Victory in a battle of sick-bags

12th March 2004 at 00:00
We nearly there yet, Miss?" Fifteen minutes into the three-day half-term trip. We're not even on the motorway. Indeed, we've gone in the opposite direction for an hour to collect the inevitable forgotten passport.

It's my first school trip abroad and the horror of responsibility has struck. Before departing we had a Powerpoint presentation highlighting the potential hazards and how to avoid them. As the first aider, I get to look after the green first aid box. Feel important, until I realise that plastic bags and wet wipes are probably going to be more useful than sterile bandages.

The combination of travel motion, first-time-away nerves and large bags of Haribo sweets induces vomiting on a grand scale. So the "Nearly there" refrain has been replaced by, "Miss, he's being sick!"

After charging around a castle, the pupils descend on the gift shop in the grip of retail mania. As they exit we confiscate their wooden swords, bows with plastic arrows and replica chain-mail helmets - in the name of health and safety.

"Are we nearly there, Miss?" Nope, we're stuck in the car ferry queue at 10.30pm along with huge container lorries and swarms of ferocious sniffer dogs.

An hour later pupils are sorted into groups and escorted to their bunks.

Ten minutes later we return to check that all is well, only to find most of them have simply collapsed exhausted and fully clothed on to their bunks.

This is fortunate as the captain jovially announces a force eight crossing.

Lie to one inquisitive pupil when asked, "Isn't that rather choppy, Miss?"

Tell them they won't even know they're moving, let alone on a boat. The boat pulls out of harbour swaying.

Bolt awake at 2am. I hear whimpering and knocking. Open cabin door to find pupil looking wan. Thank goodness I invested in a pair of sensible cover-all pyjamas from Marks and Sparkles.

Pupil has been sick and came to tell me - now can't get back into cabin.

Stumble to reception in a sleep-deprived haze dragging pupil, clutching a plastic bag and trying to ignore the swaying.

Three hours later we gather to disembark. One pupil looks sad. Tells me tearfully he's missing his cat, but not his Mom. We sit silently sucking on toffee bonbons for comfort. Hope it won't make him sick.

Back at school, anxious parents wait to collect their beloveds, who drift off the coach exhausted. We return the weapons and the Battle of Hastings ensues, all thoughts of swaying and sickness forgotten.

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