Thank God it's Friday

30th June 2006 at 01:00
MONDAY The Year 9 trip to Normandy. It's a zombie-like start after a five o'clock alarm, standing outside the school in south east London with rain pattering on our noses. There's a cute moment when we arrive at Dover and some of the kids get excited because they've never seen the sea. Cuteness descends into boredom after we take a wrong turn near Caen. After 11 hours of travelling, we arrive at our resort. Our coach driver has displayed patience throughout.

TUESDAY I'm reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which claims Normandy is "like Cornwall, but with something to eat". Nevertheless, for lunch a colleague and I hit upon the most disgusting eatery in France. His Croque Monsieur consists of microwaved white bread topped with a tongue-scorching volcano of rubbery cheese.

WEDNESDAY So far, our kids have coped well in many potentially disastrous public situations. But everything changes at the Mont Saint-Michel. I'm sitting on a terrace in a cafe when I hear an uproar three floors below.

Those voices sound familiar. Rushing down, I discover they're deafeningly indignant because the film they paid for - in France - was in French. Half an hour later, my boss is still berating the hushed coach. It's a vintage rant, repetitive old-school discipline punctuated with dramatic pauses.

THURSDAY The Camembert factory is disappointingly hygienic, so the day's excitement is saved for a supermarket stop. I grab the opportunity to pick up some red wine. When the kids see my basket, I'm greeted with either the funny "Go on sir, give us a bottle," or (less funny) "I never knew you were an alcoholic." Meanwhile, there's a covert en-masse purchase of Charge, a French energy drink that gives the last night's festivities a near-lethal sugar injection. The ensuing disco features some eye-wateringly provocative dancing. What happened to "boys on one side, girls on the other"? I feel old. I feel even older patrolling the corridors at one o'clock that morning.

FRIDAY At passport control, our coach driver rises to address the masses.

They must walk through the passport office with their heads held high, "Not slouching like some of you normally do." It turns out our coach driver is a bit of a racist. "Look, you're British. So act British." The Nigerian, Lithuanian and American children look perplexed. Then it's on to the ferry, back to school and (for me) off to my girlfriend's brother's wedding to drink under a portrait of Stephen Hawking. But that's another story.

Joe Curtis is an English teacher at St Paul's Academy in Plumstead, London.

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