Holiday video with full frontal;Talkback;Opinion

17th April 1998 at 01:00
School trips are wonderful source material for nightmares. Like childbirth, they seem much better after the event.

In Italy, for example, a bevy of young blondes always causes quite a stir and we were relieved to be based just outside Sorrento, in a tiny cove at the bottom of a cliff with only four hotels and a bar. The first night was idyllic. Sunset over the water and a lone Vespa-riding Italian.

But we had been spotted. Next day he brought a few mates. By the end of the week we were patrolling what resembled a set for a Shakespeare remake. Juliets hung from balconies while prospective Romeos blew kisses.

We learnt, horror-stricken, of an incident the previous week, when three girls went swimming. Two local lads were seen to rummage among their clothes and to unearth a video camera. One used this to film his mate dropping his trunks. Laughing heartily, they replaced the camera and left. We were thankful to have been spared the repercussions of that family film premi re.

Israel brought out mixed emotions. At least our party had not needed parents to volunteer for armed escort duty on a tour of Jerusalem, as our Israeli counterparts did. The implications of the Golan Heights were somewhat lost on those of our pupils who preferred to concentrate on the guide's mispronunciation of what he insisted on calling the "Syrian bonkers" underground.

I nearly lost a pupil once. Sarah had gone to the Mediterranean with her exchange family but was due to travel back to England with us. We were to meet her off the Paris train early, but she was not on it. The stationmaster responded to my panic with a typically Gallic shrug.

Nine trains and 12 hours later Sarah stepped on to the platform. There had been a rail strike and on the stroke of midnight her train had slid silently into a siding, where she had spent the night.

Next day the franc was devalued, which didn't help when we had to pay medical bills because Karen had fallen off her friend's moped and broken her ankle.

What still puzzles me is why Catherine (such a shy, retiring girl) had needed to be wrenched out of a sailor's arms in the middle of a lingeringly passionate kiss on the quayside.

A final memory: a restaurateur asked a mixed group of French and English teachers to help him translate his menu into English and readily plied them with wine. We often wondered whether his sales rocketed subsequently for the tarte aux pommes flambees that we called "flaming French tart."

Joy Hall is a former head of modern languages

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