6.05am Good morning everyone from a very quiet Bertram Lodge. I can happily report that I am the only human awake in the hotel and everyone has had a peaceful night's sleep. Actually, even I may dispute that opening sentence as I currently only feel part human and partly awake. This is due, in no small part, to the avian population of the Isle of Wight who arise from their little birdy nests and roosting pouches before 4am. This in itself would be acceptable if it were not for the fact that it is obviously obligatory for them all to attend pre-dawn choir practice outside my window. As lovely as bird-song is, it makes for a rather short sleep. Anyway, the orang utans are also up and are sitting here with me. They look eager and excited as this morning we are going tree-climbing in Ryde. That's right up their street and I fully expect they will be turning on the style up in the branches.
Last night around midnight the staff were furiously consulting the weather forecast via the medium of their I-Phones. It was a confused picture with different websites offering very differing predictions and bore a worrying resemblance to the House of Commons over the last 18 months. It's not what I wanted to hear or witness. Outside this morning, the weather looks equally confused. It's sort of bright but also ominously dark at the same time so I've checked the forecast. I've found a website that says sunny intervals until 3pm so that will do for me...I'm sticking with that as I prepare myself for todays barrage of bizarre questions.
Last night, whilst doing the pre-bedtime rounds I was asked if I thought Donald Trump was an alien, if I'd like to be sawn in half by a magician and if I'd ever been bitten by a horse. Quite possibly, definitely not and thankfully no were my responses. I was also offered a little spray of 'Jurassic World' after-shave in Room 2 but politely declined as I remain concerned about Patrick's suitcase. The last thing I want to do is make myself attractive to a small family of T-Rex. Interestingly, Patrick's case has a large 'Fragile' sticker on the side which really intrigues me. When I asked him what was in the case, he simply smiled and said "Well, you know..." and that was it. I will be heading off to wake them all within the next hour and will be paying particular attention to whether that case remains closed.
Ok, before I head off on the morning rounds, I need to give a huge shout out to the boys who were first to settle last night. Particular praise goes to the Flat-Earthers in Room 4 where George, Thomas, Alfie, Harry J, Patrick and his T-Rex family were first with lights out. I fully expect them to be full of energy this morning.
Right, more inane ramblings very soon. I'll be back...
6.55am - there is no life whatsoever on the boys' floor so I've come down to the lounge where the girls have proven to be the early risers. Mrs Holt is on patrol and they all sound in very cheerful spirits. Room 8 sound worryingly organised and efficient, I think they may be favourites to pick up the tidy room prize. According to Mrs Holt they are in there tidying the floor, dusting the bunk bed frames and launching their face-care routines. I know Room 3 upstairs have made a promising start but none of these particular phenomena have ever been witnessed in a boys' room on a residential trip. They will need to raise their game to remain in the hunt for the big prize. When I wake them up, I may ask them about their face-care routines...I expect their faces will be a picture. Now it's my turn to ask the bizarre questions.
7.15am - I'm back from my rounds upstairs where I can report that the occupants of Room 3 have no idea what a face-care routine is and the best way to wake up anyone in Room 4 is simply to say 'breakfast'. At the very mention of the word, both Thomas and Alfie sprung up like a cobra. It's a little bit of magic that the crazy Mr Randini would be proud of. No need for a fancy alarm clock in there. In Room 4 the early morning topic of conversation was centred on how best to drive a lorry or coach. Patrick reliably informed everyone that if we want to know, we need to speak to his dad who has plenty of experience driving lorries. Point noted if I decide to apply for a HGV licence. Room 2 were not quite so lively...I expect that's the Jurassic World after shave to blame.
Keira and Ella have joined myself and Mrs Holt in the lounge and shown further proof of why Room 8 are out there as favourites for the tidiest room competition. They have informed me they all have tomorrow's outfits organised already and that they have spent their time caring for each other in the room. It's classic Holy Family stuff and wonderful to witness. Room 7 have appeared en-masse and have told Mrs Holt that Hannah was cracking jokes all night. They are all sporting beaming smiles so I guess Hannah must be a pretty good comedian. Hannah is now sitting with Bertie and I can see why they're all smilng..she's a natural. Mrs Holt has just told the girls that the HFS Bank is now open so they're making rapid withdrawals of cash for todays retail therapy...which apparently for Abigail will be some make-up. I'm presuming this must be part of the face-care routine; I will be interested to see how she gets on amongst Mrs Holt's 'old ladies gifts' at Osborne House. More on that later...
7.15pm - Good evening all, greetings from the leather sofa in Bertram Lodge. We've just finished dinner and everyone has eaten very well. On the menu tonight was fruit juice, spaghetti bolognese or jacket potatoes followed by jelly and ice cream. Children are now getting ready to head out to the theatre for the annual tinnittis convention better known as the Shanklin Players school performance. It's bound to be yet another riotous affair for a theatre full of screaming 10 and 11 year olds. Happily for me, I will be sitting in the relative sound proofed area of the theatre vestibule where hopefully I will be able to connect to the wi-fi and preserve my hearing for at least another 12 months.
I have many jolly tidings to share with you about the adventures of the day so please make sure you check back later. It's been a non-stop, fun-filled day where we've experienced all the seasons bar winter. Thankfully, the majority of the day was fine and dry although we did have to eat our picnic lunch sheltered under the canopy of a giant beech tree. We've witnessed some magnificent climbing, sensational beach foraging and yet more scientific insights from both staff and children...I'm hoping my inane ramblings can do justice to it all.
I will be back very soon, wi-fi permitting. If the theatre has regressed to 20th century technology, I will type everything in Word and then copy and paste it all here much later tonight. The curtain goes up at 8.30pm so we will be back late tonight.
7.40pm - We're almost set for the off. The staff are handing out half time refreshments such is Mrs Holt's organisation and forward planning. There are a few glam rags out on show and Year 6 look to me like they're ready to party and to make some noise. Now, where did I pack my ear defenders...
8.40pm - Ok, I'm back and we have sort of good news. As you can tell, I've managed to connect to the theatre wi-fi but the signal is about as reliable as a back four of Young, Bailly, Jones and Darmian. It could all go pear-shaped and totally unravel at any time. For now, I will push onwards with the tales of the day. Just before I do, I have to relay a funny tale from the hotel before we left. As I sat there shaing my head and looking at Mrs Capindale, Mrs O'Connor and Mrs Rawlinson in matching diamond-encrusted flip-flops, I heard Mrs Holt saying to the girls "Do you really think those flip-flops are the most appropriate footwear for walking to the theatre?" Oops...well at least I was wearing a sensible pair of trainers.
Ok, let's rewind to this morning...
We boarded the refurbished coach at 8.40am and drove to Ryde for the tree climbing. As we stood on Ryde Beach we could see The Spinnaker Tower across The Solent. Sadly for Gilberto we were unable to see B&Q despite their bright orange branding. As we were walking up the hill through the park, I noticed Ollie was wearing protective gloves. He clearly meant business up in the huge tree. We split into 3 groups for the 3 different activities of tree climbing, vortex golf and beach action.
Mrs Holt headed off to the beach whilst I took the vortex golf and we got started. Lexi, Joseph, Ella, Ellen and Abigail were brilliant company and we had a great time. Abigail proved to be like Tiger Woods...but with make-up obviously..which I guess, by definition, makes her Tigress Woods. Meanwhile , Adam and Harry J were also excelling on the other part of the course. Over in the tree, Ollie was scurrying up the ropes like a spider up a drainpipe. Clearly the protective gloves were the business. Keira, Harry C, Rosa, XiXi, Bella and Alfie were also sparkling amongst the greenery like budding young Tarzans. After 45 minutes Robinson Crusoe and her group returned from the beach where they proudly informed me "They got stuck on an island." Clearly they weren't stuck for too long. "Did you see Tom Hanks on there?" I asked. The answer was a negative...although they did find a sea urchin and a dead crab. Keira then reappeared back on terra firma and said "I love tree climbing, it's going to be my new job." whilst Conor celebrated his exploits by transforming into the Oreo Monster. One minute I was fancying a cookie and the next minute the whole pack had disappeared. For the record, Conor put the blame on anyone else within a 100 yard radius...and that included a Dulux dog, a magpie and a jogger who ran past us within 10 seconds. And so we moved on to rotation 2...
In the vortex golf, my group saw a titanic battle between Harriet and Amoya-May who, in her strikingly colourful outfit reminded me of a female Ian Poulter. No wonder she was good and after 9 holes the two were locked in a dead heat. We had to go to a second play-off hole before Harriet emerged triumphant. It was a great game and Amoya's sporting reaction at the end was priceless. Over in the boys group, Brandon stopped talking long enough to win comfortably. It was another impressive display. In the tree, Harry J lived up to pre-climb hype as a budding Bear Grylls by reaching the top first whilst I also spotted Tigress Woods halfway up the tree relaxing on a branch. There was obviously a need to reapply the make-up before the final ascent. In various other parts of the canopy, Adam, Lexi, Ellen and Ella were all displaying top quality climbing skills. I was suitably impressed.
I then bumped into Fern as she was about to get harnessed up for her climb. "Are you a tree climber?" I asked her. "Not really, but I did climb a tree once...without a harness" she replied. Wow, free-climber Fern...it all sounded like dare-devil stuff and I mused this would be a stroll in the park for her. By this stage, Robinson Crusoe had once again returned from another expedition to a lost island and posed the best rhetorical question of the week so far. "Would anyone else like to go to the beach?" Accompanied by the body language, i was reading the vibes...it was my turn to take the walk down the hill to the windswept expanse of sand. "I'll get my coat" I said...but then I was spared when Mrs Holt said "Wait a minute, you can't go as you're the only one who knows how to play vortex golf." And so rotation 3 began with Mrs Holt spectating at the climbing, myself on the vortex golf whilst Mrs Rawlinson and Mrs Capindale skipped off happily to the beach...well, it was probably more like a trudge than a skip but off they went.
Up in the tree, Brandon followed up his golfing success with fabulous climbing and he was joined by Luke, Gilberto (despite hitting his 'gluteus maximus' on a branch) free-climber Fern and Amoya-May who now reminded me of a colourful bird of paradise high up in the canopy. Down on the ground, there seemed to be an epidemic of falling/tripping over afflicting a vast number of people. Thomas and Finn tripped spectacularly over each other, Keira fell over a plastic box, Rosa fell over a pile of bags and Mrs O'Connor fell into a hole. It was all head-scratching stuff...but Mrs O'Neil would have made sense of it and been exceptionally proud of them all.
It was a brilliant morning of fun activities and the children were amazing. I may be considered biased so will leave it to Paul, the leader of Goodleaf Tree Climbing, who simply said with a smile "We have our favourite schools." Our reputation has been enhanced superbly by this group. Feeling delighted with ourselves we made our way back towards the coach. Heading down the hill I got into conversation with Ollie. He really is 'Mr Prepared'. Yesterday he was tooled up with spades, buckets and all manner of sandcastle building stuff and today it was the gloves. I fully expect he has a surfboard packed in his suitcase for Thursday morning. Oh, and he also told me he has packed a balaclava. Now, I've checked the itinerary several times and really cannot see where a balaclava naturally fits in to the general plan. If he puts it on at Osborne House this afternoon I will be a trifle worried.
10.20pm - Whoo hoo, we're back from the theatre and I'm back on the leather sofa where the wi-fi is far more reliable. Mrs Holt has just told the children that according to her fit bit we have walked 10 miles today. Surely they must be tired by now. They're certainly wired after the show but they need to be feeling sleepy very soon. It could be time to dust off the swinging watch on a chain...
Right, back to the action as we left the park in Ryde...
We boarded the coach and drove to Osborne House where it promptly began to drizzle and we headed under the giant beech tree for our picnic lunch. Following lunch it stopped raining and the sun came out as we began the walk to Swiss Cottage. En-route Thomas and Finn morphed into a fascinating hybrid of David Bellamy and Charles Darwin. "We're hunting for new species" they declared as they began rooting around in the long grass. Down at the Swiss Cottage we spilt into two groups. Mrs Holt and I headed into the museum of curiosities whilst the other staff led their group into the cottage. I decided to track the morphed hybrid duo and am thoroughly delighted I did as it was highly entertaining viewing. Staring into a glass case containing a huge white-tailed eagle, Finn said "Is that real?Imagine if it moved now, what would you do?" "Make sure I was running faster than you" I replied. They were having the time of their lives and I cannot remember two children so engrossed and interested by the exhibits in all my years visiting this place. Their eyes were everywhere. "I can't look at all these things...oh wow look at that...and look at that!" Thomas said as they poured over every single millimetre of every case. To finish it all off, and nearly finish me off, they found a small stuffed hoopoe (which is mainly brown) and Thomas said excitedly "Finn, Finn, look at that flamingo." Finn summed it up when he said "I could stay in here for hours, it's awesome." Brilliant stuff and exactly what this trip is all about.
On the way out we met the other group heading inside. "Mr Tindall, we're looking for the 8-legged deer, Mrs O'Connor told us to find it" they said. They've got some odd-looking things in there but there is definitely no Spider Deer...although clearly there is in Mrs O'Connor's world. I expect it also wears a red and blue lycra suit. Following the action at the cottage, we all headed back up the track to Osborne House itself, Queen Victoria's little beach retreat. Every year we have a bizarre opening conversation with a member of the National Trust staff and this year was no exception. A lady greeted us. "Good afternoon are you the 3.15pm group? Do you have 30 children?" "No, we actually have 31" I replied. "Great, can you split them into two groups of 15?" the lady asked. Isaac's face was a picture. We've been doing arithmetic all year and we know our stuff so we split into a 15 and a 16. The lady seemed quite happy so we headed inside.
The children were brilliant on the tour, asking fabulous questions and spotting all sorts of little details that I've not noticed before. It was all impressively educational and we all felt very proud of them. Special praise goes to Bella, Eddie, Thomas and Ellen who was completely captivated by the different ceilings and the incredible detail in them. Finishing in the Durbar Room I bumped into Isaac who was staring at a model of a 19th Century Indian palace. "Is that Shanklin Theatre?" he asked. I hated to disappoint him as Shanklin Theatre definitely does not look like an ornate Indian palace. I said nothing, he will find out for himself later on tonight.
As we left Osborne House Patrick had clearly been taking in the real estate potential throughout the entire tour. He said "How much do you reckon this would cost to buy?" Perhaps this is the key to the massive suitcase...he is actually planning a 5 year stay after all? Joseph also proved a terrific font of knowledge as he was able to tell us all how Osborne House got its name. This will be useful information for Patrick when he decides to put in an offer.
We finished the visit in the shop for the obligatory shop-fest. As predicted, the boys were immediately drawn to the weapons stand like magnets which is particularly impressive as they're all made of wood and plastic. This year, the big craze appeared to be stretchy rubber millipedes and sticky slugs. Fern, Hannah and Brandon were at the head of the queue with their sticky slugs. Don't ask me...it seems to be a slug that sticks to walls and things...it's obviously a Year 6 thing. Brandon whispered "I'm going to put this in Finn's bed to scare him." After watching Finn's excitement at the spiders, beetles and rainbow bugs earlier, I reckon he'd be thrilled to find a sticky slug.
After leaving the shop we hopped back on the coach and drove back to the hotel for dinner. It had been a great day out.
11.05pm - Ok, I'm back in real time now. The children are (in theory) settling down to sleep although there doesn't appear to be too much settling down here on the ground floor. Upstairs I can hear banging which may suggest that either Patrick has eventually opened his case or Finn has found the sticky slug. All the children absolutely loved the theatre show and Mrs Holt reliably informs me that we were the best dancers in the whole of the theatre, particularly the boys. The show apparently was based on X-Factor and they had a ball in there. Fantastic.
Right, I'm off up the stairs to risk life and limb for the sake of humanity. I have my gas mask at the ready so will head to Room 2 first. Back soon...
12.01am - Midnight has come and gone and the children have , I think, gone to sleep. All is quiet..except here in the lounge where my esteemed colleagues are talking about scary adverts in the 1970's and joining the Tufty Club. I'm not involved as that's clearly well before my time :-)
Tomorrow we will be outside all day at Robin Hill Park so I'm hoping to avoid a 4am wake up courtesy of the IOW bird choir. It's going to be another energetic day when hopefully the weather will be kinder to us all. I will post early in the morning with all the latest news. It's time for me to retire for the day...my colleagues are now watching a 1970's advert of Willy Weasel being knocked over at an ice-cream van. This is what a Year 6 residential visit can do to you.
For now, it's over and out from the leather sofa in Sandown. Wishing you lots of love and hugs from everyone at Bertram Lodge.
The Blog Bloke