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Thursday 6th June

80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy during WWII

Morning: Sea Sports on Sandown Beach

Afternoon: Sandcastle competition 2024 and beach shopping

Evening: Year 6 party and disco

6.35am: Good morning everyone from the leather armchair in  bright and sunny Sandown. Mrs Holt is here looking through her big red 'folder of importance' whilst I can hear plenty of giggles coming from the children's rooms. They have all slept well and are in very good spirits.

The big news of the morning from the island is that very late last night, I discovered Mrs Holt's coat hiding under the many cushions on the big red sofa. What followed was an emotional reunion of the trip leader and trusty coat... and a quick all-channels alert to every news broadcaster and media outlet in the North West. Many good citizens of Oldham may have had a sleepless night, but they will wake up happy this morning...it will definitely be the headline story on Oldham breakfast TV. 

The big news story of the day everywhere else in Europe of course, is that today is the 80th anniversary of the greatest amphibious landing in history. On 6th June 1944, the allied forces sailed across the English Channel in a huge flotilla of boats, built a harbour off the coast of Arromanches and somehow scrambled on to the Normandy beaches under heavy enemy fire. It was the beginning of the liberation of Europe and the catalyst for the end of World War 2. The bravery and sacrifice of the many thousands of soldiers involved should never be forgotten. Our legacy to them all is to keep their memory alive so we never get drawn into another global conflict again.

Breakfast is at 7.45am this morning to give us time to enjoy a brisk morning stroll along Sandown promenade to Wight Water Sea Sports. Surfing/body boarding is always a very popular activity with plenty of writing material served up for The Blog Bloke so hopefully, this year will be no exception. We will return to the hotel for lunch and to get changed after being in the sea, so I may get a chance for a quick early afternoon post. Prior to that, I'll be back soon with some pre-surfing thoughts and comments...

7.30am There is plenty of frantic action in the hotel as the children race to meet the 7.45am breakfast deadline. In Room 1 there are items of clothing flying everywhere as Jakub is trying to locate his swimming shorts whilst Owen is straining every sinew in his body trying to manoeuvre his gigantic suitcase. He'd be better off hiring a fork lift truck. There is a similar drama going on in the black hole of Black Magik. I sent Mrs Capindale in as I felt she would 'enjoy' the experience and heard her say "Boys, why don't you have a good look and I'll come back in a while." Hudson is claiming he left his swimming shorts on the end of his bed, but they have 'now disappeared'. I fully expect there is a male badger currently strolling along Sandown Beach in a brand-new pair of board shorts feeling delighted with himself. If he turns up at the changing rooms around 12.15pm today, I'll probably be able to kit him (and his family) out with a full wardrobe of beach accessories of lost property for their next badger holiday to Benidorm.

Fortunately, Hudson informs me his mum has packed two pairs of shorts so he is fine. Well done Mrs Scott. Judging by the growing size of the festering mound, my bet is that the 'disappeared' shorts are in there. Sophia L & Freya have arrived in the lounge. They are hoping the sea will wake them up...I don't think there's any doubt about that!

The morning after the theatre show is traditionally the time many of the children morph into croaky-voiced beings due to all the shouting, screaming and singing in the tinnitis-fest of the night before. I've not met a Holy Family dalek yet this morning, but there's plenty of time.  Ok, it's time for breakfast so I will sign off for now. More news coming soon...

1pm: We are back from the water sports and it's time for lunch. Here is a recap of the action this morning...along with the view from my office on the beach:

After breakfast, we were gathered in the lounge for departure. James was very happy as he had collected his Capri Sun drink first so “had the best choice” and was all ready to roll…along with his stretchy man who can stick to walls. “Is stretchy man coming in the sea with you this morning?” I asked.

“Err probably not, I’m not sure he can swim” James replied. This is probably a wise decision…all those rubber suckers on the end of his limbs might be a magnet for any inquisitive local octopus, giant squid or other stretchy sea creatures with suckered tentacles.

Alex then arrived with his ever-expanding backpack which this morning looks like it contains two parachutes. “Dominik looked at me and, with a deadpan expression, simply said “That bag is full of stuff.” Fair enough. Whatever stuff is in there appears to be multiplying daily. Alex will be well trained if there are any backpack carrying endurance tournaments this summer. Alfie arrived carrying Bertram the orangutan in his shades and baseball cap. He was clearly ready for the beach…but then again, had probably received a text message from his mate the badger who had already set up the windbreak and parasol in the prime spot on the sand. Bearing in mind orangutans are part of the family of greater apes, I hope the badger has studied the tide timetables as Bertram is most likely to be not too keen on the water.

With everyone ready to go, we set off and walked along the sea front to the Wight Water HQ where we were met by our team of instructors and the pre-kit instructions were delivered.

“Come out of the changing room in your swimsuit. Collect your wetsuit. It will be inside out so pull out the legs and arms so it looks like this with the ‘Tiki’ sign on the front. These are the knee pads, they go on your knees. This is the zip, it goes at the back. Get changed on the concrete not on the sand…unless you want a scratchy wetsuit full of grains of sand. Once in your wetsuit, grab a buoyancy jacket. Everyone got it?” the lady concluded. So, off they went to the changing block.

“There’s always at least one who won’t have listened to 90% of that” I said to Miss Hunter…and we didn’t have long to find out. First out of the changing block was the tree-climbing whizz Abi, followed by Maddy , Maximilian, Louis and Max T…oh, and Laurence who said “Ooh, mine’s wet” which is surely a fairly important clause in the job description of your average wetsuit.

Just alongside, Jamie was trying to work out “how to unzip a zip backwards” whilst Louis stood there, wetsuit in hand and said “What are we doing again?” Overall, it wasn’t the most auspicious of starts so there was surely only one way to go next…and then I heard one of the instructors say “There’s always one, the zip goes at the back buddy.” This year’s ‘always one’ prize goes to Maximilian. In the middle of all this boy-led carnage and hilarity, Abi was already fully suited, booted and buoyancy aided up and ready to hit the waves. Nearby, Jakub was desperately trying to force his leg into the arm of the wetsuit and Macy B was declaring ~”she was doing really well”… but the zip was clearly at the front.

Once they were all ready, the instructors led them down to the water and, after some fun games to warm up, they got all the children onto two giant rafts, handed out some oars and off they went in a race. The next time I looked up, they were halfway to Ventnor and I wondered whether they were going back to Blackgang Chine for another ride on Extinction.

Applying the theme park rule of ‘the louder you scream, the more fun you’re having’ the giant raft games were clearly ticking all the boxes. Children in wetsuits were flying and spinning through the air into the water, clambering back oj board and going again. They were having the perfect Thursday morning…although, of course, not quite as perfect as a maths lesson before break time. Sometimes the privilege of the writer’s artistic licence needs to be utilised.

Gradually, as the morning progressed, children began to make their way back to the promenade, mostly because they were a tad cold or they had “drunk enough salt water for one day.” Josh informed me that if we stopped at a café for a steak lunch on the way back to the hotel, he wouldn’t need any salt on the table. A steak lunch, I like his style. Whilst sitting watching the action, I enjoyed my annual great chat with Scott, the owner of Wight Water. This year’s topic was staff wellbeing. His guys spend the summer season on the beach followed by a break in October and early November then they head either to Indonesia for more surfing or to Canada for ski instructor work. It’s not a bad life and probably explains why they were smiling a lot. There are no Colobus Monkeys or off-duty Ofsted inspectors employed in this line of business. I do need to point out however, that despite the myriad of smiles and obvious high wellbeing, Holy Family were still able to significantly enhance this as Mrs Capindale offered him a chocolate digestive. Scott then told me that his disciplinary policy when one of his  staff ’mess up’ is that they must provide an appropriate home-baked cake for the rest of the team to eat whilst they go through the learning curve so the mistake is not repeated.  This is the world in which some people operate. His business has been thriving for 25 years so there’s clearly something in a recipe of sun, sand, sea and sweet treats.

Back to the children’s comments, Carly summarised the whole experience as “Great fun but a bit cold” which is to be expected, This is the UK, not the Adriatic. Caden added “That was great, especially the bit where they catapulted me into the water.” An excellent way to conclude.

5.45pm Good afernoon everyone, we have just returned to the hotel after a fantastic afternoon on Shanklin Beach. The sun was shining, the sea was sparkling, and the smiles were beaming. The 2024 sand sculpture competition took place with a stunning winning design selected by the esteemed panel of judges. Dinner is at 6pm and this will be followed by the traditional final night disco and party.

Some of the children are grabbing a quick shower whilst the rest are relaxing here in the lounge. Another tradition of the final night blog is for the children to design their dream schedule for a day on the island, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to gauge their feelings this year. I asked them for their favourite visit this week?

 “Blackgang Chine” (Issy J, Anabella)

“Shanklin Theatre Show” (Sophia L)

“Shanklin Beach” (James, Josh)

“Sea Sports (Sophia H, Maddy, Owen, Dominik, Freya)

“Tree Climbing” (Abi, Mary, Macy B, Jessica)

It will be an interesting and action-packed schedule we devise later tonight.

It’s almost time for dinner, so I will sign off for now. Just before I do that, your children have been complimented everywhere they have visited this week. In the shop on Shanklin Beach  this afternoon, the lady said “Your children are delightful. Their manners are impeccable and they are so respectful. We’ve had some really badly behaved groups here this week. You should be very proud of them.” By now, I'm sure you realise I am. We all are. They have been exemplary ambassadors for our school all week. The lady was clearly so impressed and so touched that she had her own Dairy Milk ‘there’s a glass and a half in everyone’ moment as in the advert. With the total at £9.97 and a £2.50 magnet still to scan, £10 was never going to be enough. When the lady heard that the final item was a gift for a mum, she scanned it and said £9.97 please.” Respect, manners and kindness are infectious and so often reciprocated.

On that lovely thought, I will sign off until later…

7pm I'm back, perched comfortably in the leather armchair as the preparations begin in earnest for the end of trip party. We will now be rewinding a few hours to the action on Shanklin Beach.

There were 10 entries for the 2024 sand sculpture competition which I will list below before I begin describing the process by which we ended up with each masterpiece. Please note that in many cases, the final exhibit bore little or no resemblance to the what was on the sand after the first 20 minutes. I believe artists would describe this as allowing the masterpiece to evolve.

  1. ‘The Lost City of Atlantis’ by Raima, Macey M, Sophia H, Freya, Izzy B & Abi
  2. ‘Boys Part Covered in Sand’ by Laurence, Alex & Jamie
  3. ‘Crocodile Boat’ by Dominik and Jakub
  4. ‘London Landmarks’ by Sapphire, Liza, Mary, Martha, Maddy and Jessica
  5. ‘The Oval’ by Maximilian and Alfie
  6. ‘World’s Greatest School’ by Caden & Hudson
  7. ‘An Ancient City from the Moses Saves The Hebrews times’ by Josh & James
  8. ‘Paradise Photograph Frame’ by Ferne, Carly, Evie & Macy B
  9. ‘Sea Life Creatures’ by Issy J, Sophia L & Anabella
  10. ‘Buckingham Palace 2.0’ by Max T & Louis

It was an interesting journey leading to the final submissions…

As the competition began I made my way along the beach, coming first to the boys from Room 1. Laurence, Dominik, Owen and Jakub were digging a hole; a very deep hole…infact, so deep they were in danger in breaking through to the outer core layer under the Earth’s crust where all the molten magma is. “What sculpture are you making?” I enquired.

“We’re just digging a massive hole to put me in” Laurence replied. Ahead of the July election, Laurence appears to be adopting the characteristics of a cabinet minister already. I carried onward and saw Abi, Izzy B & Freya also digging…but in a more calculated manner as the started the foundations of their over the top fairytale castle’. After looking at several others I began walking back to observe each one a second time. I soon came across the boys from Room 1 again. They were making a new sculpture which apparently was eventualy going to be a ferry although, as I left, I heard Jakub say “We need to dig a massive hole.” I could see this was not going well. Working in harmony appeared to be somewhat lacking..although they were clearly going to end up with another large hole in the sand.

By now, the girls from Room 2 were well on the way with their sculpture ‘The Eiffel Tower’, which I guess was no surprise. I expect this was the supplier of the pink French toilet roll in the spa. Further along, Issy J, Sophia L & Anabella made a very strong start and created a beautiful turtle as the centrepiece of their ‘sea life creatures’ sculpture. They were not shouting over each other or digging a massive hole, which probably explains a lot. Slighter further up the beach, Ferne, Macy B, Carly and Evie were also making great headway with their Paradise Island photo in a frame. The white stones were halfway around the perimeter of the frame and the photo was taking shape. They were sculpting but not trying to dig their way to Australia, so I figured they had a decent chance at the title.

In the centre of the action, the Room 1 gang were still digging…and talking a lot at each other. “We need to dig another foot down before we build anything up” was what I heard next. Well, I think I did but, then again, I could only see the top of Jakub’s head by then 😊

As the competition progressed, many of the designs were adapted, some changed completely and Room 1 decided to disband and start again in two new teams. Interestingly, despite the parting of ways, both groups carried on digging two massive holes!

At the end, we all visited each sculpture to hear the thoughts of the creators. As always, a lot of support and praise was offered to all the class and, as usual, we had some lovely comments. Josh said “I’m not desperate to win as I’ve really enjoyed this” whilst Max T & Louis, in a similar vein, said “We didn’t want ours to be too fancy, we just wanted to have fun together.” And, after all, that is exactly what the sand sculpture competition is really all about. Top marks boys!

The judges did settle on a winning design and a runner-up. Congratulations to:

Runner-up: the sea life turtle by Issy J, Sophia L & Anabella

Winners: ‘Paradise Photo Frame’ by Ferne, Carly, Evie & Macy B. This was a spectacular 3-D effort based on exceptional communication, team work and clear division of roles. Amazing work girls! Our 2024 winning design is here:

After we had packed away on the beach, we headed to the shop on the promenade for some good old-fashioned seaside retail therapy/speed spending frenzy. The usual mix of eclectic choices were made alongside some very thoughtful gifts for family members. Addlestone will have some very happy parents/siblings/grandparents/pets this weekend. As detailed earlier, we also enjoyed more very positive compliments and that beautiful Dairy Milk moment; those are prized memories money can’t buy. We then hopped back on the coach and Simon drove us back to the hotel.

8.15pm The party has started, so I will return later...

9.00pm The end of trip party 2024 has now concluded and we will soon begin the biggest challenge of the week…trying to get all the right clothes into the correct luggage for the journey home. This will be more stressful in some rooms compared to others but we’re ready to roll up down our sleeves, and get this done; my bio-hazard suit and breathing apparatus have arrived via Amazon Prime and all my jabs are up to date so bring on the big tidy and pack 2024 😊

As a quick pre-packing check, I popped into Black Magik whilst the party was still going on, just to see how the festering mound was looking. The badgers are obviously still out partying in Sandown in their new board shorts, but I did manage to capture this little fella on camera…

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up in a suitcase on route to Addlestone tomorrow 😊

Breaking news from the party is that there were some sparkling dance moves on display and that the limbo queens and kings were Sapphire, Maddy, Freya, Carly, Abi, Ferne, Jamie…and the honorary Mancunian, Owen, who was following in the footsteps of the many young Reds from the 70’s and early 80’s who used to shimmy under the corrugated iron fence at the back of the Stretford End every other Saturday....or so I was told 😊

Mrs Holt is now going through her motivational suitcase packing speech which, quite appropriately on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, is taking on Churchillian proportions. If the group of children sitting on the floor in front of me can finish their game of Uno any time soon, we might just have a chance of cracking this. Mrs Holt has sent the Black Magik team off in the first wave which is a wise move…that festering mound will need full focus. I’m off to get suited up…see you all soon…

9.24pm I have just been revived after suffering severe shock in Black Magik. Whilst crawling around the floor scooping up the rubbish, Max T shouted “I’m done, all packed.” I looked over. Max was pointing to the corner of the room. Standing neatly against the wall were one suitcase zipped and orderly alongside one rucksack. Wow. It’s a record; 9 minutes from gun to tape. A greater feat by British man may not have been seen since the allied forces built Mulberry Harbour in 1944.

Just before passing out, I’d enjoyed a humorous exchange of words with Caden.

“Mr Tindall, what are we doing tomorrow?”

“We’re visiting the donkeys.”

“Will I need my crocs for the beach?”

Top marks to Caden for really making me chuckle late into Thursday evening of the trip and for having a reading book by his bedside. I’m impressed, as I have been with Caden all week. He has been fabulous company to both his friends and the staff.

 Interestingly, as the festering mound was being deconstructed by a tractor, we found another reading book…it was ‘Dogman’, so I’m trying to decide if it belongs to one of us or the family of badgers. We're making progress and are almost fully packed downstairs but, from what I'm picking up from Mrs Holt and co, I'm not sure they're making quite the same rapid headway upstairs.

10.15pm Mrs Holt, Miss Hunter and Mrs Tindall are soldiering on upstairs. I think they are getting closer to being packed but, clearly, at least one of the rooms is behind schedule. Whilst I wait, I'd best take the opportunity to write another email to the parents of a teacher. This time it will need to go to the parents of Miss Hunter who has lost her 'special flannel'...and it hasn't got her name on it. I'd best check the inservice day schedule for next academic year and make sure we get some training done. In the meantime, perhaps I may have a quick look under the many cushions on the leather sofas...it worked once before, so you never know.

The dream day schedule for the Isle of Wight has also been completed, so here it is:

8,00am Breakfast

9.00am Goodleaf Tree Climbing

12.00pm Lunch

12.30pm Wight Water Sea Sports

3.00pm Shanklin Theatre Matinee performance

5.00pm Dinner

6.00pm Blackgang Chine by night

11.00pm Bedtime

It's action-packed, high octane stuff, and we'd be absolutely shattered by the end but wow, what a day it would be!

OK, it's time to bring the last full day to an end, which sees me in a philosophical mood. This trip will hopefully provide memories that will last a very long time for all the children. Hopefully, they have learnt that the path to true happiness lies firmly in strong friendships, the service of others and facing our fears and challenges with positivity and resilience. Life can be complicated; it can be challenging and unpredictable but, with the right people alongside us, we can achieve whatever we set our minds to. Hopefully, they have also learnt that we need to appreciate who we have and what we have whilst in the moment; we are blessed, and have so much to be thankful for.

Until tomorrow, it's over and out from the leather armchair in the lounge.

The Blog Bloke