Chamonix – School’s Out For Summer

We got into the terminal and joined the queue for the ferry in good time. After the heat of the last week the dockside breeze was a bit of a reality check. We were hoping we might be able to get an earlier ferry but Sea France had other ideas…………

Realising that it might be a while until we would be boarding, the group was taken to the local conveniences for a Geographer’s Break – relief and drainage. Waiting for the ferry, some of the staff decided to have a wander. They were down at the dockside watching a ferry come into the dock when a van containing security men raced up to them and chased them back to the bus. Good job they didn’t catch them.

And so we queued and queued and queued and then, for a bit of variety, queued some more. In the best traditions of French ferry companies Sea France would not let us on to an earlier ferry, cancelled the one we should have been on and sent us on a later ferry – but only after it had been postponed for an hour or so. Behind us was a school party from Stromness. Did they appreciate the delay, especially as they had at least 14 hours more on the road than us ? Answers on a postcard please …………………….

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As we boarded, Davie our driver told us that this ferry was the oldest in the Sea France ferry fleet and was due to be decommissioned by the end of July. Intrigued, Mr Hughes, our R.M.E.specialist, paced the decks and found that it was some 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high with 3 floors whilst apparently made of gopher wood underneath the gray paint. Mr Whatcott inspected the vehicle decks and saw that each deck was named after each of the previous owner’s sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth. After that there was only one burning question for the Chamonix team. How did Sea France get it down from Mount Ararat ? What a pity they hadn’t decommissioned it at the end of May or, better still, a couple of thousand years ago.

So we crossed the English Channel and back on to terra firma (the firma the terra, the less the terror). Coach lights went out as we docked at 0000 hrs BST and, as before, almost everyone fell into deep slumbers apart from – as usual – your blogger. So Davie drove us to Heathrow where he and Graeme were due to leave us so Bob, the relief driver, could take us home. However, it really helps when Travel Lodge signs are visible in all directions. We managed to explore Terminal Five and most of Terminal Four before the mobile came out. “Bob, can you fix it ?” “Yes I can.” Thus we reached him at 02:20 hrs. Deep joy.

So Davie and Graeme left us for some really well-deserved rest. Bob took over and we set off around the M25 – with all bar two, [driver (thank goodness) and blogger] sleeping the sleep of the dead. We reached the junction with the M1 when we came to a halt for some 15 minutes. A car had become sandwiched between a truck and a van. The police were busy coning things off while the drivers discussed the accident in a mature, sensible manner. However, you usually need to pay Sky for a 12-month subscription to watch that quality of boxing match.

After that it was really uneventful all the way to Scotch Corner for a well-deserved breakfast. Panini, toasties, brownies were consumed in good order although Jamie and one or two others headed for The House Of The Dead (don’t ask !). Then it was the final sprint for home. The Oscars were presented (list may be published on a later blog). People were reminded to check they left nothing valuable on the coach (so an iPod isn’t valuable ? It’s in the School Office, as are the chocolates, police helmets, tupperware container, puzzle book and a Sony PSP game. Please contact Mrs Wyllie or Mrs Kelly with accurate descriptions…………..).

So we arrived back just after 10:30 am to enjoy the leaden skies and horizontal sleet of a Prestonpans summer. Parents were standing there with tears in their eyes (and large amounts of money in their hands). Sorry. YOU HAVE GOT TO TAKE THEM BACK. It doesn’t matter how much money you want to give us to keep them for a while longer. On second thoughts …………..

On a more serious note we had to say three goodbyes. Firstly to Scott, for whom today was his last ever at school. Off to work at Ford’s, he is going to be a trainee baker. Secondly Miss McCredie is off to teach German at St Margaret’s in Edinburgh. She enjoyed our trip so much she’s already signed up for a trip to Paris at her new school in the Autumn. Finally, Mr Hughes is going to do some travel from the autumn onwards although he may manage to see us a bit before then. Sorry to see you all go folks, you’ll all be missed.

Quote(s) Of The Day
“That sounds like a foreign language to me” (Mr Hughes, when Miss McCredie said ‘You asked me if your first person plural conditional of ‘vouloir’ was correct” to Mr Whatcott)
“You have a 50% chance of dying in a cable car”
Oh well, that means about 1.5 million people die every year on the Aiguilles alone ………….

Burning Questions Of The Week
Will Ronan need to be surgically removed from that cap (or vice versa) ?
Is there a living soul who’s ever seen him without it on his head ?

Chamonix – Homeward Bound

And so it was that the dawn – recovering from a traumatic week of breakages – managed to creep into the valley like a thief in the night. Quite remarkable really because it needed to cope with some really thick mountain fog. Full marks for perseverance and improved technique.

07:00 and the hotel resounded to the teachers doing their early morning alarm calls. Quelle surprise. Beaucoup des enfants were already up and about, more or less packed. Neither a Lie-In King nor a Lie-Iness Award today.

Rooms were hives of activity as clothes / presents were stuffed into suitcases, rubbish collected into bin bags or vice versa. Rooms were tidied for inspection. Who’s going to win the tidiest room award (We are having an ‘Chamonix Oscars’ Ceremony on the bus tomorrow)

After breakfast everyone moved into a higher gear. The drivers’ deadline for departure was 09:00 hrs. If Cammy and one or two others hadn’t managed to mislay keys we would have been away earlier but, even so, we managed to leave only five minutes late. Jean-Paul, the hotelier, came to see us off. For the second year in a row he complimented the pupils on their good behaviour.

We started down the hill to the motorway. The Proclaimers would, if dead, be turning in their graves to hear the back seat crew murdering “500 Miles”. Most memorable line – “ If I slaver, I’m gonna be the guy who’s slavering over you”. Charming. Actually, it’s “havering” chaps.

So on through France we rolled, kilometres clicking past at a consistent rate – almost exactly 100 per hour. The motorways are so smooth that it almost makes travelling painless (poetic licence again). We swashed and buckled our way out of the mountains with Captain Jack Sparrow as we strove towards World’s End (aka Prestonpans). The mountains and the foothills faded from view behind us as we began to cross central France.

Lunch at Dijon showed our drivers were really cutting the mustard. Many of us took the chance to eat al fresco. The French surely must have a word for that. Oh yes, pique-nique.

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Then it was back in the coach and onward. By teatime we were only 100 miles from Calais. A quick final leg, another 360 litres of fuel and it was into the ferry terminal to wait for our ship.
(To be continued tomorrow in our final blog “School’s Out For Summer”)

Quote Of The Day
“1943 ? Was I born then ?”
(Whilst looking at a dated picture of people working on the cables of the Aiguilles du Midi)
Well, if you’ve just finished First Year, there’s a good chance the answer’s going to be “No”.

Chamonix – River Deep, Mountain High

As has happened every day so far, dawn has broken although so far, no-one has actually given us a bill for the breakages. We’re quite glad as we don’t actually feel it’s our fault. Last night we saw a couple of clouds lurking but they crept away during the night. So once again, the horn peak – having been bathed in yesterday’s gentle evening rays – was kissed by the early morning sun. What an idyllic existence.

However we had time to contemplate the success of our trip so far. It’s been so warm that temperatures are almost high enough to meet Mrs Proudfoot’s stringent criteria for ‘hot enough’. After four years with us she has gone on the Holland trip. She’ll probably find it rather flat after our trip to the French Alps. There’s a palpably untrue rumour that the teachers only went on that trip because they had heard that Holland’s major (only) geographic feature was the Cider Sea. Sorry chaps. It was actually the Zuyder See and it was non-alcoholic. That’ll be a geography joke then!!!

Periodically we’re finding “Blah, blah, blah’ inserted into our blog. Reading the Holland trip blog it’s obvious who the culprit is. There’s only one person with administrator rights. (However, it does at least show he’s mastered the use of ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ commands and why in an earlier life he taught sums rather than English.)

Anyway back to the ranch, or more precisely the Hotel L’Aveniere where Jean-Paul and his staff have been ministering most excellently to our needs. We now have a new award. With two of our lads having won the Lie-In King Awards, it was the turn of the girls this morning. Bearing in mind that it’s a jungle out there, we now have the Lie-Iness Award. Josie and Jade went all out to win it, Josie winning when Jade blinked first. One extreme to the other Josie ? However, Josie proved that girls can get up, shower, do their hair and still get to breakfast in under 10 minutes if they want to. Theme tune of the day “I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in”.

Breakfast eaten, lunches made and on to the bus even faster than yesterday, we set off for Chamonix. We arrived at the Aiguilles du Midi where we found that the various accesses we would normally use were all blocked off and the car park closed. Just what you’d expect at Chamonix’s Premier attraction. Signage and advance warning – zero. Well done chaps.

Anyway we bought the tickets and went up in the cable cars. Normally these go up like rockets but today were very sedate. The cause – wind higher up. That meant we couldn’t go across the ice field in the smaller telecabine but we enjoyed the dramatic scenery, the bracing mountain air and the cafe.

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Then it was back into Chamonix for lunch and shopping. I get the impression that most of the girls enjoy shopping and there’s only one thing better than that – more shopping ! After that and it was off to the Parc de Loisirs for a final couple of shots on the luge.

That was exciting but then the real excitement began. A Frenchman tried to take Ava’s sunglasses, claiming they belonged to his daughter. The girls came back and got Miss McCredie (family motto : Nemo Me Impune Lacessit : aka you REALLY don’t want to mess with THIS lady !). Showing a pugnacity at odds with her normal, gentle demeanour, she retrieved the glasses effortlessly – leaving the errant Frenchman with, as they say, his gas at a low peep. To (mis)quote a 10cc song “She was cool, she was calm, she was always in control. She said ‘Blood will flow’…”

Then it was back to the hotel for dinner where the entree was a really nice cheese in pastry dish followed by – oh, nirvana – pommes frites. In the best French tradition they were accompanied by steak hache (burgers). The moo was still echoing around the kitchen as they were being served. However, that cow’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain.

So it was that the evening finished with football and a lot of packing for the morrow.

Quotes of The Day
“They strawberry tarts were like steak pies without the steak.”
(Last night’s dessert was strawberries and cream in puff pastry)
(On walking out on to the observation platform at the top of the Aiguilles)
“That’s a real luge. Better than that one in First Year”
(Thanks for that. He did tell me which country the trip went to but I couldn’t find ‘Pays-Bas’ in the atlas).
“Martin, are you going to audition for the part of Legless when they remake Lord Of The Rings ?”
(He’s had to put up with a lot of limp or lame jokes about his knee but he takes it in good part.)
“How do you ask for pommes frites ?”
It’s a wild guess but it might, just might, be ‘pommes frites'”

Hyper Holland

Holland continues with another excellent day out. We travelled into Belgium to visit Bobbejaanland Theme Park – well worth the trip. The Preston Lodge guys ‘n’ gals hit the rides with their usual bravado – no ride is too scary for us. Bring it on!

Mrs Christie played a key role today guarding bags and catching some rays while the rest of us fought in the queues for the rides and tried to cram as much junk food as possible into 5 hours. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Health Promoting Schools is what WE are talking about!

We have heard that the Chamonix trip is enduring its toughest year EVER as Whatcott’s jokes have reached an all time low. We thought they couldn’t get any worse! Mr Stewart and Joe our bus driver are putting up a good fight for the title of bad joke teller 2008 – the score stands at 10 all so far. Have you heard the one about blah blah blah…?

Pupils are encountering significant challenges this week in managing their money. Some pupils are trying to work (or should I say “diddle”) the bank system to claim as many euros as possible to play in the arcades. On a serious note, parents, you should expect some bouncy balls and cheap teddy bears as your holiday souvenir this year. In fairness, many of them are putting their minds towards some last minute (panic) gift buying in Gouda tomorrow – a block of cheese anyone?!

The pupils have been great and we can all be proud of the way they have represented the school and themselves this week. Having said this, with 2 sleeps to go and excitement mounting, we may change our minds on this one!

Who will buy the most cheese in Gouda? Who will be the first to declare bankruptcy? Who will be the pupil to lose their mobile phone (there is always one)? Will we win the quiz on the boat again? Will we get any sleep during our last night at the Hotel? Click on on Friday to find out!

Over and out.

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Holland – Sliding & Caving & Swimming

Hi again from Holland

The weather is really hot.

Today we started at the Chairlift (up the mountain – well it counts as a mountain in Holland!!!). We then had about an hour of Rodelbahn-ing.

We then had some lunch and went on a train ride through the lime caves in Valkenburg. These have been around since Roman times but have more recently been used as a nuclear shelter for 15000 people in Valkenburg – when I say used I mean ready to be used but not actually used!!

It was then down to the swimming pool for some sunbathing and splashing around.

After dinner we went to the “Lasertag”- Mrs.Hoban was victorious, Mrs.Proudfoot was all talk!! Mr.Evans came last due to the red-green team confusion.

There is no blah blah blah in Belgium – tomorrow we invade “Bobbejaanland

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Preston Lodge High School goes global!