Destination of last resort
"Never mind, dear," Gail said, attempting some soothing words as I winced in discomfort and embarrassment. "We'll soon be there."
I smiled before realising she was talking to Margaret, not me, at which point I began some serious reflection on the wisdom of being talked into the gross extravagance of a continental holiday. Apart from what I considered a distressing waste of our building society windfall-share money, I reminded myself I didn't like such holidays in the first place. And matters hadn't improved when we met the Charles family in the departure lounge.
"Hullo, Mr Simpson!" squealed Lisa from 1N. "Are you going to Majorca too?" I shuddered, but managed to pull myself together as the wretched girl's parents hove into view. "Oh - uh . . hello uh - Lana? er, Lisa?" I frantically recalled her name before turning to her guardians. "Yes, yes, we are. And - uh you as well, Mr and Mrs . . ?" "Charles, Mr Simpson." Lisa's father extended a firm and friendly handshake.
"Why, thank you, Charles," I thought it best to return the compliment. "Uh - Morris, by all means. After all, we're on holiday now, and . . ."
"No, no. It's Michael - Michael Charles. My daughter's in your English class." He peered dubiously over his spectacles.
"Yes, yes, I know, but I thought - oh, never mind," I decided to change the subject. "So you're going to Majorca too?" Mrs Charles indicated that they always went to the Balearics, and for the next five minutes we engaged in tentative enquiries about our respective destinations in the traditional manner of teachers meeting pupils' families in a departure lounge: to wit, expressing delighted pleasure that we had both chanced upon a similar holiday venture, while hoping desperately against hope that our hotels weren't within a three-hour coach drive of each other.
They weren't, we were relieved to hear, although Mrs Charles might have been more tactful when she learned of our destination.
"Oh?" She raised her eyebrows in disdain. "You're going there, are you? We've always found the southern resorts terribly commercialised, haven't we Michael?"
"Mmm," Gail seethed in quiet agreement, clearly unwilling to embark upon an explanation of my late-booking bargain arrangement with our travel agent, whereby our precise accommodation is to be allocated upon arrival at Palma airport. "But we wanted somewhere with family entertainment," she pursed her lips. "For Margaret, y'know."
"Oh, you'll get plenty of that," Lisa's mother offered ominously.. LESS THAN "I think you'll get plenty of that..
I wonder what she meant.
TUESDAY: It was a long journey to our hotel. The holiday rep assured us our status as last-minute bookers in no way affected the order in which our airport coach deposited its passengers. But it was with weary hearts and heavier arms that we disembarked from an empty vehicle at 5am local time.
It was interesting to meet some people just going to bed in the room next to ours as we found our way along the lengthy corridors. They must have been on the same plane, I reflected, although they looked very tanned for new arrivals. And they certainly didn't have the same stamina as the Simpson family when it came to getting up again in time for our 9am welcome meeting with Tricia, our tour representative. She invited us to taste some hellish local brew she described as "the drink of the Gods" (I think it was low-quality sangria topped up with diet lemonade) and then proceeded with a high-pressure sales pitch to persuade us of the potential delights awaiting us should we purchase a bewildering cornucopia of excursions and trips. Working on an already limited budget, we declined - politely but firmly - all of her entreaties, and assured her we would be perfectly able to entertain ourselves.
By the end of the welcome meeting, Gail and I were feeling pretty exhausted, so decided to retire to our room to catch up on some sleep before hitting the beach in the afternoon. Imagine my surprise to discover our next-door neighbours emerging from their own slumbers at midday. A friendly enquiry of the two lads met with the somewhat surly response that, no, they certainly weren't there with their "mums and dads" and, no, they hadn't just been getting off the plane when we'd seen them this morning. On the contrary, they informed us, they were part of a 10-strong deputation from a Huddersfield sausage factory, each of whose sole intention was to get drunk every night and see how many times they could "score in a fortnight". Gail's lips began to purse as we bade them farewell. And I began to shudder.
WEDNESDAY: The holiday is turning into a bit of a disaster, to be honest. We spent as much of today as we could beside the swimming pool. But our family enjoyment was spoiled by the antics of Max, Brian, Billy, Damian and the host of other post-adolescent teenage louts from Huddersfield, with whom it is rapidly becoming a serious displeasure to share our accommodation.
"Why don't you do something about it, Morris?" Gail hissed at me as Damian - patriotically garbed in Union Jack boxer-trunks - performed a double-backward somersault from the bridge over the swimming pool, in strict contravention of the notice above his head.
"It's not up to me, Gail," I whispered angrily. "The hotel management should do something about it."
"Nonsense," she retorted angrily. "They're a danger to life and limb. You wouldn't think twice about sorting them out if they were in your class at home, would you?" "Of course I wouldn't, but that's different," I protested fiercely, secretly reflecting that if any of them were in my class at Greenfield Academy I'd be putting in an application for long-term sick-leave. And to think we wanted to get away from it all.
THURSDAY: We had little sleep last night. Damian and Max had clearly succeeded in raising the sexual profile of their holiday, and our attempts to get some rest were punctuated by a distressing series of bangs, squeals and lustful outpourings from the room next door. It was all very torrid, and we made a resolution to get as far away from this hell-hole of a resort as quickly as possible by locating a secluded beach.
The gentleman at Nick's fish and chip shop ("traditional Majorcan cuisine a speciality") gave us helpful directions, and we set forth at once.
It was idyllic (at last) - long stretches of golden sand and crystal-blue water lapping at the shore's edge, with a limited number of tourists and not a lager-lout in sight. It was with such solitude in mind that Gail dared to attempt a spot of topless bathing and swimming. And it was with a greater sense of relief and relaxation than I have yet experienced on this holiday, that I settled down in the shade of an umbrella with a good book, my infant daughter gurgling happily at my side and my spouse floating quietly on her Lilo some 30 yards from shore. It was too good to last.
"Haw! Zat yoo, Mrs Simpson?" the clarion call echoed from the sea. I looked up to witness Gail jerking sharply from her floating mattress, her face contorted with anguish as what was clearly a member of her Primary 7 class waded gamely in her direction, his swimsuit-clad parents in close pursuit to offer the second extended hand of parental friendship it has been our misfortune to accept this week.
She dealt with the situation masterfully, I have to say. Rapidly jumping into the sea, she covered her confusion by shielding behind the Lilo and proffering a hand round the side. I couldn't face another such meeting. Rapidly packing our beach equipment, I signalled my intentions in Gail's general direction and wheeled Margaret swiftly towards the edge of the beach and a nearby cafeteria. So much for solitude.
FRIDAY: The promise of organised games by the poolside offered welcome respite from the dangerous antics of Max et al - most of whom have now taken to sleeping until 3pm anyway - but it was with a growing sense of disbelief that Gail and I witnessed some even younger children emulating the antics of their elders from the other day.
One little tyke in particular - and he couldn't have been older than eight or nine at most - was taking vicious delight in jumping from the bridge into the pool and landing as close as possible to those swimming innocently beneath, to the great consternation of several members of a Saga party.
The teacher in me began to rise to the surface - when will I ever learn? - and I reckoned this little pipsqueak was more biddable than the loutish mob of layabouts on Wednesday afternoon. Clambering into the pool next to him, I had a fierce word in his ear.
"You got difficulty reading, son?" I questioned with no little aggression in my voice.
"Uh?" he gawped.
"Look at that sign," I jerked my head. "It says no jumping from the bridge and it means no jumping from the bridge. If I see you at it again, you'll have me to answer to." With which firmly-phrased warning I pushed myself away and doggy-paddled to the far side of the pool.
It was some 15 minutes later that his father approached me as I lay on my sun-lounger. I don't wish to go into the precise details of our altercation, but suffice to say he was not best pleased over my disciplinary intervention with his son, and made me - and the rest of the swimming pool - very much aware that he'd paid good money to come on this holiday and wasn't about to have it spoiled by some "interfering little tosser" who wanted to bully a "little lad just trying t'have a bit of fun".
It reminded me so much of a parents' evening that suddenly, unaccountably, I longed to be back at Greenfield Academy, where at least my authority is widely respected.
Never mind. Only nine more days to go.
* Next month: school uniform makes a comeback at Greenfield Academy