Author Archives: tpowell
So it’s Thursday evening and the children wait in in dry-mouthed anticipation for their final hurdle – the disco. The teachers’ emotions verge more towards fear!
A beautiful day it has been once again, ideal for the day’s main event which was the trip to Criel-sur-mer beach where activities ranged from the more traditional (Mr Williams’ sandcastle building) to the more sporty (football, basketball).
The day started off however with archery and fencing at the chateau in which the children learned the difference between the blunt and sharp end of a foil (plastic ones just to reassure you) and how to hit quite a large target from 10 yards (not always achieved by both children and staff).
This afternoon, in an activity-packed day, we visited the cider farm, where we were schooled in the ways of producing cider and eau de vie (some of us took copious mental notes). It is a truly idyllic environment. The children sat under apple trees and willow trees as they learned the ins and outs of fermentation and distillation.
The competition for ‘top dorm’ is coming to its climax as I type as I hear Drill Sergeant Powell doing his rounds to be greeted by some truly imaginative mottos and performances, some involving re-writing of pop songs and even opera.
Now later in the evening, the children are bedding down for the night – no doubt ready to dream of running into the arms of their parents who have missed them so much 🙂
See you all tomorrow.
Hi all, this will be our last blog, keep your eye on Twitter for our journey home details – I will Tweet when we are amongst the green, green grass of home 🙂
Hi all, we have just come from dinner at the end of a busy day here in Criel Sur Mer, the children are currently enjoying French games and mini olympics as I write. The last I saw was children trying some very strange methods at moving a large football between their knees from one end of the field to the other – some were jumping energetically and others were walking like they had cramp. I must say I did chuckle when I saw the variety of techniques on show.
Dinner was a lovely salad followed by some spicy merguez sausages (which are a real barbecue favourite here in France) and the children didn’t seem to miss the good old British banger too much. Pudding was a real treat; some Normandie apple tart – but to my surprise quite a few of the children turned it down – unbelievable!
This was not the case for all of our tourists however…….one child was left behind as the children left for their field games as he was devouring his second, then third slice of delicious tarte. When finally finished, he took a deep breath and walked uneasily to the door escorted by his group leader. He even made him stop so he could take a swig of water to wash it down. I certainly can’t picture this child currently taking an active role in mini olympics 🙂
Tonight also saw the second of our daily dorm inspections, highlights from the girls include a quiz show drama set-up where a not so bright contestant bribed the quiz master to win – I guess for the class of 2017 – money talks.
The girls dorms are all named after French deserts and one amusing moment was when the ‘crepe’ dorm introduced themselves loudly as a different sounding word that rhymes with rap. ‘we are the crepe dorm!’ they announced proudly – cue giggling from Mr Williams.
On the boys side, we had a very energetic and borderline disturbing Haka, it was odd to see such a vehement Haha at just 07:30 in the morning. I asked that same dorm to perform me a Star Trek based drama for tomorrow as their motto is ‘live long and prosper’ – which is a lovely motto for a week where so many of the children seem to be prospering so much.
Following on from yesterday’s 27-a-side 6P vs 6W football match, we were mercifully down to 16 a-side today and I’m sorry to say 6P were once against on the losing side. Despite my encouragement we seem a little vulnerable on the counter – but I’m not letting it get to me 🙂
Earlier in the day our big trip was to the beautiful city of Rouen where children were taken on a brilliant tour led by the brilliant staff here at the Chateau. In the spirit of our Chinese democracy conversations from yesterday we had some very inquisitive questions from one child in Mrs Turner’s group. He became very preoccupied with whether France was a Roman catholic country and then which other countries had a predominantly Roman Catholic population – I’m assuming this made for an interesting sidetrack to the young guide’s normal, historical tour of the stunning cathedral.
Rouen also bought our first visit to the market and as ever there were some funky purchases, we had children buying all sorts from overpriced fidget spinners to beauty products from Lush for their parents – lucky you if that ends up being your gift!
One amusing moment came from one child who couldn’t believe that Lush and Claire’s accessories were the ‘same as in Kingston!’ – what a small world we live in ay. Conversely, one child in my class couldn’t believe their luck when they were able to pick up Grape flavour Fanta and Dr Pepper ‘cola’ bottle sweets – apparently these are rarer than giant pandas in Twickenham – so they were delighted – obviously 😉
Tomorrow is archery, fencing, cider farm, Criel beach, team tech and the….DISCO!
As ever, all children are happy and are squeezing every last drop out of this busy week!
Being woken by the pitter-patter of tiny feet is something you get used to when on school journey, particularly at 6.00 in the morning when the first flurry of movement starts. Today was no exception and by 7.45 the boys were all up after a good night’s sleep, dressed, washed (honestly), rooms tidy (really honestly), inspected and ready for breakfast. The girls matched the boys in timing and effort and we all met together outside the dining hall to go into breakfast as a school.
It was another bluebird sky, the perfect weather to go to Dieppe. The trip there was easy and we were soon by the harbour learning about the history and economics of Dieppe. More importantly the Cafe Tout va Bien was waiting to serve 63 crepes of different beautifulness – chocolat, citron ou sucre. All delightful and by the end the remnants covered the faces of every child (and staff members). A quick tour around the town which ended up at the memorial for an attack by Canadian forces in 1942 against the port, which was held by the Germans. Unbelievably the attack was plotted by no other than Ian Fleming (he of James Bond fame).
The visit to Dieppe ended up us all having a picnic lunch in the wonderful sunshine – the perfect spot.
Once watered, we got back onto the bus and made our way into the interior and visited a goat farm (welll there were cows as well but it was the making of chèvre (goat’s cheese) that we were there to enjoy). The farm had 73 goats, all of which were stroked and petted by the children. We then got chance to taste new cheese, less than a week old, and an older cheese, at the enormous age of one month old – both delicious and totally different tastes.
At last we made our way back to the chateau, not to rest but to play a 27-a-side football match. As Mrs Turner walked onto the pitch she was surprised to hear Mr Brampton and two boys talking about the relative merits of the Chinese system of government and whether it was diverse enough to promote change and development. Needless to say, the conversation stopped from time-to-time as one of the conversationalists got up to hoof a ball that had got within kicking range off in the direction of goal.
Dinner was accepted with open arms and mouths; an excellent tomato salad followed by fish and ratatouille and a chocolate desert – just what the doctor ordered.
Is it time for bed, I hear you cry? Oh no, not by any stretch. Off for mini Olympics and a lot of races and competition Everyone loving it.
You never know after today the pitter-patter of tiny feet may not start until 6.05 tomorrow! We can but hope!
Hi all, you find me sat in teacher’s room here at the beautiful chateau where, by virtue of me holding my laptop, I have just avoided a water ballooning from some eager St Mary’s children as a ‘prize’ for winning scrapheap challenge – more to come on this later.
The day started with us making good time to Folkestone followed by a very quick passage through the tunnel, all children were excited to get going and the quick journey meant all were in fine fettle for Nausicaa. Our coach driver Sergio kindly put a Mr Bean film on for the children, I’d have thought Mr Bean might be a bit old hat for the class of 2017 but all seemed transfixed and giggled at the slapstick that was served up to them.
I’m pleased to say that our policy of no electronics is going well, the children have been playing hangman, playing cards and even….writing! One child must have been quite bored however, as I glanced over her shoulder to see she had drawn the most detailed biro drawing of an ice cream I have ever seen – two hours clearly put to good use 😉
We arrived at Nausicca in really good time and had a solid 1.5 hour visit which meant the children could really take the time to take in all the amazing exhibits. Three of our groups managed to see the sea lions being fed which was a real treat. The feeding was swiftly followed by ten children doing an impression of a sea lion , I can only imagine the other French tourists must have thought we were a bit odd – or maybe just British.
When we got to the Chateau I wandered over to check on the girls only to find Mr Williams purposefully wheeling a suitcase through the corridor with a child closely followed behind. He reliably informed me that there had been a suitcase mix up and he was on he look our for a similar navy blue case that belonged to the child he was with.
We got to the girl’s room and just as Holmes and Watson were deducing who’s bag had been mixed up, Mr Williams decided to check to the front pouch……in it we found a letter addressed to the parents of the girl who had cried foul in the first place, cue looks of incredulity from the two class teachers as we informed the girl that it must be hers all along. This one was a first for me, I’ve never even had a child not recognise their own case never mind be adamant someone had taken theirs – but on school journey, nothing surprises me.
So as I write the children have just finished scrapheap challenge and despite chants of MR POWELL! MR POWELL! my technology in hand saved my skin from a water ballooning.
However……….there was one man who was willing to step forward, cue Mr Williams (hoodie hood pulled tight around his head a la E.T) who stepped forward in front of 58 eager pupils to get his comeuppance, he took it really well and the children will have a fun memory to take with them into day 2. I will tweet a picture of said incident with this blog post.
A note about the food, we had mini pizzas, turkey escalopes, chocolate eclairs and of course….bags of baguette – one table seemed to create their own Eiffel Tower of bread which they dismantled with hungry intent.
Tomorrow is Dieppe and an organic goat’s cheese farm which we have never been to before so it should be good fun.
As ever, all children are happy and full of energy for the week ahead.
Hi all, here is where you will find al of my daily blogs which I will write in the evenings. I will also post two Twitter updates a day.
I am currently blogging from the shuttle train; we are about to depart for La Belle France with Nausicaa aquarium first on the menu.
The children have just got an old fashioned, VERY loud ‘who we are…..where we come from….’ chant going – which I’m obviously delighted about 😉
Mr Williams just said ‘right I’m going to teach them a new one’, I’ll let you know how it goes, I’m presuming it’s something in Welsh.
As ever, all children are excited about the week and in good spirits.
Hi all, today was our last full day here Normandy and the children certainly made it count with a day of culinary and cultural visits topped off by the finale to the week’s events – the DISCO!
I have just come from the disco to write this and it was certainly a lively affair. I’m pleased to say that things have moved on from my day when boys and girls would stand tentatively at either side of the dance floor, this was helped greatly by the centre staff who led lots of ‘dabbing’ and ‘nay naying’. I’m also pleased to add that the Macarena is still going strong – the girls still know all the moves and the boys still don’t.
One particluar dance move that caught my attention was from a group of boys, who, as far as I could see, were just shaking violently from head to toe; it was quite a strange sight but it seemed to go down well.
Earlier in the day we visited the Neufchâtel cheese farm where the children had a talk in French about how cheese is made. I’m pleased to say they followed the talk really well without too much coaching from the teachers – they were helped greatly by our two French speaking children who translated questions with aplomb. We then visited a calf who was three days old which the children loved, one child even remarked that she’d like to spend the night in the barn cuddled up to the calf – I said I’d speak to the farmer to see what he could do. We then went onto purchase over 70 Neufchatel cheeses as presents – Twickenham cheese boards will be soon full of Normandy’s finest heart shaped cow’s cheeses.
In the afternoon we headed to the cider farm which is a short walk from the chateau, we looked at how our guide Adrian’s family grew their apples and turned them into various apple products. The children also had a chance to sample his cider vinegar which Andrian then suggested was good for clearing spots. One child gave this unusual French remedy a try by dabbing it on a spot. Unfortunately, it didnt work as quickly as she had hoped, I’ll check for further results in the morning before I declare this miracle cure a success 🙂
Tomorrow it’s a visit to a beach in Mer Les Bains for an ice cream before we head back to Twickenham, keep an eye on Twitter for when we arrive back on British soil.
As ever, all children are happy and it has been a really superb week.
See you soon.
Hi all, I am currently sitting observing the last of evening sun here in Criel sir Mer, we have had a couple of down-pours today so it feels like a welcome reward to finish with some sun. Despite the rain, nothing was to stop us today as we visited the port of Dieppe, visited a market, went to a hyper market and completed archery and fencing sessions on site.
Dieppe began with a trip to the creperie which was appropriately called ‘Tout Va Bien’, all children tucked into a chocolate crepe and their confidence to use French with our waiter was nice to see.
After a short tour covering the history of Dieppe, we visited another market street and, despite some drizzle, the children’s appetite for glorious tat was evidently undiminished. Amoungst the purchases of must-have brand new pink aviators came some shopper’s guilt. One child remarked ‘I just feel I want to buy my parents something, all I’ve bought is deodorant and sweets.’ This deodorant was promptly sprayed onto his friend’s wrists for them to sample as if it we’re Chanel’s finest.
Another lovely moment came when one child purchased two scented candles for his auntie, what a lovely gesture. I just hope his auntie has a problem with insects as it was two Citronella candles. It’s definitely the thought that counts.
A word for Mrs Goalen, her tremendous enthusiasm knows no bounds, from random spot quizzes about the history of Rouen to two of the hardest high fives I have ever received. She helps to make all our day trips such fun.
As I sign off, the children are currently enjoying ‘scrapheap challenge’ which looks a bit crazy, they are making something out of cardboard boxes, no idea what they are supposed to be creating but they all seem to think it’s great fun.
Tomorrow is a visit to a cheese farm, a beach walk and a trip to a local cider farm. As ever, all children are happy and are squeezing every last opportunity out of their week away 🙂
Hi all, day 2 is drawing to a close here at the beautiful Chateau Chantereine and the children are taking part in mini olympics and the trail of mystery as I write this.
Our day began with the usual breakfast of cereal/brioche/fruit or yogurt and then children are asked to construct their own baguettes as part of a packed lunch before we set off for our day trip. There was plenty of pork going into most baguettes; ham and salami were being thrown in at will, and, of course, no one forgot the little French galette for pudding.
The tour of Rouen was really great once again and our guides were superb, they are extremely knowledgable and are sure to focus on the gorier side of history to keep young minds interested. One such story was based around the use of ‘ lucky cats’ to ward off the Black Death, unfortunately these ‘lucky cats’ did not meet a happy end – much to the disdain of our animal lovers. The end to this tale was a chance for the children to see one of these mummified ‘lucky cats’ that was found beneath the streets of Rouen some years ago. One of the children remarked how cute the cat looked – I wasn’t so sure.
The children then had a chance to visit a market in Rouen and one child managed to spend 11euros on pic and mix with another boy buying some rather fetching bright pink nail varnish which was ‘for his sister.’ I look forward to seeing his handy work at the disco…
After Rouen, we had the chance to stop off at a former Nazi bomb factory and it was a great chance for the children to see some history as it was left 70 years ago. They were able to see where the bombs were stored and transported; there was also a life size replica of a V1 missile to capture the imagination of eager boys.
So tomorrow it’s off to Dieppe for some more French history and a chance to buy some more ‘interesting’ items at another market. I’m anticipating a large array of garish sunglasses to be added to our luggage 🙂
As ever, all the the children are happy and are really into the swing of life at the Chateau, keep gazes onto Twitter for some pictorial updates of Dieppe and I will blog tomorrow.
Hi all, sorry for the late post, we have been busily helping our lovely year 6s get their bedding sorted. It’s fair to say some have had more success than others but with a little coaching from Mr Williamss, all was well.
Mrs Goalen has been briefing the girls on her dorm points system; her idea consists mainly of French pastisserie for dorm names and a complex points system for inspections. I look forward to seeing what the girls have in store for their inspections – dancing, bows on beds, singing are all not unheard of. It still feels a bit strange to be yelling across the field – ‘can everyone in millefeuille dorm come over to me please!’ But I’m sure we will get used to it.
As regards our journey, we had a slight delay getting over but the ferry was an exciting way to kick things off, the children got to see the white cliffs of Dover disappear into the distance as we sailed away, at this point a child pointed said cliffs and asked ‘is that France?’ – I politely informed them that we had only been travelling for 5 minutes and we still had to cross a small pool of water called the English Channel.
Nausicaa aquarium once again went down really well and the cries of ‘wow ‘ and ‘woah’ when the sea lions swam beneath us was a really nice moment.
Spirits were high on the coach thanks to our superb drivers Stuart and Ian, Stuart has come armed with a mountain of Haribo products which acted as suitable motivation for a good old fashioned game of bingo. We had two lucky children yelling BINGO to bag themselves a prize.
I will leave you all for now as I’m going to check in at the boys dorm – all of the children are happy and raring to go for the week.
Tomorrow it’s a tour of Rouen in the morning and we are going to visit a Nazi WW2 bomb factory on the way home, this is a first for a St Mary’s France trip and promises to be of great interest to us all.
I will try and blog tomorrow and hopefully I can make it a bit funnier!
Keep your eye on Twitter for pictures from tomorrow’s missions 🙂