7.25am - Good morning everyone, greetings once again from the leather sofa in Bertram Lodge. Apologies for the slightly delayed start today; I've been trawling through the 274 emails in my inbox in a bid to stay on top of the day job.
It's blissfully quiet here...the children are clearly exhausted and have finally taken my pre-trip advice of "sleep whenever you can!" It's fairly bright here although not as sunny as it was at 4.55am when I woke up. This morning it was not a turtle dove who woke me...the bird choir obviously listened to my late night pleas to give it the day off.
I'm going to head back upstairs now to check out the signs of life in Rooms 2, 3 & 4. Mrs Holt has just done the wake-up calls in Rooms 7 & 8 but the girls don't sound too lively...even the ambulance sirens are silent in Room 8 today.
More ramblings coming soon...
7.55am - It's safe to say they're a long way from being bouncy and energetic this morning up stairs. In Room 4 George was sitting cross-legged on his bed with the classic Thursday morning 100 yard stare. No eye, muscle or limb movement at all...just a Year 6 boy in a trance. Harry J has discarded his Bear Grylls persona and was simply lying flat staring at the ceiling, Eddie was curled up in a ball under his duvet while Patrick and Alfie were face down like planks. Thomas was sitting up but looking very disorientated. In Room 3 they were all out of bed and standing in the centre of the room. There was little to suggest they were human rather than statues but at least they were up. In Room 2 there were lots of limbs hanging limply from the bunks and the bare wardrobe door was wide open...that wardrobe really is very tidy but I don't think it will see an item of clothing deposited this week.
Ok, breakfast is served so I need to go and re-fuel. I will be back soon. We are leaving for surfing at 9.20am. Bye for now!!!!
9.15am - Breakfast is done and we're almost set to go body-boarding on Sandown Beach. It doesn't exactly look tropical outside so the children have got all their warm fleecy clothes to "keep them toasty warm," as Mrs Holt described it, when they come out of the sea. This activity usually provides some amusing moments so I will be on hand with the blue notebook ready to capture the action. We will be back at the hotel for lunch when I will post a very quick update if I can.
4.45pm - Good afternoon everyone, we have just returned from enjoying a beautiful sunny day together in Sandown and Shanklin. After a rather blustery first hour, the sun really came out and it turned into a sensational summer day. The children are getting cleaned up, showered and then dinner will be at 6pm. After dinner the party outfits and dancing shoes will be going on for the grand finale evening activity of 2019. Bertie and Bertram are looking forward to it already. Ok, let's rewind to this morning for the story of our day...
We hopped on the coach at 9.35am and made the short journey towards the beach. Following a brisk walk down the cliff path and along the promenade we reached Wight Water water sports where this year our main instructor was a young man who bore a striking resemblance to Wigan Warriors forward Liam Farrell. Now, Farrell has been injured for the last 3 months so perhaps this is how he's been convalescing. Wigan have certainly missed him while he's been out so I suggest he gets himself booked on the next Wightlink ferry back to Portsmouth.
First priority was the safety talk. "You will be given a wetsuit which will be inside out. Tiurn it the right way out, The zip goes at the back. Where does the zip go?"
"At the back" they all shouted...and this was repeated about 25 times along with every other instruction. Farrell then let them loose to get changed and had a chat with Patrick. "Where are you guys from?" he asked him. Patrick cocked his head and a frown spread across his face. "Poland...and England" he replied. Now it was Farrell's turn to wear the frown. "No...I mean, where is your school?" Confusion already and no wetsuits had yet been handed out.
This soon changed. however. I noticed Brandon standing in the middle of the prom in just his swimming shorts, his arms folded and gazing out to sea. "Are you not putting on a wetsuit?" I asked him. Brandon looked at me with some bemusement. "Do we need a wetsuit?" he replied. Farrell needs to learn that sometimes giving out instructions 25 times simply does not get the message across. I then saw Finn with his wetsuit...but he was hopping around like a deranged man on a pogo stick trying to get in it. "This is impossible" he was muttering to himself in between the laughter of the two of us. Just at that moment, another school came marching past us on the prom. A couple of their children looked at us all and said "Aww, that's not fair...our teachers don't even know what fun is." We clearly know how to enjoy ourselves at Holy Family.
Slightly further along the prom, Isaac was doing a very passable impression of Finn's one-legged twin. He was hopping up and down battling with his wetsuit whilst grunting, groaning and straining every sinew in his body. "I can't get my leg in this hole, it's too small" he grunted. Mrs Capindale was standing nearby "That's because it's the arm hole" I heard her advise him. After much hilarity, everyone was suited up and the instructors led them all down onto the sand where they introduced them to two large inflatable rafts and they launched into the surf. It looked great fun as they stepped from craft to craft, somersaulted off the side and had 'keep your balance' competitions on the edge of the rafts. The sea did look a little cold at this part of the morning but the children splashed around and enjoyed themselves.
The cold sea, however was bound to take its toll sooner or later and eventually they started to come out and make their way back to the prom. First out were Brandon, Ollie, Bella and Conor. "How was it?" I asked them. "Cold!" Bella replied. "Anything else?" I continued. "Err, freezing" Ollie added. Conor then gave his opinion "I wasn't actually cold. I was cold but I wasn't really." I did try to process that comment 25 times but decided sometimes you just have to let things wash over you. Amongst all the rolling surf and flailing limbs, Adam received "a stray foot to the mouth." Well, we are assuming it was either a flailing limb or a rogue IOW octopus up to no good. Coming out of the changing rooms I spotted Mr Prepared had shown his class again. The orange balaclava was on and he was 'toasty warm'. This was definitely a more appropriate use of the balaclava than at Osborne House. Ss he made his way to sit on the edge of the prom wall, I chuckled to myself as he really did look like Santa after being tangoed.
Out on the water, the rest of the group continued to have great fun. By now they were doing their best impressions of penguins as they slid along an upturned raft and splashed into the sea. Soon however this particular fun had to come to an end. I caught up with Harry C who described the action as 'Really great" then the last 3 out of the sea, earning the title of 'ladies of steel' were Keira, Fern and Abigail...oh, and XiXi who was waddling along the sand. "I've officially turned into a penguin" she said with a giggle. Next past me was Joseph who said quite simply "The best part of the holiday yet".
Farrell had clearly found the stress of giving out instructions too much to bear and was sitting in a small circular bin full of water to clean his wetsuit. Patrick suddenly appeared...there was a smaller bin next to it so Patrick decided to climb in. It was a humorous moment that Mrs O'Connor captured on film... I think. Everyone then got changed, tucked into a chocolate bar then we made the long walk back along the prom, up the steps, up the cliff path and back on the coach. A quick stop back at the hotel for lunch then we were off again for the afternoon entertainment.
During the short coach journey to Shanklin Beach, Chungus and Fungus the centipedes (or millipedes or whatever they are) were incarcerated by Mrs Holt due to inappropriate behaviour on a coach by a many-legged creature. Finn and Thomas looked devastated to watch their beloved pets being put behind bars but I'm afraid that's how it is if you break the law of Mrs Holt. Chungus and Fungus will learn their lesson.
With the millipedes under control, we stopped on Shanklin Beach for some frenzied souvenir shopping in 'Jungle Jim's'. This group impressed me with their shopping skills and the thoughtfulness behind their choices of gifts. Top of the class here was Fern who found the perfect little gift for her dad. Mr Wilkins, you will love it! Alongside the 'sophisticated' purchases there was the usual sugar-induced carnage led by those at the rock shelves and by Gilberto who bought a giant tub of neon green slime...oh, and a giant tub of luminous green sparkly slime. Either he is obsessed by slime or is launching a new product line at B&Q in Portsmouth. I then stumbled across Adam standing in front of a large display of fridge magnets with an even larger sign saying '£1.99 each, 3 for £5'. "Mr Tindall, it doesn't say how much these are...how are you supposed to know?" he asked with confusion written all over his face. Jungle Jim clearly needs to work on his signage.
This group have received a great deal of praise and many compliments from members of the public this week. Jungle Jim decided to join in today. Towards the end of the shopping frenzy he said to me "I must say, I'm really impressed with your children's maths skills. Most schools are nowhere near as good as your children; you wouldn't believe how difficult some find it." I was obviously very pleased and proud to hear him praising our maths skills...although I was really desperate to say to him "There is no need for the 'most' in the middle of the sentence."
Apologies for the delay in posting...we've just finished dinner which tonight, on the staff table, was cod and chips. There was a brief exchange of glances from my esteemed colleagues...it was centred on the fish. Mine was indeed cod however it looked like it had been coming to the school hall every Wednesday evening for the last 18 months for Slimming World classes. Mrs Rawlinson and Mrs Capindale had cod that clearly needed to get along for a form and sign up pronto. Having said that, it was tasty enough and I'm now feeling full so I'm not complaining. Leaving the dining room, Mrs Rawlinson then claimed she may be suffering from Dembu Fever which is transmitted by infected mosquitos. Goodness only knows where she has bumped into any unfriendly mosquitos this week. On Tuesday she was talking expertly about the psychiatry of cows and their indeciseveness when standing/lying down in a field so perhaps she's been moonlighting in the Isle of Wight Amazon World as well.
Ok, back to the events at Jungle Jim's shopping emporium...
We left the shop and walked up the steep hills towards Shanklin Theatre. On the way I caught up with George and Ollie who were discussing the air traffic routes in and out of Sandown Airport. According to George, there is no possibility of ever caching a BA flight to Heathrow. Ollie agreed...then suggested that perhaps an Easyjet flight to Gatwick would be available...from Thursday to Sunday only.
Inside the theatre the children were met by a lovely young lady named Rowan and a guy named Joe. They ran the workshop which kicked off with a dance warm up led by Rowan. I was quite impressed with our lot; they were co-ordinated and, on some parts of the stage, quite stylish. Emma was absolutely loving it...the beaming smile on her face said it all. The children then volunteered to be singers, narrators or dancers and the two leaders put them through their paces. Joe then talked about the show the children watched on Tuesday evening. "Can you remember the 3 P's from the story?" he asked them. "Performance...Pazzazz..." they shouted but they got stuck on the third one. "Come on guys, you can do it" Rowan encouraged them.
I could see the cogs in Thomas' mind whirling around then his hand shot up. Great...he'd got it. "Fluency!" he answered. '3 P's' I thought to myself. Clearly fluency is actually spelled with a 'ph' at the beginning. You learn something new every day...I should have turned up to more of Mrs Holt's SPAG lessons this year.
Rowan then asked for a volunteer panto dame. Not surprisingly there was no shortage of volunteers and after much deliberation, Adam was chosen. So began his gradual transformation into Queen Anya. As with the Patrick landmark incident on the beach, Mrs O'Connor captured the entire process on film. It will be good ammunition for Mr & Mrs Loake on Adam's wedding day.
Joe then asked the children to name some famous pantomimes. Cinderella, Snow White, Aladdin, Jack & the Beanstalk and Mamma Mia were all shouted out. I'm not sure the original Abba line up would be too chuffed to hear they are now considered a pantomime act. The workshop finished with a Q&A session with some interesting answers being supplied. One of the best was the response to the question "What lights up the sky at night?" I don't know who it was as it was dark in there but someone replied "An aeroplane." Joe and Rowan looked bemused but then again they don't live on a main flight path to Heathrow. We left the theatre, caught the coach back to the hotel which brings us up to date.
7.45pm - I'm now typing in real time. I'm hunched on the leather sofa in the style of an extra from Lord of the Rings surrounded by sights and sounds of the party night. The children are spinning, sliding, twirling and bouncing around to the latest popular tunes from the latest popular acts. I'm not sure who any of them are but can categorically tell you there has unfortunately not yet been any Stone Roses blasting out. XiXi, Harriet and Keira are yet again proving how amazing Holy Family children are. The owners of the hotel have a 4 year old grand-daughter named Lily and she has been around us a lot in the hotel this week. Our children have been so special with her. They have played with her, helped her with her dinner and shown her how we treat others. They have made her laugh and helped her when she has fallen over. At the moment she has a beaming smile as the girls' dance with her. Another priceless and precious moment to witness.
Right, I'm going for a little break but will be back soon with an update...
8.15pm - It's half time in the disco and the children are devouring drinks and Cheetos. I'm still trying to digest my Champion of Slimmers World cod so goodness only knows where they are putting all this food. Once the room stops bouncing later on I will focus on rolling the film credits for this amazing adventure. It is traditional for me to apply a film title to each room along with the starring cast so I will once again do my best. Later on we will also be radioing in 4 Chinooks to assist as we begin to locate all the odd socks, lonesome items of clothing and attempt to pack them all in the correct bags. This is never easy but I have asked the Holy Spirit for strength, courage and wisdom so everything should be ok. Isaac is sitting nearby; he has transformed into a hybrid mix of Danny Dyer and a Dalek. His voice is getting croakier by the minute ...it's only a matter of time before he starts sliding around the room shrieking "Exterminate, exterminate" in a Cockney accent. I've also got Alfie sitting alongside me. Incidentally, Alfie has recently taken on a new role in Room 4 as a North-South interpreter to allow Thomas to understand what I am asking him to do or indeed what I am actually talking about. It must be the lack of sleep caused by the all-night 10 yard bucket challenge games in there this week.
The disco is now back in full swing and the children are all singing "We love the Earth" at the top of their voice. This is obviously 'the clean version' but I am intrigued as to whether anyone from Room 2 or Room 4 are singing this song as I would seriously dispute their credentials to join in. After the amount of deodorant they have sprayed up there this week, the Ozone layer must surely have felt decidedly unloved. I know my lungs certainly felt unloved when I went in there the other night. Interestingly, Bertie is also lying flat on his back in the middle of the carpet which I suspect is a little message for us all...although his demeanour is probably more down to the fact that Joseph has committed the greatest act of animal cruelty upon him since the Victorian era by forcing him into a Chelsea shirt.
8.40pm: STOP PRESS...half time news...Netherlands 0 Man United 1 in the Nations League semi-final. Marcus Rashford on target again.
Emma has opened a hair-dressing salon on the staircase which is proving popular whilst my scoreline above is not proving popular with my interpreter who insists it should read Netherlands 0 England 1. I think it must have got lost in the translation :-)
Bertie has just asked me if I know the phone numbers of WWF, RSPCA and the Monkey Protection League. I'm on it. Eddie has now joined me on the leather sofa. He has Bertram with him and clearly knows how to treat his orang utan. There is no Chelsea shirt in sight. Top class from Eddie. Oh, wait a minute, Mrs Holt has taken to the dance floor and is throwing some pretty serious shapes, most of which have origins in the Hacienda Club in the world's greatest city. Danny Dyer the Dalek is stealing the floor at the moment with some fabulous dance moves...his voice may be rapidly breaking up but his legs have still got it!
9.25m - the disco has finished amd operation packing up has commenced. I can hear the drone of the Chinook rotors thudding overhead...the military are on their way. I have set myself an ambitious target upstairs of 35 minutes to get everything in the correct cases which is probably a totally bonkers thing to expect. I'll be back with an update after 10pm.
Oh, just because I know you will be concerned about them, Chungus and Fungus remain in millipede jail. A court hearing has been set for tomorrow morning with Mrs Holt presiding as judge and jury.
10.45pm - Great news...the suitcase packing mission has been a success and everything...or at least most things, are now in place for departure in the morning, There were, however, still a few surreal moments to negotiate. In Room 4 whilst slaloming my way through the obstacle course of suitcases, the wardrobe began to sing. I flung open the door to find Alfie and Thomas sitting cross-legged singing harmoniously...ish. As they haven't bothered to put anything else in there this week, I suppose it's fair enough they've gone in there themselves. I expect Thomas was also probably trying to get in sync with fungus who remains incarcerated in millipede jail overnight. Room 3 was a fairly brief stop before braving Room 2. The military were already there and we got set to work. As most of the stuff is on the floor in there, this job entailed being on the hands and knees and crawling about like a commando. I didn't hang around for long as I had no protective goggles and Finn told me he had "found a baby dinosaur thing under the wardrobe." The bottle of Jurassic World also appeared to be less full than it was earlier on so I evacuated at a rapid rate.
The children are now beginning to settle as the clock ticks past 11.15pm. They must be totally exhausted by now. They've walked miles up and down hills, run around, swum in the sea, danced, climbed and dug holes in the sand. Throughout it all they have behaved beautifully, shown impeccable manners and been a delight to be around. Their friendships and compassion have shone brightly all week...the very essence of what it means to be Holy Family Flames. They should feel proud of themselves.
11.40pm - It's late, thank fully it's quiet and it's time to sign off for tonight. We will be home tomorrow where your children can share their memories with you all. I will ponder the film credits overnight...most probably if/when my mate the turtle dove turns up outside the window at dawn. Well, either him or the Hound of the Baskervilles which tends to be out barking in the depths of the night. Until the morning, it's love and hugs from everyone here at Bertram Lodge.
Over and out...
The Blog Bloke