orangutans before David Attenborough and Diane Fossey find out…or it makes the front page of the Daily Mail. Not only have they got to deal with mass deforestation and destruction of their natural habitat, they are now confined to a dark cupboard, all alone for a week when they could be in the Sandown sun. Mrs Holt is very upset with herself…which is what I will tell the Daily Mail if they turn up on the doorstep this evening.

The journey to Portsmouth after that was smooth and we boarded the ferry on schedule. The crossing was made under glorious sunny skies which is possibly why I stumbled upon the eminent astrophysicist Claudia sharing her knowledge of the skies with a group of friends. She was on the subject of black holes which made me wonder if she has ever been in Mrs Holt’s cupboard. Anyway, after listening to Claudia, I’d advise you to avoid black holes at all costs. Apparently, they stretch you like spaghetti as all the blood is dragged into your feet. Let’s hope the Daily Mail don’t get hold of that fact as they’d have a field day. Claudia went on to say that our sun will become a black hole when it implodes on itself. I’m hoping that’s not this week as we’ve got the best ever weather forecast with wall to wall sun set to be our partner every day.

First stop on the island was Bembridge Lifeboat Station where the children kicked off their educational visits in style with some wonderful facts, questions and answers. Before I recount a few, I’m hoping the comment I overheard from Jacob isn’t a prelude to the educational value going down hill from here. He said to someone behind me on the coach “Oh great, the RNLI, this is the visit which is educational.” Here’s me thinking the whole trip was educational 😊

There has been a lifeboat station at Bembridge since 1922 although the current one, which is very impressive, was only built in 2010. We were split into two groups to listen to talks about the inshore and off-shore lifeboats and both were very informative…and interesting in more ways than one. The RNLI are a fantastic charitable cause and save many lives at sea each year which makes any donation to them incredibly important. The Bembridge offshore lifeboat, built in 2010, cost £2.7 million and has already been launched 35 times by the voluntary crew this year. The tour guide John explained that when the crewmember’s pager goes off, the boat is launched within 10 minutes. This means they have around 1 minute to get out of the house and get to the lifeboat station. This also applies to calls in the middle of the night. Tito was rather concerned about the hygienic impact of these pager messages. “What about cleaning their teeth, that takes two minutes” he said. It’s a fair point. “You only have one minute to get dressed and out of the house” John replied. Tito pondered on this before I heard him whisper to Oskar, “I’d run out with my toothbrush and brush them on the way.” Dental hygiene is important…well done Tito.

Ok, I need to stop here for now as we’re heading in for dinner. More news later on after the IOW Golf Championship.


Evening all, we’re back in the lounge so it’s time to rewind to this afternoon and pick up the action at Bembridge Lifeboat Station where there were some interesting developments in my group over at the inshore lifeboat. When the guide asked if there were any questions, James said “How do you steer it?”. This was a good question in my opinion and one I expected the guide to respond to without drawing breath. There was an awkward silence before she replied “Hmm, that’s a good question” whilst looking rather blank. What followed was priceless as Frankie & Leon, almost in perfect synchronicity, pointed at the rudder lever and said “They would use that lever by the engine.” Suitably impressed, I contacted the RNLI immediately and signed the two of them up for the busy summer season ahead. I’ve also enquired about a job with the coastguard for Gergo who was able to provide a perfect description of riptides and why they are so dangerous. I should get a decent agent’s fees for the three of them…that may plug a hole in the school finances 😊


Regaining her composure, the guide moved on to her safety talk about swimming in the sea. Displaying a sign warning of the danger of ‘tombstoning’ into water of an unknown depth, she asked “What should you always take with you when you’re going swimming in the sea?” When you serve up a lob like that, you just know someone will deliver the smash in return. ”Goggles?” came the reply. It made me giggle, particularly when I realised it was a genuine answer and she was expecting the response of ‘a phone’.

Just by looking at Tito’s face, I knew what he was thinking…’Where do you put the phone when you’re swimming in the sea?’ No time to clean his teeth and nowhere to put his phone was really messing with his head. The guide pressed on undeterred. “If you’re in trouble in the sea and you phone 999, who do you ask for?”

“Police” came the reply…which I knew wasn’t the correct answer…although I was still wondering how you make the call when struggling to stay afloat in the waves. The guide went back to the tombstoning sign and said “It’s dangerous to jump into the sea. What could you land on top of that could be dangerous?”

At last, we nailed an answer. “Rocks” someone shouted…followed by a more whispered response from one of the boys who said “A shark.”

 I looked in the general direction of the shark answer and James simply shrugged his shoulders and said “Sharks are dangerous.” He’s right there, I’d rather take my chances with rocks than a shark. At least the rocks wouldn’t eat my phone.

We clearly made a very positive impression on the two tour guides who approached us at the end to say “Your children are vey polite and well behaved. Believe me, it’s not been like that very often this year.” A great start to the trip. One visit and one compliment in the book. Let’s hope we can build on that and it’s not the last this week.

We hopped back on the coach and drove to the hotel where the rooms were allocated and all were happy. I had no doubt they’d be happy as their free choice of seating on the ferry was virtually identical to the rooms Mrs Holt had organised. There is a teacher who knows her children very well.

After dinner we left the hotel to walk along the sea front to the mini golf. On the way, Amelia was looking forward to the visit to the donkey sanctuary tomorrow and filling me in on some key equine facts, including “Donkeys are just like horses…but smaller.” As I said to Jacob earlier, the learning doesn’t stop at the RNLI. As we approached the golf, I caught up on an interesting debate about why so many mini golf courses have a dinosaur theme. I was about to ponder on this interesting observation when someone said “Perhaps it was invented during dinosaur times.”

I know the R&A have been accused at times of being old and crusty but golf in the Jurassic Age really would have been something to behold…imagine the size of the clubs. The children were split into 5 groups, each led by a teacher. My group were off last so we watched the others on the first hole, where Amy promptly scored a hole in one…followed by Leah and then Oskar. I was immediately on the phone to the IOW Tourist Board to check when Amy’s BMW will be delivered to the school 😊

There were some interesting golfing techniques on display and several balls taking flight from the putter but all in all it was great fun. The teachers carefully marked the team cards to ensure our first competition was fair and equal. When all the cards were checked in the clubhouse, the results were:

1st: Charlie 41 shots

2nd Beau 44 shots (a great advert for the PGA Pro at Ashford Manor)

3rd Theo 45 shots

4th Amelia 47 shots

Well done to Charlie, IOW mini golf Champion 2023.

We strolled back to the hotel via the beach for drinks, biscuits, showers and medicines…although not all at the same time. I caught up with a few of our intrepid travellers for their thoughts on how it’s been so far:

“Fun” replied Amelie

“Great fun and I can’t wait until tomorrow” added Florence

“Really fun and great to be with my friends…and my utterly awesome, amazing, unbelievable teachers” finished Louie…well, most if it...with a bit of artistic author’s licence thrown in there as it’s getting late.

Ok, it’s approaching 10pm so almost bedtime number one. I have a feeling this will be an interesting hour or so. Mrs Holt will soon begin her motivational sleep talk and telling them all they are feeling very drowsy. I’ve got my fingers crossed they fall swiftly under her spell. If I can, I will make one final post later on before returning in the morning.

Over and out for now from the red leather sofa in the lounge.